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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider
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    new york heat wave

    • The Northeast is expected to see 90-degree-Fahrenheit temperatures this weekend.
    • Overall, this summer is expected to be hotter than average.
    • You can thank climate change for that.

    It's going to be a hot weekend, and it's only the start of what meteorologists expect to be a scorching summer. 

    On the heels of a heat wave that brought scalding temperatures and smog to the US Midwest and the Northeast last week, the thermometer is set to reach the mid-to-high 90s this weekend in upstate New York and Pennsylvania. In New York City, weather forecasting site Wunderground anticipates temperatures in the high 80s.

    While the heat isn't likely to break records, it can bring dangerous air-quality conditions to major cities. 

    On hot days, emissions from vehicles and power plants can react with sunlight and other naturally occurring gases to create ground-level ozone, which can hang over cities on hot summer afternoons. Ground-level ozone is especially dangerous to children, the elderly, and people with respiratory illnesses like asthma.

    Summer officially started in the northern hemisphere last week with the June solstice, and forecasts suggest it will be a hot one. The US Climate Prediction Center says there's more than a 50% chance that the Northeast will be warmer than average from July through September. 

    This heat forecast is part of a trend of rising temperatures across the globe due to climate change. The five hottest years on record since 1880 have all occurred since 2010, with 2016 setting the record for highest average temperature. Projections suggest that by 2075, strong heat waves that currently occur once every 20 years could become annual events on 60% of the Earth's land areas. 

    According to a Harvard study, climate change will also contribute to an additional three to nine days per year of unhealthy ozone levels by 2050 — amounting to a 70-100% increase in ozone days, depending on the region.

    Stay cool out there. 

    SEE ALSO: A heat wave on the East Coast could break records — and it's prompting warnings about dangerously poor air quality

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's why humidity makes you feel hotter

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    untitled 20

    When Disney River Country opened in 1976, visitors flocked to Orange County, Florida, to ride the winding slides and traverse the wooden bridges.

    The park closed down 25 years later, and today, it lies abandoned.

    In 2016, A Cleveland-based photographer who works under the pseudonym Seph Lawless documented ghostly portraits of the once busy attraction in his photo series "Dismaland." (This is also the name of Banksy's 2015 art exhibition, a fake apocalyptic theme park near Bristol, England.)

    But River Country will not stay abandoned for much longer. Disney is planning to demolish the decaying park and turn it into a timeshare resort and hotel, GrowthSpotter reports.

    Check out Lawless' photo project below:

    SEE ALSO: The National Park Service turns 100 today — and Obama just protected 87,000 acres of Maine land

    River Country in Orange County, Florida was Walt Disney World's first water park.

    It is one of just two Disney parks, along with Discovery Island in Orange County, to close permanently. Both parks were left to deteriorate.

    Lawless took about 150 photos of the decaying park, he told Business Insider.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    north brother island new york city bronx google maps

    Less than a mile from Manhattan— one of the priciest and most densely populated places in the world — sits a mysterious island that people abandoned more than half a century ago.

    "North Brother Island is among New York City's most extraordinary and least known heritage and natural places," wrote the authors of a recent University of Pennsylvania study about the location.

    The city owns the 22-acre plot, which pokes out of the East River between the South Bronx's industrial coast and a notorious prison: Rikers Island Correctional Center.

    It's illegal for the public to set foot on North Brother Island and its smaller companion, South Brother Island. But even birds seem to avoid its crumbling, abandoned structures (and contrary to Broad City's depiction of the island, there isn't a package pick-up center).

    In 2017, producers for the Science Channel obtained the city's permission to visit North Brother Island — and the crew invited Business Insider to tag along.

    The story of our small expedition premiered this month on "What on Earth?", a popular satellite-image-based TV show that's now in its fourth season. (Our segment closes out episode 12.)

    Here's what we saw and learned while romping around one of New York's spookiest and most forgotten places.

    SEE ALSO: Incredible photos from space reveal the biggest news stories on Earth in 2017

    DON'T MISS: One of the best nature documentaries of all time is back in its second season

    North Brother Island is accessible only by boat. Leaving from Barretto Point Park in the South Bronx is one of the quickest ways to get there.

    Watch your step — the boat ramp is covered in slippery algae at low tide.

    This small aluminum boat was our ride.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    • Running on a highly progressive, Democratic-Socialist platform, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated one of the top Democrats in the House of Representatives in a primary election on Tuesday night.
    • She is one of the first American politicians to put forward a climate change plan that would keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    • Ocasio-Cortez hopes to move the entire country to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

    On Tuesday night, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez toppled a 10-term Congressman from New York City in a landslide Democratic primary victory. The shocking result virtually assures that the U.S. Congress will welcome its youngest female member ever next year.

    The upset win also essentially guarantees that Ocasio-Cortez will bring with her the boldest climate platform of any representative in history.

    Ocasio-Cortez, who was without a Wikipedia page on Monday, unseated Joe Crowley, the 20-year representative of New York's 14th Congressional District who was vying to become the next Speaker of the House. The New York Times, her hometown newspaper, didn't even cover the race. CNN called the victory "a real wakeup call for Democrats."

    Ocasio-Cortez said her triumph was "the start of a movement." As a millennial woman of color, she's already been referred to as the future of the Democratic Party.

    Since her district, which comprises parts of Queens and the Bronx, is among the most strongly Democratic in the country, the general election in November likely will not be competitive. Pending the results of other elections across the country, Ocasio-Cortez seems almost certain to join Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as one of the few socialists ever elected to Congress.

    Among her many progressive bona fides, it's really her plan for tackling climate change that deserves the most attention.

    In one of her first campaign tweets on the topic of climate change, more than one year ago, Ocasio-Cortez framed the issue as an "existential threat"— one that young people should be taking the lead on.

    Ocasio-Cortez is one of the first American politicians to put forward a climate change plan that would keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

    To meet that goal while leaving space for developing countries to move at a slower pace, independent assessments suggest that the United States needs to reduce its emissions by approximately 75 to 125 percent or more — actually drawing carbon dioxide out of the air — by 2035. Ocasio-Cortez hopes to move the entire country to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. Even Bernie Sanders' climate plan didn't set such an ambitious goal.

    The crash carbon diet would require "the complete mobilization of the American workforce to combat climate change,"as Ocasio-Cortez told HuffPost reporter Alexander Kaufman.

    On her campaign's website, she summarizes the danger that climate change poses to the planet:

    Climate change is the single biggest national security threat for the United States and the single biggest threat to worldwide industrialized civilization, and the effects of warming can be hard to predict and self-reinforcing. We need to avoid a worldwide refugee crisis by waging a war for climate justice through the mobilization of our population and our government. This starts with the United States being a leader on the actions we take both globally and locally.

    According to Ocasio-Cortez, such an effort would cost "trillions of dollars," but would "not only save our planet from the ravages of climate change but would also lift millions of Americans out of poverty."

    It's an audacious plan that's easy to dismiss as wishful thinking. But last night's results just brought Ocasio-Cortez's vision a step closer to reality.

