Environment

I had drinks with an old college friend last week. As we reminisced and I caught him up on my job leading the Tropical Ecology Assessment&Monitoring (TEAM) Network, he stopped me mid-sentence.

An international team has just published a study titled "Greening of the Earth and its Drivers" in the journal Nature Climate Change (doi:10.1038/nclimate3004) showing significant greening of a quarter to one-half of the Earth's vegetated lands using data from the NASA-MODIS and NOAA-AVHRR satellite sensors of the past 33 years.

The greening represents an increase in leaves on plants and trees. Green leaves produce sugars using energy in the sunlight to mix carbon dioxide (CO2) drawn in from the air with water and nutrients pumped in from the ground. These sugars are the source of food, fiber and fuel for life on Earth. More sugars are produced when there is more CO2 in the air, and this is called CO2 fertilization.


Natural solutions are all the rage to people who believe in a 20th century "balance of nature" hypothesis. Scientists know better, it is obvious that there is no ecological balance, no environmental harmony, and never has been, the winners are in nature are instead species who got somewhere first or were better suited to an area and outlasted others and so seemed to be a balanced fit.


A new test has been developed to check for contamination of shallow groundwater from modern gas extraction techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.


A recent survey revealed that people who claimed to eat more fast food also had possible exposure of higher levels of phthalates.

Is that bad? In 2016, when all chemicals are scary, it certainly is, and environmental groups have raised a fortune claiming such chemicals "leach" out of containers and into food. The television show "60 Minutes", which has long promoted health scares, did a story on them and ever since groups like Natural Resources Defense Council (which manufactured one prominent scare, alar on apples, with the left-wing public relations company Fenton Communications) have claimed all kinds of effects using rat studies.


A very unusual exchange is about to take place over the Atlantic. The UK is sending some 700 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to be disposed of in the US, the largest amount that has ever been moved out of the country. In return, the US is sending other kinds of enriched uranium to Europe to help diagnose people with cancer.

The vast majority of the UK’s waste comes from its fleet of nuclear power stations. Most of it is stored at the Sellafield site in north-west England.

Despite the hype, there’s still no bee-pocalypse. Two weeks ago, the U.S. Department Agriculture released its latest count of commercial honeybee hives, and although the figure dipped 2.9 percent from the 20-year record-high set in 2014, the overall count of 2.7 million hives in 2015 remains strong. You wouldn’t know it from the news coverage.

I've been interested in the edible forest garden idea for over twenty years and have planted and designed several myself in Ireland in that time, and visited several others. But they have never lived up to my expectations and were largely unproductive, despite sourcing as many perennial vegetables and other interesting edible plants as I could. Here I review the claims made for them and what evidence there is to support the idea- and conclude that, as Permaculture founder Bill Mollison said in the first place, in temperate regions you are far better growing your fruit trees and vegetables separately.

Book review: The New Wild: Why invasive species will be nature's salvation by Fred Pearce

Icon Books 2015 new-wild

In 1910  New Zealand's great botanist Leonard Cochayne described the dramatic change in  plant communities which had occurred since the first visit of Captain Cook to the country in 1769 (1). Some 560 new species from Europe, Africa and elsewhere had by become established by then, with half of them common throughout the country from the coasts to the highest mountains:

Jonathan Lundgren, a US Department of Agriculture currently on leave facing misconduct charges, says the government is suppressing information about the dangers of pesticides, which he believes are endangering the health of bees around the world.