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Day: 16 June 2022

BBC News – Science & Environment RSS Feed – World News

Congo peat: The 'lungs of humanity' which are under threat

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Daniel Beltrá/Greenpeace AfricaA giant slab of carbon-rich peat, discovered in central Africa, is under threat from uncontrolled development - posing a significant risk for future climate change, writes BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding.After 10 hours by car, another 10 by river in a dugout canoe, three hours hacking a path with machetes through thick tropical undergrowth, then another two wading and clambering through a sweltering forest swamp, the scientists were finally ready to begin work.Brushing away mud and mosquitos, they assembled a long, metal, corkscrew-like device, and thrust it deep into a patch of dark, water-logged earth."Push. Again," said Greta Dargie, the British scientist leading the group, as she and two Congolese colleagues twisted and pushed the rod further into the ground, then pulled out a half-metre cylinder of shiny black peat."Not bad at all," said Jodrhy Matoko, a doctoral student from Marien N'Gouabi University in Congo-Brazzaville.Over the last decade, the close-knit team has spent months at a time camping in the remote swamps that border the giant Congo river, watching out for crocodiles, snakes and lowland gorillas - and mapping the contours of a giant slab of carbon-rich peat, which they now believe could cover an area significantly larger than England."We really want to fill in the blanks on the map. It's hard work. But it's always an adventure. I've been doing it for 10 years now, so I must like it," said Dr Dargie, a quietly determined peat expert from the UK's University of Leeds.Mr Matoko was more effusive: "I'm a forest man. It's a very relaxing place. No stress here."The scientists - mapping each spot with a GPS monitor - photographed the peat cores, then sealed them in plastic to send off to Leeds University for further analysis."This peat is so important in the context of climate change. We have a very large amount - some 30 billion tonnes - of carbon stored here. And if it is released into the atmosphere it is going to accelerate global change," said Suspense Ifo, Congo-Brazzaville's leading expert on the peatlands, who was visiting the team."That's about 20 years of US fossil fuel emissions. I think these ecosystems aren't yet valued as they should be at the international level. [The Congo-Brazzaville government] needs the international community to support them financially to ensure these peatlands remain protected," said Dr Dargie.Image source, Getty ImagesThe peatlands hold far more carbon than the vast forests in which they are found. But the peat, which has taken thousands of years to build up, can be destroyed within a matter of weeks if allowed to dry out.The main threats come from longer dry seasons, linked to climate change, and from man-made actions like unsustainable farming practices - a serious challenge as Congo-Brazzaville and its neighbours seek to develop their economies and adapt to growing populations.A more recent concern is the possibility of significant oil deposits being confirmed and exploited, close to the peatlands. Congo-Brazzaville's government has already begun parcelling out blocks of land and looking for potential investors, although there is some uncertainty about the extent and significance of the oil reserves."You can't ask us to keep our natural resources under wraps. If we need to exploit them, we shall exploit them, in a sustainable way and in accordance with environmental rules," said Congo-Brazzaville's Environment Minister Arlette Soudan-Nonault, dismissing concerns about corruption and mismanagement."You can't keep saying: 'These Africans - they misuse funds.' It's time we understood that it is in our common interest to conserve [the peatlands]. Because if [the West] doesn't help support our conservation work, we shall be obliged to use our own natural resources, because we need money simply to live," she