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TOPIC: pollution


Gaza And Ukraine, Two More Wars Of A World Still Addicted To Oil

Hydrocarbons continue to drive nations' economies and politics around the world, creating both corruption, stagnation and — sadly as we've seen again — all-out war.


MEXICO CITYCrude oil is and will remain fundamental to the countries that produce it, where the sector often comes to occupy an outsized role in policymaking, squeezing out the societal needs that must be the priority of public policy.

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Stinkin’ Sunset? A Mexican Coastal Paradise Has A Major Sanitation Problem

As a paramunicipal organization takes over water services from local councils, residents face high costs, shortages, contamination — and a foul odor that’s sullying the area’s reputation as a coastal paradise.

SAN FRANCISCO, MEXICO — Tourists from many corners of the world gather here to watch one of the region’s most beautiful sunsets. In this town in the municipality of Bahía de Banderas, in the state of Nayarit, they take photographs and applaud as the very last trace of the sun disappears.

But when darkness envelops the beach and the visitors gradually depart, the festive atmosphere gives way to fetid odors that roll in from the south, where the motors of the treatment plant start. The wastewater discharge flows into the town’s estuary, which, during the rainy season, fills with enough water to connect with the sea.

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Gaza's Water Crisis: From Lever Of Occupation To Weapon Of War

Shortages of water, which have ultimately long been controlled by Israel, have long been a brutal reality for the Palestinians of Gaza. Now with the ongoing bombing and siege campaign, the daily search for water has become central to the struggle to survive.

KHAN YOUNIS — Firas, a young Palestinian man from the Gaza Strip, was displaced from eastern Khan Younis to a shelter in the governorate’s center due to the ongoing Israeli bombing. Each day, he carries several empty bottles and makes his way to the Nasser Medical Complex in the south of Gaza, hoping to fill them there.

This water is impotable, but he drinks it anyway. The only other option for him and his family is to stand in line for hours to buy 10 bottles for 12 shekels ($3.08), which is 50% higher than pre-war prices. The water may run out before his turn comes. With the continuing bombing, Firas, like all those displaced to shelter centers, only has the chance to shower every two or three days, depending on the availability of water.

Firas is not alone. Falastin, a displaced woman in her thirties, carries a plastic bag filled with her clothes for half a kilometer to reach a public bathroom in a hospital to take a shower. On her way back, she carries a gallon of water to bring home to her three daughters so they can also shower and wash their clothes. “Imagine walking all this distance and carrying all this weight on my back,” Falastin says.

Ahmad faces a slightly better situation than Firas and Falastin. He hasn’t been displaced yet, but he shares in the daily strip-wide struggle to get water. Ahmad is in charge of the water supply for his family of nine. He walks to a tank at a nearby mosque three times a day while carrying a gallon bottle and fetches 16 liters of water after waiting in line for at least half an hour.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with a coastline 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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Marta Danielewicz

Toxic Fires Reveal Poland's "Time Bomb" Of Illegal Waste Dumps

A fire involving a hazardous waste dump has brought attention to the hundreds of illegal waste dumps across Poland. Yet the government has failed to offer an adequate response.

ZIELONA — On July 23, an illegal toxic waste dump set ablaze in Zielona Góra, a city of about 140,000 inhabitants in western Poland, causing high levels of polluted smog and a fire that raged for several hours before finally being extinguished. The waste brought attention to the sheer number of illegal landfills across the country. There are hundreds of such places in Poland, and even more companies operating this way. They are present in every region of the country.

The ruling party government has boasted about tightening the regulations on illegally dumping waste, which they claim has been a so-called “declaration of war” on the “garbage mafia”.

It turns out, however, that the more restrictive the regulations, the more the black market behind Poland’s waste management is able to develop. Recent data shows that every year, more warehouses and sheds filled with toxic chemicals are detected. And this is not the only problem regarding illegal waste storage sites.

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Mariana Toro Nader

Why Summer Should Always Remind Us Of The Ozone

With the arrival of the heat, it can seem that air pollution has increased. But is this just our perception or reality?


MADRID — In summer, days are longer and people are more eager to be outside, but does that also increase environmental pollution? In truth, it's not a matter of perception: the summer heat increases the levels of tropospheric ozone, one of the polluting gases with the highest impact in Spain and across the planet.

Ozone (O3) is a colorless, odorless gas that, depending on which layer of the atmosphere it is in, can have either positive or negative effects. Stratospheric ozone is the "good" ozone, found 10 to 50 kilometers above the earth's surface. There, it forms the so-called ozone layer, which protects living beings from the sun's ultraviolet radiation. When this layer degenerates, it creates ozone holes that can contribute to global warming, as well as increase the risk of skin cancer, eye cataracts and affect people's immune system.

