Five greenreads all wrapped up in one basket, with pastel eggs, plastic grass, and peeps.
Matt Jenkins in The Nature Conservancy Magazine on shark island: The shark grabbed Kydd Pollock by the head, dragged him into the deep, gave him a good shake that tore his eyelids, and disappeared without so much as a "sorry." Still, Pollock has no hard feelings -- sharks will be sharks -- especially in the waters off the Palmyra Atoll. This string of Pacific islands is a veritable smorgasbord of research opportunities for scientists like Pollock who study sea life. In an ocean stricken with overfishing and dying coral, the marine preserve is an anomaly, with pristine reefs chock-full of fast, toothy predators. “Eighteenth-century seafarers brought home reports of 'sharks innumerable,' so voracious that they attacked the oars of visiting boats,” writes Jenkins. This is a good thing. He follows Pollock and the other scientists, as they tag and track sharks, learn how crucial the predators are to shaping healthy ecosystems, and avoid accidentally being re-shaped themselves.
Christine Byl at Conservation Magazine on trailblazing tribes: When hiking through the wilderness, ever wonder who marked the trail, arranged the rocks to help your footing, and cleared the brush? The answer: a traildog. These workers keep the nation's parks and nature preserves accessible for the rest of us through their own blood, sweat, and sometimes, tears. To earn the honorific, one must put in seven four-month seasons shifting rocks, sawing logs, building boardwalks, and shoring up banks. No easy task, but traildogs-in-training do get to spend each day, enjoying the great outdoors. "Seven years is all it takes, and after that, maybe, a lifetime," writes Byl, whose crew work eventually led to a trail-design business of her own. “We’re blue-collar craftsmen, woodsy laborers, industrial athletes, as proud of our subculture as any ethnicity or sports fan.”
Laura Fraser at OnEarth on pestilential pesticides: “You probably wouldn’t expect to find pesticides in your toothpaste or your gym socks,” writes Fraser, “but they might be in there all the same.” And they might be harmful. It seems the EPA has given up on checking to see if new pesticides are a danger to Americans, because well, it’s just too much hassle. And why bother with all that testing and paperwork when there is a convenient bureaucratic loophole that can clear your to-do list lickity split? This loophole is called "conditional registration," and it's been allowing untested substances, like nanosilver, to be used in consumer products. Nanosilver kills bacteria and can keep your gym clothes smelling fresh, but these super tiny silver bits kill stuff they're not supposed to, too, like aquatic organisms and maybe, human cells. “Do I really need nanosilver in my jeans or Tupperware?” asks one chemist. “I don’t think so. I can just wash them.” The EPA can also just do its job.
Michael Wines in the New York Times on not-so-busy bees: The next time your grocery bill increases, blame the bees. Ever since 2005, honeybees have been disappearing, leaving our crops unpollinated, and this year about half of them haven't showed up for work. The little, lazy...oh wait, it could be our fault. There’s growing evidence that a strong class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (the most common of which was approved through a government loophole that didn’t require full safety testing, hmm... see above) may be the culprit. While old-school pesticides degrade fairly quickly in the environment, neonics persist for a while, allowing bees to get continuous doses over weeks and months. “If you have one shot of whiskey on Thanksgiving and one on the Fourth of July, it’s not going to make any difference," says a co-owner of the nation's largest beekeeping company. "But if you have whiskey every night, 365 days a year, your liver’s gone. It’s the same thing.” Thank you for putting this in terms we can understand.
Scott Wallace in National Geographic on red gold: Sometimes money does grow on trees. A single mahogany tree from the Peruvian Amazon is worth tens of thousands of dollars by the time its strong, dark red wood becomes high-end furniture. So after its neighbor Brazil halted mahogany logging in 2001, Peru was only too happy to step in to meet demand. The result has been predictable: decimated forests, polluted watersheds, displaced native peoples. Conservationists are trying to mobilize local communities to protect the forests, but with a corrupt government on their side, the loggers have the upper hand. “Welcome to the land without law,” says one villager. “The only law is the law of the gun.”
Tired of reading yet? Watch this.
The Smithsonian Channel on free-tailed flyers: The more than 500,000 Mexican free-tailed bats that stream out of this Texas cave are the best bug-repellant money can't by. Each night, they swoop in and scoop up mosquitoes and agricultural pests by the millions -- and look pretty cool in slo-mo while doing it.
OnEarth is published by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The opinions expressed by its editors and writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more.