Why scientists will march in over 400 cities on Earth Day

April 21, 2017 by  
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Even if the president of the United States rejects science , scientists plan to make their voices heard. Tomorrow they’ll march on Washington, D.C. and over 400 locations around the world in the March for Science . While organizers say the march was inspired by the success of the January 21 Women’s March, they also emphasize their event is nonpartisan. Their march will celebrate science and highlight “the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.” Tens of thousands of people are expected to show up for the March for Science in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. People will gather at the Washington Monument starting at 8:00 AM, and will participate in teach-ins and a rally program until the march at 2:00 PM. Speakers include Bill Nye and pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha who helped expose Flint , Michigan lead poisoning. Related: Trump inspires 400 scientists to run for office Trump isn’t the only reason for the March for Science. Scientists and academics have been concerned for years now over public distrust of science. The event’s mission page says, “People who value science have remained silent for far too long in the face of policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world. New policies threaten to further restrict scientists’ ability to research and communicate their findings. We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely…We must take science out of the labs and journals and share it with the world.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science , the American Chemical Society , and the American Geophysical Union all support the march. Satellite marches will take place on six different continents. You can register for the march in Washington, D.C. or find a march near you here . If you can’t attend the Earth Day science march, you can march for climate science in the People’s Climate Mobilization on DC on April 29. + March for Science Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and March for Science

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Why scientists will march in over 400 cities on Earth Day

Deadly new bird flu strain could lead to devastating pandemic

April 21, 2017 by  
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You probably haven’t thought about the bird flu in a couple of years, unless you’re a virologist, but a new strain that resurfaced in China has the potential to be pandemic. The H7N9 virus only caused mild illness in poultry until recently, but a genetic change means the new strain is deadly for birds . Now, H7N9 has led to more human deaths this season than any other season since it was detected in people four years ago. Between September and March 1, 162 people perished from H7N9. Human cases have increased since December, with reports from eight different provinces in China. Hong Kong University research lab director Guan Yi told NPR, “We’re trying our best, but we still can’t control this virus. It’s too late for us to eradicate it.” Related: U.S. avian flu outbreak drives up the price of eggs as supplies are threatened The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called for increased surveillance. FAO animal health officer Sophie Von Dobschuetz said China has started intensified observation while the FAO Beijing office has been providing recommendations for the country’s ministry of agriculture . As with past avian flu strains, patients said they were exposed to infected birds or went to live bird markets. Guan is concerned with how rapidly the H7N9 strain is evolving. He said ten years ago chickens were barely affected by the strain, but his lab’s research revealed the new strain can kill every chicken in his lab in 24 hours. There isn’t evidence the new strain will be deadlier in people, but when people do catch the virus from birds over one third of them perish. Guan said China’s government is already investigating vaccinating chickens. “Today, science is more advanced, we have vaccines and it’s easy to diagnose. On the other hand, it now takes hours to spread new viruses all over the world,” Guan told NPR. “I think this virus poses the greatest threat to humanity than any other in the past 100 years.” Via SciDev.net and NPR Images via CDC Global on Flickr and M M on Flickr

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Deadly new bird flu strain could lead to devastating pandemic

New plastic garbage patch discovered in Arctic Ocean

April 20, 2017 by  
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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t the only place where plastic pollution is gathering in the world’s oceans . An international team of scientists from 12 institutions in eight countries recently discovered a new garbage patch in the Greenland and Barents seas north of Norway. Between 100 and 1,200 tons of plastic have concentrated there, threatening wildlife already grappling with climate change . The Tara Expeditions Foundation dragged for plastic in the Arctic Ocean to find the new Arctic garbage patch. They visited 42 sites, and found over a third of the locations didn’t have any plastic. But then they found plastic amassing in Arctic waters above Norway. The garbage patch is smaller than the Pacific or Mediterranean garbage patches, but researchers hadn’t anticipated finding so much trash in that part of the Arctic, previously considered to be quite pristine. Related: World’s first ocean trash recon mission is complete – and the results are way worse than we thought Andrés Cózar of the University of Cádiz in Spain told The Verge, “We did not expect to find high concentrations of plastic there, so far from the populated regions and the large sources of plastic pollution.” He’s the lead author on a study published online yesterday in the journal Science Advances . So where’s all the trash coming from? Europe and America’s East Coast are likely at fault. Study co-author Erik van Sebille, who during the research was with Imperial College London and now works for the Netherlands’ Utrecht University , told The Verge, “If a plastic bottle or a plastic bag gets into the Atlantic from Europe or the East Coast of the U.S., that has a very good chance of ending up in the Arctic. The problem with plastic specifically being in the Arctic is that it’s going to get into the food chain of animals that are very much under threat already, that are struggling to survive in a changing climate.” Via The Verge Images © Anna Deniaud/Tara Expeditions Foundation

