October 31, 2014

Time to talk about the birds and the bees

Five environmental groups and one farmer’s union are working together to dissuade Health Canada from approving a new systemic pesticide that could prove harmful to bees, birds, small mammals and other organisms. The pesticide, called flupyradifurone, attacks the nervous systems of insects and has the potential to contaminate pollen, fruits and seeds of plants. Bees and other pollinators, for one, are already having a hard time coping with the effects of neonicotinoids, which is widely believed to be a major cause of mass bee die-offs. “Scientists have called for a global phase-out of neonics. The last thing we need is another systemic pesticide contaminating the environment,” said Karen Eatwell, a spokesperson for the National Farmers Union. Health Canada has initiated a public comment period on its proposed approval of the new pesticide, says the group, which includes the Sierra Club Canada Foundation and the David Suzuki Foundation. Comments are being received up to November 3.


32 countries at “extreme” risk of conflict

An analysis of 198 countries has identified 32 nations that are most likely to experience conflict and civil unrest as a result of climate change. Bangladesh was found to be the most at-risk country in the world, followed by Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Nigeria and Chad, as well as island nations the Philippines and Haiti. Perhaps even more alarming is that growth economies like Cambodia, India and Pakistan are also on the “extreme risk” list, raising an important question about how much climate change could destabilize our increasingly globalized economy. Maplecroft, the analytics company that produced the report, said that one unifying characteristic of all these economies is their heavy dependence on agriculture for job creation and growth. “Changing weather patterns are already impacting food production, poverty, migration and social stability – factors that significantly increase the risk of conflicts and instability in fragile and emerging states alike.”


85,000 buildings in NYC flood zones: Report

You can bet insurance companies are taking note of this one. A policy brief released this week from the Office of the New York City Comptroller has determined that 84,596 buildings and 400,000 residents in NYC now lie within the so-called 100-year flood plain thanks to the rising effects climate change. The building count more than triples the previous estimate from 2010 and represents property value of nearly $130 billion, according to the analysis. The new estimate came about because of the $14 billion in devastation caused two years ago by Hurricane Sandy. “With such immense value arrayed along the city’s coast, we must act now to make the necessary investments to protect our homes, our businesses and our neighborhoods from the future effects of climate change and the potentially destructive force of another hurricane,” the brief states. “While the costs of resiliency projects are high, investing in the city’s future will pay enormous dividends, both to our waterfront communities and our broader economy.” The brief follows a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists that urges eastern and Gulf coast communities to prepare for chronic flooding over the next 15 and 30 years. To assist with adaptation, New Jersey just launched its Energy Resilience Bank, also in response to Hurricane Sandy. The bank will spend $200 million (U.S.) toward development of distributed energy resources at critical facilities so they can stay operational during outages caused by extreme weather. As Corporate Knights’ Ashley Renders reported today, Canada isn’t immune to the expected rise in flooding events. Unfortunately, it is the only country in the G8 without overland flood insurance.


Climate depression… It’s real

If all of this news about flooding and conflict is getting you down, you’re not alone. Madeleine Thomas at Grist.org wrote an insightful piece this week pointing to the struggle some climate scientists, environmentalists, and other “frontliners” are having with anxiety and depression as a result of climate research. “From depression to substance abuse to suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, growing bodies of research in the relatively new field of psychology of global warming suggest that climate change will take a pretty heavy toll on the human psyche as storms become more destructive and droughts more prolonged,” wrote Thomas. “For your everyday environmentalist, the emotional stress suffered by a rapidly changing Earth can result in some pretty substantial anxieties.” Corporate Knights had a story on this important but underreported issue in our Summer 2014 magazine. Two years earlier, we ran a feature looking at the impacts of climate change on the mental health of employees working at companies perceived to be contributing to or solving the problem.


Tall travellers of the world unite!

The problem tall people have sitting in airplane seats isn’t really comparable to climate change, but it can cause considerable stress and discomfort – particularly for long flights, and when the person sitting in front insists on permanently reclining their own seat. As The Economist’s business travel blog wrote this week, “Spending three hours wedged into a seat that cannot physically accommodate your legs may not technically qualify as medieval torture, but it’s a close call.” The blog points to the fact that many airlines now accommodate extra-large – that is, heavier – passengers by finding them a complimentary second seat that allows them to spread out. So, it asks, why not adopt the same policy, official or otherwise, for tall people? It’s a reasonable suggestion, and such a call for civility would only be fair. After all, tall travellers have a proud history of helping their shorter peers get their luggage into and out of overhead compartments. But as one of Corporate Knights’ Twitter followers replied, “KLM would go out of business” with such a policy. True, those Dutch folks are pretty tall. But we love them just the same.

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