Illegal logging and unchecked economic development are taking a devastating toll on the forests of Vietnam and neighboring countries, threatening areas of biodiversity so rich that 1,700 species have been discovered in the last 15 years alone.
In the wake of the 2011 tsunami, the Japanese government is forgoing an opportunity to sustainably protect its coastline and is instead building towering concrete seawalls and other defenses that environmentalists say will inflict serious damage on coastal ecosystems.
Along the shores of New York Harbor, scientists are investigating whether this ubiquitous bivalve can be grown in urban areas as a way of cleansing coastal waters of sewage, fertilizers, and other pollutants.
In a Swedish fjord, European researchers are conducting an ambitious experiment aimed at better understanding how ocean acidification will affect marine life. Ultimately, these scientists hope to determine which species might win and which might lose in a more acidic ocean.
The danger that the decline of bees and other pollinators represents to the world’s food supply was highlighted this week when the European Commission decided to ban a class of pesticides suspected of playing a role in so-called “colony collapse disorder.”
From North America to Siberia, rising temperatures and drier woodlands are leading to a longer burning season and a significant increase in forest fires. Scientists warn that this trend is expected continue in the years ahead.
Electric bicycles are already popular in Europe and in China, which has more e-bikes than cars on its roads. Now, manufacturers are marketing e-bikes in the U.S., promoting them as a "green" alternative to driving.
The Danish capital is moving rapidly toward a zero-carbon future, as it erects wind farms, transforms its citywide heating systems, promotes energy efficiency, and lures more people out of their cars and onto public transportation and bikes.
Ontario is on the verge of becoming the first industrial region in North America to eliminate all coal-fired electrical generation. Here’s how Canada’s most populous province did it — and what the U.S. and others can learn from it.
A new study finds that household lead paint — banned for years in the U.S. and Europe because of its health effects on children — is commonly sold in the African nation of Cameroon. Is lead paint the latest case of Western companies selling unsafe products in developing countries?
U.S. climate activists have launched a movement to persuade universities, cities, and other groups to sell off their investments in fossil fuel companies. But while the financial impact of such divestment may be limited, the campaign could harm the companies in a critical sphere — public opinion.
Better Place was touted as one of the world’s most innovative electric vehicle start-ups when it launched six years ago. But after selling fewer than 750 cars in a major initiative in Israel and losing more than $500 million, the company’s experience shows that EVs are still not ready for primetime.
Renowned biologist George Schaller has been traveling to the Tibetan Plateau for nearly three decades, studying its unique wildlife. But with climate change and overgrazing taking a toll on the landscape, he reports, scientists and the Chinese government are working to preserve one of the planet’s wildest places.
The Netherlands’ system of dikes and sea gates has long been the best in the world. But as the country confronts the challenges of climate change, it is increasingly relying on techniques that mimic natural systems and harness nature’s power to hold back the sea.
With activists killed in Brazil, Cambodia, the Philippines, and elsewhere, 2012 may have been the worst year yet for violence against those working to protect the environment. So far, little has been done to halt this chilling development.
In a new paper, the world’s leading polar bear scientists say the time has come to consider drastic measures to save these iconic animals, including supplemental feeding by humans during ice-free periods and relocating more southerly populations to the High Arctic.
The mining of rare earth metals, used in everything from smart phones to wind turbines, has long been dominated by China. But as mining of these key elements spreads to countries like Malaysia and Brazil, scientists warn of the dangers of the toxic and radioactive waste generated by the mines and processing plants.
Urban stormwater runoff is a serious problem, overloading sewage treatment plants and polluting waterways. Now, various U.S. cities are creating innovative green infrastructure — such as rain gardens and roadside plantings — that mimics the way nature collects and cleanses water.
The Atlantic Canyons off the Northeastern U.S. plunge as deep as 15,000 feet and harbor diverse and fragile marine ecosystems. Now, the Obama administration’s plans to consider offshore oil and gas exploration in the canyons is troubling conservationists.
Scientists are conducting intriguing — and counterintuitive — experiments at several sites in Germany: Bringing back long-lost herbivores, such as water buffalo, to encourage the spread of native plants that have fared poorly in Europe’s human-dominated landscape.