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New plastic garbage patch discovered in Arctic Ocean

Scotland’s latest wind farm will help fund 500 new affordable homes

April 20, 2017 by  
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Scotland’s Berwickshire Housing Association wants to capture the wind to boost their mission. By launching a new wind farm in the Scottish Borders, and selling the power to the National Grid, the charitable organization hopes to generate enough revenue to build 500 affordable homes over the next 25 years. Dubbed Fishermen Three, the 7.5-megawatt project at Hoprigshiels in Cockburnspath is a joint effort between BHA and the equally philanthropic Community Energy Scotland . The latter’s share of the revenue will enable it to help communities across Scotland leverage their own renewable energy initiatives. “The idea for the wind farm came when BHA realized that we had to be innovative in order to solve the dilemma of how to keep building new homes for social rental, which are so badly needed in this area, at a time when funding for new housing through traditional channels was in decline,” Helen Forsyth, chief executive of BHA, said in a statement. “The wind farm will provide BHA with a reliable, predictable, low-maintenance source of income that will allow us to build a steady stream of new affordable homes at a time when services are all too often being cut.” Related: 6 reasons the clean energy revolution doesn’t need Trump’s blessing Nicholas Gubbins, chief executive of CES, said that the United Kingdom’s energy system is shifting, but with changes come fresh opportunities. “We want to make sure that communities are at the forefront of the opportunities that this will create for new low-carbon energy developments,” he added. Scotland’s energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, agrees that renewables are the way of the future. He said, “Locally owned renewables in areas such as the Borders have the potential to help drive social, economic and environmental change at a local level.” Via the Guardian Photos by Unsplash

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Scotland’s latest wind farm will help fund 500 new affordable homes

Scientists discover Antarctica is covered in rivers

April 20, 2017 by  
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For decades, scientists have known that summertime brings liquid meltwater to Antarctica’s ice sheets. But until now, they’ve had no idea just how extensive the continent’s network of rivers, streams, ponds, and waterfalls really is. A new analysis by scientists at  Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has found that warmer months cause far more extensive melting than previously thought. That could be a problem as global temperatures continue to rise. Surface water can damage the ice shelves , weakening them and causing them to collapse into the ocean. Some of the channels identified in this survey allow meltwater to run harmlessly off into the sea, but in other areas, standing water can be a huge problem. In 2002, more than 2,000 lakes on the Larsen B ice shelf drained through the ice into the ocean below, causing the entire area to rapidly disintegrate. Related: Scientists warn rapidly-melting glacier in West Antarctica could cause serious global havoc The presence of water on the frozen continent does not yet appear to be the cause of widespread problems—but there’s also the possibility that warmer temperatures are causing sub-surface ice melt. Unfortunately, that phenomenon has been researched in far less detail, so it’s unclear exactly what effect it will have on the ice and rising sea levels in the future. Via Phys.org Images via NASA and Wikimedia Commons

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Scientists discover Antarctica is covered in rivers

Conservation group names America’s most endangered river

April 20, 2017 by  
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The Lower Colorado River is one of the United States’ most vital waterways. Besides providing drinking water to 30 million Americans in cities such as San Diego, Las Vegas, and Tucson, the river also irrigates about 90 percent of the country’s winter-vegetable supply. But it’s in danger of being tapped out, according to American Rivers , an environmental group named it the most “most endangered” river in the nation. The reason is a simple case of demand outpacing supply. Coupled with the trend of intensifying droughts, the Lower Colorado is being depleted faster than it can replenish itself. “The Lower Colorado is the lifeblood of the region and grows food for Americans nationwide, but the river is at a breaking point,” said Matt Rice, Colorado Basin director for American Rivers. “It is critical that the Trump administration and Congress support and fund innovative water management solutions.” Related: The EPA just spilled 1 million gallons of mustard-colored mine waste into a Colorado river Proposed federal cuts , plus Trump’s determination to roll back environmental regulations set by his predecessor, offer no recourse. “Americans must speak up and let their elected officials know that healthy rivers are essential to our families, our communities and our future,” Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, said. “We must take care of the rivers that take care of us” Other rivers under similar duress include California’s Bear River, Washington’s South Fork Skykomish River, and Alabama’s Mobile Bay Basin. Via U.S.A. Today Photos by Denny Armstrong and Sharon Mollerus

