Category Archives: Opinions

Don’t Look Up Isn’t A Perfect Climate Change Film. The Lord of the Rings Is.

Come on Frodo, drop those fossil fuel subsidies (Image Credit: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, New Line Cinema, 2003)

Regardless of your opinions on it, Don’t Look Up got people talking. The latest in a line of apocalyptic climate movies, will this be the one to effect change? I think we need more climate movies, but ones that are powerful, that stick with you after the Twitter hashtags vanish, films that embed themselves in our cultural consciousness. Maybe one like…

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What 18,000 Empty Flights Does To A Climate Optimist

I want to preface this article by saying I’m a believer that individual choices can make a significant difference in the fight to change the outcome of climate change. Up to 72% of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to household consumption. While a great deal of this could be reduced by local governments and industry offering leaner and cleaner options, I refuse to believe there’s nothing we can do as individuals to reduce our carbon emissions. 

That could include living more sustainably, normalising greener behaviour, or putting pressure on governments and corporations to change their ways. The idea that our personal carbon footprint is meaningless has always struck me as defeatist. It robs us of agency, and only produces depression and apathy.

However, once in a while something comes along that really makes it hard to cling to my determined sense of optimism.

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The Dog Who Cried Wolf: Promoting Co-Existence With Carnivores Through Livestock Guarding Dogs

Centuries of folklore have made us wary of carnivores. Whether it’s the Big Bad Wolf, the Tsavo Man-Eaters, or the dingo that stole Lindy Chamberlain’s baby, horrifying tales of rare events have made us uneasy about them. Yet as ecologists constantly espouse, they are integral parts of any ecosystem, and the gradual return of wolves to many parts of the northern hemisphere represents a huge boost for biodiversity.

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Of Course Climate Change Is A Threat To Global Ecosystems

Last week, prominent Australian conservation scientist Professor Hugh Possingham caused quite a stir when he stated that “personally [he is] not convinced that climate change is a huge threat to many species”. This naturally sparked heated debates among ecologists the world over, with varying levels of vitriol. As Dr. Charlie Gardner put it, it “is an extraordinary thing to hear from a leading conservation scientist”.

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Life At Sea: Reflections From Two And A Half Months On A Research Vessel

A tugboat maneuvering the RV Sonne into the harbor of Cape Town after four weeks of transit from Emden. Due to COVID-19, we were not allowed to leave the ship, not even for a jog in the harbor.

Germany’s largest research vessel – the RV Sonne – recently returned to harbor in the port town of Emden after 73 days, the longest-ever research cruise in the history of the ship. I was lucky enough to participate in the journey, which took us to through Cape Town, Walvis Bay and Las Palmas. As part of a team of 30 scientists, 22 women and 8 men, we set out to study one of the most productive ecosystems in the world: the Benguela Upwelling System off the coast of South Africa and Namibia.

Spending this long at sea is a truly special experience and here’s my personal account of what it’s like day-to-day on one of the largest research ships in the world.

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Good Ecological News In Case COP26 Had You Feeling Down

Another year has passed, and once again we’ve seen many world leaders make weighty promises to do better in their efforts to help the climate, only to do sharp about-faces once they’ve returned home. In an attempt to put aside some of the frustration that inevitably results from such grandstanding, let’s go through some of the more positive news stories that have popped up over the last month.

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What COP26 Is And Why It Matters

Image Credit: Casa Rosada, CC BY 2.5 AR, Image Cropped

COP26 has dominated the news over the past two weeks. The post pandemic world has watched as finger pointing and vague promises have emerged from Glasgow as talks progressed. But underlying all the drama is the realisation that the world is rapidly approaching a point of no return.

For many people the COP circus is just a bunch of world leaders hogging the news outlets for two weeks every year talking a lot of blah, blah, blah. But there’s more to it than that. It may not be obvious, but some genuine collaboration and agreements come out of most COP (Conference of the Parties if you’ve ever wondered) events. So let’s take a closer look and see what it’s all about.

