It can increasingly feel as though the books and topics that used to only be found in the science fiction section have sprouted legs and begun to settle down on the current affairs shelves. Or that you considered something a solution - only to feel bombarded by the downsides the following week.
There are many controversial or hotly debated issues around sustainability; given the enormity of what’s at stake, that will probably never change.
First described in 2012, it’s one of the most talked about and controversial scientific topics of recent years; in 2018 alone it was mentioned in 23,000 published papers - not including the press.– CRISPR bacon anyone? Lesson #66
The success of the lithium battery - and the EVs they drive - will hinge on decarbonising the electricity that powers them.– Rechargeable batteries
More accurately speaking it would be a mammoth-elephant mash-up, with 60 genes from a mammoth added to an Asian elephant embryo (it’s closest living relative, who reportedly shares 99.6% of its genome.)
This isn’t just for fun. It’s estimated that mammoths performed certain roles in the environment and could help sculpt the Arctic landscape so that it better sequesters carbon and slows down permafrost melt. Permafrost melt is bad - it’s thought there’s twice as much carbon locked away in there as in the atmosphere (which would be released if it melted) as well as potentially lethal microbes that humans have never been exposed to.
It’s also an experiment in what’s been termed ‘genetic rescue’ - using DNA to save endangered species or bring back those made recently extinct by human activity. A lot of the tech is unproven, and may involve a lot of elephants, but the concept it pretty intriguing.
UK scientists are reportedly developing CRISPR bread - where the cheeky amino acid in the wheat that can potentially shuffle into a carcinogen when its’ made into bread, or toasted, is removed.
First described in 2012, it’s one of the most talked about and controversial scientific topics of recent years; in 2018 alone it was mentioned in 23,000 published papers - not including the press. It is basically the ability to repair or disable a gene, or snip it and insert something new. Obviously it’s uses could be unbelievably broad, from malaria free mosquitoes to gene edited babies, but it could be a way of helping us get more food from less land, and using less pesticides; two vital steps in the quest for more sustainable food sources for a growing population.
Electric Vehicles (EVs) have been touted as the biggest solution we have to climate change, as saying sayonara to the internal combustion engine will be the single biggest thing we can do to clean our air - limiting both warming and respiratory disease. General Motors say that every new car sold in the US by 2035 will be electric - and that they expect that to be sooner. Mercedez-Benz say that they can recycle 90% of the lithium once an EV is retired.
The success of the lithium battery - and the EVs they drive - will hinge on decarbonising the electricity that powers them. It may also see us starting to predominantly rent vehicles rather than buy them; as the manufacturer maintaining ownership means they can more easily control supply of recycled materials - at grades they know and trust - back into their own supply chains
It takes time – decades – for baby trees to get to a size where they suck out any significant amount of carbon and, if they’re struck by a wildfire or a naughty logger, they can release that carbon. New plantations of the same types of tree can’t hold a candle to an ancient woodland ecosystem.
Off-setting cannot replace reducing carbon emissions but planting and protecting trees is nearly never ever bad. The trick, though, is to make sure they’re actually planted (even the Vatican were scammed) – and done so responsibly (e.g. not on indigenous land without permission). Encouraging biodiversity is also crucial. There are groups to watch for, such as Gold Standard, Verified Green Standard and Green-e Climate Standard, that verify off-setting programmes.
In a 2020 UK based survey, most primary and secondary school teachers considered only basic literacy to be a more urgent funding need than climate change education.
It is officially on the UK curriculum - in geography and science - but many argue it is a side note and should feature more prominently, and be examined, if we are to fully prepare our children for the world they will enter. Mental health concerns have been cited as one reason for reluctance by national governments. An international report is currently grading countries on how the issue is integrated into education systems (no one is expected to get an A+).