Even Polar Bear Cubs Can’t Escape Plastic Pollution
By Allison Guy
Plastic bags are often stamped with an all-caps warning: This bag is not a toy. Unfortunately, polar bear moms don't have much control over their kids' playthings.
British wildlife photographer Kevin Morgans recently spotted this polar bear and her boisterous cubs while sailing through Liefdefjorden, a fjord in Norway's Svalbard archipelago. The furry twins played tug-of-war with a black plastic bag, chewing it to bits. For Morgans it was a "bittersweet moment," with the thrill of observing bears up-close tempered by the ugly intrusion of trash.
Morgan's sighting was a glimpse into a deepening crisis. Roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic junk wind up in the ocean each year. Much of it, like the plastic bag the cubs had found, is designed to be used just once and thrown away. Plastic is thought to persist for centuries in the environment, breaking down into ever-smaller pieces instead of biodegrading.
These tiny scraps, beads and fibers might pose an even more pernicious threat than the plastic we can easily see, like bags and bottles. Plankton and filter-feeding fish often mistake so-called "microplastics" for food. Once swallowed, plastics can release industrial chemicals into the critters' bodies. Fat-soluble poisons accumulate with each step up in the food chain, eventually posing grave dangers to long-lived predators like polar bears and orcas.
Scientists are still in the early stages of understanding the full scope of the ocean plastic crisis. But one thing's for certain: As the Svalbard cubs' world melts around them, the last thing they need is a sea—and prey—full of trash.
By Robin Scher
Beyond the questions surrounding the availability, effectiveness and safety of a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to question where our food is coming from and whether we will have enough.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Tearing through the crowded streets of Philadelphia, an electric car and a gas-powered car sought to win a heated race. One that mimicked how cars are actually used. The cars had to stop at stoplights, wait for pedestrians to cross the street, and swerve in and out of the hundreds of horse-drawn buggies. That's right, horse-drawn buggies. Because this race took place in 1908. It wanted to settle once and for all which car was the superior urban vehicle. Although the gas-powered car was more powerful, the electric car was more versatile. As the cars passed over the finish line, the defeat was stunning. The 1908 Studebaker electric car won by 10 minutes. If in 1908, the electric car was clearly the better form of transportation, why don't we drive them now? Today, I'm going to answer that question by diving into the history of electric cars and what I discovered may surprise you.
As bitcoin's fortunes and prominence rise, so do concerns about its environmental impact.
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By David Drake and Jeffrey York
The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.
The Big Idea
People often point to plunging natural gas prices as the reason U.S. coal-fired power plants have been shutting down at a faster pace in recent years. However, new research shows two other forces had a much larger effect: federal regulation and a well-funded activist campaign that launched in 2011 with the goal of ending coal power.
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