By Sharon Kimathi, Energy and ESG Editor, Reuters Digital
Wildfires are plaguing the people of California in the United States and the residents of Queensland state in Australia this week. Elsewhere, the management company of White Island, New Zealand, has been found guilty of breaking health and safety laws following a volcano eruption in 2019 that resulted in the deaths of 22 people.
A Southern California wildfire fueled by desert winds burned 2,487 acres (1,010 hectares) and prompted evacuation orders for more than 4,000 people in Riverside County, officials said.
The Highland Fire nearly doubled in size from Monday night to Tuesday, blowntoward the west by Santa Ana winds. The seasonal phenomenon occurs when dry desert air blows toward the ocean, creating a fire hazard in Southern California.
The fire was 10% contained as of Tuesday night, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said, after crews attacked the blaze on the ground and aircraft dropped fuchsia-colored retardant.
Some 1,220 homes and 4,270 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders, with another 1,136 homes and 3,976 residents under evacuation warnings, Cal Fire spokesperson Thomas Shoots said.
A firefighter works to extinguish the Highland Fire, a wind driven wildfire near Aguanga, California, U.S. REUTERS/Mike Blake
“Never seen anything like it”
Over in Australia, residents in three areas in northern Queensland state were ordered to evacuate their homes as bushfires burned out of control.
Firefighters including those flown in from across Australia and New Zealand have been battling blazes in the state that have already killed two and destroyed dozens of homes.
People in two adjacent areas, near the town of Dalveen, were on Wednesday ordered to evacuate immediately.
The blazes in the area also affected the neighboring state of New South Wales (NSW).
“It was a pretty horrifying experience,” a New South Wales resident, Michelle Balint, told state broadcaster ABC on Wednesday, recounting a wall of flames racing across the family’s land. “(We’ve) never seen anything like it.”
Keeping with Australasia, the management company of White Island, where a volcano eruption killed 22 people, mostly tourists, in 2019, was found guilty of one charge of breaching health and safety law in a New Zealand court.
Following the explosion on White Island, also known as Whakaari, the workplace regulator charged 13 parties in November 2020. Six of them, including the helicopter and boat tour operators, pleaded guilty. Charges against the other parties, except the management company, were dismissed.
District Court Judge Evangelos Thomas found Whakaari Management Ltd. (WML), which manages the island on behalf of the owners but did not undertake the tours, was guilty of one health and safety charge. A second charge was dismissed.
Thomas said WML controlled and managed the volcano as a workplace and as a result it needed to engage necessary expertise such as volcanology and health and safety expertise to assess risk arising from tours.
Waves crash against the breakwater of the port during Storm Ciaran at Goury near Cherbourg, Normandy, France. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
Storm Ciaran smashed into northwestern Europe on Thursday with strong winds and driving rain, killing one person in France and forcing the closure of schools, airports, and rail and ferry services.
Mexico’s government said it would unveil a rescue plan for the hurricane-stricken beach resort of Acapulco, where the search for survivors continues and thousands of people struggle to get food and water. Click here to read more about the post-Hurricane Otis developments from Reuters journalists Jose Cortes and Josue Decavele.
Negotiators for Hollywood actors and major studios have not resolved concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) and other issues in talks aimed at ending an 111-day strike, the SAG-AFTRA union said.
Two recent lawsuits led by right-wing activist Edward Blum that challenge the U.S. military’s race-conscious admissions practices could produce another monumental ruling that would effectively invalidate affirmative action across an even broader range of institutions and sectors. Reuters legal columnist Hassan Kanu shares his thoughts here on what the new lawsuits mean for U.S. diversity.
Indonesia aims to cut carbon emissions to 250 million metric tons for its on-grid power sector in 2030 and increase its share of renewable energy generation to 44% under a Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). The Southeast Asian nation expects to return some 200,000 hectares (494,210 acres) of oil palm plantations found in areas designated as forests to the state to be converted back into forests, a government official said.
