The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains
As Florence Williams first told you in last year’s OnEarth cover story “Generation ToXic,” the brain development of U.S. children is at risk from an array of neurotoxins found in pesticides, industrial chemicals, and everyday household products. James Hamblin mirrors Williams’ reporting with an in-depth and similarly scary piece, which begins with a focus on how many IQ points a leading scientist estimates that Americans have collectively forfeited from exposure to various neurotoxins. The answer: 41 million. The Atlantic
Can Coal Ever Be Clean?
In a word: no, as this story acknowledges right off the bat. But the real question is whether coal can ever be clean enough to continue providing much of the planet’s electricity without threatening human health and climate. New government safeguards in the United State, China, and elsewhere could mean that coal has to innovate or close up shop. And coal producers are finally beginning to take steps, however reluctantly, to apply technological solutions to a centuries-old problem. OnEarth contributor Michelle Nijhuis digs deep into one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. National Geographic
In The Wrong Place At the Right Time
After six years of prep, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were all set to study the emission plumes of power plants in California, flying planes equipped with state-of-the-art measuring equipment. But then the call came: an oil rig was spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. California would have to wait. As fate would have it, NOAA’s planes were perfectly equipped to help probe the impact of 2010’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. But what about next time? Kim Tingley has the story of scientific serendipity—and why next time, we shouldn’t rely on coincidence. OnEarth
When the Rivers Run Black
Quick, can you name the location of America’s largest industrial accident? Here’s a hint: it involved coal ash, and it wasn’t that long ago. The answer is Kingston, Tennessee (population: 6,000), where just days before Christmas 2008, the walls holding back a billion tons of coal ash slurry—waste from the local power plant—broke and flooded the Emory River, damaging nearly 50 nearby homes and businesses and devastating the environment. As Rachel Cernansky details, the spill unleashed 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash (compare that to the aforementioned Deepwater Horizon disaster, which spewed approximately 1 million cubic yards of oil). Hundreds of coal ash containment “ponds” like the one in Kingston sit right next to waterways all over the country and are virtually unregulated. So what was done after America’s largest industrial accident to make sure it wouldn’t happen again? As last month’s spill in North Carolina illustrates, almost nothing. Matter
West’s Growth and Drought Intensify Conflict Over Water Rights
Pick a state in the West and chances are that you’ll find a fight brewing over water rights. Kansas is lobbying against Colorado and Nebraska. New Mexico is battling Texas. And local battles pit competing interests—like fishermen and farmers—against one another. Michael Wines reports on the rising tensions accompanying dropping water levels across the West. New York Times
TIRED OF READING YET? WATCH THIS:
TV news magazine VICE takes HBO viewers to Greenland, where the equivalent of three Chesapeake Bays of water melts off the island every year. Clip above, schedule of air times here.
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