Enn Original News

Birds and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
November 2, 2011 04:21 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

A swirling sea of plastic bags, bottles and other debris is growing in the North Pacific, and now another one has been found in the Atlantic. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch stretches for hundreds of miles across the North Pacific Ocean, forming a nebulous, floating junk yard on the high seas. It's the poster child for a worldwide problem: plastic that begins in human hands yet ends up in the ocean, often inside animals' stomachs or around their necks. Since 2009, photographer Chris Jordan has been documenting birds on Midway Atoll way out in the Pacific Ocean — near what is known as the Pacific Garbage Patch. What Jordan found on those islands were carcasses of baby birds that have died an unnerving death: According to the BBC, "about one-third of all albatross chicks die on Midway, many as the result of being mistakenly fed plastic by their parents."

Of Mice and Men
November 2, 2011 03:07 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Mice are often used to test whether substances in food are harmful to humans. This requires that mice and humans metabolize substances in the same way. This may not be perfectly true (after all mice and men are different). The health risk associated with harmful substances in food may therefore be underestimated. Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health have adopted a mouse type where human enzymes have been inserted to examine whether people may be more sensitive to certain carcinogenic substances from heat-treated foods. They have obtained a better model to assess negative health effects in humans from substances in food using these mice.

Belgium to Completely Phase Out Nuclear Power by 2025
November 2, 2011 09:19 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The small western-European country of Belgium currently has two commercial nuclear sites and a total of seven reactors. Nuclear energy accounts for over half of the nation's power consumption, a total of about 45 billion kilowatt-hours per year. Although typically quite fractured, Belgium's political parties have reached a consensus on nuclear power. The oldest reactors are to be shut down by 2015 and all nuclear reactors at both sites will be shut down by 2025. The plan is conditional on Belgium finding enough energy from alternative sources to prevent power shortages.

Interacting with Mars
November 1, 2011 05:42 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

First there were telescopes looking up at Mars. In time this became orbital views and then remote control robots wandering the surface. It would be nice to walk on Mars and really see what there is to see. Until then there is something called a CAVE, which is a 3D visualization center and it gives you a total immersive environment. This means that it renders virtual data in three dimensions and as you move your head and really see Mars as if you were there. So, when you are in that environment you can interact with the data on other planets in a more personal hands on or eyes on way.

Bigger Birds
November 1, 2011 03:27 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Birds tend to be small creatures on average. SF State scientists, working with researchers from PRBO Conservation Science and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory who collected the data, found that birds' wings have grown longer and birds are increasing in mass over the last 27 to 40 years. What's making the birds bigger? The researchers think that the trend is due to climate change, but their findings put a twist in the usual thinking about climate change and body size. A well-known ecological rule, called Bergmann's Rule, states that animals tend to be larger at higher latitudes. One reason for this rule might be that larger animals conserve body heat better, allowing them to thrive in the generally colder climate of higher latitudes. The logic would then be that as the climate warms, birds should get smaller. Apparently this is not so.

E-Waste Dump in Africa Contaminating Community
November 1, 2011 01:30 PM - David A Gabel, ENN

Electronic waste, or "e-waste", is a major problem of the information age. As consumers continually upgrade their electronic devices, the old devices are discarded and usually end up in a toxic e-waste dump, usually located in a poor developing country. Such a dump is located in the capital city of the African country, Ghana. Toxic chemicals from the dump, known as the Agbogbloshie scrap metal site, have affecting the nearby community market, church headquarters, and school. Contaminants include lead, cadmium, and others, some at levels over 50 times higher than risk-free levels.

Northeast Weather Disaster Closes Schools and Postpones Halloween
October 31, 2011 03:01 PM - David A Gabel, ENN

The disaster that was this weekend's snow storm has wreaked havoc in the northeastern states of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. The damage was so widespread that it is being compared to the summer's big storm, Hurricane Irene. While the October storm doesn't get a name, it has left many people in the dark, just as the cold temperatures are settling in. Power outages and downed trees and wires throughout the area have caused many schools to be shut down. It has even caused the unthinkable in many towns: Halloween has been postponed.

Zombie Attack
October 31, 2011 11:46 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Can or do zombies exist? How can they and what are they? Zombie is a Haitian term used to denote an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means such as witchcraft. It has evolved since then. The term is often figuratively applied to describe a hypnotized or infected person bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, yet ambulant and able to respond to surrounding stimuli. Since the late 19th century, zombies have acquired notable popularity, especially in North American and European folklore and urban legend. The living dead are a year-round affair these days, and not just in movies. Around the world, a growing number of people are dressing up as zombies for parties, festivals, walks and pub-crawls in every season. To explain the undying boom in all things zombie, experts point to the versatility of zombies as a metaphor.

Everything you might want to know about Carbon Offsets
October 31, 2011 07:17 AM - R Greenway, ENN

Companies, and individuals concerned with their impact on climate try a number of measures to reduce their emissions of air pollutants which impact the greenhouse effect of our atmosphere. The greenhouse effect is the reality that our atmosphere traps a portion of the heat we get from the sun, and from fires (both natural and man made) and other anthropgenic heat sources. Some of the gasses released by our industrialization, home heating and cooling, and transportation activities contribute to the atmosphere trapping more heat than would occur in the absence of these activities. There are emissions which CANNOT be eliminated or reduced as much as we would like. For these, companies turn to Carbon Offsets. What are Carbon Offsets? When companies or individuals purchase Carbon Offsets they are paying someone else to reduce THEIR carbon emissions (a major contributor to global warming). There are companies which assist other companies and individuals in purchasing Carbon Offsets. As in any new market, there is a learning curve for participants. Are the offsets real, are the being sold more than once? These and other questions illustrate how much needs to be learned.

Why Population Matters to the environment

Environmentalists agree on the issues facing us, including collapsing diversity, climate change and resource insecurity. We also agree on the causal factors, including pollution, invasive species, resource over-exploitation, waste, population growth, global industrialisation, unsustainable consumption and poor business practices. Solutions are harder. None will solve all our problems and all face obstacles and opposition. Technological solutions, such as biofuels, fracking, shale oil, GM foods and nuclear have side effects, while renewables have limited scope. Environmentally conscious lifestyles, including less waste, travel and consumption, are increasingly adopted, but the impact may by limited given the billions seeking to improve their low living standards. Changes to corporate and governmental practices have occurred, but are far from universal, particularly in the developing world. In my lifetime, human numbers have grown from 3 billion in 1960 to 7 billion today. By 2085, they are projected to grow to 10 billion. One can argue about the impact this makes, but it clearly does not help. We believe that a smaller population would help us to preserve the environment and live within the limit of renewable resources, as part of a comprehensive approach to the environment and sustainability. Most would agree that improving living standards for the poor, women's rights and access to health, including family planning, are desirable and they all tend to lead to women choosing to have smaller families. We would argue that aid for family planning to developing countries should be prioritised, both for environmental reasons and because it contributes to poverty alleviation, women’s empowerment and better health. While individual consumption in those countries is low, growing populations do affect the environment and they will not always be poor as the world industrialises.

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