True Axis of Evil Is Poverty, Pollution, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 13, 2005   View Article

Acts of terrorism like the September 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. are a worst-case symptom of global insecurity brought about by the festering interplay among poverty, infectious disease, and environmental degradation—the true “axis of evil,” according to the Worldwatch Institute in its State of the World 2005 report.

The Washington, D.C.-based research group released its annual report Wednesday. It concludes that until these conditions—and compounding factors such as the spread of small arms—are fiercely fought, political instability, warfare, and extremism will continue to thrive.

Shampooing to Stop Oil Spill Bird Deaths

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 21, 2004   View Article

Every year at least half a million water birds die from encounters with spilt oil, according to Jay Holcomb, executive director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield, Calfornia. But on occasion rescue teams arrive on scene in time to scrub the birds’ feathers clean and prevent calamity.

Take, for example, the response when approximately 1,300 tons of oil spilled from the bulk ore carrier Treasure. The ship sank in the Atlantic Ocean in June 2000 about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Cape Town, South Africa.

Grass Grows 13-Foot Roots of “Steel”

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 31, 2004   View Article

Watching grass grow is never boring for the staff of the Bethesda, Maryland- based Vetiver Network—assuming the grass is vetiver.

Native to India, vetiver is taking root in a growing number of tropical countries, where it is used as an engineering tool to solve problems from soil erosion to pollution cleanup.

Arsenic in Asian Drinking Water Linked to Microbes

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 30, 2004   View Article

Microscopic organisms that get their energy by inhaling metals in the ground play a key role in the arsenic poisoning of drinking water for millions of people in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, according to a new study.

Researchers hope that the finding will shed light on how the drinking water came to be so heavily laced with arsenic—and that, in turn, it is hoped, could yield a way to reduce the level of the toxin.

Rust-Breathing Bacteria: Miracle Microbes?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 12, 2004   View Article

They breathe rust, clean up polluted groundwater, generate electricity, and may harbor clues to the origins of life. That’s a lot for one family of microscopic bugs, but don’t be surprised when Derek Lovley wows the world with another wonder from the Geobacter genus of bacteria.

“When we think we have hit the last of the big discoveries, something else comes along,” said Lovley, a microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Microorganism Cleans Up Toxic Groundwater

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 7, 2004   View Article

A microorganism too small to see with the naked eye may be the answer to one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest environmental problems: hundreds of billions of gallons of groundwater contaminated with uranium and other toxic chemicals.

The microorganism, called Geobacter sulferreducens, has a unique metabolism—it passes electrons onto metals to get energy from its food in the same way that we humans breathe in oxygen to break down our food.

Are Plastic Grocery Bags Sacking the Environment?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 2, 2003   View Article

The “paper or plastic” conundrum that vexed earnest shoppers throughout the 1980s and 90s is largely moot today. Most grocery store baggers don’t bother to ask anymore. They drop the bananas in one plastic bag as they reach for another to hold the six-pack of soda. The pasta sauce and noodles will get one too, as will the dish soap.

Plastic bags are so cheap to produce, sturdy, plentiful, easy to carry and store that they have captured at least 80 percent of the grocery and convenience store market since they were introduced a quarter century ago, according to the Arlington, Virginia-based American Plastics Council.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach