Air and Water
Plastics clogging up our landfills and polluting our oceans are a scourge of modern life and we struggle with ways to combat this growing problem. The biggest issue is that most plastics are simply not biodegradable. Polyethylene, the common plastic found in shopping bags and numerous other products, takes between 100 and 400 years to degrade in a landfill.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the global authority for determining species’ vulnerability in the face of threats such as habitat loss and climate change. How widely a species can be found – its geographic range – is a key indicator used by the IUCN to assign an appropriate conservation status.
It seems like something out of a science fiction movie, but a nearly silent train that glides along its tracks emitting nothing but water is a reality. In March, Germany conducted successful tests of the world’s first “Hydrail,” which is a hydrogen-powered, zero-emission train.
Invasive species have been a problem for quite some time. Over the years, we have grappled with – among other things – invasive plants from Japan, zebra mussels from eastern Europe, and Asian fungus that kills off ash trees in our forests.
The Amazon rainforest is the biggest in the world, larger than the next two biggest combined. It covers over 3 million square miles, roughly the size of the lower 48 states. For this reason, it functions as a critical sink for carbon in the atmosphere.
Renewable energy may be under attack by the federal government these days, but one federal agency is making great progress on using the sun’s energy to split hydrogen from water. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, located in Golden, Colorado, recently highlighted two initiatives aimed at the production of renewable hydrogen.
Scientists at UC Berkeley and MIT have demonstrated a water harvester that uses only sunlight to pull liters of water out of the air each day in conditions as low as 20% humidity, a level common in arid areas.
Sea lions in California are under duress from a rather unassuming source: algae. Driven by higher water temperatures and pollution, toxic algae is leading to fatal brain damage in many California sea lions.
On several occasions, we have talked about the enormous amount of plastic that litters the world’s oceans. Bits of bottles, bags, toys, fishing nets and other objects collect in gyres, or so-called garbage patches, which have grown and grown over the decades.
The changing climate has many effects upon the world’s ecosystems, some of which are surprising. One of these relates to the effect of the increasing melting of ice in the Arctic. The ice melt is leading to more life in the Arctic sea.
For most of us, a day spent in the mountains, the woods, or at the beach always seems like a good day. Communing with nature tends to make us feel better.
There has been much news recently about the growing bleaching events going on in the world’s coral reefs associated with ocean warming and acidification. The massive damage to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is an ongoing tragedy.
Graphene is often called the wonder material. First isolated by scientists in 2004, it is a form of carbon that is just one atom thick, extremely light, two hundred times stronger than steel, highly flexible, and an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Scientists are finding numerous applications for it.
The world’s smallest porpoise is in real trouble. According to scientists, there could be as few as 30 vaquitas remaining on the planet. We highlighted the plight facing this species in detail last month.
Most of the planet’s freshwater stores are found in the northern hemisphere, a region that is changing rapidly in response to human activity and shifting climate trends. A recent study analyzed 147 northern lakes and found that many rely on nutrients from tree leaves, pine needles, and other land-grown plants to feed aquatic life.
Poor air quality is a major problem worldwide. Exposure to air pollution is linked to the premature deaths of an estimated 6.5 million people every year. This makes air pollution the fourth largest threat to human health, trailing only high blood pressure, dietary risks, and smoking.
The North-Rhine Westphalia region of Germany was the crucible of that country’s industrial revolution and it still generates a third of Germany’s power, much of it using aging coal plants. However, Germany’s national energy transition program is pushing the country away from coal and other fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources.