2016-11-14. Vast and Pristine, Russia’s Lake Baikal Is Invaded by Toxic Algae.
By Rachel Nuwer, The New York Times.
2016-07-13. Global Risks and Research Priorities for Coastal Subsidence.
By Mead Allison, et al, EoS, AGU.
2016-03-25. San Francisco, ‘the Silicon Valley of Recycling’.
By Matt Richter, The New York Times.
2016-02-02. Glyphosate Now the Most-Used Agricultural Chemical Ever.
By Douglas Main, Newsweek.
2015-11-25. Huge development projects could doom Africa’s environment.
By Virginia Morell, Science.
2010-08-31. Up to 90% of seabirds have plastic in their guts, study finds.
By Associated Press, The Guardian.
2015-05-01. Cleveland Indians Have Home-Field Advantage on Recycling.
By Diane Cardwell, The New York Times.
2015-05-01. Hacking Our Diet.
onEarth magazine of NRDC.
2014-07-24. Satellite Study Reveals Parched U.S. West Using Up Underground Water. Excerpt: A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought. ...the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years. The research team used data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission [ http://www.nasa.gov/grace and http://www.csr.utexas.edu/grace] to track changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin, which are related to changes in water amount on and below the surface. ...the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, ...about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) -- was from groundwater. ..."We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study's lead author. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking."... http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/july/satellite-study-reveals-parched-us-west-using-up-underground-water/. NASA RELEASE 14-200.
2014-06-05. Putting a Price Tag on Nature’s Defenses. Excerpt: ...Coastal marshes absorb the wind energy and waves of storms, weakening their impact farther inland. ...the services ecosystems provide us — whether shielding us from storms, preventing soil erosion or soaking up the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming — were [$33 trillion] twice as valuable as the gross national product of every country on Earth in 1997. ...Dr. Costanza and his colleagues have now updated the 1997 estimate in a new study, published in the May issue of the journal Global Environmental Change, and concluded that the original estimate was far too low. The true value of the services of the world’s ecosystems is at least three times as high.... Coral reefs...protect against soil erosion by weakening waves before they reach land. ...Dr. Costanza and his colleagues now consider the services provided by coral reefs to be 42 times more valuable than they did in 1997...a total of $11 trillion worldwide. Most of the 17 services that Dr. Costanza and his colleagues analyzed...— including tropical forests, mangroves and grasslands — also turned out to be more valuable. ...they came up with a global figure of $142.7 trillion a year (in 2014 dollars). ...the world’s reefs shrank from 240,000 square miles in 1997 to 108,000 in 2011. ...deforestation and other damage we’ve inflicted on the natural world has wiped out $23 trillion a year in ecosystem services. To put that loss into perspective, consider that the gross domestic product of the United States is $16.2 trillion.... By Carl Zimmer, The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/05/science/earth/putting-a-price-tag-on-natures-defenses.html.
2014-04-09. The Redeemers. Excerpt: ...Every year, electronics consumers around the world generate at least 20 million tons of “e-waste.” ...The salvageable commodities to be found in our e-waste, mainly precious metals like gold and copper, share space with a number of hazardous and difficult-to-extract materials such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. ...Kabira Stokes, Isidore’s founder and CEO, looks at all of this high-tech trash and sees in it a veritable gold mine (or copper mine, depending). Through a process known as de-manufacturing, her employees collect and sort unwanted electronics donated by individuals or companies. Salvageable metals, plastics, and wire are bundled and sold to certified processors en route to being recycled into new goods.... But at Isidore, the philosophy of redemption doesn’t stop with motherboards and monitors. The men working the floor are themselves part of a reclamation project: each of them came to work at Isidore after serving hard time in California’s correctional system. As ex-prisoners, they are generally considered among the least employable individuals in society. But if the word “recycling” means anything to Stokes, it means believing in second chances and salvation. From a purely business standpoint, it also means capitalizing on the considerable energies and talents of an overlooked, undervalued segment of the labor force. As Stokes puts it: “It doesn’t make sense that just because someone messes up and serves time, we never actually forgive them. It’s not working. And it’s a waste of value.”.... http://www.onearth.org/articles/2014/04/electronics-need-second-chances-at-life-and-so-do-people. By Lynell George, OnEarth magazine (NRDC).
2013-12-17. How Beyoncé Is Saving the Planet With Her New Album. Excerpt: Purchasing "Beyoncé" online instead of as a CD could cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent. ...the singer and Columbia Records dropped her entire self-titled fifth album exclusively for digital download on iTunes. Of course, it's not the first digital launch, but it's one of the most successful ... moving more than 800,000 electronic copies in just three days to become the US iTunes Store's fastest-selling album ever; ...2009 study found the average compact disc sold in the UK produces around 2.2 pounds of greenhouse gases across its lifecycle: recording, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, transport, and promotion. Packaging accounted for more than a third of these emissions. ...And let's not forget Beyoncé's complete lack of pre-promotion for the album. ...A United Kingdom report from data collected in 2009 for the British Recorded Music Industry and the Association of Independent Music (UK) shows the current emissions from promo CDs from the indie music sector alone is around 1,700 metric tons—equivalent to more than three times the annual energy, water, and waste emissions from a single music arena. By completely switching to digital delivery of these releases, the independent music sector could save 1,525 metric tons of CO2 annually. That's a reduction of 86 percent.... http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/12/beyonce-secret-album-helping-planet-climate. James West, Mother Jones.