Across the U.S. Midwest, homeowners are restoring their yards and former farmland to the native prairie that existed in pre-settlement days. The benefits can be substantial — maintenance that uses less water and no fertilizer, and an ecosystem that supports wildflowers and wildlife.
As economic activity and populations continue to expand in coastal urban areas, particularly in Asia, hundreds of trillions of dollars of infrastructure, industrial and office buildings, and homes are increasingly at risk from intensifying storms and rising sea levels.
Conservation organizations are working with industry to try to make beef production more sustainable. But some are questioning whether green groups should be accepting funds from the beef industry or whether they should instead be urging consumers to stop eating beef.
With the relationship between utilities and their customers changing in unprecedented ways, new companies are deploying vast amounts of data and social psychology techniques to try to persuade people to use less electricity in their homes.
The rapid development of Alberta’s tar sands has spawned a new proposal for a 731-mile pipeline that would transport oil to the British Columbia coast. The project is strongly opposed by conservationists and First Nations leaders, who fear the environmental risks it would bring.
The killing of rhinoceroses has escalated dramatically, especially in South Africa, which is home to 75 percent of the world’s rhino population. The slaughter is being orchestrated by brazen, highly organized gangs that smuggle the rhinos' horns to black markets in China and Southeast Asia.
Years of sanctions against Myanmar’s military regime helped protect its extensive wild lands. But as the country’s rulers relax their grip and welcome foreign investment, can the nation protect its forests and biodiversity while embracing development?
New York City had been gradually preparing for a world of rising seas and more powerful storms. But the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy is now forcing officials to consider spending billions of dollars on storm protection, including a network of surge barriers.
Researchers have been documenting the deadly threat that fishing lines and ropes pose to large whales that become entangled in them. Now, new studies are pointing to another disturbing fact: the ensnared whales endure enormous pain and prolonged suffering.
A host of startup companies are pursuing new technologies that they claim will soon lead to large-scale commercialization of biofuels made from algae. But questions remain about the viability and environmental benefits of what some of its developers are calling “green crude.”
Inadequate sewage systems and the lack of toilets in much of the developing world have created a major public health and environmental crisis. Now various innovators are promoting new kinds of toilets and technologies that use little or no water and recycle the waste.
In Guatemala’s vast Maya Biosphere Reserve, conservation groups are battling to preserve a unique rainforest now under threat from Mexican drug cartels, Salvadoran drug gangs, and Chinese-backed groups illegally logging prime tropical hardwoods.
With Arctic summer sea ice rapidly disappearing, the native Inuit of Canada are encountering not only unsettling changes in their subsistence way of life, but also a growing number of outsiders who will further transform their once-isolated homeland.
A host of start-up companies are exploring ways to harness the enormous amount of wind energy flowing around the earth, especially at high altitudes. But as these innovators are discovering, the engineering and regulatory challenges of what is known as airborne wind power are daunting.
Mega-dams and massive government-run irrigation projects are not the key to meeting world’s water needs, a growing number of experts now say. For developing nations, the answer may lie in small-scale measures such as inexpensive water pumps and other readily available equipment.
The Andes in eastern Peru, with steep slopes and remarkable biodiversity, are what one scientist calls a “perfect laboratory” for studying the effects of climate change. E360 contributor Elizabeth Kolbert trekked there with researchers seeking to determine if tree populations can move uphill fast enough to survive warming temperatures.
The amount of time it takes to recharge lithium-ion batteries has been a major impediment to consumer acceptance of electric vehicles. But a host of companies and researchers are working intensively to develop a battery that can recharge in 10 minutes and power a car for hundreds of miles.
Scientists say this year’s record declines in Arctic sea ice extent and volume are powerful evidence that the giant cap of ice at the top of the planet is on a trajectory to largely disappear in summer within a decade or two, with profound global consequences.
Growing conflicts over development in South America have come to a head in Bolivia, where indigenous groups are resisting a highway project that would slice through a national park. How Bolivia resolves this showdown could point the way for other regions seeking to balance economic growth and the environment.
