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EarthAllies Podcast Episode 1: Unsettling Facts and Wins from 2021

Welcome to the first EarthAllies podcast by EarthlyEducation! EarthAllies aims to educate, activate and build a pro-climate-action, pro-environment community. Each episode we'll discuss recent events, research, and other issues we've discussed on our social media platforms.

This is the transcript of our first episode:

Rhys 0:02

And I think if people understood the origin, the conception of this misinformation/ disinformation, we would see better policy, we would see more informed people like it's the World Health Organisation, alongside the pandemic recently coined this period of time, the Infodemic, because there's just so much information out there. And it's so difficult to understand what is in fact true, and what is in fact, false. Welcome to the Earth Allies podcast, a podcast run by the team at EarthlyEducation. I'm Rhys.

Nicole 0:38

And I'm Nicole.

Rhys 0:40

And as Earthlyeducation we explore the climate and environmental issues, but more importantly, the solutions. We hope to educate and activate people worldwide, building a community along the way.

Nicole 0:51

Each episode, will discuss recent events, research and other issues. And we'll have special guests on the show, including experts, activists, and more.

Rhys 1:00

We hope you enjoy! Welcome to the first ever Earth Allies podcast. As the intro said, we are EarthlyEducation! We should just do some intros. My name is Rhys, I'm from Australia, and I'm a conservation scientist and a bit of a science communicator and one of the founders of EarthlyEducation. And sitting alongside me well, actually not alongside me, on the other end of the phone: Nicole. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Nicole 1:38

Hello, so good to be here on our very first podcast. So I also am a conservationist, just finishing up my degree, and have also been with EarthlyEducation for quite some time. And yeah, really excited to start this new chapter.

Rhys 1:58

Yeah, it is very exciting. Why are we why are we starting this chapter? Nicole? Why are we doing a podcast?

Nicole 2:05

So we've been working mostly on social media with the visual format. And we just wanted to expand our horizons, I guess, into the podcast format, since you know, people benefit from so many different mediums and learn in so many different ways. And podcasts are just a really, I think accessible and, you know, easy-to-digest kind of format for people to learn things.

Rhys 2:34

Yeah, that's true. And I think the reason why I personally want to start doing this podcast is, so we can maybe transition people away from their screens, because you'd be surprised, as one of our biggest, you know, modes of reaching people is Instagram, and social media. And that requires people to look at their screens, but I would prefer if people were reducing their screen time, and I think a podcast is a fantastic way to do that. So that's why we're doing it. And I guess how this is gonna run so everyone understands is yeah, we're gonna talk about some of our previous content, and I guess, relevant research, as well as other prevailing issues. And hopefully, we're gonna bring on some experts, and opportunities for interaction, maybe some quizzes, and those sort of things as we move forward.

But at the moment, we're just playing it by ear, and I guess we're gonna get stuck in to our first piece of content for 2022, as it is now, not 2021. But we're going to be talking about 2021. And actually, some of the themes that prevailed throughout. So the first thing that was a big headline throughout the year, is the unsettling fact that tropical deforestation did continue to persist at higher levels. And yeah, that's not necessarily a good thing. Because deforestation, especially in tropical environments where biodiversity is quite high, is a big issue.

Nicole 4:02

Yeah. So what was the main driving cause for this deforestation?

Rhys 4:07

Yeah, well, it's always something that's talked about a lot because it's not communicated enough. But the unfortunate reality is the predominant, predominant cause of the clearing of the tropical deforestation was in fact due to rear livestock, particularly beef. And a lot of this was happening in the Amazon in Brazil. And and then the second driving cause was for soy. And a lot of that soy - up to 70% - is then fed to livestock. And then when we move over into Southeast Asia, we're seeing a lot of palm oil production being the driving cause. But yeah, that's something to consider, I guess, if we're not super keen on tropical deforestation, perhaps we should start to really start to maybe limit our consumption of beef because as if the people that follow our content understand, maybe beef is something that should be removed from the human diet, because it's truly one of the least sustainable foods.