However, when ozone is in the troposphere — the layer of the atmosphere closest to Earth — it becomes a byproduct pollutant produced by primary pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2) and volatile organic compounds.

Tropospheric ozone is hazardous to our health: it affects the respiratory system, causes throat, eye and mucous membrane irritation, can trigger coughing and can reduce lung function. It makes breathing more difficult, increases cases of asthma attacks, and can worsen other chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and bronchitis. In addition, it is associated with increased deaths due to cardiovascular failure.

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food / travel
Marine Béguin

How 7 Vacation Destinations Are Pushing Back Against Over-Tourism

From setting new rules, imposing tolls and fines, local officials in some of the world’s most desirable tourist spots are trying to figure out the right balance to keep visitors coming without ruining the environment, or the experience.

From the canals of Venice to the beaches of Maya Bay, the world’s vacation paradise destinations are under assault. The second full summer since the COVID-19 pandemic abated has seen a massive rebound in tourism, which has made ever more clear that the effects of mass tourism (or over-tourism) are a real threat to the places and the people who live there. Environmental damage, deteriorating cities, overcrowding, rising prices and an impediment to local people's way of life are all consequences of international mass tourism.

In response, many touristic localities are taking this issue head-on by implementing innovative strategies to combat the negative effects of excessive tourism. These initiatives aim to protect the environment, preserve local culture, and ensure the long-term sustainability of these cherished locations. From Bali to Amsterdam and Machu Picchu, here's an international look of vacation destinations that are trying to find the right balance between welcoming visitors and being overrun by them.

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Laura Casamitjana

"Green Gentrification" — When Environmental Progress Pushes The Poor Out Of Cities

Pollution and climate change have prompted some cities to convert into more sustainable and liveable spaces. But these same policies can widen social inequality. How can cities fix this paradox?

BARCELONA - In 1976, Barcelona's General Metropolitan Plan (PGM) was approved as a framework for the city's urban planning. But the city's issues back then were different than what it faces today: from unsustainable pollution levels to the threat of climate change and a lack of affordable housing, a problem inherited from the 2008 financial crisis.

The gentrification of Barcelona began in the 2010s, exemplified by the transformation of the industrial area Poblenou into parks and green spaces. One of the most significant initiatives to promote a greener city has been the creation of the so-called superilles (superblocks), which aim to prioritize pedestrian spaces for local use.

According to a study by the Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB) the superilles have resulted in a 25% reduction in nitrogen dioxide levels, and a 17% reduction in airborne fine particles along the main Sant Antoni boulevard — numbers which have led urbanists to encourage other cities to follow this model.

But the idea of creating more liveable cities has become a double-edged sword, which can end up destroying the very fabric of the neighborhood it seeks to aid.

In the last decade, in the same district of Poblenou, the price per square meter of registered property sales has increased by almost €3000. There has been a significant increase in university-educated tenants and, along with it, income levels. The 22@ project, which has transformed Poblenou from an industrial area into one full of pedestrian avenues, green spaces and modern infrastructure, has also resulted in the displacement of local residents. This is a phenomenon known as ‘green gentrification.'

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Anita Dmitruczuk

The Oder River Poisoning: What Is Killing Hundreds Of Tons Of Fish In Central Europe?

Since last year, over half of the fish in the river have died, and Germany’s environment minister has said that Poland has not done enough to prevent a repeat of the incident. Now the Oder, which runs through the Czech Republic, Poland, and Germany, is experiencing fish death en masse once again. Was this catastrophe doomed to repeat itself? Reporters from German newspaper Die Zeit and Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza looked for answers.


LOWER SILESIA This week, more than one ton of dead fish have been removed from the Oder river within less than 24 hours, a throwback to last year's catastrophe in which half of all fish in the river died. According to a report from the European Union, this was largely caused by industrial pollution in Poland, which allowed for the mass toxic growth of golden algae, and poisoned the river's fish.

While Polish, Czech, and German authorities continue to assess the situation, some are wondering whether the catastrophe could have been avoided altogether.

Many people have criticized the Polish government for not doing anything about the 2022 poisoning of the Oder river in Western Poland, which wiped out the river's fish and left environmental consequences which are still felt today.

But this is untrue: the Polish government has been working hard — to try to silence the issue and make it disappear.

