Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Climate change turning US into coffee country

Today is Wednesday. Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup

Climate change may have fueled the flames that ripped across Siberia this summer, sending plumes of smoke over the North Pole. But it is also apparently warming the American coffee crop — providing Californian and Floridian farmers with the high temperatures necessary to cultivate the beans that wake us up every morning.

While coffee is typically produced in the equatorial Coffee Belt and requires constant heat, climate change is now bringing that condition to some U.S. farmers, according to Reuters. The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of the beverage but only produces 0.01 percent of the global coffee crop — and all, until now, in Hawaii and southern Florida.

David Armstrong, a farmer in Ventura, Calif., recently joined a group of growers participating in the largest-ever American coffee cultivation endeavor, Reuters reported. 

“I have no experience in coffee,” Armstrong, who usually grows citrus and avocados, told Reuters. But coffee requires 20 percent less water than most fruit and nut trees and could also earn farmers a sizable profit. 

Today we’ll look at a $5 billion pledge by nine foundations aimed at preserving a third of the Earth’s land and waters — and a major reorganization at NASA aimed at getting humans further away from them.  

For Equilibrium, we are Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Please send tips or comments to Saul at [email protected] or Sharon at [email protected]. Follow us on Twitter: @saul_elbein and @sharonudasin

Let’s get to it. 

Foundations pledge $5B in biodiversity funding 

Nine major foundations pledged $5 billion to protect and conserve 30 percent of the planet by 2030 on Wednesday — marking the largest-ever private funding commitment to biodiversity.

The foundations aim to create and expand conserved and protected spaces, while harnessing the leadership and management capabilities of Indigenous people on the ground, a joint news release from the partners said. Their goals align with the “30×30” initiative proposed by the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People — a 70-member, intergovernmental cohort that aims to protect at least 30 percent of the world’s lands and oceans by 2030.

The foundations — which include the Bezos Earth Fund, founded by Jeff Bezos — announced their intentions at a high-level sideline event at the United Nations General Assembly. 

“This is a pivot point,” Andrew Steer, CEO and president of Bezos Earth Fund, said at the panel event. Steer credited his philanthropic partners, noting that all of them “want to take away the barriers that are preventing us going over that tipping point.”

What are the nine foundations? Working side-by-side with the Bezos Earth Fund — which already made headlines Monday with its $1 billion pledge to biodiversity — are “Protecting our Planet Challenge” partners Arcadia, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Nia Tero, Rainforest Trust, Re:wild, Wyss Foundation and the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation. 

A cost-effective way to safeguard nature: Establishing protected areas is one of the most cost-effective ways to safeguard both nature and vulnerable human populations, the partners said. 

Studies indicate that the conservation and effective guardianship of at least 30 percent of the planet could protect up to 80 percent of plant and animal species, while securing 60 percent of carbon stocks and 66 percent of clean water resources, according to the foundations. 

Read more here. 




The Environmental Partnership recently released its annual report highlighting its new flare management program that reported a 50 percent reduction in flare volumes from 2019 to 2020. Read more.


“Because we are starting to see what we are calling an ambition loop,” Steer said. That loop, he explained, means that different players are reinforcing each other, and the whole is starting to add up to more than the parts, which also include government participants. 

“Philanthropy is not to replace public money,” Steer said. “It is to complement public money.”

James Deutsch, CEO of the Rainforest Trust, which pledged $500 million, credited developing nations like Costa Rica and Colombia for leading the way in expanding protected areas.

“While a few wealthy countries, like Norway, are in this room and stepping up to this challenge, many others are not yet,” Deutsch said.

What about the U.S.? America’s contributions thus far have been “woefully inadequate,” Brian O’Donnell, director of the Campaign for Nature, told Equilibrium.

The Campaign for Nature, a partnership made up of more than 100 conservation organizations, called for policymakers to commit to similar 30×30 goals at the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China, next month. Among the Campaign’s supporters is the Wyss Foundation, which also pledged $500 million in Wednesday’s announcement.

While acknowledging President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden’s State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to ‘modern-day segregation’ MORE’s goal set this spring to protect 30 percent of the country’s land and water by 2030, O’Donnell stressed that “the U.S. has been largely absent from the international conversations.”

There’s a $5 billion pledge, but where will it go? The mechanics are still under discussion, but the individual foundations will be concentrating their efforts on the different regions they already support, O’Donnell explained. He stressed that whatever the specific projects, working with local communities will be critical.

“The world’s biodiversity is concentrated overwhelmingly in areas stewarded by Indigenous people in local communities,” he told Equilibrium.

Last words: Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad, Ibrahim called upon governments to include Indigenous Peoples in their biodiversity planning initiatives, at the Wednesday panel event.

“We have been so long sitting in the passenger’s seat,” Ibrahim added. “It is time for us — for the government to give us the wheel, and to let us be in the driver’s seat.”

To read the full story, please click here.


