Things That Matter

Chile’s Government Is Setting An Example For The World As They Fight Climate Change By Going Carbon Neutral By 2050

Philosophers and scientists might disagree in many things, but today they are both certain of something: climate change is real and it is bound to affect how people live and survive in the planet. As temperatures throughout the world go up and down and plants and animal species perish, governments have been slow to respond to what many believe is humanity’s biggest challenge. 

Climate change can be traced down to many factors, but chief among them (or at least very near to the top) is the use of non-renewable energies such as carbon. While the right-leaning governments of some of the most powerful countries in the world such as the United States and Australia remain sceptic and unfazed about the clear and present danger of climate change, other smaller nations such as Finland and now Chile are taking huge steps towards a carbon neutral future. They know that the time to act is now or there might never be another chance. 

So Chile plans to be carbon neutral by 2050: the clock is ticking.

Chile is now spearheading efforts coming from the developing world to relinquish the use of coal to generate power. Even is the South American country is still coal-dependent, it has set an ambitious goal for the next 30 years that would overhaul decades of non-renewable energies.

It might sound simple, but it is far from it. Becoming carbon neutral implies the refurbishing of enormous infrastructures, acquiring new equipment and rolling out a nationwide network of energy distribution and storage. But the Chilean government, even in the current climate of social unrest, is taking a big step in making carbon neutrality a national priority.

In a column written by Carlos Barría, Head of Prospective and Regulatory Impact Analysis, Ministry of Energy, the government states that Chile believes that Climate Change (CC) is real and that both private and public sectors need to work hand in hand to dramatically reduce emissions. Chilean president Sebastián Piñera can be blamed for many things, of course, but we gotta recognize that he has been a fierce advocate for actions that address climate change. 

The Chilean government is aware that climate change affects those that are the most vulnerable.

Chile’s capital Santiago is experiencing unprecedented levels of pollution and droughts in rural areas have affected farmers and communities. Climate change has exacerbated social inequality worldwide. It is clearly a matter of class and power: those with the economic means are often unwilling to change their business models, even if this means that literally the whole world will suffer.

This is why Chile’s 2050 objective is groundbreaking, particularly coming from a Global South country. Barría’s column continues: “We also know that CC is unfair and most vulnerable affects the most vulnerable, increasing inequalities. Chile is a country vulnerable to the CC, we know that. In addition, during the last few months we have been able to clearly show that economic development alone is not sufficient: it is required to be sustainable, that is, to consider the social, environmental and economic in a comprehensive way.”

We really hope that these are not only empty words and that changes in government do not shift public spending away from the many initiatives that will need to be put in place if 2050 brings a huge reason to celebrate. 

But how do they plan to achieve carbon neutrality? 

The government has set out to implement changes in five different areas, according to the column: “sustainable industry and mining, sustainable housing and public-commercial building, coal-mining plant removal and renewables penetration, electromobility mainly from the public system and methane capture in landfills, change of use of nitrogen fertilizers and capture of methane in animal aging.” Each one of these measures involves considerable investment. But can we put a price on the future? Chile is already leading the way in solar energy farms with enormous facilities in its desert. Only time will tell if the objectives are met. 

The announcement comes as Australia, another Southern Hemisphere country, is literally burning and many blame climate change.

As you read this, an area almost as large as the whole if Ireland is burning in Australia. The increased heat caused by climate change and strong winds have triggered bushfires that have already killed people and about half a billion animals. The federal government refuses to address this as a climate change issue and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been blasted by the media and the public for his lack of leadership in a time of distress. Maybe Australia, a country that relies heavily on mining, can learn from Chile? We would certainly hope so. 

It Could Be Time To Say Goodbye To Your Salsa Forever As Tomatoes And Chilies Are In Danger Of Going Extinct

Culture

It Could Be Time To Say Goodbye To Your Salsa Forever As Tomatoes And Chilies Are In Danger Of Going Extinct

Pixabay

Two of Latin America’s most important ingredients – staples of cuisines across the region – are in danger of possible extinction thanks to climate change. Tomatoes and chilies both make up a huge part of traditional recipes from Mexico to Brazil and Argentina to Cuba – and they’re close to disappearing from grocery stores everywhere.

We know that tomato and chili are two fundamental ingredients in Mexican cuisine. Due to the threats suffered by its main pollinator, the bumblebee, these basic ingredients could disappear forever.

Climate change is wreaking havoc on the planet. But one of the most at-risk species is the humble bumble bee. These often feared insects are a vital source of pollination for thousands of plant and flower species around the world – if they disappear so too do the species of plants that depend on them.

Pollinators are species of great importance for a healthy environment. They are responsible for the the diversity and health of various biomes. Across Latin America, the bumble bee is largely responsible for the pollination of modern agriculture and this could have a major impact on the production of tomatoes and chilis.

