The scoop: Two billionaires flew into space this week, neither of which contributed to scientific research. We want to know... how much carbon does a space plane emit?
Key talking points:
- traditional rocket fuel depletes the ozone, but bezos used a liquid form of hydrogen and oxygen that is more sustainable.
- one atmospheric scientist reported that bezos's rocket emitted nothing more than "water and some combustion products".
Bottom line on billionaires in space: It's not necessarily a climate problem, but the world is in no shape to spend that much money on vanity projects.
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The scoop: Tesla is probably the most famous and influential inventor/scientist you never heard of.
A few things Tesla did:
- In 1904, Tesla invented an efficient bladeless turbine.
- Tesla proposed electric power generation through geothermal, solar and wind energy.
- Tesla speculated on the existence of the ionosphere years before we discovered it.
Bottom line: Tesla imagined the world in many ways more like a philosopher than a scientist. But his scientific mind was as infallible as any. One thing is for sure: the modern world would be far behind without Nikola Tesla.
Dig deeper → 5 min.
The scoop: Jersey Shore has clean water compared to many parts of the country, but certain beaches still test unsafe for swimming more than 40% of the time.
Key causes of water contamination:
- outdated sewage systems
- overdevelopment of beachfronts
- factory farming spillovers
- storm runoff
Bottom line: Jersey Shore water was much dirtier 30 or 40 years ago. But some Jersey Shore towns still need serious help improving their water infrastructure. Read below to learn how they can fix that.
Dig deeper → 4 min
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The scoop: 40% of insect species are at risk of extinction.
Why it matters: We need bugs to survive and thrive.
- Pollination: Pollinators pollinate plants; we need them to keep doing that.
- Pest control: Paradoxically, predatory and parasitic insects kill pests.
- Decomposition: Some insects are primary or secondary decomposers. They serve an important function to clean-up animal waste.
- Food security: Many mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians depend on bugs for food. They are a quick and easy resource for a nutritious meal.
- Research and innovation: Technology mimics nature (think birds and planes). Researchers can observe the ethology of insects and learn new ways to innovate. An example? Ant colony optimization in computer science.
What's causing the insect decline: Habitat loss from agriculture and urbanization is the #1 driver. Agro-chemical pollutants (think pesticides), invasive species and climate change also play a role. You can check out some cool charts and figures below to learn more.
How to help: Contribute to the fight against pesticides, support or start a small farm, and educate others about the importance of insects. A more positive perception of 'bug people' can also lead to change.
Bottom line: We need bugs to survive, yet insect populations are on the decline. This issue deserves more recognition.
Dig deeper → 4 min
A scientific process called desalination could help solve a looming water crisis.
With a higher demand for freshwater, a growing population will continue to pressure natural freshwater resources. Today, 1 in 9 people already lack access to safe water. If current water consumption trends persist, the demand for water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030.
Only 0.7% of Earth’s water is readily accessible as freshwater and 96.5% of it is saltwater. Through the process of desalination, scientists can turn saltwater into safe, drinking water. This process is either thermal-based (solar desalination) or membrane-based (reverse osmosis).
Why not implement desalination worldwide? There are environmental and economic challenges. For example, brine, the concentrated salt byproduct of desalination plants, is known to disrupt ocean ecosystems. But path to more sustainable alternatives exist.
If global water scarcity worsens, sustainable desalination plants can help provide fresh, potable water to vulnerable populations across the world.
Dig deeper → 2 min
The scoop: Bill Gates published a new book about climate change. Why are we praising a tech entrepreneur pretending to be a scientist and public health official?
Why it matters: I think people like Bill Gates make everyday people more suspicious of actual science. Gates should step aside and let real scientists do the talking. Because as it turns out, he isn't always right.
My proposal: Let's praise and highlight actual climatologists dedicated to the field. He's not even a professional writer.
We need to build communication platforms for researchers, doctors, and scientists to bridge the gap between complex subject matter and public skepticism. Businessmen like Bill Gates only widen the gap (imo).
