Environment

80 years ago, America was going through The Dust Bowl and farmers got a lot of the blame. They didn't let land lay fallow, or used monocultures. Now we know it was the worst drought of the last 1,000 years, 7X larger than other comparable intensity droughts that struck North America since 1000 A.D. 75 percent of the country was affected, 27 states severely, and farming had very little to do with it.

But farmers have gotten a lot more scientific since then anyway. They know monocultures can be cultivated efficiently but they are not sustainable so crops are often rotated. Monocultures remain the principal crop form in some regions because it is believed that is the only way to get higher yields in plant production.


We can blame man for the altered composition of Eastern forests, but not climate change, according to a researcher in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Forests in the Eastern United States remain in a state of "disequilibrium" stemming from the clear-cutting and large-scale burning that occurred in the late 1800s, contends Marc Abrams, a professor of forest ecology and physiology. And since about 1930, the Smokey Bear era, aggressive forest-fire suppression has had a far greater influence on shifts in dominant tree species than minor fluctuations in temperature.


In an instantaneous, 24-hour news cycle, a lot of being made of current U.S. droughts but the 1934 version was 7X larger than other comparable intensity droughts that struck North America between 1000 A.D. and 2005, and nearly 30 percent worse than the next most severe drought that struck the continent in 1580, finds a new analysis.  


by Marc Brazeau, Genetic Literacy Project

Next week, the Environmental Protection Agency is set to approve Enlist Duo–a new herbicide formulation that combines two popular herbicides, 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup), which are used to control weeds.


By Jon Entine, Genetic Literacy Project

New genetically modified corn and soybean traits, already approved by the US Department of Agriculture, is likely to gain Environmental Protection Agency next week, the Genetic Literacy Project has learned.

Onions consistently make the lists of organic foods even the most ardent organic advocates don't recommend paying the extra money for; they have so many layers of skin that no pesticide, organic or synthetic, is getting through.

But it's still a market as long as people are willing to pay for a special sticker. And if you are in that market, there is good news; a new study of herbicides derived from clove oil tested the natural products' effectiveness in controlling weeds in Vidalia® sweet onion crops. Vidalia® sweet onion is a dry bulb onion grown in Georgia as a cool-season (winter) crop. 


Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have created a new simulator to more accurately estimate the greenhouse gases likely to be released from Arctic peatlands if they warm.

Their model is based on how oxygen filters through soil and it estimates that previous models probably underestimated methane emissions and overrepresented carbon dioxide emissions from those regions. 

Peatlands, common in the Arctic, are wetlands filled with dead and decaying organic matter. They are the result of millions of years of plants dying and breaking down into rich soil, so they contain a massive amount of carbon.


When you take a shower and use soap and then lather, rinse and repeat twice with that shampoo, it gets washed off your body and goes down the drain.

Environmentalists have claimed these soaps and shampoos and washing machine detergents - surfactants - seep into groundwater, lakes and streams, where they could pose a risk to fish and frogs.

But do they? Not likely, finds a new report of the potential impact on the environment of the enormous amounts of common surfactants used day in and day out by consumers all over the world. 


Americans love their dogs, and most people clean up after their pets when they are out on a walk, but some do not: people who claim they wouldn't pour toxic chemicals or medicines onto the ground because they recognize it gets into waterways delude themselves into believing dog excrement is "natural" and will be okay in waterways.

But it isn't. Bacteria and anti-bacterial strains from dogs can make people sick from dogs just like it does humans, and we recognize that humans should not go to the bathroom on the ground near a lake.


Permafrost thaw kills forests in Canada, while drought kills trees in India and Borneo. In the U.S., in Virginia, over-abundant deer eat trees before they reach maturity, while nitrogen pollution has changed soil chemistry in Panama. 

Continents apart, trees have many similar ways to die. Many of the changes occurring in forests worldwide are attributable to human impacts on climate, atmospheric chemistry, land use and animal populations - no surprise, writing papers lamenting humanity is why many conservation groups exist. And hyperbolic cultural pandering has led to calls for a new geologic period in Earth's history—the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans.