Scientists discover how to stop banana peels from browning

May 13, 2022 by  
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Understanding and changing how banana peels brown could help the world save tons of food that go to waste each year, according to a new study published in “ Physical Biology .” The researchers looked at the root cause of browning in bananas and other fruit typically found in someone’s home. They found that the browning process is caused by enzymes and air reactions. Although this is a known fact, there have been no efforts in the past to observe how this process can be controlled. The researchers now say browning can be stopped by genetic modification and proper storage of fruit. Related: 10 ways to use up mushy, overripe bananas One of the ways proposed by the researchers is storing bananas in cooled containers under a modified atmosphere. The researchers also found that the formation of spots could be slowed down by decreasing oxygen in their formation sites.  Browning of fruit, including bananas, leads to an estimated 50 million tons of food waste every year. With the world grappling with food security , the researchers say losses could be prevented. Bananas are among the universally accepted foods and are produced massively across the world. Saving bananas from browning could increase food security for the world at large. “For 2019, the total production of bananas was estimated to be 117 million tons, making it a leading crop in the world,” says Oliver Steinbock, lead author of the research. “When bananas ripen, they form numerous dark spots that are familiar to most people and are often used as a ripeness indicator. However, the process of how these spots are formed, grow, and their resulting pattern remained poorly understood, until now.” The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Florida State University, led by Steinbock. Over time, Steinbock found that it is possible to protect fruit from turning brown as fast as they do. “Fruit browning continues to be a major challenge for the food industry. Our study offers a model for banana spotting which is capable of capturing their evolution in a physically meaningful context and which can be applied to procedures to mitigate food waste ,” Steinbock said. Via Natural History Museum Lead image via Pexel s

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Vegan dog food diets examined in new study

April 14, 2022 by  
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Fido might not like this news, but a new peer-reviewed study concluded that vegan dog food diets are healthier than omnivorous ones. The analysis of 2,500 canines found that vegan  dogs  take fewer medications and require fewer veterinarian visits. Dog owners completed surveys which were analyzed by the study’s authors. Funded by ProVeg, an organization advocating for reduced consumption of animals, the study was  published in the journal PLoS ONE . A little more than half of the survey participants fed their dogs a conventional meat-based diet. A third of the dogs dined on raw  meat , and the other 13% were vegan. Related: Magic Johnson Park is the first off-leash dog park in South LA Of the ordinary dog food dogs, 17% visited the vet four or more times over the year of the study. Nine percent of the  vegan  dogs and 8% of the raw food dogs saw their physicians that frequently. Reports showed that 49% of dogs with a conventional diet had health disorders compared to the 43% on a raw meat diet and the 36% with a vegan diet. The raw meat dogs scored slightly better in some areas than the vegan dogs but were also about a year younger on average. Study leader Andrew Knight, of the University of Winchester, U.K., mentioned that prior studies have revealed that dogs on raw meat diets usually suffer from more pathogenic  bacteria  and parasites than other dogs. “Our study is by far the largest study published to date,” said Knight, as reported by The Guardian. “It revealed that the  healthiest  and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs are nutritionally sound vegan diets.” However, Knight said more research is needed. “The key limitation of our study is that we didn’t have a population of animals locked up in a  research  facility and fed one specific diet without any alteration,” he said. “We studied what real dogs in normal homes ate and their health outcomes. It gives us a good indication as to what the outcomes are for dogs in the real world.” The British Veterinary Association doesn’t want pet owners storming the  tofu  aisle yet, though. Justine Shotton, the association’s president, warns that more research needs to map the health consequences of a vegan diet on a large number of dogs over many years before drawing conclusions. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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A photographer captures glacier melt over the years

