by Tom Bosschaert

July 21, 2015

Tom Bosschaert

Pope Francis writes about climate change and social debt in his encyclical, plankton eating plastic caught on camera and underwater greenhouses. Read all about it in this Wormfood.

Global News: Pope speaks up for the world's poor

  • Pope Francis has called on the world’s rich nations to begin paying their “grave social debt” to the poor and take concrete steps on climate change, saying failure to do so presents an undeniable risk to a “common home” that is beginning to resemble a “pile of filth”. The pope’s 180-page encyclical on the environment is at its core a moral call for action on phasing out the use of fossil fuels.

  • NASA warns we are on the path to global drought: ‘The water table is dropping all over the world’. About one third of Earth's largest groundwater basins are being rapidly depleted by human consumption, despite having little accurate data about how much water remains in them, according to two studies.

  • The world’s steady shift away from peace and into conflict inflicted a $14.3tn (€13.1tn) cost on the global economy last year, as nations ramped up military spending and more people were driven from their jobs, according to the latest Global Peace Index (GPI). Iceland tops the index as the most peaceful country in the world, Syria as the least.

Energy & Environment: Dutch climate court win

  • A court in The Hague has ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions by at least 25% within five years.Before this judgment, the only legal obligations on states were those they agreed among themselves in international treaties,” said Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel for Urgenda, the group that brought the suit. “This is the first a time a court has determined that states have an independent legal obligation towards their citizens.”

  • Watch zooplankton waft tiny, fluorescent beads of plastic towards them, before swallowing the stuff - demonstrating the dangers of marine litter. The plastics could potentially block up the zooplanktons’ guts or leach into their bodies. Besides that, the transfer of these microplastics up the food chain is worrisome to Peter Ross, co-author of a study on microplastic ingestion by zooplankton.

  • Bill Gates has announced he will invest $2bn (€1.8bn) in renewable technologies initiatives, but rejected calls to divest from the fossil fuel companies that are burning carbon at a rate that ignores international agreements to limit global warming. Gates dismissed the calls of the fossil fuel divestment movement – which has already persuaded more than 220 institutions worldwide to divest – on the basis that it would have little impact.

Business & Economy: Unconditional income experiment

  • The Dutch city of Utrecht will start an experiment which hopes to determine whether society works effectively with universal, unconditional income introduced.

  • The UN environment agency urges a ban of microplastics in cosmetics and personal care products. Their fact sheet on the topic recommends a precautionary approach with an eventual phase-out of microplastics.

  • The majority of flights are taken by a very small and very rich segment of the population. Why should we assist those flights with fuel duty and VAT exemptions? It stands in stark contrast to those in low-earning countries who stand to suffer the worst effects of a changing climate. This report by the New Economics Foundation proposes a fairer way to fly.

Science, Technology & Design: Underwater greenhouses

  • An unconventional project called Nemo’s Garden is building experimental greenhouses off the coast of Italy – and they are underwater. The submerged spheres house a small number of various plants, such as strawberries, beans and lettuce. The greenhouses take advantage of the sea’s steady temperatures and high concentrations of carbon dioxide.

  • A strain of genetically modified wheat developed in the UK has failed to repel pests as intended in field trials. The wheat trial was the subject of protests by anti-GM campaigners in 2012.

Urban Environment: Massive earthquake predicted

  • Seismologists predict a chance of 1 in 3 that in the next 50 years the entire west coast of the US will be wiped from the planet due to a massive earthquake of the Cascadia fault line, which was also responsible for Japan's last devastating tsunami.

  • Permaculture projects in Malawi are developing sustainable food systems. But, they are facing resistance in their drive to scale up. Permaculture is being dismissed as a marginal hippy movement, rather than a serious approach to development. A further challenge is that of changing the mindset of the general population. The African Moringa and Permaculture Project is working to tackle these challenges.

  • Hungary announced plans to build a four-metre-high fence along its border with Serbia to stem the flow of illegal migrants, a move that triggered a swift rebuke from the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Unexpected and Intriguing: Sculpture gets a parking ticket

  • The German city of Karlsruhe issued a parking ticket to a warped car sculpture by Erwin Wurm.

  • A man in the United Arab Emirates could be fined over $68,000 for swearing at his colleague on WhatsApp.

  • Japan’s abandoned golf greens find new life as solar power farms. The country experienced a “golf boom” in the 1990s, building more than 2,000 new courses in just a few years; but the fad passed as quickly as it started, causing golf courses to go bankrupt and leaving hundreds of them abandoned across the countryside. Now they find a new purpose.

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July 21, 2015