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Despite the War, Ukraine Plans to Be a Green Energy Hub

February 25, 2024

Ukraine Plans More Green Energy on Second Anniversary of War

On February 24, the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country’s energy ministry said that it has exported surplus electricity to Eastern Europe as some of its power systems have survived. According to the World Bank, more than 50 percent of the country’s electricity infrastructure was damaged in the first year of the war.

Primorsk Wind Farm is a 197.6MW onshore wind power project. It is located in Zaporizhia, Ukraine.  |  Credit: Роман Днепр/Creative Commons

Euronews Green reports that while some renewable energy projects have been destroyed, others have been announced in the last two years. The first wind power plant to be built in a conflict zone was completed nearly a year ago. Ukraine developed more onshore wind farms than England during the first year of the war.  

The war has stepped up Ukraine’s plans for 50 percent of its power to be renewable by 2035, up from 15 percent before the invasion, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying that he wants Ukraine to be a “green energy hub” for Europe.

The Russian invasion provided a catalyst for the move toward greener energy.  They destroyed 11 coal mines, and three of the eight coal- or gas-fired plants in non-occupied territories. Ukraine intends to rebuild its nuclear energy capacity, although AFP reports that could take a decade.

Green Spaces Can Cool Cities and Are Good for Mental Health

A study published last week in the journal The Innovation, shows that parks, wetlands, and especially botanic gardens, are among the best ways to cool cities during heat waves as climate change leads to rising temperatures. The Global Centre for Clean Air Research at the University of Surrey in England found that botanical gardens had the biggest cooling effect, lowering temperatures by 5 degrees Celsius on average and possibly mitigating heat by as much as 10 C. Wetlands were a close second as were parks down the list.

Monet Pool in Denver Botanic Gardens  |  Credit: Sarbjit Bahga/Creative Commons

A separate study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed that the more people who live in cities are exposed to green spaces, the better their mental health. Researchers from Texas A&M University used an online application called NatureScore to determine “urban greenness”—the amount and quality of natural elements such as parks, tree canopies, noise, and light pollution for any address in the U.S.  

They compared urban greenness scores with more than 60,000,000 visits by adults to mental health facilities in Texas cities during a six-year period for depression, stress, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. The researchers found that as the NatureScore of a neighborhood increased, mental health visits decreased especially in neighborhoods with the highest “urban greenness” rankings.

While it’s been known for some time that people are positively affected by green spaces, this study, according to its authors, was the first to use NatureScore with its numerous data sets to gauge mental health.

NatureScore data has also been used recently to link green spaces with cardiovascular health. A study by researchers in Houston found that access to, and walkability of, those areas were important in lowering cardiovascular risk factors.

Space Junk Could Be Solved by Making Satellites out of Trees

The risk of being injured by falling space debris is under one in 100 billion. That’s according to the European Space Agency, whose dead satellite, the ERS-2, reentered Earth’s atmosphere on February 21, most of which burned up, but scattered a few fragments in the Pacific Ocean between Alaska and Hawai’i.

Animation of the LignoSat satellite  |  Credit: Kyoto University

ERS-2, roughly the size of a school bus, was launched nearly 30 years ago to collect data on Earth’s land, oceans, and polar ice caps, as well as to monitor natural disasters such as severe flooding or earthquakes in remote parts of the world. It was just one of over 8,000 satellites currently circling the planet—a number that is expected to easily double in the coming years to help us navigate our cars, watch cable TV, or let countries spy on each other.

Beyond satellites, there’s also a lot of debris up there—some 100 trillion bits of old metal machinery that could not only collide with other human-made objects and cause damage but also fall to Earth, depositing alumina particles in the atmosphere on their way down. Scientists say that particle pollution could affect the ozone layer, which protects the planet from solar radiation.

To solve the problem of space junk, researchers at Kyoto University in Japan have developed a satellite made of wood. In 2020, the team tested three types of timber at the International Space Station (ISS)—birch, cherry, and magnolia—the last of which performed the best and will be the material for a probe, the LignoSat2, that will launch this summer in a joint venture between NASA and its Japanese counterpart, JAXA.

The satellite is about the size of a coffee mug and the researchers say it should hold up well in space where, without oxygen, it wouldn’t burn, warp, or rot. When it does fall to Earth, it would simply incinerate into biodegradable ash. LignoSat2 will operate in space for about six months before being allowed to reenter Earth’s atmosphere, harming no one.

A Cure for Snoring That’s Also Good for the Planet

We know that plant-based diets are good for mitigating the climate crisis by releasing fewer greenhouse gases, but according to new research, they could also curb another emission—snoring.

Credit: Marco Verch/Creative Commons

People with obstructive sleep apnea often snore because, while they sleep, their throat muscles relax and block their airway, causing them to repeatedly stop and start breathing. Researchers from Flinders University compared thousands of study participants who ate a plant-based diet with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, with those who consumed a diet derived from animals, including dairy, eggs, fish or seafood and meat. They found those eating plant-based foods were 19 percent less likely to suffer from sleep apnea.

The team thinks it might be tied to a plant-based diet’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as its impact on weight, given obesity is a risk factor for the condition.

It’s estimated that up to one billion people aged 30 to 69 years worldwide suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea, which can lead to daytime drowsiness, and an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. The study did find, however, that if people ate unhealthy plant-based foods high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and salts, they increased their risk by 22 percent.

So, if you’re aggravated by your partner’s nocturnal noises, perhaps you can swap out their hamburgers for meals with more veggies.

The study was published in ERJ Open Research.