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In this blog I will express my personal opinions, ideas and thoughts on topics related to Earth observation, remote sensing and space science in general. I will talk about current news and developments, and there may be more that is not yet known, even to me.

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Good News for the Environment

Updated: Apr 30

You almost only hear bad news when it comes to the state of our environment. I recently saw a video from ARTE that shows some positive developments. I thought I'd share it with you. Unfortunately, it's in German (maybe there's a French version somewhere), so I'll summarise it briefly. Five positive developments from the past years were shown.

1. Solar panels instead of foliage

Agricultural fields are often covered with plastic sheeting to protect the plants from too much sun. However, increasingly extreme weather conditions such as storms, heavy rain and hail destroy these foils and lead to environmental pollution. Solar panels can also be used instead of plastic. This leads to a double utilisation of the agricultural area. As the solar panels do not let the sun through, the right ratio between panels and gaps had to be found. As the plants, in this case raspberries, get more shade, they also use less water. The crop yield is around 5 % lower. However, this loss is more than compensated for by the electricity generation and water savings. If only four per cent of agricultural land in Germany were equipped with solar panels, the entire country could be supplied with electricity.

2. Sustainable Palm Oil

Palm oil. It is used in many of our everyday products. In food, cosmetics, and detergents. For its cultivation on huge plantations, rainforest is cleared, and the habitat of many animals is destroyed. Other plants such as rapeseed or sunflowers are not good alternatives. To produce the same amount of oil, much larger areas would have to be sacrificed for plantations. The WWF founded the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004 and set minimum requirements for the cultivation of palm oil. These include.

  • Forests must not be converted into new plantations.

  • Soil and water must be protected.

  • No use of very hazardous pesticides.

  • Workers must be protected when using pesticides.

Cows are used as natural weed killers. Although cows emit more methane, plant diversity increases as fewer pesticides are used. More than 3800 companies have already signed up to the RSPO. The RSPO standards are now met on 20% of the world's farmland.

3. Owls instead of Pesticides

The wine-growing areas in the Nappa Valley in California suffer from the large number of pocket gophers. They eat the roots of the vines and can thus destroy a large part of the harvest. Organic winegrowers in particular suffer from the plague, as they do not use pesticides. One winegrower uses nature against the small rodents. He set up nesting boxes for barn owls. They are the natural enemy of the pocket gophers. The gophers should not be wiped out by the owls, but the population should be reduced and thus kept in a natural balance.

4. Crops and Trees Become Friends

Agriculture suffers from extreme climate events. Hurricanes, droughts and floods destroy the harvest. Monocultures are particularly affected. One solution is agroforestry. Small trees are planted on large fields and thus divide up the cultivation area. This prevents the fertile soil from being washed away during floods or blown away by the wind during droughts. The cultivation of the trees leads to losses in crop yields. However, the sale of the wood is intended to compensate for this later. The trees also help to supply the soil with nutrients from deeper layers of the earth, which in turn leads to higher yields.

5. Bananas

What palm oil is today, bananas used to be. Large areas of rainforest were cleared for the cultivation of banana plantations. A lot of plastic was also used in cultivation, which was left behind in nature. And pesticides were used without protecting the workers. But in the 1990s, consumers began to protest against this. Now fewer pesticides are used, and the pesticides are also less harmful. The plastic is removed from the plantations and recycled. The Rainforest Alliance monitors the banana plantations' practices and awards corresponding certificates. But there is even better. Some farmers do without pesticides and spray the trees with a mixture of chilli and garlic to combat harmful fungi.

These silver linings show that it is possible to change things for the better. We should not give up hope. But we have to do something.

Tschüss and Goodbye!


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