The following articles about our damage to the planet and each other caught my attention this week.
A new study reveals the devastating effect of pollutants on the future of the albatross population and by inference on the future of many other seabirds:
“Persistent organic pollutant and mercury have long-term effects on breeding performances in wandering albatross, which may lead to population decline,” Aurelie Goutte, co-author and lecturer at Ecole Pratique des Hatues Etudes … Sporting the world’s longest wingspan, the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) is a fierce marine predator, residing at the top of the trophic web or food chain. But the massive seabird, found throughout the Southern Ocean and North Pacific, is also threatened with extinction… “Our population models suggested that the actual Hg and POPs levels could decelerate the population growth rate (0.991), whereas the population growth rate would increase (1.027) with zero concentrations of blood Hg and POPs,” the researchers write in their paper. As Goutte explains, “these pollutants (PCB, DDT, etc) are already prohibited. But they are persistent in the environment, they are mobile and may reach remote areas and they biomagnify across the trophic web, which means that top predators are the most exposed.”
A more general survey of endangered wildlife in Asia is captured in a useful photo essay from the Guardian.
In a previous post, harmful concentrations of arsenic in water supplies was highlighted. A series of new studies are about to be published that indicate the breadth of the problem:
“Naturally occurring arsenic in private wells threatens people in many U.S. states and parts of Canada, according to a package of a dozen scientific papers to be published next week. The studies, focused mainly on New England but applicable elsewhere, say private wells present continuing risks due to almost nonexistent regulation in most states, homeowner inaction and inadequate mitigation measures.
The failure of food chains — and most of us, really — to recycle waste products is highlighted in a new report.
“Overall, Americans recycle at the lamentable rate of 34.5 percent and recycle plastic packaging at the even measlier rate of 14 percent. So the majority of that food packaging is ending up in landfills, or on the street as litter, where it may eventually get swept into the ocean. There, our wrappers and cans and cups become a much bigger problem — a direct threat to marine life that may ingest it and die. According to a report published Thursday by the environmental groups As You Sow and the Natural Resources Defense Council, most of the major players in the restaurant and beverage industry are not doing a whole lot to ameliorate this problem.
Finally, ancient glaciers are fast disappearing in Norway. As reported in ScienceDaily:
“Norway is dotted with small glaciers and permanent snow patches that contain all sorts of archaeological treasures, from ancient shoes to 5000-year-old arrowheads. But climate change has turned up the temperature on these snowfields and they are vanishing at an astonishing rate… With one or two more hot summers, they will be history.
Previous What Are We Doing posts.