added. Moves to exploit the resources buried beneath the peatlands are already under way across the river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.Its Hydrocarbons Minister, Didier Budimbu, recently announced an auction of land that is to be developed for oil production. Scientists say some of the earmarked sites overlap the peatlands.In a recent cabinet meeting, Mr Budimbu told colleagues that "national oil production must leave the modest zone of 25,000 barrels a day". The hydrocarbons ministry has been tagging the French oil firm Total in its tweets about the auction set for 28 and 29 July in DR Congo's capital, Kinshasa, but neither the firm nor the minister responded to the BBC's requests for comment. "If this plan is not stopped it will have disastrous consequences," said Irene Wabiwa Betoko from Greenpeace Africa. "So it's very imperative that the DR Congo government and donors put their effort to stop the oil blocks and start talking renewable energy."Back across the Congo river, Jordan Elenga steers his tiny, wobbling dugout through a swamp clogged with palm trees. "Gently, gently," he says. He clambered on to the roots of one tree, hacked a deep hole in the side with a machete, then used strands of bark to attach a plastic container to catch the palm wine, before moving on to the next tree."Collecting wine is my main source of income. It's how I feed my wife and children," Mr Elenga says. Watching him, Professor Suspense Ifo let out a long sigh of frustration."This kills the trees. It's a real threat to the peatland ecosystem. In the long term it could destroy it. "The problems here are linked to population growth, and if poverty is not addressed then everyone will come to this ecosystem to make money," the professor said, explaining that when the trees die, they expose the delicate peat to harmful sunlight. BBCWithout the Congo Basin, the rest of the world couldn't breathe. We Africans provide an eco-systemic service for the whole planet"Arlette Soudan-NonaultCongo-Brazzaville's environment minister On a wide tributary of the Congo river, in the tiny, run-down town of Ntokou, the local administrator, Alphonse Essabe, sat in a half-built government mansion and acknowledged a "public information vacuum" regarding the peatlands. "We live from fishing and hunting here. But if we are to live in harmony with our peatlands, then the big powers, the world's big polluters, need to provide funding to help us," he said.But despite a series of international agreements about the need to protect the peatlands of the Congo Basin, there is growing frustration in the region, with ministers like Ms Soudan-Nonault accusing the West of hypocrisy."Without the Congo Basin, the rest of the world couldn't breathe. We Africans provide an eco-systemic service for the whole planet. It makes sense that such a service has a price. "Now that the Amazon has lost its role as the regulator of the world climate due to deforestation… the Congo Basin acts as the lungs of humanity. And the kidneys too," she said, of the peatlands' ongoing role in capturing CO2 from the atmosphere."What has happened to all the promises made by the international community? You can't tell us: 'Tighten your belt so the rich world can breathe.' In the meantime, you get richer, and we are starving. "We won't be able to restrain ourselves indefinitely," said Ms Soudan-Nonault, hinting that Congo-Brazzaville would turn to China for assistance and that "we will accept the best offers" of support.Congo-Brazzaville's authoritarian government, buoyed by revenues from its offshore oil fields, and listed as one of the world's most corrupt countries, has brushed aside complaints that it is attempting to blackmail the West into funding projects to support the peatlands."Let's not talk like that. We are ready. We have an investment plan. There's no reason why we cannot receive this funding," said Ms Soudan-Nonault.Additional reporting by BBC Business Daily radio presenter Vivienne Nunis. You can listen to her report here.All photos subject to copyrightAround the BBCAfrica Today podcasts

