Top Stories

February 15, 2017


Antibiotic resistance: Scientists ‘unmask’ superbug-shielding protein

Australian scientists have mapped the molecular structure of a protein that shields superbugs from antibiotics. It could help develop new drugs for antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains, the University of Western Australia researchers said. It follows warnings that a so-called antibiotic apocalypse could be among the 21st Century’s greatest threats. The new research could help create treatments to inhibit the masking protein, according to lead researcher Professor Alice Vrielink. One study, sponsored by the UK Department of Health and the Wellcome Trust, has suggested antibiotic resistance will kill an extra 10 million people a year worldwide – more than currently die from cancer – by 2050 unless action is taken. Scientists have already identified bacteria that resist the most common antibiotic of last resort – colistin – in locations around the world, which raises the worrying prospect of untreatable infections. (BBC)


Investors representing $500bn call on firms to beef up forest protection

A coalition of investors, which are signatories to the newly formed Latin America Forest Protection Initiative (LAFPI) representing $500bn in assets under management, has today demanded that companies make and uphold new deforestation pledges to protect the remaining rainforests in South America. The call comes as evidence suggests deforestation rates in South America are on the rise, with data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicating the continent experienced its largest loss of forest area between 1990 and 2015. The LAPFI aims to help companies adopt zero deforestation sourcing policies modelled on Latin America’s soy moratorium, an opt-in scheme that prevents use of soya grown on land deforested after 2006. Since its introduction in 2006 soya’s share of recent Amazonian deforestation has declined from one fifth to less than one per cent. The move comes just days after the global campaign to encourage investors to divest from carbon intensive assets claimed another victory with Australian private health fund HCF announcing it will divest from all fossil fuels in the first quarter of this year. (Business Green)


U.N. to plant 1 million trees to fight deforestation near Ethiopia refugee camps

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said a million trees are to be planted in Ethiopia’s westerm Gambella region to fight deforestation around camps hosting hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees who rely almost entirely on wood for fuel. Fires used by the refugees for cooking are fuelled almost entirely by chopped wood, putting considerable pressure on local forests, FAO energy and forestry expert Arturo Gianvenuti said. The depletion of forests risks creating tensions with local communities and disrupting the ecosystem, as trees stabilize the climate, regulate water flows and provide shelter to numerous animal species, according to the FAO. To address some of these issues, the FAO plans to set up nurseries for fast-growing trees, like Leucaena and Eucalyptus, to supply refugees from four camps in Gambella with wood, he said. The FAO and U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) have also agreed to monitor deforestation with high resolution satellite images and train local craftsmen to produce energy-saving clay stoves that would cut wood consumption by up to 25 percent, Gianvenuti said. (Thomson Reuters Sustainability)

Sustainable Development

Levi’s dreams big to lead change in the fashion industry

Levi Strauss is looking to revolutionise the apparel sector with ideas that could shakeup the conventional notion of a fashion brand. By 2025, the world’s oldest jeans brand plans to manufacture all of its products from recycled cotton. It would be the first company to do so. So in just eight years, the family-run US$4.5 billion firm will stop using cotton sourced from cotton fields to make its famous 501s, relying instead on old clothes from people’s closets. However, The technology to turn worn cotton into a quality material that looks like denim hasn’t been invented yet. Levi’s is working with the technology sector to find a solution though, and in May last year announced a venture with Seattle-based tech firm Evrnu to produce the first jeans made from regenerated post-consumer cotton waste. A prototype was made from five discarded cotton t-shirts, and with 98 per cent less water than virgin cotton products. Other apparel companies, such as H&M, run similar recycling schemes. (Eco-Business)

Renewable Energy

Jimmy Carter turns a peanut farm Into a solar array for his hometown

The 92-year-old former president Jimmy Carter is leasing 10 acres of what used to be peanut and soybean fields for a solar array. The field of 3,852 solar panels will provide 1.3 megawatts of power, or about half of the electricity requirements for the Georgian hamlet of Plains, the little town of 700 people that Carter put on the map over 40 years ago. Atlanta-based SolAmerica Energy is paying Carter about $7,000 annually to lease the land. The resulting energy will be fed into Georgia Power’s local grid, and will provide enough power for about 200 of Plains’ 215 homes, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution. (Triple Pundit)

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