April 14, 2022 by  
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Mona Miri holds many titles in the art world. As photo editor and photo art director of photography for Boston Magazine, she is charged with overseeing all of the photography from cover to cover of each publication. She also is a regularly contributing photographer. Even with those accomplishments, she’s perhaps most well known for her work on changing landscapes. Her ICE PROJECT is one such work, highlighting the melting glaciers as a result of climate change.  The ICE PROJECT is a compilation of five photographs that reflect the change in glacier spread and depth over a period of time. The project also reflects Miri’s passion and focus on the environment through her practice as a sustainability photographer.  Related: Antarctic sea ice melt phenomenon explained in new research Each image is described in detail by the photographer. As an overview, the first two and fifth photographs are diptychs. They are intended to show the before and after landscape of different areas. Two national parks are represented in the work: the Glacier National Park in Montana and Chugach National Forest in Alaska. Furthermore, the series previously exhibited in celebration of Earth month. “In June 2019, ICE #1 from ICE PROJECT was accepted as a finalist in the Earth Photo London, which was exhibited at the Royal Geological Society in London with a traveling exhibition for one year in England’s National Forests,” Miri said. ICE #1 Grinnell Glacier in Montana has seen excessive melting glaciers in the past decade. The glacier is melting so fast that it is one of the most visibly affected by climate change occurring in a U.S. Park. Soon enough, Glacier Park, hence the name, will have no more glaciers because of warming temperatures.  In this image on the right, taken in 2017 at Iceberg Lake in Grinnell Glacier, you can see the receding icebergs and the receding mouth of the glacier, which now is relatively a lake. The image on the left, taken in 1910 by John Morton, in collaboration with University of Montana image archives, shows the peak of Grinnell looking down at the mouth of the glacier. It is visible the contrast of melting glaciers in the before and after comparison. ICE #2 Portage Glacier in Alaska’s Chugach National Forest is another glacier that has seen rapidly changing effects of climate change in the past 100 years. The image on the left was taken in 1939 from the archives of the U.S. Geological Survey. It shows the terminus, or mouth, of the glacier as it appeared during this time. On the right exhibits the front of the glacier in 2017. Since 1939, the terminus and the mouth of the glacier has receded more than three miles from where it used to be in 1939.  ICE #3 Portage Glacier, a close-up image, shows the glacier runoff from the hanging glacier. This is caused when there is excessive and rapid melting. It is also a normal process where the glacier water helps habitation during the summer months. In 2019, Alaska recorded the hottest summer on record, which resulted in excessive melting in the region.  ICE #4 Another close-up view of Portage Glacier and glacier runoff from the receding hanging glacier.  ICE #5 Portage Glacier in 1958 is seen on the left photo taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It shows the glacier and P ortage Lake filled with icebergs and ice. The glaciers already started retreating from the 1930s. Portage Glacier once ended on land, on the other side of what it is now Portage Lake.  About Photographer Mona Miri Miri began her career as a fine art landscape photographer. She has always been drawn to changing landscapes. In addition to the environmental series, her portfolio includes natural scenery, industrial landscapes and urban elements. Her work was featured in The Boston Globe, L.A. times, Improper Bostonian Magazine, PDN Magazine, Digital Photographer Magazine U.S. and U.K., CMYK Photography Magazine and more. Her photography has also been included at the Copley Society of Art Gallery (CO|SO) in Boston . In addition to being recognized in print, her self-portrait, Re?ect, received the JoAnne Gonzalla Award for Excellence in Art and received an Environmental Stewardship Award from Sterling Planet. According to her bio, “In January of 2009, she showcased her Sustainable Photography work sponsored by the city of San Francisco at the Somart Cultural Center. Currently residing in the Fort Point artist community, she has been exhibited at the FPAC gallery, at the Envoy Gallery and has been involved in open studios since 2015.”  As a photographer , Miri’s work on the ICE PROJECT highlights changes that seem to happen too slowly for the human eye to consume. She converts it into an easily digestible, and impactful, statement about the irreversible damage of climate change.  + Mona Miri Photography Photography by Mona Miri Photography 

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A photographer captures glacier melt over the years

