Points of Progress: A lake’s path to restoration, and more

Conservationists have reclaimed water rights for fish and wildlife in Walker Lake, and museums are repatriating human remains.

Scott Sonner/AP
Walker Lake sits 100 miles from Reno, Nevada. Conservationists have ensured that its water can legally be used to sustain wildlife.

United States

A desert lake near Reno, Nevada, is on the path to restoration, and conservationists’ work here could serve as a model for reclaiming other such lakes, which support fish and wildlife habitats. Walker Lake was fed by the Walker River, which had been used primarily for cattle and crops, so very little water reached the lake. Money was appropriated by Congress so conservationists could purchase water rights for the benefit of the lake. The only problem: a 1936 law that made it illegal to tap water from the river for anything other than ranching and farming. After legal wrangling by advocates, water began flowing again into Walker Lake. A conservationist told the Reno Gazette-Journal that this is just the start of lake restoration, but “this is a turnaround point.” (Reno Gazette-Journal)

Canada

Human remains in the possession of the National Museum of Scotland are returning to Canadian indigenous communities. The concept of owning human remains for museum display is under review around the world – an advocate for their repatriation explains that putting them on display is no longer considered appropriate. Observers say now is a time of transition, in which museums, indigenous people, and governments are working together to correct the wrongs of a colonialist past. Several museums and universities in Canada are returning human remains to the communities to which they belong. Archaeologists are also recognizing the need to respect indigenous cultural and religious practices when handling them. (The Globe and Mail)

Thailand

Monks at Wat Jak Daeng temple are making robes out of plastic water bottles. Thailand is one of the top 10 contributors of mismanaged plastic waste that ends up in the ocean. To reduce the problem, monks are collecting water bottles and combining them with natural fibers to make robes. The bottle caps and labels are also used to make chairs and other products. This year, Thailand passed legislation banning several types of plastic and plans to use 100% recycled plastic by 2027. (Agencia EFE)

Ghana

Ancestral tourism is boosting local economies. To recognize the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in the U.S., African Americans are returning to Ghana to learn more about where their ancestors came from and what they endured. The country’s heritage marketing techniques are paying off: This year, tourism revenue is expected to reach $925 million, double that of 2018. The government’s goal is to maintain this level of tourism for the next three years, but observers say there will need to be infrastructure improvements. See the Sept. 2 cover story, “The New Roots Movement,” to learn more about African Americans’ search for their ancestry. (Reuters)

Francis Kokoroko/Reuters
U.S. tourist Teresa Arthur looks at bracelets while learning about Ghanaian political history as part of an ancestry tour in Accra on Aug. 7. Such heritage tourism is feeding a small economic boom.

Australia

In the country’s northeastern state of Queensland, drones are helping to keep swimmers safe. Object recognition software spots shapes that resemble crocodiles and sharks with 90% accuracy. The technology distinguishes among 16 types of marine life. The drones are equipped with sirens and can deploy flotation devices for swimmers in need. Tech developers are now figuring out a way to use the software to identify swimmers in distress. (BBC)

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