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BBC News – Business RSS Feed – World News

How India could become a 'mushroom superpower'

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Anirban NandyThree years ago Fulrida Ekka, who lives near Siliguri in West Bengal, knew she had to find a new source of income.Her husband had died and her seasonal work picking tea leaves was just not enough income to support her family.Searching around for money making ideas, she came across mushroom farming. With help from Indian rural development organisation, Live Life Happily, she got started.Now she sells two or three bags of her mushroom crop every day, which makes her around $92 (£73) a month.The white flower mushrooms are grown in large bags which hang from the ceiling. Usually Mrs Ekka will have 10 in her house, which produce around 48 bags of mushrooms a month."It's a sight of happiness when I see it growing because I know now, me and my family will not sleep on an empty stomach," she says.Image source, Live Life HappilyMushroom growing has made a big difference to Mrs Ekka's life, but some think the crop should make a bigger contribution to India's farming sector."India has all the required elements for becoming a super power in mushroom production," says Rouf Hamza Boda, who has spent 20 years identifying 100 types of mushrooms across Jammu and Kashmir."India has huge wild mushroom diversity. Lots of composting material, cheap labour and [it is] supported by diverse climatic conditions," he explains.Lack of appetite? Despite those favourable conditions, India accounts for just 2% of the world's mushroom production, with China providing the lion's share at 75%.According to Mr Boda, part of the problem is national appetite - that many people in India don't like eating mushrooms, finding them "strange and deadly". "Not much research has been done on identification of wild mushrooms with respect to their edibility," he says."Lack of awareness as to how beneficial mushrooms are, and the cheapness of mushroom cultivation, are hurdles in popularising consumption," he says.So, there's a lot of space for entrepreneurs willing to take a chance.Image source, Leena's Mushroom FarmFour years ago, Leena Thomas and her son Jithu experimented with growing mushrooms in Jithu's bedroom.Jithu said he really just started the project out of "curiosity", having seen mushrooms grown simply in a plastic bottle on the internet.Initial success spurred him to study mushroom cultivation and take courses and so his hobby quickly turned into a thriving business.Now the Kerala-based mother and son entrepreneurs have 2,000 mushroom beds producing 100kg of produce a day, under the company name Leena's Mushroom."There are many advantages to mushroom farming including its short growing period," he explains."But that doesn't mean it is an easy task. The crop is fragile and extremely sensitive. A minute change in temperature or the advent of pests can ruin the crop completely."The firm's greenhouses use fans to draw outside air over moist pads, to keep the temperature and humidity at an optimum level. The carbon dioxide level is also monitored.Image source, Leena's Mushroom FarmBut it's worth the effort. He says good prices make mushrooms "lucrative"."Freshly harvested mushrooms are sold to retailers on the same day, with no middlemen," Jithu says.Parimal Ramesh Udgave has taken a different tack. He studied microbiology to develop a deep knowledge of fungiculture. As well as growing mushrooms, his business Biobritte, set up in 2019, dries the crop to make mushroom powders and health supplements.In spite of his success, he says mushroom growing is not easy."People see mushrooms as a fast, money-making business but it also has to be combined with technical skills," he says.According to Mr Udgave, many start-up mushroom businesses fail.Image source, BiobritteWhereas Anirban Nandy, a rural development researcher from IIT-Kharagpur, and his wife Poulami Chaki Nandy, think there is plenty of room for small players in the mushroom market.Their non-governmental organisation, Live Life Happily, has shown more than 8,000 women in West Bengal, including Fulrida Ekka, how to grow their own mushrooms for profit."These women are poor, with no land or proper means of livelihood," says Mr Nandy.More technology of business:Could flat tyres soon be a thing of the past?How artificial intelligence 'blew up' tennisSoaring fertiliser prices force farmers to rethinkCan contact lenses be the ultimate computer screen??Will swappable electric car batteries catch on?Many women in rural areas are left in financial distress after becoming widows and find themselves unable to earn enough money from picking tea."Learning to grow mushrooms is a feasible and manageable task. The women can even grow in a corner of their house, as a part-time activity, or hobby, without needing farmland," he says.And, according to the Nandys, there is plenty of customer demand. "Especially in cosmopolitan areas like Darjeeling, thus ensuring quick income," explains Mr Nandy.That extra mushrooming income can be truly life changing."These women have gained bargaining power in their house and become decision-makers. In one instance, a woman refused to marry her daughter at an early age because she was able to manage funding her education with mushroom farming," says Mrs Nandy.

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Capcom Is Now Developing Dragon's Dogma 2 Game

Macross Frontier: The False Songstress Now screening in the U.S. for the first time, Macross Frontier: The False Songstress proves its larger-than-life idol, Sheryl, is still legendary for a reason. ― It still feels surreal to be covering this film, honestly. Sure, Macross Plus got an event screening not all that long ago, but that was a title that had at least temporarily escaped the licensing nightmare that has plagued Macross for decad...

