Gallery of hermit crabs with garbage shells

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The hermit crab housing shortage of empty shells is forcing some crabs to use marine waste, as documented by Okinawa-based photographer Shawn M. Miller. Read the rest

Amazing video demonstrates levels of light pollution

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Lost in Light is Sriram Murali's simple yet beautifully-crafted demonstration of levels of light pollution from worst to best, and how much gets lost in the night sky.

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Mumbai Beach clean-up highlights marine waste epidemic

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The shocking amount of marine waste washed up on Mumbai's Versova Beach led UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh to publicize a long-term cleanup project. Mountains of garbage, mostly plastic, have been hauled away by thousands of volunteers. Read the rest

Video: Guys whose boss made them illegally dump hazardous chemicals in the desert

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On March 3, a worker shot this video of him and his co-workers illegally pouring HOCUT 795-B out on the Nevada desert floor, then burning out the residue, at the insistence of their (unnamed) employer. Read the rest

Flintnation: 33 US cities caught cheating on municipal water lead tests

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An independent investigation by The Guardian found 33 cities in 17 US states (including Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee) are systematically cheating on the tests to monitor lead levels in the municipal water. 21 of those cities used the same cheating techniques that led to criminal charges in the Flint water scandal. Read the rest

Leaked recording: pollution lobbyists discuss exploiting Syrian refugee crisis

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A leaked recording made of a conference call hosted by the Edison Electric Institute, which lobbies for the power industry, reveals lobbyists for high pollution companies talking about how they can exploit the Syrian refugee crisis to get a rider inserted into a pending bill that would kill the EPA's Waters of the United States rule, which protects America's waterways from pollution. Read the rest

In Volkswagen emissions fraud scandal, proprietary software is the real villain

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“Proprietary software is an unsafe building material. You can’t inspect it.”

Columbia University law professor Eben Moglen made that observation 5 years ago. It's timely today, as the Volkswagen emissions fraud scandal--enabled by proprietary software--worsens. Read the rest

This is how blue the skies were when Beijing banned 2.5 million cars for two weeks

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In Beijing, China banned 2.5 million cars from driving for 2 weeks to get this beautiful blue sky for a World War II commemorative parade. As soon as the parade was over, the ban was lifted, and the blue vanished within 24 hours. Read the rest

US Navy: By 2050 Arctic Ocean ice will all melt in summers

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Many troubling stats about climate change's effect in the North Pole region are tucked into Newsweek's article on the geopolitical gold rush taking place up there. Read the rest

1/4 of cars cause 9/10 of pollution

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Researchers at the University of Toronto found that “badly tuned” cars are responsible for most of the air pollution. Read the rest

Inside Beijing's airpocalypse – a city made "almost uninhabitable" by pollution

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The Guardian's Oliver Wainwright reports on the miasmal atmosphere enveloping Beijing. Read the rest

Air pollution: the holy Hajj's health threat

Dr. Azhar Siddique

Dr. Azhar Siddique

Reporting this week at the annual American Geophysical Union, scientists from UC Irvine discussed air quality results from samples taken during the 2012 and 2013 Hajj.

The annual pilgrimage brings between 3-4 million people to the holy city of Mecca. Isobel Simpson, the lead researcher on this project, stated that, "The problem is that this intensifies the pollution that already exists. We measured among the highest concentrations [of smog-forming pollutants] our group has ever measured in urban areas – and we’ve studied 75 cities around the world in the past two decades.”

The worst locations were tunnels leading into the Grande Mosque where carbon monoxide levels were up to 300 times higher than baseline measurements, and pedestrians were often walking in large numbers alongside idling motor vehicles. Increases in carbon monoxide are linked to increased numbers of hospitalizations and deaths from heart failure. In addition to carbon monoxide, the team found elevated levels of benzene, black carbon, and other fine particulates that can affect lung function.

The main culprit here that can be addressed by the Saudi government is a lack of regulation over automobiles, gasolines, and exhausts. Currently, there is a significant lack of public transportation in the area, and nearly everyone owns a car. Those cars don't have the devices that are currently required and built into vehicles in the Unites States to limit pollution.

The easiest thing to fix would be separating pedestrians from cars in the tunnels, or at least spreading vehicles out more evenly among the tunnels leading to the Mosque, so that pollutants don't build up as much and negatively affect those walking in. Read the rest

Greenpeace: Heavy metals pollution in China makes 'Cadmium rice' a growing problem

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Greenpeace this week released a report on soil and rice crops sampled in villages close to a concentration of heavy metals smelters in China's Hunan Province, "an area that ranks first in rice output and among the top five in nonferrous metals production." The results showed that both rice and soil near the industrial complex are contaminated by heavy metals, including lead. "12 out of all 13 rice samples contained excessive levels of cadmium." Read the "Cadmium rice" report at Greenpeace East Asia. Here's a related piece at the New York Times. Read the rest

30-year-old lead finds its way into the trendy urban chicken business

The United States began phasing out the use of tetraethyllead in gasoline in the mid 1970s (though it's still used in aviation and race car fuel). The pollution from TEL-enhanced gas, however, continues to linger in the soil, especially in cities, where concentrations of tailpipe emissions were higher. A recent study of New York City chickens found that lead from the soil was showing up in detectable levels in the chickens' eggs. The dose is low (though you probably don't want young children eating lots of those eggs), but it's a great example of how the effects of pollution don't vanish just because the pollution ends. Read the rest

China air pollution from space

Speaks for itself, doesn't it? NASA:

When the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image on December 7, 2013, thick haze stretched from Beijing to Shanghai, a distance of about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles). For comparison, that is about the distance between Boston, Massachusetts, and Raleigh, North Carolina. The brightest areas are clouds or fog. Polluted air appears gray. While northeastern China often faces outbreaks of extreme smog, it is less common for pollution to spread so far south.
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Cool, interactive site shows you how ocean currents carry flotsam around the globe

Drop a message-in-a-bottle into the Gulf of Mexico, somewhere near New Orleans, and, 10 years later, your missive has a high likelihood of ending up near Cuba — or northern France. The website Adrift uses data from a global system of floating buoys to show you how ocean currents carry things like plastic debris around the planet. Read the rest

Life in a toxic country

New York Times China correspondent Edward Wong describes his life in heavily polluted Beijing, where he no longer feels safe running outside and, in order to bike around town, dons a black air filter face mask that makes him "look like an Asian Darth Vader". Read the rest

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