World Celebrates Central America’s First Same-Sex Marriage After Costa Rica Passes Trailblazing Legislation

In a historic milestone for the LGBTQ community, Costa Rica just hosted the first legally recognized same-sex wedding ceremony in Central America.

Alexandra Quiros and Dunia Araya were the first couple to tie the knot after their wedding was officiated just as Costa Rica’s legislation for allowing same-sex marriage passed into effect at the stroke of midnight.

According to BBC, the ceremony was aired on national television following a 3-hour broadcast on the importance of marriage equality.

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The nation’s constitutional court first ordered parliament to strike down their laws against same-sex marriage back in August 2018 after ruling that the ban was unconstitutional.

Thanks to the newly-passed legislation, Costa Rica has joined the ranks of other South American countries—such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay—which have granted equal marriage rights to LGBTQ couples.

“Costa Rica officially recognizes equal marriage,” tweeted Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado. “Today we celebrate freedom, equality and democratic institutions. May empathy and love be the compass that allows us to get ahead and build a country where all people fit.”

(WATCH the news coverage below) – Feature photo by AFP

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NASA’s Historic New International Agreements Set Stage for Peaceful and Cooperative Future of Space Exploration

NASA, along with a number of partnering space agencies from around the world, have announced a new set of international agreements that will help to govern a “safe, peaceful, and prosperous future” of space exploration.

The recently-released “Artemis Accords” are the latest development of the Artemis Program, through which the agency vows to send the first woman—and next man—to the moon by 2024.

NASA hopes that the Accords will better allow it to work with international partners to conduct a human mission to Mars as well.

“It’s a new dawn for space exploration!” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote on Twitter last week. “Today, I’m honored to announce the Artemis Accords agreements—establishing a shared vision and set of principles for all international partners that join in humanity’s return to the Moon. We go, together.”

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The core values enshrined in the Accords expand upon the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. They include the principle that space exploration should be done for peaceful purposes, that the U.S. and its partner nations must be transparent in their practices, and they should strive to build interoperable systems to information that can be exchanged and shared between nations.

The program also aims to protect historic sites and artifacts beyond the bounds of our planet, in much the same way that heritage sites on earth are protected by law. These include the artifacts left behind during the moon landings of the Apollo program of 1969-1972.

“International space agencies that join NASA in the Artemis program will do so by executing bilateral Artemis Accords agreements, which will describe a shared vision for principles, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to create a safe and transparent environment, which facilitates exploration, science and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy,” NASA said in a statement.

International partners that have signed on to the Accords include the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, according to CNN.

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The Accords mark one of the most significant accomplishments thus far of the largest Artemis program, announced in 2019. The program involves the Orion spacecraft, Gateway and Space Launch Rocket System (SLS). The SLS rocket will be used to send Orion, with astronauts and large cargo on board, to the moon.

Unlike previous spacecraft which only supported short-term missions, the Orion will dock at the Gateway, described by CNN as “a spaceship that will go into orbit around the moon and be used as a lunar outpost. About 250,000 miles from Earth, the Gateway will allow easier access to the entire surface of the moon and potentially deep space exploration.”

Photo by NASA

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Indigenous Group in Brazil Wins Decades-Long Battle Against Illegal Loggers in the Amazon

A victory in a decades-long court battle provided relief for a special part of the Amazon rainforest and for the Ashaninka indigenous people who live there, as their 1990s lawsuit against illegal logging interests finally ended with a public statement of apology and a $3 million award for compensation.

Forestry companies and their legal teams acknowledged the “enormous importance of the Ashaninka people as guardians of the forest, zealous in the preservation of the environment,” in their official apology which claimed regret “for all the ills caused.”

Francisco Piyãko, part of Ashaninka leadership said, “These resources come to enhance existing actions, to generate sustainability for our people, our land, so that it helps to strengthen us to continue the broader project of environmental protection and maintenance of our ways of life.”

Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies suggested that the Attorney General, Augusto Aras, believes this case could be a turning point in environmental and indigenous peoples lawsuits.

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“What we did here was to comply with the Constitution, understanding that the indigenous people have sacred rights guaranteed by the Magna Carta,” Aras said in a statement. “You have the right to have a decent life, materially speaking, to choose your own destiny, to take part in political decisions, with respect to isolated communities.”

Beginning in 1980, forestry firms started harvesting mature cedar and mahogany trees for the European furniture trade in the Kampa do Rio Amônia Indigenous Reserve. The money awarded in the settlement will be paid over 5 years, and will be put mainly towards reforestation projects.

