The Ecologist


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Dead trees in a Duke Energy Buck coal ash pond, 2014. Photo: Dot Griffith, Waterkeeper Alliance via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Coal ash: America's multi-billion ton toxic legacy

Ben Whitford

29th September 2015

America's coal-fired power plants produce 140 million tons of ash a year, reports Ben Whitford, most of it dumped in open storage ponds that contaminate drinking water with arsenic and heavy metals. And now Presidential candidate Jeb Bush is promising to scrap 'new and costly' (actually feeble) EPA regulations before they have even been implemented. more...
Sunset over Sellafield ... those nuclear liabilities will cost billions, and billions, for thousands of years. Photo: Dom Crayford via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

When the party's over ... the financial spectre at the end of nuclear power

Dr Ian Fairlie

1st October 2015

There are two rules about the end costs of nuclear power, writes Ian Fairlie. It's far more than you ever knew. And whatever sum of money was ever set aside, it's nowhere near enough. Germany understands this. That's why it refused to let E.ON spin off its nuclear liabilities into a hands-off company. But the UK, it seems, has lost the ability to learn from its nuclear mistakes. more...
Navitus Bay as it would be seen from a nearby beach. Unacceptable visual impact? Or a low carbon working landscape of the kind we will all grow to love? Image: LDA Design.

Navitus Bay offshore wind refusal - UK energy and climate policy unravels

Alan Neale

25th September 2015

The government's decision to turn down the 1GW Navitus Bay offshore wind farm near the Isle of Wight sends a chilling message to developers: 'don't waste your time and money here!' The refusal of planning permission based on visual impact to a geological world heritage area is capricious and threatens to kill off an industry in which the UK has been - until now - the world leader. more...
Farmers carrying milk to market on their bicycles under the hot sun in Ulttarakhand, India. Photo: Paul Hamilton via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

For climate's sake, let's cut food waste!

John Mandyck

17th September 2015

At least a third of the food the world grows each year goes to waste, writes John Mandyck, most of it in fields, transport and storage. The result is poor farmers, hungry people, and a massive 3.3 billion tonnes of needless CO2 emissions. It should be a key topic for action at COP21 in Paris - but so far it's not even on the agenda. more...
Donald Shadforth, a traditional owner, at the dilapidated Redbank mine tailings storage. Photo: P. Taplin.

Australia: Indigenous communities must take centre stage in 'development'

Seán Kerins

7th September 2015

Indigenous Australians are systematically deprived of the benefits of mining and other developments, writes Seán Kerins, and being left to suffer their environmental impacts. As Abbott's government prepares a bonfire of 'red tape', it's time to put Indigenous interests first, and place their communities at the centre of decision making. more...
Too beautiful to die by plastic: Laysan Albatross mate for life, live 60 years or more, and show their soft, sensitive side by preening each other. Photo: kris krüg / via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Ocean plastic plague threatens seabirds

Chris Wilcox, Britta Denise Hardesty & Erik van Sebille

1st September 2015

Already 60% of seabird species have plastic in their guts, often as much as 8% of their body weight. And with ocean plastic increasing exponentially, that figure will rise to 99% by 2050, threatening some birds' survival. Unless we act. more...
The New York Steam Company commenced its piped heat distribution in the city in 1882. Steam venting from the street at 33rd and 5th Avenue, December 2007. Photo: Paul Churcher via Flickr (CC BY).

Time to tap in to an underused energy source: wasted heat

Rob Raine

10th September 2015

The single biggest energy service we all need is heat, writes Rob Raine - yet it's largely ignored in the energy policy discourse. By focusing on heat as well as power, we can accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources and - because heat stores are far cheaper than batteries - keep the costs down. more...
Professor 'Jim' al'Khalili presenting BBC4's 'Inside Sellafield' from beside one of the facility's infamous open storage pond.

'Inside Sellafield' and military plutonium - the BBC's nuclear lies of omission

Dr David Lowry

12th August 2015

Professor 'Jim' Al'Khalili's 'Inside Sellafield' programme was a tour de force of pro-nuclear propaganda, writes David Lowry - understating the severity of accidents, concealing the role of the UK's nuclear power stations in breeding military plutonium, and giving false reassurance over the unsolved problems of high level nuclear waste. more...
A lone surfer stands on a plastic strewn beach. Photo: SAS.

