We’ve got the latest on species rediscoveries, light pollution, right-wing posturing and more.

A black bird sits on an elephant's back

Do you ever feel as if the world is…unraveling? Well, let’s see what we can do to tie it back together again.

Welcome to Links From the Brink.

Lost and Found

The world lost dozens of unique species in 2022. You can find the full list here (call your therapist first), but meanwhile, here’s a counterpoint.

Even as we lose species, we’re also in the great era of species rediscoveries. Just look at the partial list of species scientists discovered again in 2022:

    • The black-naped pheasant-pigeon, last documented in Papua New Guinea 140 years ago, whose rediscovery made headlines around the world
    • Delissea argutidentata, a Hawaiian plant found teetering on the edge of a volcanic crater
    • The Batman River loach, a Turkish fish rediscovered by a “stroke of luck”
    • The Santa Marta sabrewing, a Colombian hummingbird only seen twice since 1946, spotted at last by a birdwatcher (how’s that for a life list achievement?)
    • Beddomeia tumida, a tiny Tasmanian freshwater snail — less than a quarter of an inch across — last seen more than 120 years ago
    • The “comical-looking” Hill’s horseshoe bat, thought to be extinct for 40 years (we think it’s kinda cute)
    • The Lord Howe Island wood-feeding cockroach, thought extinct since the 1930s and found again under a single tree
    • And Gasteranthus extinctus, an Ecuadorian plant species named after its own purported extinction but now potentially in need of rebranding.

Of course, none of these species are doing well. They survived by the skin of their teeth for decades, but now they need conservation help. In some cases they’ve been found just in the nick of time, which means conservation plans can be developed and put into action to make sure we don’t lose them again.

Are there more species yet to rediscover? Undoubtedly. But the number of places in which to search grows finite, as does the time to find them. And of course, locating both new and lost species takes resources that many organizations and governments simply don’t have. But every lost species found is an opportunity, and a reminder that even plants and animals unseen for decades can be saved if we have the will.

Give a Hoot, Let Elephants Poop

Breaking news: Elephants are good for the climate.

We already knew that elephants provided a host of localized environmental benefits. Now new research finds they help the whole planet. How, you ask? Simple: by eating the right kinds of trees, then pooping out the right kinds of seeds, which then grow into new trees that store more carbon than their vegetative neighbors.

The same research found that if elephants went extinct, it would dramatically reduce the carbon storage of African forests.

Somehow, we doubt this news will stop wildlife trafficking in its tracks — the mega-rich people who “invest” in elephant ivory aren’t exactly your typical climate champions. But the truth is that elephant poop is probably worth more than elephant ivory, elephant-foot umbrella holders and other ungodly “products” combined. That alone is another reason to invest (non-ironically) in elephant conservation.

We Are All Made of Stars (You Know, Those Things You Can’t See in the Night Sky Anymore)

Light pollution around the world just keeps getting worse and worse. A new study published in the journal Science this month found that the night sky increased in brightness between 7 and 10% every year between 2011 and 2022. This growth in ambient light, driven by the concurrent growth in LED lighting, increasingly blots out all but the brightest stars in the sky. The study was compiled from data by more than 51,000 citizen scientists, whose observations using their naked eyes revealed loss unseen by satellites.

LEDs are obviously great for lighting and saving energy, and they’re one of the best tools for reducing greenhouse emissions. But they use so little energy that they’re also overused and left burning for hours and hours on end, which has dangerous health effects on humans and wildlife.

So if you use LEDs — and you absolutely should — use them wisely: The International Dark-Sky Association offers a list of great options to help individuals, businesses and communities reduce light pollution. Check ‘em out and put them to work.

The Media Steps Up for Climate Media

Is the media starting to take climate change more seriously? That seems to be the case, according to a new survey by the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford, which found:

As the impact of climate change becomes more evident, the news industry has been rethinking how it covers this complex and multi-faceted story. Around half (49%) say they have created a specialist climate team to strengthen coverage, with a third hiring more staff (31%). Just under half (44%) say they are integrating dimensions of the climate debate into other coverage (e.g. business and sport) and three in ten (30%) have developed a climate change strategy for their company.

This is progress of course, especially for an industry that has given far too much attention and voice to climate deniers — telling “both sides” of the story doesn’t cut it when most deniers were paid to spread their lies about the science of climate. But it still needs to go a lot further. I mean, come on, only half of outlets have a dedicated climate team? It should be 100%. Less than half are integrating climate into other topics? Come on! Every business, crime, local government, entertainment, weather, arts and sports article or broadcast should mention climate in some way or another. Climate chaos affects every facet of our lives, and the media is key in spreading understanding of the threats we all face.

It can go further. It should go further. Every outlet should also refuse to accept advertising or other sponsorships from fossil fuel companies. And they should look beyond climate and hire a dedicated reporter or team devoted to covering wildlife issues, another team devoted to pollution, and one more committed to investigating cases of environmental justice. (I guess you’ll just have to keep reading The Revelator for all of that.)

The Wrong Direction

You know how California, Washington, and many other states are passing legislation to mandate electric vehicles in the next few decades? Well, trust the right wing to twist that as far as they possibly can. Look no further than Wyoming, where Republicans have introduced legislation to ban electrical vehicle sales by 2035 — the exact opposite direction of where things should be going.

By what logic are they making this push? It’s all, they say, about “protecting” the oil and gas industry, but you know that also translates into “owning the libs.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has pulled support for a planned electric battery factory in his state, purportedly to be “tough on China.” Critics say he’s just posturing for a planned 2024 presidential campaign. Meanwhile the $3.5 billion Ford factory and its 2,500 jobs are up for grabs. The most likely new site: Michigan (which would be glad to have them).

Will electric vehicles now become the next made-up battlefield against the “woke mob?” Our prediction: This month’s controversy over “banning” gas stoves was just a warmup.

More Wrong Turns

While the growth in renewables continues to exceed expectations, oil is still, sadly, king in this country. According to new projections from the U.S. Energy Information Agency, crude oil production will increase to record levels over the next two years, hitting a shocking 12.8 million barrels per day in 2024.

How is this possible, with so much wind and solar in development and so many new electric vehicles hitting the road? One word: plastics. So much of the fossil-fuel-derived stuff is produced every day that it’s erasing gains we make in other areas.

San Clemente Bell's sparrow

Let’s End on a Good Note — or Five

Give five cheers for the previously endangered San Clemente Island paintbrush, lotus, larkspur, bush-mallow and Bell’s sparrow. These four plants and one bird species, all native to (and named after) San Clemente Island in California, have now recovered and will be removed from the protection of the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Proof that conservation works when we give it a chance.

That’s it for this edition of Links From the Brink. Keep an eye out for further fallout from the Cop City shooting, the continued disappearance of the Great Salt Lake, more wild weather exacerbated by climate change, further presidential posturing for 2024, and some interesting work by activists around the world.

And of course, mark your calendars for World Hippopotamus Day on Feb. 15 and International Polar Bear Day on Feb. 27.

What will you be watching in the months ahead? Drop us a line to let us know.

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John R. Platt

is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications. His “Extinction Countdown” column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.