Good Climate News: Restored Antelope, Carbon-Eating Graffiti, and a Fishing Ban

Good climate news

Ready for some more good climate and environmental news? We know we are.

Even though the ocean was literally on fire for a moment there (thanks, oil and gas industry), the conservation of the critically endangered saiga antelope shows us that at-risk species and ecosystems can be restored, rewilded, and protected—providing we act fast enough.

Meanwhile, two UK-based artists are incorporating carbon-busting paint into their latest work. Bristol’s Jody Thomas and London’s Nerone have created two very different murals in their respective cities using a unique paint blend that absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, all while beautifying the streets.

According to a new analysis by German scientists, combining solar power and microbes could produce up to 10 times more protein than traditional crops such as beans, offering a unique opportunity to rethink global food production and significantly increase food security.

In a landmark decision, Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego province effectively banned salmon farming for the entire country. This intensive and environmentally destructive industry has come under particular fire recently for its enormous impact on the natural world, and the people of Tierra del Fuego welcomed the government’s decision to protect its waters. 

Speaking of water, New York’s East River is hardly a swimming destination. But the pollution-filled tidal estuary will soon be home to a floating pool that filters and cleans up to 600,000 gallons of water every single day.

Here are five positive news stories to get your week off to a good start. 

Saiga antelope
The extremely rare saiga antelope has returned to Kazakhstan following a mass die-off in 2015. | Nikolay Denisov/Getty

The Critically Endangered Saiga Antelope is Here to Stay

The good news: The extremely rare saiga antelope has returned to Kazakhstan following a mass die-off in 2015. Over the last two years alone, numbers have more than doubled, increasing from 334,000 to 842,000. This follows extensive conservation efforts by individuals, Kazakhstan’s government, and various NGOs.

The impact: Traditional Chinese medicine incorporates saiga horns, which can sell for hundreds of dollars. But thanks in part to Fauna & Flora International’s Ustyurt-based anti-poaching ranger team, hunting of the animals has fallen significantly in the transboundary area. While the saiga will most likely never fully recover, conservation efforts—and the species’ natural resilience—have made a huge difference to population numbers.

Did you know? Saiga antelope have extremely distinctive micro-trunk snouts (think the Clangers). These unique noses enable them to filter out dust during particularly dry summers and warm air during cold winters. Saigas are extremely sensitive to climate, and global warming presents a particular challenge for the migratory animals. Despite this, saiga fossils can be traced back to the Pleistocene era, also known as the Ice Age.

How you can help. Learn more about saigas from the Saiga Conservation Alliance and Fauna & Flora International, or donate to each directly to support their important and ongoing work. Learn more about rewilding and restoration from Re:Wild and Rewilding Europe, or learn more about Kazakhstan’s unique biodiversity from the WWF here.

Salmon farming
Argentina just rejected salmon farming. | Franckreporter/Getty

In a Win for the Environment, Argentina Just Rejected Salmon Farming

The good news: The provincial legislature of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina has rejected the possibility of salmon farming in its beautiful and diverse waters. Because the archipelago is the only possible location for salmon farming nationwide, the unanimous vote has effectively made Argentina the first country to reject the industry in its entirety.

The impact: Argentina previously announced a partnership with Norway, the world’s top salmon producer, back in 2018. But Argentinian scientists, politicians, activists, and citizens have opposed the decision ever since, due in part to the industry’s enormous impact on Chilean waters just the other side of Patagonia. This will prevent Tierra del Fuego from experiencing the same algae blooms, sea lice, and pollution as Chile, Norway, and Scotland.

Did you know? Tierra del Fuego is the southernmost and least populous Argentinian province, and is home to a huge variety of wildlife including humpback whales, penguins, sea lions, dolphins, and an endangered species of sea otter known locally as huillín. Intensive salmon farming would almost certainly have threatened this completely unique coastal ecosystem, so an (effectively) national ban is good news for the climate.

How you can help. Organizations such as Oceana are working to restore and protect the world’s oceans, while activist groups including Sea Shepherd have a history of intervention in salmon fishing, specifically. Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) has written an in-depth report on the dangers of fish farming here, and you can learn more about the salmon farming industry from the WWF. Learn about sustainable cell-based salmon here.

Solar powered farming
A new study finds solar could produce 10 times more food than plants. | anucha sirivisansuwan/Getty

Combining Microbes With Solar Could Produce 10 Times More Food Than Plants

The good news: A new study suggests that the solar-powered production of protein-rich microbial biomass (which also pulls carbon dioxide from the air for fuel) could produce 10 times more protein than traditionally farmed food crops such as soybeans and sugar beet. The process is extremely efficient, and is not dependent on arable land, weather, or soil—meaning it can be recreated with minimal resources in almost any location.

The impact: According to the study authors (and the United Nations) food security will be one of the defining obstacles for humanity in the coming years. The UN also reports that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019, despite the fact that over one billion tons of food were wasted worldwide. Increasing efficiency, as detailed by the new study, is one absolutely essential part of solving the global hunger crisis, already set to worsen in the next decade.

Did you know? This study is not the first to analyze the sustainable potential of microbial protein, and microbes are already used in a wide variety of foods and ingredients. These include cheese, kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, pickles, soy sauce, and even Quorn’s secret ingredient: mycoprotein. Eating good bacteria—such as tempeh—can help support healthy digestive and immune systems.

How you can help. You might not be able to grow your own microbe-based proteins at home yet, but you can certainly ferment your own foods to get some healthy bacteria in your diet. Check out Pro Home Cooks beginner’s guide to home fermentation here. To learn how to reduce your food waste, check out LIVEKINDLY’s zero waste kitchen guide.

Street artist Jody Thomas to paint a CO2 absorbing mural at Centre Promenade
Street artist Jody Thomas painted a CO2 absorbing mural at Centre Promenade. | Lindeman’s Wine

Carbon Busting Graffiti is Cleaning Up Two British Cities

The good news: Two different artists have created murals with carbon-absorbing paint. Thomas, based in Bristol, and Nerone, based in London, have each produced striking murals using materials made by industry leader Graphenstone. The company combines lime with graphene technology for a carcinogen-free paint to absorb and filter the ambient air as the lime carbonates over time. Good news for the cities, great for the climate.

The impact: As reported by the Bristol Post, Bristol’s mural will absorb a significant 2.6kg of carbon over the course of its life, while London’s will absorb around 1.3kg (approximately the same amount a mature tree would absorb in three weeks). Each artist collaborated with the winemaker Lindeman’s for the celebratory project, which just received its carbon neutral certification through the Carbon Trust.

Did you know? Thomas is known for his photorealistic aerosol-based art, including North Street’s 15 meters high Greta Thunberg mural, which he also created to raise awareness of climate change and the environment. Discussing his new piece, Thomas said: “The mural addresses environmental issues in a fun, artistic way, while actively absorbing CO2.”

How you can help. You can check out the two artists’ work here and here, or search in your area for street art festivals and creators to support. Graffiti and murals serve an important role in the community, whether for aesthetic value and personal expression, or as an act of reclamation and resistance to capitalism, gentrification, and the commodification of art in general.

+POOL New York
New York’s floating swimming pool cleans 600,000 gallons per day. | +POOL

New York’s Floating Swimming Pool Cleans 600,000 Gallons Per Day

The good news: Most New Yorkers would tell you that the city’s notoriously polluted East River is far from an ideal swimming spot. But the floating +POOL is a new plus-shaped water-filtering swimming pool that will enable swimmers to enjoy clean water within the East River itself. The project just received an official site and has been given notice to start building.

The impact: The current design for +POOL is capable of cleaning 600,000 gallons of water per day, and will contribute to the (extremely gradual) restoration of the East River as well as providing a safe place to swim. The designers aim to reclaim the river as a public recreational resource, and will also be providing information about water quality. Access to public swimming and the struggle for clean water intersect within this innovative community project.

Did you know? The pool will feature four sections (kids, sports, laps, and lounge) in one body of water, and designers Archie Lee Coates IV, Jeff Franklin, Dong-Ping Wong, and Oana Stanescu have been working on this concept for over a decade. Water quality is a huge problem around the world, particularly in urban areas, and particularly in and around New York City.

How you can help. The +POOL project is not-for-profit, and in addition to maintaining the pool will invest in additional restoration, conservation, and education. Writing to the mayor to let him know that New Yorkers want this for the city makes a big difference, but you can also donate here to support fund additional outreach efforts and other work. And check out the Black Swimming Association here, which is working hard to diversify the world of aquatics.

Looking for more positive news stories? Read last month’s selection here.