Cleaning the waves: Surfers Against Sewage turns its fight to ocean plastic

Summer Brooks

2nd September 2015

For 25 years, a group of eco-aware surfers have been campaigning for cleaner waves, writes Summer Brooks. SAS was founded in 1990 to tackle sewage discharges into UK coastal waters, and now, bigger and stronger than ever, they are turning their focus to the global problem of ocean plastic - both picking it up on our beaches, and pushing for long term, global solutions. more...
Agbogbloshie employs some 6,000 young men recycling wastes from around the world in the job-scarce city of Accra, Ghana. Photo: Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Agbogbloshie: Ghana's 'trash world' may be an eyesore - but it's no dump

Dagna Rams

10th August 2015

Most accounts of Agbogbloshie, the e-waste site in Accra, Ghana, persistently miss the point, writes Dagna Rams. Far from being a simple 'dump' for the world's trash, it is a huge recycling operation that pays for the wastes it receives, employs thousands of young men who would otherwise lack jobs, and plays a huge role in the national and global economy. more...
Crude oil in an open toxic oil waste pit abandoned by Texaco / Chevron in the Ecuadorean Amazon Rainforest near Lago Agrio. Photo: Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Ecocide in the Amazon - Chevron evades $9.5bn restitution order

Orlan Cazorla & Miriam Gartor

17th July 2015

After 20 years of oil spills, deforestation, waste dumping and ill health, farmers and indigenous people in the the Ecuadorian Amazon have been fighting the Chevron-Texaco corporation. But despite its three times conviction and a $9.5 billion damages award to the victims, the oil giant looks no closer to making good its damage. more...
Frack off! Photo: JustinWoolford via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Secret report: fracking could hurt house prices, health and environment

Adam Vaughan & Rowena Mason / Guardian Environment

2nd July 2015

House prices could fall 7% near fracking rigs, according to the 'secret' Defra report on fracking in rural areas, only published in full after a legal battle, while leakage of waste water could damage human health and contaminate food. more...

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The Pacific Ocean, seen from high above. Photo: blueforce4116 via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

To live within planetary boundaries, we must contract the global economy

Samuel Alexander

5th July 2015

We have a problem, writes Samuel Alexander. Even the most eco-friendly rich world lifestyles are overconsuming resources and over-dumping wastes. To put us on track to 'single planet living' will mean far deeper changes than any yet envisaged, including deliberate 'degrowth'' and the abandonment of consumer culture. more...
Sunset on the Sea Dragon. Photo: Kate Rawles.

Sea Dragon - exploring the oceans, exploring ourselves

Dr Kate Rawles

16th June 2015

Three scientific expeditions into the Atlantic ocean will take place this summer, writes outdoor philosopher Kate Rawles. But as well as gathering data about plastic pollution and over-fishing, they will give participants the chance to think deeply about our society, its values, the often false narratives it tells; and our place, as humans, in the natural world. more...
Part of the Science Museum’s Atmosphere exhibition, which Shell sponsored. Photo: The Science Museum.

Shell leant on Science Museum to influence climate programme

Terry Macalister / the Guardian

1st June 2015

Emails released by the Science Museum show that Shell pressed its case to Museum staff to deny NGOs the opportunity to open up a debate on the company's operations in connection with an exhibition it had sponsored on waste and climate change, writes Terry Macalister. more...
Dark clouds gather over the Central nuclear de Trillo, Spain. Photo: Tonymadrid Photography™ via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Accidents, waste and weapons: nuclear power isn't worth the risks

Mark Diesendorf

19th May 2015

Nuclear advocates must be admired for their optimism if nothing else, writes Mark Diesendorf. Disregarding over half a century of evidence that nuclear power is dangerous, expensive, enables the spread of nuclear weapons, and produces wastes we still don't know what to do with, still they cling to the 1950's dream of 'electricity to cheap to meter'. more...
A polar bear keeps close to her young along the Beaufort Sea coast in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Susanne Miller / USFWS via Flickr (CC BY).

Polar bears at risk from pollution as well as warmth

Tim Radford

24th April 2015

As if melting ice in Polar bears' Arctic habitat was not enough, Norwegian scientists have found that organic pollutants such as pesticide residues are disrupting their thyroid and endocrine systems, adding a further threat to the species' survival. more...
Recovering marine life within the Lamlash Bay 'no take zone'. Photo: Howard Wood / COAST.