Miller Hull’s EMission Zero program offsets tons of carbon

April 12, 2022 by  
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A Seattle-based architecture firm has offset 16,679 tons of carbon and counting. The firm, Miller Hull, has focused on sustainability and environmentally-friendly policies since its founding. Its achievement was possible through the firm’s EMission Zero program. This program seeks to eliminate greenhouse gases in the built environment. And so far, the program seems to be a huge success. It’s time to breathe a little easier. Miller Hull, known for award-winning sustainable designs, launched EMission Zero in 2021. The building industry is responsible for about 40% of all global greenhouse gas emissions . EMission Zero wants to fix that. Related: A LEED Gold-targeted health education hub joins University of Washington campus The program addresses problems from multiple angles. One of these angles is regenerative design. Regenerative design means creating buildings styled for energy performance, water efficiency and sustainability. The goal is to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change’s impact. Meanwhile, Miller Hull has also purchased Green-E certified carbon offsets to cover the emissions created by each of its built projects. Last year, Miller Hull fulfilled this by purchasing offset embodied carbon emissions for seven projects. This included a new U.S. Embassy building, the Santa Monica City Yards Fleet Building and a facility at the University of California Santa Cruz. Miller Hull also looks for ways to reduce emissions along the supply chain. Since 2006, the firm has made an annual purchase of carbon offsets that are equivalent to their operational emissions. Miller Hull calculates the embodied carbon emissions for every project it designs. David Miller and Robert Hull founded Miller Hull in 1977. Both architects were inspired by the natural beauty in the Pacific Northwest. The firm was designing solar buildings in the early 1980s, far ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainable design. The firm’s EMission Zero project centers sustainable design along with education, advocacy and offsetting. These principles guide the program. + Miller Hull Images via Miller Hull

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Miller Hull’s EMission Zero program offsets tons of carbon

How much heat can Earth’s forests handle?

April 11, 2022 by  
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An international team of researchers carried out a study to determine the heat and moisture threshold for Earth’s forests . Published in  Nature Communications , the study answers “how hot is too hot” and “how dry is too dry” for forests. To do this, researchers compiled the first global database of georeferenced forest die-off events at over 675 locations dating to the 1970s.  The study covered all forested continents and compared the information to existing climate data to determine the climatic conditions behind three major mortality episodes. Lead author William Hammond, a University of Florida plant ecophysiologist, says the analysis allows the forests to speak for themselves based on historical occurrences. “In this study, we’re letting the Earth’s forests do the talking,” said Hammond “We collected data from previous studies documenting where and when trees died, and then analyzed what the climate was during mortality events, compared to long-term conditions.” Related: New study provides hope for restoring tropical forests According to Hammond, an analysis of the previous forest mortality events revealed a pattern. The pattern shows that Earth’s forests face the highest mortality risk during extremely hot periods. “What we found was that at the global scale, there was this consistently hotter, drier pattern – what we call a ‘hotter- drought fingerprint’ – that can show us how unusually hot or dry it has to get for forests to be at risk of death,” said Hammond. While every year has hotter months and colder ones, some years are much hotter than others. During these hotter years, Earth’s forests face higher risks of combustion. “Our hotter-drought fingerprint revealed that global forest mortality is linked to intensified climate extremes,” Hammond said. “Using climate model data, we estimated how frequent these previously lethal climate conditions would become under further warming , compared to pre-industrial era climate – 22% more frequent at plus 2 degrees Celsius (plus 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), to 140% more frequently at plus 4 degrees Celsius (plus 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit).” One finding showed that as the planet warms, the frequency of such extremes increases. This increase further threatens forests’ safety. Especially considering trees’ roles in carbon sequestering, monitoring forest temperatures could help prevent them from getting dry enough for destruction. Via Newswise Lead image via Pexels

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Tom Ford plastic alternatives contest awards its 8 winners

April 1, 2022 by  
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The finalists in the world’s only global competition focused exclusively on creating scalable and biologically degradable thin-film  plastic  alternatives were announced this week. The eight finalists bring perspectives and innovations from four continents. The  Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize  is a partnership between American fashion designer and film director Tom Ford and the nonprofit  Lonely Whale , whose mission is to keep plastic  waste  out of the ocean. The competition offers more than $1.2 million in prize money, plus support to get the innovations on the market. Related: Tom Ford launches new plastic film alternative competition “What we accomplish together through this competition will catalyze global change across continents, countries and industries, which is urgently needed to address plastic  pollution ,” Ford said in a statement. Meet the plastic alternatives finalists From  Kenya ,  Lwanda Biotech  addresses both agricultural waste and community-level plastic pollution with packaging alternatives. Zerocircle  is based in India, where it cultivates seaweed to make packaging that’s safe for wildlife and the ocean. Icelandic start-up  Marea   is looking toward algae to make biodegradable alternatives to thin-film plastic. The  U.K.  has three finalists. Sustainable biotech company  Kelpi , based in Bath, is also working with seaweed, as is London-based  Notpla . A spinout from the University of Cambridge,  Xampla   is turning pea and other plant proteins into plastic alternatives. The two North American finalists are  Canadian  biotech firm  Genecis , which is reprogramming and upcycling bacteria from low-value organic waste, and  Sway , an American company that is also in camp seaweed. Judges chose finalists from 64 applications representing 26 countries and six continents. The talented eight finalists will now spend a year in  material  testing. They will need to demonstrate that their plastic alternatives are biologically degradable, meet industry standards and have minimal adverse environmental and social impacts. They also must be scalable and cost-competitive. What’s the connection between  fashion  and thin-film plastic? Every year, the fashion industry uses about 180 billion thin-film plastic polybags. Thin-film plastic accounts for an estimated 46% of new plastic entering the ocean annually. “The ambition of this Prize is unparalleled, and is poised to claim the largest commercial shift away from non-recyclable thin-film plastic,” said Dune Ives, CEO of Lonely Whale. “We’ve long believed that the solutions to the plastic waste crisis exist, and by working together we can ensure a future free from plastic in the  ocean .” Via Plastic Prize Lead image via Pexels Additional images courtesy of Kelpi, Notpla, Sway, Lwanda Biotech, Xampla and Zerocircle