“The case will define hundreds of thousands of cases on massive environmental crimes in Brazil,” Antonio Rodrigo, the attorney for Ashaninka, said according to Latin Post.

(File photo by Nishaan ahmed)

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Lithuania Allows Restaurant Seating to Expand Into Streets and Plazas to Safely Reopen its Vibrant Old Town Cafes

The Lithuanian capital of Vilnius is supporting its vibrant café and restaurant culture through the coronavirus pandemic by designating all public spaces as open air cafés, allowing restaurants to stay open and serve customers while observing physical distancing guidelines.

With just over 1,000 cases and 44 deaths from COVID-19, the Baltic nation is staging a tiered exit from its lockdown by allowing restaurants with outdoor seating, hair salons, and most small retail stores to reopen.

Social distancing is still in full effect, but that’s no problem for the intrepid restauranteurs, baristas, and bar owners in Vilnius’ old town of Senamiestis, because they can place their tables as far apart as they care to do, utilizing the narrow streets and small plazas.

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“Plazas, squares, streets… Nearby cafes will be allowed to set up outdoor tables free of charge this season and thus conduct their activities during quarantine,” said Remigijus Šimašius, the mayor of this charming town, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to The Guardian, over 160 restaurant, café, and bar owners have signed up for the program that has opened 18 spacious public areas for outdoor seating, promising to add more spaces to the list as the summer progresses and the exit from the lockdown continues.

“It came just in time,” Evalda Šiškauskienė of the Lithuanian Association of Hotels and Restaurants told The Guardian, who added that it would help “accommodate more visitors and bring life back to the city streets, but without violating security requirements.”

Vilnius by Victor Malyushev

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Another ray of good news sunshine in Vilnius came when public health workers were recently rewarded with food and drink vouchers for city restaurants (€400,000 in total) as a gesture of gratitude for their hard work and public service in the face of COVID-19.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Lebanon Becomes First Arab Country to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Following a parliamentary vote last Tuesday, Lebanon has become the first Arab nation to legalize cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes—and it could bring a much-needed financial windfall to the country’s economy.

The legislation was approved nearly two years after it was recommended by New York-based firm Mckinsey and Co. through a consultation with the Lebanese government about alleviating the country’s economic crisis in 2018.

Since cannabis has long been grown illegally in the nation’s Bekaa Valley—and since Lebanon has been ranked among the top three biggest Middle Eastern cannabis cultivators by the United Nations—economists have estimated that a medical marijuana industry could bring in as much as $1 billion in annual revenue.

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Reports say that the legislation will also encourage the crop to be used for new legal industries such as producing textile fibers, developing pharmaceutical goods, and manufacturing consumer products from CBD oil.

“We have moral and social reservations, but today there is the need to help the economy by any means,” said Alain Aoun, a senior MP in the Free Patriotic Movement, as reported by The Independent.

Lebanon had already been suffering from dramatic rates of inflation, rising unemployment, and the diminishing value of local currency prior to the novel coronavirus outbreaks. Now, financial and political experts are hoping that the new birth of a booming medical marijuana industry could help resuscitate the nation’s struggling economy in the near future.

Representative photo by Visible Hands, CC

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In Groundbreaking Vote for Sustainability, EU Moves to Approve Insects for Human Consumption

As famed adventure television host, world record holder, former British Special Forces operator, and all around feel-good motivational guy Bear Grylls repeatedly reminded us on his television programs Man vs Wild and Running Wild, insects have more protein than beef or fish—sometimes as much as 8x more, if measured pound for pound.

After a long television career of pounding back worms, grubs, spiders, crickets, and ants for our amusement, Grylls would certainly be applauding the new proposed European Union legislation that would allow for mealworms, lesser mealworms, crickets, and locusts to be sold as “novel food sources,” pumping life into an industry that, while small, produces 500 tons of food annually according to The Guardian.

The products include things like cricket protein bars, locust aperitif, or mealworm burgers, and the new regulations from the European Food Safety Authority are likely to open the floodgates for insect food to flow from countries where they are made like Holland, the UK, Denmark, Belgium, and Finland, into countries where they are banned, such as Italy, France, and Spain.

“We reckon these authorizations will be a breakthrough for the sector,” Christophe Derrien, secretary general of the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed, added.

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“They are taking the necessary time, they are very demanding on information, which is not bad. But we believe that once we have the first novel food given a green light from EFSA that will have a snowball effect.”

