Panicked over ‘murder hornets,’ people are killing native bees we desperately need

Found on Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Browse Nature

Since last week, when it was reported that two hornets were spotted for the first time in Washington state, the national panic has led to the needless slaughter of native wasps and bees, beneficial insects whose populations are already threatened, said Doug Yanega, senior museum scientist for the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside.

My colleagues in Japan, China and Korea are just rolling their eyes in disbelief at what kind of snowflakes we are.”

Many people can't even keep wasps and bees apart; it makes you wonder what low levels of education people have reached.

That Fresh Sea Breeze You Breathe May Be Laced With Microplastic

Found on Wired on Tuesday, 12 May 2020
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When you stand on a beach and take in a great big gulp of fresh air, you’re actually breathing bacteria, viruses, and aerosolized salts. Those are all punted into the air when whales breach or waves crash or even when bubbles rise to the surface of the sea, ejecting material that gets caught up in sea breezes and fog banks. And as much as I hate to rain on your beach day, you can now add an omnipresent pollutant to that list of debris: microplastics.

When the bubble surfaces, half of it protrudes above the water line, with the other half hidden beneath it. “On the top side out of the water, you've got a very thin layer of water, which when it bursts actually fragments, and that releases nano-sized materials,” says University of Strathclyde microplastic researcher Steve Allen, co-lead on the work.

It is somewhat amusing that the ocean refuses to act like a dumpster and fires the junk back at humans.

Insect numbers down 25% since 1990, global study finds

Found on The Guardian on Thursday, 23 April 2020
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The analysis combined 166 long-term surveys from almost 1,700 sites and found that some species were bucking the overall downward trend. In particular, freshwater insects have been increasing by 11% each decade following action to clean up polluted rivers and lakes. However, this group represent only about 10% of insect species and do not pollinate crops.

Recent analyses from some locations have found collapses in insect abundance, such as 75% in Germany and 98% in Puerto Rico. The new, much broader study found a lower rate of losses. However, Roel van Klink, of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig, who led the research, said: “This 24% is definitely something to be concerned about. It’s a quarter less than when I was a kid. One thing people should always remember is that we really depend on insects for our food.”

On the other hand, it feels like the numbers of annoying insects, like mosquitoes and ticks, went up.

Germany Rejected Nuclear Power—and Deadly Emissions Spiked

Found on Wired on Monday, 27 January 2020
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The German government quickly passed legislation to decommission all of the country’s nuclear reactors, ostensibly to keep its citizens safe by preventing a Fukushima-style disaster. But a study published last month by the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that Germany’s rejection of nuclear power was an expensive and possibly deadly miscalculation.

Altogether, the researchers calculated that the increased carbon emissions and deaths caused by local air pollution amounted to a social cost of about $12 billion per year. The study found that this dwarfs the cost of keeping nuclear power plants online by billions of dollars, even when the risks of a meltdown and the cost of nuclear waste storage are considered. “People overestimate the risk and damages from a nuclear accident,” says Akshaya Jha, an economist at Carnegie Mellon and an author of the study. “It’s also clear that people don’t realize the cost of local air pollution is pretty severe. It’s a silent killer.”

Knee-jerk reactions are rarely a good basis for long-term politics. Nuclear energy is CO2 neutral, simple as that; and as long as people use more and more electric devices for often pointless reasons, then you have an increasing basic energy demand.

Climate change: Last decade UK's 'second hottest in 100 years'

Found on BBC News on Friday, 03 January 2020
Browse Nature

Four new UK records were set last year alone, including the highest winter and summer temperatures ever recorded.

It said 2019 was provisionally the 11th warmest year on record, with a mean temperature of 9.42C, putting it just outside the top 10 - all of which have all occurred since 2002.

A government spokesman said climate change was a "national priority" and it was committed to increasing the momentum around environmental action.

As long as it's jus talk nothing will get better; and the vast majority of people will not change their own lifestyle but rely on others to fix it. So they can still receive daily parcels from online shopping with multiple delivery attempts because they are out, driving a few hundred meters to buy freshly imported oversea foods.

COP25 climate summit ends in 'staggering failure of leadership'

Found on New Scientist on Tuesday, 17 December 2019
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António Guterres, the UN secretary general, said he was disappointed with the outcome, and that leaders had missed an opportunity to be more ambitious on climate change mitigation, adaptation and finance for poorer countries. “But we must not give up, and I will not give up,” he tweeted.

The intransigence of big polluters – including China, the US, Brazil and India – at the meeting led to the European Union, small island states and members of the public expressing frustration.

So introduce a carbon tax. Imports from countries with high pollution rates get a serious percentage on top of the product price until they bring pollution down; the less pollution, the less tax. Sometimes compromises just won't work.

Young people can't remember how much more wildlife there used to be

Found on New Scientist on Wednesday, 11 December 2019
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Walking in England’s New Forest in 1892, butterfly collector S. G. Castle Russell encountered such numbers of the insects that they “were so thick that I could hardly see ahead”. On another occasion, he “captured a hundred purple hairstreaks” with two sweeps of his net.

The alternative is people losing connections to wildlife and the will to care about stopping its loss, she says. “If we don’t learn about nature from an early age, and we don’t go and experience it and recognise species, then [our collective amnesia] could just get worse and worse.”

People don't go outside as much as they used to; and when they do, it's mostly for their entertainment only with barely any attention for nature itself.

Jonathan Safran Foer: why we must cut out meat and dairy before dinner to save the planet

Found on The Guardian on Wednesday, 02 October 2019
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Our meat habit is the leading cause of deforestation, which releases carbon when trees are burned (forests contain more carbon than do all exploitable fossil-fuel reserves), and also diminishes the planet’s ability to absorb carbon.

It is hard to talk about our need to eat fewer animal products both because the topic is so fraught and because of the sacrifice involved. Most people like the taste of meat, dairy and eggs.

Or, we could start by not throwing away most of the food that is produced. Large masses of food are thrown away because it does not look pretty, or gets close to its shelf life without being actually bad.

Jakarta has sunk by up to 4 meters, forcing Indonesia to build a new capital

Found on Ars Technica on Wednesday, 28 August 2019
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Yesterday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a plan to move the country’s capital from Jakarta to a new location in Borneo. The reason? Jakarta is bursting at the seams—and sinking.

Cities like New Orleans and Venice, to name a couple problematic examples, are sinking partly due to groundwater extraction. And Shanghai has experienced more than two meters of subsidence due to groundwater pumping and construction on compressible sediments—just like Jakarta. California’s Central Valley is famous for the incredible amount of subsidence that has occurred as the region’s agriculture has tapped the aquifers for irrigation.

Now add global warming where the ice melts and sea levels rise, and suddenly you can add a lot more cities to the list.

How Bad Is Pakistan's Plastic Bag Problem? See For Yourself

Found on NPR on Friday, 16 August 2019
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Over more than a decade, Pakistani provinces have repeatedly imposed bans on single-use plastic bags made out of polyethylene (also called polythene), but those bans have faltered.

When the ban takes effect on Aug. 14, residents may be fined about $70 for being caught using a bag — nearly a month's wages for a laborer. Manufacturers will face larger fines for making plastic bags, as will shops for distributing them.

That's an approach that would be welcomed world-wide; and really needed too.