    SEE ALSO: Past generations created a climate crisis for Millennials and Generation Z. Today marks 30 years of inaction.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Trump pitched peace to Kim Jong Un with this Hollywood-style video starring Kim as the leading man

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    documerica nyc

    New York City produces twice as much trash as any other mega-city on Earth, according to a recent study. The Environmental Protection Agency has described Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal as "one of the nation’s most extensively contaminated water bodies." And air pollution, coming largely from transportation and construction, remains a threat to residents.

    But before the EPA formed in 1970, pollution in NYC was even worse.

    Soon after the EPA's founding, the agency dispatched 100 photographers to capture America's environmental issues in a photo project called Documerica. It shows what the US, from California to Ohio to New York, looked like from 1971 to 1977. Of the 81,000 images the photographers took, more than 20,000 photos were archived, and at least 15,000 have been digitized by the National Archives.

    Many of the photos were taken before the US regulated things like water and air pollution.

    The Trump administration has already rolled back a number of environmental regulations. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has also moved toward repealing the Clean Water Rule — which prevents industries from dumping pollutants into waterways and wetlands — and eliminating the Clean Power Plan — the Obama administration's biggest initiative to fight climate change by curbing emissions.

    Progressives around the country nowworry whether Anthony Kennedy's retirement from the Supreme Court will seal the fate of these environmental protections. The 81-year-old justice has been a crucial swing vote on many environmental issues for the past three decades.

    Many reports suggest that if Pruitt succeeds, parts of the US could return to the state they were in before EPA regulations.

    Take a look at a few New York City Documerica photos that were taken between 1973 and 1974.

    SEE ALSO: Photos show how California's fires gave Disneyland an apocalyptic glow

    Many Documerica photos show scenes of general life in New York City in the 1970s, but several also document environmental issues.

    In the first six months of 1973, more than 300 oil spills occurred in the New York City area. An oil slick creeps up on the Statue of Liberty in this 1973 photo.

    More than 800 oil spills happened in the mid-Atlantic region during the same time period, according to a 1973 Coast Guard survey.

    Source: The New York Times

    Air pollution was also a huge issue in the city. As seen in this 1973 photo, smog obscures the George Washington Bridge.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    sunburn skin cancer

    • Hawaii just became the first US state to ban the sale of certain kinds of chemical sunscreen that may damage coral reefs.
    • The two banned chemical names are oxybenzone and octinoxate.
    • Mineral blockers are an alternative to chemical sunblocks. They physically keep the sun away.


    If you're going to slather on sunscreen before jumping in the water, you might want to check the label first. 

    The state of Hawaii is moving forward with a groundbreaking plan to ban the sale of all sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate by the beginning of 2021. The Hawaii senate just sent the bill to governor David Ige, who's expected to sign it into law in the coming days.

    The state says these chemical sunblocks can kill developing coral; induce feminization in adult male fish; and mess with normal development in fish, sea urchins, coral, and shrimp. If concentrations are high enough, they can damage a coral’s DNA, potentially making its life shorter and sicker. Studies suggest that the chemicals promote coral bleaching at lower-than-normal temperatures, and they may also be hormone disruptors, increasing reproductive diseases. 

    "Some sunscreen chemicals, in certain situations, cause coral larvae to stop swimming, change shape, and ultimately die," a 2018 briefing from the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) explains. "Oxybenzone has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor, causing the outer epidermal cells of coral larvae to turn into skeleton at the wrong stage in their development." 

    Many of the previous studies on corals have been done in the lab, and the chemicals are usually present in tiny concentrations once they get mixed into the ocean. Concentrations of oxybenzone greater than one part per million were found in one study in the US Virgin Islands, but concentrations in areas studied around Hawaii were lower. The ICRI says more research in the wild is needed to know for sure whether the amount of sunscreen that's present in ocean waters really has a measurable effect on coral health. 

    What kind of sunscreen you can use

    There are two broad classes of sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens — those are the ones Hawaii is worried about—use chemicals to block harmful UV rays. Oxybenzone, for example, works by absorbing a particular wavelength of UV and converting it into heat energy, keeping you from getting burnt.

    The other class of sunscreens uses minerals to physically put a barrier between your skin and the sun. These are called mineral blockers, and while they block out the sun by bouncing light off your skin, they can also make your skin really white. They often include ingredients like zinc, aluminum, and titanium (think: lifeguard nose). 

    "They’re like tiny metal particles that you’re putting on the skin," dermatologist Kathleen Suozzi from the Yale School of Medicine recently told Business Insider.

    Mineral blockers also provide better protection, and are less likely to cause skin reactions, she said. 

    "I typically recommend those [mineral blockers] to my patients because they have much less risk of being irritating to the skin, and you're getting that broad-spectrum coverage." 

    coral reef

    Many mineral blockers have become easier to use in recent years. As manufacturers start adding in tints and micronizing particles, the products have become more sheer and less white than ever.

    Not all of these improvements are good for the corals. Researchers say the nanoparticle form of zinc oxide may not be safe for marine life. The UK-based NGO MarineSafe has started stamping its seal of approval on products it deems safe for ocean life, and keeps a list of dangerous chemicals online.  

    Sunscreen is far from the biggest problem the world's corals are facing. Many experts believe the invertebrates could be completely wiped out in just decades, as our oceans heat up and become more acidic. Still, if it turns out we can help coral better reproduce by dumping fewer chemicals into the water when we swim, it's probably worth a try to save the rocky, colorful, quiet corals that are hard at work protecting coastlines all over the world. 

    SEE ALSO: How long your sunscreen actually protects you, according to dermatologists

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The terrible things that would happen if all the coral reefs died off

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    hawaii woman hiking cliff

    • Hawaii is likely to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which can kill reefs.
    • These chemicals disrupt the development of reefs and make them more likely to undergo bleaching, which causes coral to lose color and become vulnerable to disease and death.
    • Mineral sunscreens containing zinc and titanium are a good alternative to chemical sunscreens.
    • But there are still questions about whether banning these sunscreens will do enough to save reefs.

    This week, Hawaii Governor David Ige is expected to sign a bill that will ban the sale of certain popular sunscreens containing chemicals that can damage and kill coral reefs.

    Banning popular sunscreens in a place where most tourists travel to get sun — and where the visitor sector, which includes tourism and related businesses, is the largest part of the economy— might seem shocking.

    But the coral reefs that surround Hawaii are incredibly valuable, providing coastal protection from storm surges and erosion, protecting valuable fish and marine life habitats that make the Hawaiian waters vibrant, and drawing tourists who want to see the colorful underwater wonderland.

    According to one study commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Hawaii's coral reefs are worth $33.57 billion.

    Hawaiians hope to protect all that value by banning the sale of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which research has shown can kill coral.

    The question is whether doing so is enough to protect reefs.

    coral 2

    What chemical sunscreens do to reefs — and what you can use instead

    Sunscreens in general fall into two categories. Chemical sunscreens, like those that contain oxybenzone (which is found in 70% of sunscreens) convert ultraviolet rays into less harmful rays. Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, physically block light from your skin. The most common mineral ingredients used for these sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

    Researchers have long known chemicals in that first class of sunscreens can damage corals.

    As a 2018 briefing from the International Coral Reef Initiative explains,"[s]ome sunscreen chemicals, in certain situations, cause coral larvae to stop swimming, change shape, and ultimately die."

    Oxybenzone in particular disrupts the development of coral, according to that briefing: "Oxybenzone has been shown to be an endocrine disrupter, causing the outer epidermal cells of coral larvae to turn into skeleton at the wrong stage in their development."

    Corals that are stressed by heat or carbon dioxide — or chemicals like sunscreen — lose the colorful algae that help them derive nutrition from photosynthesis. This process is known as bleaching, and as bleached corals turn white, it makes them vulnerable to disease, harmful forms of algae, and death. 

    It's possible that some mineral sunscreens could have a negative environmental impact as well, but in general, most experts think they are a safer choice for reefs. Some experts say they can be better choices for people, too.

    "I typically recommend those [mineral blockers] to my patients because they have much less risk of being irritating to the skin, and you're getting that broad-spectrum coverage," dermatologist Kathleen Suozzi from the Yale School of Medicine recently told my colleague Hilary Brueck.

    People have shied away from zinc- and titanium-based sunscreens in the past because of the white sheen many products can leave on top of skin. However, sunscreen technology has improved, and many products now are easier to apply and don't leave a white coating on skin. In general, if you want a more environmentally-friendly choice, look for a titanium- or zinc-based product.


    Will a sunscreen ban protect reefs?

    One of the biggest questions is how much of an impact sunscreen use has on reefs in the first place. After all, the ocean is a vast place, where anything is rapidly diluted in the water.

    But while much of the research on sunscreen and corals comes from lab studies, there is real-world data indicating that in places with a lot of tourists, enough sunscreen gets into the water to cause harm.

    According to one 2016 study of the effects of sunscreen on reefs in the Virgin Islands and Hawaii, it only takes a tiny bit of oxybenzone to start damaging the DNA of coral and trigger harmful effects. That study found oxybenzone levels in Hawaii were lower than those around the Virgin Islands, but still high enough to cause harm.

    That's good reason to try to steer clear of chemical sunscreens if you're going to be near coral reefs. But it doesn't mean avoiding sunscreen will be enough to save these valuable assets.

    For one thing, the ban itself may have limited effect. When it goes into effect, it'll ban the sale of these sunscreens on the island, but that doesn't mean travelers can't bring them along in their baggage. Plus, a huge number of cosmetic products contain oxybenzone, as do prescription sunscreens — neither of these will be affected by the ban. When people use these products and shower, that oxybenzone-contaminated wastewater makes its way into nearby oceans, even if you don't swim while coated in these products.

    And while it's worth doing anything possible to protect reefs on a local level, like avoiding harmful chemicals, that alone won't be enough to save them all. Research indicates that reefs around the world are largely suffering because of climate change, which raises ocean temperatures and makes waters more acidic. Chemicals just compound that damage.

    According to some estimates, the combined effects of climate change and other human activity have killed about half the world's reefs in the past 30 years, and it's possible that by 2030, 98% of the world's reefs will be exposed to conditions that can kill them every year.

    Avoiding harmful sunscreen could be a helpful step. But without action on climate change, it won't be enough.

    SEE ALSO: Coral reefs provide crucial protection for coastal cities — without them, flood damage could double, a new study finds

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Cannibalism used to be a popular medical remedy — here's why humans don't eat each other today

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    polar bear

    • A Canadian father has been mauled to death by a polar bear while protecting his children.
    • 31-year-old Aaron Gibbons was visiting a popular fishing spot in the northernmost territory of Nunavut at the time of the attack.
    • A relative said that polar bear tours in the area were acclimatizing bears to humans — making them less afraid to attack.

    A Canadian father was mauled to death by a polar bear which he faced down to give his children time to run for their lives.

    in the country's northernmost territory of Nunavut while protecting his children.

    31-year-old Aaron Gibbons was killed by the bear while visiting Sentry Island, a fishing and hunting spot in the northernmost Canadian territory of Nunavut.

    According to the Toronto Star newspaper, Gibbons' uncle Gordy Kidlapik said: "When they were on the island walking around… a bear surprised them. The bear had started to stalk the children."

    Canadian national broadcaster CBC reported that Gibbons was unarmed when he confronted the bear, and put himself between it and his children to give them a chance to escape.

    Gibbons died on the scene, but his children were unharmed. The bear was shot and killed by another adult who came to the area, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

    Kidlapik said that increasing tourism in the area is partly to blame for the incident, as it has emboldened the bears in recent years.

    In a tweet, he wrote that a "walk with bears tour" becoming popular in the area had left his relative "having to defend against approaching bears that lost their fear of humans."

    Kidlapik's fears may be warranted — Ian Stirling, professor at the University of Alberta and polar bear expert, told the Toronto Star that polar bear tourism is an increasing concern among the community.

    "If a bear that’s gotten used to you, then also gets to be starving or hungry or whatever… I would think it would have much less reticence about attacking and killing a person for food," he said.

    Stirling stipulated, though, that not enough is known about Gibbon's death yet to say if its contact with humans had been a factor in the attack.

    It's been 18 years since a polar bear attack was recorded in the area.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Learning to celebrate failure at a young age led to this billionaire's success

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    • Before the Environmental Protection Agency started regulating pollution in the nation's air, water, and land, things were dire. These photos show how bad it was.
    • We've made significant progress since then, but there's still a lot of work to do to keep our environment and those who live in it healthy.
    • The Trump administration's EPA aims to roll back a number of environmental protections, though Scott Pruitt resigned on July 5 amid ethics scandals.
    • The new acting administrator of the EPA, Andrew Wheeler, is likely to continue with a similar agenda.
    • Now that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement, many experts think a number of environmental regulations could get overturned.

    As the story goes, the chemical-filled Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burst into flames on June 22, 1969, possibly ignited by a spark from a passing train.

    That had happened at least dozen times before on the Cuyahoga. Additional fires were known to blaze up on rivers in Detroit, Baltimore, Buffalo, and other cities.

    River fires were far from the only environmental disasters in the US at the time. A spill from an offshore oil rig in California coated the coast in oil and pollutants. Smog and car exhaust choked cities around the country.

    In the late 60s, Americans were growing more aware of how unregulated pollution and chemical use were endangering the country and the people in it. People were ready for a change. 

    In his 1970 State of the Union address, President Richard Nixon said: "We still think of air as free. But clean air is not free, and neither is clean water. The price tag on pollution control is high. Through our years of past carelessness we incurred a debt to nature, and now that debt is being called."

    Nixon followed that up with a list of requests to Congress and later that year announced the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.

    Soon after it was founded, the EPA began a photo project called Documerica that captured more than 81,000 images showing what the US looked like from 1971 to 1977. More than 20,000 photos were archived, and at least 15,000 have been digitized by the National Archives.

    The EPA's role since then has varied from administration to administration.

    Trump's former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt worked to roll back a number of rules that were previously put in place to protect air and water. Many reports suggested Pruitt's primary aim was to eliminate most environmental protections and dismantle parts of the regulatory agency.

    But on July 5, in the wake of a long list of scandals, Trump announced he'd accepted Pruitt's resignation.