2013-09-15. How to replace foam and plastic packaging with mushroom experiments. Excerpt: ..."We're taking local farm waste and mixing it with tissues from mushrooms and growing replacements for plastic foams that are used in protective packaging," explains Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and one of the chief scientists at Ecovative Design, a "revolutionary new biomaterials company" in Green Island.... More traditional Styrofoam packaging is made of polystyrene, an unsustainable petrochemical, and can take up to a million years to biodegrade naturally. One of Ecovative's goals is to develop packaging materials that not only decompose faster and more naturally, but also give back to the ecosystem. They do this by utilizing mycelium, the microscopic root structure that allows mushrooms to grow on trees and spread throughout the forest floor.... Local agricultural waste, such as corn stalks and husks, is cleaned and then mixed with mycelium. The mixture is incubated for about two days before being ground up and packed into molds. After allowing the mycelium to grow and fill out for about three more days, the molds are baked in a low-temperature oven to prevent further growth. They are then removed from the molds and trimmed to fit as packaging pieces for electronics, car parts, and more.... They're currently developing insulation for houses, using the same mushroom root growth structure to create a layer between the interior walls and exterior siding. The mycelium growth between the walls provides insulation, structure, and even an extra layer of protection for homes." The mycelium itself acts as a sort of fire retardant," .... http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/techknow/blog/2013/9/15/how-to-replace-foamandplasticpackagingwithmushroomexperiments.html, Meredith Kile, AlJazeera America.
2013-06-19. China puts up a green wall to US trash. Excerpt: Have you ever wondered what happens to the soda can that you toss into a recycling bin? Chances are high that it ends up in China – like 75 percent of the aluminum scrap that the United States exports. Or 60 percent of its scrap paper exports. Or 50 percent of its plastic. But a new Chinese edict, banning "foreign rubbish," has thrown the international scrap and waste trade into turmoil and is posing a major new challenge for US recyclers. ...Chinese recyclers "have got used to expecting 20 percent trash" in the bales of mixed plastics they buy from the US, .... That trash has to be sorted from the recyclables, then buried or burned, further degrading China's environment. ...The international trade has boomed partly because the US cannot dispose of all the waste it generates; .... "If the US border were closed, most of the scrap that is exported today would go to landfill," says Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. "We don't have the capacity to absorb it all." ..."We used to send garbage because it was the cheapest thing to do and because the Chinese would accept it," Mr. Powell explains. The new Chinese policy, he says, will force US recyclers either to sort recyclables more carefully, or to recycle more material in the US, or both..... http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2013/0619/China-puts-up-a-green-wall-to-US-trash. Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor.
2013-06-18. Why Bottled Water Is Insane. Excerpt: ...while that bottle of [water] goes for $1.79, the same amount from your tap ... might go for $.00063 for the same 20 oz.... to illustrate the general insanity of bottled water ... in Colorado...marketing equals an unceasing stream of semi-trucks driving between a series of wells and a bottling plant in Denver, about three hours away. One truck pulls up, fills, and drives on, to be immediately replaced by another empty truck, and so on. In the process, they are draining an aquifer that feeds the Arkansas River. [the bottled water company] has purchased the rights to this water from the municipality of Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. Water that [the company] takes from the Arkansas is replaced by [the company's] water supply, and then pumped into the river not far upstream from [the company's] wells. So [the company] takes water from the Arkansas, trucks it, bottles it, and then trucks it again to stores. Meanwhile, it's returning the same amount of water in less marketable form to the river.... http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/why-bottled-water-is-insane. Michael Byrne, Motherboard.
2013-05-23. Scraps and the City. Excerpt: ...Food and other organic material (by which I mean yard waste and prunings) make up a whopping 25 percent of New York’s residential waste stream: that’s a huge amount to potentially divert from landfills and incinerators. Compost it instead and we’d be saving the city money (New York spends more than $330 million a year hauling waste to landfills) and avoiding the generation of the greenhouse gas methane, which is produced when organic material rots in the airless confines of a dump. Not too many people consider the biochemical fallout of their banana peels, but solid-waste managers across the nation are beginning to see organics collection as the next frontier, after recycling, in reducing their waste streams. Today, more than 160 American communities, serving more than 1.2 million households, have programs for separating organics from the trash -- an increase of more than 50 percent since 2009. ...Last month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a pilot program for collecting organic material from the curbsides of several Staten Island neighborhoods, a couple of homeless-services agencies in Brooklyn, three high-rises in Manhattan, and 72 schools in two boroughs. Should the two-year pilot succeed -- with high participation rates and the diversion of significant tonnages -- the program will roll out across the city. ... may take some time for cranky, impatient New Yorkers to get used to the idea of segregating their food scraps, but ...If you make it convenient for people, and teach them that this is an important issue, they will eventually change their behavior. ...Twenty years from now, ...people will shake their heads and say, ‘You were spending $100 million a year exporting food waste to landfills and allowing it to emit methane into the atmosphere? What were you thinking?’” .... http://www.onearth.org/blog/scraps-and-the-city. Elizabeth Royte, On Earth Magazine NRDC.
