Blue Marble

Paris Provides Bikes To Fight Traffic, CO2

| Sun Jul. 15, 2007 1:59 PM EDT

The Paris city council is launching a free bike scheme to encourage people to give up the motor in favor of pedal power. The BBC reports this morning that the local authority in Paris is depositing 20,000 heavy-duty bicycles, called Velib, in 750 or so special racks around the city and anyone who wants one simply swipes his or her public transport card and pedals off wherever they want to go. The bike can be returned to any Velib stand. Subscriptions range from one day (one euro, $1.38) to a whole year (29 euros, $40). The first half hour of pedalling time is free but if you fail to return the bike after 30 minutes you get charged an extra euro and the penalties go up over time. The scheme has worked well in the French city of Lyon. But out of 2 million Parisians, only 150,000 own bikes. (Other Europeans don't need encouragement.) Tourists will love them and every city should have them. After all, why not use that fastest-growing and INFINITE fuel source: fat. JULIA WHITTY

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Canadian Study Reveals New Class of Organic Pollutants

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 5:36 PM EDT

A Canadian team reports in this week's Science that efforts to crack down on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) may have missed an entire set of them. Dioxin, PCBs, and DDT are considered among the most dangerous pollutants on the planet because they don't break down easily, are highly toxic, and build up in the food chain. These chemicals persist in our body fat, and even miniscule amounts in food can add up over time and contribute to health problems such as cancer. More than 140 countries have endorsed the 2001 Stockholm Convention, which aims to banish a dozen POPs from the environment. The Convention's target list is based on risk assessments of these POPs accumulating in fish food webs. But that assumption, the authors argue, could be missing chemicals that fish remove from their bodies but that mammals and birds don't, due to their different respiratory physiology. One-third of the 12,000 or so organic chemicals on the market in Canada fit this new category. . . Whoa. Here comes Silent Spring, Summer, Fall & Winter. JULIA WHITTY

Chernobyl Hits Birds Hard

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 7:58 PM EDT

Many birds have dwindled because of radiation from the nuclear power plant accident in Chernobyl. Yet a new study in the Journal of Applied Ecology, reported by the AAAS, finds that some species are declining at a far greater rate. The greatest decline is in brightly colored species (orioles, blackbirds, and blue tits) inhabiting high radiation zones. Migrant birds are also faring worse than residents. Both groups possess high levels of antioxidants &mdash a substance needed to protect against radiation sickness &mdash but which the authors suggest may be in short supply in birds maintaining bright plumage and/or birds sustaining their metabolism during long migrations. . . Yet another blow to biodiversity. JULIA WHITTY

Weird Weather Watch: Heat Wave Killed Nearly 500 Californians

| Wed Jul. 11, 2007 9:36 PM EDT

Last July was a scorcher in California. The state has officially reported that the record temperatures killed about 150 people. But an AP analysis of death counts by county reveals that nearly 500 more people died that month than normally do in July. The study did not find evidence of a cover-up, but that's not good news. States don't yet have the tools to determine what constitutes a weather-related death, meaning that many more will have to die before climate change is recognized as an urgent public health problem.

Plants Uptake Antibiotics

| Wed Jul. 11, 2007 3:25 PM EDT

Routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock may be contaminating the world of plants. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have evaluated whether food crops accumulate antibiotics from soils spread with manure that contains antibiotics. Plant uptake was evaluated in a greenhouse study involving three food crops: corn, lettuce, and potato. Plants were grown on soil modified with liquid hog manure containing Sulfamethazine, a commonly used veterinary antibiotic. This antibiotic was taken up by all three crops. Concentrations of antibiotics were found in the plant leaves. Concentrations in plant tissue also increased as the amount of antibiotics present in the manure increased. It also diffused into potato tubers, which suggests that root crops, such as potatoes, carrots, and radishes, that directly come in contact with soil may be particularly vulnerable to antibiotic contamination. JULIA WHITTY

Organic Farming Can Feed The World

| Wed Jul. 11, 2007 3:01 PM EDT

Organic farming can yield up to three times as much food as conventional farming on the same amount of land. A new study from the University of Michigan refutes the long-standing assumption that organic farming methods can't produce enough food to feed the global population. The researchers found that yields in developed countries were almost equal between organic and conventional farms, while food production in developing countries could double or triple by going organic. The study also found that equal or greater yields could be accomplished using existing quantities of organic fertilizers, and without putting more farmland into production. Ivette Perfecto, of U-M's School of Natural Resources and Environment, said the idea that people would go hungry if farming went organic is ridiculous. "Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted in land grant institutions, with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertilizer companies—all have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food," she said. JULIA WHITTY

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Want To Broadcast To Fox News?

| Tue Jul. 10, 2007 9:31 PM EDT

Anxious to talk to Fox in language they understand? (Clearly they fail science-speak.) Try dollar-speak. There's enough of us &mdash the 7 out of 10 Americans who know human-caused climate change is real &mdash to get their attention. Check it out.

JULIA WHITTY


Weird Weather Watch: Omnibus Edition

| Tue Jul. 10, 2007 5:03 PM EDT

It snowed in Buenos Aires for the first time in 90 years yesterday. (The good news is, it is winter in the southern hemisphere.)

Meanwhile, the East Coast of the United States is sweltering in 90-plus degree heat with high humidity to boot. A similar heat wave last year killed 40.

It's hot out West, too. The heat is fueling a wildfire burning 35,000 acres of forest in the Sierras and another incinerating nearly 10,000 acres in Los Padres National Forest. Another major blaze covers nearly 100 square miles in Nevada. Less rain and more heat across the Southwest are to blame for the region's increasing susceptibility to wildfire.

Australia To Build Cross-Continent Corridor For Wildlife

| Mon Jul. 9, 2007 7:47 PM EDT

Australia will create a wildlife corridor spanning the continent to allow animals and plants to flee the effects of global warming. Reuters reports that the 1,740 mile climate "spine," approved by state and national governments, will link the country's entire east coast, from the snow-capped Australian alps in the south to the tropical north Queensland. "A lot of that forest and vegetation spine is already there. But there are still blockages," David Lindenmayer, a professor of conservation biology, told Reuters. Climate scientists have predicted temperatures rising by up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit by 2080 in the country's vast outback interior. The corridor will link national parks, state forests and government land, and help preserve scores of endangered species. . . For an in-depth look at plans for similar corridors in the U.S., check out the work of the Wildlands Project in Gone, in the May/June 2007 issue of MoJo. JULIA WHITTY

Dutch Bike Ridership Increasing

| Mon Jul. 9, 2007 7:15 PM EDT

The distance the average Dutch person bicycles every day has increased by nearly 10 percent in the past five years. This in a nation already renowned for its love of bikes, says the Environmental News Network in an AP story. Holland's Central Bureau for Statistics, accounting for every woman, man, and child in the country, reports the Dutch rode an average of 1.5 miles per person per day in 2006, more than 8.7 billion miles in all. The Dutch Biker's Union says increased bike usage is tied to increased traffic congestion around cities and the difficulty of finding parking places in city centers. The trend also reflects the growing popularity of bakfiets, bicycles with sturdy wooden boxes on the front capable of carrying loads of groceries or children up to 175 pounds. The Dutch are apparently also slimmer and healthier than Euro-neighbors thanks to their bike miles. JULIA WHITTY