Nicole 5:08

Yeah. And so mean, deforestation, you know, has implications for so many things as well. It's not just sort of a one issue, you know, it's not just contributing to climate change, you know, it's contributing to the biodiversity crisis, as well, where we're seeing, you know, incredible loss of species around the world. So, yeah, it's definitely an unsettling fact for sure. And that we definitely need to address.

Rhys 5:35

Yeah. And it's also starting to inhibit the cycling of very important nutrients such as your phosphorus and nitrogen cycle as well. Yeah, I guess moving forward, we should say, the first five pieces of content today might be a little bit bleak. But then we're going to switch the playing field and get into some of the winds from 2021 as well. Hm. So yeah. Yeah, please.

Yeah, unfortunately, rain did fall for the very first time in recorded history on Greenland. So for those that are maybe not super switched on with their geography, Greenland is a massive ice sheet, to the east of North America, to the west of Europe. Just next to Iceland. And yeah, it's not got a lot of people on it. I believe it's very uninhabited. But it's also one of the biggest stores of frozen freshwater on Earth. And yeah, rain was recorded falling on Greenland for the first time. Nicole, why? Why is it raining on Greenland?

Nicole 6:49

Well, so rain is an indicator of warmer weather. And so as somewhere as cold as that with such large ice stores, seeing this rain falling there is showing that it is warming up. And that, you know has implications for so many things like we're gonna see more ice melt which then leads on to you know, the, the rising sea levels and things like that. And then the rain itself will warm the ice further than it already has been. So ends up being this, this cycle over and over again, as it gets warmer and warmer. It just makes itself warmer.

Rhys 7:27

Yeah. And that's something hopefully we can discuss more in this podcast is this idea of feedback loops, and how once we see warmer temperatures, we start to see these feedback loops activated in which the warmer weather is then driving warmer weather, which is just scary. Not scary, but an issue moving forward. Yeah, scary. Scary is a fine word. And the next point that we're talking about: equally scary.

Global Witness is this fantastic organisation that sort of looks at all sorts of environmental and human rights issues throughout the world. And in 2021, they released a report about 2020, explaining that 227 people were in fact murdered for defending the environment in predominantly their homes. And this was done by perpetrators in the name of resource extraction. I'm not going to talk about this one too much. But we'd like to point out this is a prevailing theme throughout every year, we do see unfortunately, a lot of murder in the name of resource extraction, quite often against Indigenous people in their homes. Yeah, not a good one.

Yeah, 2021 saw the fossil fuel and meat industry continue to lobby and spread misinformation and disinformation to attempt to continue harming the environment to maximise profits. Yeah, that was - another - it's not just the talking point by some environmental people or hippies anymore. It's in fact done by publications such as Nature, highlighting that this disinformation, very, very coordinated disinformation campaigns by the fossil fuel and meat industry are occurring.

Nicole 9:15

Yeah, and it's really interesting, because, you know, this misinformation and disinformation often spreads so much easier and faster than the facts, unfortunately. So yeah, they've gotten very good at using social media and stuff to spread this, this misinformation. Yeah,

Rhys 9:36

yeah. It's one of the reasons why we started EarthlyEducation. It's just to try and counter some of the bullshit that is out there. Yeah. And I think if people understood the origin, the conception of this misinformation, disinformation, we would see better policy, we will see more informed people. Like the World Health Organisation during the pandemic recently coined this period of time, the Infodemic. Because there's just so much information out there. And it's so difficult to understand what is in fact true, and what is in fact, false. So that's something that we were trying to always counter. And I guess this podcast is maybe one of those modes of countering. Yeah. And another one more theme, or two more themes, unfortunately, that were an issue in 2021. Every minute, we saw one garbage truck of plastic dumped into our oceans.

Nicole 10:35

Wow. So is this any better than our, I guess, rates of rubbish dumping in the ocean than previously? Because it seems you know, a lot of people are getting quite aware of, you know, the waste issue that we're having, you know, a lot of people are pushing to recycle more and reduce their waste overall, like, you know, composting more, just buying smarter, I guess. Yeah.

Rhys 11:01

Well, as people become more aware, and we're even seeing bans of single plastics, in place likes in places such as Spain, I've seen Adelaide in Australia, our hometown, is pushing for it. But the reality is plastic production is in fact increasing at a rate that is scary. And World Economic Forum estimated that if we continue at our current rate, it is expected to increase to 2 garbage trucks [of rubbish] per minute by 2030. And 4 trucks per minute by 2050. That's so much plastic, Nicole!

Nicole 11:41

I think there's gonna be way more than the fish.

Rhys 11:44

Right? Yeah, that's what they say, I think by 2050 more plastic in the ocean, than fish and arguably if we keep extracting the amount of fish that we are from the ocean as well, I would estimate that maybe it's sooner than 2050. All right, one more thing, just one more, and then we're done. Then we can talk about some wins. Canada's hottest temperature was recorded in 2021. But the scariest thing there is that it went from 45 degrees, not to 46 not to 47 to 48 to 49.6 degrees. That's just absurd, that, that level of increase like what the heck, Nicole?

Nicole 12:29

That's so much. And look, we're from Australia, so we definitely understand this warm temperature and 49.6 is ridiculous. It's scary. So scary. Such a big jump, like, Oh, man.

Rhys 12:43

Yeah, that if... if that's a tell-tale [sign] for the future to come, maybe we should be doing more. Anyway....

Nicole 12:50

Yeah. Because, you know, that also ends up with more, you know, wildfires and stuff, which is equally, if not more scary.

Rhys 13:00

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Anyway, yeah, I think that's again, one of those feedback loops, hotter temperatures, more wildfire[s], more CO2 being released, less CO2 being sequestered. Same with more ice melt, less wet surfaces, more CO2 absorbed, more heat radiation absorbed, sorry. Yeah. Driving more warming. Alright, that's enough. No more bleak, depressing content. I think it's time to get into the wins, the Earthly wins as we call them from 2021. Nicole, take us away. What's the first Earthly win?

Nicole 13:33

Alright, so imagine the world leaders coming together and agreeing about something and then acting swiftly to resolve the issue? Can you imagine it?

Rhys 13:44

No. [Laughs] I'm sorry. Yes, I can, I can, okay.

Nicole 13:47

Well, in 1987, the Montreal Protocol deal resulted in the regulation of ozone depleting chemicals, after the scientists discovered this massive hole opening in the upper atmospheres. So, fast forward to 2021. And this hole in the upper atmosphere, so the ozone layer, which I feel like a lot of people probably heard of, but maybe not in more recent years, I feel like kind of quietened down. But fast forward to 2021. And this hole in the ozone is not just healing, but it's predicted to be completely healed within a lot of our lifetimes, which is pretty amazing.

Rhys 14:29

Genuinely, like you think that this huge thing in the sky, you think once you screw it up, it would be quite difficult to restore, especially something that occurred over not just hundreds of years, not just thousands of years, like it was generated over. I think it was millions of years, right.

Nicole 14:44

So the ozone layer is literally protecting us and the earth and all of the organisms on Earth from the Sun, which sounds silly because we definitely need the sun to survive, you know, to grow things, for plants to grow, and then for other things to be able to eat them. But it's intense, you know,

Rhys 15:07

harmful. UV ultraviolet radiation-

Nicole 15:10

UV rays are a lot. Yes, UV rays. Yes. So the ozone layer just is a nice protective layer for us, so that we don't all burn to a crisp or not even exist. That's definitely important!

Rhys 15:24

Do you know where the where the hole was in the ozone? No,

Nicole 15:31

I think it was over the Southern Hemisphere, right?

