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Good morning curious.earthlings, 

Flying into your inbox this week is the 100th edition of Curious.Earth's weekly environmental news roundup! As we hit this milestone we'd like to say a big cheers to all our readers for tuning in every week - we could not do this without your support!

With the climate emergency being felt across the world right now, it is more important than ever to increase environmental awareness and provide opportunities for people to take action - and we'll continue to do so for as long as it takes! 

Reading time this week is 3:47 minutes.
Natural Resources

History's Largest Mining Operation Is About To Begin

by Martyn Lowder

What's Going On Here?

This week, we learnt that the largest mining operation in the history of our planet is about to begin; underwater in the Atlantic Ocean, off the West Coast of Africa.

What Does This Mean?

Deep sea mining has been talked about for decades, but until now it's been deemed too risky to operate in the high-pressure, pitch-black conditions. However, as technology advances, dozens of governments and private ventures are now ‘diving in’.

It's hard to visualise, but imagine opencast mining taking place at the bottom of the ocean, where huge remote-controlled machines excavate rocks from the seabed and pump them up to the surface.

Off the coast of Namibia, the De Beers Group fleet of specialized ships drag machinery across the seabed in search of diamonds. In 2018, their ships extracted 1.4 million carats; in 2019, De Beers commissioned a new ship that will scrape the bottom twice as quickly as any other vessel.

Why Should We Care?

In the past, little was known about the animals on the ocean floor. Most scientists thought the darkness and cold would make the deep sea uninhabitable, however we now know that the Earth’s oceans are teeming with life (Yeti Crabs get our vote).

No one can be entirely sure of the risks to these critters, but it's widely accepted that whatever is in the path of the mining machines will be destroyed. Massive plumes of sand and silt are expected to suffocate marine life for kilometres far beyond the mining site.

Be Curious!

Regulations for ocean mining have never been formally established. Mining companies may promise to extract seabed metal with minimal damage to the surrounding environment, but to believe this requires faith. Here is our 'Stop Deep Sea Mining’ starter pack:

  1)    Keep them in the ground - Firstly, reduce your consumption of precious metals. Demand for silver, gold, copper, manganese, nickel and cobalt are the top offenders. It could be saying NO to the latest phone and sticking with what you’ve got or swapping diamonds for non-precious stones. 
 2)      Go Fairtrade - If you do feel compelled to buy new, keep an eye out for that Fairtrade logo. Did you know that the Fairtrade Foundation isn’t just the globally recognised marker for Fairtrade food?

 3)      Keep the pressure on for enhanced regulation – Visit our friends at Blue Planet Society to stay in the know. While you are there, why not sign their petition to Michael Lodge (Secretary-General, International Seabed Authority)?
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Return To Sender Offenders

by Imogen Berryman

What's Going On Here?

It is estimated that up to 50% of the goods we return to retailers are sent to landfill instead of being resold again. But one country has already banned the practice and independent technology platforms are trying to find ways to reduce this.

What Does This Mean?

Whether it's because the packing or item is damaged or its out of season, products still in a resellable or reusable condition can be thrown away - sometimes it's because suppliers don’t allow it to be sold more than once!

Thanks to fast fashion, the sort of items being returned are such low value that it’s cheaper for a company to throw it away than deal with the logistics of reselling it; for example, clothing and shoes have to be re-pressed and re-packaged to be sold again.

We return 5-10% of the things we buy in shops but up to 40% of what we order online. With super-relaxed return policies, we’ve got used to ordering lots of different sizes of one item knowing we can send it all back hassle free.  

Why Should We Care?

The £5 billion of waste generated through these returns each year contributes 15 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

We’re all pretty aware of the environmental footprint the fashion industry has but knowing that even the clothes we DON’T buy are also ending up in landfill is pretty devastating.

Thankfully this isn’t all retailers and there are some companies like Optoro who are working with retailers like Ikea and Under Armour to reduce their waste to landfill by 70%, using software to make sure goods are more easily resold, recycled or donated to charities like Good360 and Soles4Souls.

Patagonia have a ‘worn wear’ store for repaired products and France have already banned the destruction of damaged or unused returned goods.

Be Curious!
  • Listen to this great, but shocking interview about the issue with environmental journalist, Adria Vasil 
  • Head to Optoro’s site Blinq where previously returned items are available to be bought for heavily discounted prices
  • Think a bit more before you order online and check size guides and customer reviews to see how sizing comes up if you're unsure which size to get.
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Other news we found curious...

Can lab-grown meat save our bacon? - Guardian
OCR exam board to increase environmental awareness with new Natural History GCSE - inews
Ocean temperatures reached a record high in 2019 - Guardian
UN draft plan sets 2030 target to avert the Earth's sixth mass extinction - Edie
Colgate launches first ever recyclable toothpaste tube - Business Green
Scientists find that plants are growing higher up the Himalayas - EcoWatch
Australia bushfires a taste of what's to come as temperatures rise - BBC
Martyn Lowder
Imogen Berryman

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