After the discovery of yellow-golden Prymnesium parvum algae in the Oder last year, you could almost hear a stone fall from the heart of Poland's Climate Minister Anna Moskwa. The river, which runs through Western Poland and marks part of the country's border with Germany, connects waterways in Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic to the Baltic Sea.

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Yannick Champion-Osselin

"Ciao Tutti, Don't Buy That!" #Deinfluencing Is Social Media's Top Global Trend For 2023

With the rise of influencers has come a sub-category: deinfluencers, who tell their followers what NOT to buy instead of promoting products in an effort to reduce wasteful consumption.

PARIS — For better or worse, we all know about influencers— those who post online and accumulate a following that trusts their opinion. However, suddenly the new trend online is “deinfluencing.” Influencers advertise products to their many followers, often pushing the idea that you can achieve a certain result or status by buying what they promote. Deinfluencers, on the other hand, advise their followers not to consume things to reduce excessive purchasing habits and avoid useless or overhyped products.

In the past year, the hashtag #deinfluencing has amassed over 584 million views on the video-sharing platform Tiktok.

Like influencer videos, the most popular deinfluencing videos are made by thin and attractive women talking directly and passionately into the camera.

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Maciej Pietrzak

“Poland’s Chernobyl” — Portrait Of A Nation Addicted To Coal

In Gdansk, year-long waits for medical care, empty playgrounds and windows dirtied by smog have caused this Polish coastal city’s residents to deem it “Chernobyl”. But Europe's most coal-dependent country does not plan to stop importing it anytime soon.

GDANSK — The trucks are usually unloaded at night, without any tarps covering their contents. “We keep our doors and windows closed, but our entire family continues to have upper respiratory problems,” said a resident of Gdansk’s port neighborhood.

They live amid clouds of coal.

Cars on the road are dirty, and black sludge covers the renovated facades of buildings. Those who live here have given up trying to rid their windowsills of it. It’s of no use: the coal dust gets everywhere.

But it isn’t just cleanliness which is causing deep concern among the city’s residents. “We are most afraid for our health. Plenty of people have complained of issues which began with the arrival of the dust. These primarily include problems with their sinuses, upper respiratory tracts, and headaches,” said Paulina Konarska, a member of the Nowy Port District Council. “People are coughing up black phlegm," she added. "Our clinic cannot keep up with admitting patients, and wait times for the pulmonologist are now over half a year,” she said.

The situation shows no signs of improvement in the near future, and uncertainties among residents have caused them to take it upon themselves to look for answers.

Iwona Lubaszka, who lives in the center of the Nowy Port neighborhood, says her daughter personally reached out to the Provincial Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, who told her that “the situation will not improve until it rains.” According to Lubaszka, the PIEP launched an investigation into one of the post-area companies in May, although complaints of coal pollution came much earlier.

Her neighbor, Małgorzata Motog, remembers April 23 as the worst day of smog. “This was the first warm, sunny and dry day of the year,” she said. “People went outside to ride their bikes, or to tend to their gardens.” And, recalls Motog: “a huge cloud of dust was floating above everyone.”

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

The Dam Attack Adds To Ukraine's Huge Environmental Toll, Already Estimated At $54 Billion

The blowing up of the Nova Kakhovka dam has unleashed massive flooding in southern Ukraine. The damage is sure to be staggering, which will add to the huge toll the government estimated in March that takes into account land, air, and water pollution, burned-down forests, and destroyed natural resources.

-This article was updated on June 6, 2023 at 2 p.m. local time-

The blowing up of a large Soviet-era dam on the Dnipro river, which has sparked massive flooding, may turn out to be the most environmentally damaging of the Ukraine war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has blamed Russia for the attack on the Nova Kakhovka dam, calling it "ecocide," with the flooding already estimated to affect over 16,000 people in surrounding villages, many of whom have been told to evacuate immediately. So far, eight villages have been flooded completely by water from the dam's reservoirs.

Moscow, meanwhile, says Kyiv is behind the blast in occupied areas of Ukraine. But even before knowing who is to blame, environmental experts note that is just the latest ecological casualty in the 15-month-long conflict.

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In March, for the first time, there was an estimate of the cost of the environmental damage of the war on Ukraine: $54 billion.

Ruslan Strilets, Ukraine’s Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, explained that experts have applied a new methodology based on environmental inspection to tally the cost.

“This includes land, air, and water pollution, burned-down forests, and destroyed natural resources,” he said. “Our main goal is to show these figures to everyone so that they can be seen in Europe and the world so that everyone understands the price of this environmental damage and how to restore it to Ukraine.”

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