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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    A film crew in New Zealand had a blood-racing encounter with a great white shark as they were sitting in their inflatable dinghy.

    They were gathering footage for a documentary called Lair of the Megashark, which aired on the Discovery Channel last year.

    The 20-foot-long (6-meter-long) shark is seen circling the boat and then charging. It also has a good go at nibbling the front of the boat.

    great white shark v. boat

    One nervous voice can be heard saying: "It's a little nerve-wracking being in a boat no bigger than the size of the shark. The shark is actually bigger than our boat."

    While another opinion on the matter can be heard: "I don't think this is such a brilliant f****** idea you know. I don't think we can have a boat in there. I really don't."

    There is some speculation that the shark's behavior is a conditioned response to being fed food from boats.

    This is a byproduct of the cage-diving industry, which will sometimes use bait and chum to lure sharks close to the boat so that cage divers can get a thrilling experience.

    Stories abound from locals who claim that this invasive behavior wasn't present in the sharks a decade ago. The majestic beasts are becoming quite comfortable around boats and have been known to chomp buoys, bump into the boats and steal the catch of the day.

    However, experts, including the Department of Conservation's director, Allan Munn, aren't all convinced that it's the cage divers that are prompting this behavior in the sharks. Munn commented that it's "highly unlikely" that the shark-diving industry has had an effect on shark activity and noted that "sharks have been coming into the area since time immemorial."

    UP NEXT: Adorable pocket shark caught for only the second time ever

    SEE ALSO: Why we’re so fascinated by shark attacks even though they hardly ever happen

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The ultimate underwater selfie must include a shark

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    09 Kilauea HVO USGSFor the first time in more than 30 years, lava is flowing on the floor of Halema'uma'u crater in Hawaii.

    Kilauea volcano's volatile lava lake spilled over the rim of a deep vent within Halema'uma'u crater several times overnight, lapping onto the edges of the vent like an overflowing pool.

    The lava lake sits in a crater within a crater: Halema'uma'u crater is the deep, wide pit at the top of Kilauea volcano.

    For this reason, the lava flood poses no risk to people or structures, said Matt Patrick, a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

    However, the fresh lava has reached the wall of Halema'uma'u crater, triggering rockfalls and spectacular explosions as cold rock hits hot lava.

    A rockfall April 28 tossed molten rock 280 feet (85 meters) high onto the edge of Halema'uma'u crater, Patrick said. The lava landed on instruments monitoring the churning lake surface and scorched an old fence. 

    Close monitoring has revealed that the lava lake changes every day, rising and falling by the minute as gas builds up in the lava and then escapes.

    The lake surface also swells and drops when new magma flows into the volcano's underground reservoir of molten rock, or when magma is tapped during eruptions.

    To watch the ongoing eruptions at Kilauea, visit the volcano observatory's live webcams.

    Kilauea's lava lake is second only to Nyiragongo volcano's in size, according to the USGS. Mount Nyiragongo is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kilauea's lake is 560 feet by 720 feet (170 m by 220 m).

    Until this month, the lava lake had risen as high as 72 feet (22 m) below the crater's rim and had dropped more than 720 feet below the rim at its lowest level. The lava lake, which emerged in February 2010, has never reached the crater's rim before.

    However, Kilauea volcano has a long history of summit eruptions, the most recent of which was in 1982. The deep vent holding the lava lake formed on March 19, 2008.

    Kilauea volcano has erupted continuously since 1983 from its slopes, in an area called the East Rift Zone. The flows have destroyed more than 200 structures and have buried about 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) of highway with as much as 115 feet (35 m) of lava.

    Follow Becky Oskin @beckyoskin. Follow Live Science @livescienceFacebook & Google+Originally published on Live Science.

    Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    UP NEXT: Awesome satellite images of an erupted volcano

    SEE ALSO: These Are The World's Hottest Volcanoes

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    NOW WATCH: Video of volcano eruption in Chile is both terrifying and beautiful

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    Aral Sea

    Climate change can seem like a massive, invisible, slow process.

    At times, it can seem like something we won't be able to visualize until it's too late

    A collection of images (from NASA, unless otherwise noted) proves otherwise. In these images, you can see the unmistakable mark that human-induced climate change is making on the planet

    Rivers and lakes are shrinking, forests are being cut down, and as the Earth gets warmer snow and ice are melting far sooner than they should be.

    Snow melt on Matterhorn Mountain, Switzerland, August 1960 vs. August 2005

    Aral Sea shrinkage, Central Asia, 2000 vs. 2014

    Melting Muir Glacier, Alaska, 1882 vs. August 2005

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California water regulators adopted sweeping, unprecedented restrictions Tuesday on how people, governments and businesses can use water amid the state's ongoing drought.

    The State Water Resources Control Board approved rules that force cities to limit watering on public property, encourage homeowners to let their lawns die and impose mandatory water-savings targets for the hundreds of local agencies and cities that supply water to California customers.

    Gov. Jerry Brown had pushed for the more stringent regulations, arguing that voluntary conservation efforts have so far not yielded the water savings needed amid a four-year drought. He ordered water agencies to cut overall water use by 25 percent compared with 2013, the year before he declared a drought emergency.

    "It is better to prepare now than face much more painful cuts should it not rain in the fall," board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said Tuesday as the board voted 5-0 to approve the new rules.

    Although the rules are called mandatory, it's still not clear what punishment the state water board and local agencies can or will impose for those that don't meet the targets. Board officials said they expect dramatic water savings as soon as June and are willing to add restrictions and penalties for agencies that lag.

    But the board lacks staff to oversee each of the hundreds of water agencies, which range dramatically in size and scope. Some local agencies that are tasked with achieving savings do not have the resources to issue tickets to those who waste water, and many others have chosen not to do so.

