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Humpback whale carcass exhumed from NSW beach after protests

Sun, 2017/09/24 - 8:24pm

Port Macquarie-Hastings council bows to community concerns and begins removing a whale it buried at Nobbys beach

A large excavator has started digging up an 18-tonne humpback whale that was buried at a mid-northern New South Wales beach a week ago.

The 12-metre whale died after being beached and its carcass was buried at Port Macquarie’s Nobbys beach because it was too big to be moved.

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Categories: Environment

Portuguese children to crowdfund European climate change case

Sun, 2017/09/24 - 4:01pm

Group from region hit by deadly forest fires to sue 47 countries alleging failure to tackle climate change threatens their right to life

Portuguese schoolchildren from the area struck by the country’s worst forest fires are seeking crowdfunding to sue 47 European countries, alleging that the states’ failure to tackle climate change threatens their right to life.

The children, from the Leiria region of central Portugal, where fires this summer killed more than 60 people and left hundreds injured, are being represented by British barristers who are experts in environmental and climate change law.

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Categories: Environment

Red admiral butterfly sightings at their highest UK level since 2010

Sun, 2017/09/24 - 4:01pm

Numbers soar to 73,000 during three-week survey after mild winter and warm spring

The number of red admirals in Britain soared over the summer despite the soggy conditions, according to conservationists who said public sightings of the butterflies had risen to their highest since 2010.

Results from the Big Butterfly Count show that sightings of red admirals reached 73,000 over the three-week survey, a rise of 75% on 2016, and as many as were counted in the past three years put together.

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Categories: Environment

Why India's farmers want to conserve indigenous heirloom rice

Sun, 2017/09/24 - 3:00am

India was once home to 100,000 rice varieties, but high-yield, less hardy hybrids have taken over encouraging farmers to safeguard more resistant strains

India is rice country: the cereal provides daily sustenance for more than 60% of the population. Half a century ago, it was home to more than 100,000 rice varieties, encompassing a stunning diversity in taste, nutrition, pest-resistance and, crucially in this age of climate change and natural disasters, adaptability to a range of conditions.

Today, much of this biodiversity is irretrievably lost, forced out by the quest for high-yield hybrids and varieties encouraged by government agencies. Such “superior” varieties now cover more than 80% of India’s rice acreage.

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Categories: Environment

Liberal MPs did not stand in Abbott's way on renewables target, Greg Hunt says

Sat, 2017/09/23 - 10:34pm

Health minister responds to Abbott’s hint that his party kept him from scrapping the RET, saying 33,000GwH was the minimum the Senate would accept

Tony Abbott wasn’t kept from reducing the renewable energy target by his colleagues while he was leader, one of his former ministers has claimed, despite the former prime minister appearing to point the finger at his own party.

Abbott reignited the Coalition’s energy debate last week, by going on the attack against any further move by the Turnbull government towards renewables, threatening to cross the floor if it headed towards the “unconscionable” direction of encouraging further investment in the renewable market.

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Categories: Environment

The eco guide to cleaning products

Sat, 2017/09/23 - 10:00pm

Let’s banish bleach – it really isn’t a healthy way to clean the loo, and there are perfectly good green alternatives

It seems obvious that exposure to powerful cleaning products, including bleach, isn’t ideal, but now there’s powerful evidence of just how harmful they can be.

Using them just once a week could increase a person’s chances of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by nearly a third, according to a recent 30-year study from Harvard University and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. This isn’t the first time a link has been shown between serious health problems and everyday spray products. The culprit used to be phosphates, once the heroes of gleam, and omnipresent in laundry and dishwasher detergent. But in water, phosphates caused toxic bacteria growth. They were stopped, primarily by us – revolting consumers (in every sense).

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Categories: Environment

How did that get there? Plastic chunks on Arctic ice show how far pollution has spread

Sat, 2017/09/23 - 4:01pm
Discovery by UK scientists prompts fear that melting ice will allow more plastic to be released into the central Arctic Ocean – with huge effects on wildlife

A British-led expedition has discovered sizeable chunks of polystyrene lying on remote frozen ice floes in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.

The depressing find, only 1,000 miles from the north pole, is the first made in an area that was previously inaccessible to scientists because of sea ice. It is one of the most northerly sightings of such detritus in the world’s oceans, which are increasingly polluted by plastics.

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Categories: Environment

From north Wales to Norfolk, distraught beekeepers ask: who’s stealing our hives?

Sat, 2017/09/23 - 5:23am
More than 100,000 bees have been targeted by rustlers in the past month alone – and keepers fear the culprits are from their own ranks

There was a lump in Katie Hayward’s throat as she spoke about the emotional impact of the thefts that have cast a shadow over Britain’s beekeepers. “The heartbreaking thing is that it’s a very close community. The fact that one beekeeper does this to another is the hardest thing of all,” she says.

Two years have now passed since Hayward’s farm in north Wales was raided, leading to the loss of tens of thousands of bees. But the rustlers have continued to be active. Most recently they have targeted the property of one of her Anglesey neighbours, where around 40,000 bees were taken last month.

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Categories: Environment

Country diary: sci-fi fungus flourishes in the forest

Fri, 2017/09/22 - 9:30pm

New Forest Octopus-like tentacles are stained with what appears to be congealed blood and there’s a stink of rotting flesh

Naturalists need good contacts, and generalists such as me depend on observant friends to pass the word when they see anything that might be of interest. A phone call alerted me. My friend had spotted a photographer at work, and enquired what he was taking. He had been tipped off that there was a rare fungus nearby and had come to get some pictures of it. Jeremy thought I should know.

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Categories: Environment

Farmer wants a revolution: 'How is this not genocide?'

Fri, 2017/09/22 - 3:34pm

Health comes from the ground up, Charles Massy says – yet chemicals used in agriculture are ‘causing millions of deaths’. Susan Chenery meets the writer intent on changing everything about the way we grow, eat and think about food

The kurrajong tree has scars in its wrinkled trunk, the healed wounds run long and vertical under its ancient bark. Standing in front of the homestead, it nestles in a dip on high tableland from which there is a clear view across miles and miles of rolling plains to the coastal range of south-east Australia.

Charles Massy grew up here, on the sweeping Monaro plateau that runs off the eastern flank of Mount Kosciuszko, an only child enveloped by the natural world, running barefoot, accompanied by dogs and orphaned lambs. Fifth generation, he has spent his adult life farming this tough, lean, tussock country; he is of this place and it of him. But when his friend and Aboriginal Ngarigo elder Rod Mason came to visit he discovered that a lifetime of intimately knowing the birds, trees and animals of this land wasn’t significant at all.

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Categories: Environment

Puerto Rico evacuates 70,000 after dam fails in Hurricane Maria's wake

Fri, 2017/09/22 - 1:55pm
  • National Weather Service says: ‘This is an extremely dangerous situation’
  • Maria knocked out island’s power and several rivers hit record flood levels

Officials are rushing to evacuate tens of thousands of people from their homes in western Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria inflicted structural damage on a dam and unleashed “extremely dangerous” flash floods.

Some 70,000 residents in the municipalities of Isabela and Quebradillas were being evacuated by bus after a crack appeared in the nearly 90-year old Guajataca dam.

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Categories: Environment

Great Barrier Reef: Queensland Labor may break election vow and allow ​coal ship loading

Fri, 2017/09/22 - 1:00pm

Labor vowed to ban ‘trans-shipping’ in reef waters after UN’s scientific body raised concerns about proposal in 2014

The Queensland Labor government has flagged breaking a 2015 election promise by allowing the loading of coal ships at sea in the Great Barrier Reef marine park.

Labor vowed to ban so-called “trans-shipping” in reef waters after the United Nations’ peak scientific body raised concerns about a proposal off Hay Point near Mackay in 2014.

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Categories: Environment

Bali on high alert after tremors around Mount Agung volcano

Fri, 2017/09/22 - 7:48am

About 10,000 villagers have fled their homes after surge in seismic activity around mountain stokes fears of eruption

Indonesian authorities have raised the alert level for Mount Agung volcano in Bali to its highest degree after a surge in seismic activity around the mountain sparked fears of an eruption.

