If you read the news at the moment, it feels a bit as though a small number of people are trying to hold back the rampaging juggernaut that is the Climate Emergency (and the Biodiversity Emergency and the Plastic Pollution Emergency… perhaps we should just admit that there’s an Environmental Emergency). But now that I have started looking for positive (solarpunk) stories for The Hive, I am finding that there are lots. People all over the world are doing their bit (and, in many cases, much more) to help the planet. The idea of The Hive is to be uplifting and empowering and inspiring in the face of an issue so large that we can only solve it together.
To stop global catastrophe, we must believe in humans again. We have the technology to prevent climate crisis. But now we need to unleash mass resistance too – because collective action does work.Bill McKibben, The Guardian
The owner of a caravan park in the Lake District is planting dozens of Scots pines to attract pine martens, after research has shown that these fearsome predators may be the key to saving the red squirrels. Driven to extinction in England 90 years ago, the pine marten has started to regain a foothold after crossing the border from Scotland. Pine nuts are a favourite food of red squirrels, and pine martens build nests in the trees. Pine martens are known to prey on grey squirrels, and may give red squirrels a fighting chance.
The UN has warned that the world’s soils are heading for exhaustion and depletion, with just 60 harvests remaining before they can no longer feed us. But more and more farmers are ditching the plough to save the soil, relying on keeping the ground covered with crops all year round and growing a wide variety of plants. Although farming this way involves more planning, the benefits include plummeting costs on machinery and labour, a drastic reduction in fertiliser and chemical use, a huge increase in insects, birds and wildlife, fewer floods and more drought-resistant crops.
Two years ago, Nicole Klaski set up the first German supermarket to sell ugly veg. Every week she takes a team volunteers to farms to salvage produce that has been rejected as too oddly-shaped or too small by large supermarket chains. The group also collects food that may be approaching its use-by date from local supermarkets, and is creating an anti-food waste community.
In Scotland, two entrepreneurs have come up with a novel solution to the problem of coffee waste – they want to turn it into a palm oil replacement. Palm oil finds its way into all kinds of products, but manufacturers are under pressure to find an alternative, as demand for it is devastating rainforests in Asia. They want to have their new process up and running in Glasgow by summer 2020.
Oxford now has a Library of Things, from which you can borrow everything from lawnmowers to jigsaw puzzles, to reduce the number of items we buy but rarely use.
Kenya’s expanding economy could be fuelled by the power of the Rift Valley, rather than fossil fuels. Since 2010, the proportion of the country’s population with access to electricity has risen from one in five to three in five, thanks largely to geothermal plants fuelled by steam from the subterranean depths.
In Seattle, immigrant farmers have brought derelict greenhouses back into life to grow vegetables they love, but which are rarely to be seen on supermarket shelves. They aim to grow at least 10 different kinds of greenhouse vegetables, from tomatoes and cucumbers, to cowpeas and spinach, not only for sale in the farmers market, but also to donate to area food banks.
And a scheme to restore the New Forest’s internationally important wetlands by returning natural meanders, or bends, to its streams has won the prestigious UK River Prize 2019. The New Forest is an internationally important wetland and home to 75% of the remaining valley mires, or boggy areas, in North-Western Europe. Over the last nine years this project has been painstakingly restoring wetlands across the New Forest, changing artificially straightened streams to return their natural meanders and bends, and protecting them from further erosion.