2013-04-30. A City That Turns Garbage Into Energy Copes With a Shortage. Excerpt: OSLO — This is a city that imports garbage. Some comes from England, some from Ireland. Some is from neighboring Sweden. It even has designs on the American market. ...Oslo, a recycling-friendly place where roughly half the city and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage — household trash, industrial waste, even toxic and dangerous waste from hospitals and drug arrests — has a problem: it has literally run out of garbage to burn.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/world/europe/oslo-copes-with-shortage-of-garbage-it-turns-into-energy.html. John Tagliabue, New York Times.
2012 Sept 03. Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits. By Jeffrey Gettleman, The NY Times. Excerpt: Africa is in the midst of an epic elephant slaughter. Conservation groups say poachers are wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year, more than at any time in the previous two decades, with the underground ivory trade becoming increasingly militarized…ivory, it seems, is the latest conflict resource in Africa, dragged out of remote battle zones, easily converted into cash and now fueling conflicts across the continent. Some of Africa’s most notorious armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Shabab and Darfur’s janjaweed, are hunting down elephants and using the tusks to buy weapons and sustain their mayhem. Organized crime syndicates are linking up with them to move the ivory around the world, exploiting turbulent states, porous borders and corrupt officials from sub-Saharan Africa to China, law enforcement officials say….
2012 Mar 24. Companies Pick Up Used Packaging, and Recycling’s Cost, an article by Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times. Excerpt: … a new trend in recycling, courtesy of the manufacturers who make the original products … assuming the costs of recycling their packaging after consumers are finished with it, a responsibility long imposed on packaged goods companies in Europe and more recently in parts of Asia, Latin America and Canada. …Coca-Cola has a whole subsidiary, Coca-Cola Recycling L.L.C., devoted to its stated goal of ensuring the recycling of 100 percent of its cans and bottles in North America by 2015 and 50 percent in the rest of the world. To that end, seven factories owned wholly or in part by the company toil away around the globe recycling plastic, including one in Spartanburg, S.C. …Coke is also experimenting with nonpetroleum-based packaging materials … PlantBottles made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which are up to 30 percent plant-based and can go through the same process that regular, 100 percent oil-based PET bottles go through. Stonyfield Farm, the Vermont yogurt maker, …told its customers that they could mail in their used cups for recycling. About 200 customers responded. … in 2008, the company struck a deal to put collection bins in Whole Foods stores, and the effort took off. Customers can take any No. 5 container to Whole Foods stores — margarine tubs, other brands’ yogurt containers — where they are collected, taken to a plant for processing, and then turned into toothbrushes and razors by Preserve. Last year, some 11 million six-ounce No. 5 yogurt cups were collected through the program, up from 2.3 million in 2009, according to Stonyfield.
2012 Jan 24. Mercury’s Harmful Reach Has Grown, Study Suggests. By Tony Cenicola/The New York Times. Excerpt: The strict new federal standards limiting pollution from power plants are meant to safeguard human health. But they should have an important side benefit, according to a study being released on Tuesday: protecting a broad array of wildlife that has been harmed by mercury emissions. …Songbirds and bats suffer some of the same types of neurological disorders from mercury as humans and especially children do, says the study, “Hidden Risk,” by the Biodiversity Research Institute, a nonprofit organization in Gorham, Me., that investigates emerging environmental threats. Methylmercury, the most toxic form of the heavy metal, was found to be widespread throughout the Northeast…. The new study found dangerously high levels of mercury in several Northeastern bird species, including rusty blackbirds, saltmarsh sparrows and wood thrushes. Previous studies have shown mercury’s effects on loons and other fish-eating waterfowl, as well as bald eagles, panthers and otters. ... “We’re seeing many other species in a much larger landscape of harm from mercury,” said the principal author, David C. Evers, who is the institute’s executive director. He called the Environmental Protection Agency’s new mercury standards, adopted last month and scheduled to take effect over the next four years, “an excellent step forward in reducing and minimizing the impact on ecosystems and improving ecological health, and therefore our own health.” …Songbirds with blood mercury levels of just 0.7 parts per million generally showed a 10 percent reduction in the rate at which eggs successfully hatched. As mercury increases, reproduction decreases. At mercury levels of greater than 1.7 parts per million, the ability of eggs to hatch is reduced by more than 30 percent, according to the study. … “What people don’t realize is that our rain isn’t just acidic,” said Timothy H. Tear, director of science for the Nature Conservancy in New York. “It is neurotoxic.”…. See also: Sounding an Alarm on Birds and Mercury, By Anthony Depalma
