Category: Environment

These animals can survive until the end of the Earth

These animals can survive until the end of the Earth

The Washington Post
By Ben Guarino

Tardigrades have a reputation as the toughest animals on the planet. Some of these microscopic invertebrates shrug off temperatures of minus 272 Celsius, one degree warmer than absolute zero. Other species can endure powerful radiation and the vacuum of space. In 2007, the European Space Agency sent 3,000 animals into low Earth orbit, where the tardigrades survived for 12 days on the outside of the capsule.

To a group of theoretical physicists, tardigrades were the perfect specimens to test life’s tenacity. “Life is pretty fragile if all your estimates are based on humans or dinosaurs,” said David Sloan, a theoretical cosmologist at Oxford University in Britain.

The tardigrade lineage is ancient. “Tardigrade microfossils are reported from the Early Cambrian to the Early Cretaceous, 520 million to 100 million years ago,” said Ralph O. Schill, an expert on tardigrades at the University of Stuttgart in Germany who was not involved with this research. “They have seen the dinosaurs come and go.”


How climate change and air pollution can affect your health

From ABC News — Written by Gillian Mohney

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the landmark Paris climate agreement could have far reaching consequences on climate and fossil fuel emissions in the future.

While climate change and pollution are often discussed in terms of environmental damage, they can also greatly impact public health.

Under the Paris agreement, the U.S. said it would cut carbon emissions by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 and parties agree to try to hold global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above temperatures in the late 1800s.

Jeffrey Shaman, director of the Climate and Health Program at the Mailman School of Public Health, pointed out that a changing climate may mean fundamental changes to human health.

Acquiring and using fossil fuels “has led to the disruption of the [climate] system that we have come to rely on,” said Shaman pointing out civilization developed during the 11,000 year period of climate stability. “That disruption is a fundamental stressor on our system.”

Without that climate stability, Shaman and other public health officials have found that there are risks to public health from multiple factors including extreme weather, spreading populations of insects and irritating airborne pollutants.

I can’t stop laughing at the Trump administration. That’s not a good thing.

From The Washington Post — Written by Daniel W. Drezner

It is worth remembering that after Donald Trump won the election last November, there was reason for America’s foreign policy community to engage in some introspection. After all, petition after petition of national security and foreign policy professionals had been issued warnings that Trump would be a foreign policy disaster.

Despite these warnings, Trump won — which suggested that maybe foreign policy professionals and experts needed to do some soul-searching.

That was then. Now, however, introspection is a thing of the past.

Let’s consider his team. Rex Tillerson has given zero indication that he knows how to run the State Department. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross made clueless comments about Saudi Arabia that left the impression of him as a doddering fool. As secretary of homeland security, John F. Kelly keeps saying things designed to scare the hell out of people rather than make them feel more secure. He seems to have fallen victim to the worst pathologies of the Bush administration — and at least 9/11 could explain the behavior of those officials. National security adviser H.R. McMaster and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn seem to be focused far more on pleasing the president than offering cogent advice. Whatever influence they had over the national security team seems to be on the wane. Jared Kushner? Please. The rest of the White House staff is busy trying to be more absurd propagandists than Kim Jong Un’s flacks. So far, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley are the only foreign policy hands who have managed to retain their dignity, and that’s mostly because what they say contradicts Trump. And their assurances to allies do not seem to be working.

Then there’s the president himself. Just a glance at the decision-making process he used on withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord makes it clear how manifestly unfit he is to do his job.

Cicada horror stories

From The Washington Post — Written by Kevin Ambrose — Image courtesy of Kevin Ambrose

The screams were heard by everyone in the Fair Lakes parking lot. A woman, bent over at the waist, was thrashing her torso back and forth while slapping at the back of her head and shoulders, screaming and gasping for air at the same time.

Two men rushed to help. One man quickly noticed what was terrifying the woman — a cicada had become tangled in her hair and was flipping and bouncing against the back of her neck. The bug was making quite a commotion, beating its wings rapidly while emitting a loud, buzzing noise with its tymbals.

The man carefully pulled the large insect out of the woman’s hair and held it out to show her. “Look, it’s only a cicada,” he said. The woman reeled back with horror and exclaimed, “How can you touch that thing?!” Then she quickly walked to her car, muttering, “I’m never going outside again.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline leaked 84 gallons of oil in April

From Time and reported by Blake Nicholson/AP — image courtesy of Josh Morgan / Reuters

The Dakota Access pipeline leaked 84 gallons of oil in South Dakota early last month, which an American Indian tribe says bolsters its argument that the pipeline jeopardizes its water supply and deserves further environmental review.

The April 4 spill was relatively small and was quickly cleaned up, and it didn’t threaten any waterways.

The leak occurred at a rural pump station in the northeast of the state as crews worked to get the four-state pipeline fully operational. The oil was contained on site by a plastic liner and containment walls and quickly cleaned up. Some oil-contaminated gravel will be disposed of at an area landfill.