NASA splits key command to smooths path to Moon, Mars

NASA is splitting its near-earth operations and deep-space exploration divisions into separate “directorates” in an organizational change that signals how the rapid growth of the private space industry — and the agency’s own bold plans — are leading its administrators to foresee a new space boom over the next two decades, NASA Administrator Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonElon Musk mocks Biden for ignoring his company’s historic space flight How will Biden’s Afghanistan debacle impact NASA’s Artemis return to the moon? Biden to talk Russia, anti-corruption with Ukraine’s president MORE said in a statement on Tuesday.

Some elements of that boom recall the great Cold War-era “space race” that established NASA. The Artemis mission, for example — the agency’s plan to return Americans to the Moon in 2024 — draws its name from the Greek goddess of the Moon, while also evoking the Kennedy-era Apollo program (named after her mythological brother) that brought Americans like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin there in the first place.

But Tuesday’s announcement also shows how much things have changed since those early days. And it highlights the potential NASA has to go even further if it can channel, direct and build upon the great surge in private investment and interest in space. 

One small step: The two divisions that NASA just separated had previously shared one unified and increasingly unsustainable command: the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, according to the Washington Post.

That older structure was a relic of a previous, “final frontier” age in space travel, when lines between military aerospace, industrial innovation and scientific exploration blurred together, and when human spaceflight was an exclusively public-sector enterprise.

Moving forward, one new directorate will control the ever-more-routine business of life in low-earth orbit (the altitude below 1200 miles), freeing up the other to “get out … and go explore,” Administrator Nelson said, according to the Post.

The new restructuring reflects a civilian-led reality. Saturday saw the return of Space-X’s three-day all-civilian mission around the Earth — if despite some toilet trouble, according to Space.com. 

Such voyages raise equity concerns: at the U.N. General Assembly meeting on Tuesday, Secretary General Antonio Guterres lambasted “billionaires joyriding to space while millions go hungry on Earth,” The Associated Press (AP) reported.


Space trucking, not joyrides: Like it or not, the billionaires now fill key niches of the space economy, especially since the government retired the space shuttle in 2011 and plans to retire the International Space Station (ISS) near the end of this decade.

Private industry has taken the place of those government services: SpaceX flies astronauts; Northrop Grumman hauls cargo to the ISS; NASA is soliciting pitches from companies like Lockheed Martin Corp. and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin LLC to replace the station itself, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

That’s led to record interest by private capital in buying out or investing in space companies, the Journal also reported.

Building on an existing foundation: The commercial boom allows NASA to expand its reach along the two parallel tracks suggested by the two new directorates. Space Operations will handle routine launch operations, and help foster the commercial boom in the space between the Earth and the Moon — including, ultimately, the Artemis missions and a proposed permanent lunar base.

That will free up the Human Exploration directorate to develop new initiatives, including the as-yet-unbuilt technologies and industries needed to get humans to the Moon and Mars and sustain them there, the Post wrote — emerging industries which, over time, could transition into the routine domain of Operations as Exploration forges on.

Last words: NASA sees this restructuring as akin to “a deep breath” before a new push into the future, deputy administrator Pam Melroy told the Houston Chronicle

“This is exactly the time for us to … say, ‘Wow, we have a chain of development programs, no longer just one monolithic program. How are we going to manage this huge change in scope?’”



The Environmental Partnership recently released its annual report highlighting its new flare management program that reported a 50 percent reduction in flare volumes from 2019 to 2020. Read more.


World Watch Wednesdays 

We honor this week’s U.N. General Assembly Meeting by checking in on the recent  Canadian elections, U.S.-China efforts to curb coal and “a wall of lava” blanketing a Canary Islands village. 

Canadians vote Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauBiden congratulates Trudeau for winning third term as Canadian prime minister Trudeau’s party fails to win majority in Canada vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Alibaba – Democrats return to disappointment on immigration MORE back in — barely

  • Canada’s centrist Liberal Party won the biggest share of votes in Canada’s election on Monday — but too few to form a majority government under Canada’s parliamentary system, The Wall Street Journal reported. 
  • That may force the Liberals to collaborate with the left-leaning New Democratic Party, which has more hawkish positions on health care spending, taxing the wealthy and climate change, the Journal reported.
  • To reverse the old feminist slogan, the political is personal. “Canadians like the Liberal policies on child care, on pandemic income support and climate change. But they don’t like Mr. Trudeau,” Duane Bratt, a politics professor at Mount Royal University, told the Journal.

China and U.S. take big climate steps beyond their borders

Volcano sends Canary Island villagers fleeing 

  • Canary Island residents fled their homes in the small village of Todoque on Wednesday, as “a wall of lava up to 12 meters (40 feet) high” plunged down on their community, the AP reported. 
  • The lava could take several days to cover the remaining 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) to the sea — or it might spread more widely on land and devastate more homes and farmland, according to the AP.
  • “I’ve put my whole life in a van,” one resident, Javier López, told the AP.


Please visit The Hill’s sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. We’ll see you on Thursday.

Comments are closed.