Environment


Outside the developed world, global population continues to rise but all of the best agricultural locations are in use. If we want people to be self-sufficient (and we do) science is going to need to be able to help the developing world with innovative and sustainable solutions.

Modern agriculture has not reached any kind of limit, we can easily boost food production by as much as 70-100% in the next few decades. To grow in more difficult areas, and to be resistant to swings in weather, more drought-tolerant food crops are essential.  


Mother Nature may be out to kill us but we shouldn't take it personally. She is out to kill everything. We just never noticed in the past. 

Today, thanks to long-term science projects, we can see how nature pits species off against each other. And biologists are studying streams to optimize how to prevent tallgrass prairies from turning into shrublands and forests.


In our hyperactive media climate, where every incident is proof or not proof of something, it has become common to see claims that wildfires have become worse due to global warming even as American CO2 emissions have dropped.

Scientists have put a fire retardant on claims that Colorado's Front Range wildfires are becoming increasingly severe.


Civil engineering scholars have created a method that uses solar energy to accelerate pond reclamation efforts by industry and that means cleaning up oil sands tailings could be a lot greener.

Instead of using UV lamps as a light source to treat oil sands process affected water (OSPW) retained in tailings ponds, University of Alberta
 professors Mohamed Gamal El-Din and James Bolton have found that using the sunlight as a renewable energy source treats the wastewater just as efficiently but at a much lower cost. 

Oilsands tailings ponds contain a mixture of suspended solids, salts, and other dissolvable compounds like benzene, acids, and hydrocarbons. Typically, these tailings ponds take 20 plus years before they can be reclaimed.


Khabarovsk Krai, a territory occupying the coastline of the Sea of Okhotsk, is on fire. Dozens of red hotspots, accompanied by plumes of smoke mark active fires. The smoke, which appears mostly white or grey, blows to the east towards the Sea of Okhotsk.

Taiga and tundra are found in the north of this area, swampy forest inhabit the central depression, and deciduous forests are the natural vegetation in the south.


There are few things as spectacular as flying into Pennsylvania in the autumn. The myriad vibrant colors in the trees inspire people to take jaunts into the countryside. 

That will still happen in the future, it may just come later next century, according to new research, because climate change could postpone fall leaf peeping in some areas of the United States as summer temperatures linger later into the year.

The paper birch, a popular foliage tree that is the state tree of New Hampshire, could change color one to three weeks later by the end of the century, Princeton researchers write



It's no secret how Africa can feed itself - grow more food.

That sort of naïve statement is fine for environmentalists who were born as part of the  Agricultural 1%, but it falls apart in the real world that exists outside fundraising campaigns. A large chunk of Africa doesn't grow food all that well, which historically has meant relying on the patronage of rich countries and cycles of famine - but that also has made it a political football.

Over half of the Earth's accessible agricultural land is already under cultivation because ecological factors such as climate, soil quality, water supply and topography determined the suitability of land for agriculture when people had to just find the best spots.

There are various knobs turning for the future of food. Science has made it possible for food to be grown with less environmental strain in more and more areas but climate change may impact global agriculture.


Fires, mudslides and earthquakes are part of California life but residents might be wishing for a few more mudslides right about now. The temperature is nothing special but the worst drought in 20 years and dry lightning have meant an abundance of forest fires.