We can make plants pass out—with the same drugs that mysteriously knock us out

Found on Ars Technica on Tuesday, 12 December 2017
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Just like humans, plants can succumb to the effects of general anesthetic drugs, researchers report this week in the Annals of Botany. The finding is striking for a variety of reasons—there’s the pesky fact that plants lack a central nervous system, for one thing.

The anesthetics temporarily caused the plants to go still and unresponsive. The Venus flytrap's spikey trap didn’t slam shut when poked. The shy plant was no longer shy; it’s leaves stayed open when gently brushed. Similarly, the sundew plants didn’t bend to capture dead fruit flies and the pea plant’s tendrils drooped and curled up instead of whirling in normal upward fashion.

Actually, that's pretty amazing: who would have thought that plants can be drugged too?

EU settles dispute over major weedkiller glyphosate

Found on BBC News on Monday, 27 November 2017
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EU countries have voted to renew the licence of glyphosate, a widely used weedkiller at the centre of environmental concerns.

The UK was among the states in favour of glyphosate renewal. Germany and Poland were also among them - though they had previously abstained.

Critics say widespread use of glyphosate reduces biodiversity, by killing plants that are essential for many insects and other animals.

Everybody can see the effects of modern agriculture. Or better, you cannot see them anymore, because there are less and less species than a few decades ago; and it's not only the flora that's affected, but in turn the fauna too. However, as long as money can be made, everything is fine, right?

Mother Nature can save the Great Barrier Reef... if we help her

Found on CNet News on Monday, 23 October 2017
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Filling clouds with salt will brighten them and, in turn, reflect the sun's heat away from the sea below, Harrison says. Climate change has caused Australia's ocean temperatures to rise around 0.68 degree Celsius over the last century. That may not sound like much, but it's enough to cause a coral catastrophe. Harrison says his plan can offset this change and give the reef much-needed time to heal.

Current efforts amount to little more than stopgaps. Still, they're hoping they can alter the environment just enough to give Mother Nature a helping hand in repairing herself.

Sadly, there will only be enough interest if money can be made from it. That's how far ahead the world thinks.

Alarm over decline in flying insects

Found on BBC News on Friday, 20 October 2017
Browse Nature

Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over almost 30 years.

They stressed the importance of adopting measures known to be beneficial for insects, including strips of flowers around farmland and minimising the effects of intensive agriculture.

Dr Lynn Dicks, from the University of East Anglia, UK, who is not connected with the study, said the paper provides new evidence for "an alarming decline" that many entomologists have suspected for some time.

A few decades ago, the industry and politicians told farmers to cut down every small spot covered with wild flowers and bushes because it harms effiency. Farmers were also told to rely on modern chemistry to keep weeds and insects away from crops. Now everybody gets the bill for that.

Monsanto leaks suggest it tried to ‘kill’ cancer research about notorious weed killer

Found on RT on Friday, 04 August 2017
Browse Nature

A trove of documents was released by LA-based plaintiff firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman earlier in August. The company is representing people who claimed that they or their relatives got cancer due to Monsanto products.

“This is a look behind the curtain,” attorney Brent Wisner said. “This show[s] that Monsanto has deliberately been stopping studies that look bad for them, ghostwriting literature and engaging in a whole host of corporate malfeasance.

“They [Monsanto] have been telling everybody that these products are safe because regulators have said they are safe, but it turns out that Monsanto has been in bed with US regulators while misleading European regulators,” he added.

That should not be any surprise for everybody who knows even just a tiny bit about Monsanto.

A million bottles a minute: world's plastic binge 'as dangerous as climate change'

Found on The Guardian on Saturday, 01 July 2017
Browse Nature

The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of a western, urbanised “on the go” culture to China and the Asia Pacific region.

Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable. But as their use soars across the globe, efforts to collect and recycle the bottles to keep them from polluting the oceans, are failing to keep up.

Major drinks brands produce the greatest numbers of plastic bottles. Coca-Cola produces more than 100bn throwaway plastic bottles every year – or 3,400 a second, according to analysis carried out by Greenpeace after the company refused to publicly disclose its global plastic usage.

Introduce extra taxes for plastic bottles (and bags), so that they will become more expensive than glass bottles. Or drastically raise bottle deposits to increase the recycling. However, as long as it "hurts the industry", this won't happen. As long as he economy is more important than the ecosystem, humanity will continue its path to self-eradication.

Where have all the insects gone?

Found on Science on Thursday, 18 May 2017
Browse Nature

The group, the Krefeld Entomological Society, has seen the yearly insect catches fluctuate, as expected. But in 2013 they spotted something alarming. When they returned to one of their earliest trapping sites from 1989, the total mass of their catch had fallen by nearly 80%. Perhaps it was a particularly bad year, they thought, so they set up the traps again in 2014. The numbers were just as low.

Across North America and Europe, species of birds that eat flying insects, such as larks, swallows, and swifts, are in steep decline. Habitat loss certainly plays a role, Nocera says, "but the obvious factor that ties them all together is their diet."

Maybe they should just ask Monsanto and BASF.

Huge plastic waste footprint revealed

Found on BBCNews on Wednesday, 15 March 2017
Browse Nature

Soft drinks makers admit more needs to be done to stop people discarding single-use plastic bottles.

The biggest brand Coca-Cola is under fire for refusing to disclose how much plastic it produces.

“All plastic bottles are 100% recyclable so it is important that consumers are encouraged to dispose of bottles responsibly."

Obviously customers are not responsible enough, so that plan has failed. A simple alternative is the use of old-fashioned glass bottles: it does less damage.

Taliban leader urges Afghans to plant more trees

Found on BBC News on Sunday, 26 February 2017
Browse Nature

In a statement, he called on civilians and fighters to "plant one or several fruit or non-fruit trees for the beautification of Earth and the benefit of almighty Allah's creations".

"Tree plantation plays an important role in environmental protection, economic development and beautification of earth," the Taliban leader said, in a report carried by the Afghan Taliban Voice of Jihad website.

That would be nice and all, if only they would not constantly blow up everything.

Harvester ants farm by planting seeds to eat once they germinate

Found on New Scientist on Friday, 13 January 2017
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It turns out that Florida harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex badius, have developed a clever farming strategy to do so – they plant seeds, wait for them to germinate and then eat the soft spoils.

A single large seed may have nutritional value of 15 smaller seeds, so it makes sense to collect it and wait for it to crack open. Seeds from various species germinate at different times, which may give the ants a steady supply of their

Darwin at work.