Blue Marble

Study: Nature Walks Help ADHD

| Wed Oct. 22, 2008 2:30 PM EDT

In the past few years, doctors have reported kids with ADHD being overmedicated. So I thought it was interesting that a recent study by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found that taking a 20-minute walk in a natural setting worked better than medicine in helping ADHD kids focus.

In the study, researchers took ADHD-diagnosed children on 20-minute walks in urban and natural settings. They found that those who took the natural-themed walks showed increased concentration. The concentration was as good as, or higher than, levels seen in the children when on medication for ADHD. While many studies have linked time in the outdoors with increased well-being, this is one of the first studies to link natural settings to better concentration. It also showed that time outside could help reduce all ADHD symptoms, not just concentration. "Children who have regular exposure to green spaces have milder symptoms overall," said Fraces Kuo, who co-authored the study. "So that's hinting that there may be a persistent effect." Translation: take your overactive kids outside. It's good for them.

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MoJo Audio: Sophie Uliano Is Gorgeously Green

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 9:25 PM EDT

If you've sheepishly avoided going green for fear of having to give up nail polish and other ecosins, Sophie Uliano wrote Gorgeously Green with you in mind. Her eight-step program doesn't ask readers to sacrifice lattes or pedicures to save the environment. Instead, the Julia Roberts pal offers practical grocery store tips like how to shop for veggies (look at the produce sticker: numbers beginning with an eight mean it's genetically modified; numbers beginning with a nine mean it's organic) and recipes for homemade, all-purpose vinegar cleaner.

Read more of her tips—or listen to her interview with MoJohere.
—Brittney Andres

Dunkin' Donuts Goes Green...Sort Of

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 6:59 PM EDT

DONUT.jpgOn Friday, Dunkin' Donuts opened a LEED-certified store in St. Petersburg, FL which will donate leftover food, use worm composting, green cleaning products, and paper cups, and has insulated walls to cut 40 percent of air conditioning needs. But when every other Dunkin' Donuts still uses Styrofoam cups, can we really expect significant changes among fast-food behemoths?

Chipotle, which used to be owned in part by McDonald's, opened its first restaurant with a wind turbine in Gurnee, IL earlier this month. The storefront gets 10 percent of its electricity from an on-site wind turbine, has an underground cistern to collect rainwater for the landscaping, and is built with recycled drywall and barn material, among other things. Another similar-though-lacking-a-wind-turbine location opened last week in Long Island.

Yet Chipotle already has two other green storefronts in Austin, TX, plus four more in the works. Its "Food With Integrity" mission entails that all of its chicken and pork, plus more than 60 percent of its beef, is "naturally raised" without antibiotics or hormones, on vegetarian feed, and with space to roam. They started doing this with their pork in 2001.

Will other fast-food joints follow suit? Here's what McDonald's, Taco Bell, Subway, and Hardee's are doing.

Goodbye, TV Dinners: New Study Says Technology Improves Family Interactions

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 4:24 PM EDT

laptops.jpgThe image of four family members sitting silently around their living room and tapping on their keyboards does not exactly evoke a Norman Rockwell evening. Conventional wisdom has it that everyone in the family is absorbed in his or her own online life—and that the real people in the room are probably not part of it.

But a new report suggests that the situation may be more complex than we think. The internet, after all, is an interactive medium, and using it is not the passive experience of watching television.

The study, conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, found that roughly 95% of married-with-children households—the traditional nuclear families—own at least one cell phone and at least one computer with internet access. That's compared to around 80% for the country overall. And nearly half the people surveyed said that all the technology actually encourages communication—the "hey, look at this!" phenomenon that makes YouTube so successful.

New Plan To Protect Sea Turtle Highways

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 9:18 PM EDT

TortueLuth_Leatherback.jpg The IUCN meeting in Barcelona has adopted a resolution urging nations to create marine protected areas along the Pacific leatherback sea turtle's migratory routes. The plan is designed to shield critically endangered leatherbacks from devastating longline and gillnet fisheries. Hopefully it will also save the hammerhead sharks ravaged in those fisheries too.

The resolution is sponsored by the a Costa Rican nonprofit PRETOMA and centers around a "Cocos Ridge Marine Wildlife Corridor." Recent satellite tracking data has shown that Pacific leatherbacks swim from nesting beaches in Costa Rica to the Galápagos via the Cocos Islands. A protected corridor along this route during the migratory seasons could save many of the last leatherbacks.

