Sarah Parsons

Sarah Parsons is a freelance writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. Her work has also appeared in Popular Science, GOOD, Audubon, OnEarth, Plenty, Change.org, and Inhabitat.com, among others.

Animals

Mosquitoes fingered for killer whale deaths at SeaWorld

It’s hard to imagine a teensy mosquito taking down an animal as mighty as the killer whale. Yet that’s exactly what some folks suspect happened at two SeaWorld locations. Representatives from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) say that orcas that died at SeaWorld parks in Orlando and San Antonio succumbed to encephalitis, a virus transmitted by mosquitoes.  WDCS argues that these deaths could have been avoided if whales weren’t kept in captivity.

Biofuel

Modern-day DeLorean? Airplane runs on trash

One man’s trash is another man’s airplane fuel. Adventure-seeker Andy Pag aims to obtain funding and become the first person to fly a trash-fueled plane from one end of the U.K. to the other. His aircraft, a microlight plane, will be powered by gasoline made from un-recyclable plastics like bags and packaging. The fuel is made by a British company using Fischer–Tropsch synthesis–a process of making synthetic fuel that dates back to before WWII. Pag says the fuel is worth highlighting because it produces limited CO2, and reduces the volume of plastics that otherwise would go to landfills.

Business & Technology

Ad men illegally hack down trees for billboards

Watch one episode of Mad Men and you’ll see just how shady the advertising biz can be. But apparently the red-headed stepchildren of the advertising industry — outdoor billboard companies — are taking douchebaggery to new lows. An investigative report from Fair Warning details how billboard agencies illegally chop down trees to ensure that potential viewers get unobstructed looks at their signage. Don Draper’s womanizing and debauchery isn’t looking so bad now, eh? Take Robert J. Barnhart, a former employee of Lamar Advertising Company, the largest outdoor billboard company in America. When trees got in the way of the company’s Tallahassee, …

Pollution

Six Flags’ Magic Mountain caught polluting a California river

Most folks associate Six Flags’ Magic Mountain with water parks, games, and thrilling roller coasters. Turns out the amusement park produces more than just smiles and old fashioned family fun — a whole mess of water pollution. A coalition of local environmental groups recently accused Magic Mountain of spewing pollutants and trash into the Santa Clara River, a waterway that flows 45 miles from the park before emptying into the ocean. The coalition says that if the amusement park doesn’t clean up its act within 60 days, they’ll sue — just in time for summer vacation season.

Climate Change

Why is the Discovery Channel ignoring climate change science?

The Discovery Channel isn’t a climate change denier, but it’s certainly shaping up to be an equally formidable foe — a climate change avoider. Media outlets and activists are lambasting the network for failing to adequately address climate change in its recent series, Frozen Planet. The seven-part series, which was jointly produced with the BBC, explores life in the North and South poles. The series’ final episode, “On Thin Ice,” depicts how decreasing ice cover impacts polar habitat and wildlife, but fails to acknowledge the fact that human activities are spurring global warming.

Nuclear

On 26th anniversary, Chernobyl’s crumbling seal gets new cap

Today marks the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl explosion, the worst nuclear disaster the world has ever seen. Ukraine officials are gifting the nuclear site with an odd sort of birthday hat — a massive containment cap, or “Chernobyl sarcophagus.” An international drive has raised funds from governments towards building a new permanent covering to slide over a temporary concrete-and-steel shelter that was hastily erected after the disaster and is now dangerously crumbling. The 20,000-tonne arched structure, known as the New Safe Confinement, is designed to last for a century and spans 257 meters.

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