Biggest environmental news stories of the decade

December 31, 2019 by  
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As we begin a new decade, we’re taking a look over the biggest environmental news stories since 2010. There’s a little good news, and a lot of not-so-good news. Still, we can look back and learn from what is happening in the hopes of taking action and restoring a brighter future for our planet. Climate change moves into the mainstream, and more kids get involved While a few climate deniers still fill high-ranking political posts, climate change is much more widely accepted as fact — rather than something to “believe in” — than it was in 2010. According to the TED blog, only four TED Talks specifically on climate change were posted in 2010 and 2011, although speakers mentioned the phenomenon. By 2015, TED said, people had shifted to seeing climate change as happening now, rather than in the far-off future, thanks to debates about whether or not places like the island nation of Kiribati were already sinking. Related: 12 good things that happened for the environment in 2019 By the end of the decade, climate change is on the forefront of many people’s minds, especially young people. Worldwide movements like Extinction Rebellion use massive, nonviolent protests to urge politicians to slow the warming. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg rose to international prominence, taking politicians to task about ignoring climate change and even being named Time Magazine’s person of the year in 2019. Deepwater Horizon The decade started with a tragic oil spill on April 20, 2010, one of the worst in history. The explosion on British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operating in the Gulf of Mexico, killed 11 people. It leaked oil into the gulf for 87 days, for a total of 3.19 million barrels of crude oil polluting the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Images of people trying to wipe oil off pelican wings filled the news. Cleanup costs reached at least $65 billion . In addition to economic blows, especially to Louisiana’s shrimp and oyster industries, the animal death toll was high. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, about 82,000 birds, 6,165 sea turtles, 25,900 marine mammals and uncountable numbers of fish perished in the spill. Researchers are still gauging the long-term effects. Extreme weather events become more frequent As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned, global warming escalates weather disasters. The last decade saw 111 climate-related natural disasters that each cost more than $1 billion in damage. These include tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, drought, heatwaves and winter storms. In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, killing 2,981 people and costing an estimated $93.6 billion in damages. Notable U.S. disasters included Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the Missouri tornadoes of 2011. Animal extinctions Humans continued to edge out other animals in the struggle for habitat and resources. According to the World Wildlife Fund , species loss currently stands at between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate, which is the rate Earth would lose species if humans didn’t exist. In 2012, Lonesome George, the last Pinta tortoise , died at over 100 years old. Formosan clouded leopards no longer slink across Taiwan. The Christmas Island pipistrelle, a microbat, has ceased its ultrasonic squeaking. No more baiji dolphins cavort in the Yangtze River. In this last decade, the planet also lost Caribbean monk seals, West African black rhinos, Madagascar hippopotami and Liverpool pigeons. Rainforest deforestation The decade’s final year witnessed much of the Amazonian rainforest go up in smoke. Brazil and Bolivia were particularly hit hard. Many attributed this tragedy at least in part to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s push for development over preservation. Horrifying photos from the National Institute for Space Research revealed enormous bald swaths where trees once stood. During its peak in August 2019, more than 70,000 individual fires were burning. The rainforest plays a critical role in regulating the entire world’s climate, so concerns stretched far beyond Brazil. Related: Amazon rainforest might reach irreversible tipping point as early as 2021 Increase in ocean plastic During the last decade, plastic continued to fill the oceans. But awareness of ocean plastic also grew. A 2018 United Nations study reported that people dump approximately 13 million tons of plastic into the world’s oceans annually, and the researchers expected this number to grow. At the same time, many concerned citizens in cities around the world worked to decrease plastic waste by banning straws and plastic bags. Some hotel chains vowed to no longer stock beverages packaged in single-use plastic bottles. Many companies started developing products made from recycled plastic. Reusable water bottles became an important fashion accessory. China stopped buying American recycling Americans became more adept at recycling , but they weren’t necessarily aware where their recycled goods went. In 2018, China enacted a policy called National Sword. Suddenly, Americans realized their old plastic had largely been going to China , but China didn’t want it anymore. Now at the end of the decade, American cities are scrambling to save unprofitable recycling programs. Ironically, some cities have canceled these programs just when they’ve convinced people to recycle. Right now, it’s cheaper for American companies to produce new plastic than to recycle old. This is one of the many environmental problems that must be addressed in the coming decade. Images via Shutterstock

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Biggest environmental news stories of the decade

Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet

August 3, 2018 by  
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Approximately 94% of the 111 species and subspecies of lemur are under threat of extinction in their native country of Madagascar – the only place they exist outside of captivity. Of the remaining lemur groups, only six do not face high risk of extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species . This retrogression was revealed by the Primate Specialist Group , a conservation organization that has been analyzing current threats to the survival of lemur populations and their habitats. Chair of the Primate Specialist Group and Chief Conservation Officer of  Global Wildlife Conservation  Russ Mittermeier indicated that the “very high extinction risk to Madagascar’s unique lemurs” would compound, generating “grave threats to Madagascar’s biodiversity as a whole.” Loss of habitat poses the single greatest threat the lemurs now face in the wild. Developments in illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture, as well as mining activities and charcoal production, are ultimately determining the fate of these endangered animals. Related: Conservationists sound the alarm to address ‘America’s wildlife crisis’ Lemurs also face threats from pet trading hobbyists or hunters who wish to turn them into food. Once a delicacy, lemur’s presence on menus has become more and more mainstream in Madagascar, according to Professor Christoph Schweitzer of the Bristol Zoological Society . In an interview with BBC News , Schwitzer commented, “More and more, we are seeing unsustainable levels of lemur poaching. We see commercial hunting as well – probably for local restaurants. And this is a new phenomenon for Madagascar – we didn’t see it at this scale 15 years ago” Although many would bow their heads at the unfortunate fate of the lemurs, Schwitzer is an optimist. People “need to shout about these problems and get the message out there” he remarked. “When we published the lemur action plan and the media picked up on it, suddenly we had people call offering to help – to donate money or other resources. That can really make a difference,” he remarked. The “lemur action plan” has already had an effect, protecting habitats that contain the densest numbers of lemur species while helping Madagascar boost its ecotourism in the hopes of tackling poverty. By helping the local people economically, the groups involved in the plan are deterring hunting and other activities destructive to the tropical forests that provide the lemurs with their natural habitat. + Global Wildlife Conservation + IUCN Via BBC News