    Despite the dire warnings, it's also still not clear that Californians have grasped the seriousness of the drought or the need for conservation. Data released by the board Tuesday showed Californians conserved little water in March, and local officials were not aggressive in cracking down on waste.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's what happens when you get bitten by a black widow

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    White Rhino

    Until relatively recently, lots of different massive mammals roamed across our planet. Mastodons, mammoths, giant elk, rhinoceros-sized marsupials, sabre-toothed cats, marsupial lions, dire wolves, American cheetahs … the list goes on and on.

    Then modern humans spread throughout the world and the vast majority of those large species disappeared. Our planet's large mammal biodiversity is a shade of what it once was.

    Sadly, research we've carried out shows that the large mammal extinctions of the past 2.5m years are continuing today – and smaller species are now also threatened.

    Our new study, published in Science Advances, reviewed the threats, status and ecosystem services provided by the 74 largest terrestrial herbivores (exceeding 100kg in body mass), and the conservation effort required to save them from extinction.

    Our results are highly concerning. The vast majority of these large herbivores are declining in distribution and abundance, such that 60% are now threatened with extinction. These include well-known and iconic species such as elephants, hippos, all species of rhino, European bison and Indian water buffalo, but also less well-known species such as takin, kouprey, mountain and lowland anoa, and tamaraw.

    The situation is likely to get worse and we risk leaving empty landscapes unless urgent and drastic action is undertaken.

    Hunting, habitat loss and competition for food with livestock are the major threats to the world's large herbivores. Simply identifying these threats is perhaps the most optimistic result of our study, as these are all issues that can be managed and reduced, provided there is sufficient human will to do so.

    Development issue

    While Africa supports the greatest number of large herbivore species, south-east Asia retains the most that are threatened. The region's woodlands are facing empty forest syndrome– where they seem intact, but there are few large animals left within them.

    Overwhelmingly, it is developing countries that host the remaining megafauna – they are largely gone from the developed world. Consequently, these poorer nations bear the costs of protecting large herbivores, as well as the missed opportunity costs of setting aside large areas of land for conservation rather than food production. The developed world offers paltry support.

    Research efforts also suffer from this same disparity. Data deficiency is the bane of conservation management, yet the most-studied large herbivores are the common game species. We know next to nothing about large and highly threatened wild pigs such as Oliver's warty pig or the Palawan bearded pig, for instance. Without adequate and targeted funding, it is hard to see this research occurring before it is too late for many of the developing world's big herbivores.


    Life without big beasts

    A world without elephants, tapirs, hippos, giraffes or gorillas would be a much poorer place. Large herbivores are inspirational, and huge numbers of tourists travel the world to observe them.

    Yet these species also perform fundamental roles in the ecosystems they inhabit and their loss would substantially alter the natural world. African elephants knock over trees enabling shrubland to develop, for example. This shrubland benefits browsing species such as impalas and black rhinos.

    Elephants also make great seed dispersers and there are concerns that this ecosystem service is being lost in parts of Asia and Africa where they are becoming scarce. Other large herbivores have also been shown to have a disproportionate impact on their environment, such that their decline is likely to have repercussions right along the food chain.

    The return of bears and wolves to Europe illustrates that developed countries can succeed in conserving wildlife. These large carnivores can also play fundamental roles in their ecosystems, often by limiting numbers of common herbivores such as rabbit or deer, yet globally carnivores are also still in decline.

    There are plans to reintroduce beavers, lynx and wild boar in the UK, as wolves have been returned to Yellowstone National Park in the US. But what about the mega-herbivores? Why don't we bring back herds of wild cattle (the ecological equivalent and modern variant of the extinct aurochs) to the UK? Governments are inherently risk averse when it comes to conservation initiatives, but they must start acting before it is too late for these majestic creatures.

    The Conversation

    Matt Hayward is Senior Lecturer in Conservation at Bangor University.
    William Ripple is Distinguished Professor and Director, Trophic Cascades Program at Oregon State University.

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    SEE ALSO: This map of countries with the most threatened mammals is heartbreaking

    SEE ALSO: Here's How Fast Different Animals Are Disappearing From Earth

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A life-or-death struggle between a buffalo, her baby and three lions has a surprising ending

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    Giant Tortoise Galapagos

    Jonathan the tortoise, who lives on the British-controlled island of St. Helena, is reportedly the oldest living land creature in the world.

    According to The Telegraph:

    At the age of 183, this tortoise is thought to be the world's oldest living land creature. Born in 1832 at the latest, he has plodded through two world wars and numerous revolutions, outlasting all his human companions. He was even photographed, looking rather elderly, with a prisoner during the Boer War, which ended in 1902.

    Jonathan, who was already 50-years-old, was first brought to the island in 1882 from the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean.

    Since then, he has lived on the grounds of the island's Planation House where he is fed a weekly bucket of salad by his current keeper, Jonathan Hollins.

    Though Jonathan has held up surprisingly well over the years, he is nearly blind and relies heavily on his sense of hearing.

    However, if the worst happens, the residents of St. Helena have a plan. According to BBC:

    Though giant tortoises like Jonathan can live up to 250 years, the community has already drafted a detailed plan for when he finally pops his shell – dubbed "Operation Go Slow."

    When Jonathan passes away, his shell will go on display and a life-sized bronze statue will honor him. However, for now, Jonathan isn't showing signs of slowing down.

    You can see more of Jonathan in the video below.

    (h/t The Telegraph, BBC)

    SEE ALSO: Amazing chart shows the planet's longest-living animals

    DON'T MISS: The World's Last Pinta Giant Tortoise Has Died

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Hundreds Of Turtles Were Mysteriously Stranded Off The Coast Of Australia And Nobody Knows Why

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    The monthly global average concentration of carbon dioxide surpassed 400 parts per million in March 2015, scientists say

    Miami (AFP) - In another ominous sign of human-caused climate change, US government scientists said Wednesday that global carbon dioxide concentrations have reached a new monthly record of 400 parts per million.

    Carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas, and is a harmful by-product of burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

    "For the first time since we began tracking carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere, the monthly global average concentration of this greenhouse gas surpassed 400 parts per million in March 2015," said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    Scientists announced that C02 had passed the 400 ppm level for the first time in the Arctic in 2012, and at Mauna Loa in Hawaii in 2013. 

    "It was only a matter of time that we would average 400 parts per million globally," said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.

    "Reaching 400 parts per million as a global average is a significant milestone."

    Tans said C02 has risen more than 120 parts per million since pre-industrial times.

    "Half of that rise has occurred since 1980," he said.

    Power Rule Deaths_Mill

    Hard to reverse

    In March, the International Energy Agency reported that the growth of global emissions from fossil fuel burning had stalled in 2014 and was level with emissions in 2013.

    But experts warn that stabilizing the rate of emissions will not ward off climate change, since greenhouse gases linger in the atmosphere for years and trap heat around the Earth.

    "NOAA data show that the average growth rate of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere from 2012 to 2014 was 2.25 ppm per year, the highest ever recorded over three consecutive years," the agency said.

    Carbon dioxide is a natural part of Earth's atmosphere but the burning of fossil fuels sends excess amounts into the air and creates an even tougher heat-trapping blanket.

    NOAA collects its data on global carbon dioxide concentration on air samples taken from 40 sites around the world, including some remote islands.

    "We choose to sample at these sites because the atmosphere itself serves to average out gas concentrations that are being affected by human and natural forces. At these remote sites we get a better global average," said Ed Dlugokencky, the NOAA scientist who manages the global network.

    When the milestone of 400 ppm was first observed in 2012, many scientists said it should be considered a wake-up call that more renewable energies need to be used to cut back on cheap but polluting fuels.

    But even though some countries have pledged to reduce emissions, the trend has proven hard to reverse.

    "Elimination of about 80 percent of fossil fuel emissions would essentially stop the rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but concentrations of carbon dioxide would not start decreasing until even further reductions are made and then it would only do so slowly," said James Butler, director of NOAA's Global Monitoring Division.

    SEE ALSO: I tried out Fitbit for a month and taking it off was the best decision I've made

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's what happens when you get bitten by a black widow

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    In 2010, Cat Island was a pristine nesting spot for pelicans and other birds native to the coastal shores of Louisiana:

    island Today, the only way you'd know the island ever existed is by tracking these birds who return to the same spot each year to breed:

    cat island In just five years, something ripped the root system right out from under this island, which then allowed waters from the Gulf of Mexico to pour over the coast inch-by-inch until nothing was left.

    island1Sea levels are on the rise due to earth's warming climate and could increase by as much as 56 inches, according to a 2009 prediction by the National Academy of Sciences. But that will not happen until the year 2100.

    Wiping Cat Island, which used to be about the size of four American football fields, from the face of the earth in less than a decade took a different kind of devastation: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.

    "The oil comes down, it kills the mangroves, which then kills the root system,"Natalie Peyronnin, who is the director of science policy for the Environmental Defense Fund, told National Geographic. "And the root is holding together this island, and without that root system holding together, the sediment it just erodes away."

    cat islandCat Island is part of Plaquemines Parish — a parish in Louisiana — and right now residents of the parish are working to raise $6 million to restore the island. If it is not restored, the brown pelicans, seagulls, spoonbills, and egrets who use it as a nesting ground could suffer a dangerous reduction in numbers.

    "When the birds come back here, if the island is gone, they don't' go off and breed somewhere else, they just don't breed," P.J. Hahn, former coastal zone director of Plaquemines Parish who is leading some of these funding efforts, told National Geographic.

    cat islandSo far, they have raised $3 million — $1 million of which was donated by Shell Oil.

    “BP was asked to contribute to rebuilding Cat Island multiple times,” Hahn told the DeSmogBlog Project, "but they haven't given anything to help the project."

    Screen Shot 2015 05 07 at 11.05.59 AMIn July 2012, President Obama established the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund through the Restore Act. Through this act, 80% of civil penalties paid after July 6, 2012, in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will be deposited into the Trust Fund.

    This fund is where the residents of Plaquemines Parish hope to raise the majority of the remaining $3 million they need to save Cat Island.

    READ MORE:  Global carbon dioxide levels just broke another record

    SEE ALSO: Remarkable before-and-after photos make it undeniably clear we're ruining our planet

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Animated map shows what would happen to China if all the Earth's ice melted

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    California just entered its fourth year in drought. Experts say it's the worst the state has seen in 1,200 years. 

    Dwindling reservoirs, shrinking lakes and dried up farm fields are everywhere — and as of yet the drought shows no sign of stopping. 

    The state's snowpack, which typically provides about a third of the water for its farms and residents, remains at its lowest level in history. 

    Reservoir banks that were once underwater at Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River in Friant, a town just north of Fresno in California's Central Valley.

    Reservoir banks that used to be underwater at Millerton Lake on top of the Friant Dam.

    A field of dead almond trees in Coalinga in the Central Valley. Almonds use up an estimated 10% of the state's water budget.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    deepwater horizon

    (Reuters) - A U.S. federal appeals court on Friday said BP deserves the right to appellate review of some damage claims awarded to people and businesses in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

    The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans could help BP limit its payout to victims of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 workers and caused the largest U.S. offshore oil spill.

    BP originally expected to pay $7.8 billion to resolve claims under a 2012 settlement, but by late April it had boosted its estimate to $10.3 billion, according to a regulatory filing.

    About $5.13 billion has been paid out so far to 63,597 claimants, according to a website maintained by claims administrator Patrick Juneau.

    In its appeal, BP complained that rules adopted by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier compromised its right to appeal awards he approved and which the company did not like to the 5th Circuit.

    Writing for the appeals court, Judge Fortunato Benavides said BP deserved that right to appeal because it did not expressly waive it.