From Seattle to Sweden, an ever-growing number of city and regional governments are using roof gardens, specially designed wetlands, and other forms of “green infrastructure” to rein in pollution from countless diffuse sources — and to save money.
In Mongolia, U.S. scientists are studying climate clues in ancient tree rings to help answer a crucial question: How will global warming affect Asia’s monsoon rains, which supply water for agriculture and drinking to half the world’s population?
Two recent studies highlight the harm that industrial fisheries are doing to the world’s seabirds, either by overharvesting the birds’ favorite prey or by drowning birds hooked on longlines. But tighter regulations and innovative technologies are starting to significantly reduce seabird “bycatch,” slashing it by 90 percent in some regions.
As shrimp aquaculture has boomed globally to keep pace with surging demand, the environmental toll on mangroves and other coastal ecosystems has been severe. Now, conservation groups and some shrimp farmers are creating a certification scheme designed to clean up the industry and reward sustainable producers.
In China’s sprawling Xinjiang region, where the population is growing and cotton farming is booming, a key river has been running dry in summer. Now a team of international scientists is grappling with a problem facing the Tarim River basin and other mountainous regions — how to secure water supplies as demands increase and glaciers melt.
Vehicles that virtually drive themselves are no longer the stuff of science fiction, with Google and other companies working to develop self-driving cars. These automated vehicles not only offer improved safety and fewer traffic jams, but real environmental benefits as well.
In fish-crazed Japan, where eating seafood is a vital part of the nation's culture, conservation groups are working with companies to persuade more Japanese to eat certified, sustainably caught seafood. It's an uphill struggle, but one that could have significant impact on the world's fisheries.
The Dead Sea — the lowest terrestrial point on the planet — is dropping at an alarming rate, falling more than 1 meter a year. A $10 billion proposal to pipe water from the Red Sea is being opposed by conservationists, who point to alternatives that could help save one of the world’s great natural places.
The once-magnificent tropical forests of Borneo have been decimated by rampant logging and clearing for oil palm plantations. But in the Malaysian state of Sabah, a top official is fighting to reverse that trend by bringing sustainable forestry to the beleaguered island.
A planned carbon capture and storage plant in West Texas is being billed as the “cleanest coal plant in the world.” But can the $3 billion project help move the global power industry toward the elusive goal of low-carbon electricity, or is it just another way of perpetuating fossil fuels?
The regime of President Robert Mugabe has been accused of profiting from the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe, garnering illicit funds that could be used to bolster his oppressive security forces. Now critics are alleging the government is failing to stop mining-waste pollution that is sickening livestock and local villagers.
Five nations in southern Africa are joining together to create a huge conservation area that will extend across their borders and expand critical territory for elephants. But can these new protections reverse decades of decline for area wildlife while also benefiting the people who live there?
With melting sea ice opening up previously inaccessible parts of the Arctic Ocean, the fishing industry sees a potential bonanza. But some scientists and government officials have begun calling for a moratorium on fishing in the region until the true state of the Arctic fishery is assessed.
The vast amount of glass in skyscrapers and office buildings represents enormous potential for an emerging technology that turns windows into solar panels. But major questions remain as to whether solar windows can be sufficiently inexpensive and efficient to be widely adopted.
Rhinoceroses worldwide are under siege as their habitat shrinks and poachers slaughter hundreds annually for their valuable horns. Now, in Indonesia, conservation groups are engaged in a desperate struggle to save the last 40 Javan rhinos on earth.
If the damages related to climate change mount in the coming decades, insurance companies may face the prospect of paying larger disaster claims and being dragged into global warming lawsuits. But many firms, especially in the U.S., have barely begun to confront the risks.
The Ogoniland region of Nigeria has long been badly polluted by decades of oil production that has fouled the delta and contaminated drinking water. A United Nations report has recommended a massive recovery initiative, but so far the Nigerian government has shown few signs it will agree to the cleanup project.
U.S. consumers tell researchers they want to buy environmentally friendly products, but so far they haven’t been doing that on a large scale. Now a host of companies and nonprofits are trying to use new technology — from smartphones to social networking — to make it easier for buyers to make the green choice.
A surge in gas and oil drilling in the U.S. is helping drive the economic recovery and is enhancing energy security. But as the situation in Ohio shows, cheaper energy prices and the focus on fossil fuels has been bad news for the renewable energy industry.
For decades, farm bills in the U.S. Congress have supported large-scale agriculture. But with the 2012 Farm Bill now up for debate, advocates say seismic shifts in the way the nation views food production may lead to new policies that tilt more toward local, sustainable agriculture.
A new study finds that even low doses of hormone-disrupting chemicals — used in everything from plastics to pesticides – can have serious effects on human health. These findings, the researchers say, point to the need for basic changes in how chemical safety testing is conducted.
From the rainforests of central Africa to the Australian outback, indigenous people armed with GPS devices are surveying their territories and producing maps they can use to protect them from logging and other outside development.
Long ahead of the rest of the U.S. on environmental policy, California is taking bold steps to tackle climate change — from committing to dramatic reductions in emissions, to establishing a cap-and-trade system, to mandating an increase in zero-emission vehicles. The bottom line, say state officials, is to foster an economy where sustainability is profitable.
It is a pattern seen in various parts of the world — children being sickened from exposure to lead from mining activities. But the scale of the problem in Nigeria’s gold-mining region of Zamfara is unprecedented: More than 400 children have died and thousands more have been severely poisoned by exposure to lead dust.
Polar bears have long come ashore in Churchill, Manitoba, the self-styled ‘Polar Bear Capital of the World.’ But as summer sea ice steadily disappears in Hudson Bay, bears are being marooned on land for longer periods of time — and that is generating a lot of work for the Polar Bear Alert Team.
The world has never seen anything like China’s dizzying urbanization boom, which has taken a heavy environmental toll. But efforts are now underway to start using principles of green design and smart growth to guide the nation’s future development.
With advances in a technique known as fast-track breeding, researchers are developing crops that can produce more and healthier food and can adapt and thrive as the climate shifts.
Canada’s Nunavut Territory is the largest undisturbed wilderness in the Northern Hemisphere. It also contains large deposits of uranium, generating intense interest from mining companies and raising concerns that a mining boom could harm the caribou at the center of Inuit life.
The big electric car launches of 2011 failed to generate the consumer excitement that some had predicted. But as new battery technologies emerge and tougher mileage standards kick in, automakers and analysts still believe that electric vehicles have a bright future.
With the industry’s support and despite political opposition, new U.S. lighting efficiency standards went into effect this month. This move, along with similar actions in Europe and China, is helping spur new technologies that will change the way the world's homes and businesses are illuminated.
While U.S. action on climate change remains stalled, four south Florida counties have joined forces to plan for how to deal with the impacts — some of which are already being felt — of rising seas, higher temperatures, and more torrential rains.
The Japanese government is launching a large-scale cleanup of the fields, forests, and villages contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But some experts caution that an overly aggressive remediation program could create a host of other environmental problems.
Warming temperatures associated with climate change are already affecting vineyards from France to Chile, often in beneficial ways. But as the world continues to warm, some traditional winemaking regions are scrambling to adapt, while other areas see themselves as new wine frontiers.
One idea promoted at the Durban talks was “climate-smart agriculture," which could make crops less vulnerable to heat and drought and turn depleted soils into carbon sinks. The World Bank and African leaders are backing this new approach, but some critics are skeptical that it will benefit small-scale African farmers.
Scientists and conservationists are increasingly relying on heat- and motion-activated camera traps to study rare or reclusive species in remote habitats. And the striking images they provide are proving to be a boon for raising conservation awareness worldwide.
Sweden has a reputation as being one of the world’s most environmentally progressive nations. But its surprisingly lax forestry laws often leave decisions about logging to the timber companies — and as a result, large swaths of biologically-rich boreal forest are being lost.
The acidification of the world’s oceans from an excess of CO2 has already begun, as evidenced recently by the widespread mortality of oyster larvae in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists say this is just a harbinger of things to come if greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar.
The expanses of longleaf pine forest that once covered the southeastern United States have been whittled away to just 3 percent of their original range. But as scientists are discovering, this threatened forest ecosystem has found a sanctuary in an unexpected place — U.S. military installations.