Rhys 15:34

Well done. Yeah, that's right. Predominantly over Antarctica, and I was reading a few years ago, so bear with me, that what happens is when these things that are fluorocarbons, they didn't actually interact with the ozone in warmer temperatures. So like, that's where the hole started to occur over Antarctica, where the, like, the temperatures are just ridiculously cold. And then they're interacting with ozone net location. And that's when the PFCs start to eat away, basically, at the ozone. And that's where the hole started to open up. And I remember growing up here in Australia, we used to get warned about this hole in the ozone layer and we were always at risk of being burnt to a crisp and getting skin cancer. So I'm glad that it's starting to heal. And that again, was achieved through nations of the world coming together and signing this Montreal Protocol. And why are we highlighting this? Like why are we talking about nations coming together? What's another agreement? Maybe that happened in 2015, Nicole, that we should talk about?

Nicole 16:45

I assume that you're talking about the Paris Agreement?

Rhys 16:49


Nicole 16:52

Which, yeah, it's an interesting one, because a lot of countries did agree to it, as they did with this Montreal Protocol. But I can't say that they have been as effective at addressing it as the Montreal Protocol, unfortunately? Yeah, look -

Rhys 17:10

I do somewhat understand that like, with the Montreal Protocol, that was all about removing some refrigerants. That's what they were basically being used for.

Nicole 17:19

It was a very specific target. Yeah.

Rhys 17:21

There wasn't these massive disinformation, like lobbying, campaigns to like, you know, there wasn't big refrigeration coming out and saying that the hole in the ozone layer is a hoax that like there's no one, there's not too many people, there probably was some but not many. Doing that, whereas we've got that happening today. And like, energy systems are reliant on fossil fuels. So like, it makes somewhat sense how slow the process is, but doesn't mean that we shouldn't be doing it. Like, it's just the reality. And we've got, obviously, we say it all the time. We have the solutions. We have the technology, we've got all these systems in place to mitigate and act on climate but we're not. And yeah, the Montreal Protocol shows that it can be done. Let's hope that COP26 and some of the outcomes from that, and then COP27, we can double down on the commitments and maybe we'll see enough done. But yeah, exciting news.

Nicole 18:17

Yeah, definitely. So what's the next one, Rhys?

Rhys 18:20

Well, scientists have started to use these novel techniques and technologies to assist corals as they suffer from increasing ocean temperature and acidity. And now they're assisting the spawning process of the coral, as well as other farming and grafting techniques. And the scientists are paving the regeneration in areas that have been heavily bleached or hit by cyclones. And this is... this is huge, because by 2030, well, they say by 1.8 degrees of warming, I believe it is, 98% of coral will be gone. Well extinct. And yeah, that's that's huge, because one other fact that is huge, is that 25% of ocean biodiversity exists on coral reefs. And the coral reefs themselves are only covering 1% of the ocean floor. Yeah, it's crazy. And maybe that's a quiz question coming up on our EarthlyEducation quiz [on our Instagram]. But yeah, it's truly that's really like havens for biodiversity and we should be doing everything we can to protect them because the biodiversity in the ocean is just paramount for so many reasons. We neglect the ocean if I'm honest, I think like the ocean does so much for us, like it regulates the climate, and it's also food source for so many people like I think it's over half the world and yeah, what do you reckon Nicole? This is a cool story, though, right?

Nicole 20:01

Yeah, definitely. It's really cool. But so what's explained to me, Rhys? What's the deal with the temperature in the oceans increasing? So how does that impact the corals?

Rhys 20:12

Yeah, well, when the ocean increases, which I should point out, the ocean has taken on a lot more of the warming that should have occurred. So as we pump out carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the ocean is actually absorbing a lot of that. And what happens then, is when the ocean warms, and we see events such as marine heatwaves, corals, they actually start to what is called bleaching, coral bleaching. And when coral bleaching occurs, we see the zooxanthellae, did I say that right?

Nicole 20:49

Yeah, the zooxanthellae.

