Grist staff

Blind Spot

Controversy is roiling among scientists about the wisdom of focusing conservation efforts on protecting “hot spots,” areas that cover just 1.4 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial surface but are home to nearly half of all land-based plant species and more than a third of all land animal species. Since 1988, when biologist Norman Myers and colleagues began identifying these spots, $750 million has been directed toward their protection. But a growing number of scientists are warning that the hot-spot strategy could cause big problems down the line. Michelle Marvier and Peter Kareiva, in a new article in American Scientist, argue …

The Feminine Mistake

Water contaminated with residue from birth-control pills can bend the gender of male fish, according to Canadian researchers who presented scientific findings last week to the American Chemistry Council. In the most controlled experiment to date to examine the effects of estrogen on ecosystems, Canadian scientists deposited birth-control pills in a remote lake in Ontario for three years. As a result, all male fish of all species in the lake were “feminized” — some grew eggs in their testes, others simply couldn’t reproduce. The experiment was designed to mimic the impact that the female hormone estrogen may be having in …

And other words from readers

  Re: Boycotts Will Be Boycotts Dear Editor: The entire concept of powered personal vehicles is foul, and driving has many more serious effects than air pollution, or even than inspiring oil wars: It facilitates sprawl, which cannot exist in any significant form without the automobile; it requires more and more paving, which affects not only former wilderness but also watersheds and aquifers; it distorts social relations by isolating people from each other not only in cars but in the dispersed settlement patterns made inevitable by the need for roads, garages, and parking spaces; it diverts huge amounts of public …

Back to the Yellowstone Age

The Bush administration has asked the United Nations to remove Yellowstone National Park from a list of endangered World Heritage sites. “Yellowstone is no longer in danger,” wrote the Interior Department’s Paul Hoffman in a letter to the World Heritage Committee. There’s just one snag: The park staff disagree with Hoffman, saying Yellowstone still faces the kinds of problems — threats to water quality, bison, and trout populations, among others — that put it on the endangered list in the first place, back in 1995. But in its recent report to the U.N. committee, the Bush administration diluted or deleted …

Under the Wire

Electromagnetic fields from home wiring, appliances, and power lines do not appear to cause breast cancer, according to a $2.5 million study of more than 1,100 women living in Long Island, N.Y. The study, published today in the online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology, was part of the much larger Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project, a 10-year, $30 million effort to investigate the environmental causes of breast cancer. After looking at everything from proximity to transformers and high-tension power lines to how often home appliances were used, the researchers were unable to find a connection between electromagnetic …

Weed Between the Lines

In a finding that undermines one key argument in favor of genetically modified (GM) crops, researchers at Iowa State University have discovered that a number of “superweeds” have developed a resistance to Monsanto’s widely used Roundup herbicide. Monsanto has engineered crops that are tolerant of Roundup, the idea being that the chemical would kill everything in a field but the desired crop, thereby freeing farmers from using additional herbicides and leading to an overall decrease in the use of chemicals. But if superweeds gain a foothold, farmers will again need other herbicides. “Companies like Monsanto have spun GM crops and …

The Fat of the Land

Sprawl has been accused of many evils, but here’s a new one: It may make you fat. While suburban residents drive to get most places they go, many city dwellers walk or ride bikes, and that physical exercise seems to keep urbanites slimmer. “[I]f you choose to live in a sprawling environment, you are more likely to be overweight,” says Lawrence D. Frank, a professor of urban planning at the University of British Columbia and author of a new study on the links between sprawl and obesity. His research seems to make a case for more dense, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development. …

Pesticide or Spermicide?

Frogs and men, beware: Pesticides are your enemy. Men exposed to pesticides commonly used on crops are far more likely to have defective sperm and low sperm counts than men who are not exposed, according to a study published yesterday in Environmental Health Perspectives. The study is the first to show a link between environmental toxins in men’s bodies and poor sperm count and quality. The study is also important because it involved men who did not work on or live next to farms, meaning they were most likely exposed to the pesticides through drinking water. Of the three pesticides …

Standing the Rules on Their Ear

More farmers are failing to comply with the rules for planting genetically modified (GM) corn than the biotechnology industry claims, according to a new study of government data. Almost 20 percent of U.S. farms growing BT corn, the main type of GM corn, violate the rules for doing so, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Those rules require farmers to plant at least 20 percent of their acreage with non-GM corn; 19 percent of surveyed farms that were not meeting that requirement, and 13 percent were planting no other corn varieties at all. The industry reports …

Welcome to the new Grist. Tell us what you think, or if it's your first time learn about us. Grist is celebrating 15 years. ×