No more cost-effective way to make major cuts in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions exists than retrofitting buildings. Now, from New York to Mumbai to Melbourne, a push is on to overhaul older buildings to make them more energy efficient.
Recent studies shed light on the key question of whether certain species, including slow-moving amphibians, can move swiftly enough to new territories as their old habitats warm. The challenges are formidable, especially if human-caused warming continues at such a rapid rate.
The development of the tar sands and other oil and gas fields in Alberta has carved up the Canadian province's boreal forest, threatening herds of woodland caribou. But rather than protect caribou habitat, officials have taken a controversial step: the large-scale killing of the wolves that prey on the caribou.
In an increasingly interconnected world, fungal diseases are spreading at an alarming rate and have led to deadly outbreaks in amphibian, bat, and bee populations. And in the last decade, researchers note, some of the most virulent strains have infected people.
Shenyang — once a key in Mao Zedong’s push to industrialize China — has begun to emerge from its smoggy past, cleaning up its factories and expanding its green spaces. In doing so, this city of 8 million people has been in the forefront of a growing environmental consciousness in urban China.
Conservationists have long called for creating ecological corridors that would enable large mammals and other wildlife to roam more freely across an increasingly developed planet. But now scientists are taking a closer look at just how well these corridors are working and what role they might play in a warming world.
A new imaging system that uses a suite of airborne sensors is capable of providing detailed, three-dimensional pictures of tropical forests — including the species they contain and the amount of CO2 they store — at astonishing speed. These advances could play a key role in preserving the world’s beleaguered rainforests.
New studies have underscored the potentially harmful health effects of the most widely used flame retardants, found in everything from baby blankets to carpets. Health experts are now calling for more aggressive action to limit these chemicals, including cutting back on highly flammable, petroleum-based materials used in many consumer products.
The draining and burning of peat bogs is a major global source of CO2 emissions. Now, a pilot project in Russia — where wildfires burned vast areas of dried-out bogs last summer — is looking to re-flood and restore tens of thousands of acres to their natural state.
As global agricultural companies turn to Africa, a U.S. firm is planning a massive oil palm plantation in Cameroon that it says will benefit local villagers. But critics argue that the project would destroy some of the key remaining forests in the West African nation and threaten species-rich reserves.
The former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan is home to some of the world’s largest remaining forests of walnut and wild fruit trees. In an effort to sustainably manage this global resource, an international project has focused on ending Soviet-style management and giving power — and a profit incentive — to local farmers.
In Germany’s capital — and in cities as diverse as Hong Kong and Chicago — raising bees on rooftops and in small gardens has become increasingly popular, as urban beekeepers find they can reconnect with nature and maybe even make a profit.
In pockets ranging from mountain peaks to bogs, scientists are discovering plants and animals that survived previous eras of climate change. Now, conservation biologists say, these climate “relicts” could shed light on how some species may hang on in the coming centuries.
Daunted by high up-front costs, U.S. homeowners continue to shy away from residential solar power systems, even as utility-scale solar projects are taking off. But with do-it-yourself kits and other innovative installation approaches now on the market, residential solar is having modest growth.
In the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns, some nations are looking to move away from nuclear power. But not China, which is proceeding with plans to build 36 reactors over the next decade. Now some experts are questioning whether China can safely operate a host of nuclear plants.
The contentious practice of hydrofracking to extract underground natural gas has now made its way to South Africa’s Karoo, a semi-desert known for its stark beauty and indigenous plants. But opposition is growing amid concern that fracking will deplete and pollute the area’s scarce water supplies.
For two decades, the once-scenic Lake Taihu in eastern China has been choked with devastating algae blooms that have threatened drinking water for millions. Now, in a move that could provide lessons for other huge lakes worldwide, China is taking steps to restore Taihu’s ecological balance.
A rapidly expanding universe of citizens’ groups, researchers, and environmental organizations are making use of social media and smart phone applications to document changes in the natural world and to mobilize support for taking action.
Phosphate has been essential to feeding the world since the Green Revolution, but its excessive use as a fertilizer has led to widespread pollution and eutrophication. Now, many of the world’s remaining reserves are starting to be depleted.
