Is the mainstream news getting you down? Fear not. If you’re weary of war, crestfallen by the cost of living crisis, and punch-drunk by debauched Downing Street parties, we have the perfect antidote for you. It’s the summer edition of our Upbeat Bulletin…
Born to rewild
Ever heard of the term ‘rewilding’? It means restoring or returning land to its natural uncultivated state. According to Rewilding Britain, who know a thing or two about this, it also means ‘restoring ecosystems to the point where nature can take care of itself’, whilst ‘restoring our relationship with the natural world’.
Sound good? Then you’ll be pleased to know that as many as 43 councils in England, Wales and Scotland have either launched rewilding schemes or are planning to do so in the near future. This is great environmental news because, not to put too fine a point on it, councils don’t normally do this kind of thing. Rewilding is usually the preserve of big, wealthy estates.
So what type of land will be rewilded? In the first instance, nature will be free to reassert itself on plots like former golf courses and post-industrial scrublands. These areas will turn into natural wildernesses where indigenous plants and wildlife can thrive. Meanwhile, in more urban settings, rooftops, riverbanks and waterways will be left to grow wild, whilst indigenous flowers will flourish in green public spaces.
In East Renfrewshire, for example, a stretch of an industrialised river channel is being reconnected to its natural floodplain - thus allowing salmon to travel upstream in the area for the first time since Queen Victoria was on the throne. Meanwhile, Brighton is rewilding a golf course to restore wildflower meadows near the city, and Derby is converting 130 hectares of Allestree Park and reintroducing red kites and harvest mice.
We love these kinds of initiatives because they’re green, wholesome and sustainable. It’s also great to see councils responding to public demand for rewilding, consulting with local residents, and then shaping their efforts to the local environment. It’s enough to warm the cockles of the coolest hearts.
A new deal for steel?
Steel is everywhere. In fact, you’re probably no more than a few metres away from a steel beam right now. It’s a modern marvel and we’d hate to think where the construction and property sectors would be without it.
There’s just one problem: steel production is just about the most polluting industry on the planet. In fact, if the steel industry was a country, it would be the third highest emitter behind China and the US. Gulp. It’s great news, therefore, that scientists are finally creating ways to make steel production greener. And the most obvious way is to stop using coal-powered factories to manufacture the metal.
BMW have grabbed the initiative in this area by promising that its European plants will only use steel manufactured with hydrogen and renewable electricity. This will apparently reduce emissions by an astonishing 95%. Other car companies, including Volvo and Mercedes, are also trying to reposition themselves as sustainable, too. The big hope is that ‘electric arc’ furnaces, which can also produce steel from recycled scrap, will eventually replace the old coal-fired ones.
Although there’s still some way to go, and the science isn’t perfect yet, the signs are certainly promising. For example, Kobad Bhavmagri, the head of decarbonisation at BNEF, believes that the steel industry is on the verge of a “titanic pivot” away from coal and towards hydrogen.
Researchers have predicted that hydrogen generated by renewable energy could be the most cost-effective source for steel production, and account for almost a third of the global market, by 2050. Superman, the archetypal man of steel, can therefore look forward to a significantly reduced carbon footprint in the near future.
Polar bear necessities
Nothing demonstrates the grisly effects of global warming like the plight of the poor polar bear. Because these giant predators rely on sea ice to hunt down seals, they follow the sea ice as it grows and recedes throughout the year, often walking over a thousand miles to find enough food.
But what happens if the sea ice shrinks? Sadly, polar bear populations will shrink, too. In fact, researchers estimate that arctic polar bears will disappear by the end of the century unless greenhouse gasses also shrink pronto.
Fortunately, however, researchers have discovered a sub-population of pigmentally-challenged predators that seem smarter than your average bear. They’re living in southeast Greenland in an area that’s free of sea ice for most of the year. Therefore, rather than plodding miles to find meat for their favourite seal subs, these cunning marine mammals have learnt to hunt on ‘glacial melange’ - the technical terms for a mixture of ice, mini-icebergs, snow and slush.
Scientists believe that these unique ursine creatures have been isolated from other polar bear populations for at least 200 years. During this time they’ve mastered the art of walking on the melange, swimming around and between pieces of ice, and ambushing non-suspecting prey - an impressive feat for an animal that isn’t exactly known for its subtlety. Polar bears can grow up to 3 metres tall and weigh over 400 kilogrammes.
So what does it all mean? Basically, it looks like polar bears might avoid extinction after all, even if us humans can’t pull our fingers out and slow down climate change. It also means that polar bears don’t necessarily have to hike a gazillion miles every year just to find a square meal. It’s something for the arctic colonies to bear in mind, anyway.