Companies in the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Spain are all preparing to ramp up operations to prepare for the demand, perceiving through market signals that people actually want insect food.

Chirps Chips submitted

An Obvious Solution

Insects have been part of the staple diet of many world cultures, even now in modern times. They represent a rich source of animal protein that is practically immune to extinction, and just like traditionally harvested animals are perfectly safe to eat if you can control the conditions in which they live.

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With some of the most basic brain functions of anything in kingdom Animalia, insects are also less-likely to offend the sensibilities of vegetarians who, being more likely to be vitamin B12 deficient than omnivores, might be able to utilize the occasional cricket bar as a means of supplementing their plant based diet with bioavailable and dietary sources of B12 which can’t be made by plants, coming only from bacteria which live on plants.

Furthermore, unlike hoofed mammals, the process of enteric fermentation which, using the United States as an example, accounts for a small percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions (about 2.5% in the U.S.) is absent in insect agriculture, and so there’s a small potential reduction in GHG emissions to be gained from a switch.

Lastly trillions of insects are killed every year both by combine-harvesters and pesticides to protect major crops like wheat, rice, soya, corn, and cotton, representing millions of tons of lost nutrients. And, in a world where many communities are protein-deficient, insect products might never be more needed.

Multiply The Good By Sharing The Exciting News With Your Friends On Social Media — Photo by Chirps Chips

Homeless People From California to France Are Being Given Emergency Shelter During COVID-19 Response

As homeowners around the world are being ordered into self-isolation amidst the COVID-19 outbreaks, legislators are making sure that society’s most vulnerable people are offered the same protection.

Homeless people across North America and Europe are being offered shelter in everything from unused hotel rooms to designated self-isolation centers.

In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan booked 300 hotel rooms at a discounted rate to house the city’s rough sleepers for the next 12 weeks. The mayor’s legislative team plans to continue working with the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) to facilitate additional discount booking should the crisis develop further during the coming months.

“The coronavirus outbreak affects everyone in London and we must do all we can to safeguard everyone’s health—not least those Londoners who face spending each night sleeping rough on the capital’s streets,” said Khan in a statement. “Rough sleepers already face difficult and uncertain lives and I’m determined to do all I can to ensure they, along with all Londoners, are given the best protection possible.”

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This is just one of the many initiatives that the UK government is implementing to get homeless people off the streets during the novel coronavirus outbreaks. According to The Guardian, legislators are currently working to house rough sleepers in unused hotel rooms and other self-isolated commercial spaces. Not only is the space readily available, research also says that housing the homeless in hotel rooms is less costly than hospital space.

Similar measures have been implemented in California as well. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s legislative team has reportedly secured roughly 4,000 hotel rooms statewide with the hopes that the initiative could help lead to permanent housing after the COVID-19 crisis has been contained.

“This is an opportunity to bring folks indoors, and then try to get them into permanent housing when this is said and done,” said Ali Sutton, state deputy secretary for homelessness, in an interview with CapRadio.

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The state has reportedly allocated more than $150 million to local governments working to house the homeless during the outbreaks with another $50 million being distributed for renting travel trailers and hotel rooms as emergency shelter.

A KUOW report from earlier this month outlined similar initiatives taking place in Seattle as well.

Back in Europe, the Paris government has reportedly opened two separate isolation centers for homeless people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus—but do not require hospitalization— as the city enters into lockdown. Another 80 sites have been designated as confirmed isolation spaces across the country with another 2,800 facilities identified as potential additions to the nationwide housing network.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Landmark Ruling Finally Grants Women Equal Rights in the Indian Military

Despite years of ongoing legislative grief and gender bias, the Supreme Court of India has upheld a 2010 verdict that women be offered the same militaristic opportunities in commissioning as men.

The landmark ruling—which the government will be required to uphold within the next three months—means that women in the armed forces can now assume the post of colonel, brigadier, major general, lieutenant general, and chief of army staff. Furthermore, they will be eligible for the same benefits and pensions as their male colleagues regardless of their years of service.

Although the Delhi High Court had already approved equal treatment for female officers 9 years ago, the government attempted to overturn the ruling by arguing that women were not eligible for promotion or intelligence positions because of their “physiological limitations”.

“Women officers must deal with pregnancy, motherhood, and domestic obligations towards their children and families and may not be well suited to the life of a soldier in the armed forces,” stated the central government, according to CNN.

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Thanks to last month’s ruling from the Supreme Court, however, female officers will no longer be subjected to such archaic discrimination.