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Conservation group names America’s most endangered river

Massive iceberg draws tourists to tiny Canadian town

April 19, 2017 by  
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A new natural attraction drew scores of tourists to a small town of around 500 people in Newfoundland, Canada over Easter weekend. A massive iceberg appeared near the coast, and photographers dashed to the area to snap pictures. The Southern shore highway close to Ferryland filled with traffic over the weekend as tourists came to view the impressive iceberg. The Newfoundland coast area is commonly called iceberg alley due to the ice blocks that float down during the spring from the Arctic , but this particular huge iceberg might stay right where it is, according to Ferryland Mayor Adrian Kavanagh, who told The Canadian Press it’s the biggest one he’s ever seen in the area. Related: Naturally striped Antarctic icebergs are almost too beautiful to be real Usually just the tip of an iceberg is visible, with the rest of the mass beneath the waves, so many run aground when they float near the coast. Local Don Costello told CBC News the iceberg probably won’t be moving unless winds keep blowing because it’s stuck on shallow ground. He estimated the iceberg’s highest point is roughly 150 feet. The BBC reported more icebergs are drifting through iceberg alley than is normal for this point in the year, with hundreds of icebergs in the Atlantic. This particular iceberg has moved around some and broken apart, but it appears it’ll stick around for a while. That’s good for tourism – a tour operator told CBC News they’re happy when the icebergs are grounded, and his company is receiving dozens of online bookings every day. Iceberg tourism season technically hasn’t even started – there are a few weeks to go. Costello told CBC News, “I met a couple of people and they were looking for somewhere to get a bowl of soup or a sandwich or something, and there’s only two places here…and they don’t open until the 24th of May.” Via the BBC and CBC News Images via Randy Wheeler on Facebook , Fantasy RV Tours on Facebook , and Alison Thorne on Facebook

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Massive iceberg draws tourists to tiny Canadian town