Rhys 20:50

Yeah, that's the algae that exists or the sorry, the plankton that exists on the coral polyps. And that's a symbiotic relationship, and they work together to feed each other. And when it's too warm, the zooxanthellae literally just leave the coral, exposing the underneath, which then gets hit by the aforementioned UV radiation. And we see a lot of the coral die. And we should point out that the coral can recover from this. And it has been seen where the coral does recover. But... the frequency and the intensity of these marine heatwaves is increasing and occurring, more and more. And when that happens more and more, it's just too much stress on the coral. And, like we're seeing so many dead reefs worldwide. But, this story is a cool one. And I think we're gonna see that a lot more with all sorts of conservation and restoration technology. We're gonna see these novel techniques coming out. And it's exciting times, I think, not just for current conservationist and restorationists. But future conservationists and restorationists. Yeah. Moving on. What's this? On our agenda here a conservation success story? Nicole, you can tell us about that one.

So, there are now 1800 Giant Pandas living in wilderness areas. And although they're still listed as vulnerable, the giant panda is now no longer classified as endangered. Yeah, so that's awesome. One of the driving causes for their improvement has been the increase of protected areas. And so now China has 18% of its landmass protected. 18%. Yes, that's a lot because, you know, China's large.

Nicole 22:48

Yeah. So this, as well as their captive breeding efforts, has helped to increase the population. So combined, this is an awesome outcome for the giant pandas.

Rhys 23:01

That's really cool. I think it's a, it just shows that conservation can and does work.

Nicole 23:07

Yeah, it's definitely possible to, you know, bring some of these species back from the brink, basically.

Rhys 23:14

Oh, that's so cool. Nicole, though, what do you what is it called when, when, when a species is cute and cuddly? There's a word for it. And it gets protected, because it's cute and cuddly. Yeah.

Nicole 23:25

That's what we call a charismatic species.

Rhys 23:27

That's right. That's right.

Nicole 23:28

And what does that mean? The Giant Panda, for example, you know, it's adorable. Everyone loves it. It's fluffy. It's cute. They're kind of harmless and so they get a lot of attention in general. But then this overlaps into conservation, because it's so much easier for organisations and groups and such to get funding and support for these conservation projects, which involve a species that people know so well. So another example is the koala in Australia, especially after the recent the 2019-2020 summer bushfires, which were horrific. But there were a lot of species that you know, had had a rough go. They weren't doing great, but the koala because it's so well-known and admittedly cute, adorable, it got a lot of attention, a lot of funding to help them which, well, I'm sure it's deserved. There are a lot of other species: animals and plants as well that don't get enough attention.

Rhys 24:33

Yeah, I think that's like that charismatic, charismatic species concept is interesting, because that's the way I look at it. There's like, two reasons why it's important. One, it does bring, like a lot of protection to habitat like the reason the panda in this story has done so well is because there's protected areas for the panda. And those protected areas aren't just helping the panda, they're helping probably so many other species, vegetation, both flora and fauna, and that's awesome. But I think that's sometimes an issue. Like I would love to move away from needing charismatic species to protect an area, and we just start looking at ecosystems and habitat as justifications to protect, because that's where we're gonna see the most conservation outcomes. That's my view anyway.

Nicole 25:21

Yeah, like a really holistic approach to it. That's right. Yeah, I agree.

