The healing power of nature

The idea that immersing yourself in forests and nature has a healing effect is far more than just folk wisdom. ‘The longer the trip, the more healing occurs,’ says the geologist Peter Winn, who has been leading expeditions down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon since the 1960s. ‘Healing happens for people almost without exception.’

The most dramatic transformations that he’s observed have been in disabled military veterans on 16-day kayaking trips organized by a group called Team River Runner. ‘One army communications expert came home from Iraq so full of shrapnel, he’d lost his ability to do even simple math, and would only say “Fuck you.”’ By the end of the trip, he spoke eloquently and at length, in appreciation of both the Canyon and his fellow boaters. ‘Later his wife wrote to thank the crew and the river for getting her husband back.’

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Understanding climate change’s impact on early societies

A new study linking paleoclimatology — the reconstruction of past global climates — with historical analysis shows a link between environmental stress and its impact on the economy, political stability, and war-fighting capacity of ancient Egypt.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, show that integrating evidence from historical writings with paleoclimate data can advance both our understanding of how the climate system functions, and how climatic changes impacted past human societies.

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Posted in Climate change, Society | Tagged ,

What will our climate look like in 2050?

Knowing that we have the power to influence global climate is enormously important when trying to imagine what our climate might look like in 2050. To a large degree, it will depend on actions our leaders take now and in the immediate future.

What kind of a climate we will experience in 2050 is something we, to a large degree, are actually in the process of deciding. There are, of course, still some people who do not “believe” in human-caused climate change. Their reasons for this are usually justified by two arguments: The Earth’s environment goes through natural cycles and humans cannot change those cycles. Indeed, variations on this line of reasoning are found daily in social media and other news outlets.

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Read also: How business can meet the challenge of climate change

Posted in Climate change, Climate policy | Tagged ,

More extreme warm days in a warmer climate

Global warming means more warm extreme weather conditions, according to an analysis of more than 140 years of air temperature data.

The climate is changing. The Earth is becoming warmer and man-made emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are the predominant reason why. The theory of how greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere has been the subject of deep and profound scientific discussions. The theory has been challenged and tested, and it has not been possible to reject it given a profound lack of compelling evidence to the contrary. Understanding temperature variations is a prerequisite for understanding patterns of global and regional climate change. Variations in observed temperature around the world and through time allow us to map these areas where we have trustworthy and systematic temperature measurements. Understanding this allows us to assess the conditions for the future, and make projections of variations and extremes in both warm and cold weather.

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Posted in Climate change, Climate policy | Tagged ,

What makes the Climate Change?

Explore the processes behind climate change today and in our recent past.

Throughout history, the Earth has experienced many climate changes. So how can we explain these changes and how can we tell the difference between natural and man-made climate change? To understand this, we need to first understand the complex interplay between all of the processes that drive the climate. Some mechanisms are related to external processes, such as changes to the Earth’s position in relation to the Sun and variations in the strength of the Sun, while other processes are related to variations in ocean currents and wind patterns in the atmosphere.

Part I   –   Part II

Posted in Climate change, Climate policy | Tagged ,

Awash in Sea of Data, Ecologists Turn to Open Access Tools

When marine ecologists released the Ocean Health Index (OHI) for the first time in 2012, it was a majestically ambitious achievement. The index, born of a collaboration among dozens of scientists, economists and environmental managers at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the nonprofit organization Conservation International, was designed as a comprehensive framework for scientifically evaluating the health of ocean ecosystems, both worldwide and regionally. Drawing on more than a hundred databases, the index pulled together local measurements of biodiversity and ecological productivity with information about fishing, industrial use, carbon storage, tourism and other factors to score the health of open ocean and coastal regions between 0 and 100. (The global ocean earned a score of 60 in that first year, with regional ratings between 36 and 86.) The authors of the index hoped that such a standardized basis of comparison between and within regions would help with identifying and communicating the most effective measures for protecting the oceans and with guiding policymakers toward better decisions.

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Is climate change making mega-hurricanes the new normal?

Two powerful hurricanes within two weeks, and sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico have been among the highest in the world this year – coincidence? Or is global warming fueling these massive storms?

The magic temperature for formation of hurricanes and other tropical storms is at least 26 degrees Celsius. The warmer the water is, the more water vaporizes and gets sucked into the storm, fueling the storm and making it more intense. “More energy in the atmosphere means more potential for extreme weather,” Friedrich says. With rising sea temperatures, the probability that the water surfaces reaches 26 degrees increases, making tropical storms more likely to occur.

“What we are now experiencing is a foretaste of what climate models let us expect for the future,” meteorologist Friedrich says. So maybe it’s time to stop quibbling over models – and start preparing for future mega-storms.

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Research partnership is key to biodiversity conservation

A new policy paper led by University of York scientists, in partnership with Proforest, aims to increase awareness among researchers of the High Conservation Value (HCV) approach to safeguarding ecosystems and species. The HCV approach is widely used in sustainable land management schemes to identify important ecosystems and species to conserve, but is little known in academia and the scientific evidence base is lacking. The policy paper encourages new research into the effectiveness of the HCV process and greater knowledge exchange between scientists, HCV users and policy makers, to reduce biodiversity losses from tropical landscapes. The paper is published in the journal Conservation Letters.

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Posted in Biodiversity, Conservation, Research | Tagged , ,

Indigenous storytelling as asset for biocultural conservation

Some of the areas hosting most of the world’s biodiversity are those inhabited by indigenous peoples. In the same way that biodiversity is being eroded, so is the world’s cultural diversity. As a result, there have been several calls to promote biocultural conservation approaches that sustain both biodiversity and indigenous cultures.

Researchers Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares and Mar Cabeza from the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland, are inviting conservation practitioners to tap into the art of storytelling to revitalise the biocultural heritage of indigenous peoples.

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Posted in Biocultural conservation, Biodiversity, Indigenous knowledge, Sustainability | Tagged , , ,

Grassroots Innovations – researching sustainability from the bottom-up

Grassroots innovations are community-led solutions for sustainability. They can offer promising new ideas and practices, but often struggle to scale up and spread beyond small niches. This website presents the latest news and updates from a series of research projects on grassroots innovations, including sustainable energy and complementary currencies, based at the University of East Anglia and the University of Sussex. Our research aims to better understand how these innovations develop and grow, and how they can be harnessed to meet sustainability policy objectives.

Everybody, it seems, is committed to sustainable development. But not everybody is practicing or seeking sustainable development in the same way. There is something qualitatively different between, say, a community supported organic vegetable box scheme and the range of organic products sold at a supermarket. Or a locally financed renewable energy scheme compared to an offshore wind farm operated by a multinational utility company. In each case, the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development are traded-off differently. They are practicing quite different kinds of sustainable development.

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