Countries commit to protect marine life with ‘safe swimway’: 3 stories you may have missed

© CI/Sterling Zumbrunn

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. Latin American countries join reserves to create vast marine protected area 

New marine reserves signal growing political will to protect 30 percent of oceans.

The story: In a bid to protect some of Earth’s most unique species — and combat climate change — Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama pledged to expand and join their Pacific marine reserves to create an interconnected “safe swimway” that will be off-limits to industrial fishing fleets, Dan Collyns reported for The Guardian. Spanning more than 500,000 square kilometers (200,000 square miles), this Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor is a pocket of rich biodiversity and provides migratory routes for threatened species like leatherback turtles and hammerhead sharks.

Announced at the UN climate summit last week, the corridor supports global efforts to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and seas by 2030 — which scientists say is necessary to avoid severe climate impacts on our oceans and reduce threats to marine ecosystems. 

The big picture: “We need coordinated initiatives like this one to protect the world’s oceans; it’s not enough for countries to implement piecemeal efforts,” Luis Suárez, vice president of Conservation International – Ecuador, told Conservation News. “Whales, manta rays, marine turtles and other migratory species do not live within prescribed boundaries. And climate change knows no national borders. Countries must rethink conservation policy — they must work together to make an impact.” 

As part of its “Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape” program, Conservation International has worked in this region since 2004 to restore coastal areas, promote sustainable fishing practices and coordinate cooperation among governments. 

So what's next? “It will be an enormous challenge to monitor an area the size of this new marine corridor. For it to work, it must be effectively managed and enforced,” Suárez added. “That requires a shared long-term vision, strong coordination, sustainable financing mechanisms, surveillance strategies, and ecological and socioeconomic research.” 

Read more here.


Overwhelmed with despair about the climate crisis? Ask your doctor about eco-grief ….

The story: If the latest news about climate change triggers racing thoughts or makes you want to crawl back into bed, you’re not alone. A recent study found that Americans’ worry about global warming is at an all-time high — and therapists are increasingly seeking new ways to ease climate anxiety.

Mental health professionals are used to treating people who have survived life-altering weather events, often diagnosing them with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. 

Therapists treating climate anxiety now use the term “pre-TSD” to signal a patient’s anticipation of suffering. There is still limited professional guidance for therapists on how to address climate woes, but being climate-aware “is a chance for mental-health professionals to avoid dropping the ball on the most existential calamity in human history, to normalize and validate people’s feelings as they awaken to the severity of the changes taking place,” writes Bridget Read for The Cut.

The big picture: While climate concern can feel immobilizing, it can also fuel action. In Australia, a recent climate and mental health study found that “experiencing eco-anger predicted better mental health outcomes, as well as greater engagement in pro-climate activism and personal behaviors. Eco-anxiety and eco-depression were less adaptive, relating to lower wellbeing.”

Kritee Kanko, a climate scientist and Zen Buddhist priest, calls processing climate grief “composting. This can be “fertilizer for action,” when done right, Read writes. 

The Climate Psychology Alliance includes resources for climate anxiety. Read more here.


Unveiled at the UN climate summit, commitments aim to reduce methane from energy, agriculture and landfills. 

The story: More than 90 countries representing more than two-thirds of the world’s economy have signed the Global Methane Pledge — a commitment to cut emissions of this greenhouse gas by 30 percent by 2030. “It’s perhaps the biggest single thing governments can do to keep alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels,” John Ainger and Akshat Rathi write for Bloomberg Green.

Methane can warm the atmosphere 80 times as fast as carbon dioxide in the short term. But because methane degrades quickly, cutting emissions can have an “almost-immediate cooling effect on the Earth’s temperature,” according to Bloomberg Green. 

The big picture: If all commitments pledged at the UN climate summit are fulfilled “in full and on time” — including efforts to cut methane — global warming could be limited to 1.8 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2100, the International Energy Agency reported. That could be a big step forward. 

To put it in perspective, a couple of months ago the UN’s official analysis showed humanity heading toward a catastrophic 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming. Every fraction of a degree matters. But the IEA sounded a note of caution

“All the climate pledges made globally as of today still leave a 70 percent gap in the amount of emissions reductions needed by 2030 to keep 1.5 degree Celsius within reach. Governments are making bold promises for future decades, but short-term action is insufficient.”

Read more here.


Vanessa Bauza is the editorial director at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates. Donate to Conservation International.

Cover image: Hammerhead sharks, Ecuador (© Conservation International/photo by Sterling Zumbrunn)