Last Stronghold For Chimps Fails

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 1:07 AM EDT

490px-MattiParkkonen_chimpanze1.jpg Some days you just gotta cry.

A population survey of West African chimpanzees living in Côte d'Ivoire found 90 percent fewer animals than 18 years ago. The remaining few are highly fragmented, with only one viable population living in Taï National Park.

What's happened? Well, the human population in Cote d'Ivoire has increased nearly 50 percent in 18 years. Add to that a civil war since 2002, and the end of surveillance in the protected areas, and, voilà, the sad end of our closest relatives.

Côte d'Ivoire was one of the final strongholds for West African chimps. Geneviève Campbell of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology suggests their status should immediately be raised to critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The study appears in Current Biology.

This is one of those days.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

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The Termites That Sank New Orleans

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 6:37 PM EDT

399px-Coptotermes_formosanus_shiraki_USGov_k8204-7.jpg A new study in American Entomologist suggests termites damaged New Orleans dikes enough for Hurricane Katrina to knock them over. The researchers first noticed termite trouble five years before Katrina struck. They found Formosan subterranean termites in floodwall seams made of bagasse—the residue from processed sugarcane. Formosan termites love the stuff.

After the 2005 breaches, the researchers inspected 100 seams, including three areas with major breaks. Seventy percent of the seams in the London Avenue Canal had been attacked by insects, and two major dike breaks occurred there during Katrina. Twenty-seven percent of seams in the ravaged 17th Street Canal also showed termite damage.

The Formosan subterranean termite is an invasive species native to China, where it damages levees. Besides eating at bagasse seams, the termites may have contributed to the destruction of the levees of New Orleans by digging networks of tunnels that funneled water and undermined the levee system. Ooops. . . The authors suggest that New Orleans' 350 miles of levees and floodwalls be surveyed for termite damage.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

Bear-Market Biodiversity

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 11:33 PM EDT

450px-Medved_mzoo.jpg Think Wall Street's rollercoaster ride is scary? Imagine if stocks were species. That's what the future looks like in a warming world: a monster bear market robbing the world of its real riches.

A new review published in Science addresses the question of whether the tropical forests and coral reefs of the tropics will have the most to lose as a result of global warming. Some say no: that tropical organisms will do well because their ranges will expand into temperate areas. Others says yes: because there's little or no wilderness left in the temperate zone for them to move into.

Now a review of published papers finds that for plants and insects on a mountain slope in Costa Rica, a 3.2-degree C increase in temperature threatens 53 percent of lowland species with extinction, while 51 percent face range-shift gaps—meaning they have nowhere else to go.

Another reviewed study follows historical range changes for small mammals during 100 years of climate change in Yosemite National Park. These data show that species' ranges are likely to contract dangerously as warming pushes life farther and farther up mountain slopes. . . Bottom line: biodiversity is Earth's credit line. Without it, there's absolutely no way to fund the future. Time to reassess our fatally flawed economics .

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

How the Bailout Benefits the Environment

| Fri Oct. 10, 2008 6:21 PM EDT

Everyone knows the $700 billion bailout package is a boon for Wall Street. But it turns out green consumers stand to benefit too. According to Fortune and the Environmental News Network, the legislation includes a number of perks for the eco-friendly, including:

Penguins Threatened in Antarctic, Dying in South America

| Fri Oct. 10, 2008 2:16 PM EDT

penguin-lifecycle.JPGYou'd think that with penguins driving a booming Antarctic tourism industry, there'd be some climate change protection for the little guys. Not so, says a new World Wildlife Fund report. If the world's temperature increases 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, it will threaten half of emperor penguin breeding grounds, and 75 percent of Adelie penguin colonies. The temperature rise would also likely severely impact krill, a key food source for penguins.

If that weren't bad enough, dead, emaciated, and oil-slicked Magellanic penguins have been washing up on Brazilian beaches. Magellanic penguins live in Argentina, regularly visit Brazil, but not in the numbers or conditions seen this summer. Their lack of body fat is a bad sign that something's seriously amiss in their environment. Many animals are imperiled by global warming, but somehow losing the penguins seems extra depressing.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons.