The global financial disaster of 2009 has many parallels with catastrophic natural hazards. It struck pretty much without warning, its impact was greatly exacerbated by an incredibly complex system of cascading consequences, and finally, mechanisms supposedly in place to mitigate the worse impacts (regulations, in the case of the financial system) failed. There was awareness that such a meltdown could theoretically occur, but it was considered such a low-probability event that it was evidently not worth planning for.
Tomorrow’s agriculture is facing an immense challenge. By 2050, the world’s population will reach somewhere between 9 billion and 10 billion people, and a greater proportion of those people will be enjoying a richer diet than today’s population. That means farmers will have to grow twice as much food. The world has already witnessed a preview of what might happen if large populations don’t receive an adequate supply of food: They do not accept their fates passively.
At the close of the Permian, 252 million years ago, conditions on Earth took a turn for the worse, nearly wiping out life on land and at sea in the planet’s most severe extinction event. Now, eons later, geologists are implicating a coal seam that dates to the “Great Dying” at the Permian-Triassic boundary in one of the modern world’s worst cancer epidemics.
In eastern India, north of the Damodar River, approximately 70 fires are burning in the Jharia coalfield, the largest coalmine fire complex in the world. The majority of fires in Jharia ignite when coal, exposed to air during mining operations, spontaneously combusts. Particulate matter and noxious gases emitted from the burning coal — including sulfur, carbon and nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons released at the surface from gas vents, ground fissures and the soil — have caused illnesses that range from stroke to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Coal has always been king in West Virginia. For more than 250 years, the mining industry has ruled the Mountain State, sometimes running roughshod over worker’s rights, public safety and West Virginia’s mountain ecosystems in the push for higher yields. Coal mining is not without its benefits: West Virginia’s mines produce 15 percent of our country’s coal and half of our coal exports. And the industry provides 40,000 jobs and contributes $3.5 billion to the Mountain State’s economy. Now with U.S.
In her new book, "The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters," freelance journalist Rose George argues that experts and citizens alike must overcome their aversion to all things fecal — or else face one of the most serious public health risks on the planet. If handled properly, George says, waste water can even be reclaimed as potable water. Recently, EARTH contributor Brian Fisher Johnson talked with George about her book, which was released on Oct. 14.
For the past 10 years, geoscientists have been helping to characterize the dust that blanketed lower Manhattan following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, hoping to determine if and how that dust may be causing long-term health problems.
Megacities — cities with populations equaling or greater than 10 million people — are producing an unprecedented amount of air pollution, according to scientists at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
In the Gulf of Mexico lurk menacing masses of single-celled organisms known as red tides. Scientists have long known that the potent toxin they produce can kill fish and birds, wreak havoc on the human nervous system and cause wheezing, sneezing and asthma flare-ups. But new research suggests that it can also damage DNA, which could lead to more subtle, longer-term health consequences.