Ensia

Human Activities Are Beginning to Take Their Toll in the Depths of the Oceans

Once seen as too remote to harm, the deep sea is facing new pressures from mining, pollution, overfishing and more.

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These Dogs Live to Work - and Threatened Animals Live Because They Do

It is still cool in the morning as Spots gets ready to start work. Calm and confident, the imposing 10-year-old light brown Kangal is leading a herd of goats into a pasture. “He is always excited to go out with the goats,” says Tyapa Toivo, small livestock manager at the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF).

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How Some Montana Ranchers Are Helping Grizzlies, Wolves and Cattle Coexist

Editor’s note: This story was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, a non-profit investigative news organization.

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A Renowned Scientist Calls Hardcore Climate Deniers 'Dismissives' Whose Minds Can't Be Changed

Katharine Hayhoe is a leading climate scientist at Texas Tech University and has been featured in documentaries such as “Years of Living Dangerously,” but she’s probably best known for engaging diverse communities—including Evangelicals—in an ongoing discussion about the impacts of climate change. Hayhoe stopped by Ensia’s offices to talk about her experiences bridging the climate change divide.

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What We Need Are Farms That Support Farmers, Consumers and the Environment

Editor’s note: This Voices contribution is published in collaboration with the academic journal Elementa. It is based on “Leveraging agroecology for solutions in food, energy and water, a peer-reviewed article published March 2, 2017, as part of Elementa’s Food-Energy-Water Systems: Opportunities at the Nexus forum.

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Ecologists Aren't Paying Enough Attention to Synthetic Chemicals - to the Detriment of Public Health

Manmade chemicals may alter ecological processes, yet few scientists are studying the role of these chemicals in global environmental change, say a group of researchers from the U.S. and Germany in a scientific paper recently published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

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What Does the Environment Have to Do With Diseases That Affect the Immune System?

In 1932, New York gastroenterologist Burrill Crohn described an unusual disease in 14 adults. The patients had bouts of abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and lesions and scars on the bowel wall. Doctors in other parts of North America and Europe were seeing it in their patients, too. They called the rare condition Crohn’s disease. After World War II, the number of new people getting inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and a related condition called ulcerative colitis) skyrocketed across the West in countries such as the U.S., Canada and the UK. In the last three decades, IBD has begun to crop up in newly industrialized parts of the world like Hong Kong and China’s big cities.

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How 'Open Source' Seed Producers From the U.S. to India Are Changing Global Food Production

Frank Morton has been breeding lettuce since the 1980s. His company offers 114 varieties, among them Outredgeous, which last year became the first plant that NASA astronauts grew and ate in space. For nearly 20 years, Morton’s work was limited only by his imagination and by how many different kinds of lettuce he could get his hands on. But in the early 2000s, he started noticing more and more lettuces were patented, meaning he would not be able to use them for breeding.

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If Natural Ecosystems Aren't Better Protected, Deadly Diseases Like Ebola Will Spread

What if we could reduce diseases and discover life-saving drugs by conserving natural habitat? Would saving ecosystems become more appealing if human health were on the line?

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Can Upscale Chocolate Turn the Tide on Haiti's Devastating Deforestation?

When a tiny Quebec chocolate maker won a gold prize at this year’s premier International Chocolate Awards for a bar made with Haitian cocoa beans, it rocked the specialty chocolate world. The cocoa beans had been on the market for less than a year, and a Haitian chocolate bar had never before received the award.

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Local Food Is Great, but Can the Concept Be Taken Too Far?

One of the most interesting developments in American agriculture during the last decade has been the rise of the local food movement.

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If You're an Average American, the Amount of Raw Materials You Consume Is Shocking

How much raw material does it take to support you? If you’re an average African, about 3 metric tons (3.3 tons) — the equivalent of an elephant’s worth of biomass, fossil fuels, metal ores and nonmetallic minerals — per year. But if you’re an average North American, make that a whopping eight elephants.

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23 Countries Just Got Energy Efficiency Report Cards - and They're Almost All Flunking

The most valuable tool we have to meet the world’s growing energy demand while reducing greenhouse gas production could be figuring out how to use energy more efficiently. Investing in energy efficiency can also save money, reduce pollution, encourage development and create new jobs. Yet, efficiency is often passed by in favor of more expensive energy solutions.

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10 Things You Need to Know About the New U.S. Chemicals Law

“This is a big deal,” said President Barack Obama as he signed into law the bill that updates — for the first time in 40 years — the nation’s main chemical safety legislation. Called the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act to honor the late senator for whom this was a special cause, the law revises the Toxic Substances Control Act that gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate chemicals used commercially in the United States.

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What Would It Take to Mainstream 'Alternative' Agriculture?

Editor’s note: This Voices piece is published in collaboration with the academic journal Elementa. It is based on “Toward thick legitimacy: Creating a web of legitimacy for agroecology,” a peer-reviewed article published July 20 as part of Elementa’s New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems forum.

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This Man Transformed an Opium Field Into a Sustainable Coffee Farm (Video)

Somsak Sriphumthong is on a caffeine-fueled mission.

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Which Diet Makes the Best Use of Farmland? You Might Be Surprised

Editor’s note: This piece was produced in collaboration with the academic journal Elementa. It is based on "Carrying capacity of U.S. agricultural land: Ten diet scenarios," published July 22 at Elementa.

