The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Emily Deanne
Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
By Kristin Ohlson
From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.
Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.
It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."