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Sky News world

'This is a dreadful mistake': Head of UK's armed forces says Russia has 'strategically lost' the war in Ukraine

Russia has "strategically lost" the war in Ukraine and is a "more diminished power", the head of the UK's armed forces has said.Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said Vladimir Putin had lost 25% of Russia's land power for only "tiny" gains. And while Russia may achieve "tactical successes" in the coming weeks, he said any notion the war had been a success was "nonsense".Admiral Radakin, who is the UK's chief of defence staff, said Russia was running out of troops and advanced missiles and would never be able to take over all of Ukraine.His comments come as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News that the UK will "highly likely" add many hundreds more troops to a NATO force in Estonia tasked with further deterring Russia. Advertisement Admiral Radakin said: "This is a dreadful mistake by Russia. Russia will never take control of Ukraine. "Russia has strategically lost already. NATO is stronger, Finland and Sweden are looking to join." More on Ministry Of Defence Related Topics: He said Moscow had been forced to give up its objectives of taking over most Ukrainian cities and was now engaged in a tactical battle where fighting is "tough". Image: Admiral Sir Tony Radakin Read more:Defence Secretary Ben Wallace talks to Sky's Deborah HaynesAdmiral Radakin said: "The Russian machine is grinding away, and it's gaining a couple of - two, three, five - kilometres every day."And that's tough for Ukraine, but this is going to be a long fight. And we're supporting Ukraine, Ukraine has shown how courageous it really is."And Russia has vulnerabilities because it's running out of people, it's running out of hi-tech missiles."He continued: "President Putin has used about 25% of his army's power to gain a tiny amount of territory and 50,000 people either dead or injured."Russia is now a "more diminished power" diplomatically and economically than several months ago, he said."Any notion that this is a success for Russia is nonsense. Russia is failing."It might be getting some tactical successes over the last few weeks. And those might continue for the next few weeks."But Russia is losing strategically." Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player 2:40 EU leaders visit war-torn Ukraine Key Ukraine developments:• EU leaders support Ukraine's bid to join the bloc• UN says deaths resulting from the battle for the key port city of Mariupol are likely to be "in the thousands" and "gross violations" of international human rights law occurred• At least four people were killed and seven wounded after an airstrike hit the eastern city of Lysychansk• A total of 660 Ukrainian families in England are either homeless or at risk of homelessness after their accommodation was unavailable, it has been revealed Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player 0:45 European leaders support Ukraine's EU candidacy Admiral Radakin said he was in touch with his Ukrainian counterpart, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, who recognised they were in a "tough battle" in the east.The defence secretary admitted to Sky News earlier on Friday that Russia troops outnumbered Ukraine in artillery fire by 20 to 1 in some areas.But Mr Wallace told Sky's defence and security correspondent Deborah Haynes that - because allies were starting to give Ukraine long-range artillery and rocket systems - they would soon be able to make "significant progress in the east of the country".War at "pivotal moment" as two sides battle for eastern Donbas region - follow latest updates on Ukraine warAnd Admiral Radakin paid tribute to Ukrainians. "They're courageous people," he said. "They're ingenious people in terms of how they're taking the fight to the Russians."But they're also honest people, with saying actually they need some help."He said the UK would continue its support for Ukraine and "we're in this for the long haul". Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player 4:49 Day in the life of Ukrainian medic Eyewitness: Ambulances "covered in blood" amid warnings "absolutely nothing is safe" in Donbas regionEarlier this week, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called on the West to help his country achieve "heavy weapons parity" with Russia in the war - calling for more heavy artillery, rocket systems and vehicles.Admiral Radakin said he was "wary" of phrases like parity as no single capability would determine the outcome of the war.The UK is providing MLRS rocket systems and has just delivered 120 armoured fighting vehicles, he said.He said: "We've been providing anti-tank weapons, there are other elements that we're providing and that will continue."But it's the mass that's provided by the whole of the international community - and it's putting that alongside the courage and the resolve of the Ukrainian armed forces to fight for their territory."That is where the real parity lies, and where the real strength of Ukraine lies."

