Gym or Raking Leaves?

How important is rigorous gym exercise versus ordinary work day exercise/tasks? New research at Oregon State University suggests the health benefits of small amounts of activity – even as small as one- and two-minute increments that add up to 30 minutes per day – can be just as beneficial as longer periods of physical exercise achieved by a trip to the gym. The nationally representative study of more than 6,000 American adults shows that an active lifestyle approach, as opposed to a structured exercise routine, may be just as beneficial in improving health outcomes, including preventing metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Peatland Forest Loss and Climate Change

The destruction of tropical peatland forests is causing them to haemorrhage carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, scientists say. The research, published in Nature, suggests peatland contributions to climate change have been badly underestimated. 'If you don't consider carbon lost through drainage then you underestimate the carbon losses from these deforested sites by 22 per cent,' says Dr Vincent Gauci of the Open University, one of the study's authors. 'And that's a conservative estimate; it could be much higher.'

Study: Risk of Heart Disease Down 32 Percent for Vegetarians

Meat consumption around the world has been on the rise as incomes have grown. In the United States, more meat is consumed than anywhere else. For many, a meal simply is not a meal if it does not have at least a half-pound of flesh on it. Vegetarianism has been in practice by large groups for quite a long time for both health and moral reasons. According to a new scientific study from the University of Oxford, vegetarians have new ammunition in their anti-meat crusade. The study claims that the risk of hospitalization or death from heart disease is 32 percent lower for vegetarians than for people who eat meat and fish.

‘Biotic Pump’ Theory Suggests Forests Drive Wind and Rain

It took over two-and-a-half-years for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics to finally accept a paper outlining a new meteorological hypothesis in which condensation, not temperature, drives winds. If proven correct, the hypothesis could have massive ramifications on global policy—not to mention meteorology—as essentially the hypothesis means that the world's forest play a major role in driving precipitation from the coast into a continent's interior. The theory, known as the biotic pump, was first developed in 2006 by two Russian scientists, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva of the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics, but the two have faced major pushback and delays in their attempt to put the theory before the greater scientific community.

Biochar Initiative Restores Hillside at Former Silver Mine in Colorado

Once an active silver mine in the early 19th century, Hope Mine recently transformed from a barren, abandoned plot into a verdant, restored landscape. Sierra Club Green Home explores the innovative biochar initiative led by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) that made it possible. Following the devaluation of silver and the Silver Panic of 1893, Hope Mine became a largely forgotten, desolate knoll. In 2003, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) assumed ownership of the mine and began to assess the mine waste that had formed at the site in large piles of toxic rock. Although the Aspen Water Department found no evidence of danger at the time, the site’s proximity to Castle Creek raised concern: If a storm or other event propelled the slope-like layers of mine waste to erode, Aspen’s water supply could be contaminated.

US Fish & Wildlife Service Considering Reintroducing Wood Bison to Alaska

North America's largest land animal will roam the Alaskan wilderness once again if a plan unveiled last week is approved. Wood bison, a subspecies of the more familiar plains bison, once lived throughout Alaska and much of western Canada but haven't been seen in the state's wilderness for more than a century due to hunting and other factors. That may be about to change: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a plan Jan. 17 to reintroduce the beasts, according to the Alaska Dispatch, a news website. Several groups have been trying to reintroduce wood bison for more than a decade. Some Alaskans have rejected the idea of introducing an animal listed under the Endangered Species Act for fear that this might interfere with gas and oil development, the Dispatch reported. (Habitats of endangered animals often cannot be used for certain commercial activities.)

Urban Heat Climate Effects

An urban heat island is a metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. The temperature difference usually is larger at night than during the day, and is most apparent when winds are weak. The main cause of the urban heat island is modification of the land surface by urban development which uses materials which effectively retain heat. Waste heat generated by energy usage is a secondary contributor. As a population center grows, it tends to expand its area, and increase in its average temperature. How far away does this effect persist? Does it significantly contribute to global warming?

Livestock falling ill in fracking regions, raising concerns about food

While scientists have yet to isolate cause and effect, many suspect chemicals used in drilling and hydrofracking (or "fracking") operations are poisoning animals through the air, water, or soil. Last year, Michelle Bamberger, an Ithaca, New York, veterinarian, and Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, published the first and only peer-reviewed report to suggest a link between fracking and illness in food animals.

Energy-Strapped Syrians Cut Down Precious Forests for Firewood

In Darkush, Syria, civilians must turn to their environment for the basic need of warmth. Day after day, freezing temperatures prevail, and tree after tree is cut down. The national park to the northwest of Idlib, a herding area, is slowly becoming a flatland. Without the trees, which are beautiful and rare, the volume of tourists at the site is likely to decrease tremendously. An area once known for its magnificent forests is sadly becoming known for its arboreal devastation.

Dung Beetle

Dung beetle occurs in coastal dunes and marshes around the Mediterranean Basin. They are also known as scarab beetles that were sacred to the ancient Egyptians. These insects roll balls of dung across the earth just as the sun god Ra rolled across the sky. A team of scientists from South Africa and Sweden have recently published a study indicating that there was a grain of truth in this belief. They found that these beetles use celestial navigation to roll their balls of dung in a straight path. The beetles orient themselves with star clusters and the wide band of star light we know as the Milky Way. These beetles were astronomers.