Snippets for 9 April 2020

Welcome to this week's edition of our Snippets newsletter.


As we enter the third week of lockdown here in NZ, you are likely reading this at home and we hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.


Although most of the news is pretty grim at the moment, we have done our best to bring you a selection of articles that will bring you hope. We start by contrasting the COVID-19 pandemic with the most severe threat to life on earth - global warming. It's a sobering outlook, but we then switch to some more promising news on climate action and finish with an encouraging scientific review of the future of the oceans.



Covid-19 has simply dominated the international media headlines, like no other, including the September 11 terrorist attacks, or the 2008 global financial crash. In so doing, it has suffocated the life out of any other issue, including existential threats, such as those posed by climate change. Whilst COVID-19 is a clear and immediate problem, it is unlikely to have anywhere near the impact of climate change: extreme weather, ecosystem collapse, crop failure, climate-related wars and, yes, increasing incidences of infectious diseases that could claim billions of lives. Read more.....





And as this next article reminds us, the implications of a warming world are likely to be dire. Many researchers now fear the climate system is approaching a tipping point – a threshold beyond which rapid and irreversible changes will occur. We are already seeing glimpses of these in the Arctic. It doesn’t have to be this way though. Earth’s next mass extinction is avoidable, as long as carbon dioxide emissions are dramatically curbed and then sequestered. The human species caused this planetary tragedy and together, as with COVID-19, we can solve it Read more.....





The advent of COVID-19 can also be a time for reflection and a resetting of values. As the Irish Times muses, a post-coronavirus future has glimpses of a better world. Things we were told could not happen – a single public healthcare system, a ban on rent increases – materialised within days. It turns out that buying things is not the key to a good life. People who were so often under-valued – nurses, transport workers, retail staff – are now, quite rightly, our designated essential workers. Everything can have a silver lining.Read more.....


Our next article examines the way our Western society has lived in an age of disconnection, where the environment and the economy are separate things, in competition with each other. Written from an Australian perspective, it discusses that in the age of consequences, with the climate crisis and now a deadly pandemic, it is impossible to pretend that we are separate from the natural world. What started to become clear thanks to the bushfires has been rammed home by COVID-19. The age of disconnection is over.Read more.....






The COVID-19 crisis has revealed what governments are capable of doing and must also be applied to climate breakdown and the challenges of poverty and inequality. The over-riding objective by many governments over the last decade has been on austerity and, consequently, life expectancy for the worst-off has declined. As Sir Michael Marmot from the University College London noted, “With COVID-19, austerity went out of the window. It turns out austerity was a choice. The government can spend anything [in the context of the coronavirus crisis], and they have socialised the economy.” Read more.....





Our final COVID-19 related article examines the uplifting way companies have responded to the crisis with new ideas and collaboration. When humans confront an existential challenge, the instinct among most of us is to put aside other petty, partisan considerations, to seek ways to defeat that common enemy. Now is exactly the right time to plan for the hopefully-not-so-distant day when COVID-19 is no longer dominating headlines. It’s our collective duty to channel this spirit of innovation on behalf of an even more existential threat, the climate crisis. Read more.....


Now a move away from COVID-19, we focus back on how we are doing on climate action. Unfortunately, we are not doing as well as we may have thought - when the 2020 Climate Change Performance Index rankings were released, New Zealand barely moved, up to 37th place from 44th. We look here at four areas where some other similar-sized countries are doing better, and how we could improve. Read more.....

Wind – we have plenty of it, and now a new discussion paper released by regional development agency Venture Taranaki has highlighted offshore wind as an important energy opportunity for the region, and the nation, and calls for further investigation of the resource. Could this be an opportunity to improve our climate performance rating? The costs of the technology are reducing significantly and the power generation potential is also significant. We have a lot of “offshore” available to utilise! Read more.....
















Plastic is a material that has ended up causing many issues, from excessive waste and climate issues. In our next article, we look in-depth at why plastics are such a climate issue. In 2019, global plastic production and industrial incineration alone added the same amount of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere as nearly 190 500-megawatt coal plants. With petrochemical manufacturers looking to add capacity to increase production, it appears plastic is not going to go away anytime soon. But what if there were alternatives? Read more....




We next look at algae, which could go some way to removing the need for petrochemical plastics. Algae - an umbrella term for a group of seaweeds, kelps, and other photosynthetic eukaryotes. They have high yields and short cultivation times, plus the potential to sequester carbon dioxide in the process. While algae have received attention for their potential to displace fossil fuels as an energy source, their applications in packaging and other products are looking promising. From straws to biodegradable water sachets, an ever-expanding range of companies are getting into algae. Read more....




The oceans of the world have long been pillaged and treated as dumping grounds as well as experiencing the impacts of climate change. In this article, we discover that the fate of marine environments could tip either towards recovery or collapse, but that it is not too late to save them. The article cites several triumphs and highlights what it would take to help oceans recover, whilst discussing the hurdles to overcome. Read more....











This week we have two articles that we think may interest you:

1: Using fish scales to create biodegradable electronic displays

and 2: A business making shoes from used coffee grounds!






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