July 25, 2014

The dodo had no fear of humans. Oops.     Photo: Chris Freeland/Flickr

We Are Nature's Serial Killers

Human beings are awesome at making species extinct

According to a study published this week in Science, humans are directly responsible for 322 animal extinctions over the past 500 years, with two-thirds of those occurring during the past two centuries. Amphibians and invertebrate species have been especially hard hit by mankind's destructive habits.

The problem is becoming more severe with our own exponential population growth, which, if left unchecked, will hit 27 billion by 2100, according to Rodolfo Dirzo, a co-author of the study and professor of environmental sciences at Stanford University.

One obvious issue is that humans are unlikely to prioritize saving animal populations over more immediate concerns. In the same issue of Science, Haldre Rogers and Josh Tewksbury argue, "Animals do matter to people, but on balance, they matter less than food, jobs, energy, money, and development. As long as we continue to view animals in ecosystems as irrelevant to these basic demands, animals will lose."

The key may be to argue that by saving animal populations, we are acting in our own best interest. The preservation of wildlife, for instance, is frequently what sustains tourism-based economies.

"Whale watching in Latin America alone generates over $275 million a year," Tewksbury says. Meanwhile in the United States, Tewksbury claims that shark watching results in $314 million per year and directly supports 10,000 jobs.

Impressive as these numbers are, they become insignificant when compared with places like Namibia, where 73 percent of outside visitors are nature-based tourists, whose money accounts for 14.3 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

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Want to keep those city fountains along your running route going? Take this seriously.     Photo: Stacy Barnett/ThinkStock

PETA Wants to Pay Your Water Bill

But you have to go vegan

Water resources in America are so screwed right now that some people will pay you to use less even in places that aren't in a drought. 

As of July 22, 34 percent of the country was officially in a state of at least moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and it's only recently that things have gotten so bad. Temperatures naturally wane and wax over the centuries, but as is visible in this New York Times time-lapse, it's clear that what has put a good portion of the West and Southwest in severe drought isn't normal, and global warming is the leading culprit. You'd think this would make people less frivolous with their lawn watering, but as we recently reported, that's not always so.

To make matters worse, a recent report from NASA and the University of California, Irvine shows that it's the water resources we don't even know we depend on that are depleted most quickly. Although Westerners sucked Lake Mead dry, that loss didn't reflect their real water usage. Researchers discovered that during the past decade, three-quarters of Western water loss has been taken from underground groundwater caches.

"We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," lead author Stephanie Castle wrote in a press release. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking." Castle's NASA colleagues note that where surface water is highly regulated, it's easy to compensate for surface loss by sucking dry largely unregulated groundwater.  

It's not enough that drought-stricken areas can't manage their water use. In the Eastern United States, cities like Detroit—not even a state away from the largest freshwater resource in the North America—are having human rights issues because of their inability to keep taps running. Detroit Water and Sewage began cutting off water to thousands of city residents in March.

But Detroit has found an unlikely savior in animal welfare group in PETA, which is begging city residents to let it pay their water bills. The catch? The organization will pay 10 families' water bills if those families go vegan for one month, because foods in vegan diets require less water to produce.

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Wiggins has decided to focus on conquering the 2016 Olympic track.     Photo: Wikimedia/Google CC

Sir Bradley Wiggins Relinquishes TdF Dreams

He raced, he won, he quit.

Four-time Olympic cycling champion Bradley Wiggins is calling it quits with his tumultuous relationship with road racing's Grand Tours. The Sir-titled cyclist won the Tour de France in 2012, but Team Sky left him off of the tour team prior to this year’s race. 

After taking silver at the Commonwealth Games Thursday with Team England, Wiggins announced that he would no longer pursue races such as the Tour de France, Tour of Spain, and Tour of Italy. And all seems well with Wiggins when it comes to not participating. “That will probably be it for the grand tours—I can’t imagine doing that now,” he told BBC Sport. “I’ve kind of done the road now. I’ve bled it dry. The road is quite cutthroat and as we’ve seen this year there’s no loyalties in cycling.”

Wiggins added that the track feels more like a family and is a close-knit group. With Thursday being his first turn on the track since 2008, Wiggins has set his sights on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro for the team. “It takes four people to be on par and firing on all cylinders to succeed,” he told The Daily Mail. “We are all just on different levels. There’s a lot of positives to take from it.”

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