2011 Dec 30. Organic Agriculture May Be Outgrowing Its Ideals. By Elisabeth Rosenthal. Excerpt: ... at this time of year, the tomatoes, peppers and basil certified as organic by the Agriculture Department often hail from the Mexican desert, and are nurtured with intensive irrigation. Growers here on the Baja Peninsula, the epicenter of Mexico’s thriving new organic export sector, describe their toil amid the cactuses as “planting the beach.” Del Cabo Cooperative, a supplier here for Trader Joe’s and Fairway, is sending more than seven and a half tons of tomatoes and basil every day to the United States by truck and plane to sate the American demand for organic produce year-round. But even as more Americans buy foods with the organic label, the products are increasingly removed from the traditional organic ideal: produce that is not only free of chemicals and pesticides but also grown locally on small farms in a way that protects the environment. The explosive growth in the commercial cultivation of organic tomatoes here, for example, is putting stress on the water table. …To carry the Agriculture Department’s organic label on their produce, farms in the United States and abroad must comply with a long list of standards that prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers, hormones and pesticides, for example. But the checklist makes few specific demands for what would broadly be called environmental sustainability, even though the 1990 law that created the standards was intended to promote ecological balance and biodiversity as well as soil and water health. Experts agree that in general organic farms tend to be less damaging to the environment than conventional farms. In the past, however, “organic agriculture used to be sustainable agriculture, but now that is not always the case,” said Michael Bomford, a scientist at Kentucky State University who specializes in sustainable agriculture.... See video.
2011 August 8. An Economist for Nature Calculates the Need for More Protection. By John Moir, The New York Times. Excerpt: Dawn is breaking over this remote upland region, where neat rows of coffee plants cover many of the hillsides. The rising tropical sun saturates the landscape with color, revealing islandlike remnants of native forest scattered among the coffee plantations. But across this bucolic countryside, trouble is brewing. An invasive African insect known as the coffee berry borer is threatening the area’s crops. Local farmers call the pest “la broca”: the borer.
…Since 1991, Dr. Daily, 46, has made frequent trips to this Costa Rican site to conduct one of the tropics’ most comprehensive population-level studies to monitor long-term ecological change.
“We are working to very specifically quantify in biophysical and dollar terms the value of conserving the forest and its wildlife,” she said.
In recent years, Dr. Daily has expanded her research to include a global focus. She is one of the pioneers in the growing worldwide effort to protect the environment by quantifying the value of “natural capital” — nature’s goods and services that are fundamental for human life — and factoring these benefits into the calculations of businesses and governments. Dr. Daily’s work has attracted international attention and has earned her some of the world’s most coveted environmental awards….
2010 September 27. Water Use in Southwest Heads for a Day of Reckoning. By Felicity Barringer, New York Times. Excerpt:
A once-unthinkable day is looming on the Colorado River… Water
distribution may be reordered as early as next year because the flow of
water cannot keep pace with the region's demands.
For the first time, federal estimates issued in August indicate that
Lake Mead, the heart of the lower Colorado basin’s water system —
irrigating lettuce, onions and wheat in reclaimed corners of the
Sonoran Desert, and lawns and golf courses from Las Vegas to Los
Angeles — could drop below a crucial demarcation line of 1,075 feet.
…This could mean more dry lawns, shorter showers and fallow fields in
those states, although conservation efforts might help them adjust to
the cutbacks. California, which has first call on the Colorado River
flows in the lower basin, would not be affected.
…the operating plan also lays out a proposal to prevent Lake Mead from
dropping below the trigger point. It allows water managers to send 40
percent more water than usual downstream to Lake Mead from Lake Powell
in Utah, the river’s other big reservoir, which now contains about 50
percent more water than Lake Mead.
…Adding to water managers’ unease, scientists predict that prolonged
droughts will be more frequent in decades to come as the Southwest’s
climate warms. As Lake Mead’s level drops, Hoover Dam’s capacity to
generate electricity, which, like the Colorado River water, is sent
around the Southwest, diminishes with it. If Lake Mead levels fall to
1,050 feet, it may be impossible to use the dam’s turbines, and the
flow of electricity could cease.
2010 October 5. Japan Recycles Minerals From Used Electronics. By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times. Excerpt:
...Recent problems with Chinese supplies of rare earths have sent
Japanese traders and companies in search of alternative sources,
creating opportunities for Kosaka.
This town’s hopes for a mining comeback lie not underground, but in
what Japan refers to as urban mining — recycling the valuable metals
and minerals from the country’s huge stockpiles of used electronics
like cellphones and computers.
…Two weeks ago, amid a diplomatic spat with Tokyo, China started to block exports of all rare earths to Japan.
