The Ecologist


EC: 1/25 of 2021
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A beaver's services to landscape and wetland management are worth $120,000 a year, according to today's Earth Index.

How much is nature worth? More than you can imagine

Neil Nightingale

8th October 2015

However much you think nature is worth, it's a lot more, writes Neil Nightingale. According to the BBC's 'Earth Index', published today in the world's financial press, water alone is worth as much as the entire global economy, and a single beaver's landscape and wetland management clocks in at $120,000 a year. more...
Look, no pollution! The 2016 Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle. Photo: Toyota UK via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Dieselgate - our wake-up call for new car technologies

Harry Hoster, Lancaster University

8th October 2015

The real lesson of Volkswagen's 'dieselgate' scandal is that we must ditch petroleum fuels, writes Harry Hoster. There's new, clean technologies just waiting to take off - and the most promising is fuel cells. They will also fit right into the new world of renewables, with surplus power from wind and solar making the hydrogen they burn. more...
Killer Whales in Monterey Bay, California - helping to sequester the carbon emissions from those smokestacks in the background. Photo: © John Krzesinski 2012 via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Predators keep the oceans' carbon pump ticking

Peter Macreadie, Euan Ritchie, Graeme Hays & Trisha B Atwood

29th September 2015

By keeping marine herbivores in check, predators from sharks to crabs are essential to keep the oceanic 'carbon pump' working - with seaweed and plankton fixing atmospheric carbon and bearing it down to deep waters and sediments before getting munched. It's time to give ocean predators the protection they deserve, for climate's sake. more...
Members of the Womens' Collective of Tamil Nadu in a forest area where they are growing fruits and vegetables. Photo: WhyHunger.

Agroecology leading the fight against India's Green Revolution

Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau

29th September 2015

For the women farmers of Tamil Nadu life has long been a struggle, Sheelu Francis told Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau, all the more so following the advent of 'Green Revolution' industrial agriculture. So now women's collectives are organising to restore traditional foods and farming methods, resulting in lower costs, higher yields, improved nutrition, and a rekindling of native Tamil culture. more...
PostCapitalism by Paul Mason, published by Penguin / Allen Lane.

PostCapitalism: is it what we Greens have always wanted?

Caroline Lucas

2nd October 2015

Will we ever be able to say goodbye to capitalism? In his new book Paul Mason argues that its demise is inevitable, writes Caroline Lucas: neoliberalism contains the seeds of its own destruction, and it's up to ordinary people to replace it with a green, sustainable and cooperative society. So let's do it! more...
Some rhinos are more equal than others ... and this Asian Rhino in the Chitwan National Park, Nepal is, it appears, less equal than its African cousins. Photo: Joshua Alan Davis via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Africa's rhinos grab the cash while their Asian cousins head for extinction

David Tosh

2nd October 2015

Two of Asia's three rhino species are 'critically endangered', writes David Tosh, yet the lion's share of rhino conservation resources is lavished on Africa. The reason is simple: Africa's rhinos generate more cash from tourism. But should this really be the point? more...
At the New Mexico Consortium, Los Alamos scientists are using genetic engineering to improve algae strains for increased biomass yield and carbon capture efficiency. Photo: Los Alamos National Laboratory via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Re-engineering life? The dangers of 'next generation' biofuels

Almuth Ernsting

30th September 2015

The biofuels of the future will depend on microbes, writes Almuth Ernsting: algae to produce the biomass, and fungi or bacteria to break cellulose down into useful molecules. Just one problem: wild strains aren't up to the job. So scientists are trying to genetically engineer supercharged 'synthetic biology' variants - which will inevitably enter the environment. What could possibly go wrong? more...
Exposure to low levels of glyphosate impairs bees navigational learning. A bee in Charlotte, VA. Photo: Universal Pops via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Glyphosate harms bees' spatial learning

Beyond Pesticides

20th September 2015

A new study shows it's not just neonicotinoids that impair bees' ability to navigate to nectar and pollen sources, and to their nests: now the herbicide glyphosate has been found to have the same impact even at very low levels. more...
Salisbury Cathedral took 46 years to build. Would Hinkley C be any quicker? Photo: Photo Phiend via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Hinkley Point must be stopped - even if you believe in nuclear

Chris Goodall

19th September 2015

UK support for low-carbon energy technologies is running at £250 million a year, writes Chris Goodall. Yet the government wants to throw four times more, every year for 35 years, at the Hinkley C nuclear power station, that could take almost as long to build as Salisbury Cathedral. more...
Farmers carrying milk to market on their bicycles under the hot sun in Ulttarakhand, India. Photo: Paul Hamilton via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

For climate's sake, let's cut food waste!

