HUMANITY HAS RAISED EXTINCTION RATE A THOUSANDFOLD
Human activity is wiping out species of plants and animals at a dizzying rate, leaving the world on the verge of the sixth great extinction in its history, a new study warns. Researchers found that species are vanishing around 10 times faster than previously believed—and 1,000 times faster than they did before humans emerged, the AP reports. A mass extinction on the scale of the one that wiped out the dinosaurs is close, and “whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions,” says the lead researcher. Habitat loss is the main factor causing species to disappear, but climate change, overfishing, and the spread of invasive species also play a role.
But the situation isn’t completely hopeless: Modern technology and “citizen scientists” are helping biologists locate endangered species, aiding efforts to save their habitats, the study author tells National Geographic. Thanks to mobile apps like iNaturalists and online crowdsourcing, “we know where the species are, we know where the threats are, and—even though the situation is very bleak—we are better able to manage things,” he says. What can the average citizen do? A scientist not involved in the study suggests encouraging lawmakers to connect nature reserves to each other, and the study author notes that extinction rates of mammals, birds, and amphibians are 20% lower than they would be without protected refuges. About 13% of the planet’s land has been designated as such; the same holds true for only about 2% of the ocean.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says the dead fish began showing up last weekend. Now, the fish litter the shoreline, and the stench fills the air.
“It just stinks really bad,” said Yesenia Compean. “You had to cover your nose when you walk by there.”
Edward Hinojosa and his family spend almost every other weekend in the Kemah area.
“Never seen nothing like that in my life,” said Hinojosa.
Texas Parks and Wildlife says the shad or bait fish are likely showing up dead because of oxygen depletion.
At this time, there are no plans to investigate the fish kill any further. There’s also no word on any plans to clean the fish off the shoreline.
It’s a happy accident: A mistake at an IBM research lab has created “a super-strong, super-light, and super-recyclable new material,” that could transform the old-school world of plastics and polymers and improve a slew of products, NBC News reports. Most of our polymers date back decades—think Styrofoam from the 1940s or nylon from the ’30s. But when researcher Jeannette Garcia forgot an ingredient in a polymerization reaction, she ended up making two new polymers—the first discovered in 20 years—including one so strong “I couldn’t even get it out of the flask,” she says. “I had to break the glass with a hammer.”
That polymer, nicknamed “Titan,” has about one-third the strength of steel and could show up in future computers, reports Mashable. The second, called “Hydro,” is a gel-like material that essentially heals itself when cut in two—which could work wonders as a “powerful-on-contact adhesive,” it adds. Both reduce down to molecules easily, which is big news because, “We can begin as scientists to design molecules that are incredibly tough, incredibly durable, but still recyclable,” a chemistry professor explains. That could mean a more eco-friendly shopping bag or water bottle, or even a tougher material for military drones.
Your face wash may be bad for the environment, and several states are trying to do something about it. The problem is “microbeads,” minuscule pieces of plastic about the size of Abe Lincoln’s eye on a penny, Time reports. They’re found in all kinds of products from the likes of Clean & Clear and Olay, and after traveling down the drain, they land in lakes and oceans. There, experts say, they may collect toxins before they’re eaten by fish—and end up in the food chain. “Big fish eat little fish; eventually the fish is on your dinner plate,” a scientist tells CBS News.”
Researchers haven’t yet determined for sure whether microbeads cause environmental harm. Still, New York, Illinois, California, Ohio, and Minnesota are debating bills to ban the beads. “The fundamental question is going to be: Do we wait to take this material out until we prove that this microbead causes harm?” asks a marine ecologist. If laws are passed against the beads—the New York State Assembly this week voted 108-0 to ban them, Plastics News reports—companies may not put up much of a fight. Johnson & Johnson already plans to get rid of microbeads by 2017, and Procter & Gamble is also moving against the beads.