    "Where a settlement agreement does not resolve claims itself but instead establishes a mechanism pursuant to which the district court will resolve claims, parties must expressly waive what is otherwise a right to appeal from claim determination decisions by a district court," the judge wrote.

    BP oil spill

    "The point at which a party seeks the district court's discretionary review is the point at which further review by this court becomes a possibility," Benavides added.

    The 5th Circuit separately rejected BP's appeal of awards to three non-profit groups. Lawyers for spill victims had accused BP of appealing the awards as a means to relitigate the entire settlement.

    Samuel Issacharoff, a lawyer for the victims, declined immediate comment. BP had no immediate comment.

    BP is awaiting a decision from Barbier assessing penalties under the federal Clean Water Act over the spill.

    London-based BP has already taken $43.8 billion in pre-tax charges for clean-up and other costs.

    (Editing by Leslie Adler)

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    NOW WATCH: Here's the most looked-up word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary

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    Indian Point nuclear plant New York

    (Reuters) - A transformer failure and fire caused a unit at Indian Point nuclear plant north of New York City to be shut down on Saturday, and people nearby reported seeing an explosion and smoke at the plant.

    The plant at Buchanan in New York state was stable and there was no danger to the public or employees, said Entergy Corp, the company that operates the facility.

    Several emergency calls reported a loud noise at the plant, which is located about 40 miles (65 km) north of New York City on the east bank of the Hudson River, a New York State police spokesman said.

    The transformer fire was extinguished with no damage to the reactor, a spokesman for Entergy said.

    The fire, which occurred at around 6 p.m. EDT, triggered the closure of the plant's Unit 3 reactor, but the other Unit 2 continues to operate, spokesman Jerry Nappi said.

    He said there was no information yet as to what caused the transformer failure.

    The fire was put out by the sprinkler system at the transformer and on-site personnel, he said. The transformers are located around 300-400 feet (90-120 meters) away from the reactor.

    Several people tweeted from near Indian Point that they saw a big explosion.

    "I was a mile away from Indian Point when the transformer explosion occurred. Yikes..." said one Twitter user, Kevin Daly.

    Entergy said in a Twitter message that there had been "no threat to public safety at any time." 

    The police spokesman said no injuries were reported at the site.

    The plant has two units, Unit 2 and Unit 3.

    On Friday, Entergy returned the 1,031-megawatt Unit 3 back to service after shutting it down the previous day to repair a steam leak on the non-nuclear side of the plant.

    The plant has 1,050 employees, according to Entergy. 

    The plant, whose origin dates back to the 1960s, has long been controversial because of its proximity to the United States' largest city.

    Indian Point is one of 99 nuclear power plants licensed to operate in the United States and which generate about 20 percent of U.S. electricity use, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website. 

    Environmental groups that have called for the plant's permanent shutdown include Hudson River defender Clearwater, the New York Public Interest Research Group and clean water advocate Riverkeeper.

    (Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert and Jonathan Oatis; Editing by Christian Plumb)

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    NOW WATCH: Scientists have discovered the subtle difference between how dogs and cats drink water

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    Even if you've swum amongst the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef, chances are you've never seen coral like in the award-winning video "Slow Life."

    Because coral moves on a much slower time-scale compared to our fast-paced world, Australian-based nature cinematographer and artist Daniel Stoupin had to take hundreds of thousands of photos of the same coral and sponges over nearly 9 months to show how these vibrant marine creatures grow and behave in their natural environment. 

    All of that hard work payed off last year when Stoupin's video was awarded the Imaginal Visual Science Award in the 2014 Imagine Science films competition. 

    Coral are spineless marine animals that generally grow in dense, compact colonies. They begin when a soft-bodied creature, called a polyp, attaches itself to a rock on the sea floor. After that, the polyp can reproduce into thousands of identical clones, meaning they're genetically identical.

    Polyps look like miniature flowers, but don't be fooled by their seemingly innocent appearance.

    They are carnivorous creatures that use tiny tentacles to snatch free-floating crustaceans and fish larvae that float too close. Polyps are especially active at night, which is when they come out to feed. It's an incredible sight to watch them, quite literally, bloom to life:


    Although an individual polyp is only a few centimeters in size at most, coral reefs are the largest biological structures on Earth. But they don't just grow over night.

    Reefs are actually the result of many individual coral colonies living together harmoniously. The coral reefs we see today actually began from individual coral colonies that started growing over 50 million years ago — well before humans ever walked the Earth.

    These individual organisms are masters at surviving.

    The most impressive thing about Stoupin's epic video is that all of the colors in his shots are real "and not exaggerated or digitally enhanced," he writes in the video description on Vimeo.

    Mother Nature certainly has an artistic side:


    On his blog, Stoupin writes a more detailed description about why he initiated this project and ultimately what he hopes viewers take away from it.

    "The Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger and you have the power and finances to change its fate instead of scavenging what's left of it."

    Check out the full video below and make sure to go full screen on this one. It also comes complete with an epic soundtrack. 


    SEE ALSO: Horrific charts show how fast California is losing its water

    CHECK OUT: Epically awesome photos of Mars

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Underwater video captures sharks in feeding frenzy off the coast of the Bahamas

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    Apple is launching a major new environmental initiative in China as part of its commitment to "power all its operations worldwide on 100% renewable energy."

    Partnering with the World Wildlife Fund, the Cupertino company plans to "protect as much as 1 million acres of responsibly managed working forests which provide fiber for pulp, paper, and wood products."

    It also plans to increase its use of renewable energy sources at its manufacturing facilities in China.

    Much of Apple's manufacturing is done in China — but the Asian country's poor environmental track record is at odds with Apple's increasing commitment to green issues. China is the top polluter in the world, responsible for almost one-fourth of global carbon emissions, according to data from the World Bank. The US, the next highest, clocks in at about 16%.

    Last month, Apple announced it was partnering with SunPower to build two solar plants in China's Suchuan province, which the company says "will generate far more energy than needed to power all of Apple's corporate offices and retail stores in China."

