Environment

Spread by trade and climate, bugs butcher America’s forests

PETERSHAM, Mass. (AP) — In a towering forest of centuries-old eastern hemlocks, it’s easy to miss one of the tree’s nemeses. No larger than a speck of pepper, the Hemlock woolly adelgid spends its life on the underside of needles sucking sap, eventually killing the tree.

The bug is one in an expanding army of insects draining the life out of forests from New England to the West Coast. Aided by global trade, a warming climate and drought-weakened trees, the invaders have become one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in the United States.

Bevy of bobcats: Thriving animals poised as next urban pest

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — As someone who has studied bobcats for almost four decades, wildlife ecologist John Litvaitis remembers many times returning from the field without spotting a single one of these solitary and shy creatures that often hunt at dusk.

But bobcats are less elusive now as their numbers rise and they become more comfortable around humans. Joining the likes of foxes, coyotes and even mountain lions in rare cases, bobcats are making a home in small towns and suburbs — and realizing there is plenty to eat in the cities.

They have turned up in recent years in such places as Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city; Waverly, Iowa; and outside Los Angeles. They have been spotted below backyard bird feeders, waltzing along streets in search of their next meal and, increasingly, as roadkill.

https://www.apnews.com/1d0f8dfaddbb408c8a2ac46179a4cfcc/Bevy-of-bobcats:-Thriving-animals-poised-as-next-urban-pest

Saving salamanders: Searching for signs of a deadly fungus

SUNDERLAND, Vt. (AP) — Holding a sandwich bag containing a squirming, Eastern red-spotted newt, Evan Grant inspects its shiny skin for signs of a killer.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/56c3364f52894c48b108e6f1f0d1c4e3/saving-salamanders-searching-signs-deadly-fungus

This Canadian Company Wants to Mine for Gold on the Bottom of the Ocean

As we drive down the empty, two-lane highway, the clusters of seaside resorts, tin-roofed homes and finely manicured lawns on this Papua New Guinea island give way to lowland rain forests and palm oil plantations. The telephone lines eventually disappear as do the satellite dishes and, within hours, the team from Nautilus Minerals is on a rutted, dirt road.

https://news.vice.com/article/this-canadian-company-wants-to-mine-for-gold-on-the-bottom-of-the-ocean

Is the fast fashion industry ready to change its wasteful ways?

By midday, the garbage bags full of clothes began to pile up. There were mounds of children’s clothes, a suitcase worth of women’s underwear, an armful of summer shirts and pants that had gotten a little tight and even dead relative’s stained sweater.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/is-the-fast-fashion-industry-ready-to-change-its-wasteful-ways/

Norway Is Building an Environmentally Friendly Fleet of Ships

The shipping industry likes to portray itself as the most environmentally sound mode of transport.That supposed green credential has helped the industry escape any caps on greenhouse gases since it contributes less than 3 percent to overall global emissions. But, by mid-century, that number is expected to jump as much as 250 percent as more and more ships take to the world’s oceans.

https://news.vice.com/article/norway-is-building-an-environmentally-friendly-fleet-of-ships

Palm Oil Plantations Threaten African Primates

Stepping into the Ebo forest in Cameroon, the chatter of neighboring villagers gives way to silence.A guide and sometimes hunter, Betrand Ngansou, slashes through the thick canopy, slowly making his way along a trail muddied by recent rains and marked with tracks of antelope and porcupine. Shrieks can be heard in the distance. “That is probably the chimps,” Ngansou says. “For those of us living here, it’s impossible not to love that sound.”The 580 square miles of lowland rainforest, 424 square miles of which is part of a proposed national park, would seem an ideal refuge for the 11 primate species living there, including endangered Preuss’s red colobus monkeys, Cross River gorillas and one of biggest populations of Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/palm-oil-plantations-threaten-african-primates/

Hot Water Corals in the Persian Gulf Could Help Save the World’s Reefs

Just down the road from the world’s tallest tower, in the shadow of monster sand dunes, marine biologists from around the world clamored onboard a boat for a visit to some of the Persian Gulf’s coral reefs. The waters off the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) coast can be murky and only have 10 percent of the coral reef diversity found in the Indian Ocean or on the Great Barrier Reef. But the researchers came looking for something even more precious: clues that could one day help coral reefs around the world survive the onslaught of global warming.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/hot-water-corals-in-the-persian-gulf-could-help-save-the-world-s-reefs/

Could a 200-year-old whale offer clues to help humans live longer? 

