This Week in the Environment

Christina Bryson, Staff Writer

Typhoon Haiyan has recently been identified with climate change by the Philippine government.  Last Friday, Nov. 8, Haiyan hit the Philippine islands and was considered to be one of the strongest tropical storms across the world.  Waves and strong winds, estimated between 147 and 235 mph, destroyed entire cities across 41 provinces and affected millions of people.

Yeb Sano, a Philippine delegate, gave a plea at the Warsaw Climate Change Conference, where more than 190 countries were represented, to address climate change. Sano believes this conference can fix climate change and stop all the “madness” as a result.

An advocate for man-made climate change, Sano’s plea included the belief that storms will worsen as human’s induce global warming.  However, scientists disagree with this theory; weather patterns are not conclusive with climate change.

“Asking that questions is beside the point,” said Mark Neff, assistant professor of environmental science. “We know with confidence that storms will become more frequent, but there will never be a storm that is 100 percent due to climate change.”

Low-lying nations are more susceptible to damage during storms, especially with the measured increase in sea-levels. The Philippines is still in the recovery process.  Officials estimate 2,500 dead but are unable to quickly assess damage as communication and transports lines are down.




Migrating from Siberia to Africa, the Amur falcon’s flight path visits Nagaland, India, where over 120,000 birds are usually killed. However, this past migratory season, the Indian government and conservationist groups are enforcing stricter rules to protect the birds.

Villages agreed to make hunting the Amur falcon illegal and also add a fine if violated. Villagers and activists patrolled areas of Nagaland to enforce the law and catch violations.

Nagaland’s chief minister, Neiphiu Rio, talked of the nation’s duty to protect and honor the birds like guests. Many within the nation do not agree with Rio’s statement and credit the new laws as restricting income, forcing people to find alternative sources of revenue.

Even though the falcon is the size of a pigeon, it maintains an ecological significance. Only eating insects, this bird is useful to farmers and agriculture, a crucial element of India’s economy.



Plans to construct a transport road through the Harapan rainforest in Sumatra threatens current restoration projects backed by the British government. The road would total 51 kilometers, approximately 32 miles, and allow over 800 truckloads of coal exports per day.

“The thing that bothers me about this situation is that they are cutting down trees in order to transport coal,” said Tori Schreiner, ‘16. “Trees are one of the major factors fighting against the harmful pollution that coal burning energy produces.”

About 154 hectares, or 380 acres worth of forestry, would be removed from the reserve, but in reality, constructing the road would remove more than the estimated amount. “It is very difficult to carve out a path in the rainforest without affecting the surrounding areas,” Schreiner said.

This road would split the forest into two parts, allowing easier access for illegal activity (poachers and loggers) and restricting animal habitats and movements. Conservationists propose alternative routes for coal transport that would not cause irreversible drawbacks to the restoration projects.

Considered to be one of the most diverse reserves worldwide, the 98,555 hectare estate contains one fifth of the lowland forest in Sumatra. It includes species such as the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran elephant, otters, porcupines, bears, turtles and over 300 bird species.




A new initiative in United Kingdom includes the elimination of food waste to generate renewable energy. Vision 2020: UK Roadmap to Zero Food Waste to Landfill, began work in 2011 and plans to ban food waste from entering landfills by the year 2020.

Britons throw away approximately 24 meals every month, collectively 4.2 million tons of food products. One-fifth of household food products become waste in a landfill. Producers, retailers, restaurants and consumers are all being urged to comply with the gradual ban. In addition to the ban, recommended measures are being proposed to collect food waste from homes and businesses.

The food harnessed would become a renewable resource, providing energy, heat and benefits to agriculture. Ideally, this ban on food waste would save the UK economy billions while also preventing the release of 27 million tons of greenhouse gases.




At President Barack Obama’s instruction, six tons of ivory, located in a Denver warehouse maintained by the U.S. government, was crushed on Thursday, Nov. 14. Some of the goods seized included scarred tusks, Confucius statuettes, coffee table items and bracelets beyond count, according to Suzanna Goldenberg from The Guardian.

As a public statement against the illegal wildlife trade, the presidency hopes other governments use similar tactics to end wildlife trafficking. Additionally, it hopes to send the message that illegal wildlife trade is not tolerated within the U.S. Some argue that this tactic will only increase prices by inducing scarcity in the ivory market. The Environmental Investigation Agency notes that the regulated market is the driving force behind ivory sales and a ban would help recover elephant populations, as was seen in 1989.

Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi, first started the now symbolic act of ivory destruction in 1989 when he burned 13 tons of ivory in hopes of passing a ban on the ivory trade. Since then, the Gabonese Republic burned its ivory stock in 2012 and the Philippines destroyed its stock earlier this year.

The ivory market is the third largest smuggled-goods market, only behind drugs and human trafficking. Approximately 100 elephants are killed daily, 30,000 per year, with most not even meeting reproductive maturity, diminishing elephant lineage and population.

“Ivory belongs to elephants,” said Jim Nyamu, a wildlife biologist from Kenya. Nyamu visited Allegheny this past August to talk about walking for elephants, spreading awareness against ivory poaching.