Some Goods And Some Bads

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The global coal industry is using as much water as a billion people each year

“We already know that coal-fired power plants are bad for the planet, but that’s usually because we are just thinking about the enormous amounts of carbon dioxide emissions they contribute to our atmosphere. A new Greenpeace report entitled The Great Water Grab sheds light on another terrifying aspect of the coal industry – its astronomical water consumption. The report suggests that the global coal industry uses the same amount of water that would serve one billion people each year. Because coal plants are often situated in water-scarce areas of the world, this adds up to a devastating misuse of Earth’s precious resources.”

Warka Water tower that pulls drinking water from thin air wins World Design Impact Prize

“Designed by Arturo Vittori and his Italian studio Architecture and Vision, Warka Water is a water-catchment system that produces potable water by harvesting rain, fog, and dew. The team took design cues from naturally found forms, like termite hives and cactus spines, and combined them with low-cost, locally found materials to create the sculptural and biomimetic tower. A Warka Water structure comprises a bamboo frame, recyclable mesh, rope, canopy, and a water tank, and can be assembled easily and inexpensively by six people in about four days.”

Biodegradable algae water bottles provide a green alternative to plastic

“The algae bottle retains its unique shape until it is empty, and then it begins to break down. It’s an all-natural alternative to plastic, and Jónsson says drinkers can even chew on the bottle if they enjoy the taste. Agar is often used as a vegetarian or vegan substitute for gelatin in desserts, and is both safe for the environment and humans.”

Florida nuclear power plant is leaking pollutants that threaten drinking water

“A nuclear power plant south of Miami is leaking polluted water into the fragile ecosystem of Florida’s Biscayne Bay. The leak was discovered during a recent investigation commissioned by the county government, which revealed that Turkey Point power plant’s old cooling canal system is leaking pollutants into a body of water that mingles with the open sea. A growing saltwater plume in the bay is pulling contaminated water several miles away toward wells that supply drinking water to millions of Florida residents.
Scientists found elevated levels of salt, ammonia, phosphorous and tritium in water samples taken at various depths. Tritium is a radioactive isotope that is found in nature, but also stems from nuclear power plants. Although the current levels aren’t high enough to pose a direct threat to humans, the test results show that the pollutants exceed the levels set by federal clean water regulations.”

Leonardo DiCaprio gives Seychelles $1 million for monumental marine sanctuary

“The donation from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) supports a larger effort to offer financial aid to the island nation. In addition to the million dollar gift, foreign investor groups have agreed to a “debt swap” agreement, which calls for a massive restructuring of the nation’s $21.4 million debt in exchange for ocean protection efforts. The Seychelles government has plenty of reasons to want to protect its surrounding seas, as much of the country’s economy relies on tuna fishing and water-centric tourist activities.”

Norwegian energy giant developing battery solution for offshore wind

“Renewable Energy Magazine reports that Statoil, the Norwegian energy (and oil) giant that’s developing this project, is also launching Batwind—a lithium ion battery storage solution designed specifically for offshore wind applications. And its first trial run, in late 2018 if all goes to plan, will be at the Hywind floating wind farm. Developed in conjunction with universities and suppliers in Scotland, if successful, this project could add a significant boost to an already exciting new development in wind energy technology.”

‘The Story of Stuff’ takes on Nestlé in new film

“Nestlé has been fighting for a water deal in Cascade Locks since 2007. It wants permission to carry away millions of gallons of water annually, driving it through the downtown core in huge 20,000-pound trucks at a rate of one every four minutes. The water would be bottled and sold right back to Americans.”

Starbucks to donate leftover packaged food

“Through FoodShare, all of Starbucks 7,600 company-operated stores in the United States will donate ready-to-eat meals to food banks through the company’s existing relationship with Food Donation Collection and a new partnership with Feeding America. By the end of 2016, Starbucks estimates it will have donated 5,000 ready-to-eat meals to those in need. It will also save many of those 5,000 meals from ending up in the landfill.”

