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What History Teaches Us About Our Environmental Challenges

It seems that the environmental challenges we face are truly daunting. That we may never be able to survive them, even if we do our best to do so. A study by MIT professor Susan Solomon says it's often helpful — and heartening — to look to the past. Solomon points out that recent decades have seen major environmental progress: In the 1970s, the United States banned indoor leaded paint following evidence that it was poisoning children. In the 1990s, the United States put in place regulations to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide — a move that significantly reduced acid rain. Beginning in the 1970s, countries around the world began to phase out leaded gasoline; blood lead levels in children dropped dramatically in response. >> Read the Full Article

Idea that we have reached "Peak Oil" incorrect

A report by theInternational Energy Agency reminds us that the peak oil idea has gone up in flames, and that the truly global implications of the 2012 report lie in the warning that we must leave most of our fossil fuels in the ground, writes Damian Carrington writes on the Guardian’s Environment Blog. Given the bubbling cauldron of violence that the middle East so frequently and regrettably is, the prospect of the US outstripping Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer in the next decade is deeply striking. The redrawing of the geopolitical map may cool some tensions and perhaps spark others. But the truly global implications of the International Energy Agency’s flagship report for 2012 lie elsewhere, in the quietly devastating statement that no more than one-third of already proven reserves of fossil fuels can be burned by 2050 if the world is to prevent global warming exceeding the danger point of 2C. This means nothing less than leaving most of the world’s coal, oil and gas in the ground or facing a destabilised climate, with its supercharged heatwaves, floods and storms. >> Read the Full Article

Can Overfished Tuna be Saved?

We love Tuna! We love to eat Tuna! And the great Tuna are being seriously overfished. Attempts to remedy this situation have not been effective to date. Now the University of Hawaii has come up with a new approach that holds promise. A fish modelling study has found that marine zoning in the Pacific Ocean, in combination with other measures, could significantly improve numbers of heavily overfished bigeye tuna and improve local economies. Scientists working at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC, Noumea, New Caledonia) and Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS, Toulouse, France), have found that a network of marine zones in the Pacific Ocean could be a more effective conservation measure than simply closing relatively small areas to some types of fishing. These marine zones, where different fishing activities are allowed in different areas, may have significant and widespread benefits for bigeye tuna numbers. >> Read the Full Article

Great Cricket Ears

Katydid or crickets are the common name of certain large, singing, winged insects belonging to the long-horned grasshopper family. Katydids are green or, occasionally, pink and range in size from 11/4 to 5 inches long. Katydids are nocturnal and arboreal; they sing in the evening. Scientists studying a species of South American bush cricket with some of the smallest ears known have discovered it has hearing so sophisticated that it rivals our own. The study, published in Science, is the first to identify hearing organs in an insect that are evolutionary convergent to those of mammals. Led by the scientists at the University of Bristol, they show how the bush cricket’s (Copiphora Gorgonensis) auditory system has evolved over millions of years to develop auditory mechanisms strikingly similar to those of humans, but using an entirely different machinery. >> Read the Full Article

The Changing Coast Due to Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was a monster. It changed lives and changed the actual land shapes along the coasts affected. The USGS has released a series of aerial photographs showing before-and-after images of Hurricane Sandy's impacts on the Atlantic Coast. Among the latest photo pairs to be published are images showing the extent of coastal change in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. The photos, part of a USGS assessment of coastal change from as far south as the Outer Banks of North Carolina to as far north as Massachusetts, show that the storm caused dramatic changes to portions of shoreline extending hundreds of miles. Pre- and post-storm images of the New Jersey and New York shoreline in particular tell a story of a coastal landscape that was considerably altered by the historic storm. Meanwhile, images from hundreds of miles south of the storm’s landfall demonstrate that the storm’s breadth caused significant coastal change as far south as the Carolinas. >> Read the Full Article

US Military Takes Part in Reducing Ecological Footprint

In an effort to enhance American security and address climate change, the U.S. military is diminishing its footprint. The military is producing cleaner power, reducing energy consumption, managing water and minimizing waste. Their efforts encompass vast numbers of vehicles, ships, planes, buildings, lands, and other facilities. A major impetus for these efforts is Executive Order 13514, "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance," which President Obama signed on October 5, 2009. It mandates a 30 percent reduction in energy usage by federal agencies. >> Read the Full Article

Streams Affected by Even the Earliest Stages of Urban Development

In a new study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), it was found that the loss of sensitive species in streams begins to occur at the initial stages of urban development. The culprits are the increased contaminants entering the streams, destruction of riparian habitat, and greater stream flow flashiness. The results of the study show that streams are more sensitive to development than previously believed. The victims are the bruised ecosystems and a reduction in economically viable resources like fishing and tourism. >> Read the Full Article

How the Worm Can Help Landfills and Sustainable Farming

High in the northern mountains of Guatemala, near the ancient city of Quetzaltenango, there's an unusual new venture that is helping transform the way local communities think about the garbage they throw into landfills. It's also reforming the way people think about nature's most industrious ecologist: the worm. María Rodriguez, founder of Byoearth is teaching women the value of the red wiggler worm and the use of vermicomposting to support sustainable farming. It's a concept she believes in passionately and is having increasing success selling to both local farmers and non-profit aid organizations throughout Latin America. >> Read the Full Article

House Windows are a Threat to Birds

The sickening thud of a bird crashing into a window is an all-too-familiar sound for many Canadian homeowners. Birds often mistake windows for openings, flying into the glass at full speed. A startling new analysis suggests about 22 million Canadian birds die each year from such crashes, researchers reported Sept. 4 in Wildlife Research. Undergraduate biology students at the University of Alberta, supervised by biologist Erin Bayne, surveyed 1,750 local residents in person and through social media. The recruited citizens provided the number of fatal bird strikes at their homes during the previous year. By extrapolating from these local reports, the researchers calculated the collision rates for different types of homes and then estimated the national bird mortality rate. The study did not include bird strikes on skyscrapers or commercial buildings. >> Read the Full Article

Survey finds men are more environmentally responsible car drivers than women

Male motorists are more likely to drive in a more environmentally friendly manner than females, according to the surprising results of a new survey. And more men than women say they will only use a car when cycling, public transport or walking are not an option. The new research, published today, also reveals that the rising cost of car ownership is forcing a new approach to mobility, with almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of UK drivers admitting that they have changed their motoring habits in light of the recession and rising fuel costs, and 30 per cent of motorists now only use their car for essential trips. >> Read the Full Article