    Elsewhere in the world, Apple announced in February that it was spending $2 billion to build a renewably powered data center in both Ireland and Denmark.

    Apple also recently bought 36,000 acres of private forestland in Maine and North Carolina with the Conservation Fund as part of a commitment to get 100% of paper packaging from renewable sources. The China announcement — far larger in scope — shows the Cupertino company doubling down on this pledge.

    Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple was "excited to work with leaders in our supply chain who want to be on the cutting edge of China's green transformation." In addition to Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook have pledged to shift to 100% renewable energy over the long-term.

    Here's the complete press release:

    BEIJING—May 11, 2015—Apple® today announced an expansion of its renewable energy and environmental protection initiatives in China, including a new multi-year project with World Wildlife Fund to significantly increase responsibly managed forests across China. The new forestland program aims to protect as much as 1 million acres of responsibly managed working forests which provide fiber for pulp, paper and wood products.

    Apple's goal is to achieve a net-zero impact on the world's supply of sustainable virgin fiber and power all its operations worldwide on 100 percent renewable energy.

    "Forests, like energy, can be renewable resources," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of Environmental Initiatives. "We believe we can run on naturally renewable resources and ensure that we protect—and create—as much sustainable working forest as needed to produce the virgin paper in our product packaging. This is an important step toward that goal and our commitment to leave the world better than we found it."

    Apple also announced its intent to expand its industry-leading renewable energy projects to manufacturing facilities in China.

    "We've set an example by greening our data centers, retail stores and corporate offices, and we're ready to start leading the way toward reducing carbon emissions from manufacturing," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "This won't happen overnight—in fact it will take years—but it's important work that has to happen, and Apple is in a unique position to take the initiative toward this ambitious goal. It is a responsibility we accept. We are excited to work with leaders in our supply chain who want to be on the cutting edge of China's green transformation."

    Today's announcements come three weeks after Apple launched its first major solar project in China. Solar installations in Sichuan Province will generate far more energy than needed to power all of Apple's corporate offices and retail stores in China.

    Apple is partnering with Leshan Electric Power Co., Sichuan Development Holding Co., Ltd, Tianjin Tsinlien Investment Holding Co., Ltd, Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor Co., Ltd, and SunPower Corporation on the project encompassing two 20-megawatt solar farms. Together the project will generate up to 80 million kilowatt hours per year of clean energy, enough to power the equivalent of 61,000 Chinese homes. That's clean energy added to the grid that would otherwise not be there.

    The solar projects were carefully designed to minimize their ecological impact and protect the grasslands that support the yak population, which is also important to the local economy. Today 87 percent of Apple's global operations run on renewable energy, and the Sichuan Province solar project will bring Apple even closer to its commitment to reach 100 percent.

    "Apple's support for this project and its environmental leadership show that protecting forests is not just good for society but important for business," said Lo Sze Ping, Chief Executive Officer for WWF China. "This collaboration between our two organizations will seek to reduce China's ecological footprint by helping produce more wood from responsibly managed forests within its own borders. Doing so is essential to China, the world's biggest timber importer. Our hope is this will catalyze a new model of corporate leadership in promoting sustainable forest management and using paper resources more efficiently and responsibly around the world."

    Learn more about Apple's environmental efforts at

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    NOW WATCH: Here's Why People Wait In Such Long Lines To Buy Salad At Sweetgreen

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    Factory Pollution

    Back in school, you'll have learned that the air in our atmosphere is composed primarily of nitrogen, at 78%, and oxygen, at 21%, with a number of other trace gases.

    It's to these trace gases we're looking today – more specifically, at how human activity can result in the release of air pollution in to the atmosphere. Here, we examine a number of different chemical compounds that contribute to atmospheric pollution, their specific sources, and their effects.

    It'll come as no surprise to learn that one of the primary sources of atmospheric pollutants is our continued reliance on the burning of fossil fuels for a large proportion of our electrical energy.

    Carbon dioxide, also produced by natural processes, is the obvious gas produced in this case, produced as a combustion product. However, other pollutants are also produced. Sulfur dioxide is formed as a result of the sulfur impurities in coal and oil, whilst particulate matter and heavy metals can also be released.

    Another obvious source of pollutant release is that of vehicle emissions. Pollutants from road transport again include carbon dioxide, but also include carbon monoxide, as well as nitrogen oxides, formed by direct combination of nitrogen and oxygen in combustion engines.

    The purpose of catalytic converters in cars is to try and remove nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide, converting the majority of them into less harmful gases. Cars have also previously been a large contributor to heavy metal pollution, as a consequence of the use of leaded petrol, though this is no longer used in many countries.

    The agricultural industry is another that contributes pollutants to the atmosphere. Some of this is a consequence of the use of manure and fertilisers, which can release ammonia, whilst some chemicals used as pesticides can also wind up in the atmosphere – these are known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs can also be generated in industrial processes; for example, waste incineration can lead to the production of dioxins.

    The effects of these different pollutants are varied. Carbon dioxide's effects have already been extensively documented elsewhere, of course – there's an excellent NASA site detailing the evidence linking it to anthropogenic global warming here– so we'll instead focus on the other pollutants detailed.

    Power Rule Deaths_Mill

    Carbon monoxide's effects are also well known – it's a gas that, in sufficient quantity, can cause toxic effects and death in humans. If we breathe it in, it binds strongly to the haemoglobin in our red blood cells, diminishing the oxygen-carrying capacity of our blood. From the perspective of atmospheric pollution, it's one of the handful of gases that can react with other atmospheric chemicals to help form ground-level ozone.

    Ozone might not immediately spring to mind as a pollutant. After all, it's present in the higher levels of our atmosphere, and this ozone layer helps shield us from harmful UV radiation. However, ground-level ozone is an entirely different prospect. It is a major component of the smog that occasionally plagues areas of the globe, and can also cause health effects such as irritation, coughing, and chest pains.