John Mandyck

17th September 2015

At least a third of the food the world grows each year goes to waste, writes John Mandyck, most of it in fields, transport and storage. The result is poor farmers, hungry people, and a massive 3.3 billion tonnes of needless CO2 emissions. It should be a key topic for action at COP21 in Paris - but so far it's not even on the agenda. more...
Bob Inglis, Executive Director at the Engery and Enterprise Institute, taking part in a panel discussion on how to sell carbon pricing to Canadians in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, hosted by Canada 2020. Photo: Canada 2020 via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Republicans must make climate change their own! Bob Inglis, ex Congressman

Zachary Davies Boren / Greenpeace Energydesk

24th September 2015

Bob Inglis is a true Republican, writes Zachary Davies Boren. But now he's a ex-Congressman. All because he reckons that climate change is real, serious and demands solutions - among them a carbon tax to stop free riders dumping their trash in the sky. And, he's certain: it's only a matter of time before the GOP will come to see things his way. more...
Another extraordinary sunset over Lake Baikal - the deep hues heightened by the ever-present forest fires. Photo: Bryce Stewart.

New dams, warming waters, forest fires - Lake Baikal in peril

Bryce Stewart

17th September 2015

Longer than England, almost as deep as the Grand Canyon, Russia's Lake Baikal is one of the world's greatest aquatic wonders, writes Bryce Stewart. But it's a fragile paradise: the limpid waters are warming much faster than the global average, with as yet unknown effects on its ecology. And it faces the danger of a huge dam on its principal tributary, Mongolia's Selenga River. more...

EC: 1/25 of 2021
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Felled tree in the coastal rainforest of Oregon, USA. Photo: Francis Eatherington via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Biosphere collapse: the biggest economic bubble ever

Glen Barry

14th September 2015

Worried about debt, defaults and deficits? Save up your concern for the real problem, writes Glen Barry. The systematic destruction Earth's natural ecosystems for short-term profit is the 'bubble' that underlies economic growth - and if allowed to continue its bursting will leave the Earth in a state of social, economic and ecological collapse. more...
'Oil Refinery at Oxymoron'. Artwork by Wyatt Wellman via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

China syndrome: fracked oil and Saudi Arabia's big gamble hit sinking global economy

James Meadway /

10th September 2015

For anyone who believes in the ineffable wisdom of 'free' markets, the current sinkaway oil price takes some explaining, writes James Meadway. Saudi Arabia's big gamble that it could put US shale oil out of business by over-pumping has now collided with China's falling demand for energy. Result: oil producers everywhere are swimming in red ink. Where will it all end? more...
Golden rice may be a marvel of modern technology, but it is consistently outperformed in the field by native varieties. Photo: traditional rice farmer at Budid, Philippines, by Shan Sheehan via Flickr (CC BY).

Golden rice: the 'GM superfood' that fell to Earth

Glenn Stone

2nd September 2015

Golden rice was once hailed as the wonder crop that 'could save a million kids year', writes Glenn Stone. But in the 15 years since that bold prediction, the carotene enhanced GMO has been held back by persistent 'yield drag' and inconclusive nutrition outcomes. It now appears unlikely ever to fulfill its early promise. more...
The protestor is right: GMOs are indeed a science experiment. And we are the guinea pigs. Photo: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Growing doubts over GMO safety: a scientist's experience

Jonathan Latham

31st August 2015

Are GMOs safe? Up to a point, writes Jonathan Latham - provided you're not eating them. That's certainly not proven to be safe, indeed the hazards are numerous: protein encoding viral DNA fragments, herbicide metabolites, biotoxins whose operation is not understood, poorly conducted experiments ... and those are just the ones we know about. more...
Work - who needs it? Photo: a family celebration by the Potomac by Bill Dickinson via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

We should all get three-day weekends - all the time

David Spencer

30th August 2015

The effect of new labour saving technologies has been ... to keep us working as long as ever, or longer. But why? Certainly not for our benefit, writes David Spencer. It's to keep civil society suppressed, docile, in thrall to the power of capital. All the more reason to rebel - demand a 30-hour working week now! more...
The pine marten may look cuddly - but it's no such thing, specially if you're a grey squirrel. But lighter, more agile reds fare rather better. Photo: Thomas Broxton Jr via Flickr (CC BY).