7 biggest threats to the environment – why we still need Earth Day

April 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

This Saturday is Earth Day , and while it’s a time to celebrate our planet, it’s also a prime opportunity to take a closer look at the serious environmental issues we’re facing and the solutions that need to be put in place to alleviate them. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to ignore the damage we’ve done to the environment, especially when the effects have been hitting so close to home . If you want to make this Earth Day an opportunity to educate yourself about the problems, read on as we break down the 7 biggest environmental threats facing our society right now and how we might be able to solve them before it’s too late. Climate Change Climate change is first and foremost an issue because people can’t even agree on whether or not it’s an issue in the first place. Before we even get into the solutions, we all (regardless of political party) need to come to the realization that yes, climate change is real and yes, it is affecting us in ways that we can see and feel.  If you still believe that the freakish weather and heat waves we’ve been experiencing have nothing to do with climate change, you might want to ask your neighbor what he or she thinks because the majority of Americans say they believe global warming is causing these incidents . You might have noticed that the weather’s been hotter than usual , or you might have noticed a drought in your area or conversely, unusual storms. Furthermore, even small temperature changes are causing crops to die, decreasing the amount of food available. On top of all that, higher temps are causing the polar icecaps to melt, flooding certain areas and leading to an imbalance for wildlife. So we know the threat is real, but what can we do to prevent climate change from being exacerbated even more? Some small steps you can take in your own life are to use less electricity by turning off your lights when you don’t need them, driving less, switching to LED bulbs and eating less meat . On a more global scale, leaders have come to an agreement on how to curb the harmful greenhouse gases each nation emits into the atmosphere, and steps are being taken to plant more forests (which act as natural carbon sinks). Every bit helps, but in order for us to reverse the current course the Earth is on, the United States needs to commit to the Paris Agreement  and, along with the rest of the world, work towards a greener planet. Deforestation We mentioned planting more forests above, and sadly at a time when we need more forests, trees are being uprooted at an alarming rate.  Deforestation is a rapidly-growing problem in areas like Africa, Central and South America. Not only does this mean less trees, less cleansing oxygen, and the displacement of the wildlife, deforestation means a dangerous decrease in a natural fighter of global warming – the #1 threat to our Earth right now. Removing trees also leads to much drier climates, as trees extract groundwater to release into the air. Our tropical rainforests, which are crucial to stabilizing the climate and to human survival, are being chopped down at a breakneck pace – one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second . Humans have already chopped down about 50% of the rainforests that once existed on the planet and at the current rate of destruction, we will completely destroy the rainsforests in the next 40 years . If rainforests are so important, why are they being destroyed so carelessly? Short-sighted governments and multi-national logging companies only see the forests as a way to make money by selling timber – they don’t consider the long-term effects . Luckily, deforestation is an issue that we as individuals can combat. By using recycled paper, we can decrease the need to cut down as many trees and by buying goods made with FSC-certified wood, we can show retailers that we don’t want them to support brands that obtain lumber irresponsibly. Last but not least, why not plant a tree or even a hundred trees like this man did . Pollution Pollution comes in many forms and no matter where you live, you’ve probably seen some form of it. From litter on NYC city streets to the smog that lingers over LA to the plastic trash that floats in the  Great Pacific Garbage Patch , the visible signs of pollution are more than evident. The main reason for why pollution has gotten so out of control is that our desire for more “stuff”  has led to our old stuff being thrown away at an alarming and unnecessary rate. For more information on this, watch Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff . This need for manufactured items also leads to the air and water pollution emitted from factories, which in many countries are highly unregulated. Looking at the bigger picture, government oversight and sloppy industrial practices on the part of big companies has also exacerbated our pollution problem. The first thing we can all do to reduce the amount of pollution in our streets, air and water is to make a mental change. Before buying a new product, ask yourself if you really need it or if you might be able to purchase it secondhand. It could make a big difference in the amount of trash we see in our landfills. Secondly, if you don’t already  recycle , get into the habit. If everyone adopted these easy principles, the world would be in a much better place. Loss of Biodiversity Each species has a role in our planet, and when one dies out, it can have catastrophic effects on the rest of us. We don’t want to get all “Butterfly Effect” on you but even a population dwindling can cause major problems for the human race. For example, with their role of pollination , the decline of the  bee population has a direct effect on both the environment and food production. Currently, many other animals are in danger of becoming extinct, either from being forced out of their habitats by man or by climate change. This particular problem is more difficult for individuals to combat but we can start by educating ourselves with the facts and donating to organizations like the World Wildlife Fund that facilitate the preservation of animals on the brink of extinction. This problem is also closely linked to deforestation and unchecked habitat destruction so by fighting those two issues, we can also slow down loss of biodiversity. Melting Polar Ice-Caps and Rising Sea Levels Climate change (are you seeing a trend here?) also contributes to another dangerous problem – melting polar ice-caps, which in turn causes rising sea levels. According to the NRCD , average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast they are elsewhere and the ice is melting and rupturing. NASA satellite images reveal that the area of our permanent ice cover is shrinking at a rate of 9% every decade. At that rate, the Arctic could be totally ice-free in the summer season within decades. And if all of that ice melted, where would it go? You guessed it – our oceans. You might think that rising tides are only a problem for people in a few isolated areas, but major cities like NY and London could be underwater soon if we don’t do something soon. Manhattan alone has already dreamt up ways to deal with the potential rising tides over the next few years, but coming up with solutions after the fact is not enough. In order to reverse the melting of polar icecaps, we have to start at the root of the problem. See our section above on climate change to learn what you can do personally to keep global warming from continuing on its deadly course. Oceanic Dead Zones Along the coasts of heavily populated communities, scientists have found more and more dead zones – areas where depleted oxygen levels cannot support marine life. 146 dead zones were found in the world’s oceans, caused by high levels of chemicals in the waters. North America’s Gulf Coast has a high concentration of dead zones, which causes fish to become unable to reproduce. You might think that if you live on land, you won’t be affected by oceanic dead zones but if you eat seafood, seaweed, or care about air quality, you won’t want to ignore this issue. The good news is that dead zones can be reversed, though it is difficult. The  Black Sea dead zone disappeared in 1991 and 2001 due to the discontinued use of fertilizers. To find out more about how you can help with dead zone cleanups, visit Oceana.org . Explosive Population Growth It’s usually true that the more the merrier, but not when the human population is growing to a point that our society and systems can’t handle. Last year, the world population hit a whopping 7 billion , and while we welcome the newcomers with open arms, we also want to make sure that we don’t continue to put a strain on our water, food, well-being, space and sanity (yes, we’re talking about you, Tokyo subway system ). If everyone were more conscious of the fact that our limited resources need to be shared (how many times have you grabbed a fistful of paper napkins when you only needed one?), we could make living together, even with such a large amount of people) a lot more pleasant. Another example is our world food supply. Statistics show that we have enough food to feed everyone on the planet but we end up wasting so much (according to the  National Resources Defense Council , Americans waste a whopping 30 to 50% of all food produced) that others go without. While we might not be able to stop the population from growing, we can educate the people who currently live here and the new ones that are being born to make smarter choices and consume more responsibly. Images from Wikimedia Commons, Shutterstock, © James Cridland , @ Kevin Crejci , and @ No Minds Vision    

