Guardian Environment News

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Updated: 7 hours 57 min ago

Australia's biodiversity strategy a global embarrassment, green groups say

Sat, 2018/01/20 - 5:29pm

Extinction prevention plan branded ‘deeply inadequate’ after environment department publishes paper without targets

The federal government’s latest strategy to protect Australian plants and animals facing extinction has been branded “deeply inadequate” and “a global embarrassment” by environment groups.

The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that a new 13-page document had quietly replaced the old 100-page biodiversity conservation strategy just before Christmas on the Department of Environment’s website.

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Categories: Environment

On the Amazon’s lawless frontier, murder mystery divides the locals and loggers

Sat, 2018/01/20 - 5:05pm
The Ka’apor tribe fight a daily battle in Brazil’s Maranhão state to protect their forests

Sairá Ka’apor patrolled one of the most murderous frontiers in the world, a remote and largely lawless region of the Brazilian Amazon where his indigenous community has fought for generations to protect their forest land.

Armed with clubs, bows and arrows, GPS trackers and crude guns, he and fellow members of Ka’apor Forest Guard drove off – and sometimes attacked – loggers who intruded into their territory, the 530,000-hectare Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Land, which is roughly three times the area of Greater London and contains about half of the Amazon forest left in Brazil’s northern Maranhão state. That vigilante role came to an end last April when Sairá was stabbed to death in Betel, a logging town close to Ka’apor territory.

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Categories: Environment

Britain risks losing green protections after Brexit

Sat, 2018/01/20 - 5:05pm
Friends of the Earth, National Trust and others voice ‘serious concerns’ that UK will not cooperate with EU

A coalition of leading environmental groups says there is a “significant risk” that British environmental protections will be reduced after Brexit, despite the government’s positive rhetoric.

Greener UK, which represents 13 campaign groups including WWF, National Trust, RSPB, Friends of the Earth, Green Alliance and the Wildlife Trusts, says there are “serious concerns” that the government will not cooperate with the European Union after Brexit on environmental issues which need international agreement. Although the environment secretary, Michael Gove, has made several recent announcements, such as the 5p levy on plastic bottles, Greener UK believes there may be a “lack of willpower to ensure high standards across the UK”.

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Categories: Environment

Gloucestershire is building a big bonfire of waste. To last for eternity

Sat, 2018/01/20 - 5:04pm
A 70-metre-high waste incinerator is being built next to the M5

Marooned on the flatlands between the Severn river and the Cotswolds escarpment, Stonehouse in Gloucestershire isn’t the sort of place to make the news. But, of late, outrage has been the dominant emotion here as construction traffic has brought what was a country village to a standstill. Blue plastic barriers proliferate, mobile traffic lights are set down apparently at random and workers clad in hi-vis saunter about with the swagger of the new sheriff in town.

While the slow crawl of traffic to and from the M5 is frustrating, it is the cause of the blockage that is more troubling. Stonehouse is being dug up to lay a cable to service the giant waste monster being built next to junction 12 of the M5, an edifice that its opponents warned would grow to four times the size of nearby Gloucester cathedral, a glorious testament to the grand folly of another age.

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Categories: Environment

Millions spent on Great Barrier Reef projects against expert advice

Sat, 2018/01/20 - 12:00pm

One $2.2m experiment involves giant fans to cool water down, despite government’s own advisers highlighting risks

Millions of dollars of commonwealth money is being handed to tourism-linked groups for Great Barrier Reef protection, despite official advice recommending against the projects, or repeatedly finding them to be failing.

The contracts include millions of dollars for tourism operators to cull out-of-control coral-eating crown of thorns starfish. Funds continue to be distributed, despite researchers employed to evaluate the program repeatedly finding it to have failed, and potentially having made the problem worse.

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Categories: Environment

'It's a no-brainer': are hydrogen cars the future?

Sat, 2018/01/20 - 3:00am

Inventor Hugo Spowers has a dream: to replace today’s cars with his own hydrogen prototype. Is the world ready?

In the mid-1990s, Hugo Spowers ran a Formula Three racing team. At the time, motorsport was in the pocket of big tobacco. Every weekend, Formula One cars emblazoned with cigarette brands – Marlboro, Camel, Silk Cut – raced on TV in front of millions. “It was pretty clear it was killing people,” Spowers says. “Meanwhile, the industry was portraying a link between smoking and winners. It was ludicrous. But nobody was going against it.”