    Ground-level ozone isn't directly generated by human activities. However, it can be produced as a result of the reactions of different human pollutants in the atmosphere. Primarily, the reactions of nitrogen oxides with volatile organic compounds, in the presence of sunlight, can produce ozone. These volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can have a range of human sources, but are also produced naturally by vegetation, and other natural processes. VOCs can additionally undergo other reactions with nitrogen oxides to form peroxyacyl nitrates, respiratory and eye irritants present in smog.

    Particulate matter in the atmosphere can also be a factor in smog. This matter can be composed of a huge number of chemical entities, and is generally split into three categories: coarse particles, with a diameter between 10 and 2.5 micrometres; fine particles, smaller than 2.5 micrometres; and ultra-fine particles, smaller than 0.1 micrometres.

    LA Smog

    As well as contributing to smog, some of these particles have been linked with human health effects, as the smallest can be breathed deep into the lungs.

    Some particulate matter is directly emitted, for example as a result of fossil fuel combustion. Others are generated in the atmosphere from reactions between different atmospheric species.

    One other atmospheric pollutant that can contribute to the formation of particulate matter is ammonia. Released from manure and fertilisers in agricultural settings, ammonia can react with other pollutants, producing these tiny particles. Ammonia can also have other effects, such as eutrophication. This is when soil or water becomes over-enriched with nitrogen, causing over-promotion of growth, a particular issue in aquatic environments.

    A final environmental effect that pollutants can have is the production of acid rain. This is primarily a consequence of sulfur dioxide emissions, though nitrogen oxides can also contribute. They can react with water in the atmosphere, in the case of sulfur dioxide producing sulfurous acid as an intermediate, which can then react further with oxygen to form sulfuric acid. This can cause acidification of aquatic environments, as well as corrosion of some building materials.

    It's clear then, that there are a wide range of atmospheric pollutants – so what are we doing to combat them?

    A number of environmental agencies worldwide have identified six 'criteria pollutants', which are regulated, and measures of which can be used to gauge air quality. These are carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, lead, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide. There are broad regulations and limits in place to try and reduce the release of these pollutants; however, some countries have failed to meet these emission limits. Just last week, the UK was criticised for failing to meet nitrogen dioxide emissions below required levels.

    With that said, progress is certainly being made in some cases. Emissions of lead have been significantly reduced by the removal of tetraethyl lead from petrol, and sulfur dioxide emissions have also been reduced by stricter controls on the sulfur content of fuels. Innovations such as the introduction of catalytic converters into cars have also reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides – however, this has been offset to an extent by increasing numbers of vehicles on the roads.

    There are still plenty of challenges to reduce levels of atmospheric pollutants, but hopefully, with greater awareness, we can continue to work on reducing their levels and preventing the associated effects on the environment and our health.

    Brief Guide to Atmospheric Pollutants

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    What makes you want to take your clothes off and jump in nature’s pools? Factors probably include beautiful bright blue color and calm waters. But don’t ever get fooled with such beauty for you may not know what’s underneath it. We’ll leave monsters to your imagination but in reality, nature isn’t always a safe place to have fun in. What’s worse, is that humans also have the tendency to make safe things into a toxic places. Where do you find these dangerous bodies of water? Read on to find out.

    1. Rio Tinto River, Spain

    rio tinto river

    Probably anyone will think that something’s not right when a river has deep red water. Rio Tinto is a highly acidic river with a pH of 1.7 – 2.5. It’s also rich in heavy metals like gold, silver, and copper which made it a popular river among ancient cultures throughout history. Now, due to 5000 years of mining pollution, the river became an extreme environment, breeding chemolithotrophic organisms such as iron-oxidizing bacteria and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. The river originates in the Sierra Morena mountains of Andalusia.

    2. Boiling Lake, Dominica

    boiling lake

    Located in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica’s ‘s Boiling Lake is the world’s second largest hot spring and looks like it took its hotness to an entirely higher level. The water temperature along its edges 82 to 92 degrees Celsius (180 to 197 degrees Fahrenheit) and the center’s temperature is – forget about it. Measuring the center of the lake’s temperature isn’t possible since it continues to boil and going near its center could be risky.

    3. Lake Kivu, Africa

    lake kivu

    Lake Kivu is a shared resource between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It sits on upon a rift valley that is slowly being pulled apart, causing volcanic activity around the area. It’s also known for its maximum depth of 485 meters. What makes it possibly deadly is its over 250 cubic kilometers of carbon dioxide and 65 cubic kilometers of methane gas. For now, the pressure of the water is twice as high as the pressure from the gases which means the risk of eruption is low and the lake is still a safe place to swim in.

    4. Citarum River, West Java, Indonesia

    citarum river

    Unfortunately, the reason why Citarum River is deadly is because of something man-made – garbage. The place is so filled with non-biodegradable waste and harmful chemicals that it’s known to be the world’s most polluted river. There are over 200 textile factories lining the river banks and the dyes and chemicals like arsenic and mercury are all dumped in the river. Combine here the millions of residents who treat the river as a huge trash bin and for sure no one’s crazy enough to drink water from this dumpsite.

    5. Lake Karachay, Russia

    Lake Karachay

    Located in the southern Ural Mountains in eastern Russia, Lake Karachay has been described as one of the most polluted spots in the world due to its waters and surrounding areas being highly contaminated with radioactive waste. The pollution came from Mayak, one of Russia’s most prominent nuclear weapon factories. Radiation from the Chernobyl disaster added to the pollution of the lake and this pollution caused the rise of cancer and birth defect rates among the local residents living around the area.

