1. Costa Rica
Costa Rica has banned the hunting of hammerhead sharks. Despite being protected under the CITES convention since 2014, sharks have been caught and sold in the country for years.
Local biologist Randall Arauz began raising awareness about shark finning in 2003. And since 2011, education campaigns in China have sharply reduced the use of shark fin as a status and celebratory food, but demand has grown in other parts of Asia. For the hammerhead shark alone, global populations have declined by more than 80% over the past 70 years.
Why did we write this?
In our summary, progress has been made in protecting the environment through legal means in Costa Rica and Australia. And in Bangladesh, planning for the future includes the opening of the capital’s first rapid transit stations.
The presidential decree comes 10 years after Costa Rica itself applied for CITES protection of the hammerhead species. In 2018, the country established a hammerhead sanctuary in the Golfo Dulce, a key gulf used by sharks to breed. And in 2020, the Supreme Court overturned the former president’s legalization of the shark trade.
Given its mixed record on shark conservation, wildlife advocates have questioned Costa Rica’s commitment, but hope the February decree has teeth.
Sources: Mongabay, The Goldman Environmental Prize, DeeperBlue.com, The Washington Post
New helmet makes outdoor sports safer for Sikh kids. Ontario resident Tina Singh, who is Sikh and an occupational therapist, designed the helmet after her children started riding bikes and she realized that standard helmets did not fit the patkas worn by Sikh boys to cover their hair. Its design meets safety certifications for use with bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and inline skates, and is designed to accommodate a backpack. Ms. Singh wants to expand her designs to work for hockey players and break down barriers for athletes with other needs.
Moezin Hasham, founder of Toronto-based non-profit Hockey 4 Youth, said that “creating these types of helmets now is going to create an inclusive space. It will promote belonging.”
Sources: CBC, North Shore News
Bangladesh has opened the country’s first rapid transit stations. The rail system is expected to reduce metro traffic in Dhaka, home to more than 22 million people, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions and noise and air pollution.
The entire 13-mile line should be completed later this year, and five more rail lines are planned. Although not heavily reliant on motorized vehicles for a city of its size, the fast-growing megacity’s unplanned roads and high population density contribute to congestion. The average driving speed in Dhaka is less than 5 miles per hour, and studies show that drivers in Bangladesh burn 40% more fuel than necessary from the time they spend in traffic.
Researchers at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology also point out that better system integration is needed. Bus companies compete with each other for riders on more than 300 routes, reducing the quality of service. By 2035, buses will still provide 40% of traffic. When the first rail line is fully operational, it is expected to reduce annual CO2 emissions by 500,000 metric tons by 2050.
Sources: Context, The Daily Star
Australia has blocked new coal mining over environmental concerns. The open pit was to be located about 6 miles from the Great Barrier Reef. “The negative environmental impacts are simply too great,” Environment Minister Tanya Pliberszek said in a statement about the decision. “The risk of pollution and irreversible reef damage is very real.”
The move is the first time the federal government has used environmental laws to block a coal mine, and could set a precedent for 18 other coal and gas proposals under review. The project would produce 10 million tons of thermal and coking coal annually over 20 years. Threats to local habitats included groundwater and freshwater flows that provide breeding grounds for certain fish and transport water to the largest reef system on the planet. The Great Barrier Reef faces ongoing threats, including acidification and rising ocean temperatures.
Sources: BBC, Yale Environment 360
Women are making strides in political leadership around the world. Nationally, more than a quarter of lawmakers, 26%, are women, up from 11% in 1995, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Much of the progress has been attributed to gender quotas, which typically mandate parties to nominate a certain percentage of women or reserve a certain number of legislative seats.
In Japan, women hold 10% of seats, and representation is similarly skewed at less than 10% in nearly two dozen countries, including Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Qatar. There are no women in the legislature in Yemen.
But gains have been made elsewhere. In Rwanda, women make up 61% of the national legislature. In Cuba, Nicaragua, and New Zealand, women have a slight majority over men, while Mexico and the United Arab Emirates have a 50-50 split. In Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden and South Africa, women make up less than half. The United Nations predicts that gender equality in national legislatures will be reached by 2063.
Sources: Context, Inter-Parliamentary Union