The Cost of Buying Less; Fukushima Didn't Wreck the Ocean

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Discovered in green: Buying less stuff won't make everything all better, what Fukushima did to the ocean and its fish, fertilizers are doing nasty things to our air and sparrows have changed their tune for noisy cities. 

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  • Buying less isn't always better. All that conspicuous consumption is bad for the environment -- stuff takes energy to make, ship and eventually dispose of. But just buying less stuff has some negative consequences, too. While reducing our thing addiction would lower greenhouse gas production by 10 percent, these greener habits could cause the average gross domestic product of low-income countries to drop by more than 4 percent. “It runs counter to some messages that are still quite popular around buying local," explains researcher Peter Erickson. Quite the predicament. Saving the planet is hard. [SEI]
  • What Fukushima did to the ocean. It's really not as bad as one would expect following that meltdown. The water is drinkable; the food edible. Mostly. For now. "It does not mean all marine organisms caught in the region are perfectly safe to eat. That's still an open question. There are still likely to be hot spots in sediments close to shore and closer to the power plant that may have resulted in very contaminated species in those areas," explains researcher Nicholas Fisher. But so far, not too much radioactivity happening. Things could change over time, though.  "What this means for the marine environment of the Northwest Pacific over the long term is something that we need to keep our eyes on," added researcher Ken Buesseler. [Woods Hole Oceanography Institute]
  • Fertlizers are doing nasty things to our air. Researchers suspected that fertilizers had something to do with the increase of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere, but studying air, science has now for certain proven the linke. Our study is the first to show empirically from the data at hand alone that the nitrogen isotope ratio in the atmosphere and how it has changed over time is a fingerprint of fertilizer use," explains researcher Kristie Boering. Basically, the smarty-pants scientists realized how to differentiate agricultural nitrous oxide from the natural stuff. And what do you know, there's a lot of the fertilizer kind up there. [UC Berkeley]
  • Sparrows change their tune for noisy cities. Like all other sorts of pollution, noise pollution has done its damage. Birds, who use their chirps to communicate, have a harder time doing that in noisy places. Luckily, our winged creatures have adapted. "It [the study] shows a strong link between the change in song and the change in noise," says researcher David Luther. Kind of scary to think that something as weightless as noise can have a real effect on an animal population. Then again, maybe it's encourage? The sparrows adapted, after-all. [George Mason University]

Image via Shutterstock by micro10x. 

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