Scientists are hoping the fountain of youth might be hidden inside a whale species that can live up to 200 years. Joao Pedro de Magalhaes and his team at the University of Liverpool sequenced the genome of the bowhead whale, the longest living mammal on earth. The team wanted to understand why they live so long and don’t succumb to some of the same illnesses as humans do earlier in life.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/could-a-200-year-old-bowhead-whale-offer-clues-to-help-humans-live-longer/

Monkeys exhibit a truly human quality, recognizing and relishing their reflection

Humans and great apes are fond of gazing at themselves in the mirror. Not so with rhesus monkeys, who just see another monkey or, worse, a possible rival. But over time and with some training, these monkeys showed they can recognize their own image – and, like us, seem to enjoy spending time in front of the mirror, looking curiously at their reflection and even checking out their backsides.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/monkeys-can-learn-to-recognize-their-reflections-in-a-mirror/

Could volcanoes help slow global warming?

Volcanic eruptions from Iceland to Alaska may not only be messing with air travel. They could be helping slow global warming.A new study concluded that small volcanic eruptions from 2000 to 2013 may have ejected more of the atmosphere-cooling sulfur dioxide gas into Earth’s upper atmosphere than previously thought, and that they may have made a significant contribution to the slowing of global warming over the past decade and a half.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/could-volcanoes-help-slow-global-warming/

Discovery of eight new planets increases possibility of finding Earth’s twin

The search for a planet like ours got a boost Tuesday when astronomers announced the discovery of eight new planets, including three which exist in a “habitable zone” that receives as much sunlight as Earth. Two of the eight new exoplanets — that is, planets that orbit a star other than the sun — are the most similar to Earth of any known exoplanets to date. The eight planets bring to the total number of exoplanets discovered by the planet-hunting Kepler telescope, first launched in 2009, to 1,000. To put that in perspective, the only planets we knew about two decades ago were those that orbited our sun.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/discovery-of-eight-new-planets-increases-possibility-of-finding-earths-twin/

Tsunami 10 years later: Is the world better prepared for disaster?

When the Indian Ocean tsunami struck on Dec. 26, 2004, no one saw the massive waves coming. Authorities in Indonesia, where a 9.1 magnitude quake sparked the tsunami, weren’t able to send out an alert because the country’s sensor system had been hit by lightning. Thai officials did send a warning, but only after the first deadly wave hit. And in India, word of the disaster went to the wrong official.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/tsunami-10-years-later-is-the-world-better-prepared-for-disaster/

Fortune 500 companies take center stage at U.N. climate summit

A few years back at a United Nations climate talks in Bali, business executives hunkered down at a nearby hotel and talked mostly how they could make money off the problem. Outside, angry protesters accused carbon traders of trying to get rich off the poor.Fast forward to Tuesday, when many Fortune 500 CEOs will get a ringside seat at the U.N. climate summit in New York. About 125 presidents and prime ministers are expected at the one-day event featuring world leaders laying out their visions for combating global warming.

http://fortune.com/2014/09/23/fortune-500-companies-take-center-stage-at-u-n-climate-summit/

Car sharing catching on in big cities, driven by cost, environmental benefits

Americans have fallen in love with the idea of pulling out their mobile phone and ordering up a ride with the likes of Uber, Lyft or Sidecar. But are they ready to share that ride with a total stranger? Several companies, led by Bandwagon in New York City, have launched services in recent months allowing passengers to match up and share rides in taxis and car services especially from congested places like airports, train stations and convention centers.

http://fortune.com/2014/09/01/share-a-taxi-with-a-stranger-idea-is-catching-in-big-cities/

Bugs in your protein bar: are edible insects the next food craze?

