Big Spill

While BP’s All But Done With It,
Wildlife in the Gulf’s Still Reeling

Two years ago today, the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operated by subcontractors working for BP Inc. in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded, caught fire and killed eleven people, in what became the U.S.’s biggest environmental disaster. It took 87 days for the giant British concern to cap the well, after an estimated five million barrels of oil had already spilled into once pristine gulf waters.
BP was forced to set aside a $20 billion fund to cover the cleanup efforts, which were undertaken along with U.S.’s environmental agencies and local organizations, and pay for reparations. Such amount’s still to be fully spent and legal battles still rage over who should pay what and to whom.
It may take years before we know for sure the true extent of the damage to wildlife, fisheries and the ecosystem the spill has caused. But disturbing reports about deformed shrimp and lung-damaged dolphins are no comfort for those who’ve been fighting for years against the use of fossil fuels, exactly to prevent what seems now statistically inevitable: another ecological disaster.
It won’t be easy. And it’s not just because BP, despite settling billions of dollars of claims from the spill, has again asked a U.S. judge for yet another delay to resolve remaining disputes. But energy policies in the U.S. and pretty much every other big western economy are still in large part controlled by the oil and gas industry.
Particularly in the U.S., such fight to end our oil dependency has been disheartening, and the Obama administration’s done less than expected supporting research of alternative energy sources. On the contrary, Continue reading

Rainforest Mezzanine

Gold Threatens Slice of Amazon
& Crowdfunding Saves Another

A gold rush in Peru is the latest threat to the Amazon Rainforest, as record prices attract speculators.
But in Ecuador a $116 million trust fund has preserved hundreds of square miles from oil exploration.
The most entertaining news about the forest, though, is the discovery that, not unlike most theaters and arenas in the world, it too has vantage observation points.
So step right in for the show is about to begin. Between ground floor and the nose-bleed section, here are…
THE BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE
Between its high treetops and the 20-inch decaying-matter thick floor, the rainforest has a previously overlooked layer: call it a luscious mezzanine.
While the majority of the canopy leaves falls to the forest’s floor, a great many get trapped mid-air by the almost-invisible filaments of the fungus Marasmius, which provides room and board to insects, Continue reading

Green Myopia

A Hard Time Seeing
Forest for the Trees

Five months after the brutal assassination of yet another defender of the Amazon forest, Brazil still struggles to control its destruction.
Last week, the country’s Environmental Ministry actually revised upwards the area lost to illegal burning and logging: 2,703 square miles were destroyed between August 2009 and July 2010.
In yet another piece of bad news, researchers of the Prodes Project, Continue reading

Airborne Bites

Art Traps, Laser Beams & DNA
in the War Against Mosquitoes

Except for a few days, winter has been mild in the Eastern Seaboard so far. That’s no excuse not to envy those living in warmer weather.
Which brings us to today’s subject: mosquitoes. Aha! Feel the sting? That’s what you get for daring to wear shorts in November.
We all know the multitude of miserable infectious diseases they can carry, but instead of dwelling on demonizing them, let’s just skip to the very new ways being devised to annihilate them, shall we?
It turns out that this is prime season both for those mosquito-infested regions of the globe, and the business of trying to trap and eliminate them for good.
Laser barriers, mutant armies, genetically-altered species, the brave Continue reading

Amazon News

Tiny Monkey, An Under River
& the 121-Year Young Woman

Pardon the cliché, but the Amazon never ceases to amaze us.
Be it because of the river that names the region, one of the world’s biggest basin systems. Or the variety of new species that turn out regularly, to speechless researchers.
The fact is, despite all threats to its survival, the Amazon and its indigenous peoples are very much alive and vibrant, including the world’s likely oldest person who still thrives, along with everything else around her.
No wonder Google is trying to get in the action there too, as it slowly maps the Rainforest for its StreetView (sic) service.
A RIVER RUNS UNDER IT
Let’s start by the river system, which irrigates a seven million square area and annually rises high enough to flood the forest.
But guess what? That’s, at the most, just half the story. Continue reading

Last Drops

Two Unexpected Ways
to Recycle Plastic Bottles

At an average of almost three billion tons discarded every year, it’s about time we find alternatives for recycling plastic bottles.
You already know that the business of recycling is big worldwide, and finding other uses for discarded plastic can actually boost the bottom line of many a corporation.
Take energy concern Vadxx, for example, which found a way of reverting non-recyclable plastics back to a low-sulfur content crude oil.
Scraps, non-metal parts of cars and even your copious e-waste, are all prime materials for Vadxx’s reactors. It may sound like another oil producer’s gimmick, but anything that has the Continue reading

Hello, Goodbye

Amazon Tribes: Still Uncontacted
and Already Facing Mortal Danger

The latest wave of heavily armed criminal groups operating in the Amazon may eliminate your chance to get to know some of the tribes that dwell in the region.
In 2008, aerial photographs showed a group of a previously unknown indigenous community pointing arrows and bows at the aircraft. Now, disturbing reports about the sight of armed gangs nearby their dwellings may represent the biggest threat yet to the survival of some of those recluse native Brazilians.
For the record, the threat affects all indians living in the area, not just those who were photographed for the first time Continue reading