Skip to content Skip to site navigation



Spacecraft could be killing endangered antelope

Add these two factoids to your store of knowledge about Kazakhstan, which, admit it, consists mostly of "It's on the Risk board?" (it's not! You're thinking of Kamchatka) and “Borat is from there.” The central Asian country provides habitat for the endangered saiga antelope, which has a face like a fuzzy alien from Sesame Street. It also sometimes launches rockets into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the best-named launchpad in existence. These items are not as unrelated as you might think.

This past year, more than 1,000 saiga antelope have turned up mysteriously dead. And ecologists say that the Cosmodrome could be to blame. "Chemical elements left from space rockets that fly over this place" could be killing the antelope, one ecologist has said.

Read more: Animals, Pollution


Life recycle: How e-waste recycling gives your gadgets a fresh start

Click for a visual tour through an e-waste collection center and a recycling facility.

If e-waste disposal had a late-night infomercial, it might go something like this:

Congratulations! You bought an iPhone 6S! Now you can spend hours Instagraming and making Siri talk dirty to you. BUT WAIT … what should you do with that ugly, decrepit, heavy, chipped, old flip phone of yours?

Throwing it in the trash can cause toxic chemicals to leach out into landfills and groundwater. And putting it in a drawer with all your other outdated gadgets takes up so. much. space! Worst of all, your phone and all the private data in it could fall into the wrong hands. There’s GOT to be a better way!

Now, there is: e-Stewards-approved E-WASTE RECYCLING! No child or prison labor, no toxic fumes released into the air of third-world countries, and no incomplete data wipes -- guaran-TEED! Operators are standing by!


World’s oldest trees face country’s worst smog

Sequoia National Park can lay claim to two superlatives -- its redwoods are the oldest single organisms on the planet and its air quality is the worst of any national park in the country.

The smog pollution in the park is so bad that levels reach L.A.-worthy heights.

The park might seem like it's in the middle of nowhere. But that nowhere happens to be right near the San Joaquin Valley, which is full of food-processing plants, diesel-burning freight trains, and trucks driving down one of the busiest highways in the country.

Read more: Pollution


Why are U.S. taxpayers subsidizing coal mining?

Why are we handing Big Coal our bacon?

The most important thing you can read this week is Joe Smyth's post on federal coal leasing. I realize "federal coal leasing" is not a phrase to quicken the pulse, but it's a Very Big Deal.

A couple of weeks ago, I explained the situation the U.S. coal industry is in: domestic electricity use has leveled off, utilities are switching to cheap natural gas and wind, and the EPA is finally cracking down on dirty old coal plants. All that leaves U.S. coal in a pinch. Their main hope for the future is to increase coal exports. That's why the fight over coal export terminals matters.

Arguably, though, the coal-export fight is secondary. From a climate-hawk point of view, it would be better just to leave the damn coal in the ground.

Is that even within our power as concerned U.S. citizens? As it happens, yes, it is, because we own much of the coal! The coal that companies like Peabody are itching to export comes from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. And most of the land in the Powder River Basin is owned by the federal government -- that is to say, it's owned by you and me.


Reagan denied disaster funds for cleaning up teenager’s room

The fabulous blog Letters of Note has been delving into the letters of Ronald Reagan, and posted this gem on Twitter. Just look at that disregard for the environment, denying federal relief funds for what is clearly a disaster area!

Read more: Politics, Pollution


Big Coal’s new anti-Obama ad reeks of desperation

The U.S. coal industry is flailing. Utilities are stampeding from coal to natural gas and coal mining companies are seeing their stock prices plunge. The industry is responding the way it always has to threat: blaming government regulation and pouring money into influence peddling.

Judging from their latest efforts, however, they have very little to work with. The latest flail is to try to make a big deal out of the fact that the Obama administration recently added a bit on "clean coal" to its "all of the above" energy page. It's Energywebpagegate! Or something.

From such thin threads is America's Power attempting to weave an attack:


Cows cause as much smog in L.A. as cars do

Photo by Daniel.

L.A. gets a bad rap for its car culture. But it turns out that Americans' addiction to milk, cheese, and other delicious dairy products plays just as big a role in the city's smog problem these days. Scientific American reports that there are 300,000 cattle in the L.A. area, and the bacteria feasting on their waste create the same tiny particles of pollution that make smog particularly nasty.


Pacific Garbage Patch has gotten 100 times worse in 40 years

Since the 1970s, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- an area of the ocean clotted with plastic microparticles -- has grown 100-fold. And this is very bad news, not only because of the creatures it harms but because of the ones it helps.

According to a new study from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, every cubic meter of ocean in the area, a Texas-sized chunk of ocean located 1,000 miles north of Hawaii, has about 100 times more plastic than it did 40 years ago.

Read more: Pollution


Re-Whiting history: Richard White on managing our un-pristine planet

Richard White. (Photo by Jesse White.)

You know the feeling: the intoxicatingly fresh air, the crunch of leaves under your hiking boots, and only the chirps, gurgles, and caws of the forest to keep you company as you wander down the trail. Ah, to be free of people and surrounded by untouched nature …

Environmental historian Richard White will stop you right there. This contrast between a hike in the woods and a walk down the city streets, between Yosemite and your office cubicle, is not one of nature versus non-nature. People have lived in, worked in, and even burned these landscapes throughout history, White says, and the idea of pristine wilderness that is “untrammeled by man” -- or so goes the Wilderness Act -- is a myth. “Particularly with climate change,” he says, “we have now touched everything except maybe some of the deepest parts of the ocean.”


Upsetting photos of oil-slicked turtles from Deepwater Horizon

Back in 2010, Greenpeace filed a Freedom of Information request covering endangered species affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill. They just received a response from NOAA, and it included more than 100 photos. They're disturbing: The ones Greenpeace has released so far show endangered Kemp Ridley's sea turtles, dead and covered in oil.

The photos below the jump are even worse.

Read more: Animals, Oil, Pollution