Conservation business, seaweed forests, fleeing climate change: 3 stories you may have missed

© Keith A. Ellenbogen

Editor's Note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. This environmental nonprofit just started a venture fund to put $200 million into conservation businesses  

Conservation International’s new investment fund will help grow local businesses that prioritize sustainability. 

The Story: Over the next decade, Conservation International will supply US$ 200 million in funding to businesses that help protect nature by changing local economies, reported Adele Peters for Fast Company. This money will help farmers and community members earn their incomes through sustainable business practices, rather than the harmful exploitation of natural resources. When the businesses pay back their loans, the money will be invested in other companies with conservation goals. 

The Big Picture: “It’s basically about jobs,” said Agustin Silvani, Conservation International’s senior vice president of conservation finance. “Conservation is really about investing in businesses and people growing economies, providing livelihoods like any other sector — but typically that’s not the way that conservation has been positioned.” This investment fund is already supporting a range of environmentally-conscious companies, such as Komaza, a startup in Kenya that pays farmers to grow small plots of trees for wood, and CorpoCampo, a business that works with low-income communities in Colombia to harvest açaí berries from the Amazon rainforest. 

Read the full story here.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: The Amazon is burning. Here's what you need to know.

2. Seaweed ‘forests’ can help fight climate change

Jungles of seaweed could be the key to storing massive amounts of the carbon emissions that drive climate change.

The Story: Growing marine research shows that large-scale seaweed farming could help offset carbon emissions and slow down climate change, reported Todd Woody for National Geographic. Seaweed is an efficient carbon sink — a natural reservoir that absorbs and stores carbon — that helps protect the ocean from unpredictable temperature changes. According to a paper published in Current Biology, farming seaweed in 3.8 percent of the federal waters off the California coast could neutralize emissions from the state’s US$ 50 billion agricultural industry. 

The Big Picture: As fires in the Amazon burn through critical forestland, seaweed farming could be a valuable alternative to countering the effects of climate change — especially if businesses and governments have a reason to invest in it through carbon offsets. Carlos Duarte, a leading seaweed scientist from Saudi Arabia, explains that the demand for seaweed farming is present, but that “we need carbon credit protocols that can be used to claim carbon credits from seaweed aquaculture.”  

Read the full story here.

FROM THE ARCHIVE: What on Earth is a 'carbon offset'?

3. The case for ‘managed retreat’ in the face of climate change

As the climate changes, some communities are better off retreating from their homes, a new study finds.

The Story: In a recent paper published in Science, researchers argue that it may be more efficient and cost-effective to flee an area susceptible to climate change than to develop greater safeguards against it, reported Richard A. Lovett for Cosmos. This approach, known as “managed retreat,” can be accomplished by helping communities relocate after disasters like hurricanes or floods, ending development in areas prone to natural disasters and changing how cities develop their infrastructure. Indonesia is already applying this strategy by moving its capital from Jakarta — a city that is sinking due to natural resource exploitation and pollution — to Borneo. 

The Big Picture: Certain areas are especially susceptible to the effects of climate change and increasing temperatures, including coastal regions, dry savannas and tropical forests. By halting development and relocating populations in these vulnerable areas, this approach can help communities escape the most intense effects of climate change, but it comes at a cost. Economic systems cannot always support a mass exodus or resulting influx of people, and the approach forces  individuals to uproot their lives and abandon their homes, livelihoods and even security.

Read the full story here.

Kiley Price is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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Cover image: Kelp in California. (© Keith A. Ellenbogen)

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