As renewable energies flourish, the spotlight is on wildlife conservation


No form of energy development is impact free, and advocates of renewable energy are – or should be – particularly sensitive to impacts on wildlife. After all, decarbonization is more than a shift from fossils to renewables. It’s a chance to have good energy, in a more holistic and sustainable setting. With that in mind, let’s preview the upcoming TV special. Arch photo, taking place in two parts on Nat Geo WILD on October 17th and 24th at 10 / 9c.

renewable energy wildlife conservation

The Photo Ark project shines a light on species at risk and emphasizes the importance of making good use of renewable energies (photo credit: Joel Sartore / National Geographic Photo Ark).

Photographic arch and wildlife conservation

Arch photo is a documentary about a National Geographic project called Arch photo, which is the brainchild of photographer Joel Sartore. The idea is to inspire action on wildlife conservation by creating a stunning collection of photos representing all of the species currently residing in a zoo or sanctuary – insects, fish, birds, mammals and all.

Mr. Sartore has passed the 10,000 photos mark. CleanTechnica had the chance to catch up with him earlier this week by phone, and learned that one of the big challenges is to inspire empathy for eyeless creatures (the following comments are edited for clarity and flow).

“We humans are primates and we respond to eye contact. Animals with eyes all respond well, especially primates. The animals that don’t register as much are some of the insects, corals, etc. Said Mr. Sartore. “On the whole, people really react to the look of other animals in the eye.”

As described by Sartore, eye contact is the gateway to wonder and appreciation. After all, each of these creatures has learned to survive outdoors, 24/7, 365 days a year, with nothing but their natural skin of one kind or another, a feat that no genius has found how to transfer to humanity.

This sense of wonder and appreciation is reflected in Sartore’s scientific approach to his subjects, one example being the arctic ground squirrel.

“Ground squirrels go into a torpor and cool their blood. They can heal themselves while they sleep, and they can sleep eight months straight. They could reveal all kinds of beneficial things, ”he explained. “For the arctic ground squirrel, we photographed a pair in hibernation. When you look at them they don’t have a lot of sex appeal – they look like brown puffballs – but when you start explaining the science, they’re amazing.

“You have to appeal to the rational side of the brain,” he added.

Inspirational action that leads to success

Sartore doesn’t have a favorite animal, but he does have some favorite stories. They are the ones who raise awareness of an endangered species and lead to action.

“What is my favorite animal? This is the next one, we care about everyone, ”he said,“ Especially the critically endangered, but we never met them, we never told their story . “

“What about the Florida grasshopper sparrow?” It is a super rare animal, which lives in central Florida and which was in danger of disappearing, ”he continued. “We did a profile in Audubon Magazine and it caught the attention of the Fish and Wildlife Service. They decided to fund a captive breeding program to save the bird. It’s a good example of good publicity, done the right way, at the right time.

“I am excited that we can save species, that we can educate everyone about it and motivate them to know and save species,” he added.

The angle of renewable energies

Sartore is among those who see the transition to renewable energies as inevitable. He presented the transition from fossils to renewable energy as one of both economics and sustainability.

From his perspective as a world traveler, the globalization of renewable energy means the ability to move without relying on fossils. For now, people who have access to renewable energy at home are still at the mercy of fossil fuels every time they leave (or drive) their property.

“Burning fossil fuels to get around will be obsolete. We will be on all electric, ”Sartore said. “We have to find a way to avoid cooking ourselves, and green is a generator of money – green jobs, green infrastructure – so there is a lot of money to be made, and I am encouraged by the makes us move that way. “

“Take hotels for example, they finally understood that being green makes them money,” he said. “If you didn’t have a maid to do your room every day, to change towels, sheets and soap every day, that was once looked down upon.

Renewable energy and agriculture

Naturally, the conversation turned to the COVID-19 outbreak, and Sartore noted that his movements were limited to the area around his home in the Great Plains, where he took advantage of the lull to photograph 800 insects (and that’s not the end of it), with freshwater aquatic species.

The exercise has turned into a celebration of the Great Plains, and Sartore makes it a story about the role of yard action in wildlife conservation.

“If we can engage people through character-driven narratives and tell them stories and keep them interesting and entertaining, we’ll be able to compete and get people to pay attention, and when they pay attention, they will. are doing great things, ”he concluded. . “The farewell message: plant a pollinator garden, don’t use chemicals in your garden, insulate your house and tell others – it starts in your own garden.

It comes down to the idea of ​​having energy this time around.

There is still a long line to hoe, but one of the first trends to emerge is the reuse of brownfields and other pre-developed infrastructure for large-scale wind and solar development.

On a smaller scale, rooftop solar panels and distributed wind power provide additional opportunities to generate renewable energy without taking the habitat out of circulation.

The use of existing agricultural land also falls under the category of renewable energy development without encroaching on natural habitat, although it raises potential conflicts with the global food supply.

Of particular concern is the large footprint of large-scale solar panels. In this regard, an optimistic ray of sunshine is the emerging field of agro-voltaics, which involves a two-way street of benefits for renewable energy, food supply and habitat conservation.

Researchers are accumulating evidence that pollinator habitats can thrive under solar panels, while also contributing to a cooler microclimate that allows solar cells to convert sunlight into electricity more efficiently.

Cattle grazing is another focus of agrivoltaic activity, and attention is now turning to the feasibility of cultivating edible crops by humans.

If you think regenerative agriculture comes in here, go ahead and buy yourself a cigar. Regenerative agriculture refers to practices that conserve and improve soils. The shadow cast by solar panels can help in this regard, by reducing evaporation and wind impacts.

In the longer term, the income from a solar panel can allow a field to rest for years, allowing the next generation of farmers to benefit from better quality soil.

Returning to the message from Arch photo, humans hold the key to survival in their warm little hands. Now is the time to step it up, and this time around, the energy has the potential to help, not hurt.

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Photo: Tiger Nudibranch, Armina tigrina, pictured at the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab (credit Joel Sartore / National Geographic Photo Ark).

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