    Pruitt had announced plans to kill the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration's main initiative to fight climate change by lowering emissions. Under Pruitt, the EPA also reversed a ban on a pesticide that can harm children's brains and moved to rescind the Clean Water Rule, which clarified the Clean Water Act to prohibit industries from dumping pollutants into streams and wetlands.

    Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, was Pruitt's deputy and is now acting administrator of the EPA, so it's likely that he will pursue a similar agenda.

    The resignation of Pruitt, along with the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, raises new questions about the future of environmental regulations in the US. Kennedy, who plans to finish his work on July 31, was the swing vote in a number of environmental cases, including the one that granted the EPA the ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. A new Trump nominee may be more likely to overturn key environmental protections, according to legal experts.

    As a reminder of what the US looked like before many of the EPA's policies were in place, here's a selection of the Documerica photos from the 1970s.

    SEE ALSO: Half of the Great Barrier Reef has died since 2016 — here's what happens if all coral reefs on Earth die off

    Many of these photos show life in America at the time, but several also document concerning environmental issues.

    Smog, seen here obscuring the George Washington Bridge in New York, was a far bigger problem.

    Smog was common, as this shot of Louisville and the Ohio River from 1972 shows.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Amur Leopard

    Every day, species around the planet are going extinct. And for each species that goes extinct, many more become and remain endangered due to habitat loss, poaching, and climate change.

    These threatened animals are included on the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of species.

    Here are 13 species at risk of extinction, including some that you probably didn’t even know existed:

    Simone Scully contributed to a previous version of this post. 

    SEE ALSO: Disturbing before-and-after images show what the San Francisco Bay Area could look like in 2100

    The Bornean orangutan

    Found only on the island of Borneo, Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) have a broader face and shorter beard than their cousins, Sumatran orangutans. This July, the IUCN changed their status to critically endangered because the population has declined by 60% since 1950, and, according to Scientific American, new projections estimate that their numbers will fall by another 22% by the year 2025.

    The main threats for these animals are habitat loss (forests are turned into rubber, oil palm or paper plantations) and illegal hunting. Aggravating the problem, females only reproduce every six to eight years— the longest birth interval of any land mammal — which makes conservation efforts slow.


    Ili pika (Ochontana iliensis) is a small mammal (only 7-8 inches long) that's native to the Tianshan mountain range of the remote Xinjiang region of China. Living on sloping bare rock faces and feeding on grasses at high elevations, this little creature is very rare — there are less than 1,000 left.

    The species was only discovered in 1983, but its numbers have declined by almost 70% since then, reports CNN. This is because the mammal's habitat is being affected by climate change. Rising temperatures have forced the pikas to retreat up into the mountain tops. In addition, grazing pressure from livestock and air pollution have likely contributed to their decline.

    Giant Otter

    Found only in South America, Giant otters, or Pteronura brasiliensis, are the largest otters in the world, with some as long as 6 feet. 

    Historically, giant otters were hunted for their pelts, causing a huge decline in their numbers. While they are no longer hunted today, they remain endangered because many of their aquatic habitats (rivers and lakes) have been degraded and destroyed, causing the fish populations they rely on for food to dwindle.

    They are often viewed as nuisances by humans, especially by fishermen. They are also threatened by gold-mining in the region, which leads to mercury poisoning. 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Natural Gas

    • Natural gas is replacing coal, which burns fewer carbon emissions and would potentially help fight climate change.
    • However, the production and manufacturing of natural gas releases methane into the air, which also contributes to climate change. 
    • Methane emissions from oil and gas operations are much higher than current EPA estimates.

    The Conversation

    Natural gas is displacing coal, which could help fight climate change because burning it produces fewer carbon emissions. But producing and transporting natural gas releases methane, a greenhouse gas that also contributes to climate change. How big is the methane problem?

    For the past five years, our research teams at Colorado State University have made thousands of methane emissions measurements at more than 700 separate facilities in the production, gathering, processing, transmission and storage segments of the natural gas supply chain.

    This experience has given us a unique perspective regarding the major sources of methane emissions from natural gas and the challenges the industry faces in terms of detecting and reducing, if not eliminating, them.

    Our work, along with numerous other research projects, was recently folded into a new study published in the journal Science. This comprehensive snapshot suggests that methane emissions from oil and gas operations are much higher than current EPA estimates.

    What's wrong with methane

    One way to quantify the magnitude of the methane leakage is to divide the amount of methane emitted each year by the total amount of methane pumped out of the ground each year from natural gas and oil wells. The EPA currently estimates this methane leak rate to be 1.4%. That is, for every cubic foot of natural gas drawn from underground reservoirs, 1.4% of it is lost into the atmosphere.

    This study synthesized the results from a five-year series of 16 studies coordinated by environmental advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which involved more than 140 researchers from over 40 institutions and 50 natural gas companies.

    The effort brought together scholars based at universities, think tanks and the industry itself to make the most accurate estimate possible of the total amount of methane emitted from all US oil and gas operations. It integrated data from a multitude of recent studies with measurements made on the ground and from the air.

    All told, based on the results of the new study, the US oil and gas industry is leaking 13 million metric tons of methane each year, which means the methane leak rate is 2.3%. This 60% difference between our new estimate and the EPA's current one can have profound climate consequences.

    Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the climate warming impact of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it is released.

    An earlier EDF study showed that a methane leak rate of greater than 3% would result in no immediate climate benefits from retiring coal-fired power plants in favor of natural gas power plants.

    That means even with a 2.3% leakage rate, the growing share of US electricity powered by natural gas is doing something to slow the pace of climate change. However, these climate benefits could be far greater.

    Also, at a methane leakage rate of 2.3%, many other uses of natural gas besides generating electricity are conclusively detrimental for the climate. For example, EDF found that replacing the diesel used in most trucks or the gasoline consumed by most cars with natural gas would require a leakage rate of less than 1.4% before there would be any immediate climate benefit.

    What's more, some scientists believe that the leakage rate could be even higher than this new estimate.

    What causes these leaks

    Perhaps you've never contemplated the long journey that natural gas travels before you can ignite the burners on the gas stove in your kitchen.

    But on top of the 500,000 natural gas wells operating in the US today, there are 2 million miles of pipes and millions of valves, fittings, tanks, compressors and other components operating 24 hours per day, seven days a week to deliver natural gas to your home.

    That natural gas that you burn when you whip up a batch of pancakes may have traveled 1,000 miles or more as it wended through this complicated network. Along the way, there were ample opportunities for some of it to leak out into the atmosphere.

    Natural gas leaks can be accidental, caused by malfunctioning equipment, but a lot of natural gas is also released intentionally to perform process operations such as opening and closing valves. In addition, the tens of thousands of compressors that increase the pressure and pump the gas along through the network are powered by engines that burn natural gas and their exhaust contains some unburned natural gas.

    Since the natural gas delivered to your home is 85 to 95% methane, natural gas leaks are predominantly methane. While methane poses the greatest threat to the climate because of its greenhouse gas potency, natural gas contains other hydrocarbons that can degrade regional air quality and are bad for human health.