…In Kosaka, Dowa Holdings, the company that mined here for over a
century, has built a recycling plant whose 200-foot-tall furnace
renders old electronics parts into a molten stew from which valuable
metals and other minerals can be extracted. The salvaged parts come
from around Japan and overseas, including the United States... Besides
gold, Dowa’s subsidiary, Kosaka Smelting and Refining, has so far
successfully reclaimed rare metals like indium, used in liquid-crystal
display screens, and antimony, used in silicon wafers for
Although Japan is poor in natural resources, the National Institute for
Materials Science, a government-affiliated research group, says that
used electronics in Japan hold an estimated 300,000 tons of rare
earths. Though that amount is tiny compared to reserves in China, which
mines 93 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals, tapping these
urban mines could help reduce Japan’s dependence on its neighbor,
…Japan is also pushing for new manufacturing processes that do not require rare earths.
…But this form of recycling is an expensive and technically difficult process that is still being perfected.
At Dowa’s plant, computer chips and other vital parts from electronics
are hacked into two-centimeter squares. This feedstock then must be
smelted in a furnace that reaches 1,400 degrees Celsius before various
minerals can be extracted. The factory processes 300 tons of materials
a day, and each ton yields only about 150 grams of rare metals.
2010 September 18. Cleaner for the Environment, Not for the Dishes. By Mireya Navarro, The New York Times.Excerpt:
…Responding to laws that went into effect in 17 states in July, the
nation’s detergent makers reformulated their products to reduce what
had been the crucial ingredient, phosphates, to just a trace.
While phosphates help prevent dishes from spotting in the wash cycle,
they have long ended up in lakes and reservoirs, stimulating algae
growth that deprives other plants and fish of oxygen.
Yet now, with the content reduced, many consumers are finding the new
formulas as appealing as low-flow showers, underscoring the tradeoffs
that people often face today in a more environmentally conscious
…The new products can run up against longtime habits and even cultural concepts of cleanliness.
…Jessica Fischburg, a commerce manager in Norwich, Conn., for
CleaningProductsWorld.com, which sells janitorial supplies in bulk,
said she was not surprised that many of her clients rejected products
marketed as environmentally friendly. “The reality of any green product
is that they generally don’t work as well,” she said. “Our customers
really don’t like them.”
…But some users attest to quantifiable benefits. Reports of burns,
rashes, dizziness and scratchy throats among housekeeping employees
have plummeted at North Central Bronx Hospital and Jacobi Medical
Center since the staff switched to new cleaning products in 2004…
…Phosphorus pollution comes from multiple sources, including fertilizer
and manure that enter the water through runoff. Dishwasher detergents
contribute just a fraction, but environmental campaigners say any
reduction can result in a tangible improvements. (Laundry detergents
and hand soaps are already free of phosphates.)
2010 July 26. NSF Press Release 10-126: Latest Green Packing Material? Mushrooms! Excerpt:
...The composite of inedible agricultural waste and mushroom roots is
called Mycobond™, and its manufacture requires just one eighth the
energy and one tenth the carbon dioxide of traditional foam packing
…With support from NSF, [Gavin] McIntyre and [Eben] Bayer are
developing a new, less energy-intensive method to sterilize their
agricultural-waste starter material--a necessary step for enabling the
mushroom fibers, called mycelia, to grow. McIntyre and Bayer are
replacing a steam-heat process with a treatment made from cinnamon-bark
oil, thyme oil, oregano oil and lemongrass oil.
…Much of the manufacturing process is nearly energy-free, with the
mycelia growing around and digesting agricultural starter
material--such as cotton seed or wood fiber--in an environment that is
both room-temperature and dark. Because the growth occurs within a
molded plastic structure (which the producers customize for each
application), no energy is required for shaping the products.
…Bayer and McIntyre are hoping the entire process can be packaged as a
kit, allowing shipping facilities, and even homeowners, to grow their
own Mycobond™ materials.
…Based on a preliminary assessment McIntyre and Bayer conducted under
their Phase I NSF SBIR award, the improvements to the sterilization
phase will reduce the energy of the entire manufacturing process to one
fortieth of that required to create polymer foam.
…In addition to the packaging product, called EcoCradle™, Ecovative has
developed a home insulation product dubbed greensulate™. Comparable in
effectiveness to foam insulation, it is also highly flame retardant.
2010 July 23. E.P.A. Considers Risks of Gas Extraction. By Tom Zeller Jr., The New York Times. Excerpt:
CANONSBURG, Pa. … Streams of people came to the public meeting here
armed with stories of yellowed and foul-smelling well water, deformed
livestock, poisoned fish and itchy skin… The culprit, these people
argued, was hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting natural gas
that involves blasting underground rock with a cocktail of water, sand
…Gas companies countered that the horror stories described in
Pennsylvania and at other meetings held recently in Texas and Colorado
are either fictions or not the companies’ fault. More regulation, the
industry warned, would kill jobs and stifle production of gas, which
the companies consider a clean-burning fuel the nation desperately
…The Environmental Protection Agency has been on a listening tour,
soliciting advice from all sides on how to shape a forthcoming $1.9
million study of hydraulic fracturing’s effect on groundwater.