Coral reefs can be healthy if we keep humans at bay, massive 10-year study shows

“Over the past decade, the researchers have studied 450 coral reefs spread around 56 islands in the central Pacific, including Hawaii, the Phoenix islands, the Mariana Archipelago and American Samoa. This massive undertaking has revealed how much of an impact proximity to humans has on the coral reefs. Those near remote islands are dramatically healthier than those near populated areas. The remote corals host more species including sea turtles, jellyfish, manta rays, sharks, as well as more colorful algae.”

Another environmental activist, Nelson García, is murdered in Honduras

“Sadly his assassination, like that of Cáceres, does not come as a surprise. Honduras is known for being one of the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental activists. A report called “How Many More?” from Global Witness states that 101 activists have been killed in Honduras between 2010 and 2014. Many are from indigenous communities that resisted development projects, including mines and dams, and the encroachment of farms on their territory.”

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Promising

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First baby rhino born in 25 years under community care in Kenya

“According to the World Wildlife Fund, black rhinos are still critically endangered. Since 1960, poaching and hunting decimated the black rhinos by about 98%, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In all of Kenya there are only an estimated 640 black rhinos, which makes this baby’s birth all the more hopeful.”

Brooklyn politician moves to protect dogs from neglect and euthanasia

“Now, if State Senator Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) gets his way, dogs will not be allowed to be tied up outside between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and during periods of severe weather; and dog houses would be required to be adequately insulated. The set of bills also include legislation making it harder for kill shelters to euthanize dogs. Shelters would be required to make “reasonable efforts” to locate the dog’s owner or find a new home for the animal, including posting pictures of it on the Internet, notes the newspaper. As well, the minimum time a shelter must keep a healthy dog before euthanizing it would be extended from five to 90 days.”

5 questions you should ask yourself before taking a selfie with an animal

“Most people are bright enough to not risk their own life or the life of an animal to get a selfie, but unfortunately there are a shocking number of people who don’t think through the situation. So we’ve come up with five questions everyone with a selfie stick should ask themselves before going in for a portrait.”
AKA: Just don’t.

Boaty McBoatface inspires Internet to rename animals

“The Internet has decided to forge ahead and take an amusing stab at renaming animals in the spirit of McBoatface. Below are just a few of our favorites under the hashtag of #TheInternetNamesAnimals.”

How $2 LEDs can save sea turtles’ lives

“In a new study, researchers added green light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to gillnets at a small Peruvian fishery, reducing the number of sea turtles deaths by 64 percent — and without affecting the nets’ intended haul of guitarfish, a type of ray. Sea turtles rely heavily on visual cues when foraging, and the green lights presumably helped them (but not the guitarfish) see the looming nets before it was too late.”

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Malaria parasite found hiding out in North American deer

“The new findings were discovered by chance. Researchers led by Ellen Martinsen, a biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s genetics center in Washington, D.C., were searching for the source of malaria parasites in birds at the national zoo. Using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, which amplifies DNA to make it easier to study, they identified a genetic signature of an unexpected malaria parasite, Plasmodium odocoilei, previously unknown in the Americas. The researchers were able to obtain a large enough sample of blood from the mosquito’s enlarged abdomen to trace its origin to white-tailed deer. “We weren’t out there, testing a hypothesis,” Martinsen says. “We serendipitously stumbled upon this weird sequence.”

Ice volcanoes spotted on Pluto, suggest internal heat source/a>

“Researchers on NASA’s New Horizons mission have discovered evidence on Pluto for what appears to be two cryovolcanoes—volcanoes built out of frozen ice that once oozed molten ice from the inside of the dwarf planet. The discovery points to an internal heat source that, at some point in Pluto’s past, drove the melting of interior reservoirs of volatile ices, such as nitrogen and methane, that then erupted at the surface. It also suggests that the cryovolcanoes were a way for Pluto to periodically rejuvenate surface supplies of these volatile ices, which sublimate into the thin atmosphere and are eventually lost to space.”