Strong marine protection works for fisheries and wildlife!

Bryce Stewart & Leigh Howarth

20th April 2015

The strongly protected marine reserve in Lamlash Bay, Arran, has been a huge success, write Bryce Stewart & Leigh Howarth, with abandant life returning to the once denuded waters. The government's refusal to expand such protections represents a huge wasted opportunity for both fishing and the marine environment. more...
A 'money-burning' event organised by the Miami Tea Party to oppose a 46,000 acre conservation land purchase - but were the 'protestors' all actors? So it would seem. Photo: from Youtube video by Miami Tea Party.

Tea Party's fake protestors for Big Sugar against Florida Everglades

Oliver Tickell

8rg April 2015

The Tea Party of Miami put up a convincing demo last week to oppose a 'land grab' that would see 46,000 acres of sugar farm land restored for Everglades conservation. Just one problem - the 'protestors' were actors each being paid $75 for the two-hour shift. more...
Corn farm in central Pennsylvania. Photo: fishhawk via Flickr (CC BY).

Industrial corn farming is ruining our health and polluting our watersheds

Donald Scavia

29th April 2015

The over-enrichment of waters and ecosystems with waste nutrients from industrial corn farming is one of America's greatest environmental problems, writes Donald Scavia. And it's a problem that can be solved - by eating less meat and sugar, by adopting rational energy policies, and by demanding sustainably-grown food. more...
Dead fish on the beach at Cape San Blas, Florida, after a 'red tide' event in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Judy Baxter via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Ocean 'dead zones' are spreading - and that spells disaster for fish

Lee Bryant

9th April 2015

Oxygen levels in our oceans are falling, writes Lee Bryant, producing growing 'dead zones' where only the hardiest organisms can survive. The causes are simple: pollution with nutrient-rich wastes, and global warming. But the only solution is to stop it happening - or wait for 1,000 years. more...
As California's drought bites, its $500 fines for 'water waster' households, but the water's still flowing for the state's powerful agribusiness sector. Photo: Malcolm Carlaw via Flickr (CC BY).

California drought: agribusiness, fracking untouched by water rationing

Evan Blake

5th April 2015

California has responded to the drought by rationing water, with $500 fines for domestic 'water wasters', writes Evan Blake. But agribusiness and water-intensive industries like fracking remain untouched by the restrictions, even though they consume over 90% of the state's water. more...
After more than century of colliery dumping, there's still plenty of coal to be picked up at Seaham Harbour. But now a far more toxic form of pollution is on its way, thanks to UGC - underground coal gasification. Photo: David Robson via Flickr (CC BY-NC-

'Underground coal gasification' hell-fires threaten Tyneside and the North Sea

Paul Mobbs

3rd April 2015

After over a century of coal ash and colliery waste dumping, the Tyne and Wear coastline is no stranger to industrial pollution. But soon a horrific new technology - underground coal gasification (UCG) - will endanger human health and the environment, backed by unflinching Government support and generous lashings of taxpayers' money. more...
Boreholes being drilled at Beckermet, Cumbria. For future disposal of radioactive waste? So locals fear, but no one is telling. Photo: Radiation Free Lakeland.

To dump nuclear waste, first they must dump democracy!

Marianne Birkby

2nd April 2015

In the last act of the dying Parliament, MPs quietly voted to dump democratic planning processes to expedite a 'facility' for the high level nuclear waste in geologically fractured Cumbria, writes Marianne Birkby - so over-ruling strong and highly effective local opposition. Shame on them! more...
A toxic trail of chemical pollution and uranium ash from DU munitions: the infamous 'Highway of Death' from Kuwait across the Iraqi desert in Gulf War 1, in 1991. Photo: Bryan Dorrough via Flickr (CC BY).

Iraq seeks help in its fight to overcome the toxic fallout of war and terror

Wim Zwijnenburg / Insight on Conflict

8th April 2015

Iraq is working hard to remediate the environmental impacts of two Gulf wars and Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons programme, writes Wim Zwijnenburg. But it now faces new hazards deliberately caused by Islamic State - and is in desperate need of international support. more...


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