Rhys 25:26

Yeah, well, the next one, is pretty cool. Even with fossil fuel lobbying efforts to slow it down, renewable energy continues to increase its generation capacity. And the next five years are predicted to see 90% of all new generation being renewable energy. That's awesome. However, this is still typically not fast enough to reduce energy emissions to meet the Paris Agreement targets of limiting warming beyond 1.5 degrees. And I would like to talk about that real quick that that 1.5 degrees, 2 degrees dichotomy. It's interesting. As we move through time, the media has just really quietly flipped from talking about 1.5 degrees to 2 degrees. And that was the the catch line of COP26, keep 1.5 alive. And, and we're not. And I think that's why we should talk about it more, because 1.5 is, what's the difference between 1.5 degrees warming Celsius, that is our American listeners, and 2 degrees is huge. And off the top of your head, Nicole, what's the difference between 1.5 degrees warming and 2 degrees warming? There was that really awesome production that the UN put out, that sort of broke down the differences, but I mean, we've talked about it already in this podcast, like, the amount of coral that will cease to exist, is one of the biggest, like differences between 1.5 and two degrees warming. And I'm sure the amount of cyclones, the amount of fires, it's been really cool to see renewable energy take off. And I guess we'll talk about this a lot more in the podcast. But an issue with the amount of renewable energy production has been the need for precious mineral extraction, not always done in the most environmentally-friendly manner. And that's that whole idea of is it net-good to resource extract in maybe not so environmentally-friendly ways, if you do limit the effects of climate change, but then at the same time, maybe we should be exploring efficiency and reduction of energy consumption, as opposed to just producing as much energy as we can to produce as much shit and consume as much shit as we can.

Nicole 27:46

Yeah, and another thing with, you know, the resource extraction is you say, it's not always particularly environmentally-friendly, it's also not very people-friendly, a lot of the time. Yeah. And that's just another thing that we can't, you know, we don't want to sacrifice that just to reduce our emissions, which, as you say, we could maybe more appropriately address to an extent by just reducing the need by how much we need, you know, we, you know, live a lot of people in the world live pretty extravagant lives. Yeah, it's just not necessary. So this is the whole idea of degrowth, I guess.

Rhys 28:29

We're introducing degrowth from the first ever EarthAllies podcast. All right. No, we will in the future. But moving on to the final point today that we're gonna talk about an interesting one. Nicole, take us away.

Nicole 28:45

Yes. So a Canadian River became a legal person with rights. A group of school girls in Ecuador shut down gas flaring. High school students in Australia are close to stopping their government's coal plant plans. Indonesia: court regulations for cleaner air. A Dutch court ordered Shell to slash emissions. And then, of course, there was an endless amount of Trump-era plans overturned.

Rhys 29:14

I just want to say something real quick. I'm so happy that this podcast, it doesn't have to be us talking about what Trump did every week. That's it. That's a win right there, I think.

Nicole 29:26

I absolutely agree.

Rhys 29:27

Like those who followed EarthlyEducation through time would probably have got sick of how many things we had to talk about. Because, yeah, in fact, we're doing it right now. That's… that's the lasting legacy that he has. Let's just, this is the Trump-free podcast.

Nicole 29:43

Yeah. And hopefully, Trump-era plan-free [podcast], more moving forwards.

Rhys 29:49

Yeah, no, it's been interesting to see Biden's transition to somewhat environmentally-friendly policy at times. There's always room for improvement, something that one of our writers for EarthlyEducation is constantly writing about, doing great work. Yeah. Interesting times, but exciting times, as put forward by all of those exciting wins around the world.

Nicole 30:12

Yeah. It’s cool. I think there are more and more organisations and groups that are fighting for this on a legal front. You know, the law is the law. A lot of places will stick to it if there are laws and regulations.

Rhys 30:31

I think that’s something we should talk about more because when people want to grow up and protect the environment, they move into scientific streams. But we need to move into the human side a lot more: we should see more environmental lawmakers, legislators, policymakers and communicators. We need a multi-faceted approach towards environmental and climate regeneration. And that is a great place to finish. Thank you to the listeners who lasted all the way to the end of our EarthAllies podcast! We will try to put this out every week. We’re open to suggestions, we want as much interaction as we can. One idea we did have was to read out comments: we want to talk about comments on our post. Maybe you want to start commenting on our posts: it might be featured on this podcast!

Nicole 31:54

Really looking forward to doing more episodes. Everyone who’s listened, hope you’ve enjoyed it and taken away something new from it.

Rhys 32:10

Catch you next week, Earth Allies!