• Are the US drinking water standards outdated?

    Changes in drinking water quality in the 21st Century are coming from a myriad of circumstances, and not all are for the best. Top contenders for why water-drinking quality might become suspect to the average consumer include California's drought conditions, the technology of fracking, and the nationwide aging infrastructure of rusty, degrading pipes.

    Citing these and other relatively recent scenarios, Andrea Dietrich, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, and her colleague Gary A. Burlingame of the Philadelphia Water Department, are calling for a critical review and rethinking of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) secondary standards for maintaining consumers' confidence in tap water as well as in its sensory quality.

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  • How the Credit Card Industry is Contributing to Pollution

    We all get far too much mail, especially from financial services companies.  Credit card companies alone send billions of pieces of paper mail each year, and most of that gets thrown right into the trash can.  Not only does this dynamic pose a threat from a fraud perspective – trash cans and mailboxes can be treasure troves for opportunistic fraudsters – but you have to figure the effect on the environment isn’t great either. Paper products aren’t as bad as most materials, according to North Carolina State University Professor Richard Venditti, because they’re renewable, recyclable and biodegradable and they motivate land owners to plant trees.  However, Venditti says, “inefficient use of paper does consume resources and have an impact on the environment.” While credit card direct mail is on the rise after hitting a two-year low in April 2012, long-term trends suggest a declining role for traditional paper mail in the years to come.  Not only are financial services companies increasingly offering paperless options to their account holders – even charging extra for paper statements, but they’re also learning how to better leverage digital means for marketing purposes.  These changes are largely based on the shifting preferences of the modern consumer as well as the overall technicalization of modern commerce – not some newfound corporate altruism – but does it really matter? 

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  • What to do with all that zoo poop

    Ron Patalano, director of operations at Roger Williams Park Zoo, has high praise for his staff. After all, it takes a mighty amount of shoveling to fill the two 30-yard Dumpsters of animal excrement that are hauled away weekly as part of the zoo’s recycling program.

     

    Added to the grass clippings, vegetable scraps, animal bedding, hay and other natural materials trucked to Earth Care Farm in Charleston for composting, are 624 tons of manure produced annually by the zoo’s 280 inhabitants.

     

    Keeping yards and buildings waste free “is not an easy job,” Patalano noted.

     

    The zoo’s relationship with Earth Care Farm — Rhode Island’s longtime composting mecca — goes back at least 15 years, according to John Barth, the farm’s manager.

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  • EPA Releases New Energy Star Tool for Homeowners

    Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is launching its Energy Star Home Advisor, an online tool designed to help Americans save money and energy by improving the energy efficiency of their homes through recommended, customized and prioritized home-improvement projects.

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  • Japan submits new proposal to continue "scientific" whaling program

    Earlier this year whales won a historic victory when the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s scientific whaling program in the Antarctic was illegal and ordered it be ended, but Japan is back at it with plans to continue under a new proposal. Despite a worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling that was put in place in 1986, Japan has continued with annual whale hunts that it claims are being conducted to collect scientific data. Whale advocates, however, have long argued that Japan has been abusing a loophole in the moratorium that allows for lethal scientific research whaling. Fortunately for whales, the court agreed, ruling that Japan’s program breached international law, had no justifications for the quotas it was setting and that it had failed to consider non-lethal alternatives under it’s JARPA II research program.

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  • Turkey might be a better choice than fish in the tropics!

    On a tropical island vacation, one of the last things you want to worry about is food poisoning. Yet for many, a trip to the tropics includes a painful education in a mysterious food-borne illness called Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, or CFP.

    Every year, thousands of people suffer from CFP, a poisoning syndrome caused by eating toxic reef fish. CFP symptoms are both gastrointestinal and neurological, bringing on bouts of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, muscle aches, and in some cases, the reversal of hot and cold sensations. Some neurological symptoms can persist for days to months to years after exposure. There is no quick way to test for the toxins, and unless action is taken within hours of the poisoning, no cure once you’re sick.

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  • Climate change, species extinctions and tipping points

    Researchers from North Carolina State University have created a model that mimics how differently adapted populations may respond to rapid climate change. Their findings demonstrate that depending on a population's adaptive strategy, even tiny changes in climate variability can create a "tipping point" that sends the population into extinction.

    Carlos Botero, postdoctoral fellow with the Initiative on Biological Complexity and the Southeast Climate Science Center at NC State and assistant professor of biology at Washington State University, wanted to find out how diverse populations of organisms might cope with quickly changing, less predictable climate variations. 

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  • Small farms the key to increasing food production

    All over the world, small farmers are being forced off their land to make way for corporate agriculture, writes GRAIN - and it's justified by the need to 'feed the world'. But it's the small farmers that are the most productive, and the more their land is grabbed, the more global hunger increases. We must give them their land back!

    The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.

    The United Nations declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. As part of the celebrations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its annual 'State of Food and Agriculture', which this year is dedicated to family farming.

     

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  • Is the world moving backwards on protected areas?

    Protected areas are undoubtedly the world's most important conservation success story, and recent research shows that protected areas are effective—housing more biodiversity and greater abundances of species inside rather than out. But, despite this, progress on protected areas is stalling and in some cases even falling behind. According to a sobering new paper today in Nature, only 20-50 percent of the world's land and marine protected areas are meeting their goals, while the rest are hampered by lack of funding, poor management, and government ambivalence. The paper arrives just a few days before the opening of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, a global event that happens once a decade. "Protected areas offer us solutions to some of today's most pressing challenges, but by continuing with 'business as usual,' we are setting them up for failure," said lead author James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland. "A step-change in the way we value, fund, govern and manage those areas is neither impossible nor unrealistic and would only represent a fraction of what the world spends annually on defense." 

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  • Baby Boomers Advocate for Sustainable Communities, Too

    If we are to believe much of what we see in the press, millennials will have to make a more sustainable world to get us out of the mess that the baby boomers are leaving behind. But such generalities may not be necessarily true. Even AARP, which has paid plenty of attention to the baby boomer vs. millennials conflict, has made the case that its membership is concerned about the same issues with which the younger generation is often preoccupied. For example, one may not intuitively think of AARP as a locus of information on smart cities and better urban planning. This powerful lobbying group, however, has an impressive archive that inspires its members to advocate for more “liveable communities.”

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