Meat industry runoff has created a massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico

More than 8,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico were turned into a dead zone thanks to manure and chemical runoff from massive meat industry suppliers spilling into the Mississippi River delta.

The report by nonprofit Mighty Earth links the record-breaking dead zone to clearance of prairie grassland to make room for factory farms:

Consolidated Control of Industrial Meat Despite common media depictions of small picturesque farms, the reality is that just five companies produce most meat in the United States, under a highly industrialized and centralized factory-farm system. While most animals were produced on small farms decades ago, large, industrial factory farms now control the market: anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of meat markets are now controlled by just four companies each, with Tyson controlling over 20 percent of the chicken, beef and pork markets.5 Industrialized farming confines thousands of hogs, chickens, and cattle in tight factory-like spaces,ii and concentrates corporate control over production standards, especially for hogs and chickens.

Once they overlaid locations of processing facilities on maps of grassland losses, they pinpointed the key culprit:

America’s largest meat company, Tyson Foods, stood out for its expansive footprint in all the regions suffering the worst pollution impacts from industrial meat and feed production. Tyson produces one out of every five pounds of meat produced in the United States, and owns brands like Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Ball Park, and Sara Lee, in addition to selling to fast food retailers like McDonalds. The company is consistently ranked among the top polluters in America, although Tyson’s new CEO has declared that a focus on sustainability will be at the center of the company’s future plans.

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Uri Shapira's beautiful formations of crystals and algae

Israeli artist Uri Shapira creates beautiful photos and timelapse videos of chemical reactions and algae growth, generating beautiful patterns that seem otherworldly. Read the rest

Scientists create new strain of algae that tastes like bacon

Oregon State University researchers created and patented a new strain of the protein-rich red marine algae known as Dulse. When cooked, this new stuff really tastes like bacon. The engineered strain is high in protein, and purportedly offers twice the nutritional value of everyone's favorite vegetable-du-jour, kale. Read the rest

Glowing algae make a nice nightlight

This is a picture of a wave crashing on the New Jersey shore. It glows because of dinoflagellates — little, single-celled plants, animals, and bacteria that float around on the water, moving about with the help of long, moveable protein strands called flagella. Some dinoflagellates are bioluminescent; that is, chemical reactions inside their bodies produce light. The result is glowing oceans. Or, as maker Caleb Kraft recently discovered, the dinoflagellates also make for a soft blue nightlight with really nifty special effects.

You can watch Kraft's nightlight project at YouTube. It's pretty simple to do at home. At it's most basic, all you need to do is purchase some bioluminescent dinoflagellates online, keep them alive in your home, and give them a good shaking occasionally to trigger the chemical reaction.

A couple more helpful links: • Where Kraft bought his dinoflagellates • A guide to other dinoflagellate dealers, and to the care and feeding of unicellular organisms • Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who are studying dinoflagellate bioluminescence to better understand how it works and what role it plays in the ecosystem A detailed explanation of what dinoflagellates are and why they glow

Via Treehugger

Image: Red Tide Luminescense, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from piratelife's photostream

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Two months aboard an Antarctic ice breaker, condensed to 5 minutes

Featuring five different kinds of sea ice + penguins on fast forward

Algae beach party

Beachgoers in Qingdao, Shandong province, China, were met with a fuzzy, green blanket of ocean last week, as the water there exploded with algae.

You've heard before about dead zones. These are patches of coastal ocean where river runoff full of fertilizer chemicals have produced massive algae blooms. As the algae die, their decomposition reduces the oxygen level of the water to the point that many fish and other aquatic life can no longer live there.

This is what a dead zone looks like, just before the death.

It's worth noting, when I pulled this photo out of the Reuters files, I could see similar shots, taken on the same beach, in 2010, 2009, and 2008. This isn't a fluke. It's an endemic problem.

Image: REUTERS/China Daily China Daily Information Corp - CDIC

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