“[The] time has come that women officers are not adjunct to their male counterparts. Physiological features of women have no link to their rights. The mindset must change,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ajay Rastogi said in their ruling. “To cast aspersion on gender is an affront to their dignity and to the country.”

“All the lady officers in the Indian Army are very happy and very elated by the landmark judgment,” Lt. Col. Sandhya Yadav said after the verdict on Monday, as reported by The Associated Press. “It was a long wait and has ended. We are happy about it.”

Photo by Suyash Dwivedi, CC

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India Makes History With All Gas Stations Officially Preparing to Supply World’s Cleanest Fuel

In an ambitious bid to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, India is now ensuring that all diesel and gas stations will only be supplying the cleanest fuel.

Starting on April 1st, India will join the ranks of the few world nations offering Euro-VI grade fuel, which only contains 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulphur in contrast to the 50 ppm in Euro-IV fuels.

India is reportedly the first country to ever transition directly from IV-grade fuels to VI-grade. Not only that, they managed to achieve the transition in just three years.

According to The Tribune, it took India 7 years to transition from Euro-III grade fuel with a sulphur content of 350 ppm to Euro-IV fuel. Reports also say that most of the nation’s gas stations were already distributing the new ultra-low fuel by the end of 2019.

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“We are absolutely on track for supplying BS-VI fuel from April 1. Almost all refineries have begun supplying BS-VI fuel and the same has reached storage depots across the country,” Sanjiv Singh, Chairman of Indian Oil Corp (IOC), told reporters. “It was a conscious decision to leapfrog to BS-VI as first upgrading to BS-V and then shifting to BS-VI would have prolonged the journey to 4 to 6 years. Besides, oil refineries, as well as automobile manufacturers, would have had to make investments twice—first to producing BS-V grade fuel and engines and then BS-VI ones.”

While the initiative is just one of the many ways that India is trying to keep up with the world’s shift towards renewable energy, the nation reportedly made history last week by becoming the first country to power all of its government-run seaports with solar and wind energy.

The “green port” infrastructure means that 12 of the country’s biggest seaports are exclusively using renewable energy to power their daily operations. Not only that, the ports can use the energy to electrically power ships as they are docked.

File photo by Bernard Gagnon, CC

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Brazilians Get Juicy Tax Breaks When They Adopt Animals, Plant Trees, or Hail Historic Roots

A slew of Brazilian cities are passing laws that offer tax deductions or exemptions for citizens who want to pitch in to restore the health and beauty of their communities.

Whether by increasing tourism, restoring historic city centers, or boosting beautification by planting trees and maintaining their lawns, there are several ways residents of Goiânia, Belo Horizonte, Quinta do Sol, or Saraba can reduce their Brazilian property tax (IPTU), by anywhere between 30–100%.

Shopkeepers in Goiânia can receive a 2-year exemption from the IPTU if they help restore the original Art Deco-style of the city’s historic center by remaking their facades and storefronts to conform to the original 1950’s Parisian-inspired character.

For anyone who’s traveled to South or Central America, the site of a stray dog is nothing unusual. In the city of Quinta de Sol, the Rescue Program for Abandoned Dogs is a measure to encourage citizens to adopt stray dogs in exchange for a tax break.

Dog lovers can get 50% off their tax bill for big dogs, 40% for medium-sized dogs, and 30% for miniatures.

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Known for its jabuticaba trees, Sabara is offering anyone looking to save some money on their IPTU a 5% deduction for every jabuticaba tree they plant in their front or back gardens.

Photo of jabuticaba fruit trees by Vania Wolf, CC license

In the cities of Belo Horizonte and Minas Gerais, a homeowner can get an IPTU exemption if they maintain a wild garden on their property. Described in the law as ‘private ecological reserves’ the specifics of the legislation reads that the reserve of anyone seeking an exemption must contain “primitive or semi-primitive natural conditions” that aid in the “preservation of the biological cycle of species of fauna or flora native to Brazil”.

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As a way to ease the burden for those who have served, Fortaleza is offering exemptions for WWII veterans. The city of Acros is following suit for citizens with debilitating or chronic diseases like certain cancers, Alzheimer’s, and MS. Acros has issued 20 tax exemptions since 2017 for people with catalogued chronic diseases.

With a score from the World Bank of 1.68 out of 7 ranking the “burden of government regulation,” with 1 being the most burdensome, any break from the taxman will likely be a welcome relief for the citizens of Brazil.

And with more trees, primitive reserves, happy doggos, and art deco restaurants to show for it, visitors to the South American country will likely be just as happy.