    Inventory tallies vs. aircraft surveillance

    The EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory is done in a way experts like us call a "bottom-up" approach. It entails tallying up all of the nation's natural gas equipment – from household gas meters to wellpads – and estimating an annualized average emission rate for every category and adding it all up.

    There are two challenges to this approach. First, there are no accurate equipment records for many of these categories. Second, when components operate improperly or fail, emissions balloon, making it hard to develop an accurate and meaningful annualized emission rate for each source.

    "Top-down" approaches, typically requiring aircraft, are the alternative. They measure methane concentrations upwind and downwind of large geographic areas. But this approach has its own shortcomings.

    First, it captures all methane emissions, rather than just the emissions tied to natural gas operations – including the methane from landfills, cows and even the leaves rotting in your backyard. Second, these one-time snapshots may get distorted depending on what's going on while planes fly around capturing methane data.

    Historically, top-down approaches estimate emissions that are about twice bottom-up estimates. Some regional top-down methane leak rate estimates have been as high as 8% while some bottom-up estimates have been as low as 1%.

    More recent work, including the Science study, have performed coordinated campaigns in which the on-the-ground and aircraft measurements are made concurrently, while carefully modeling emission events.

    Helpful gadgets and sound policy

    On a sunny morning in October 2013, our research team pulled up to a natural gas gathering compressor station in Texas. Using an US $80,000 infrared camera, we immediately located an extraordinarily large leak of colorless, odorless methane that was invisible to the operator who quickly isolated and fixed the problem.

    We then witnessed the methane emissions decline tenfold – the facility leak rate fell from 9.8% to 0.7% before our eyes.

    It is not economically feasible, of course, to equip all natural gas workers with $80,000 cameras, or to hire the drivers required to monitor every wellpad on a daily basis when there are 40,000 oil and gas wells in Weld County, Colorado, alone.

    But new technologies can make a difference. Our team at Colorado State University is working with the Department of Energy to evaluate gadgetry that will rapidly detect methane emissions. Some of these devices can be deployed today, including inexpensive sensors that can be monitored remotely.

    Technology alone won't solve the problem, however. We believe that slashing the nation's methane leak rate will require a collaborative effort between industry and government. And based on our experience in Colorado, which has developed some of the nation's strictest methane emissions regulations, we find that best practices become standard practices with strong regulations.

    We believe that the Trump administration's efforts to roll back regulations, without regard to whether they are working or not, will not only have profound climate impacts. They will also jeopardize the health and safety of all Americans while undercutting efforts by the natural gas industry to cut back on the pollution it produces.

    SEE ALSO: There are more Americans working in solar than in coal or natural gas

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    NOW WATCH: Why Rolex watches are so expensive

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    You'd be surprised by how much raw material goes into the everyday items you use.

    For example, take your coffee habit. The average cup of coffee requires about 100 beans. So if you drink one cup per day, you'd need at least nine coffee trees producing full-time to give you a year's worth of joe. (That's not to mention the vast amounts of water, fertilizer, and manual labor needed to keep a coffee farm running.)

    In our modern lives, it's often easy to forget how many resources we're using day to day, since most of us are far removed from the places and processes in which most foods and products are made. 

    For that reason, we've compiled this list of how much raw material goes into 11 common food items and products.

    SEE ALSO: 15 books Bill Gates says you should read this summer

    It takes around a pound of sugarcane, depending on the variety, to produce 15 sugar cubes.

    Sugar production is a global industry, spanning the planet's tropical and subtropical regions. It's labor-intensive process: Sugarcane, the plant sugar comes from, must be harvested — usually by hand — and then cut, mashed, and boiled to become sugar.

    Depending on the variety, one ton of sugarcane can yield between 170 and 225 pounds of refined sugar, according to Purdue University's Center for New Crops and Plant Products.

    That means you'd need roughly one pound of sugarcane to make 15 3-gram sugar cubes, or around 3 ounces of raw sugarcane to make one sugar cube.



    Each iPhone contains 31 grams of aluminum.

    Your iPhone contains a number of metals, including titanium and iron. But there is far more aluminum, which is used to make your phone's outer case, than any other metal.

    Aluminum comprises around 24% of an iPhone's mass, followed by iron, which makes up around 14% of the device's mass, according to Motherboard.  

    The rest of the iPhone contains various rare earth elements and other metals like titanium, cobalt and nickel. 

    You'll need the annual yield of nine coffee trees to give you one cup of coffee per day for a year.

    Here's how this breaks down: An average cup of coffee uses around 100 coffee beans. A coffee tree can produce, on average, 4,000 coffee beans in a year, according to Treehugger. That means you'll need at least nine trees to produce a year's worth of coffee for a cup-per-day drinker.

    That's not to mention the inputs required for coffee to grow, get roasted, or brew, nor the fact that it takes a coffee tree at least 5 years to reach full productivity. 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    • Starbucks announced on Monday that it plans to eliminate single-use plastic straws globally by 2020. Last month, McDonald's said it will start testing plastic straw alternatives at select US locations this year.
    •  The announcements come amid calls from environmental activists urging American cities and food conglomerates to ditch plastic straws.
    • The effort to ban straws may seem like misplaced energy relative to the scale of all plastic waste, but it may serve as a litmus test for similar bans in the future.

    Two of the largest food conglomerates are moving toward ditching single-use plastic straws.

    On Monday, Starbucks announced that it will eliminate plastic straws globally by 2020. McDonald's said last month that it plans to test plastic straw alternatives at select US locations this year. In the UK, the fast-food giant has already decided to adopt biodegradable paper straws by 2019. And Bon Appétit Management, a food-service company with 1,000 US locations, announced last May that it's phasing out plastic straws as well. 

    Meanwhile, several American cities have enacted their own bans or have proposals in the works. In 2012, Miami Beach banned hotels from serving straws because they were ending up on the sand and in the ocean, threatening marine life. Fort Myers, Florida and Seattle took the same steps in January 2018. 

    New York City, as well as cities in Hawaii and California, have pending straw-ban legislation, too.

    Much of the reasoning behind straw bans is environmental. Because plastic straws are tiny and take more than 400 years to biodegrade, they commonly slip through the cracks of cities' waste-recycling processes, clogging ponds, rivers, and oceans. And unlike their plastic counterparts (like forks, takeout containers, plastic bags, etc.), straws don't offer a purpose besides a bit of convenience.

    In addition, disposing of plastic waste costs cities a lot of money. New York City, for example, spends at least $10 million a year to transport plastic, which includes straws and bags, to out-of-state landfills. Not offering plastic straws, or switching to metal ones, saves food companies money, too.

    A growing plastic problem

    Plastic straws make up a small fraction of all plastic waste. The most predominant types of plastic pollution are food wrappers and containers, which account for an estimated 31.1% of all plastic waste globally in 2017, according to a report from several environmental groups. That's followed by plastic bottle and container caps (15.5%), bags (11.2%), straws and stirrers (8.1%), beverage bottles (7.3%), and takeout containers (6.3%). Out of all the plastic that ends up in the ocean, straws comprise 4% of that waste, according to a 2018 study from a group of Australian scientists.

    In the past six decades, the mass production of plastics has increased so rapidly that it has generated around 6.3 billion metric tons of trash as of 2015. A 2017 study from researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that globally, 91% of all plastic isn't recycled.

