What Holiday Shopping Does to Mother Nature; Mass-Produced Nuclear Reactors

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National Geographic on the environment and shopping Drew Hendricks explains how holiday shopping can affect the environment. Reasons he gives include: it burns a lot of gas (and gas is cheap right now, with more miles than usual expected over the long weekend); it supports products with large amounts of wasteful packing; and it encourages a "flurry of excited paper-ripping" that doesn't exactly lead to a late-morning family trip to the recycle bin.

Scientific American on Gobi bears The highly endangered Gobi bear, of which it is estimated only 22 remain, is feeling the effects of climate change. The Gobi lives in the Gobi Desert and eats a "mostly vegetarian diet of hardy desert roots and other plants." But, as John R. Platt writes, climate change has reduced the amount of water available, which thereby decreases the amount of plants for the bears to eat. The bears must "build up high levels of fat reserves for winter hibernation and gestation." 

Grist on water consumption Claire Thompson looks at Wendy Pabich's book Taking on Water and the questions therein about how we are constantly undervaluing water. Pabich measured her water consumption and discovered that, "as it turns out, when you take into account all the ways we directly and indirectly guzzle water, our secondhand consumption makes up much more of the total; Pabich found her food alone requires more water to produce than what she uses directly." Thompson explains that doing an "exhaustive" survey of how you use water, like Pabich did, can be helpful for local governments. 

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The New York Times on small nuclear reactors Babcock & Wilcox, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel International are going to get "a dollar-for-dollar cost match" at the behest of the Energy Department to create a prototype for a "small modular reactor." Matthew Wald explains that the concept behind making small reactors is that "they could be built in a factory that would allow for lower costs through serial production, if not actual mass production." They could be cool down more quickly in the case of an accident, and, because they would be made in a factory, "quality control" could be maintained. 

The Guardian on a global climate treaty  Yvo de Boer argues that a global climate treaty "remains worth fighting for" despite the fact that it seems so difficult to accomplish. Boer's reasoning includes the fact that the deal would "bring a robustness and a consistency to climate policies in individual countries." It would also allow for long-term investments in technology to combat climate change because with "a legally binding global agreement in place, businesses and investors will know that the direction of travel is not going to change regardless of day-to-day events."  Finally it would create "transparency" and "standardisation." 

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