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Snippets for 26 August 2021

Welcome to our latest edition of Snippets.

This week, with all NZ locked down with Covid -19 Delta, we realise that even when there seems to be nothing we can do, we can actually make a difference. We can be leaders. We can set a positive example, and not just to others in New Zealand, but as we see in our first article, we can be leaders in the struggle against climate change. The IPCC report shows a bleak future if things don’t change, but there are positive things that can come out of this. This week we focus on new ideas, alternatives and new dynamics of change.

One upside to the changes we must make is that there will be new jobs created to shape the zero emissions future. And the future of food introduces all sorts of new items you may not previously considered to even be food. Another new idea is using robots to zap weeds with lasers, reducing food waste and pesticide use. And instead of owning a car, is a car subscription to an electric vehicle the right model?

We also look at minimising emissions, and the sequestration of these. Firstly, with Blue carbon – with a change of perspective around where we get carbon credits, and where biodiversity in oceans is also protected, and we have an article on further protecting the ocean floor from seabed mining for those elements needed by EVs batteries.

Planting forests on land seems a no-brainer to minimise emissions, but in mid latitudes there was concern that the forests were trapping heat. We find that clouds generated by the forests make the difference needed here.

We finish with an article about smart cities, and how greater awareness of sustainability coupled with the need to adopt digital solutions during the pandemic has ensured that cities continue to become smarter by the day.

We have all heard the chorus “New Zealand is only a tiny part of world GHG emissions, and what we do will not change anything”. The fact is that it is the responsibility of all humanity to take action, especially in the developed world. If every smaller nation tells itself “we’re not going to do anything”, all of us will suffer. The old adage “many hands make light work” can also apply here. NZ currently punches way above its weight on the international stage, and what we do in little old NZ, can pave the way for much larger nations. Read more.

We always try to keep Snippets positive, but there are some articles that are too important to be held back. New Zealand is not immune to climate change, and anyone thinking otherwise is kidding themselves. While this article does not paint a rosy picture, predicting how NZ will be affected according to the recent IPCC report, it is important that people are well informed. Read more.

One of the most common things said, by those who oppose action against climate change, is that “so many of our jobs will be lost if we take action”. However, less talked about are the types of jobs that will be created by addressing the challenges faced…and there will be a lot of them. The job market is being transformed. Check out this article for some examples. Your next career, or a good one for your kids, may be on the list. Read more.

Talking of transformations, our global food systems are broken. One in every 10 people around the world goes hungry, while rich countries toss 222 million tonnes of food in the garbage. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s agricultural land is used for livestock grazing, with food production making up a third of global GHG emissions and agriculture being responsible for three-quarters of global deforestation. As this article discusses on the future of food, things simply have to change. Change or be changed. Mealworm pasta anyone? Read more.

With farmers under increasing pressure to reduce their use of herbicides and other chemicals, which can contaminate ground and surface water, precision weeding using agricultural robots offers a mechanised alternative. Capable of zapping 100,000 weeds an hour, agricultural robots, which can also be designed to perform tasks such as seeding, harvesting and environmental monitoring, are predicted to be part of a farming transition. Furthermore, robot-run greenhouses can use hydroponics – growing plants without soil – to produce food closer to large population centres. Read more.

Could car subscriptions be the next automotive trend? Instead of purchasing or leasing, subscriptions cover insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance. They also (often) require no down payment or credit check and customers are afforded vastly more choice and flexibility. It seems a natural progression from the shift toward online car shopping and reflects the rising trend of consumers preferring to invest away from the material ownership of products. And from a sustainability standpoint, it appears like a great opportunity to get more people driving EVs. Read more.

We tend to overlook what is happening underneath the sea, but it offers us so much and part of that is the ability to store carbon in sea grasses. “Blue carbon” pricing, a voluntary carbon pricing scheme to restore seagrass meadows and other undersea ecosystems, can help protect biodiversity and the climate. 55,000 hectares of Mediterranean seafloor covered by grass, acting as a carbon sink for thousands of years is just one example. Kelp and mangroves also offer good opportunity to store carbon, some estimating marine ecosystems sequester 20 times that of a similar land forested area. Read more

Battery technology, particularly in automotive transport is currently seen as a key part of reducing emissions, by moving away from fossil fuel to electric power. There is high demand across the board for the minerals required in batteries that currently power an EV. Industries are now looking to the seafloor to secure these much needed minerals. But does it make sense to destroy valuable ocean floor ecosystems in pursuit of these minerals? 550 marine science and policy experts from more than 44 countries, don’t think so. Read more.

We already know trees play a big part in carbon capture, but forests could also play another important role. Planting forests could cool the Earth’s atmosphere more than previously thought. In a peer reviewed journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, the researchers report that the cloudier skies often found over forested areas means that reforestation could lead to cooler temperatures to a larger extent than previously thought. This can’t be a bad thing, especially with the biodiversity that forest brings with them. Read more

We finish up with ‘Has Covid-19 strengthened the case for smart cities?’ As NZ enters its second week in a nationwide lockdown the timing of this article is spot on. Development of cities doing things smarter is being made much easier through data analysis and being able to take advantage of the ‘cloud’ and modern communication platforms. Continuing life as normally as possible is difficult, but being able to continue to work remotely, have meetings online, or just catch up with friends is one of these important steps. Read more.

In our innovation section this week, we have more interesting recent ideas:

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