    Much of this plastic pollutes the world's beaches, oceans, and landfills, and gets eaten by unsuspecting marine life.

    Strawless Lid Starbucks

    Banning plastic straws could serve as a litmus test

    While focusing on straws may seem like misplaced energy relative to more significant types of plastic waste, straw-ban legislation could lay the groundwork for wider plastic bans in the future.

    Some metros have struggled to pass bans on larger types of plastic waste — like grocery bags, cups, and cutlery — due to concerns that the changes would be too jarring to consumers.

    In April 2018, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a statewide plastic bag ban, but it has faced skepticism in the state legislature. According to Popular Science, some representatives see such regulations as evidence of government overreach.

    The plastic industry has largely opposed plastic bans and pushed for rules against the bans. Some officials have also argued that the power to enact such bans should lie with state governments, not individual cities. 

    In Tempe, Arizona, a city with 182,000 people, at least 50 million plastic bags get thrown away each year, according to New York Magazine. Tempe tried to implement legislation to limit plastic bag use, but in 2015, the Arizona State Legislature passed a bill that effectively outlawed bans on plastic products. 

    In 2017, Michigan became the seventh US state to do the same.

    Compared to plastic bags and containers, straws are an easier form of plastic waste for cities and businesses to eliminate — or, at the very least, find biodegradable alternatives for.

    In Starbucks' hometown of Seattle, the legislation the city passed in January seems to have prompted the company's straw ban. According to the new regulation, businesses that sell drinks will need to ditch their single-use straws by July 2019.

    Starbucks has a simple strategy to eliminate straws. First, the chain plans to launch recyclable straw-less lids and straws made from non-plastic materials. The company will roll out the initatives in two phases, starting in Seattle and Vancouver this fall, a company spokesperson told Business Insider. Starbucks locations throughout the rest of the world will follow by 2020.

    SEE ALSO: McDonald's is testing plastic straw alternatives as US cities crack down on single-use straws

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    NOW WATCH: This reusable straw collapses to fit on your keyring and 'will last a lifetime'

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    antarctica iceberg a68 larsen c ice shelf nasa earth observatory usgs

    • A Maryland-size iceberg broke off Antarctica in July 2017.
    • One year after calving, iceberg A68a has floated about 40 miles away from its birthplace.
    • A68a is wandering north, where it should eventually break up and melt.
    • Although the process may take a few years, some large icebergs survive for decades.

    One of the largest icebergs ever documented is still mostly intact one year after it broke off Antarctica, despite losing a big chunk and having its northern flank smashed to bits.

    The huge ice block, called A68 or A68a, calved from the Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017. It's hard to say exactly when A68 was born due to limited satellite coverage and thick cloud cover, but it happened sometime last year between July 10 and 12.

    Scientists at the time estimated iceberg A68 to be about the size of Maryland. It measured 1,000 feet thick and weighed 1.1 million tons — roughly the weight of 20 million Titanic ships.

    Iceberg A68 appears mostly intact today; satellites are watching as it floats in the Weddell Sea about 40 miles off the ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula.

    However, an animation shared by the Antarctic research program Project Midas shows that the 'berg has taken a beating.

    "The iceberg has been pushed around by ocean currents, tides, and winds, and its northern end has repeatedly been grounded in shallower water," the authors of a Project Midas blog post wrote on Monday. "These groundings led eventually to further pieces of the iceberg being shattered off in May 2018. Whilst not quite large enough to be given labels themselves, the total area of icebergs lost from A-68 in May was the size of a small city."

    The time-lapse animation below shows part of the Antarctic Peninsula from March 12, 2017 through July 5, 2018. You can see a huge crack in the Larsen C ice shelf creep north until the iceberg completely breaks off, then follow the path it has taken since.

    "Over the last year A-68 has not drifted far because of dense sea-ice cover in the Weddell Sea," Project Midas said.

    What will eventually happen to iceberg A68

    Antarctic icebergs calve naturally as snow piles up, forming ultra-dense ice that gravity then drags toward the ocean.

    From there, a predictable yet erratic story plays out.

    historical iceberg tracks scatterometer climate record pathfinder esa

    Most icebergs that calve from the Antarctic Peninsula get caught up in wind and water currents that drag them clockwise around the Southern Ocean as they move north.

    Scientists can't be sure where iceberg A68 will ultimately float, though some think it could drift more than 1,000 miles north to the Falkland Islands. The largest 'bergs can even reach South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands before vanishing.

    Martin O'Leary, a researcher at Swansea University and Project Midas, said on Reddit last year that A68 could take a couple of years to drift that far.

    It could be many years before it completely melts.

    In the case of B15, the second-biggest iceberg in recorded history, the process has taken nearly two decades. B15 snapped off Antarctica's Ross ice shelf in 2000. It had a surface area of 4,200 square miles — about the area of Jamaica and twice that of A68. Today it's drifting in warm waters near South Georgia.

    St Andrews Bay on South Georgia penguin seal beach shutterstock_438314467

    Warmer air causes surface melt that "works its way through the iceberg like a set of knives," Kelly Brunt, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a NASA Earth Observatory post in October 2017. "This is often the end of the life cycle of a lot of Antarctic icebergs."

    Scientists continue to study and debate what caused A68 to break off, including the role of climate change driven by human activity.

    "To me, it's an unequivocal signature of the impact of climate change on Larsen C," Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at NASA JPL, told CNN in July 2017. "This is not a natural cycle. This is the response of the system to a warmer climate from the top and from the bottom. Nothing else can cause this."

    SEE ALSO: Antarctica shed a colossal iceberg — here's how big it is compared to things you might comprehend

    DON'T MISS: Antarctica's sixth-largest iceberg is doomed — here's how its slow death will play out

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    NOW WATCH: A 1.1-trillion-ton iceberg has broken off Antarctica, and scientists say it's one of the largest ever recorded

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    Hurricane Chris

    • In 2018, we've seen three named storms form early in the Atlantic, including Hurricane Chris and Hurricane Beryl.
    • But unlike last year, it's looking like this might be a relatively calm Atlantic hurricane season.
    • That's because ocean temperatures are cool, an El Niño might form in the Pacific, and there's a lot of Saharan dust in the air.

    Earlier in the year, there were some signs that we could be in for another intense Atlantic hurricane season.

    Initial projections pegged the season as being likely to have slightly more storms than average — though 2017's "extremely active" hurricane season began with a similar forecast.

    Yet early signs of activity aside, projections for the rest of the hurricane season are changing, with experts now projecting a year that's average or even below average in terms of activity.

    First, a named storm, Subtropical Storm Alberto, showed up in May, a few days before hurricane season even officially kicked off.

    Hurricanes Beryl and Chris both formed by July 10, the fourth time there had been two hurricanes by that date in the satellite era (since 1966). Beryl threatened Caribbean islands still recovering from hurricanes like Irma and Maria. Chris formed off the coast of the US, whipping up strong surf.

    The remnants of Chris are now headed out to sea near Newfoundland, Canada, though the storm is still expected to create dangerous rip currents in the Northeast US on Thursday and Friday.

