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.
As the world’s largest wasp invades the U.S., scientists fear the insect could decimate bee populations.
The Story: Nicknamed “murder hornets” for their venomous sting, Asian giant hornets were recently spotted in Washington State, reported Mike Baker for The New York Times. These hummingbird-sized wasps are known for decimating entire colonies of bee populations and killing up to 50 people in Japan every year — and scientists warn the hornets could wipe out bee populations across North America. Washington officials are currently working to catch and exterminate these hornets using baited traps.
The Big Picture: Due in large part to climate change, pesticide use and disease, the world’s honeybee populations are in steep decline, with numbers decreasing by nearly 40 percent in the United States in 2019 alone. If unregulated, Asian giant hornets could speed up this decline, which could have severe impacts on the agricultural industry — roughly one in three bites of food is made possible by bees and other pollinators. Experts agree that the hornets must be eradicated rapidly to prevent widespread destruction, and that bee habitats must be conserved to protect these pollinators in the long-term.
Recent research found that billions of people could be exposed to “unsuitably hot” conditions by 2070.
The Story: A new study projects that one-third of the global population could live in areas where the mean annual temperature is above 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2070, reported Helen Regan for CNN. That figure is roughly 10 to 13 degrees Celsius (18 to 23 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than current average temperatures. By studying the average preferred temperatures of human populations in the past 6,000 years, the authors of the study determined that future temperatures will be “unsuitably hot for humans,” and could trigger widespread migrations. By analyzing global climate models, the authors determined that extreme heat could impact Africa, India, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South America and Australia.
The Big Picture: The majority of countries likely to be impacted by extreme temperatures, such as India and Nigeria, also have some of the fastest growing population rates in the world. The study projects that nearly 3.5 billion people could be affected by severe heat based on current growth trends. According to the research, the number of individuals exposed to unsuitably hot conditions could be halved if countries and businesses around the world significantly reduce their carbon emissions. If left unchecked, climate change and the resulting mass migrations could have devastating impacts on the global economy and will likely exacerbate conflict between rural communities, experts say.
Humanity should turn to indigenous peoples for traditional ways to protect the planet, according to a world leader and conservationist.
The Story: It is crucial for humanity to listen to indigenous peoples for effective strategies to protect nature and prevent future pandemics, wrote former Colombian president and Arnhold Distinguished Fellow at Conservation International, Juan Manuel Santos. In the face of rising global temperatures, mass species extinctions and disease outbreaks fueled by environmental destruction, he explained that “global threats can be addressed only through global action.” In a call to action for world leaders, Santos urged countries to recommit to their climate goals in the Paris Agreement and to learn from indigenous peoples how to maintain and conserve biodiversity.
The Big Picture: Though they account for only 5 percent of the world’s population, indigenous peoples use or manage more than a quarter of Earth’s surface and protect 80 percent of global biodiversity. Overall, indigenous-managed lands show less species decline and pollution, and more well-managed natural resources. Experts agree that protecting nature could help prevent future pandemics — which won’t be possible unless world leaders recognize indigenous lands and rights to ensure that ecosystems are effectively conserved.
For centuries, indigenous peoples have cautioned that the destruction of nature could unleash negative impacts on humanity, including disease. Now, many indigenous peoples are offering ways to avoid future disease outbreaks by protecting nature through traditional knowledge.
Cover image: An Awajun indigenous woman in Shampuyacu, Peru (© CI Peru/ Marlon del Águila)