How Wastewater May Cause Earthquakes; Why Trees Are Awesome

NPR on wastewater and earthquakes, The Guardian on birds and windmills, Good on agribusiness, The New York Times on trees, and Courthouse News on tiger salamanders.

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NPR on how wastewater wells can cause earthquakes We have correlation: There have been a lot more earthquakes than normal in the middle of the United States in recent years, and they tend to cluster around industrial wastewater wells in Colorado and Oklahoma. That much is easy to demonstrate. But do we have causation? That's the question scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey are addressing now, and they think the answer is yes. As natural gas drilling booms in Middle America, wastewater wells are multiplying and dramatically growing in size, and the injections of wastewater raise pressure on the bedrock and increase seismic activity, they think. "It's kind of like sticking a straw into a soupy souffle and blowing water into it. It moves things around underground, things like a fault. That's when you get a quake."

The Guardian on wind power and birds One of the major perceived drawbacks to wind power as a large-scale sustainable energy source is the extent to which windmills disrupt birds in their migrations, in particular offshore wind farms. But a new study found that most British species don't experience much of a disruption from offshore windmills. A few did, however, especially during the windmills' construction. What it means for this side of the pond is that we're going to have to do our own careful, species-specific research on the wind farms' effect on birds if we really want to know. But we can extrapolate that construction is a hazardous time all around.

Good on new thoughts about eating environmentally The standard notion is that eating locally is environmentally friendly because it reduces carbon emissions from transporting food. But Good talks to economist Tyler Cowen, whose new book An Economist's Guide to Lunch argues that on a net basis, agribusiness is actually good for the environment because it uses land more efficiently, thereby requiring less wilderness to be converted to farms. "Transportation makes up only 10 to 15 percent of food’s energy costs, he points out—a 'minor issue' that ranks far below the carbon impact of meat consumption."

The New York Times on Why Trees Matter Nobody has to convince us that trees are awesome, but op-ed contributor Jim Robbins does anyway, and in the process points out how little we know about the impact deforestation will have on the climate and the "genetic fitness of our forests." In addition to all their environmental benefits such as preventing erosion, cleansing air and water, and absorbing carbon dioxide, trees apparently have a measurable effect on our stress levels, reducing anxiety by their very presence. "In Japan, researchers have long studied what they call 'forest bathing.' A walk in the woods, they say, reduces the level of stress chemicals in the body and increases natural killer cells in the immune system, which fight tumors and viruses." Sounds a lot better than medication.

Courthouse News Service on a Salamander Lawsuit Endangered California tiger salamanders now have a defender in the courts, as the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Secretary of the Interior for failing to protect them. The center says that by failing to develop and implement a plan to protect the salamanders, Secretary Ken Salazar and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act. The three species of tiger salamanders face threats from "fragmentation of habitat, caused by humans, including road-building, automobiles, off-road vehicles, and contaminated runoff from roads, highways, and agriculture," the suit claims. And it's not like they've only recently become endangered. The three species have been listed for seven, 10, and 12 years, the suit says.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.