Approximately 10,000 villagers had left their homes around the volcano, officials said. It was the third time in little more than a week that the alert level had been raised.

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Categories: Environment

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Fri, 2017/09/22 - 6:37am

A rare rhinoceros under constant protection, an albino orangutan, and protected pandas are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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Categories: Environment

Assumed safety of pesticide use is false, says top government scientist

Fri, 2017/09/22 - 4:23am

Damning assessment by one of the UK’s chief scientific advisers says global regulations have ignored the impacts of ‘dosing whole landscapes’ and must change

The assumption by regulators around the world that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes is false, according to a chief scientific adviser to the UK government.

The lack of any limit on the total amount of pesticides used and the virtual absence of monitoring of their effects in the environment means it can take years for the impacts to become apparent, say Prof Ian Boyd and his colleague Alice Milner in a new article.

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Categories: Environment

Scientists discover unique Brazilian frogs deaf to their own mating calls

Fri, 2017/09/22 - 4:15am

Pumpkin toadlet frogs are only known case of an animal that continues to make a communication signal even after the target audience has lost the ability to hear it

Humans trying to chat each other up in a noisy nightclub may find verbal communication futile. But it appears even more pointless for pumpkin toadlets after scientists discovered that females have lost the ability to hear the sound of male mating calls.

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Categories: Environment

Long-lost Congo notebooks may shed light on how trees react to climate change

Fri, 2017/09/22 - 4:05am

Decaying notebooks discovered in an abandoned research station contain a treasure trove of tree growth data dating from 1930s

A cache of decaying notebooks found in a crumbling Congo research station has provided unexpected evidence with which to help solve a crucial puzzle – predicting how vegetation will respond to climate change.

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Categories: Environment

Carcass of 12-metre whale to be dug up from beach after outcry

Thu, 2017/09/21 - 11:41pm

Authorities in Australian coastal town will exhume the body of the 20-tonne humpback over fears it is attracting sharks

Authorities in the Australian coastal town of Port Macquarie will dig up the carcass of a 12-metre, 20-tonne humpback whale from a local beach and dump it in landfill because of fears the animal is attracting sharks.

On Friday, officials at the Port Macquarie Hastings Council announced that the body of the whale, which was buried as an “option of last resort” after it washed up on Nobbys Beach in the beach town in New South Wales on Sunday, would be removed following an outcry from local residents.

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Categories: Environment

Climate deniers want to protect the status quo that made them rich

Thu, 2017/09/21 - 10:30pm

Sceptics prefer to reject regulations to combat global warming and remain indifferent to the havoc it will wreak on future generations

From my vantage point outside the glass doors, the sea of grey hair and balding pates had the appearance of a golf society event or an active retirement group. Instead, it was the inaugural meeting of Ireland’s first climate denial group, the self-styled Irish Climate Science Forum (ICSF) in Dublin in May. All media were barred from attending.

Its guest speaker was the retired physicist and noted US climate contrarian, Richard Lindzen. His jeremiad against the “narrative of hysteria” on climate change was lapped up by an audience largely composed of male engineers and meteorologists – mostly retired. This demographic profile of attendees at climate denier meetings has been replicated in London, Washington and elsewhere.

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Categories: Environment

What happens if you turn off the traffic lights?

Thu, 2017/09/21 - 10:00pm

When Amsterdam removed signals from a busy junction, it made journeys faster and interactions more pleasant. Now the approach is being copied across the city

On a foggy Monday morning in May 2016, 14 Amsterdam officials, engineers and civil servants gathered nervously at Alexanderplein – a busy intersection near the city centre with three tramlines – where many people were walking, driving, and, as in any Dutch city, riding bicycles. With a flip of a switch, the traffic controls were shut off for all transport modes, in all directions.

This live pilot project came about as a result of the rapid growth in cycling in some Amsterdam neighbourhoods. Nearly 70% of all city centre trips are by bicycle, and more space is needed on the bike networks. Traffic designers are deviating from standard design manuals to accommodate this need. Among the tactics being used are the removal of protective barriers, altering light phases, reducing vehicular speed limits and designating entire corridors as “bicycle streets”. Designers have created their own toolbox of solutions for other Dutch cities to use.

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Categories: Environment