    Chris had the lowest pressure — a measure of a storm's intensity — for an Atlantic hurricane this early in the season since 2010's Hurricane Alex, Colorado State University (CSU) meteorologist Philip Kotzbach said on Twitter. As Kotzbach also noted, this was the first time since 1906 that a storm as strong as Chris was so far north by this time of year.

    Conditions around the globe, in the Atlantic, Caribbean, Pacifc, and in the winds from North Africa, all provide reason to think this year's hurricane season will be less stormy than last year's.

    hurricane maria

    What makes a hurricane season

    An average hurricane season is based on the 30-year average from 1981 to 2010. By that definition, an average season includes 12 named storms and six hurricanes, with three of those being major hurricanes — storms that qualify as category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

    CSU's newest forecast projects four hurricanes and ten named storms, with one being a major hurricane. If you average the predictions from major research institutions, government agencies, and universities, the mean prediction is six hurricanes, which would make this an average Atlantic season.

    Hurricanes in the Atlantic are formed by a confluence of global conditions, including ocean temperatures in both the Atlantic and the Pacific (which can affect winds), long-term ocean currents, and atmospheric winds.

    Right now, the tropical and subtropical Atlantic are abnormally cool, which favors less storm activity since tropical cyclones derive energy from warm waters. 

    A weak El Niño is also looking like it may form in the Pacific, meaning waters there could be slightly warmer than normal. That can create wind shear in the Atlantic, which tears apart hurricanes before they form. Caribbean trade winds are also quite strong right now, which can indicate a quiet season, according to Klotzbach.

    The final factor that's dampening storms right now comes from Africa. A lot of Saharan dust is being kicked up by winds and carried across the Atlantic, according to NASA. This dust can suppress storms before they form or intensify.

    Anyone who experienced the 2017 hurricane season in the Atlantic is hoping for a quiet season this year. But just one storm is all it takes to do damage to a populated area.

    SEE ALSO: How to avoid tick and mosquito bites this summer — a step-by-step guide

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    NOW WATCH: Super-Earths are real and they could be an even better place for life than Earth

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    greenland iceberg

    • This massive glacier is hovering over the tiny village of Innaarsuit in northwest Greenland.
    • Residents have been evacuated from the danger zone.
    • If it calves, the glacier could prompt a massive tsunami, swamping the town.

    They're used to seeing icebergs floating around in Greenland, but nothing quite this big.

    A massive iceberg came just shy of one football field's distance (100 meters) away from the shore there on Thursday, and some residents had to be evacuated to hillier spots.

    Keld Quistgaard from the Danish Meteorological Institute told the Danish Broadcasting Corporation that the 'berg weighs anywhere between eight and 10 million tons, and rises nearly 300 feet in the air above the water.

    "We are used to big icebergs, but we haven’t seen such a big one before," Susanna Eliassen, a member of the village council in Innaarsuit, told the Greenlandic Broadcasting Corporation (KNR).

    Just 169 people live in Innaarsuit, according to The New York Times. At least 33 people have been evacuated so far, KNR reported.

    On Saturday, the giant ice flow had moved out from the shore, and was sitting about 0.3 miles (500 meters) away from the village, but KNR was still calling it a "special situation," and images showed the town is not out of the danger zone yet.

    It's part of a troubling trend in the Arctic, where global warming is happening twice as fast as it is elsewhere on the planet.

    "The Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region it was decades ago,"the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said when it released its 2017 Arctic Report Card.

    Last year, at least four people were killed in Greenland when a huge wave washed ashore in June. F our houses were also flushed out to sea after a tsunami was prompted by a landslide.

    Watch what happens as just a sliver breaks off from the giant iceberg hovering over the town, causing a giant wave to head towards the shore, and gently rocking the entire mass of ice:

    Of course, Greenland isn't the only place feeling the heat recently.

    This summer, temperatures have sweltered across the US, with cities suffering through stifling heat waves from New York to LA.The Times reports that our steamy nights are warming nearly twice as fast as days, and it's becoming a deadly problem across North America.

    SEE ALSO: The Arctic is melting — and it shows no sign of returning to being reliably frozen

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    NOW WATCH: See Greenland's vast, untouched wilderness

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    kim terramino foods salmon burger

    • Fish-less "salmon" burgers may be the next frontier in the future of alternative meat products.
    • Kimberlie Le, the 23-year-old founder of a startup called Terramino Foods, is crafting burgers that taste like salmon using ingredients found in other foods.
    • Le was recently named a Peter Thiel Fellow and received $100,000 to pursue her idea.

    "Salmon" burgers without any fish may be the next frontier for the future of meat alternatives.

    Instead of smashing together beans and tofu or trying to coax animal cells to form edible tissues, Kimberlie Le, the founder of a startup called Terramino Foods, is taking an approach that draws inspiration from soy and sake.

    Le was recently named a Peter Thiel Fellow and received $100,000 from the venture capitalist to work on her "salmon" burger concept. The goal is to brew burgers that taste like salmon using things we already eat, such as a mushroom-like ingredient called koji that's currently used in miso soup and soy sauce.

    With the funding, Le hopes to finalize the company's recipe and double the size of Terramino Foods, which currently has four employees. Support from other Thiel Fellows will also play a key role in helping her hit these goals, she said.

    Burgers a' brewing

    salmon burgerThere's a race among startups to create alternatives to meat and fish that don't require killing animals.

    Besides the ethical concerns of farming and slaughtering livestock, the business of meat production is often wasteful and resource-intensive.

    Most meatless meat startups are approaching the problem in one of two ways. Some are trying to make meat-like burgers and meatballs from plant ingredients; others are brewing up animal cells in giant vats to create real cow, chicken, or fish flesh without any killing.

    But both of those approaches involve some pretty big hurdles.

    Products made from animal cells, like the ones that startups such as Just and Memphis Meats are exploring, require significant scientific expertise and government oversight to create. So far, no such product has been brought to consumer plates. And recipes for meat alternatives made from plants — such as plant-based burgers like the Impossible Burger— can be tough to nail down without a significant amount of time and money.

    So Le's company is pursuing a different strategy: using the fungus koji to make a product that tastes like seafood. 

    Miso & Ale, HonoluluSomewhat similar in meaty texture and taste to mushrooms, koji has a long culinary history. People have eaten it for thousands of years in foods like miso soup and soy sauce; it's also the fungus that feeds the fermantable sugars required to make sake.

    Koji's history, taste, and texture make it simpler for Terramino Foods to nail down a recipe and scale up production, since koji already provides a chewiness and bite that resembles something you'd expect from a burger. So Le doesn't have to worry about creating a brand new texture.

    "The advantage is we have naturally occurring texture which is very similar to meat," she told Business Insider.

    Le also loves koji's taste. She said that after tasting a real salmon burger recently, she could barely distinguish it from her own salmon-less recipe.

    "I was like, this tastes like our burger!" Le said.

    The importance of a supportive community

    A former student at the University of California Berkeley, Le dropped out to focus on her company. Last year, she and her co-founder completed a 4-month biotech accelerator program offered by IndieBio, which gave them $250,000 in seed funding and access to some of the resources they needed to get Terramino Foods off the ground.