    6. Potomac River, USA

    potomac river

    Just outside Washington D.C., the Potomac River Gorge is a 14-mile stretch that extends from the Key Bridge in the District of Columbia north to the Great Falls of the Potomac. The gorge is a popular site for outdoor activities like kayaking, boating, fishing, and hiking enthusiasts. But there is no doubt that this river is deadly. The water rushing through the Potomac River creates roiling underwater currents in even the calmest-looking places. The river’s currents can quickly capture swimmers, waders, and people who slip and fall into the water. Never ever get fooled by its placid look.

    7. The Blue Lagoon, Derbyshire, UK

    blue lagoon

    A disused quarry in Harpur Hill called Far Hill Quarry was flooded and became “The Blue Lagoon” due to its striking blue tint. It became a popular swimming spot among locals even though warning signs have already stated the dangers it possesses. First, the water is as toxic as ammonia with a pH level of 11.3 which is highly alkaline and can cause fungal infections such as skin and stomach problems. The lagoon also contains rubbish like car parts, dead animals, and excrement. To make it more convincing that the water is dangerous to swim in, the council decided to dye it black.

    8. Jacob’s Well, Texas, USA

    jacob's well texas

    Jacob’s Well (also the top featured photo) is known to be one of the world’s most dangerous diving spots. Descending 9 meters down the well will get you to the first chamber. Go further down and you’ll reach the second chamber which is 24 meters below the surface. This is where the danger begins because of a passage that looks like an exit but instead can trap the diver. There are also third and fourth chambers that await the diver who’s brave enough to reach the deeper parts of the well. Jacob’s Well has a total depth of 40 meters.

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    How much of an impact can billions and billions of people make on the environment? Well, if you watch the video below from Vox, you'll see that in a mere 40 years, human activity can leave quite the mark.

    These images are courtesy of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey's Landsat satellite program that the space agency launched in 1972 with the sole intention of studying our planet's surface and how its been changing over time. According to Vox, the satellite takes pictures of the entire surface of the planet every 18 days and orbits the Earth 14 times a day.

    Las Vegas

    In the video, photos taken over the last four decades have been strung together to show humanity's footprint on five different locations. From the shocking deforestation of Rondônia, Brazil (where the area's global beef exports have mowed down enough trees to fill the state of West Virginia), to the rampant water use in the Aral Sea causing a loss of 60,000 fishery jobs due to rising salt levels.

    You'll also see how the the dirty energy industry has literally stripped away Wyoming's natural resources, and how much the Larsen B Ice Shelf has collapsed due to climate change. And in the GIF above from Vox, notice how the increasing number of golf courses and artificial lakes in rapidly growing Las Vegas are an ironic harbinger of the area's relentless drought.

    It's clear that we must all change our ways and act now before it gets any worse. Check out the haunting footage here:

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    earth ozone layer

    Now that summer is here, you'll likely be slathering up with sunscreen.

    Earth, it turns out, is doing the same, according to an encouraging study recently published by a team of scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Goddard Earth Sciences Technology and Research at the Universities Space Research Association.

    Earth has its own layer of sunscreen called the ozone layer, or ozone shield, which makes up part of the stratosphere and absorbs most of the sun's ultra-violet (UV) radiation. But it doesn't absorb all of the UV light, and what gets through can cause skin cancer and cataracts in humans as well as reproductive problems in fish, crabs, and frogs.

    the hole should finally, permanently shrink below 8 million square miles by 2040 and could even be fully recovered by the end of the century

    Since 1983, scientists have observed a scary phenomenon: Earth's ozone was extremely weak over parts of Antarctica, letting in bouts of harmful UV radiation. The reason, in part, was because a series of man-made chemicals— namely chlorine and bromine — were eating away the planet's protective, sunscreen-like layer.

    They called this weaker region Antarctica's ozone hole. Although the hole's size varies each year, it has been consistently larger than 8 million square miles since 1990 — more than twice the size of the entire United States!

    In recent years, scientific reports have noted that the hole is slowly healing — thanks to a decrease in ozone-depleting chemicals in the atmosphere — but scientists were not sure when the hole would be completely regenerated.

    Now, according to a study published in journal Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, the hole should finally, permanently shrink below 8 million square miles by 2040s and could even be fully recovered by the end of the century.

    The source of the problem

    For the middle half of the 20th Century, companies used ozone-depleting chemicals, called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), in refrigerators and aerosol sprays that, through use, were getting released into the atmosphere. By the early '80s scientists were beginning to understand the damage that these chemicals were doing to the planet.

    When CFCs float up to the troposphere, above the ozone, they interact with UV radiation from the sun releasing chlorine, which destroys ozone. As a result of this discovery, an international treaty called the Montreal Protocol was enacted in 1989 that began phasing out the production and subsequent emission of ozone-depleting chemicals.

    By that point, however, the damage had been done.

    These chemicals can hang out in the atmosphere for years after they've entered the atmosphere. Like a series of dominoes, the ozone hole continued to grow even after CFCs were banned. Here's a chart showing the size of the ozone hole, in blue, from 1979 through 2012:

    ozoneOzone depletion above the planet's north and south poles was exceptionally bad because Earth's wind currents were sweeping the chemicals toward either end of the planet.

    Once these chemicals reached the poles, a large-scale cyclone, called the polar vortex, was trapping the chemicals where they accumulated over time to high concentrations, ravenously eating away the ozone (see the GIF below). This led to the Antarctic ozone hole as well as the Arctic ozone hole, which in 2011 reportedly had half the ozone it used to.

    ozoneUsing NASA'S Aura satellite— an instrument orbiting Earth that sniffs out certain chemicals, including chlorine — the team of scientists studied the amount of ozone-eating chemicals above Antarctica from 2004 to 2012. From that, they identified a clear relation between the level of chlorine in the atmosphere and the size of the ozone hole.

    They then looked at ozone hole sizes from 1979 through 2013 and predicted what future hole sizes will be based on how quickly chlorine levels are decreasing in the atmosphere above the Antarctic.

