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Kumbh Mela 2013: The Water’s Dirty but Nobody’s Sick

The latest figures on water quality in the Ganges, straight from the Central Pollution Control Board—a government organisation charged with monitoring it daily during the Kumbh Mela—suggest that contrary to earlier reports, it’s neither drinkable nor batheable. Given that 80-odd million people are expected to bathe in the river during the festival, I asked head of medical…

Climate Change under the Microscope in Report, Leaked IPCC Draft

As lawmakers in Washington, D.C., debate the so-called fiscal cliff—when U.S. federal tax increases and spending cuts are due to take effect at the end of 2012—new research in the journal Nature Climate Change says we are already at the edge of a climate cliff. It explores the cost and risk associated with surpassing critical emissions thresholds by 2020, and what would need to…

Newtown Creek: The Unseen Stream That Keeps New York City Flowing

Text and Photos by Gloria Dawson Riverkeeper’s patrol boat glides along Newtown Creek in New York City. Like a cruise ship captain leading a voyage through environmental hell, Phillip Musegaas points out oil slicks, the sewage treatment plant, and the huge pipes where raw sewage flows into the creek every time it rains. He notes…

Situational Awareness

Tonight, anchored along the western shore of Lanai Island, we’re reveling in the briny land smell beneath volcanic seamounts and mountain goat habitat.  Our scientific research is complete and all that remains is a final cleaning of the ship, a barbeque on deck, an alcohol-free swizzle party and another refreshing swim in the Pacific.  Strange…

A Bolder Clean Water Act for the Next 40 Years

As game-changing laws go, the 1972 U.S. Clean Water Act ranks high. With images of rivers like the Cuyahoga burning and fish floating belly up in Lake Erie still fresh in the public’s mind, the Act transformed the nation’s relationship with fresh water.  It forbade cities and industries from using rivers and lakes as waste…

Our Plastic Quarry and the Nets We Carry

Three days and almost 400 miles west of California, the rail is now free of slumped crew feeding the fish.  From my aft berth, I can hear the deck being scrubbed above. Even though we’ve passed beyond the shallow edge of the continental shelf, we’re still amid cold, northern currents.  With the exception of today’s…

Seeing Our Planet Through Children’s Eyes

The winners of Children’s Eyes On Earth International Youth Photography Contest were announced today, with first prize going to eight-year-old Anastasya Vorobko from Saint Petersburg in Russia, for her image SOS! This new photo contest, which was launched earlier this summer by National Geographic photographer, Reza, in association with the Azerbaijan-based NGO, IDEA (International Dialogue for Environmental…

2012 Mission to the North Pacific Plastic Gyre

In 1988, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers measuring pollution in the Sea of Japan predicted that plastic contamination would show up in much greater quantities in the Pacific Ocean.  Researchers had already confirmed the presence of a new, giant soup of plastics, which the media eventually dubbed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In fact,…

Continuing Carbon Emissions Could Have Devastating Impacts on Poor Countries

Populations and livelihoods—mostly in developing countries—will suffer as average global temperatures continue to rise. This is according to a study, conducted by the humanitarian organization DARA, which found climate change could cost the world more than $1.2 trillion annually and contribute to the deaths of more than 100 million people if action against climate change isn’t taken.…

Last Call for Entries to Youth Photography Contest

Young photographers aged 17 and under are reminded to submit their entries to the Children’s Eyes On Earth International Youth Photography Contest 2012 by September 15. Initiated by National Geographic photographer, Reza, and the non-governmental organisation, IDEA (International Dialogue for Environmental Action), the contest has already drawn entries from 73 nations around the globe, with…

Calling all young photographers

Children aged 17 and under have a unique opportunity to showcase their photographs in an exciting new global contest initiated by National Geographic photographer, REZA, and the non-governmental organisation, IDEA (International Dialogue for Environmental Action). The Children’s Eyes On Earth International Youth Photography Contest, Festival and Exhibition 2012 aims to raise awareness of environmental issues…

Dying for the Ganges: A Scientist Turned Swami Risks All

“At the moment I am quite resigned to my fate,” GD Agrawal, the 80-year-old dean of India’s environmental engineers, says from his hospital bed in the holy city of Varanasi. Agrawal hasn’t eaten since February 8. He hasn’t taken a drink of water since March 8; an intravenous drip of dextrose and vitamins keeps him lucid.

Fight Over Tar Sands Pipeline May Lead to Cancellation, “Huge” Consequences

In November, the Obama administration decided to delay a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to bring tar sands from Canada to the United States. But in December, Republicans attached a provision to a tax bill, which President Obama signed, that urges the administration to decide on the pipeline within 60 days,…

Did the Chesapeake Bay Turn the Corner in 2011?

2011 may go down in history as the turning point for the Chesapeake Bay. The largest estuary in the United States, the Bay’s watershed includes almost 20 percent of the country’s Atlantic coast and produces an estimated 500 million pounds of seafood every year.

Peruvians Protest Gold Mine Construction

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala announced a state of emergency in parts of the country early in December in response to protests over the construction of a huge gold mine in Cajamarca, reported CNN; the state of emergency was lifted in mid-December. The protesters cite potential adverse environmental effects on water and agriculture. The U.S. Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp., which…