    That financial backing supplements the funding from the Thiel Fellowship, which will also provide Le and Terramino Foods with a network of support from other fellows. Every Thiel fellow dropped out of college to pursue their ideas at age 22 or younger.

    Boyan Slat, the Dutch innovator behind the Ocean Cleanup plan to clear plastic from the ocean, is also a Thiel Fellow, as is Vitalik Buterin, the co-creator of digital currency Ethereum.

    Le said it's nice to be part of a network of people who didn't necessarily follow the conventional route to success.

    "Just having that support really helps — being a founder is a lonely job sometimes," she said. "It’s cool to be in a community that values hard work and innovation and bucks the trend of getting a standard nine-to-five job."

    Le hopes that by asking people in the Thiel Fellowship network about their startup experiences, she'll be able to start bringing her product to the masses in the next few years.

    "What we're doing isn't rocket science — it's growing fungi," Le said.

    SEE ALSO: A Silicon Valley biotech hub that offers startups $250,000 in funding explains the 'secret sauce' to success

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    My Burberry Campaign

    • Burberry is burning unsold stock to stop it falling into the wrong hands.
    • The luxury label destroyed more than £28 million ($37 million) of goods in the last 12 months.
    • Burberry said it takes the issue of waste "extremely seriously".
    • They said that they used specialist incinerators that harness energy from the process.

    Burberry has been burning millions of pounds worth of stock in order to stop it getting into the wrong hands, reports say.

    The luxury label, famous for its trench coats and handbags, has destroyed more than £28 million of unwanted products in the last 12 months.

    According to The Times, it is common for designer brands to destroy unwanted stock in order to stop them being sold at discount prices.

    The brands want to preserve the exclusivity of their goods and prevent them from falling into the hands of illegal counterfeiters.

    Burberry admitted that unwanted stock had been burnt but said that they used specialist incinerators that harness energy from the process.

    Emma Watson burberry

    The company told the newspaper it takes the issue of waste "extremely seriously".

    But the value of the brand’s waste is six times higher now than in 2013, with more than £90 million of Burberry products destroyed over the past five years, according to the newspaper.

    Destroying products has become common practice for the industry, with retailers describing it as a measure to protect intellectual property and prevent illegal counterfeiting by ensuring the supply chain remains intact.

    Luxury brands including Chanel and Louis Vuitton also burn or destroy unsold stock.

    Environmentalists have criticised the practise of destroying unwanted goods in the past.

    H&M has previously sent unsold stock to the Swedish city of Vasteras where it was burnt instead of coal to generate electricity.

    Richemont, the owner of Cartier and Montblanc, destroyed more than £400 million of watches over a two-year period after an excess in goods in the Asian markets.

    Nike has also admitted that a New York store slashed unsold trainers before throwing them away and last year an Urban Outfitters employee said he was instructed to "pour green paint” on unsold stock.

    SEE ALSO: Target is being sued by Burberry, and it reveals one of the biggest problems facing the clothing industry

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    NOW WATCH: Most affluent investors would rather go to the dentist than invest in a company that hurts the environment

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    Steam pipe explosion

    • A steam pipe explosion in New York City sent muck, steam, and asphalt into the air.
    • Electric company ConEd is also testing for asbestos contamination.
    • Asbestos is a building material that can be toxic when inhaled. It is linked to lung cancer.

    On Thursday, a steam pipe exploded on 5th Avenue in New York City, spewing muck, steam, and asphalt into the air. The incident also generated fears of asbestos contamination.

    "Environmental testing is being conducted to determine whether asbestos or other contaminants are present, but as a precaution anyone in the vicinity of the rupture who was covered in material is advised to bag their clothing and shower," electric company ConEd said in a statement on Twitter.

    The fire department confirmed the possibility of asbestos being released in the explosion. "We're operating with an abundance of caution since this steam main was installed in 1932, so there is possibly a presence of asbestos. Samples have been taken and we're awaiting the lab results. We are operating as though those samples will come back positive," FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said in a statement on Facebook.

    Why Asbestos is dangerous

    Asbestos was used as a building material for years before it was linked to lung cancer. The material can be toxic when we inhale it. 

    "Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals with current or historical commercial usefulness due to their extraordinary tensile strength, poor heat conduction, and relative resistance to chemical attack," the World Health Organization explains. For a long time, asbestos was used in insulation, water supply lines, roof shingles, break pads, and numerous other products.

    "The reality is that anybody brought up in the 1960s has probably been exposed, at some point, to asbestos," cancer researcher Paul Pharoah from Cambridge University recently told Business Insider. 

    Products that contain asbestos are not completely banned in the US today, though the Environmental Protection Agency regulates their use. But governments in other countries have completely banned the use of asbestos.

    In France, all forms have been outlawed since 1997, because the government there declared"at least 2000 people in France die every year from asbestos-related diseases."

    The World Health Organization says definitively that all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans, and causes cancer in the lungs, larynx, ovaries, as well as many cases of mesothelioma.

    SEE ALSO: 32 of the most dangerous things science has strongly linked to cancer

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    NOW WATCH: Here's the surprising way sugar led to our lung cancer epidemic

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    bald eagle

    • The Trump Administration wants to loosen up key provisions of the US Endangered Species Act.
    • The law, enacted in the 1970s, has long been a source of frustration for drillers, miners and other businesses.
    • The interior department says it's undoing some "unnecessary" regulatory burdens.
    • But conservation groups were quick to criticize the proposed move, labeling it a handout to big businesses that would ruin crucial animal protections.

    The Trump administration on Thursday proposed changes to key provisions of the U.S. Endangered Species Act in a move it said would streamline the law but which conservation groups slammed as an assault on wildlife protections.

    FILE PHOTO:  A grizzly bear and her two cubs approach the carcass of a bison in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, United States, July 6, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart/File Photo

    Under the proposed revisions, the administration would end a practice that automatically conveys the same protections for threatened species as for endangered species, and would strike language that guides officials to ignore economic impacts of how animals should be safeguarded. Threatened species are defined as those at risk of becoming endangered.

    The 1970s-era Endangered Species Act is credited with bringing back from the brink of extinction species such as bald eagles, gray whales and grizzly bears, but the law has long been a source of frustration for drillers, miners and other industries. New species listings can put vast areas of territory off limits to development.

    "ESA implementation was not consistent and often times very confusing to navigate," Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan said in a statement, explaining the changes.

    Conservation groups, however, called the moves a handout to big business.

    “These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

    The proposed changes also include evaluating a species' critical habitat initially only in places where it currently lives, rather than including areas where it could be expected to live if its population recovered.

    "These rules will be very protective and enhance the conservation of the species," Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt said on a conference call with reporters about the changes.

    "At the same time we hope that they ameliorate some of the unnecessary burden, conflict and uncertainty that is within our current regulatory structure," he said.

    The U.S. Departments of Interior and Commerce worked jointly to develop the new rules as part of President Donald Trump's push for federal agencies to streamline regulatory processes. The USFW Service falls under the Interior Department.

    (Reporting by Nichola Groom; additional reporting by Daniel Wallis; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Lisa Shumaker)

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