Unfortunately, bumblebees are currently threatened, resulting in the possible extinction of different vegetables, including tomatoes and chili.

But why does the tiny bumble bee matter at all?

The bumble bee belongs to the insect family Apidae, which includes hundeds of different species of bumblebees. In fact, the bumble bee can be found on every continent except Antarctica and plays an outsized role in agriculture. The insects are often larger than honey bees, come in black and white varieties and often feature white, yellow, or orange stripes. This genus belongs to the Apidae family that includes different species commonly known as bumblebees. They’re almost entirely covered by very silky hairs. An adult bumblebee reaches 20 millimeters or more and feeds primarily on nectar from flowering plants. A curious fact is that females have the ability to sting, while males do not.

Bumblebees are epic pollinators of the tomato and chili plantS. Together with different species, the bumblebee helps produce many staple foods that are part of healthy diets around the world. If these become extinct the eating habits of all Latinos would suffer drastic changes as several vegetables would disappear.

So why are bumblebees in danger?

The main threat of these insects is the pesticides used in modern agriculture. That is why it is necessary to avoid consuming food produced in this way. We can all help the bumblebee planting plants, protecting native species and especially not damaging their natural environment.

But climate change is also wreaking havoc on the breeding patters of bumblebees – leading to colony collapse. With fewer colonies there is less breeding and therefore fewer bees around the world to pollinate our global crops.

Can you imagine a world without tomatoes or chilies?

Salsa. Moles. Pico de gallo. Ketchup. Chiles rellenos. Picadillo. All of these iconic Latin American dishes would be in danger of going extinct along with the bumblebee – because what’s a mole without the rich, complex flavors of dried chilies?

Several groups are already working hard to help fund programs that would work to conserve the dwindling bumblebee populations. While others are working out solutions that could perhaps allow tomatoes and chilies to self-pollinate – much as other plants already do.

Pablo Escobar Once Had Four Pet Hippos, Now There’s More Than 80 And They’re Destroying Colombia’s Ecosystem

Things That Matter

Pablo Escobar Once Had Four Pet Hippos, Now There’s More Than 80 And They’re Destroying Colombia’s Ecosystem

James Breeden / TripAdvisor

Pablo Escobar is known for many things, among them being one of the world’s most prolific drug lords. His Medellín cartel basically invented the modern-day drug business model – which continues to plague communities around the world.

However, there’s one part of Escobar’s life that few know about – the drug kingpin also had a menagerie of exotic animals that he kept as pets, including four giant African hippos.

The former drug lord‘s pet hippos have exploded in population and are wreaking havoc on the environment.

Escobar kept a large number of exotic animals – including lions, rare birds, giraffes, and hippos – as pets at his Medellin compound. When he was killed in 1993, most of the animals were moved to zoos, however, the hippos were left to fend for themselves. And apparently they’ve thrived on their own.

It was not possible to move the hippos and the animals soon lived near the Magdalena River. Their number has grown over the years and is now nearly 80. According to a study published in the journal Ecology, the hippos have become an invasive species and are destroying the aquatic ecosystem.

The region’s water supply is under threat thanks to hippo waste.

A team of researchers from the University of California at San Diego and the Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia investigated the water quality of the lakes where hippos live, and compared them to lakes where they are not.

According to the study, hippos separate large amounts of waste into the lakes, changing the chemistry and oxygen levels of the water. This is because the excreted waste fertilizes harmful algae and bacteria.

According to Jonathan Shurin, lead author of the study, the hippos have a major impact on the ecosystem in their native Africa. He said a similar impact was seen when they were imported into an entirely new continent.

The Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was known for his love of exotic animals.

He was once the owner of a grand estate, Hacienda Nápoles, just under 100 miles east of Medellin. In the early 1980s, Escobar built an illegal zoo full of rhinos, giraffes, zebras and hippos on his estate.

After his death it was seized by the government and now acts as a safari theme park. Most of the exotic animals that he housed in the on site zoo were re-homed. Except the hippos. Now, scientists say, the four original hippos now number around 80 and are having a detrimental effect on Colombian waters. 

While some remain in the current theme park, some slipped through the flimsy gate and are now feral. 

Escobar bought the hippos from a zoo in California and flew them to his ranch in the early 1980s. Left to themselves on his Napoles Estate, they bred to become supposedly the biggest wild hippo herd outside Africa.

Escobar’s hippos have become feral, living in at least four lakes in the area and spreading into neighboring rivers – confounding the problem.

The crime lord’s hippos are also much more sexually active than their cousins in Africa because of the perfect conditions, shallow water and no drought. 

All the fertile females are reported to be giving birth to a calf every year, the BBC said in 2014. And this is a problem for the water, if not local farmers who risk their wrath while working.  

“If you plot out their population growth, we show that it tends to go exponentially skyward. In the next couple of decades there could be thousands of them,” according to Jonathan Shurin, of UCSD.