…Roughly 99.5 percent of the fluids typically used in fracking, the
industry says, are just water and sand, with trace amounts of chemical
thickeners, lubricants and other compounds added to help the process
along. The cocktail is injected thousands of feet below the water table
and, the industry argues, can’t possibly be responsible for growing
complaints of spoiled streams and wells. But critics say that the
relationship between fracking fluids and groundwater contamination has
never been thoroughly studied — and that proving a link has been made
more difficult by oil and gas companies that have jealously guarded as
trade secrets the exact chemical ingredients used at each well.
2010 July 14. NASA Release: 10-166: NASA Supporting Gulf Oil Spill Wildlife Recovery. Excerpt:
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is helping with the unprecedented effort to
save wildlife from the effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in
the Gulf of Mexico.
The first group of hatchlings from endangered sea turtle eggs brought
from beaches along the northern U.S. Gulf Coast was released into the
Atlantic Ocean off Kennedy’s central Florida coast on July 11.
Twenty-two Kemp’s ridley turtles were set free on a Kennedy Space
Center beach, which is part of the Canaveral National Seashore.
After being collected on June 26, the Kemp’s ridley nest from Walton
County, Fla., was packed in a Styrofoam box with sand and transported
by a specially-equipped FexEx truck to a secure, climate-controlled
facility at Kennedy where it was monitored until incubation was
complete. Most of the nests that will be collected are from loggerhead
turtles, but nests from leatherback and green turtles, in addition to
Kemp’s ridley, may be brought to the Kennedy hatchery.
...The release and relocation work is part of an environmental endeavor
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission, the National Park Service, NOAA, FedEx and
conservationists to help minimize the risk to this year’s sea turtle
hatchlings from impacts of the oil spill. During the next several
months, this plan involves carefully moving an anticipated 700 nests to
Kennedy that have been laid on Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches.
The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as
an overlay of Kennedy Space Center, where it shares the land with spac
shuttle launch pads, rockets and research and development facilities.
As part of the Deepwater Horizon Response, six brown pelicans, four
laughing gulls and one common tern also were released at Kennedy on
2010 May 20. Agency Orders Use of a Less Toxic Chemical in Gulf. By Campbell Robertson and Elisabeth Rosenthal, The NY Times. Excerpt:
…According to NOAA’s estimates, Mr. Jindal said, the spill has already
affected nearly 50 miles of Louisiana’s coastline, which is full of
breaks and inlets into fragile marshlands that are far more difficult
to protect than sandy beaches. “No shoreline has been fully cleaned,”
…In directing BP to select a less toxic dispersant, the Environmental
Protection Agency said it was exercising caution because so little is
known about the chemicals’ potential impact. …BP
has sprayed nearly 700,000 gallons of Corexit dispersants on the
surface of the gulf and directly onto the leaking well head a mile
underwater. It is by far the largest use of chemicals to break up an
oil spill in United States waters to date.
2009 Nov. Rubbish in the Pacific. NY Times slide show. In
a remote patch of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from any
national boundary, the detritus of human life is collecting in a
swirling current so large that it defies precise measurement....
2009 Nov 9. Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash. By Lindsey Hoshaw, NY Times. Excerpt:
...Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny
pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the
Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles
in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size
of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now
actually pervades the Pacific, though most of it is caught in what
oceanographers call a gyre like this one — an area of heavy currents
and slack winds that keep the trash swirling in a giant whirlpool.
Scientists say the garbage patch is just one of five that may be caught
in giant gyres scattered around the world’s oceans. Abandoned fishing
gear like buoys, fishing line and nets account for some of the waste,
but other items come from land after washing into storm drains and out
Plastic is the most common refuse in the patch because it is
lightweight, durable and an omnipresent, disposable product in both
advanced and developing societies. It can float along for hundreds of
miles before being caught in a gyre and then, over time, breaking down.
But once it does split into pieces, the fragments look like confetti in
the water. Millions, billions, trillions and more of these particles
are floating in the world's trash-filled gyres....
2009 October 19. Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None. By Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt:
At Yellowstone National Park, the clear soda cups and white utensils
are not your typical cafe-counter garbage. Made of plant-based
plastics, they dissolve magically when heated for more than a few
minutes.... Across the nation, an antigarbage strategy known as "zero
waste" is moving from the fringes to the mainstream, taking hold in
school cafeterias, national parks, restaurants, stadiums and
The movement is simple in concept if not always in execution: Produce
less waste. Shun polystyrene foam containers or any other packaging
that is not biodegradable. Recycle or compost whatever you can....
2009 July. Male Frogs Losing Their Macho. By Kathleen M. Wong, ScienceMatters@Berkeley. The
herbicide atrazine, used on millions of acres of corn and other crops
each year, turns male frogs into hermaphrodites and can affect human
health as well. This alarming discovery by Berkeley professor Tyrone
Hayes is leading to a major analysis of America's waterways....
2009 June 29. A Green Way to Dump Low-Tech Electronics. By Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt:
...Since 2004, 18 states and New York City have approved laws that make
manufacturers responsible for recycling electronics, and similar
statutes were introduced in 13 other states this year. The laws are
intended to prevent a torrent of toxic and outdated electronic
equipment — television sets, computers, monitors, printers, fax
machines — from ending up in landfills where they can leach chemicals
into groundwater and potentially pose a danger to public health.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 99.1 million televisions
sit unused in closets and basements across the country. Consumer
response to recycling has been enormous in states where the laws have
taken effect. Collection points in Washington State, for example, have
been swamped by people....
Since January, Washington State residents and small businesses have
been allowed to drop off their televisions, computers and computer
monitors free of charge to one of 200 collection points around the
state. They have responded by dumping more than 15 million pounds of
electronic waste, according to state collection data. If disposal
continues at this rate, it will amount to more than five pounds for
every man, woman and child per year.
“If you make it easy, they will recycle their stuff,” said Barbara
Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, a
nonprofit group based in San Francisco. If products are recycled rather
than dumped, parts of the machines are refurbished for new use where
possible; if not, they are disassembled, their glass and precious
metals are recycled, and the plastics, which have no reuse market, are
often shipped overseas to developing countries for disposal....
2009 June 19. Destroying Levees in a State Usually Clamoring for Them. By Cornelia Dean, The NY Times. Excerpt:
In the 1960s, a group of businessmen bought 16,000 acres of swampy
bottomland along the Ouachita River in northern Louisiana and built
miles of levee around it. They bulldozed its oak and cypress trees and,
when the land dried out, turned it into a soybean farm.
Now two brothers who grew up nearby are undoing all that work. In what
experts are calling the biggest levee-busting operation ever in North
America, the brothers plan to return the muddy river to its ancient
floodplain, coaxing back plants and animals that flourished there when
President Thomas Jefferson first had the land surveyed in 1804.
“I really did not know if I would ever see it,” said Kelby Ouchley, who
retired last year as manager of the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife
Refuge, which owns the land. He pursues the project as a volunteer
consultant in coordination with his brother Keith, who heads Louisiana
operations for the Nature Conservancy, which helped organize and
finance the levee-busting effort.
...Louisiana’s levees have exacted a huge environmental cost. Inland,
cypress forests and wetlands crucial for migrating waterfowl have
vanished; in southern Louisiana, coastal marshes deprived of regular
infusions of sediment-rich river water have yielded by the mile to an
encroaching Gulf of Mexico. Some scientists have suggested opening
levees south of New Orleans so the Mississippi River can flow normally
into the swamps.
...The workers replanted cypress and tupelo in low areas, then oaks and
green ash, and then sweetgum and pecans — “life-sustaining,
system-supporting diversity,” as Kelby Ouchley called it in an essay.
Eventually, he predicted, the restored landscape would be home to black
bear cubs, largemouth bass, fireflies, crawfish and “gobbling wild
turkeys and cottonmouths with attitudes.”...
2008 July 23. No plastic bags in LA stores beginning July 2010. LOS ANGELES (AP) - Excerpt:
Los Angeles shoppers soon won't hear the question, "Paper or plastic?"
at the checkout line. The City Council voted Tuesday to ban plastic
shopping bags from stores, beginning July 1, 2010. Shoppers can either
bring their own bags or pay 25 cents for a paper bag. The council's
unanimous vote also puts pressure on the state, which is considering an
Assembly bill that would ban plastic bags in 2012 and charge at least
15 cents per paper bag. "We've gotten to a point where we need to act
as a city, where we can have real results," said Councilman Ed Reyes,
who proposed the bag ban.... Last year, San Francisco passed the
nation's first bag ban, which took effect in November.
2008 May 7. A City Committed to Recycling Is Ready for More By FELICITY BARRINGER The
mayor of San Francisco wants to make the recycling of cans, bottles,
paper, yard waste and food scraps mandatory instead of voluntary, on
the pain of having garbage pickups suspended.
2008 Apr 22. Mercury Migrating Out of Rivers to the Shore. By HENRY FOUNTAIN, NY Times. Excerpt:
Mercury contamination can be a big problem in rivers, as it moves up
the food chain accumulating in top predators. ...In the South River in
Virginia, ... the mercury has moved from the river to the shore,
according to a study by Daniel A. Cristol and colleagues at the College
of William and Mary. They report in Science.... The South, a Shenandoah
tributary, was heavily contaminated with mercury sulfate from a DuPont
factory from 1930 to 1950. Fish and aquatic birds on the river have
long been known to be contaminated. But most of the 13 terrestrial
birds tested had levels similar to or higher than the aquatic birds.
