Sign Up for Our Newsletter


Etsy’s Endangered Species Trade, Secrets of a Square Watermelon, Bottom's Up for Cork Trees!
Our top picks: the best environmental news and #greenreads from around the web.


Drilling déjà vu: Earlier this week, a natural gas well called Hercules 265 caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico, triggering the evacuation of 44 workers. Prior to exiting, the crew wasn't able to shut down the well with a blowout preventer—the piece of safety equipment that infamously malfunctioned on the Deepwater Horizon platform three years ago. Now, the well seems to have started to collapse. Though officials have detected a slight sheen on the surface of the water, they do not think the environmental effect will be anything near BP's Deepwater disaster. NBC News

More heat, less power: The U.S. Department of Energy just released a report detailing the many ways warming temperatures stand to affect our energy supplies. For one, coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants all require some sort of cooling to generate electricity efficiently. (During last week's heat wave, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station had to reduce its output because the water in Cape Cod Bay was too hot.) In turn, when temperatures rise, power plants receive special permissions to release wastewater into the environment that's far hotter than typically allowed. (This steamy effluent damages local ecosystems, killing fish and whatnot.) Furthermore, during droughts, farmers, industry, and communities must compete for limited water resources. Fracking, for instance, is a huge drain on water supplies. But hey, you know what doesn’t require tons of H2O? Wind and solar. TckTckTck

Here comes the oil: Despite public outcry against a port terminal that would export oil trained in to Washington from North Dakota, Port of Vancouver commissioners voted unanimously in the terminal's favor. The 380,000 barrels of oil a day transported by train through the Columbia River watershed would greatly increase the chances for a major spill. And when finally burned, the crude would emit large amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. One commissioner reasoned that the incoming oil simply replaces oil that’s already being consumed and thus, won’t have much of an environmental effect (now there's some interesting logic)and that if the port didn't export it, some other city would.) According to the conservation director for Columbia Riverkeeper, the notion that such a high volume terminal will not contribute to global warming is “absurd.” The Columbian

Step away from the handcrafted purse: Everyone knows Etsy is the place for one-of-a-kind jewelry, clothing, and hipster-y home furnishings. (Warning: Quality may vary.) Unfortunately, the craft site has also become a repository for products made from the skin, hair, claws, teeth, and bones of rare and threatened species. This is why the company decided this week to ban all animals protected by the Endangered Species Act, and the ban even extends to animals that look similar to endangered species. After all, who can really tell if that bedazzled wristlet used to be an American alligator or American crocodile? Slate

Orchid thieves?: On the other hand, online trade in endangered plants is legal and somewhat encouraged. All you need is a $100 permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to sell endangered plants across state lines. Scientific American

A toast to forests!: Wine drinkers know that bottles stoppered with actual wooden corks have become a little more rare in recent years as plastic plugs and aluminum screw caps have become more and more common as bottle toppers. Now, the ancient cork industry is fighting back in the name of real corks and saving forests. OnEarth


It’s hip to be square: Perhaps it’s no surprise that the culture that gave us bonsai trees is responsible for the development of a square watermelon. Frankly, I don’t care what shape my melons come in, so long as they wind up in my belly. But if you want to save yourself the $860 price tag Russians are paying for the easily stackable fruit, this video shows you a surefire way to square things up yourself. Mother Nature Network


Oil Sands: 4,000 Environmental Infractions, 40 Punishments Huffington Post

Forget RoboCop—Detroit to Turn Green to Regenerate New Scientist

Alaska Looks for Answers in Glacier’s Summer Flood Surges New York Times

Wild Crop Seeds Could Provide £128bn Boost to Economy, Help Humans Adapt to Climate Change The Guardian

Darkness is a Natural Resource and It Is Almost Gone Treehugger

Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)
Image: Teodora Atanasova

Like this article? Donate to NRDC to support OnEarth's groundbreaking nonprofit journalism.