This Week Around the World

April 15 Centinela, Ecuador:

After 40 years of thinking the wildflower Gasteranthus extinctus was gone for good, biologists in Ecuador’s Centinela region found it growing in the wild. Wide-scale deforestation combined with its extended absence had specialists convinced it was extinct—a theory cemented in the flower’s name. Over 97% of the forests in Centinela have been destroyed to make way for farmland, making this discovery a huge relief to the scientific community. A researcher on the team, Nigel CA Pitman, told The Guardian about the pessimistic consensus. “Because it was described by the top people in the field, no one really double checked the science,” Pittman said. “No one went back to confirm that the forest was gone and those things were extinct. We walked into Centinela thinking it was going to break our heart and instead we ended up falling in love.” The flowers were discovered within the first few hours of the team reaching the region. Upon finding it, they were careful not to disturb anything, taking photos and cautiously collecting fallen flowers. Later on, their discovery was confirmed as Gasteranthus extinctus by a taxonomic expert. A postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum in Chicago who co-authored the paper announcing the discovery, Dawsome Whitage, told The Guardian that “rediscovering this flower shows that it’s not too late to turn around even the worst-case biodiversity scenarios.” Whitage also said that conservation of small areas is worthwhile, as new species are still being discovered. “We can still save many things that are on the brink of extinction,” Whitage said.

April 19 Durban, South Africa:

Over the past few weeks, flooding has devastated KwaZulu-Natal, the eastern province of South Africa, particularly the coastal city of Durban. According to Reuters, the death count has risen to 440, with thousands more rendered houseless. The amount of rain that the area has received has been described by some weather forecasters as apocalyptic. In some parts, 18 inches of rain fell over a 48-hour period—half of the annual average for the region. President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the floods were “a catastrophe of enormous proportions…not seen before in our country. Just as we thought it was safe to get out of the [COVID-19] disaster, we have another disaster, a natural disaster descending on our country, particularly on our KwaZulu-Natal province.” Ramaphosa claimed the flood’s carnage was due to the ever-worsening climate crisis, but some people from the affected areas said that shoddy drainage and infrastructure was the reason behind the wreckage. The South African government declared that it will disperse one billion rand—$64 million U.S. dollars—in emergency funding. 

April 20 Taipei, Taiwan:At 7 a.m., citizens of Taiwan were alarmed by news that China was attacking. However, the report was false, and actually a massive blunder by news stations. “New Taipei City was hit by communist missiles, the Taipei port has exploded, facilities and ships were damaged and destroyed,” the Chinese Television Systems (CTS) said. The message was prepared for an upcoming drill set to be carried out on May 5, and was oriented around missile attack preparation. “The exercise includes an earthquake scene, tsunami, a bridge collapse and explosion,” a spokesperson for the New Taipei fire department told The Guardian. “This year, our boss said we will also include the war scenario in the exercise…It is the first time in recent years.” One of the people surprised by the announcement of an invasion was Chio Kuo-cheng, the Taiwanese defense minister. He said he was “surprised to see the news,” and that it was “a good lesson to our journalist friends.” The mistake was heavily discussed on Taiwanese social media, with some finding the whole event hilarious while others expressed outrage at the mismanagement by state media. CTS apologized for causing the public panic, and have stated that those responsible will be punished. In China, the ordeal was talked about by over a million people online under the hashtag “Taiwan media makes a big own goal.”