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China’s Air Akin to Nuclear Winter, Life in Death Valley, Polar Bear Surprise!
Our top picks: today's environmental news and best #greenreads.

Green lawn, greener lake: A report released this week by the International Joint Commission urges Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Ontario to ban the sale of lawn fertilizers and for Michigan and Ohio to limit farmers’ use of phosphorus for the sake of Lake Erie. The fertilizers result in toxic algal blooms that kill wildlife in the Great Lake (see “When It Rains, It Poisons”). Even though the agency’s report makes no bones about the farming industry’s role in the lake’s declining ecological health, action on that front may be slow in coming. The agriculture industry and fertilizer manufacturers have already shown their muscle in a fight againt the EPA concerning fertilizer runoff in the Chesapeake Bay. New York Times

Eat your leftovers!: A new report from the World Bank offers some startling statistics on food waste around the world. Millions of people go hungry each night, and yet we waste around 25 to 33 percent of the food we produce. In North America, 61 percent of this food is wasted at what they call the “consumption phase”—in other words, the doggie bags and week-old Tupperware leftovers in your fridge. For comparison, people in Sub-Saharan Africa waste just 5 percent of their food haul during the consumption phase: however, less advanced production and processing techniques means they lose large amounts of food in other phases. Bottom line? Think twice the next time you buy six gallons of Chilean blueberries just because they’re on sale at Costco. Reuters

City of Angels: From its smog and traffic to its large homeless population, Los Angeles isn’t usually considered much of a forward-thinking city. But officials there are trying to change that by getting ahead of the game on climate change. The city recently commissioned a 270-page study to determine the impact a changing coastline would have on its boardwalks and boutiques as well as on the city's poor. According to Matt Petersen, L.A.’s chief sustainability officer, “Vulnerable communities don't have the resources to rebuild, to repair, to evacuate.” Al Jazeera America

Save the dune grass!: Let’s be honest, animals get all the attention when it comes to the Endangered Species Act, but the law was enacted to help plant species, too. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just proposed de-listing two species of Death Valley plant life that nearly went extinct due to off-road vehicles damaging them and their habitat, but now these plants bloom in earnest, thanks to earnest protections. And while you’ll never see Eureka dune grass or Eureka Valley evening primrose trotted out on the Tonight Show, saving them is every bit as important. Los Angeles Times

Dark days: According to new research, the air quality in China is getting so bad it might start to affect crop growth in the same manner as a nuclear winter. (I’ll give you a second to let that sink in. You good? Ok.) Experiments showed that when seeds were given artificial light, they sprouted in around 20 days. Conversely, the seeds grown in a Beijing greenhouse, where air pollutants can cut the amount of light absorbed by the plants by 50 percent, seeds didn’t sprout for more than two months. So, now that the nuclear winter comparison is in use, I think we can officially say we’re running out of ways to say China’s in a tight spot. Guardian

Ring of fire: You may recall last year’s exceptionally bad fire season out west. (You better—OnEarth did a whole dang series on it!) Well, a new report from the National Weather Service is already predicting another explosive year for New Mexico. The NWS says a wet summer and fall allowed copious weeds, shrubs, and grass to take root, but now that a severe drought has persisted through the winter, all that vegetation has become kindling. Add in some dead and dying trees thanks to dwindling snowpack, and you’ve got all the conditions necessary for the hills to burn, burn, burn. Climate Central

DAILY DISTRACTION

Snooze you lose: In honor of yesterday’s International Polar Bear day, here’s a video of an ice bear stealing a fish right out of a fisherman’s net. I’m not quite sure how a polar bear sneaks up on you in the middle of a body of water, but this guy sounds REALLY surprised. (Warning: Being surprised by a polar bear tends to make people use their potty mouths. Don’t pretend like you’d be any better.) The Dodo

OTHER HEADLINES

Bakken Crude, Rolling Through Albany New York Times

Limits Sought on Glyphosate to Help Monarch Butterflies Los Angeles Times

Sea Turtles Are Endangered, but 42,000 Were Killed Legally Last Year Huffington Post

Can Entrenched Energy Systems Undergo Rapid Changes? MIT News

Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)

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