Researchers take small step toward silicon-based life

“Researchers reported in San Diego, California, this week at the semiannual meeting of the American Chemical Society that they have evolved a bacterial enzyme that efficiently incorporates silicon into simple hydrocarbons—a first for life. Down the road, organisms able to incorporate silicon into their cells could lead to a novel biochemistry for life, although for now creating actual silicon-based creatures (like the Horta from Star Trek, pictured) remains a long way off.”

Nano-balls filled with poison wipe out metastatic cancer in mice

“Now, researchers have come up with an approach that tricks these spinoff tumors into swallowing poison. So far the strategy has only been tested in mice, where it proved highly effective. But the results are promising enough that the researchers are planning to launch clinical trials in cancer patients within a year.”

Not a fan of testing on animals, but I’m glad there’s some promise in the technique.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg meets China’s propaganda chief

“Liu Yunshan told Zuckerberg that he hopes Facebook can share its experience with Chinese companies to help “Internet development better benefit the people of all countries,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Zuckerberg was in Beijing to attend an economic forum.”

Notable Current Events

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China’s booming renewable energy market set to blow away emissions targets by 2020

“China originally intended to slash its carbon emissions per GDP unit by an ambitious 40-45% of 2005 levels by the year 2020, but now it’s looking like the final figure will be even higher. As of the end of 2015, China’s wind installations were generating an all-time global record of 32.5 gigawatts, 20.7 of which came online in 2014 alone.”

New law in Italy forces supermarkets to donate unsold food to those in need

“Italy’s government is preparing to approve a measure that will require supermarkets to donate unsold food to those in need. Following in the footsteps of France, where a similar law became effective earlier this year, the arguably food-obsessed Mediterranean nation seeks to cut down on the enormous amounts of food that go to waste each year. The proposed legislation will require supermarkets to donate unsold or unused food to organizations that use it to feed hungry people, making it both a win for the environment, society and the economy.”

World’s largest ‘mosquito factory’ in China to release 20 million bugs a week

“Mosquitoes may be small, but they are a pretty big problem when it comes to public health in many areas of the globe. Now, a Chinese ‘mosquito factory’ is doing something about it that may become a widespread practice: releasing millions of male mosquitoes each week so they can breed with wild female mosquitoes and eventually kill off the species. How will that work, exactly? The mosquitoes they release will be infected with a bacteria that results in infertile eggs in female offspring, so after a few generations, the numbers will fall dramatically.”

New Wheelys 4 bike café cleans smoggy air and turns coffee grounds into fertilizer

“Wheelys just unveiled an incredible wind and solar-powered bike cafe with a built-in air purifier that sucks in smoggy city air and releases fresh, clean air. It also transforms used coffee grounds into plant fertilizer — allowing owners to pack the grounds into easy-to-plant seed cubes that can be buried anywhere.”

One in four deaths related to environmental issues, according to the WHO

“A new study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) says that nearly one in four deaths are linked to environmental causes and are avoidable. The agency’s new report is the first comprehensive evaluation of environmental health risks since 2006, and it concludes that some 12.6 million people die each year from diseases and injuries related to environmental risks. Increases in air pollution, as well as climate change and chemical exposure, all contribute to deaths that the WHO says could be prevented.”

Farming preschool would teach kids how to grow their own food

“Part farm and part school, “Nursery Fields Forever” offers three approaches to learning: learning from nature, learning from technique, and learning from practice. “We think that kids should enjoy nature,” said Edoardo Capuzzo Dolcetta to Fast Company. “So we designed this strange school: No classrooms, but open spaces where vegetables grow inside and animals can come in too. It’s a mixing of the two things, school and nature.” The school is designed as a cluster of gabled buildings that overlook a variety of garden plots and livestock pens.”

Humane Society’s “Day of Giving” is March 31
“Every dollar raised provides pets in underserved communities with essential care.”

Teen scientists make health, environmental breakthroughs

“At the recent Intel Science Talent Search, high schoolers around the country showed off the various ways they were using math and science to solve the world’s issues. Top awards, with prizes of $150,000 each, went to three students whose projects went leaps and bounds beyond the old science fair triboard, creating applicable solutions to real-world health and environmental issues.”

Gymnast with 1 leg defies the odds