As a water planner in Utah, Pat Crowley had grown frustrated that his message of conservation was being largely ignored by an agriculture industry intent on siphoning off the Colorado River to keep crops in California and other Western states succulent. Then a few years ago, the 34-year-old whitewater rafting enthusiast was listening to a TED talk on edible insects, which touted the critters as a surprising potent source of protein. The more he heard about the potential water savings from swapping insects for traditional protein like soy and grains, the more he realized it might be time to change professions.

http://fortune.com/2014/07/18/bugs-in-your-protein-bar-are-edible-insects-the-next-food-craze/

Fueling your car with farm waste is right around the corner 

Just down the road from the Wild Rose Casino in Emmertsburg, Iowa, a $275 million factory opens today that proponents predict will be the beginning of a “new era” in clean ethanol energy. The factory will be the first of several to open this year to produce large-scale cellulosic ethanol, which is made by converting waste or stover from corn plants that are typically left on a field after harvest. Grasses and wood are also used in the process.

http://fortune.com/2014/09/03/cellulosic-ethanol-plant-opens/

 

Drones Bring Fight and Flight to Battle against Poachers [Slide Show] – Scientific American

Tracking endangered orangutans was no easy feat a scant three years ago. It required counting treetop nests in places like the Leuser Ecosystem on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island to gauge the health of a population that was under fire from poachers and palm oil barrens. Aerial surveillance using remote sensing satellites was often too expensive for local conservation groups and, even when affordable, the views were routinely obscured by cloud cover.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/drones-bring-fight-and-flight-to-battle-against-poachers/

Ivory smuggling puts elephants at risk

Carefully, the Chinese ivory dealer pulled out an elephant tusk cloaked in bubble wrap and hidden in a bag of flour. Its price: $17,000.“Do you have any idea how many years I could get locked away in prison for having this?” said the dealer, a short man in his 40s, who gave his name as Chen. A surge in demand for ivory in Asia is fuelling an illicit trade in elephant tusks, especially from Africa. Over the past eight years, the price of ivory has gone up from about $100 per kilogram ($100 per 2.2 pounds) to $1,800, creating a lucrative black market.

African ivory

China’s insatiable demand for coal causes environmental devastation across the globe

TAIYUAN, China (AP) _ It takes five to 10 days for the pollution from China’s coal-fired plants to make its way to the United States, like a slow-moving storm. It shows up as mercury in the bass and trout caught in Oregon’s Willamette River. It increases cloud cover and raises ozone levels. And along the way, it contributes to acid rain in Japan and South Korea and health problems everywhere from Taiyuan to the United States. This is the dark side of the world’s growing use of coal.

Ships come to Asia to die; workers risk lives breaking them apart

ALANG, India (AP) _ When the big ships come to Asia to die, they often take lives with them. Upendra Shethi knows. He was one of an army of laborers hired by an Indian ship-breaking yard to strip the 50-year-old China Sea Discovery for scrap four months ago. The ship suddenly caught fire, burning at least five men alive and injuring 15 more.”In a matter of five minutes, the entire ship was in flames and there was complete chaos in the yard,” the 29-year-old Indian recalls.

Ship Graveyard

Jellyfish spread in world’s oceans, devastating fisheries, stinging millions; warming blamed

KOKONOGI, Japan (AP) _ A blood-orange blob the size of a small refrigerator emerged from the dark waters, its venomous tentacles trapped in a fishing net. Within minutes, hundreds more were being hauled up, a pulsating mass crowding out the catch of mackerel and sea bass. The fishermen leaned into the nets, grunting and grumbling as they tossed the translucent jellyfish back into the bay, giants weighing up to 200 kilograms (450 pounds), marine invaders that are putting the men’s livelihoods at risk.

