Environment

For the past eight years, the Amazon rain forest has gotten greener as the weather seemingly got hotter and drier each year from June to October. 

Limited rainfall didn't prevent thriving vegetation, which really put a damper on the simplistic 'turn one climate knob and all of our issues are solved' narrative. 


The increasing use of chemical herbicides, both synthetic and organic kinds, is often blamed for the declining plant biodiversity in farms, but it is simplistic to think herbicide exposure is solely to blame.

The science doesn't add up. If herbicides are a key factor in declining diversity, then thriving species would be more tolerant to widely used herbicides than rare or declining species, according to J. Franklin Egan, research ecologist, USDA-Agricultural Research Service. But that isn't the case.


Compact fluorescent bulbs save energy but they also contain mercury, a toxic metal.

While environmentalists have promoted them as safe, and the US government has given them a de factor mandate and subsidy by banning incandescent bulbs, there are still concerns among the public about the risks of having hazardous materials in their homes.

Mercury lamps, on the other hand, have been around since 1860. They were rarely used in the home, they are a big part of the reason why incandescent bulbs were invented in the first place, because they made human skin look 'green' and the risks in an enclosed space were too high but are more common in street lamps, because they have long life.

Numerous studies from China, Spain and the United States have concluded that the biodiversity of insects and related arthropods is not reduced by genetically modified (GM) rice, cotton, and maize fields, despite the claims and concerns of activists who are against using precision techniques to use natural genes to reduce the use of pesticides, add nutritional benefits, or increase yields. A new study from South Africa published in
Environmental Entomology
shows similar results, that biodiversity is
the same as that among conventional crops.


Under-use of fertilizers in Africa currently contributes to a growing yield gap; the difference between how much crops could produce in ideal circumstances compared to actual yields. 

Better yields mean more food and sustainable food leads to wealth and culture and a better life.

But fertilizer has to be smartly applied, with both phosphorous and nitrogen, and the difference between them is substantial for subsistence farmers. While nitrogen-based fertilizers can be produced by a process that extracts the element from the air, phosphorus must be mined from rock—and reserves are limited. That makes phosphorus fertilizers expensive, especially in the longer term. 


I was checking out my trusty Cotton Physiology Handbook and have to admit that I got a bit blown away..

Government can really only do one thing; tax and penalize. The other actions it takes, even positive ones like the police and fire departments and protecting the environment, derive from one of those two.

But when it comes to conservation, activists may be taking the wrong approach. While they pay lobbyists to get more laws and enforcement, when it comes to poaching, it just attracts organized criminals who have the capacity to operate even under increased enforcement effort. Funding is at record levels for enforcement and it isn't doing much good. 


A new study may have a solution for both acid mine drainage and natural radioactivity in hydraulic fracturing – fracking –   wastewater that can be found in 'flowback fluid.' In hydraulic fracturing, water is injected at high pressure down wells to crack open shale deposits buried deep underground and extract the natural gas trapped within the rock. Some of the water can flow back up through the well, along with natural brines and the natural gas.  


While the number of killing frosts in southern Florida has remained unchanged since 1984, the number a short distance away declined enough that researchers are implicating global warming, and noted that the expansion of cold-sensitive mangrove forests along Florida's Atlantic Coast has led to them edging out salt marshes.

What happens when one ecosystem replaces another? Happens all of the time, of course, and has throughout history. But it's impossible to predict the result. People who live there are not complaining, though researchers up north are concerned.


The assumption has long been that if mercury is increasing in fish in the North American and European Arctic, the same is true of fish elsewhere in the Arctic.

Not so, according to conservation scientists from the U.S., Russia, and Canada.  Atmospheric mercury comes largely from mining and ore processing, such as smelting, according to United Nations analyses. Under certain water conditions, through the process called methylation, mercury is converted to methylmercury, a special form that can be absorbed by living organisms. Methylmercury is highly toxic.