Snippets for 26 May 2022




Thanks for reading our Snippets newsletter this week. We have once again included a mixed selection of articles we hope you find interesting.


Quantum computing just might save the planet, by helping reduce emissions in some of the most challenging or emissions-intensive areas. Cooperation between governments, scientists, academics, and investors is required to make it happen. Many options to remove and or reduce CO2 emissions are discussed, one being direct air capture (DAC). Investment is ramping up with most recently $3.5 billion under the United States’ Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to build four large-scale DAC projects.


Some cities aren’t waiting for those ‘hard’ decisions to be made by central governments to get emissions down, they are making changes now. We take at a look at a number of cities making changes. A city’s ability to absorb water is also very important, the level of ‘sponginess’ being key, allowing water to drain away safely. Things like grass, trees, ponds and lakes, help. Auckland City was the best of the cities analysed. And Wellington City is looking to increase its natural reserves - the central city itself is only has 5% tree cover. The Council plans to double this in ten years.


The World’s food production and distribution network is very vulnerable, as seen by the fallout from the war on Ukraine. But what if there was an alternative to wheat and rice, for example, millets, a "nutri-cereal" due to high levels of iron, fibre, and certain vitamins. Also, a change in farming practices can bring nutritional benefits too - regenerative farming boasts healthier crops and soil, and operates on 5 principles which all improve soil health. A no-tillage approach also enables certain fungal threads to play a key role in establishing healthy soils and improving food quality. One amino acid, Ergothioneine, is made exclusively by fungi, blue-green algae, and some bacteria and yeast and has shown to provide many health benefits to humans.


And a study suggests that cover crops are more effective than insecticides for managing crop pests, while helping reduce erosion and nutrient loss and enhancing soil health. Vertical farms could also be part of the solution to improving food supplies. The benefits are that multiple crops can be grown again and again in a controlled environment without the worry of weather events.


Harvesting the power of quantum computing could have massive climate change benefits. This technology is in its early stages, but proponents are optimistic that we could harvest the massively increased processing power of quantum computers to solve a variety of so far unsolvable problems – from reforming our food systems to improving the chemical makeup of cement. Clearing away these roadblocks could make the difference between a sustainable future and climate catastrophe. Read more....

According to the latest IPCC report, it won’t be enough for us to simply reduce our emissions if we hope to keep warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius – we will also have to take carbon out of the atmosphere. Here, we look at Direct Air Capture technology and how it could be used to pull carbon responsibly and sustainably from the atmosphere. To maximise the benefits and ensure the technology is scaled in a responsible way, a lot of planning and consideration will be required. Read more....

CCS will help, a lot, but what the world really needs is lowering of emissions, decarbonising. Where some countries governments have not been stepping up to the mark, cities in those countries have taken it upon themselves to do what is needed. See what they have been doing, and maybe get some inspiration… Read more....



As a local example of what cities are doing, this next article mentions Auckland as getting top marks in being “spongy” due to the amount of natural space available there, with less concrete. Natural spaces have many advantages, with lowering emissions being just one. The “sponginess” of cities describes how well cities can absorb rain, which is increasingly important with climate change. Read more....




And Wellington also has a plan to grow its natural spaces over the next 10 years, which will not only make it prettier, but also bring back more birdlife and streams, and bring some health benefits to the inhabitants. With only 5% tree canopy coverage at the moment, a doubling of this long overdue. This article details the plan, which is even more important with higher density housing currently being promoted in the city. Read more....


With global food security severely threatened by the war in Ukraine, it might be worth turning to an overlooked cereal to help the situation. Millets, a nutrient rich cereal that’s been around for thousands of years, might be able to fill the gap created by global wheat shortages. They can grow in much more arid conditions, and require much less water than rice, wheat, and corn. With appropriate government intervention, scaling up the production of this overlooked cereal could yield massive benefits. Read more....

Conventional farming practices are environmentally damaging and nutrient depleting, and according to this article, it’s time to adopt new methodologies. Enter regenerative agriculture, which looks to minimise soil disturbances, keep the topsoil rich with vegetation, increase biodiversity, maintain living roots year round, and integrate livestock. The result is sustainable farming that provides more nutrient rich food. Better for the planet and better for our health. Read more....



To highlight the benefits of regenerative farming, our next article looks at a specific amino acid: ergothioneine, believed to confer multiple health benefits, but exclusively made by only a few organisms, including fungi. With fungi networks, called mycelium networks, stretching vast and wide within soil, ergothioneine can spread to other crops we consume. But tilling and intensive farming is breaking these mycelium networks, reducing their effectiveness. To increase the concentration of ergothioneine within out food, we need to turn to regenerative farming. Read more....


One element of regenerative farming, planting cover crops, may also be more effective than insecticides for managing pests. By providing a habitat for the natural predators of pests, cover crops can greatly reduce pest numbers when it comes time to harvest the cash crop. With careful selection of cover crop species to match the natural ecosystem of the right predators, we can reap the benefits of low-pest farming, without having to use hazardous chemicals. Read more....




Another way to address issues around ever increasing demand for growing food, is to bring the food production closer to the people by using vertical farming. Though not suitable for all crops, vertical farming allows for some food, such as tomatoes and lettuce, to be grown right in a city. The massive decrease in costs for LED lighting has made this practice even more feasible. Perhaps soon we’ll be eating tomatoes grown locally, in a skyscraper down the road! Read more....











This week we have a selection of innovative articles we hope you enjoy:






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