Jellyfish spread in world

Much like Hurricane Katrina, Cyclone Nargis had all the makings of a perfect storm

BANGKOK (AP) _ A cyclone with winds up to 120 mph. A low-lying, densely populated delta region, stripped of its protective trees. When Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar’s Irrawaddy delta and pushed a wall of water 25 miles inland, it had all the makings of a massive disaster. “When we saw the (storm) track, I said, ‘Uh oh, this is not going to be good,” said Mark Lander, a meteorology professor at the University of Guam. “It would create a big storm surge. It was like Katrina going into New Orleans.”

Perfect Storm

UN climate talks go into overtime in Qatar as rich, poor nations spar over money, other issues

DOHA, Qatar (AP) _ The world’s poorest countries, inundated by rising seas and worsening disasters, made a last ditch plea for financial help early Saturday as negotiators at United Nations climate talks struggled to reach an ambitions deal to combat global warming.

UN climate talks go into overtime in Qatar

UN Climate Talks In Qatar May Have Boosted Environmental Awareness In Gulf Region

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Holding a high-profile U.N. climate change conference in Qatar, smack in the middle of the region that produces so much of the fossil fuel blamed for global warming, was a gamble. In the end, it displayed the hosts’ drive for a leading place on the world stage and evoked a surprising new regional awareness of the environmental crisis.

UN Climate Talks In Qatar May Have Boosted Environmental Awareness In Gulf Region

From droughts to wildfires, Australia could picture future of global warming

GOULBURN, Australia (AP) _ People in this sheep ranching town gave up washing their cars and sprinkling their gardens long ago because of a water shortage. Children are barred from school sport fields because they are dried rock-hard and dangerous. Goulburn, a hub for the region’s Merino sheep industry that’s a two hour drive from Sydney, could represent a here-and-now example of what many scientists say are problems the world will face because of global warming.

From droughts to wildfires

Arabian Oryx, Root Of Unicorn Legend, Making Comeback

AL QOA, United Arab Emirates — Growing up in the Middle East, Myyas Ahmed al-Quarqaz only knew the Arabian oryx from postage stamps.The antelope made famous in Arabian poetry and by its associations with the unicorn legend had been hunted to near-extinction. But over the past three decades, it has staged a remarkable comeback through a program that got its start in the Arizona desert and has flourished under the united efforts of several Arabian Gulf countries. Arabian Oryx, Root Of Unicorn Legend, Making Comeback

Failure of tsunami reconstruction leaves humanitarian agencies under fire

KAMPUNG JAWA, Indonesia — The tsunami of 2004 triggered the biggest humanitarian response in history, feeding the hungry, heading off epidemics and engendering the hope that out of a calamity that took 216,000 lives, a better Indian Ocean rim would emerge.But 18 months later recriminations are rife, with aid agencies standing accused of planning poorly, raising unrealistic expectations and simply being incompetent.

 Agencies Under Fire for Tsunami Failures – washingtonpost

Tsunami prompts companies to play greater role in humanitarian relief efforts

CALANG, Indonesia (AP) _ Mike Gray spends most days as Rolls-Royce’s regional director selling jet engines to the Indonesian military or compression systems to oil companies across the country’s vast archipelago. But since the tsunami, the 54-year-old Briton with a boyish face has assumed a new role: spurring corporate relief efforts.

Tsunami-corporate giving

Tsunami’s environmental wreckage still huge, but human impact is even bigger

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) _ There’s enough tsunami trash in this Indonesian city to make a three-story-high pile covering 30 football fields. In Sri Lanka, the volume of waste dumped in lagoons and waterways is more than twice what was generated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, by U.N. estimate. The environmental devastation in the worst-hit countries is immense, yet experts say it pales in comparison with what humans had already managed to inflict before the giant waves struck on Dec. 26, 2004.

Tsunami-Trash

Three months later, tsunami death toll steadies, but questions linger over accuracy, identities

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) _ The unmarked box sits in the corner of an Indonesian Red Cross office in a former Mitsubishi auto showroom. Inside, small sandwich bags hold what’s known about a few of the dead. There’s a government ID card issued to Junaidi Usman Banta, a 24-year-old fisherman. And there’s a mud-splattered wallet that indicates a man known only as Irwansyah voted last year and could afford a car.

