Sustainability Summarised - May edition
The month of May is often characterised with growth and new life - fitting considering the month got its name after Maia, the Greek Goddess of Fertility.
This month’s selection of environmental stories reflect the joy of springtime, covering the birth of new nature reserves to the development of revolutionary enzymes that break down plastic. Read on to find out what’s been happening in habitats across the world…
Work begins to turn 99,000 hectares in England into ‘nature recovery’ projects
Five landscape-scale projects in the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the Peak District, Norfolk and Somerset aim to help tackle wildlife loss and the climate crisis, and improve public access to nature.
Work in the projects will range from converting farmland into chalk grassland to restoring “dewponds” and managing wetlands and other land sustainably. They look to create new habitats, manage land for nature and carbon storage and increase footpaths and connect with communities, and in time these nature recovery schemes, which include existing nature reserves and the wider landscape, will extend across 99,200 hectares of land (245,000 acres) in total – equivalent in size to all 219 of the UK’s current national nature reserves.
Whale trapped in illegal fishing net freed by daring divers
Spanish divers saved the life of a 12-metre long humpback whale who became trapped in an illegal fishing net off the island of Mallorca. The net had become fastened around its mouth, leaving the whale unable to eat, weakened and drifting dangerously towards the beach. These nets, originally nicknamed ‘walls of death’, were banned by the United Nations 30 years ago.
Following the 45 minute rescue operation, the whale hung around to regain her strength in the company of the four divers before swimming off. One of the divers involved in the operation, marine biologist Gigi Torras, said she believed the whale had given them ‘a little thank you sign’ after being set free.
Plastic-eating Enzyme Could Eliminate Billions of Tons of Landfill Waste
An enzyme developed by engineers and scientists at The University of Texas in Austin might just hold the solution to one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems: what to do with the billions of tons of plastic waste piling up in landfills and polluting our natural lands and water.
The enzyme can break down plastics including polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a polymer found in most consumer packaging, such as containers, cans and bottles, fruit and salad packaging, as well as certain fibres and textiles. This makes up around 12% of all global waste. The best bit? This enzyme can break down plastics that typically take centuries to degrade, in just a matter of hours to days.
The butterflies we may never see again in Britain
A report by Butterfly Conservation warns that 24 of 58 butterfly species may soon disappear from Britain. The Wood White, Swallowtails, Adonis Blues and the Scotch Argus are among some of the great British butterflies headed towards extinction.
Humans are driving the loss of butterflies by destroying wildlife rich habitats, which have been destroyed, ploughed up, covered in fertilisers and used to grow crops or for housing. But there is still hope, as some species of butterfly have been brought back from the brink through intense conservation work.
Pollution caused one in six deaths worldwide in 2019, finds study
There has been a decline in deaths from pollution linked to extreme poverty, which has been offset by the growing number of deaths linked to industrial pollution, according to a report published in The Lancet Planetary Health.
Of the nine million pollution-attributable deaths in 2019, air pollution (both household and ambient) remains responsible for the greatest number of deaths at 6.67 million worldwide. Water pollution was responsible for 1.36 million premature deaths. Lead contributed 900,000 premature deaths, followed by toxic occupational hazards at 870,000 deaths.