The outside of the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters building in Washington DC, which is to disperse $600 million to help with pollution in lower income communities.
Dec 28, 2023
weekly eco news

Preserving Nature's Finest Gems: Celebrating 50 Years of Protecting Endangered Species and Advancing Environmental Justice -7th Issue

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Celebrating Half A Century Of Endangered Species Protection

American Bald Eagle Flying in Homer Alaska: one of the animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Since its inception, the Endangered Species Act has transformed the lives of more than 300 animals and plants at risk of extinction. Thanks to this law, some of the most iconic animals, such as grizzly bears, California condors, and humpback whales, still grace our planet. 

This last week in December marks the 50th anniversary of the conservation milestone, which protects threatened or endangered species, including fish, wildlife, and plants, along with their important habitats. 

"The world's a big place and we hear a lot of negative news all the time, but all is not lost, and we can actually save species starting right in our own communities," said National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore.

To document our planet’s biodiversity, Sartore has taken portraits of 15,000 species. His project for the National Geographic, coined the Photo Ark, shines a light on the at-risk species around the world. 

Learn more about the Endangered Species Act and its importance on ABC

New Grants Fight For Environmental Justice

The outside of the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters building in Washington DC, which is to disperse $600 million to help with pollution in lower income communities.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will disperse $600 million in grants that will help address the disproportionate amounts of pollution in vulnerable communities. Due to centuries of systemic racism, the majority in the path of pollution are minorities and low-income populations. 

To streamline the review process, regional grantmakers will vet the organizations, rather than the EPA. This will result in faster positive impacts on the communities across the United States. These grants will fund thousands of environmental justice projects. 

“These organizations will be able to review and approve grant applications faster. Not with all the bureaucracy. Not in years, but in months,” said Vice President Kamala Harris. “That means our investment will hit the streets more quickly.” 

The 11 organizations responsible for the grants include Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Inc., Health Resources in Action, Fordham University, and Climate Justice Alliance and many more. The grants are expected to open competitions and awards by summer 2024.

Read more about these environmental justice grants that will alter the course of pollution on The Hill

The End of an Age-Old Partnership: Bees, Birds, and Blooms

A beautiful large hummingbird with blue wings from Andean slopes of South America, pollinating flowers.

For millions of years, bees, birds, and blooms have thrived on Earth in a mutually beneficial relationship. Unfortunately, certain flowers are signaling their readiness to break away from this ancient partnership, which could undo thousands of years of evolutionary progress.

A recent study focused on field pansies near Paris, which now have smaller flower displays with less nectar compared to 20 years ago. Big blooms are a waste of energy for the plants. 

With the global decline of these important animals, these pansies have shifted their reproduction tactics to self-pollination. This could lead to a vicious cycle where plants produce less nectar, providing less food for insects, which may lead to further declines in population. 

Other examples of changes in pollination strategies are a shift in flower shapes to accommodate hummingbirds or more pollen production to compete for available pollinators. It is essential to implement conservation measures to prevent the decline of bees, moths, birds, and other pollinators.

​​Learn more about this complex shift between plants and pollinators on The Guardian.

A Historic Fossil Fuels Decision at the COP28

Sun setting on a fossil fuel extraction plant referring to COP28 agreement to phase out fossil fuels.

Ready for the end of the fossil fuels era? So is the rest of the world. Signed by nearly 200 countries at the recent COP28 summit, this historic agreement creates a clear path to phase out the extraction and use of fossil fuels for energy – a leading cause of the climate crisis. 

"For the very first time at a COP, fossil fuels have been on the table as a major part of our negotiations,” stated U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry. “And the decision that came out of this clearly embraces transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, so as to achieve net zero by 2050."

Despite some compromises, there was a united front to accomplish the climate targets of the Paris Agreement. The landmark text also sets to triple renewables and double energy efficiency by 2030.

Some other important takeaways include: 

  • the obligation of wealthy nations to assist vulnerable regions 
  • the urgent need for transformation in the food system
  • the proven impacts of the changing climate on human health
  • the significance of methane as a greenhouse gas

Explore the impacts of the 2024 United Nations climate conference on ABC News.

Furniture companies experiment with eco-friendly materials

Close-up of coffee beans: one of the ingredients used in the development of sustainable furniture materials.

Oyster shells. Seaweed. Coffee beans. Fungus. What could these weird materials have in common? All of these sustainable options are being explored by furniture companies to reduce plastic in their products. 

Beginning their search with ground oyster shells, Agoprene, a company based in Oslo, tested various materials and discovered seaweed to be a soft material for cushions. This foam alternative is biodegradable over the course of 8 months – a drastic comparison to plastic cushions. 

Plastic furniture not only continues to impact the environment in its afterlife, but also produces emissions during its production and transportation. Some other alternative materials discovered by companies include coffee beans for a chair collection and ocean waste for outdoor products. Major brands are on board with this innovative transition, too. 

Though as we step into 2024, these small companies continue to lead the charge for sustainable furniture solutions.

Learn more about these innovative furniture companies and their material experiments on BBC