Bottom line: Let's hear the talking points not from some obscure monolithic gospel, but science-backed, distinguished talking points from recognizable human faces.
Dig deeper → 3 min
The scoop Pesticides promote large-scale agriculture, yet damage environmental and human health…
Risks for humans
- At least 200,000 deaths each year.
- Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
- Hormone disruption, developmental disorders, sterility
- Loss of: memory, motor skills, vision and coordination
- Asthma, allergies, hypersensitivity
Environmental risks Traces of pesticides are found in the air, soil, and water (thus spreading far and harming wildlife including: pollinators, amphibians, birds, fish, and invertebrates). Bee colony collapse and reproductive issues are highly concerning.
What can be done? A “systemic denial fueled by the pesticide and agroindustry” keep pesticides on the market. Luckily, the UN proposes international guidelines on regulating pesticides, while promoting agroecology: a practice which combines science and local knowledge to create community-based, agricultural systems.
The UN finds that Agroecology can “feed the entire world population and ensure that they are adequately nourished.” Using agroecology, the world could be fed, and we could drop the risks that pesticides inflict!
What can I do?
- Research your local Congressman’s stance on Pesticide Bans. Vote!
- Grow a garden. You’ll help pollinators and enjoy pesticide-free produce.
- Helpful resources…
- Watch Neonicotinoids: The New DDT? free
- Watch: Circle of Poison
- Read Silent Spring
Dig deeper → 3 min
How it works
- When microorganisms (e.g.bacteria) break down organic matter like manure and food waste anaerobically (without oxygen), biogas is released. Bio gas consists primarily of carbon dioxide and methane - one of the primary components of natural gas.
- Farmers place animal manure, food waste and agricultural waste in an anaerobic digester with a pipe to extract the gas.
- The solid byproduct is used as livestock bedding, soil amendments or in biodegradable planting pots, and the liquid byproduct is a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
Benefits of Biogas-based Energy
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Biodigesters divert carbon dioxide and methane that would normally be released into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas emissions from a dairy farm can be reduced by 35% when biogas-based electricity replaces grid-based electricity.
- Cost savings. On-site biodigesters help farmers save on electricity bills and fertilizer. A farmer told The Washington Post that he saved anywhere from $75,000 to $100,000 a year on electricity, heating, fertilizer, and animal bedding with a biodigester.
- Renewable. Biogas is generally considered renewable as it is produced by animal and plant waste and the source is not limited in quantity like coal or natural gas.
- Biogas generation is becoming increasingly popular. From 2000 to 2020, the number of operational anaerobic digesters in the United States has grown from 24 to 255.
- Biogas is a popular mode of energy production in India and China, which have 4.54 million and 27 million biogas plants respectively.
- As the world divests from fossil fuels, new and varied energy sources will be necessary to satisfy the energy needs of the world and biogas can help. Biogas just goes to show you that not all waste is useless. One cow’s waste is another man’s treasure.
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What to know Congress passed the Air Pollution Control Act (APCA) in 1955, which funded federal air pollution research but did not require or give power to the federal government to regulate air pollution.
The Clear Air Act of 1963 permitted the government to control air pollution in certain capacities. In 1999, several citizens, conservation, and environmental groups filed a petition for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollution under this act.
The EPA denied the petition, and Massachusetts and several other states filed a class action lawsuit against the EPA to fight for the American people’s right to live in safe environments with clear air.
After a lengthy debate over the ambiguity of the Clean Air Act’s language, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts in a 5-4 decision.
Key Takeaways The EPA cannot decline to issue emission standards for motor vehicles based on policy considerations not specifically enumerated in the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Some of the progressive rules that resulted from this case, such as the Clean Car and Clean Truck Standards, were recently minimized by the Trump administration in the beginning stages of the pandemic.
Bottom line The government will continue its ableism (discrimination in favor of able-bodied people) without public pressure and scrutiny, so we must come together to vote and advocate for accelerated climate change action.
Dig deeper --> 3 min