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Renewable Energy

How Blockchain Could Boost Clean Energy

By Jeremy Deaton

Bitcoin, the much-hyped cryptocurrency, made headlines recently for driving a surge in power use. Around the globe, digital entrepreneurs are 'mining' bitcoins by solving complex math problems, using supercomputers to get the job done. Those supercomputers use a ton of power, which largely comes from coal- and gas-fired power plants spewing gobs of carbon pollution.

But while hackers wreak havoc on the climate, blockchain, the bleeding-edge technology behind bitcoin, could one day help clean up the mess. Climate wonks say blockchain has a role to play in the clean-energy economy, helping homeowners sell electricity, allowing businesses to trade carbon credits, and making it easier for governments to track greenhouse gas emissions.

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Scientists Are Making Carbon Fiber From Plants Instead of Petroleum

Carbon fiber is the Superman of materials. Five times stronger than steel and a fraction of the weight, it is used in everything from tennis rackets to golf clubs to bicycles to wind turbine blades to passenger airplanes to Formula One race cars. There's just one catch: Carbon fiber is made from oil and other costly ingredients, making the end product exceptionally expensive. That's why carbon fiber shows up in race cars but rarely makes it into minivans.

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Health
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Connecting With Nature Improves Minds and Moods

By Marlene Cimons

Twentieth Century German social psychologist Erich Fromm first advanced the notion that humans hold an inborn connection to nature. Later, it was popularized by biologist E.O. Wilson as "the urge to affiliate with other forms of life." In the ensuing years, support for the positive effects of nature has gained considerable traction, grounded in a growing body of research.

In recent weeks, at least four new studies have emerged adding more validity to what science repeatedly has revealed: Being around nature is good for us. The latest research shows that interacting with nature makes the brain stronger and soothes the psyche.

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Climate
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With Conservation Burials, Death Gives New Life

By Marlene Cimons

Natural burials—where bodies are buried in the soil to allow for a hasty decomposition—have already caught on. But an Australian scientist has proposed that the concept of "dust-unto-dust" go even further.

He suggests that natural burials become "conservation" burials, that is, that people use the costs of interring bodies to buy, manage and preserve new land for natural burials, turning them into nature preserves or wilderness areas. Such funds could go toward supporting other conservation efforts, as well.

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Climate

3 Ways Climate Change Affects Our Health Today

By Mina Lee

A new report released this week by the Lancet medical journal details "unequivocal and potentially irreversible" growing threats to public health from climate change. The report found that the delayed action on climate change worldwide has jeopardized human life and livelihoods over the past 25 years, with harms "far worse than previously understood."

A related briefing, produced by the American Public Health Association for U.S. policymakers, highlighted worrisome trends that are affecting Americans' health right now.

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Appalachians learn beekeeping skills. John Farrell

Displaced Coal Miners Turn to Beekeeping

By Marlene Cimons

Mark Lilly, 59, grew up and still lives in West Virginia. He spent three decades as an insurance adjuster, often talking to people struggling through the decline of coal. At the end of some very long days, he would escape to his bee hives. "It was therapeutic," he said. Life in coal country may no longer be what it once was, but "the bees haven't changed," he said.

Lilly has since retired from the insurance business, but he still tends to his honeybees. He now is using what he learned from these insects to help out-of-work miners and others hurt by coal's demise. He's turning them into beekeepers.

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Two Graphs Explain Why California’s Wildfires Will Only Get Worse

By Molly Taft

The deadly wildfires ripping through Northern California are just the latest in a season of record-defying natural disasters across the country. As the death toll passes 40, reports of Californians hiding in pools as their houses burn and scenes of devastated homes and vineyards add to 2017's apocalyptic picture of how climate change is impacting America today.

As the Trump administration guts environmental protections and undermines science, California is one of the states leading the way on climate action. Ironically, experts agree the state can expect devastating fires like the ones in Napa to become the new normal. Drier and drier conditions and creeping temperatures in the American Southwest, definitively linked to climate change, serve to create tinderbox conditions for massive, catastrophic fires to explode.

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Here's How Lakes Could Power the Nation

By Marlene Cimons

When the conversation turns to sources of clean renewable energy, evaporation usually isn't the first thing to come up, if at all.

Yet scientists think evaporation from U.S. lakes and reservoirs could generate almost 70 percent of the power the nation produces now. Even better, it could meet demand both day and night, solving the intermittency problems posed by solar and wind.

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