September 2, 2011
Smog in Los Angeles

Smog in Los Angeles     Photo: jonlclark/Flickr

Obama Caves on Air Quality

Clean-air restrictions won't go into effect

In a blow to the environmental community and the federal government's own Environmental Protection Agency alike, President Obama announced on Friday that he would not implement tougher restrictions on air pollutants, particularly smog-causing ozone. In a statement released Friday morning, Obama said that continuing economic uncertainty made any tightening of air-quality standards too risky. "I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover," he wrote. The standards will instead remain unchanged from regulations implemented under George W. Bush in 2008. Earlier this summer, EPA head Lisa Jackson told reporters that those standards were "not legally defensible." The standards will again come under review in 2013.

Read more at the New York Times


Hövding inflatable bicycle helmet

Hövding inflatable bicycle helmet     Photo: Courtesy Hövding

Inflatable Helmet Wins Design Prize

Swedish-made helmet for sale this fall

An inflatable bicycle helmet that that works like an airbag won the world's biggest design prize yesterday. Malmö, Sweden-based company Hövding took top honors in the INDEX: Awards' Play category. The helmet is contained in a soft fabric collar that zips around the neck and releases if an embedded set of gyros and accelerometers detects that rider has had an accident. It uses a tiny gas inflator to rapidly deploy an airbag that encases the rider's head, protecting the rider from injury. "We see this as a first step in fueling a paradigm change in the area of bike safety," INDEX's jury said. "It hinges on the professional competency of the designers, not the adaptive capability of the users." The Hövding will go on sale in Sweden this fall for 2,998 kronor, or $468.

Read more at Treehugger


Lake Urmia

Lake Urmia     Photo: Alexandros Papadopoulos/Flickr

Environmental Protesters Arrested in Iran

Parliament revokes funding for lake

More than two dozen protesters were arrested in Iran this week as hundreds fought a decision by Iran's Majlis parliament that could further deplete an endangered salt lake. Located in northwestern Iran, Urmia is the world's third-largest saltwater lake, but has shrunk by as much as 60 percent as the Iranian government has dammed the rivers that feed it. Last year, Iran allocated money to redistribute water in an attempt to save the lake, but reversed that decision last week, drawing protesters into the streets of Tabriz. Riot police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The lake is a critical economic resource in East Azerbaijan Province, and is home to flamingos and other water birds despite a salt content greater than the Dead Sea.

Read more at The New York Times



Texas Drought Kills 124,000 Fish

High temps deplete oxygen

A Texas town is dealing with a mass of dead fish in Texas earlier this week after hot temperatures dropped oxygen levels in Lake Grapevine, killing some 124,000 Threadfin Shad. The carcasses ended up at the southeast end of the lake according state fisheries biologist Tom Hungerford. High temperatures lower the oxygen-carrying capacity of water, and on Tuesday the thermometer measured 103 degrees, dropping oxygen levels in the lake to 1.2 parts per million, below the life-sustaining threshold of 3 parts per million. Texas is experiencing one of the worst droughts in state history, and water levels in the lake were already three feet below average. By midweek, birds and turtle had begun to scavenge the fish carcasses.

Read more at Grapevine Courier


Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius     Photo: Elvar Freyr/Flickr

Pistorius Cut From 4x400 Final

South Africa takes silver behind USA

Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius was cut from South Africa's 4x400 meter relay team before Friday's final, despite having helped set a national record in qualifying heats on Thursday. Pistorius was replaced by LJ van Zyl, the only South African runner to have run faster than Pistorius this year in the 400. The South African federation cut Pistorius after the IAAF ruled earlier this week that Pistorius could only run the relay's first leg, citing concerns that he might collide with other runners in a later position, where contact between teams is not uncommon. Van Zyl did not run in earlier heats because he was competing in the 400-meter-hurdles. With the substitution, the South African team finshed second behind the United States, but ran slower than than with Pistorius. The U.S. team ran 2:59.31, a half-second up on South Africa in 2:59.87. Jamaica took bronze in 3:00.10. Because Pistorius helped South Africa qualify for the relay final, he will still receive a silver medal.

Read more at Reuters