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The Gap Year Blog

Environment and Research News 30/11/18

30 Nov 2018 14:50 PM

Photo Credits: Flickr | Damian Gadal

Modified with permission by Frontier 

Stella McCartney calls for a sustainable fashion charter 

In a bid to rid the world of unethical fast fashion, luxury brand Stella McCartney has proposed a low-carbon production United Nations fashion charter to create a sustainable industry. 

Photo Credits: Flickr | kris krüg

The self-acclaimed “vegetarian” brand hopes to bring awareness to the environmental impact of fast fashion, which often includes low-priced large-quantity consumption of fashion products.

At the UN climate talks next month in Poland, McCartney will announce the charter to help push economic viability of environmentally friendly methods of production. McCartney will announce the proposal on the 10th December at the Business of Fashion’s VOICES event.

The link between the fashion industry and environmental change has become dire in recent years. Just last year 235 million items of clothing were sent to landfill. 

With 17 years in fashion, the brand Stella McCartney is not shy of sustainable activism with no leather, no fur, no skin and no feathers at the heart of their ethics. Their proposals are publicised on their website, including concerns with fair trade, animal cruelty and ‘circular solutions’ – to reimagine the fashion industry into a circular economy. 

Another 50 whales have died on a New Zealand Island in mass strandings 

In a series of mass strandings on the shores of New Zealand, another 80 whales have been found stranded on the south coast of Stewart Island, to which 51 were declared dead. 

Discovered last Thursday, the dead whales were spotted just east of the Southern Coast Island, and have now been linked to the rising ocean temperatures.

Photo Credits: Flickr | Shane Horan

There have been a wave of strandings of whales throughout New Zealand, this being the fifth in less than a week. Before this, an excess of 145 pilot whales died, beached on the shore of the Stewart Island in New Zealand.

When rescuers attended the scene at Stewart Island last Friday, many of the 80 whales had resurfaced and swam out to sea, but over 50 did not make it. 

Environmentalists are concerned with this surprise spat of whale deaths, and it is unclear why these whales strand. Pilot whales are commonly seen stranded on the coasts of New Zealand, but pygmy killer whales and sperm whales are not expected to beach, as well as the unanticipated rise in these events. 

US Cruise Ship captain fined €100,000 for dumping toxic fuel in France

After using fuel with sulphur levels over the European limit, a US captain of a cruise ship has been fined €100,000 by a Marseille court

The first ruling of its kind in France was given after French authorities found that Evans Hoyt, U.S. Captain of the Azura was spot checked for the fuel used in the ship’s bunker. The ship was found with fuel 0.18 percent above the sulphur limits of Europe, which sits at 1.5 percent.

Hoyt was not present at court, but the prosecutor denoted that the captain knew that he was using illegal fuel that was obtained in Barcelona. 

Concerns come with the use of fuel in cruise ships, where using a cheaper alternative often has environmental repercussions. Heavy fuel oil pollutes the oceans through its high sulphur rate, and is also known as bunker fuel. 

Research Round-up

Whales change their song pitch

For the past few decades, the pitch of blue whale songs has been decreasing but scientists have been struggling to understand why. New research finds that in, addition to the overall drop in pitch, whale songs show seasonal pitch variations associated with the break-up of sea ice. 

Researchers recorded the songs of three species of baleen whale; fin whales, Antarctic blue and pygmy blue wales in the southern Indian Ocean. Whale songs are quite unique because their pitch is related to their volume - the higher the pitch the louder the song and they can travel up to 600 miles underwater. 

The study discovered that differences in pitch occur during the year, with higher pitched songs occurring in summer months, correlated with the break- up of sea ice. The scientists suggest that the whales may be singing at a higher pitch and louder volume to be heard over the sound of the breaking ice. However, the overall trend of lower song pitch may be due to the whales singing more quietly due to increasing population numbers or changes in ocean acidity affecting how far the songs can travel. 

Wild Bees Boost Blueberries

The benefits of bees to the natural world are well known, but scientists have now found that wild bees are key to improving blueberry harvests. Pollination by wild bees has been found to increase blueberry size and quantity by 12% and ensure earlier harvests by two and a half days. 

In addition to their environmental benefits, the researchers make an economic case for the importance of wild bees. On one of the farms used in the study, the presence of wild bees boosted production by 36% ($136,000) with other farms showing an average 6% increase in production. 

Photo Credits: Flickr | Tara Herberger

Despite the good news, wild bee populations are still struggling declining by 23% between 2008 and 2013, most markedly in US agricultural areas. The team found that maintaining natural bee habitat, reducing pesticide use and planting natural wildflowers can significantly help stem the decline, allowing wild bees fulfil their potential economic benefits. 

22 new moth species discovered in Europe

22 new moth species have been discovered in Europe following confirmation using physical features and unique DNA fingerprinting. Some of the species were named by the study’s scientists after work colleagues, family members and specifically one of the moth species from Afghanistan (Megacraspedus pacificus) was dubbed an “ambassador of peace”.

Although exciting news at a time of wildlife decline, the scientists are urging for further research into these species to ensure their population numbers are discovered and conserved effectively in the future. 

By Caitlin Casey and Ignatius-Roy Hillcoat-Nalletamby - Online Journalism Interns

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