Reuters exclusive: The UK government has scrapped guarantees on nearly 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) of bank loans handed out to ailing businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving lenders on the hook for some of the borrowings that will not be repaid.
Vasco van Roosmalen, CEO and co-founder of U.S.-based carbon credit firm, ReSeed, shares his thoughts on global wildfires and their impact on food supplies and smallholder farmers:
“Wildfires happen constantly – and are expected to worsen with El Niño.
“This will have a resounding impact on the world’s food supply: Harmful to human health, wildfire smoke can also seriously affect crop health. Smoke and wildfire pollutants block crops’ access to the sun, preventing plants from absorbing necessary nutrients.
“Smallholder farmers – responsible for 75% of the global food supply, and leading producers of crops like cocoa, fruits + nuts, coffee, and soy – are at gravest risk.
“Wildfire smoke can have a severe impact on human health: For smallholders, time away from their fields because of health has enormous impact – including smaller harvests and slashed incomes. Among the globe’s most impoverished communities, this can put smallholders at grave risk of being pushed or bought off their land.
“Less land under management of smallholders and into the hands of developers puts the food security of the entire planet in jeopardy.
“Further, poor agricultural practices often deployed by developers can worsen wildfires: Overfarming and monocropping depletes soil of nutrients, leaving behind unhealthy soil unsuitable for any agricultural purposes.
“Traditional practices like slash and burn (controlled-fire that leaves behind nutrient-rich ash) have been used to restore soil health, but this practice becomes incredibly risky in areas with an onslaught of unhealthy forest like the Amazon.”
Column: Germany’s power producers are preparing for their first winter without nuclear power, after the country closed its last remaining reactors in early 2023 amid ongoing efforts to modernize its energy system.
German officials opted to shut the country’s last remaining reactors in April, as although they generated steady volumes of power with little to no emissions, authorities preferred to expand supplies of renewable energy rather than make additional investments in the nuclear fleet. Read more here by Reuters global energy transition columnist, Gavin Maguire.
Keisuke Naka and Ikki Goto, members of Gomihiroi Samurai (trash-picking samurai) pick up trash on the street of Ikebukuro in Tokyo, Japan. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Preserving the environment through innovative waste management solutions is the focus of today’s spotlight as “trash-picking samurai” take to the streets of Japan’s capital, while a coalition of government officials in the United States urge a government agency to eliminate food waste disposal in landfills by 2040.
Trash collectors in samurai costumes cleaned Tokyo’s streets, theatrically wielding garbage tongs and flicking litter left from an evening of Halloween revelry into wicker baskets on their backs.
Dressed in hats and boldly patterned black-and-white tunics, the group, known as Gomihiroi Samurai, or trash-picking samurai, has attracted a large fan base since it formed in 2006, with nearly 800,000 followers on video-sharing platform TikTok.
Occasions such as Halloween leave a lot of trash, as street drinking has become common in bustling areas and tourist spots, one of the group, Keisuke Naka said. Residents of the area say the trash-picking samurai have made a difference.
While Japan is famed overseas for its cleanliness, that image is only partly true, added Naka, a trash-picking samurai for seven years, as he gathered empty beer cans, plastic bottles and cigarette butts in a district known for its nightlife.
Workers use heavy machinery to move trash and waste at the Frank R. Bowerman landfill on Irvine, California, U.S. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Over in the United States, a group of local government officials from 18 states urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to phase out food waste disposal in landfills by 2040 to cut emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane.
Food waste causes 58% of the methane emissions that come from landfills, the EPA said in an Oct. 19 report that calculated those emissions for the first time. The U.S. is lagging on a goal to halve food waste by 2030, and the EPA has been criticized for under-investing in the issue.
They also asked the agency to update landfill standards to better detect and mitigate methane leaks.
More than one-third of food produced in the United States is wasted, and methane emissions from landfilled food waste are growing, totaling more than 55 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2020, according to the EPA.
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