So when, in 1995, Spowers’ team introduced a car decorated with an anti-smoking campaign, it caused a commotion. At a party the night before the car was set to debut at the British Grand Prix, the chairman of the British Racing Drivers’ Club summoned Spowers, outraged. “He bellowed at me for a full five minutes, about how motorsport needed its sponsors, and ‘not pinkos like you’,” Spowers says now, chuckling. But Spowers was unmoved: he knew he was right. Furthermore, he believed it made financial sense: the relationship with tobacco was tainting the sport for businesses that didn’t want to be associated with smoking.

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Categories: Environment

Vancouver aquarium won't keep whales or dolphins captive after public outcry

Sat, 2018/01/20 - 2:00am

Canada aquarium has announced it will end the practice of keeping cetaceans in captivity, after pressure from the public

For years the Vancouver aquarium fended off pressure from animal right activists, local government and residents, arguing instead that whales and dolphins were central to its mission. But this week the tourist attraction gave in to public pressure, and announced that it would end the practice of keeping cetaceans in captivity.

“It had become a local hot topic, to the point where it was just hijacking everything else,” said John Nightingale, the aquarium’s president.

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Categories: Environment

Why do supermarkets sell organic products wrapped in non-cyclable plastic?

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 11:59pm
We find organic mushrooms in non-recyclable trays next to plain veg in compostable wrapping

My environmentally conscious wife Clare is the keenest recycler possible. She even collects and recycles the silver milk bottle tops that I tend to chuck out. But when it comes to organic food she’s furious. Why? Because she finds it is the worst culprit for wrapping almost everything in plastic and polywrap that cannot be recycled. How, she asks, did we reach the situation where the most environmentally produced food is also the worst for packaging and recycling?

Like many others, the Brignall household despairs at the revelations over the past year that 86% of collected plastic is not actually recycled, and the Blue Planet claim that 8m tonnes of the stuff ends up in oceans.

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Categories: Environment

Thai police arrest notorious wildlife trafficking suspect

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 11:00pm

Exclusive: Boonchai Bach allegedly ran tusk and horn smuggling route from Africa

Police in Thailand have arrested one of the world’s most notorious wildlife traffickers, allegedly involved in the smuggling thousands of tonnes of elephant tusks and rhino horns from Africa to Asia, the Guardian has learned.

Boonchai Bach, who goes by multiple aliases including Bach Mai Limh, was arrested at his operational base in the north-eastern province of Nakhon Phanom, next to the Mekong River on Thursday.

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Categories: Environment

NSW's largest windfarm highlights power of community investment | Simon Holmes à Court

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 2:53pm

The Sapphire Wind Farm in northern NSW has invited the locals to invest in it – the first such co-investment project in Australia

In the early days of windfarming, carpetbaggers almost ruined it for everyone.

Opportunists scoured regional Australia looking for prospective project sites. Farmers were pressured to sign up to leases and planning applications were rushed through. As soon as the permit was in hand, the developer would flip the project and start again.

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Categories: Environment

Pope Francis says Amazon indigenous people under greater threat than ever

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 2:38pm
  • Pontiff addresses representatives of 400 indigenous groups in Peru
  • Amazon is ‘cultural reserve’ threatened by new types of colonialism

Pope Francis has warned that the Amazon’s indigenous people have “never been so threatened in their territories as they are now” and demanded an end to the relentless exploitation of the region’s timber, gas and gold.

Addressing an indigenous audience in Peru’s jungle city of Puerto Maldonado, the pope expanded on the environmental message of his 2015 encyclical, taking aim at the multiple threats faced by the Amazon rainforest and telling its indigenous inhabitants they were a “call to conscience for a way of life which could not measure its own costs”.

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Categories: Environment

Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching has started early, biologist says

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 2:00pm

Photographs show only localised bleaching but there is concern it has come so early in the season

Warm water has already begun bleaching coral on the Great Barrier Reef, weeks ahead of the period with highest forecast risk. Satellite data suggest widespread bleaching is possible by March.

Selina Ward, a coral reef biologist from the University of Queensland, has photographed the bleaching, which she said appeared to be very localised so far, but was concerning because of how early in the season it was.

