Julia Whitty

Julia Whitty

Environmental Correspondent

Julia is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction (Deep Blue Home, The Fragile Edge, A Tortoise for the Queen of Tonga), and a former documentary filmmaker. She also blogs at Deep Blue Home.

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Julia is a writer and former documentary filmmaker and the author of The Fragile Edge: Diving & Other Adventures in the South Pacific, winner of a PEN USA Literary Award, the John Burroughs Medal, the Kiriyama Prize, the Northern California Books Awards, and finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. Her short story collection A Tortoise for the Queen of Tonga won an O. Henry and was a finalist for the PEN Hemingway Award. She also blogs at Deep Blue Home.

Flu Triggers Parkinson's

| Mon Aug. 10, 2009 5:48 PM EDT

Here's news of an avian flu strain that makes you more susceptible to Parkinson’s, maybe Alzheimer’s, later on. The work is published in an upcoming PNAS and reports how mice surviving infection with an H5N1 flu strain are more likely than uninfected mice to develop brain changes associated with neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The researchers note that around age 40 people begin losing brain cells. Most people die before they lose enough to get Parkinson’s. But now it appears the H5N1 avian influenza infection changes the curve, making the brain more sensitive to another hit, possibly from another infection, from a drug, or from an environmental toxin.

Flu is primarily a respiratory disease but indirect evidence dating back to 1385 links it to neurological problems, including the brain inflammation known as encephalitis. Some survivors of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic went on to develop Parkinson’s symptoms.

The study marks the first time scientists have naturally triggered a Parkinson’s-like protein build-up—something apparently not that hard to do with the H5N1 virus.
 

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Population Growth Explained With Bubbles

| Mon Aug. 10, 2009 5:13 PM EDT

Hands down the best and most dynamic 10-minute explanation of population issues I've seen. From Hans Rosling, Professor of International Health at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Thanks to Gapminder.

 

 

 

Thoreau's Legacy: American Stories About Global Warming

| Sat Aug. 8, 2009 2:36 PM EDT

You can read some kickass good tales in this new anthology, Thoreau's Legacy: American Stories About Global Warming. It's from the Union of Concerned Scientists and Penguin Classics and brings together established writers and fresh voices with personal reflections on global climate change. There's an interactive version of the book you can read free online. Or buy the hardcover. Great stories, some from friends of mine, on everything from climate change on coral reefs to the joys of bicycling.

Knitting Meets Biology

| Sat Aug. 8, 2009 2:21 PM EDT

Two of my favorite subjects intersect on the blog Why Would You Knit That, complete with a subversive dissection: "Introducing Mr. Knitted Lab Rat and Mr. Knitted Frog:
(I call them "Mr." because I don't see obvious signs of knitted ovaries or a uterus, duh)"

Exxon Ignores 50,000 People and Threatens Rare Whales

| Fri Aug. 7, 2009 7:50 PM EDT

WWF reports that ExxonMobil has ignored a petition from more than 50,000 people demanding they suspend activities harming the Western gray whale—one of the world’s most endangered whales (Red List: Critically Endangered, only 35 reproductive females left).

Thousands of signatures from around the world were delivered to the CEO of ExxonMobil in Texas and in Moscow just as the first whales arrived at their summer feeding grounds. Sadly, the whales' breeding grounds are ground zero for Exxon’s Sakhalin I oil and gas project.

The petition urges Exxon and other oil companies to suspend all oil and gas development near the whale’s habitat off Sakhalin Island and calls for the creation of the Sakhalin Marine Federal Wildlife Reserve. Despite requests for a response within a two week deadline—and despite ExxocnMobil's claims to "seek to eliminate incidents with environmental impact"—Exxon remains silent.

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