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75 posts from July 2011

July 29, 2011

Daily Roundup: July 29, 2011

On the Run: Two sea lions whose necks are ensnared in wire have thwarted four rescue attempts by wildlife officials. The pinnipeds dodged boats and "led rescuers in low-speed chases around San Francisco Bay." San Francisco Chronicle

Through the Grapevine: Scientists discovered that a vine in Cuba uses dish-shaped leaves to create a distinctive echo, which attracts nectar-feeding bats. New York Times

Pushing the Limit: Some 10 billion people may inhabit the planet by 2100, but demographers believe that population growth will plateau around the end of the century. Discovery News

Northern Lights: New research warns of the increased risk of massive fires in the Arctic tundra, which could worsen climate change. New Scientist

Off the Hook: Don't blame Ben Franklin for the troublesome tallow tree: Genetic tests of the invasive species (it's from China) in the Gulf Coast region show that the fast-growing plants aren't related to the batch Franklin imported in the 1700s. ScienceDaily

--Della Watson

Beyond the Meat Dress: Fish Plastic and Milk Fashion

Milk Franc Fernandez shocked the world when he designed Lady Gaga's infamous "meat dress,"  but he's not the only one who's found an unexpected use for a protein source. The lifecycle impact has yet to be calculated, but by using would-be waste products, these two items edge into the eco realm.

Designer Erik de Laurens makes "plastic" from fish scales. The fishing industry discards tons of fish scales, so de Laurens was inspired to put the stuff to use. By applying heat and pressure, de Laurens transforms the scales into faux-plastic drinking glasses, goggles, and a water dispenser.

Meanwhile, Anke Domaske uses spoiled milk as her medium. The German fashion designer creates stylish dresses by spinning milk fibers into protein threads. Domaske, whose background is in microbiology, hopes that the silk-like milk fiber will become a viable alternative to cotton.

Continue reading "Beyond the Meat Dress: Fish Plastic and Milk Fashion" »

How to Make a Keyboard Into a Wallet

Keyboard into wallet Inside every keyboard is the perfect material for a wallet: a flexible yet durable circuit sheet with intriguing metallic designs and colors. Using scissors and packing tape, you can make a futuristic wallet that fits in your pocket and includes slots for bills and coins. Now that's change you can believe in. Sierra writer Wendy Becktold writes about her experience completing this project: 

"With the help of a screwdriver, I easily dismantled my coffee-soaked keyboard and removed its 'QWERTY leather,' an act of creative destruction that felt satisfying and slightly subversive. After all, we're trained to be passive consumers — to get rid of things, not reinvent them.  As for all those leftover keyboard pieces, I glued magnets to the backs of the letters and numbers and stuck them on my fridge. Now I can spell words like "RECY<L3."

Continue reading "How to Make a Keyboard Into a Wallet" »

Movie Review Friday: Water Wars

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

Water Wars (2010)

Available on DVD

You should watch this movie immediately. Not because it is well made (though it is written and directed by Oscar-nominated Jim Burroughs), not because it is authoritatively narrated (though Martin Sheen is wonderful to listen to), but because it is critically important. Instead of spending one hour watching Mad Men, rent this and learn about one of the world's most under-reported crises. The numbers alone are shocking: 70% of America faces drought or contamination, two-thirds of Africa's population lack drinkable water, and more than 400 million people in Southeast Asia are threatened by floods. 

Though it's low-budget and can jump from topic to topic, this documentary is truly eye-opening. It  focuses on Bangladesh, which as a delta nation, is plagued every dry season by crippling drought, and every wet season by mind-boggling floods. Making the situation even worse, not-so-neighborly India is planning a river-diversion program that would redirect much of Bangladesh’s river water before it even hits the border. As Bangladeshis dig deeper for groundwater, they encounter a rate of arsenic contamination that's higher than 70%. 

Continue reading "Movie Review Friday: Water Wars" »

Daily Roundup: July 28, 2011

Cracking Down: The EPA has proposed standards to regulate oil and gas production, including fracking. Reuters 

Getting Hot In Here: For the first time, a leading climate research institute released all of its data to the public. BBC

New Dependencies: World lithium deposits are large enough to power electric cars for the next century, a study says. New York Times

Final Destination: The Russian government plans to remotely crash the International Space Station into the ocean after its retirement in 2020. MNN 

Residue: A month after an Exxon oil pipeline ruptured under it, the Yellowstone River has oil on 60% of its shoreline. TreeHugger 

 --Mimi Dwyer

July 28, 2011

Protecting the Stars of Shark Week

Shark This Sunday, the Discovery Channel dives into the 24th season of Shark Week, which is only getting more popular: Last year netted a record 30.8 million viewers. To inform every shark fan about the creatures' dramatically declining populations and inspire action, Oceana and  Discovery teamed up this year to air a nightly "Save the Sharks" public-service announcement.

