Lavender fields in France, one of the members states of the E.U., which collectively pledged to spend EUR 20 billion annually on biodiversity conservation. stezz, Flickr

Plant-based beer bottles, lifesaving llamas and billion$ for biodiversity

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Welcome to the Landscape News bi-weekly digest on landscapes, climate and sustainability. From what’s on your shelves to what’s in the atmosphere, here’s the news to know.

Senegal fruit seller
This year’s GLF Bonn Digital Conference will be themed on food and livelihoods. Melissa Cooperman/IFPRI


Don’t forget to register for next week’s GLF Bonn Digital Conference on the future of food (3–5 June). Discover what’s on the agenda, who you’ll hear from, and how to get the most out of it.

At Landscape News, we’re bringing you 10 sessions exploring the role of storytelling in tackling climate change and reconnecting with nature. Join us in conversation with environmental journalists Bill McKibben and Viktorija Mickute, media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, and many more.

While you’re waiting, here’s an explainer on why biodiversity matters, an ode to the red panda, and the latest on forests. Plus, how COVID-19 could impact the great apes and food security in Africa.

Llama in Saskatchewan, Canada
Scientists hope antibodies from llamas could help treat COVID-19. Alan Levine, Flickr


Could antibodies from llamas help fight COVID-19? Scientists are hopeful. Some also say that we shouldn’t blame bats for this pandemic.

Global carbon emissions have declined by 17 percent compared to 2019, though they’re expected to rebound as countries emerge from lockdown. Wildlife, too, is rebounding in the U.S.’s shuttered national parks.

The GLF isn’t alone in its forays into the digital ecosystem: from Microsoft to the American Physical Society, virtual conferences are on the rise. Benefits include accessibility for participants who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend and preventing millions of kilometers of unnecessary air travel.

Cyclone Amphan
Satellite imagery of Cyclone Amphan in the North Indian Ocean before making landfall. NASA – Suomi NPP Satellite.


Cyclone Amphan struck eastern India and Bangladesh last week, becoming the strongest cyclone to hit the Ganges Delta in over a decade, and the costliest ever. Scientists are increasingly convinced that climate change has made tropical cyclones more intense over the last 40 years.

Trees are a crucial climate solution – but in the Arctic, they could worsen the issue as carbon dioxide levels rise. In the tropics, meanwhile, most forests may no longer be effective at sequestering carbon if global warming reaches 2 degrees Celsius.

Both natural gas and renewable energy are taking a hit from COVID-19 as energy demand dries up. Despite that, a major new oil pipeline is set to be built across East Africa.

Eamon O’Nolan arrested at Extinction Rebellion
Green Party Mayor of Woodbridge Eamon O’Nolan arrested at Whitehall as part of Extinction Rebellion protests at Trafalgar Square in London, U.K. Vladimir Morozov/akxmedia.


Over 350 organizations representing health workers from across the globe have called on the G20 leaders to ensure a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Likewise, climate activists Fridays for Future are pressuring the E.U. to reform the agricultural sector to drastically reduce its carbon footprint. Extinction Rebellion lined London’s Trafalgar Square with children’s shoes in protest against British state aid for carbon-intensive industries.

In the Philippines, environmental activists have been targeted during lockdown, while globally, the murders and disappearances of numerous fishery observers remain shrouded in mystery.

And Michael Moore’s controversial new documentary, which we covered last time, has been removed from YouTube over copyright issues.

Locust swarms are destroying crops and threatening food security across East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Kumon, Flickr


While the world’s attention has been fixated on COVID-19, this year’s other major outbreak – of locusts – is threatening food security in East Africa, the Middle East, and increasingly South Asia. The U.S. is helping track the locusts using a digital tool originally developed to monitor wildfires and volcanic activity.

China is preparing legislation to ban the wildlife trade, but traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is likely to be exempted. TCM practitioners warn that the field’s reputation is being tarnished by a small minority who continue to use endangered animal parts.

Microplastic pollution in the oceans might be much more widespread than previously thought – and it’s also being passed up the food chain via rivers.

Vosges, France
The Vosges, a low mountain range in eastern France. Bernard Fidel, Flickr


The E.U. has pledged EUR 20 billion a year to protect biodiversity and restore landscapes as part of the European Green Deal. The new plan aims to protect 30 percent of Europe’s land and oceans by 2030. Conservation groups are cautiously optimistic, noting that previous E.U. biodiversity plans were poorly enforced.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s Environment Minister is seeking to weaken environmental regulations while the public is distracted by COVID-19, even though the country’s carbon emissions are set to rise this year, unlike most of the world.

Another country that could have trouble meeting its climate targets is China, which is betting on coal, steel and other carbon-intensive industries to stimulate its economy.

Coca-Coca bottles could soon be plant-based.
Coca-Cola bottles could soon be made out of plant sugars. Thomas Hawk, Flickr


Plant-based drinks bottles could soon be coming to a store near you. Dutch biochemicals firm Avantium is working with Coca-Cola, Danone and Carlsberg to develop plastic from plant sugars rather than oil.

Canada is offering COVID-19 relief to businesses, but only if they disclose their climate impacts and commit to supporting national climate goals.

Lastly, Nordic investors are increasingly turning their backs on fossil fuels and other highly polluting industries – as is Google, which will no longer build artificial intelligence tools for oil and gas extraction.

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