Share The Innovative Ideas With Your Friends On Social Media – File photo by Andrey, CC

British Carbon Tax Leads to Whopping 93% Drop in Coal-Fired Electricity

A tax on carbon dioxide emissions in Great Britain, introduced in 2013, has led to the proportion of electricity generated from coal falling from 40% to 3% over six years, according to research led by University College London (UCL).

British electricity generated from coal fell from 13.1 TWh (terawatt hours) in 2013 to 0.97 TWh in September 2019, and was replaced by other less emission-heavy forms of generation such as gas. The decline in coal generation accelerated substantially after the tax was increased in 2015.

In the report, ‘The Value of International Electricity Trading’, researchers from UCL and the University of Cambridge also showed that the tax—called Carbon Price Support —added on average £39 to British household electricity bills, collecting around £740m for the Treasury, in 2018.

Academics researched how the tax affected electricity flows to connected countries and interconnector (the large cables connecting the countries) revenue between 2015—when the tax was increased to £18 per tonne of carbon dioxide—and 2018. Following this increase, the share of coal-fired electricity generation fell from 28% in 2015 to 5% in 2018, reaching 3% by September 2019.

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Increased electricity imports from the continent reduced the price impact in the UK, and meant that some of the cost was paid through a slight increase in continental electricity prices (mainly in France and the Netherlands).

Project lead Dr Giorgio Castagneto Gissey (Bartlett Institute for Sustainable Resources, UCL) said: “Should EU countries also adopt a high carbon tax, we would likely see huge carbon emission reductions throughout the Continent, as we’ve seen in Great Britain over the last few years.”

Lead author, Professor David Newbery (University of Cambridge), said: “The Carbon Price Support provides a clear signal to our neighbors of its efficacy at reducing CO2 emissions.”

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The Carbon Price Support was introduced in England, Scotland and Wales at a rate of £4.94 per tonne of carbon dioxide-equivalent and is now capped at £18 until 2021.The tax is one part of the Total Carbon Price, which also includes the price of EU Emissions Trading System permits.

Report co-author Bowei Guo (University of Cambridge) said: “The Carbon Price Support has been instrumental in driving coal off the grid, but we show how it also creates distortions to cross-border trade, making a case for EU-wide adoption.”

Professor Michael Grubb (Bartlett Institute for Sustainable Resources, UCL) said: “Great Britain’s electricity transition is a monumental achievement of global interest, and has also demonstrated the power of an effective carbon price in lowering dependence on electricity generated from coal.”

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The overall report on electricity trading also covers the value of EU interconnectors to Great Britain, measures the efficiency of cross-border electricity trading and considers the value of post-Brexit decoupling from EU electricity markets.

The report annex focusing on the Carbon Price Support was produced by UCL to focus on the impact of the tax on British energy bills.

The findings from UCL and the University of Cambridge were part of wider research to examine cross-border electricity trading between Great Britain and connected EU markets, commissioned by energy regulator Ofgem to inform its annual flagship State of the Energy Market report.

Reprinted from University of College London – Photo by Matthew Black, CC

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Revised Farm Payments Will Let UK Farmers Serve the Environment and Public Good

As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, an ambitious new piece of agricultural legislation presented in Parliament last week is set to unleash an “agricultural revolution” that aims to restore forests and peatlands, wildlife and pollinator habit.

The lawmakers view the focus on ‘environmental and public goods’ as the best way to reform farm subsidies in the UK and Europe—giving 21st century goals a new seat at the table to replace the outdated EU ones that focus almost entirely on incentivizing production.

Much of this £3 billion ($3.9 billion) in annual UK agriculture spending will be refocused to help farmers take a little time away from food production to pause and focus on improving their ecosystems and the environment at large.

After the destruction Europe endured during World War II, farm subsidies were simple and direct. “It was just about production, it didn’t matter what you did to the environment,” Ian Bateman, an environmental economist at the University of Exeter tells Science Magazine.

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Erik Stokstad writing for Science details how land was being torn up by the plow all over the continent which led to massive soil erosion, and excessive use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides polluted rivers and coastlines.

While that post-WWII model still forms the basis for European farm legislation, the UK’s ambitious new plan aims to financially incentivize farms to provide “public goods” such as the tried and tested “payment for environmental service” (PES) model that has been so successful in countries like Costa Rica.

The new subsidies will be tested in England first, as the UK allows Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to determine their own farm policy.