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If Carbon Pricing Is So Great, Why Isn't It Working?

Earth’s atmosphere has long served as a free dump for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases generated by humans. That is changing as policy-makers embrace economists’ advice that the best way to cut greenhouse gas emissions is to charge an atmospheric disposal fee. As a result, governments are increasingly tacking on a price for carbon when fossil fuels are sold and/or consumed, allowing their economies to internalize some of the social and economic costs associated with burning coal, oil and natural gas.

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The Developing World Is Awash in Pesticides, but Does It Have to Be?

In today’s globalized world, it is not inconceivable that one might drink coffee from Colombia in the morning, munch cashews from Vietnam for lunch and gobble grains from Ethiopia for dinner. That we can enjoy these products is thanks, in large part, to expanded pesticide use across the developing world.

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Why Conserving Crops' Wild Cousins May Be Critical for Human Survival

Wild cousins aren’t always appreciated at family gatherings. But when it comes to crops, the opposite is often true: Plant breeding has historically relied on genes from plants growing in the wild as a source of diversity that can be introduced into crop plants to produce new crop varieties that are more resilient, nutritious and productive than those currently cultivated. As human populations increase and shift away from traditional diets, demand for food is expected to increase dramatically — and genes from wild relatives could play a huge role in ensuring we have the raw materials we need to sustainably intensify crop production for future global food security. But will they be available?

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How Will Outrage Over Recent Murders Impact Environmental Activism in Honduras?

When Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres was gunned down in her home last spring the international community and even activists in the notoriously violent country were shocked. Her death followed threats related to her support for indigenous people fighting the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam along the Gualcarque River.

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Researchers Around the World Are Learning From Indigenous Communities - Here's Why That's a Good Thing

In the rugged Sahtú Region of Canada’s Northwest Territories, a district so remote that in winter only a single treacherous ice road connects it to the outside world, life revolves around caribou. For millennia, the Dene people lived as nomads, tracking vast herds across the Sahtú and harvesting the itinerant animals for their meat, skin and bones. Although the region’s indigenous people today reside in villages, subsistence hunting remains central to diet and culture. The Dene language contains phrases for such concepts as “we grew up with caribou blood” and “we are people with caribou.”

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The World's Poor Face an Unequal Climate Risk - Here's What Needs to Happen

One of the biggest threats to a thriving world today is that the world’s poorest people face disproportionate risk from climate change. The World Bank’s Turn Down the Heat report notes that climate change threatens to erode progress made on reducing poverty, while a Stanford study reveals that global incomes for 2100 could be 23 percent lower than they would be in a world without climate change. While it is sobering that over the past 30 years one dollar out of every three spent on development has been lost as a result of coastal storms and civil conflict, among other shocks and stresses, the long-term impact of lower incomes relates to shrinking global markets and thus has impact on economies around the world.

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Here's the Real Economic Impact of New Shipping Routes Created by the Melting Arctic

Editor’s note: This piece was produced in collaboration with the academic journal Elementa. It is based on “Melting Ice, Growing Trade?”, published May 20 at Elementa.

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Is Drinking Water Delivered Through Plastic Pipes Safe?

The calls and e-mails arrive as often as several times a week from people with concerns about drinking water. Some of the callers — who include homeowners, architects and builders — want to know why their water smells like gasoline. Others want to know which kinds of pipes to install to minimize risks of exposure to hazardous chemicals.

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Here's the Number One Thing We Can Do to Protect Earth's Oceans

When New England fishers complained of working harder and harder to catch fewer and fewer fish, Spencer Baird assembled a scientific team to investigate. Though a fishery failure would once have seemed inconceivable, Baird wrote in his report, “an alarming decrease of the shore-fisheries has been thoroughly established by my own investigations, as well as by evidence of those whose testimony was taken.”

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These Entrepreneurs Are Using Technology to Turn a Profit on Food Waste

Food waste is bad for our wallets. It’s also bad for the environment — the equivalent of throwing away the water, energy and other resources that go into growing it in the first place. But as interest in reducing food waste grows, so does innovation to make it happen. Take a look at what some creative businesses are doing to turn trash into treasure.

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Superfoods Can Boost Your Health, but Can They Also Help the Environment?

It can seem like new health food fads pop up every week — fads that often fade as quickly as they appear. Two gaining steam lately, though, may be worth a longer look: baobab and moringa. Traditional fare in parts of Africa (and for moringa, Asia as well), these foods offer the potential not only to strengthen local economies, but to encourage conservation and carbon sequestration, too.

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The Race to Clean Energy Is Leaving the World's Poorest Citizens Behind

Wind power is booming in Mexico. With more than 3,200 megawatts in operation, the country is on par with Japan. By 2018 it expects to have 10,000 MW installed as part of the government’s Climate Action Plan.

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Move Over Pesticides: Could Traditional Plants Hold the Secret to Saving Crops From Pests?

Without any effort at all, Hawa Saidi Ibura crushes dried beans, one at a time, between her fingers outside her home in Endagaw, a village in northern Tanzania.

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We've Changed a Life-Giving Nutrient Into a Deadly Pollutant - Can We Change It Back?

Coastal dead zones, global warming, excess algae blooms, acid rain, ocean acidification, smog, impaired drinking water quality, an expanding ozone hole and biodiversity loss. Seemingly diverse problems, but a common thread connects them: human disruption of how a single chemical element, nitrogen, interacts with the environment.

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