Nobody's Using Cookstoves; Pollution Is Making Us Fat

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Today in Green Research: Cookstoves aren't saving humanity, pollution's making us fat, climate change is going to mess with the corn market, a highly endangered plant. 

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    Nobody's using those cookstoves that are supposed to save humanity. If a great idea falls into the laps of millions of households and nobody uses it, it doesn't count as a great idea, which is exactly what's happening with the cookstove movement. When studies found that indoor air pollution from primitive stoves was a leading cause of death in the world, the developed world reacted with clean cookstoves. What was supposed to be a simple, cheap, easy way to save lives, however, isn't working, as a new study has found nobody's using the things. Many aren't accepting the new stove into their homes and the ones that have are still using the old problem stoves. "This isn’t to say that indoor air pollution is not a problem, or that an improved cooking stove cannot be part of the solution. But rather, we just don’t have enough evidence that the stoves systematically improve health, particularly under real world conditions where people do not regularly use the stoves, and if they do, the use often does not perfectly follow the manufacturer’s instructions," explains researcher Rema Hanna. This type of thing tends to happen when science meets reality, though, as we learned from This American Life, which found a similar problem with mango farmers. [New York Times]
  • Pollution's making us fat. Environmental problems meet health problems in this latest finding, which links pollution to childhood obesity. Children of women exposed to high levels of chemicals called PAHs during pregnancy were nearly twice as likely to be obese at age 5, and more than twice as likely to be obese at age 7. "Not only was their body mass higher, but it was higher due to body fat rather than bone or muscle mass," explains researcher Andrew G. Rundle. The findings help explain why inner city obesity is more prevalent than overall obesity. [Columbia University]
  • Climate change is going to mess with the corn market. Corn, that cheap, abundant American source of life and sugar and summer happiness, might not stay so cheap and abundant after climate change messes with temperatures. "Severe heat is the big hammer," explains researcher Noah Diffenbaugh. "Even one or two degrees of global warming is likely to substantially increase heat waves that lead to low-yield years and more price volatility," he continues. Even if the U.S. climate stays within the target limit of a 3.6 degree temp increase, the U.S. corn-belt will see some gnarly heat-waves, that will likely hurt corn crops, causing market volatility, meaning no more cheap corn-syrup. [Nature Climate Change]
  • A highly endangered plant. Here's a very real effect of climate change: Europe's mountain flora are dying. "Our results showing a decline at the Mediterranean sites is worrying because these are the mountains with a very unique flora and a large proportion of their species occur only there and nowhere else on Earth," explains researcher Harald Pauli. And while plants higher up on mountains have prospered with warming temps, not enough to make up for the ones dying off lower down on mountains. And, things are only supposed to get worse. "The observed species losses were most pronounced on the lower summits, where plants are expected to suffer earlier from water deficiency than on the snowier high peaks. Climate warming and decreasing precipitation in the Mediterranean during the past decades fit well to the pattern of shrinking species occurrences. Additionally, much of the Mediterranean region is projected to become even dryer during the upcoming decades," added Pauli. [University of Vienna]

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