The plan to make Scotland a ‘rewilding nation’, the end of smut-belching SUVs and the World Trade Organization’s first African and female leader, plus more stories of progress
The sometimes bleak, always beautiful Highlands are what many people imagine when they think of Scotland. Yet the country’s iconic scenery is really a picture of deprivation: in times gone by those undulating uplands were typically carpeted with trees.
A campaign launched this week aims to roll back the years. Rewilding Nation calls on the Scottish government to commit to rewilding 30 per cent of the country’s land and sea within a decade. It comes as a poll revealed that 76 per cent of Scots support rewilding.
“Scotland has the opportunity to show bold leadership by becoming the world’s first rewilding nation,” said Steve Micklewright of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance. “We have the space, political influence and public backing to become a world leader in saving nature and ourselves.”
Image: Niklas Weiss
From farmland runaround to footballer fashion accessory, the rise of the 4×4 has been disastrous for the environment. Analysis suggests that SUVs were second only behind the energy sector as the biggest driver of global emissions increases between 2010 and 2018.
Not for much longer. One of the leading ‘Chelsea tractor’ manufacturers, Jaguar Land Rover, announced this week that its entire range will be electric by 2030.
With the UK government banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars at the end of the decade, the firm had little choice. Nevertheless, the move is a win for the climate.
Image: Michael Heuser
The Nigerian-American economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is to become the first female and first African leader of the World Trade Organization (WTO), it was announced this week. Her term will begin in March. Many commentators say the organisation is in need of reform.
Okonjo-Iweala is a proven trailblazer. In 2003 she became the first woman to serve as Nigeria’s finance minister – a position she held twice. Her CV also includes a 25-year stint at the World Bank, where she was credited with spearheading initiatives to assist low-income countries.
Okonjo-Iweala’s work to tackle corruption in Nigeria is widely believed to have prompted the 2012 kidnapping of her then-82-year-old mother, Kamene Okonjo. Okonjo-Iweala said the kidnappers demanded she resign from her post as finance minister. She refused and her mother was released five days later.
Image: International Monetary Fund/Creative Commons
Beavers are to be reintroduced to five more counties in England and Wales in 2021, following successful reintroductions elsewhere.
The Wildlife Trusts will release 20 of the tree-gnawing, river-damming animals in Derbyshire, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire and Montgomeryshire, having already released them in Dorset this week. Beavers were hunted to extinction in the UK 400 years ago, but have since been the subject of various rewilding programmes.
“Beavers are a fantastic keystone species that have a hugely important role to play in restoring nature to Britain,” said Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts. “Beavers help stop flooding downstream, filter out impurities and they create new homes for otters, water voles and kingfishers.”
Image: David Parkyn/ The Wildlife Trusts
The US officially rejoined the Paris agreement on Friday – just 107 days after it left.
The move is mostly symbolic and was described by Friends of the Earth as an “easy first step” for the Biden administration. Nonetheless, having the world’s second biggest emitter back at the table is undoubtedly a positive step in the race to reduce emissions.
“Rejoining the Paris agreement is the right move for the United States,” said Karen Orenstein of Friends of the Earth US. “President Biden must follow through on his commitment to do more by centering environmental justice in his approach to the climate crisis globally.”
Image: Yellowstone by Nicolasintravel
After revealing that front gardens in the UK are getting greener following years of neglect, scientists at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) had more positive news this week – they have identified a ‘super plant’ that can suck up air pollution.
The bushy Cotoneaster franchetii, originally found in Asia, is at least 20 per cent more effective at soaking up particulate pollution than other shrubs, a report by the RHS found.
“We know that in just seven days, a one metre length of well-managed dense hedge will mop up the same amount of pollution that a car emits over a 500-mile drive,” said Dr Tijana Blanusa, RHS principal horticultural scientist. “We estimate the Cotoneaster franchetii traps 20 per cent more emissions than other hedges we have tested so would be ideal along busy roads in pollution hotspots.”
Image: Père Igor/Creative Commons
Kids, they’re fickle things. One week they love a toy, the next it’s being hurled out of the playpen for good. That’s where the toy sharing app YoungPlanet comes in, as it enables parents in the UK to share unwanted playthings with families that need them.
Launched last summer, the app passed the milestone of 25,000 downloads this week. So far, it has found new homes for more than 8,500 items, reducing demand for new toys and saving many old ones from entering landfill.
“Although our primary goal is to help families become greener, YoungPlanet is also helping parents receive items that they couldn’t otherwise afford in these tumultuous times,” said co-founder Jason Ash.
An annual ranking of organisations this week revealed the best purpose-led companies to work for in 2021 – and the good news is that most have vacancies
The list was compiled by Escape the City, a career site that rated 8,000 global organisations in a number of areas, including social impact, environmental concern and employee engagement.
Dom Jackman, Escape the City’s founder, said: “This list has been designed to rank organisations on the metrics that really matter. What are they doing to save our planet? How do they look after their people? What problems are they solving?” Read the full report here.
Image: Helena Lopes
Main image: Scotland Big Picture
As research found that 60 per cent of Brits are finding it harder to stay positive right now compared to a couple of months ago, Positive News launched an effort to help people stay positive. Hundreds of people have already taken up the offer of a free copy of Positive News magazine for themselves, or gifted a magazine to someone else who they feel would benefit from it.
“Our journalism helps people see a fuller picture of reality,” says Positive News CEO, Sean Wood. “Many people are overwhelmed by bad news at the moment, so the need for our stories is heightened. As a media organisation working for the public benefit, we wanted to pay it forward by giving copies of Positive News magazine to anyone who needs it at this time.”
As well as giving away its print magazine to help give people a positive boost, Positive News has also reported this week on ways to cope with pandemic burnout.