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Categories: Environment

Trump is 'obsessed' and 'terrified' of sharks – but his fears are excessive

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 1:36pm

You are more likely to die from a bicycle accident, lightning strike, or mauling by alligator or bear than from a shark attack

The president of the United States does not like sharks.

Related: Stormy Daniels on Trump: pajamas, unprotected sex and … scary sharks

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Categories: Environment

1m more smart meters which hinder switching could be rolled out

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 8:29am

Government extends deadline for installation of older model despite interoperability issues

More than 1m extra first generation smart meters will be fitted in homes because the government has extended a deadline for their installation, despite the devices being criticised because they can “go dumb” when customers switch energy suppliers.

Related: Energy firms say price cap on bills could hit UK roll-out of smart meters

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Categories: Environment

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 7:00am

Icelandic horses, an endangered hawksbill sea turtle and snow leopards are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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Categories: Environment

Hundreds of MPs call on supermarkets to scrap plastic packaging

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 6:48am

MPs write to major supermarkets, as pressure grows over the huge amounts of plastic waste they generate

Two hundred cross-party MPs are calling on heads of the major supermarkets to eliminate plastic packaging from their products by 2023.

The MPs, who are from seven political parties, have written to Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, Waitrose, Aldi, Lidl, Budgens and Marks & Spencer urging them to scrap plastic packaging.

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Categories: Environment

Regent's Park cycle route plans at risk of being cut back

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 4:38am

Last-minute opposition by Westminster city council to park gate closures could leave the new superhighway ‘dead’, says former London cycling commissioner

Plans to close the outer circle of Regent’s Park to rat-running motor traffic are being “significantly watered down” to shutting just two gates – down from four – and to shorter periods, in only the morning and evening peak, it has been revealed.

Although still in discussion, plans for the road, which will form part of cycle superhighway 11 (CS11), have reportedly been under pressure from Westminster city council since they gained 60% approval in a public consultation in August 2016. Those close to discussions say weakened changes are now being blocked by the body that runs the park’s roads on the grounds they could be more dangerous than the status quo.

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Categories: Environment

'A rabbit always has to run': Spanish rangers fear for lives after double murder

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 2:30am

The killing of two rangers in Catalonia a year ago this week, marked a chilling turning point for colleagues facing up to increasing violence towards Europe’s wildlife defenders

On a hill above the olive trees and dun scrublands of western Catalonia, two rusty iron silhouettes maintain a still and silent vigil. One peers out over the land through a pair of binoculars; the other kneels and holds a bird forever on the cusp of release.

At their feet is a simple plaque: “In memory and recognition of Xavier Ribes Villas and David Iglesias Díez, wildlife rangers whose lives were taken in the line of duty on 21 January 2017.”

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Categories: Environment

Kenya forest death: activists blame EU for ignoring human rights warnings

Fri, 2018/01/19 - 12:00am

EU criticised for its ‘poor response’ after an indigenous herder is killed during a forced eviction for a water conservation project it funds

The European Union has been accused of a fatally slow response to human rights warnings after the killing of an indigenous man at one of the projects it funds in Kenya.

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Categories: Environment

I’m 73 and a grandmother. Fracking has turned me into an activist | Gillian Kelly

Thu, 2018/01/18 - 11:00pm
Until last year I’d never been in a protest. Now I’m due in court for trying to stop this destructive industry ruining our landscape

I am a 73-year-old grandmother. On a sunny day in the middle of July I found myself sitting in the central reservation of the A583 outside Cuadrilla’s fracking site near Blackpool, one arm locked into a steel tube within a brightly coloured wooden box and surrounded by police. I was not alone. Locked into a neighbouring box was my partner, Paul, and my granddaughter, Megan. A few feet away my son, Sebastian, was also locked on, along with two other female friends.

The next morning in the Guardian there was a large photograph of me with a caption describing me as an activist. I almost laughed out loud. I thought I must be the unlikeliest person ever to be described as an activist. Unlikely because of my age and because I am definitely not given to defiance; I do feel deeply about inhumanity, greed, the wrecking of the planet, but thus far I had confined myself to petition-signing, infrequent letter-writing and furious, but powerless, indignation in the company of like-minded friends.

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Categories: Environment