So while we're comfy on the couch watching "Top Five Eaten Alive" or “Killer Sharks,” the PSA is there to remind us that sharks are really the ones in danger, not humans. They may be powerful predators, but they're also incredibly intelligent creatures and lynchpins of our oceans' ecosystems. And they're in dire straits.

Sharks have been around for 400 million years, having survived mass extinctions. But they're faltering under the weight of human exploitation. Since they're long-lived and give birth to few young, they're particularly affected by overfishing and bycatch. Currently, 50 shark species are listed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered, but only three of those are internationally protected.

Continue reading "Protecting the Stars of Shark Week" »

Thailand's Elephants Get the Celebrity Treatment

Great news for those IStock_Thai elephantwho happen to love mandolin twangs and pachyderms too: Charles Kelley of the Grammy-winning country group Lady Antebellum is teaming up with Thailand's King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament to raise money for Southeast Asia's elephants.

Along with elephant-loving celebrities from three other countries, including Thai beauty pagent winners and Kim Jones, Louis Vuitton's recently appointed style director, Kelley will deck out a tiny, bland elephant figurine called "George" with a trunkload of accessories. After the Georges have been thoroughly decorated and imbued with the value-raising celebrity touch, they'll be auctioned at a ritzy gala at the Anantara Hua Hin Resort and Spa on Sept. 10 to kick off the elephant polo festivities.

Throughout the King's Cup's brief history, which began in 2001, it's raised more than $300,000 for Thailand's elephant charities. Last year's proceeds went to the Thai Elephant Therapy Project, which pairs autistic children with elephants. This year's money goes to the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which cares for injured and abused elephants. The group is also working to protect Thailand's remaining wild herd.

Continue reading "Thailand's Elephants Get the Celebrity Treatment" »

Green Your Gastronomy: DON'T Save Your Food

Leftovers The days may be long and sweltering, but your meals can still be light on the stomach — and the Earth. This week's tips will help make your summer fare a bit greener.

Tip #4: Get creative with your leftovers.

While composting your leftover food is an excellent way to reduce waste, you can’t compost some kinds of meat and cooked food, and the resultant fertilizer is only useful if you’ve got a whole lotta garden. Instead of tossing your extra food (or leaving it in Tupperware for three weeks), try some new takes on leftovers: Sandwich crusts make bread pudding, overripe bananas become a mean smoothie, and almost any leftovers chopped up with rice make a Colombian picadito — yum.

Tell us: What's your favorite weird leftover recipe?

July 27, 2011

Daily Roundup: July 27, 2011

Going Once, Going Twice, Jailed: Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher's act of civil disobedience (disrupting federal oil and gas auctions on BLM land by bidding himself) netted him a two-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. Grist

From War to Wildlife: South Korea will turn undeveloped borderlands near the DMZ into an "ecological tourism belt," complete with hiking trails and a renewable-energy complex. Reuters

Driving a Bargain: The Obama administration is striking a deal with car manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency. Climate Progress

I Heart NY+PV: Two-thirds of New York City rooftops are appropriate for solar panels; if all suitable spaces were utilized, 50% of NYC could be solar-powered while the sun was shining. TreeHugger

White Hot: Conservative Caucasian men are significantly more likely to be climate-change skeptics than any other demographic, according to a recent poll. Guardian

--Christa Morris

Wooden You Like to Stop Timber Poaching?

IStock_000001364276XSmall What's a lucrative brown material often smuggled across borders by armed men looking to evade the law? Think you've got it? Here's a twist: Most Americans use it every day. Still stumped?

Illegal wood poaching accounts for more than 80% of the total timber harvest in many developing countries. Illegal logging, classified as unregulated activity in harvesting and transporting timber, hurts economies and the environment. According to the World Bank, illegal logging operations cost governments up to $15 billion annually through lost tax revenue. Most such scams happen in biologically rich, environmentally sensitive regions like the Amazon rainforest and central Africa.

But with the advent of new technologies and regulations, illegal timber harvests may be getting chopped out. The EU's Environment Commission is considering implementing a bar-code system to monitor trees in protected areas so that they could be identified if sold. Brazil uses an internet tracking system to see how timber is being moved about the country. Researchers are also examining the use of DNA fingerprinting to identify where a piece of wood originated, a technology that'd be especially useful in protecting rare trees, like mahogany, that are hunted down individually and sold in small quantities.

Continue reading "Wooden You Like to Stop Timber Poaching?" »

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