Researchers say the main culprit is spiders, which in some cases make
up 30 percent of birds' diets and have high levels of mercury. The
spiders obtain mercury from their prey, either aquatic insects that are
contaminated or terrestrial insects that develop in areas contaminated
2008 Mar 4. Polluted Worms Help Starling's Song, but Not Mating Fitness. By HENRY FOUNTAIN, NY Times. Excerpt:
To the long list of the unintended effects of environmental
contaminants, add one - eating polluted worms affects the songs of male
starlings. What's more, the females seem to like it.Researchers from
Cardiff University in Wales report in the open-access online journal
PLoS One that male starlings that consume estrogen and similar
compounds, chemicals normally found in sewage, showed brain and
behavioral changes related to singing.
Shai Markman, now at the University of Haifa in Israel; Katherine L.
Buchanan, now of Deakin University in Australia; and colleagues studied
wild starlings foraging at sewage treatment works in southwestern
Britain. The birds eat small worms found in huge quantities along
The worms accumulate natural estrogen excreted in human waste and
estrogenlike compounds from plastics manufacturing. The chemicals are
known to disrupt endocrine function, with anatomical and behavioral
effects. ...A male's song is one trait that helps to attract mates. The
researchers found that females chose the males with more complex songs
even though the contaminants had made them less fit. "Females are
choosing to mate with males who are in poorer physical condition," Dr.
Buchanan said, with potential effects on the number and survivability
of offspring. So the simple act of eating tainted worms may be having
an overall effect on starling populations, she added.
2008 February. Poultry workers 32 times more likely to carry resistant bacteria. Union of Concerned Scientists newlstter. Poultry
workers are 32 times more likely than the average person to harbor E.
coli bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic gentamicin,
according to a study by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The
scientists compared stool samples from poultry workers with those from
local community residents. The workers were also significantly more
likely to harbor bacteria that were resistant to multiple drugs. The
study concluded that occupational exposure to chickens may be "an
important route of entry" for these dangerous bacteria into the
community. Read the study, and send a letter to your members of Congress on legislation to address antibiotic resistance.
2008 February 2. Motivated by a Tax, Irish Spurn Plastic Bags. By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, NY Times. Excerpt:
DUBLIN - ...In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers
who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was
an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was
bigger than the sum of these parts. Within weeks, plastic bag use
dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable
cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic
bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable
- on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one's dog.
"When my roommate brings one in the flat it annoys the hell out of me,"
said Edel Egan, a photographer, carrying groceries last week in a red
backpack. Drowning in a sea of plastic bags, countries from China to
Australia, cities from San Francisco to New York have in the past year
adopted a flurry of laws and regulations to address the problem, so far
with mixed success. The New York City Council, for example, in the face
of stiff resistance from business interests, passed a measure requiring
only that stores that hand out plastic bags take them back for
recycling. But in the parking lot of a Superquinn Market, Ireland's
largest grocery chain, it is clear that the country is well into the
post-plastic-bag era. "I used to get half a dozen with every shop. Now
I'd never ever buy one," said Cathal McKeown, 40, a civil servant
carrying two large black cloth bags bearing the bright green Superquinn
motto. "If I forgot these, I'd just take the cart of groceries and put
them loose in the boot of the car, rather than buy a bag."....
Biosphere 2 http://www.bio2.edu/
Environment & Ecosystems on the Net from SciLinks®
Environment & Ecosystems in NSTA Journal Articles--high school
Environment & Ecosystems in NSTA Journal Articles--intermediate
Books on the Environment & Ecosystems from NSTA Press and NSTA Recommends.
Earth Shots--Satellite Images of Environmental Change
Fair Trade Cocoa and Coffee
- Jellyfish bloom
- Pew Oceans Commission-- http://www.pewoceans.org/ -- an
independent group of American leaders conducting a national dialogue on
the policies needed to restore and protect living marine resources in
Marsha, GIS in the Classroom and CD-Rom. Heinemann Educational Books,
Inc. Portsmouth, NH. 2003. ISBN 032500479X. Grade level: 9-12. Reviewed here (10/15/2003) by Eloise Farmer [GSS teacher leader and] Biology Teacher retiring in June after 37.5 years. The
book would be useful with Life and Climate, since many suggested
activities have students monitoring the effects of human activities on
a variety of things on local bodies of water, or ecosystems in general.
It also could be used with Ecosystem Change, or Changing Climate for
the same reason. Students could use GIS to map changes in coastlines
due to erosion, the effects of storms on an area, etc. It really
emphasizes systems, so it could be used with any of the GSS books. This link tells how it has been used in a high school.
Organic Food - Restaurants, Farmers Markets, Coops
||Articles from 2008–present
Articles from 1998–2007
Aquabarrel: Simple rain collecting
and storage device - attaches to
Excellent Packaging and Supply.
reusing items online.
a nonprofit organization supporting people to provide healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in
all communities. Promotes development of Community Food Systems that help people
grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner.
Story of Stuff - From its
extraction through sale, use and
disposal, all the stuff in our lives
affects communities at home and abroad,
yet most of this is hidden from view.
The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute
look at the underside of our production
and consumption patterns.
The Nature Conservancy - Conservation
A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding
agreement that limits certain types of uses or prevents
development from taking place on a piece of property
now and in the future, while protecting the property's
ecological or open-space values.