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Tom Ford plastic alternatives contest awards its 8 winners

Giant goldfish, the eco-threat you didn’t know about

March 28, 2022 by  
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Forget sewer-dwelling gators.  Toronto  biologists are saying it’s giant goldfish that should be worrying us. Last summer, biologists in Toronto discovered more than 20,000 goldfish in a single  stormwater  drain. Freed from the confines of a fishbowl, some had bulked up to three pounds. And don’t think you’re safe from supergoldies if you live outside of Toronto. Around North America, goldfish flourish in ponds built to capture runoff and rain. Related: These goldfish learned to drive with the help of scientists It turns out that goldfish, which originated in East Asia, are more than pampered pets. They’re  climate change  survivors who have learned to thrive in the warm and ever-fluctuating environment of stormwater ponds. They’ve even adapted metabolically to survive without oxygen for up to five months. Scientists are worried these puffed-up climate warriors could edge out native species as global warming further depletes oxygen levels in rivers and lakes. Goldfish have a messy eating style that involves gulping fine sediment from river and  lake  bottoms and swirling it in their mouths before spitting it back out. Then they gobble whatever food separates from the sediment. This makes the water murky. Without enough light filtering through the water, aquatic plants can die and species that rely on vision for hunting may go hungry. “Are we creating these ‘superinvaders’ that are likely to have incrementally greater impacts in the  wild  under climate change?” asks Nicholas Mandrak, a biologist at the University of Toronto Scarborough, as reported by Scientific American. Mandrak is one of the scientists studying the adaptations of pollution-tolerant fish. Since stormwater ponds are usually isolated from waterways, experts are trying to figure out how to keep it that way. One strategy for separating supergoldies from more desirable fish is to place signs around ponds asking fish owners to not dump their unwanted pets . Additionally, land developers could be encouraged to build barriers between ponds and other waterways, or to stock ponds with largemouth bass and other native goldfish predators. Via Scientific American Lead image via Pixabay

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Research links air pollution and autoimmune diseases

March 17, 2022 by  
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Research has found that long-term exposure to air pollution increases the risk of autoimmune disease. A  study  by researchers at the University of Verona in Italy determined that exposure to high levels of pollution increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 40% and inflammatory bowel disease by 20%.  The researchers analyzed the medical information of 81,363 adults in Italy to find the relationship between pollution and autoimmune conditions. Patient monitoring occurred from 2016 to 2020. Over this period, about 12% of participants were diagnosed with autoimmune disease . Researchers compared patient data against air quality monitoring stations for their residential postcodes. Related: Fine particulate air pollution linked to increased dementia risk Patients who experienced long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) were at a 12-13% higher risk of developing autoimmune disease. These fine particles are mainly produced by vehicles and power stations.  According to Felicity Gavins, director of the Centre for Inflammation Research and Translational Medicine at Brunel University London , there is evidence to link autoimmune conditions with air pollution. “This study further supports the mounting evidence suggesting a link between air pollution exposure and immune-mediated diseases,” Gavins said. “Whether air pollution exposure specifically causes autoimmune diseases remains controversial, although there is no doubt that there is a link.” Exposure to particulate matter has already been linked with many other conditions. According to a  global review  published in 2019, almost every cell in the human body can be affected by dirty air. Researchers have even linked polluted air to increased risk for strokes, brain cancer, mental health problems and miscarriages. However, Gavins acknowledges that the recent study doesn’t give conclusive results. Further studies can provide more insight into Italy’s rising cases of autoimmune conditions. Gavins notes that smoking may contribute to the situation. Dr. Giovanni Adami, one of the study’s authors from the University of Verona said, “The World Health Organization has recently identified air pollution as  one of the greatest environmental risks to health . Our study provides new real-life evidence on the link between autoimmune diseases and air pollution exposure. In addition, there is a strong biological rationale underpinning our findings. However, a causal relationship is hard to prove. Indeed, it is unlikely that randomised controlled studies could be conducted on such topic.” Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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World turns to cloud seeding amid drought and climate change

March 15, 2022 by  
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Global leaders are turning to weather modification to make up for shortages caused by climate change. In the past two years, several western U.S. states have begun cloud seeding. This entails releasing silver iodide particles and other aerosols into the clouds to boost snow or rainfall. States that have invested significantly in cloud seeding include Idaho, Colorado, Utah, California and Wyoming. Seeding is also a key measure in the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan.  In 2020, a  study  conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado in partnership with the National Center for Atmospheric Research provided evidence that cloud seeding works. The researchers used complex radar and metrological methods to demonstrate that cloud seeding increases precipitation. Consequently, more countries began adopting the approach to deal with drought. Related: China’s new rain-making system could increase rainfall by billions of cubic feet “ Cloud seeding works,” said Katja Friedrich, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado and lead author of the study. “We know that. We know that from experiments in the lab. We also have enough evidence that it works in nature. Really the question is: We still don’t have a very great understanding of how much water we can produce.” Other countries using cloud seeding include China and the UAE. In the UAE, a weather enhancement factory can conduct up to 250 cloud seeding flares each week. Meanwhile, China already spends millions of dollars each year on weather modification. The Chinese government uses anti-aircraft guns to launch iodide flares into the sky in semi-arid regions to the north and west. In recent years, the U.S. has grappled with difficult droughts. A  study  published in Nature Climate Change established that the period between 2000 and 2022 has been the driest in western U.S. history since 800 A.D. The study attributes this to human-caused climate change. While cloud seeding is a reasonable solution to some leaders, some experts warn it is an unreliable solution to drought problems. Cloud seeding only increases precipitation by up to 10%. Further, experts say that there may not be enough storms to seed if climate change continues. Via Grist Lead image via Pexels

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World turns to cloud seeding amid drought and climate change

World turns to cloud seeding amid drought and climate change

March 15, 2022 by  
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Global leaders are turning to weather modification to make up for shortages caused by climate change. In the past two years, several western U.S. states have begun cloud seeding. This entails releasing silver iodide particles and other aerosols into the clouds to boost snow or rainfall. States that have invested significantly in cloud seeding include Idaho, Colorado, Utah, California and Wyoming. Seeding is also a key measure in the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan.  In 2020, a  study  conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado in partnership with the National Center for Atmospheric Research provided evidence that cloud seeding works. The researchers used complex radar and metrological methods to demonstrate that cloud seeding increases precipitation. Consequently, more countries began adopting the approach to deal with drought. Related: China’s new rain-making system could increase rainfall by billions of cubic feet “ Cloud seeding works,” said Katja Friedrich, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado and lead author of the study. “We know that. We know that from experiments in the lab. We also have enough evidence that it works in nature. Really the question is: We still don’t have a very great understanding of how much water we can produce.” Other countries using cloud seeding include China and the UAE. In the UAE, a weather enhancement factory can conduct up to 250 cloud seeding flares each week. Meanwhile, China already spends millions of dollars each year on weather modification. The Chinese government uses anti-aircraft guns to launch iodide flares into the sky in semi-arid regions to the north and west. In recent years, the U.S. has grappled with difficult droughts. A  study  published in Nature Climate Change established that the period between 2000 and 2022 has been the driest in western U.S. history since 800 A.D. The study attributes this to human-caused climate change. While cloud seeding is a reasonable solution to some leaders, some experts warn it is an unreliable solution to drought problems. Cloud seeding only increases precipitation by up to 10%. Further, experts say that there may not be enough storms to seed if climate change continues. Via Grist Lead image via Pexels

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