Kristal Ambrose formed the Bahamas Plastic Movement to help eliminate single-use plastics. Ambrose's Bahamas Plastic Movement group cleans up the island's beaches. (Image credit: Dorlan Curtis Jr. and Jawanza Small)


Despite its glistening waters and sandy beaches, the Bahamas face a serious plastic pollution issue. Wanting to protect her home, Kristal Ambrose formed the Bahamas Plastic Movement to raise awareness and encourage the powers that be to eliminate single-use plastic items. Her tireless efforts recently won her the 2020 Goldman prize.

Convincing local politicians to ban single-use plastic was a challenge, but Ambrose faced the unexpected obstacle of prejudice about class and race. While lobbying in her community, she soon learned how her neighbors viewed environmental activism as an issue only white people cared about.


"Most environmentalists in the Bahamas have been from the elite class," said Eric Carey, executive director of the Bahamas National Trust. "… In the Bahamas, most people are black, but wealthy people are white, and most environmentalists have been white people."


But Ambrose never gave up. She worked hard to educate her community about the dangers of plastic waste. She got children and teenagers involved with her Junior Plastic Warriors education program featuring music, dance, and art activities. In 2018, she led a group to Nassau to convince the environment minister to ban single-use plastics. Her efforts were a success; she was invited to help draft the law for the Bahamas, which went into effect this year.


Researchers develop a new method for producing biodiesel from waste paper and cardboard boxes

Summary: The new method's product yield was nearly doubled compared to standard biodiesel production methods. A diagram showing how using microorganisms can be used to produce biofuels. (Image credit: Korea Institute of Science and Technology)


A team at the Clean Energy Research Center of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) recently made a discovery that could be a breakthrough in producing biofuel. Dr. Sun-Mi Lee and her team created a novel microorganism with the ability to produce biodiesel precursors from lignocellulosic biomass (plant dry matter) like wastepaper, cardboard boxes, and discarded agricultural by-products.


The microorganism produces biodiesel precursors while metabolizing sugars found in the lignocellulosic biomass it feeds on. The sugar in the lignocellulosic biomass is generally made up of 65-70% glucose and 30-35% xylose. Though microorganisms in nature can produce diesel precursors by metabolizing glucose, they do not feed on xylose, which limits their raw material production.


The team created a new microorganism that can produce diesel precursors by metabolizing xylose and glucose to address the issue. They redesigned the microorganism's metabolic pathway with genetic scissors to stop the supply of coenzymes needing for production from interfering. The microorganism's ability to metabolize xylose was improved by controlling the evolution process in a laboratory by cultivating the microorganisms that delivered an excellent performance.


Their results showed that it is possible to produce diesel precursors using all sugar components, including xylose from lignocellulosic biomass. Not only is it a less wasteful method to produce biodiesel, but its product yield was also nearly doubled compared to standard methods.


Mock COP26 highlighted the voices of delegates from developing countries

Many developing countries will be significantly affected by climate change. (Image credit: Greenpeace)


Thanks to activists like Greta Thunberg and groups like Extinction Rebellion, the fight against climate change continues to grow, especially among young activists. But while activists in developed countries have the platforms and support needed to raise awareness, many developing countries feel their voices are often stifled.


In an effort to give voice to those most affected by climate change and as a means to make up for the cancellation of the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), a group of young activists organized their own virtual event called Mock COP26. Along with speeches from activists around the world, the event highlighted marginalized voices by granting more delegates to what organizers called Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA). With more than 70% of the delegates from developing countries, they were able to have more representation and say in the wording of the final statement from Mock COP26.


The group's final statement is a plea to the United Nations to formally recognize the human right to a safe and healthy environment. Organizers want world leaders to commit to an environment-friendly COVID-19 recovery plan, reiterating a clause in the Paris Agreement that asks developed nations to provide financial assistance to the most vulnerable countries.


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