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7 biggest threats to the environment – why we still need Earth Day

BP oil and gas spill near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge under control

April 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

A BP oil and gas well in Alaska blew out late last week, uncontrollably spilling crude oil and gas just around 60 miles away from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge . The well was out of control through the weekend. The Arctic oil spill happened just days before the seven year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Last Friday morning the BP oil and gas well in the Prudhoe Bay area started leaking natural gas from the well while crude oil sprayed out onto the drilling-well pad. On Saturday the oil spray halted, but natural gas continued to spew throughout the weekend. Frigid temperatures made it difficult for teams to shut the well down. Oil service company Boots and Coots finally plugged a damaged pipe and pumped a saltwater solution into the well to kill it – after it had vented natural gas for three days. Related: Alaska gas leak endangering beluga whales won’t be fixed until the ice melts It’s unclear what caused the oil and gas spill. 1.5 acres near Deadhorse were affected, and native communities were notified. No injuries were reported. Natural gas production hasn’t been kind to Alaska recently. Around 210,000 cubic feet of gas per day poured out from a pipeline near Cook Inlet for almost four months; last Friday Hilcorp Alaska said a temporary repair finally halted the leak. And the recent spill doesn’t look good for BP; April 20 will mark the seven year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill which killed 11 people and harmed wildlife. Sierra Club’s Alaska Program Director Dan Ritzman said in a statement, “Oil companies continue to treat Alaska with reckless abandon, threatening its pristine waters, wildlife, and communities. Big Oil has repeatedly proven it can’t drill for fossil fuels safely…It’s past time that Donald Trump and his friends in the fossil fuel industry put Alaska ahead of corporate polluter’s profits which only threaten the state’s beauty and environment .” Via EcoWatch and The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and BP Facebook

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BP oil and gas spill near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge under control

Taiwan is first Asian country to ban eating cats and dogs

April 18, 2017 by  
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Even abject carnivores in the West balk at the idea of raising dogs and cats for their meat, but East and Southeast Asian countries, particularly those mired in poverty, do not share those qualms. As incomes, not to mention concerns over animal welfare, continue to grow in those regions, however, the practice is slowly but steadily on the decline . Taiwan is willing to take the next leap: outlawing it altogether. Legislature passed recently will make the island nation the first in Asia to ban dog and cat consumption, according to Newsweek . After Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen signs the amendments, anyone caught eating dog or cat meat will be fined $8,000. Those involved in slaughtering the animals could face two years in jail and a $60,000 fine. Related: Killing dogs and cats for meat is still legal in 44 U.S. states The move dovetails with an earlier law, passed in 2001, that made illegal the sale of meat and fur of pets for so-called “economic purposes.” Tsai herself is a known animal lover. Last year, she adopted three retired guide dogs, who now cohabit a home with Tsai’s two cats, Think Think and A-Tsai. Via Newsweek Photos by Unsplash

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Taiwan is first Asian country to ban eating cats and dogs

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