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Swimmer Plans to Cross Pacific to Highlight Plastic Pollution
Ben Lecomte, the first man to swim across the Atlantic in 1998, will attempt another grueling, history-making ocean crossing.
On Tuesday, the 50-year-old Frenchman and his crew will set out from Tokyo for a 5,500-mile swim across the Pacific, Reuters reported. If all goes as planned, Lecomte will arrive in San Francisco six to eight months later.
The purpose of "The Swim" is not just to break a record. "The mission of my historic swim is to bring to light the current state of our oceans," Lecomte said in a statement, adding that the research he and his team collect "will ultimately help us better protect our oceans."
According to a press release, Lecomte and the crew are collaborating with 27 scientific institutions, including NASA and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Along the trans-Pacific journey, the team will collect more than 1,000 samples to help understand the ocean's state, from mammal migrations to plastic pollution. The route will cut through the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive trash vortex floating off the coast of California.
"I remember my father and he was the one who taught me how to swim in the Atlantic. I remember times when we would go on the beach and walk and never see any plastic. Now, everywhere I go, on the beach I see plastic everywhere," Lecomte told Reuters.
"If we are all aware of it then after it is much easier to take action and to change our behavior because the solution is in our hands. We know what we have to do."
Among other endeavors, the team will also collect data on the spread and concentration of radioactive seepage from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. The effort will also help medical researchers gain insight about endurance, the human body in extreme conditions, as well as the effect of low gravity on bones and vision.
Lecomte spent the last four years training for the event. Once in the waters, he will kick and paddle for eight hours a day, covering about 30 miles and burning though 8,000 calories. For the rest of the day, the swimmer will recover and refuel on a sailboat with his support team. Doctors and other specialists on land will monitor his physical condition and provide any required support.
Lecomte partnered with science publisher Seeker.com and Discovery to bring the expedition and its scientific findings to viewers around the world. The journey will be captured in multiple platforms, including live video from the boat, Instagram stories and weekly swim updates. The effort will culminate with a feature-length documentary in 2019.
"Not only are we documenting history, but we will be creating never-before-seen content in real-time from deep in the Pacific. Additionally, Seeker will shed light on key marine conservation issues, with the goal of driving viewers to take action to reverse the negative impact that humans have had on our oceans."
Lecomte's 1998 swim from Cape Cod to France measured 3,700 miles over 73 days. After his incredible feat, he told Oprah Winfrey on her talk show: "When I arrived after swimming the Atlantic, my first words were, 'Never again.' Then a few months after, I said, 'No, I need to go back.' It's something that I need. It's within me. I need to find another challenge and to push myself."
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By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
The climate crisis has become a driving and dividing factor in the political arena in recent years. According to the survey, almost three-quarters of respondents think global warming is happening (though that number varies across party lines) with more than half of registered voters agreeing that it is driven by human activities. As such, six-in-ten voters are worried about the current state of the climate — a marked increase from the last survey conducted in March 2018.
When asked how much they would support different strategies the government could use to reduce air pollution, more than three-quarters agreed that investing in renewable energy research and infrastructure and regulating pollution was a priority, as well as taxing pollution (requiring companies to pay a tax on pollution they emit to encourage a reduction in emissions). A majority of respondents also support more specific policies to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy, including a revenue-neutral carbon tax and a fee on carbon pollution that distributes money to U.S. citizens through monthly dividend checks. Furthermore, many support a Clean Power Plan that implements strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants. A majority of voters also say they want policies that address the pollution that causes global warming and reduces pollution investments, regulations and taxes.
Climate change ranks as the 17th most important voting issue and is a more polarizing topic than abortion. So much so, that almost half of registered voters say they would support a president who declared global warming a national emergency if Congress does not act.
A handful of 2020 presidential candidates have put climate change at the forefront of their campaign platform as part of ongoing pressure to combat the effects of climate change. The Green New Deal, unveiled in part by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) earlier this year is a decade-long plan that will "mobilize every aspect of American society ... to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all," according to a section of the resolution from her office posted by NPR.
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, who introduced a plan just a few days ago to combat climate change. In it, Bennet calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank" to use federal spending to incentivize the private sector to transition to net-zero emissions by 2050. His opponent, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, similarly announced a clean energy plan earlier this month dubbed the "100 Percent Clean Energy for America Plan" that would aim to phase out coal over the next decade and require all power production to be emissions-free by 2035.
Former Vice President Joe Biden also threw his name into the running hat but didn't mention climate change in his announcement. His overall stand on the Green New Deal and fossil fuel infrastructure is hazy. His campaign website promises environmental action but does not go into further detail. If elected president, Senator Elizabeth Warren has promised an executive order to ban new fossil fuel extraction leases in federal lands and waters.
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President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."
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By Jennifer Molidor
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