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Live-Action Rent-A-Girlfriend Show Unveils More Cast, July 2 Premiere

The staff for the live-action series of Reiji Miyajima's Rent-A-Girlfriend (Kanojo, Okarishimasu) manga posted more cast members, the July 2 premiere, and the main visual for the series on Thursday. The newly announced cast members are: The series will premiere on the TV Asahi channel on July 2 at 26:30 a.m. (effectively, July 3 at 2:30 a.m.), and it will also run on the Asahi Broadcasting Corporation TV channel on July 3 at 11:55 p.m. (10:55 a.m. EDT). It will stream on the TVer, GYAO!, dTV, and Hulu services in Japan. Daisuke Yamamoto (Ossan's Love franchise) and Kazuki Kon is directing, and Kumiko Asō (Marumo no Okite) is writing the scripts. Yūki Munakata is composing the music. Naniwa Danshi idol group member Ryūsei Ōnishi (live-action Seiho Boys' High School!) and actress Hiyori Sakurada (live-action Tokyo Ghoul, Twilight) will star as the protagonist Kazuya Kinoshita and the heroine Chizuru Mizuhara, respectively. Shiori Akita plays Mami Nanami. Mio Kudō (Kamen Rider Ghost, Saki Achiga-hen episode of side-A, Mashin Sentai Kiramager) plays Ruka Sarashina. Kodansha Comics is publishing the manga in English, and it describes the story: You can rent a girlfriend, but can you buy love? Hapless college first-year Kazuya Kinoshita, reeling from a bad breakup, rents a few hours of friendly companionship at the aquarium with the idol-beautiful and polite Chizuru. But rock bottom might be lower than Kazuya thought! Family, school, and life all start to go wrong, and to make matters worse, Chizuru is much more than the pretty face and sweet demeanor he thought he'd bargained for... Miyajima launched the manga in Kodansha's Weekly Shōnen Magazine in July 2017. The series received a manga anthology on August 17, 2020. The manga also inspired a television anime that premiered in July 2020 and aired for 12 episodes. Crunchyroll streamed the anime worldwide except in Asia. A second season will premiere in the Super Animeism programming block on MBS, TBS, and 26 affiliates on July 1. Crunchyroll will stream the anime as it airs. Source: Comic Natalie

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Live-Action Rent-A-Girlfriend Show Unveils More Cast, July 2 Premiere

The staff for the live-action series of Reiji Miyajima's Rent-A-Girlfriend (Kanojo, Okarishimasu) manga posted more cast members, the July 2 premiere, and the main visual for the series on Thursday. The newly announced cast members are: The series will premiere on the TV Asahi channel on July 2 at 26:30 a.m. (effectively, July 3 at 2:30 a.m.), and it will also run on the Asahi Broadcasting Corporation TV channel on July 3 at 11:55 p.m. (10:55 a.m. EDT). It will stream on the TVer, GYAO!, dTV, and Hulu services in Japan. Daisuke Yamamoto (Ossan's Love franchise) and Kazuki Kon is directing, and Kumiko Asō (Marumo no Okite) is writing the scripts. Yūki Munakata is composing the music. Naniwa Danshi idol group member Ryūsei Ōnishi (live-action Seiho Boys' High School!) and actress Hiyori Sakurada (live-action Tokyo Ghoul, Twilight) will star as the protagonist Kazuya Kinoshita and the heroine Chizuru Mizuhara, respectively. Shiori Akita plays Mami Nanami. Mio Kudō (Kamen Rider Ghost, Saki Achiga-hen episode of side-A, Mashin Sentai Kiramager) plays Ruka Sarashina. Kodansha Comics is publishing the manga in English, and it describes the story: You can rent a girlfriend, but can you buy love? Hapless college first-year Kazuya Kinoshita, reeling from a bad breakup, rents a few hours of friendly companionship at the aquarium with the idol-beautiful and polite Chizuru. But rock bottom might be lower than Kazuya thought! Family, school, and life all start to go wrong, and to make matters worse, Chizuru is much more than the pretty face and sweet demeanor he thought he'd bargained for... Miyajima launched the manga in Kodansha's Weekly Shōnen Magazine in July 2017. The series received a manga anthology on August 17, 2020. The manga also inspired a television anime that premiered in July 2020 and aired for 12 episodes. Crunchyroll streamed the anime worldwide except in Asia. A second season will premiere in the Super Animeism programming block on MBS, TBS, and 26 affiliates on July 1. Crunchyroll will stream the anime as it airs. Source: Comic Natalie

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