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Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet

Study Confirms Mass Stranding of Whales Caused by Sonar Mapping

October 11, 2013 by  
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Humpback Whales in Madagascar, photo by Marco Zanferrari on Flickr Fleets of seafaring vessels have used sonar mapping to gain a clear picture of the ocean for years – however recently there has been growing concern over the effects of sonar on sea mammals. Now, for the very first time, an independent study confirms that this technique is responsible for a large-scale marine mammal stranding . In 2008, 100 melon-headed whales from the Loza Lagoon system in northwest Madagascar washed ashore due to sonar activities conducted by ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Limited. Read the rest of Study Confirms Mass Stranding of Whales Caused by Sonar Mapping Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: dr. howard rosenbaum , exxonmobil , high frequency sonar , international fund for animal welfare , loza lagoon system , madagascar , melon headed whale , navy testing , ocean giants program , oil exploration , US Navy , whale mass stranding , wildlife conservation society        

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Study Confirms Mass Stranding of Whales Caused by Sonar Mapping

The Biomimicry Manual: What Can the Aye-Aye Teach Us About Echolocation?

August 21, 2013 by  
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You know bats and dolphins ‘echolocate’ to find their prey, sending out blips of squeaky SONAR-like sound waves that bounce off fish or moths in the dark. And people do it, too, using expensive equipment. But how about a monkey? The aye-aye ( Daubentonia madagascariensis ) is certainly no ordinary monkey. In fact, its not a monkey at all, but a highly specialized lemur from the island of Madagascar . Read the rest of The Biomimicry Manual: What Can the Aye-Aye Teach Us About Echolocation? Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: aye-aye , bioinspired design , biomimicry , Dobby , echolocation , Gollum , lemur , madagascar , SONAR , Swiss Army Knife , ultrasound , yoda        

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Goal Zero’s New Lighthouse 250 Lantern Charges Your Devices in the Wilderness

August 21, 2013 by  
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Goal Zero prides itself in making products for living off the grid, but their new Lighthouse 250 Lantern brings a little technology to your camp . The solar powered lantern is equipped with a USB power hub, to keep gadgets fully charged while you relax by the fire . If you don’t have devices to power up, the rechargeable battery keeps the Lighthouse 250 Lantern aglow for up to 48 hours. Read the rest of Goal Zero’s New Lighthouse 250 Lantern Charges Your Devices in the Wilderness Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “portable generator” , eco design , goal zero , Goal Zero Lighthouse Lantern 250 , green design , solar powered lantern , sustainable design        

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Will a 10 Cent Fee Finally Get New Yorkers to Kick the Plastic Bag Habit?

August 21, 2013 by  
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They say the best things in life are free, but unfortunately so are some of the worst things – like plastic bags at New York City groceries, convenience stores and other retailers. But that could soon change if a new bill that was introduced today by the New York City Council is passed. The proposed legislation would charge consumers at least 10 cents per bag in hopes that frugal shoppers will quit the plastic habit and begin carrying around reusable totes. READ MORE > Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: litter , new york city , plastic bag ban , plastic bags , plastic pollution , plastic tax , plastic waste , reusable bags , Shopping , shopping bags        

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London’s Largest Living Wall Sprouts Up on a Hotel in Victoria

August 21, 2013 by  
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London’s Largest Living Wall Sprouts Up on a Hotel in Victoria

Report Warns New York’s Indian Point Nuclear Plant is Vulnerable to Terrorist Attacks

August 21, 2013 by  
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A new report by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project warns that the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant located just 38 miles north of New York City is practically defenseless against terrorist attacks . The report states that the plant (which is already sitting on an earthquake fault line) is vulnerable to sniper and rocket-propelled grenade attacks, and it could be easily struck by a ship as well. READ MORE > Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: department of defense , Department of Energy , Indian Point , National Institute of Standards and Technology , New York. , nuclear power , Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project , Regulatory Commission , renewable energy , terrorism , terrorists , university of texas , Washington DC        

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Matali Crasset’s Pop Up Library Offers Light Reading and Shade on a French Beach

August 21, 2013 by  
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Matali Crasset’s Pop Up Library Offers Light Reading and Shade on a French Beach

Scientists Propose Planting Trees in the Desert to Combat Climate Change

August 5, 2013 by  
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Desert photo from Shutterstock A group of German scientists led by Klaus Becker of the University of Hohenheim believes that planting drought-tolerant vegetation in arid regions could capture CO2 and mitigate the effects of climate change . In an article published in the July edition of Earth System Dynamics , the team identifies the species Jatropha curcas as the ideal tree for their method of “carbon farming”. The tree is able to withstand high temperatures, and it can flourish in coastal desert regions when supplied with desalinated seawater . The scientists posit ares in Egypt, India and Madagascar as the best locations for cultivation. Read the rest of Scientists Propose Planting Trees in the Desert to Combat Climate Change Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: arabia , CO2 , desert , earth system dynamics , egypt , germany , India , jatropha curcas , klaus becker , madagascar , stuttgart , university of hohenheim        

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