Pine martens' return could bring a red squirrel resurgence

Emma Sheehy

28th August 2015

The return of pine martens to central Ireland has been followed by a resurgence of red squirrels, writes Emma Sheehy. Now that the predatory mammal is being seen south of the Scottish border, the same could happen in England. The heavier grey squirrel is easy prey for pine martens, and their demise could open up ecological space for the native red to recolonise. more...
The Earthship at Stanmer Park, just outside Brighton, East Sussex, UK. Photo: Esa Ruoho via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Repowering renewables - a silver lining amid the gloom?

Oliver Tickell

28th August 2015

The Tories' decision to scrap the UK's renewable energy sector deserves condemnation, writes Oliver Tickell. But there is a silver lining: it creates the space in which to design better, cheaper, more cost effective support mechanisms to drive the clean energy revolution forward. more...
For Tony Blair, climate change was a core issue. But his successors are leaving it to Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband. Launching the 'Breaking the Climate Deadlock' report in Tokyo, Japan, 27th June 2008. Photo: The Climate Group via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Aspiration versus climate change: can we win back the centre left?

Leo Barasi

28th August 2015

Commitment to action on climate change was once a banner of modernism adopted by by both Tony Blair and David Cameron, writes Leo Barasi. But no longer. The Tories have abandoned it entirely, while the Labour mainstream, in thrall to the twin narratives of 'austerity' and 'aspiration', looks the other way. So how to put climate change back on the centre-left agenda? more...
The 'plonkable heliostats'. doing their job. Photo:

'Plonkable' mirrors promise cheaper solar energy

Jeffrey Barbee / Guardian Environment

26th August 2015

The 'other' solar technology, CSP, which uses mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays, is about to get a lot cheaper, writes Jeffrey Barbee. A South African team has developed a low cost design suitable for mass production that can be 'plonked' on site straight from the factory. more...
Gardens by the Bay with Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore. Photo: Uwe Schwarzbach via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Setting aside half the Earth for 'rewilding': the human question

William Lynn

9th September 2015

Biologist E O Wilson's grand idea of setting aside half of the planet for nature to thrive is both appealing and deeply challenging, writes William Lynn. But it's missing a key element: an urban vision of how people can live ecologically, joyously in the half we make our own. more...
Living within ecological limits - austerity? Or sustainable abundance? Photo: Bart via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Death to 'austerity'. Long live sustainable abundance!

Rupert Read & Sandy Irvine

30th August 2015

Greens are united in opposing neoliberal 'austerity', write Rupert Read & Sandy Irvine. But there's another kind of austerity to which we are committed - that of living within ecological limits. But base the transition on social, economic and environmental justice, and there will be nothing austere about it. The future we're working for is one of sustainable, life-enhancing abundance. more...
A legally questionable logging corridor built by Asia Pulp and Paper inside the traditional home of the Orang Rimba, one of Indonesia's last nomadic cultures. Jambi Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: Rainforest Action Network via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Act now, or tropical forests will be a sorry sight in 2100

Simon Lewis

24th August 2015

Based on current performance tropical forests, the world's most biodiverse ecosystems, are set to be reduced to species-impoverished fragments by the end of the century, writes Simon Lewis. But it's not inevitable. Decisive action by the world's governments in Paris in December could secure desperately needed change. more...
It's not just the cows that are being milked. A small dairy farm in Adber, Dorset. Photo: Elliott Brown via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Government and NFU betray Britain's dairy farmers

Simon Fairlie / The Land

15th August 2015

Just as the banks are 'too big to fail', so Britain's struggling dairy farmers are 'too small to save', writes Simon Fairlie. And it's not just the government that's happy to see 16 dairy farms go the wall every week - it's also the National Farmers Union to which most pay their dues. The NFU's paradoxical response to the milk glut is to push for ever higher, more intensive milk production. more...


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