The Background

To understand what the COP is, you need to know what the IPCC and UNFCCC are. The UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which came about at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. The Earth Summit was inspired by the Brundtland report, a report headed by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. It popularised the definition of sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

The UNFCCC is essentially a commitment to a sustainable future, with responsibilities handed down to different countries depending on their economic status. It ostensibly encourages ‘developed’ countries to lead the way, often funding climate change related projects in ‘developing’ countries. It’s actually only one of three different treaties signed at the Earth Summit, which initially primarily was concerned with sustainable development. At the Earth Summit, 154 countries signed the UNFCCC, and it came into force two years later.

The IPCC has a different aim – sort of. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a large team of experts put together to prepare comprehensive reviews of the science surrounding climate change. They’re the ones who put out those landmark climate reports every few years – more about the most recent version here.

Then we have the COP. This usually happens once a year, and lasts for about two weeks. The parties who are signatories to the UNFCCC come together to review progress, share research and make plans for the future. There are (as with any major conference) a variety of keynote speakers, whose speeches often make the news, or at the very least your social media feed.

Do They Mean Anything?

A lot of good has come from these conferences. The 1992 Kyoto Protocol was a product of one of the first conferences, and committed parties to lowering their greenhouse gas emissions by individually defined amounts over a given time period. The Paris agreement in 2015 was a product of COP21, and set a key goal for countries to limit the global average temperature increase to below 2 degrees, ideally below 1.5. Yet as with many of these conference decisions, the targets aren’t enforceable, so the COP is often accused of being one giant mess of greenwashing, grandstanding and back-patting.

It’s hard to argue with many of these claims. The private jets these leaders use seem like mass hypocrisy – if the global shakers and movers can’t limit themselves to (lord forbid) first class as opposed to a private jet, it’s hard to convince the rest of us they’re there to help. But where I feel the real strength of these conferences lies is in the harsh glare of the public spotlight which is shone on the world governments who claim to be tackling the climate crisis. For all the Australian Prime Minister’s talk on how he’s working towards a sustainable future, when you’re almost universally panned by scientists and other countries it’s hard to maintain that image. They’re an opportunity for the public to hold their politicians accountable, and see whether or not they’re doing their job in ensuring a sustainable future for humanity.

So What Happened At This One?

It’s difficult to summarise the last two weeks in a couple of paragraphs. Often the results of these conferences aren’t immediately visible, as there’s a universe of difference between a national COP commitment and actual implemented policy once the leader returns home. This report last week from Indonesia outlining their massive U-turn on deforestation is a case in point. The draft text released by the parties this week though was pretty dire, and expressed very serious concern at how little has been done to limit rising temperatures, and how much remains to be done.

I’ve listed some articles below that go into a bit more detail on some of the highlights surrounding the event.

Jeremy Corbyn hits out at COP26 ‘greenwashing’

At COP26, new alliance tries to kill oil and gas industry

Barack Obama has a nerve preaching about the climate crisis

Women bear the brunt of the climate crisis, COP26 highlights

If you have any questions about the conference or want to know anything about what you can do to live more sustainably, as always, feel free to get in touch.


Dr. Sam Perrin is a freshwater ecologist who completed his PhD at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and is currently working as a climate data analyst at Ducky AS. You can read more about his research and the rest of the Ecology for the Masses writers here, see more of his work at Ecology for the Masses here, or follow him on Twitter here.

The Fascinating Lives of Colonial Animals

A physonect siphonophore colony observed during an exploration of the Central Pacific Basin. (Image Credit: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research)

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Stranger Swifts: Conserving One Of The World’s Fastest Birds In Dublin City

What involves cycling like a maniac around the city at odd hours of the day, juggling notebooks and cameras, and chasing down your quarry by the sound of it screaming overhead? Surprisingly not the latest plotline of Stranger Things.

I was employed for three months this summer as a Swift Fieldworker with Birdwatch Ireland, Ireland’s largest conservation organisation. Our goal was to track down as many swift nests as possible, record them, and produce a report for Dublin City Council, who requested the survey as part of their Biodiversity Action Plan.

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The EU Taxonomy: What It Is And Why It Gives Me Hope For A Sustainable Future

Those of you not seeped in the work of sustainability reporting may have missed the recent introduction of the ‘EU Taxonomy’. While it may sound like yet another piece of overly bureaucratized legislation, it’s a new initiative meant to spur financing in sustainable activities. It’s also intended to hold large businesses responsible for their social and environmental footprint, an important goal in a world where our own quest for sustainable lifestyles often feel overshadowed by the greed of big business. 

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