File photo by Robert Graham, CC

Getting Paid for Being Stewards of the Environment

The Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in England plans to prioritize public goods with the new legislation while phasing out existing EU payment programs over 7 years.

The public goods that DEFRA has in mind would include payments for sequestering carbon, replanting forests, and aiding the recovery of pollinator species, likely by utilizing marginal land for planting pollinator-preferred species of flowers. Marginal land, the acreage around the perimeter of a field or paddock, is a prime place for this activity as it doesn’t impact yields, and adds beneficial microbial diversity to the soil while reducing erosion.

According to Stokstad, 33% of the current UK farm subsidies are diverted to activities that benefit local environments and the nation’s climate change goals. As things stand now these include activities like maintaining hedgerows and other habitat which Stokstad writes will be expanded upon.

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Taking the example from certain UK water companies, DEFRA plans to use public auctions where farmers and land managers can bid for government contracts for PES opportunities. The water companies have been auctioning off PES contracts to farmers living and working around their major water sources to develop and manage land in ways that protect them, such as using less-harmful fertilizers and reducing runoff and soil erosion. “The impact has been amazing,” said Bateman.

In parts of England where farming is more difficult, certain producers like cattle and sheep herders rely more on the current form of direct payment subsidies than other farmers, and without them they may choose to move to other forms of production. Keeping this in mind, DEFRA has been looking at all manner of different PES opportunities for areas where ranching and herding are common, such as on moors and peatlands.

On peatlands, the potential for carbon sequestering in the soil is far greater than in forests, and so restoring and growing them, along with enhancing other landscapes and even restoring heritage buildings to help increase tourism, have all been hypothesized for utilization in some of the northern parts of the country.

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The National Farmers Union, the United Kingdom’s biggest agricultural trade group, was concerned about the lack of emphasis placed on farmers to produce. Agreeing with the union, DEFRA will “take regard to the need to encourage the production of food by producers in England,” reads a clause in the final bill.

Satisfied, the trade union described the clause as a “robust starting point” to ensure the well-being of farmers who don’t have as many opportunities for PES on their land.

The rest of the UK, and—according to Alan Mathews, an agricultural economist at Trinity College Dublin—the rest of Europe will be watching closely.

“If it’s successful, that will be a very powerful argument for the Europeans to follow,” said Mathews.

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China is Now Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics as Early as This Year

Since being identified as the world’s largest producer and manufacturer of plastic, China has begun ramping up its restrictions on harmful single-use plastics.

According to Reuters, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment this week issued a new policy which will ban the use of plastic bags in all major cities by the end of 2020, with smaller towns and cities required to follow suit by 2022.

Plastic straws will also be phased out in major cities by the end of this year, and the restaurant industry will be required to reduce single-use plastic consumption by 30% in towns and smaller cities before 2025.

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Other disposable tableware items, such as plastic cutlery and carryout containers, are soon expected to be included in the phase out as well.

Reporters go on to say that China has continued to speed up recycling rates by implementing more and more “comprehensive resource utilization” facilities across the country.

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Island Nation Becomes First Country in the World to Ban Sunscreens With Reef-Harming Chemicals

This week, the nation of Palau has officially banned ecologically harmful sunscreens, making it the first country in the world to ban the chemical-laden lotions.

The ban specifically targets sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals that are found in common sunscreens. Studies have found the ingredients cause coral DNA to mutate while its still in its larval stage, which prevents it from growing properly and makes it more susceptible to bleaching.

Palau is a diving hotspot for tourists located in the western Pacific Ocean between Australia and Japan. The country maintains a population of about 20,000 people spread across 340 islands, and its reefs are notoriously beautiful—one of its lagoons has even been named an official Unesco World Heritage Site.

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The nation approved the ban back in 2018 after they identified ten different chemicals that have been linked to coral bleaching and marine pollution. As of Wednesday, common sunscreens containing any of the chemicals are now prohibited from being used or sold within the country.

“We have to live and respect the environment because the environment is the nest of life,” Palau’s President Tommy Remengesau told the AFP news agency. “When science tells us that a practice is damaging to coral reefs, to fish populations, or to the ocean itself, our people take note and our visitors do too.

“We don’t mind being the first nation to ban these chemicals, and we will do our part to spread the word,” he added.

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Although Hawaii became the first region in the world to introduce legislation against toxic sunscreens back in May 2018, their ban will not go into full effect until 2021.

Thankfully, BBC reports that the number of sunscreens containing the toxins has been steadily declining since their environmental dangers became so widely publicized in 2018.

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