 Tsunami-Identifying the Dead

After 3-week search for daughter in tsunami-devastated Indonesia, parents rejoice

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) _ The last time Amiruddin saw his shy 7-year-old daughter was three weeks ago when the tsunami snatched her away.In the chaos of flash floods, as the family scrambled toward the roof of their home, a utility pole fell, separating Putri from her mother. “We went to the roof and I couldn’t find her,” said the mother, Hernini. Like her husband and many others here, she has one name.The waters had barely receded when the family began its search for Putri, checking first among the corpses in the streets of their city, Lhokseumawe.

Tsunami-Reunions

Seafood poisoning on the rise as oceans become warmer, more polluted

 ILOILO, Philippines (AP) _ Bowls of piping hot barracuda soup were the much-anticipated treat when the Roa family gathered for a casual and relaxing Sunday meal.Within hours, all six fell deathly ill. So did two dozen others from the same neighborhood. Some complained of body-wide numbness. Others had weakness in their legs. Several couldn’t speak or even open their mouths.

Seafood Poisoning

Expanding deserts in China forcing farmers from fields, sending sandstorms across Pacific

ZHENGXIN, China (AP) _ Half a century after Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” brought irrigation to the arid grasslands in this remote corner of northwest China, the government is giving up on its attempt to make a breadbasket out of what has increasingly become a stretch of scrub and sand dunes. In a problem that’s pervasive in much of China, over-farming has drawn down the water table so low that desert is overtaking farmland. Authorities have ordered farmers here in Gansu province to vacate their properties over the next 3 1/2 years, and will replace 20 villages with newly planted grass in a final effort to halt the advance of the Tengger and Badain Jaran deserts.

China desertification

American scientist plies Asia’s waterways searching for “king of the river”

SAMUT SONGKRAM, Thailand (AP) _ Rushing across a temple parking lot, British angler Rick Humphreys yells “We’ve got a fish.”He jumps into a small motorboat on the Maeklong River in time to see Wirat Moungnum bring the prize to the surface _ a rare, giant freshwater stingray that weighs as much as 20 kilograms (44 pounds).It bursts through the murky water exposing a soft, white underbelly the size of trash can lid. The crew scrambles to string a rope through its gill-like slits and wrap a towel around its 5-foot (1.52 meters) long tail which has a venomous barb.

Stingray hunter

US mining giant faces off against police, activists over pollution claims

BUYAT BAY, Indonesia (AP) _ Mention Newmont Mining Corp. in this impoverished seaside community and villagers angrily recount how pollution from its gold mine has killed the fish and sickened residents with headaches, nausea and tremors. But local leaders praise Denver-based Newmont for providing hundreds of jobs and buildings schools and clinics. Complaining villagers, they say, are just looking for a quick payout.The world’s largest gold miner is again at the center of a controversy over the environmental impact of its operations. Newmont stands accused of dumping 5.5 million tons of mercury- and arsenic-laced waste into Buyat Bay from 1996 until the mine ceased operations Aug. 31.

US mining giant faces off against police

Hobbit find in Indonesia survives critics, proving to be early dwarf human species

LIANG BUA, Indonesia (AP) _ Hunched over a picnic table in a limestone cave, the Indonesian researcher gingerly fingers the bones of a giant rat for clues to the origins of a tiny human. This world turned upside down may once have existed here, on the remote island of Flores, where an international team is trying to shed light on the fossilized 18,000-year-old skeleton of a dwarf cavewoman whose discovery in 2003 was an international sensation.

Hobbit

Forgotten evolutionist lives in Darwin’s shadow

SANTUBONG, Malaysia (AP) _ As he trudges past chest-high ferns and butterflies the size of saucers, George Beccaloni scours a jungle hilltop overlooking the South China Sea for signs of a long-forgotten Victorian-era scientist.He finds what he’s looking for: an abandoned, two-story guest house, its doors missing and ceiling caved in.”Excellent. This is the actual spot,” he yells.

Forgotten evolutionist lives in Darwin’s shadow

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