Human cost of China’s green energy rush ahead of Winter Olympics

by Poornima WEERASEKARA Agence France-Presse BAODING, China (AFP) – Beaten, forced off their land, cheated out of money, and even falsely imprisoned — farmers in China say they are paying a heavy price as authorities rush to deliver on ambitious pledges to ramp up national green energy output. China has vowed the upcoming Winter Olympics 2022 will be the first Games to be run entirely on wind and solar energy, and have built scores of […]

Giant rubber whale helps Kiwi rescuers battle beachings

by Neil SANDS Agence France-Presse WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) – A two-tonne rubber whale can take on a life of its own in the frigid shallows of a windswept New Zealand beach, particularly when a bedraggled group of would-be rescuers is trying to wrestle it into a harness. “Keep the blowhole clear… you’re too close to the tail, one swipe can do a serious injury to yourself and the whale,” an instructor yells as the […]

Sticky situation: Canada taps maple syrup reserves to meet soaring demand

by Anne-Sophie THILL Agence France-Presse LAURIERVILLE, Canada (AFP) – Pancake lovers, fear not. Strong demand for maple syrup after a poor Canadian harvest has created supply-side woes, but Quebec province is tapping its strategic reserves to keep the world awash in the sweet, sticky stuff. Experts are warning the shortages could be further compounded by climate change, which is already being blamed for last spring’s shorter and warmer sugaring season. To avoid shortages, the Quebec […]

Tunisia recyclers struggle to tackle mountains of waste

by Aymen Jamli and Amal Belalloufi Agence France-Presse MGHIRA, Tunisia (AFP) – “When I see plastic, I see money,” says Tarek Masmoudi, owner of one of the few recycling companies in Tunisia, where a waste crisis is threatening widespread social unrest. Recycling is almost non-existent in the North African country, which produces 2.6 million tonnes of waste each year. Some 85 percent of that ends up in landfills, while much of the rest winds up […]

Firm transforms waste as Morocco faces trash ‘time bomb’

by Kaouthar Oudrhiri Agence France-Presse MEKNES, Morocco (AFP) – Recycling in Morocco may be in its infancy, but the North African kingdom is making steady progress, helped by a Swiss firm that specialises in processing organic waste. “Nothing’s thrown away here: everything is transformed,” says Mohamed El Kabous proudly, crumbling a fistful of compost produced by Elephant Vert (EV — Green Elephant) in the central city of Meknes. Established in 2012 as EV’s largest such […]

End of an era nears for Berlin’s coal stoves

by Raphaelle LOGEROT Agence France-Presse BERLIN, Germany (AFP) – Alban Nikolai Herbst’s Berlin apartment is covered in dust, his precious record collection included, thanks to a coal-powered stove he still uses to heat his home like thousands across the city. Germany’s new government is set to extinguish the at-home heat source from a bygone era as part of its ambitious climate plans, as it looks to cut harmful emissions linked to climate change. But Herbst […]

Mayan Train, the president’s pet project exposing Mexico’s cracks

by Alexander MARTINEZ Agence France-Presse CAMPECHE, Mexico (AFP) – A proposed Mayan tourist train in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula has divided residents in one of the country’s poorest regions, known for its indigenous uprisings. “The train will no longer come through here,” rejoiced Guadalupe Caceres, 64, at news that the original route was being modified and would no longer pass through her home. “We’ve lost, goodbye modernity,” responded locksmith Ruben Angulo, 49, who was hoping to […]

Illegal but essential, migrants recycle Istanbul’s waste

by Anne CHAON Agence France-Presse ISTANBUL, Turkey (AFP) – Shrouded by acrid smoke, a young Afghan crouches sorting waste he has pulled from the trash bins of Istanbul, anxious that Turkey will soon strip him of even this subsistence. “I start at eight in the morning and finish at eight at night,” said Issam Raffur, who has spent four of his 20 years in Turkey. “It is very hard and poorly paid, but I have […]

Gas field tremor terror haunts Dutch villages

by Jan HENNOP Agence France-Presse GARRELSWEER, Netherlands (AFP) – Teacher Daan Schoolland was asleep with his partner when the earthquake struck the northern Dutch hamlet of Garrelsweer in the middle of the night. “It was like a wave, we could feel it coming towards us,” the burly father-of-three recalled. “When I woke up, the whole room was still shaking and my kids were crying in terror.” The 3.2-magnitude earthquake in November was the largest for […]

Facebook misidentified thousands of political ads: study

PARIS, France (AFP) — Facebook misidentified tens of thousands of advertisements flagged under its political ads policy, according to a study released Thursday, which warned that the failure could lead to political manipulation. Researchers at Belgium’s KU Leuven university and New York University examined 33.8 million Facebook ads that ran on the social media site between July 2020 and February 2021. “This is the first known study to quantify the performance of Facebook’s political ad […]

Russia’s cosmos town, an isolated relic of Soviet glory

by Nikolay KORZHOV Agence France-Presse BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AFP) – Malik Mutaliyev walks by an abandoned amusement park in wintry Baikonur, a secretive town in Kazakhstan’s inhospitable steppe that appeared alongside the eponymous Baikonur Cosmodrome where the Soviet Union’s space programme rose to glory. “Our town has lived through a lot: Perestroika, the fall of the Soviet Union, electricity shortages. We’ve been through it all,” says the 67-year-old former chief architect of Baikonur. The settlement located […]

Sealand: the ‘micronation’ defying the UK and Covid

by Anna MALPAS Agence France-Presse SEALAND (AFP) – It’s a hulking metal-and-concrete platform in the North Sea that has been run as an independent micronation in defiance of the UK government for the last 54 years. But even on Sealand, some seven miles (11 kilometres) off the coast of southeast England, visitors have to show a negative Covid-19 test before being winched up onto the deck. “We have zero Covid cases,” Liam Bates, one of […]