    "With this new information we can look into the future and say with confidence that ozone holes will be consistently smaller than 8 million square miles by 2040," said Susan Strahan, a senior research scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, in a video about the study. "And that will really be a milestone that we're finally past the era of big ozone holes."

    Check out the full video below:

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    Bradford Pear

    This spring, New Yorkers will have their noses assaulted by an unpleasant odor coming from the army of white-blossom covered trees that line many of the city's streets.  

    These flowers, though lovely in appearance, smell like a mixture of rotting fish and semen, according to a variety of web reports, and personal accounts from those in our own newsroom. 

    A tall, deciduous tree called the Bradford Pear (scientific name Pyrus calleryana) is to blame for the raunchy-smelling flowers.

    The trees were planted all throughout New York in the 1960s because they are hard to kill — they grow fast and can thrive in tough conditions. People also think they are pretty. In the eastern United States, they are considered an invasive species because of their prevalence. 


    One downside is that these hardy "street trees" really stink.

    Urban Dictionary has labeled Bradford Pears the "semen tree," with an equally inappropriate, though colorful, description of their smell, which you can read over there. 

    Getting to the source

    Everything we smell — from bananas to pine needles — comes from molecules, usually made of volatile chemicals, meaning chemicals that evaporate easily. The molecules evaporate from the food or flower and travel into your nose, where they bind with receptors in our nose. 

    The compounds that make the Bradford Pear tree's flowers smell are likely due to a type of chemical called amines, Dr. Eloy Rodriguez, a professor of plant biology at Cornell University, told Business Insider.  

    We come in contact with the smell of amines every day in the form of body odors, like under the arm pits.

    Bradford Pear flower

    The fishy odor produced by the Bradford Pear is likely a combination of two amines called trimethylamine and dimethylamine, according to Richard Banick, a botanical manager at Bell Flavors and Fragrances. Although perfumers know what chemicals produce the fishy smell (trimethylamine is often used an indicator of how fresh a fish is) they can't be certain what causes the odor of the Bradford Pear, said Banick.  

    Plants that produce volatile amines, some that smell like rotting meat, use the gas either to attract flies who will then spread the flower's pollen, or to ward off insects that might want to steal the nectar, said Rodriguez.

    Rodgriquez suspects that the volatile compounds in the Bradford tree are there as attractants, and not necessarily to repel pollinators. 

    Later, the trees produce little green-yellow fruits that you cannot eat.

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    blue whale underwater

    Newly discovered nerves in the mouths of massive whales can unfold, nearly doubling in length, and recoil like a bungee cord.

    These stretchy nerves could explain how the whales are able to eat by ballooning their mouths during dives.

    Researchers discovered the surprisingly elastic nerves after collecting samples from a commercial whaling station in Iceland.

    "This discovery was totally unexpected and unlike other nerve structures we've seen in vertebrates, which are of a more fixed length," said Wayne Vogl, a professor of cell and developmental biology at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

    Rorqual whales represent the largest group among baleen whales, tipping the scales at 40 to 80 tons.

    They eat by ballooning their mouths, capturing prey and then slowly filtering water out through their so-called baleen plates. The volume of water brought in by a single gulp can exceed the volume of the whale itself.

    They're "unrivaled among any vertebrate known alive today," said study co-author Nicholas Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. "It's actually a very interesting question, once you get to animals this scale: how do you actually maintain this nervous system?"

    The results could even shed light on extinct massive animals, like dinosaurs, the researchers said.

    But much about rorqual whales remains a mystery. Their remoteness in the ocean's waters makes them extremely difficult to study. Occasionally, scientists will get their hands on whales that have been beached, but then their tissue has likely already decayed, said Pyenson. Even whales in captivity are less than ideal. More often than not, these whales are unhealthy, and don't represent a typical sample.

    "They live 99 percent of their lives away from the tools of human investigation," Pyenson told Live Science. "So the question is: How are we going to be able to learn more about them?"

    Vogl, Pyenson and their colleagues had the unique opportunity to head down to one of the last commercial whaling stations in Iceland. There, they were able to collect tissue samples (less than 24 hours old) from a dozen harpooned whales. "With every carcass that we examine we find something new," Pyenson said.

    whale feeding

    When the researchers first saw the whales' gigantic nerves, no one was sure exactly what he or she was looking at. Because of their stretchiness, the nerves looked like blood vessels at first. In fact, it took years of examining the samples under a microscope before the puzzle finally came together.

    Next, the team plans to look at animals genetically related to rorqual whales and other animals of similar size. Pyenson is also especially interested in studying long-necked and long-tailed dinosaurs, known as sauropods. He hopes that better understanding the nervous system in massive whales will shed light on how a sauropod's nerves may have coursed from its chest, along its 50-feet-long (15 meters) neck, to its head.

    "I really think we're in a golden age of morphological discovery," Pyenson said. "It's not the kind of science that's necessarily been seen as cutting edge but there's so much to discover. […] We know so much about the context that even little pieces of information like this really enhance our understanding at a very broad scale."

    Follow Shannon Hall on Twitter @ShannonWHall. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook& Google+. Original article on Live Science.

    Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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    California is in its fourth year in the worst drought the state has seen in 1,200 years. 

    Yet many Californians continue to use virtually the same amounts of water they were using before the drought began.

    Some have cited almonds as the culprit, since the tasty snack use a whole gallon of water per nut.

    Compared with noshing on a few almonds, though, many other activities are far worse in terms of the amount of water they require, from watering huge lawns to keeping sprawling waterparks open all season.

    Keeping their swimming pools full — especially in the middle of the desert. The average Palm Springs resident uses a whopping 201 gallons of water, more than twice the state average.

    Playing golf. A single golf course requires roughly 400,000 gallons of water per day, reports the hospitality association Hotel & Leisure Advisors.

    Filling decorative ponds. New state regulations proposed last week ask communities like Palm Springs — where residents use more than 165 gallons of water per person per day — to cut back their usage by 35%.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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