Exploiting North America’s largest oil deposit has destroyed vast stretches of Canada's boreal forest, arousing the ire of those opposed to this massive development of fossil fuels. Now those opponents are battling the Keystone XL pipeline, which would pass through environmentally sensitive Western lands as it moves the oil to market.
Even before this spring’s ominous clampdown on China’s public-interest lawyers, writers, and activists, the country’s fledgling environmental community felt the authorities’ noose tightening.
Few places in the U.S. are as well suited to developing renewable energy as the contaminated sites known as “brownfields.” But as communities from Philadelphia to California are discovering, government support is critical to enable solar and wind entrepreneurs to make use of these abandoned lands.
Workers groups in South Korea report an unusually high incidence of cancers and other serious diseases among employees at Samsung’s semiconductor and other electronics plants. While the company denies any link, the pattern of illnesses is disturbingly similar to that seen at semiconductor facilities in the U.S. and Europe.
For millennia, the blanket of ice covering the Arctic Ocean protected the shore from damaging storms. But as that ice buffer disappears, increasingly powerful storm surges are eroding the coastline and sending walls of seawater inland, devastating Arctic ecosystems that support abundant wildlife.
A decade after a brutal civil war, the West African nation of Liberia has partnered with the European Union on a novel system for protecting its remaining forests — marking every harvestable tree so it can be traced to its final destination. But given Liberia’s history of conflict and corruption, will it work?
What if the ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide that are heating up the atmosphere could be used to produce an abundant supply of liquid fuels? The U.S. government and private labs are pursuing that Holy Grail of renewable energy — but for now the cost of large-scale production is prohibitive.
Scientists studying the effects of prenatal exposure to pesticides on the cognitive abilities of children have come to a troubling conclusion: Whether pregnant mothers are exposed to organophosphate pesticides in California fields or New York apartments, the chemicals appear to impair their children’s mental abilities.
Shortly after gaining independence in 1990, Namibia turned ownership of its wildlife back to the people. By using a system of community-based management, this southern African nation has avoided the fate of most others on the continent and registered a sharp increase in its key wildlife populations.
The disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan convinced German Chancellor Angela Merkel that nuclear power would never again be a viable option for her country. Now Merkel has embarked on the world’s most ambitious plan to power an industrial economy on renewable sources of energy.
Now in its seventh year, the EU’s carbon emissions trading system is the only international program designed to use market mechanisms to control CO2 emissions. But critics contend it has done little to slow the release of CO2 and argue that it should be significantly reformed — or scrapped.
While Brazil touts its efforts to slow destruction of the Amazon, another biodiverse region of the country is being cleared for large-scale farming. But unlike the heralded rainforest it borders, the loss of the cerrado and its rich tropical savanna so far has failed to attract much notice.
With contaminated water from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear complex continuing to pour into the Pacific, scientists are concerned about how that radioactivity might affect marine life. Although the ocean’s capacity to dilute radiation is huge, signs are that nuclear isotopes are already moving up the local food chain.
A forbidding, 870-mile network of fences and guard towers once ran the length of Germany, separating East and West. Now, one of the world’s most unique nature reserves is being created along the old “Death Strip,” turning a monument to repression into a symbol of renewal.
With giant tortoises, elephants, and other fruit-eating animals disappearing from many of the world’s tropical woodlands, forests are suffering from the loss of a key function performed by these creatures: the dispersal of tree seeds. But a new experiment shows that introduced species may be able to fulfill this vital ecological role.
When wildlife biologists ventured into a Vermont cave this month, they found disturbing evidence that white-nose syndrome was continuing to take its toll on once-abundant bat populations. But the question remains: What can be done to halt the spread of this still-mysterious ailment?
The disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant has highlighted the importance of nuclear energy to Japan and the power long wielded by the nuclear sector. But that influence now is sure to wane, to the relief of opponents who have fought for years to check nuclear's rapid growth.
The Ethiopian region of Gambella is home to Africa’s second-largest mammal migration, with more than a million endangered antelope and other animals moving through its grasslands. But the government has now leased vast tracts to foreign agribusinesses who are planning huge farms on land designated a national park.
As concerns grow in the U.S. about the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to extract natural gas from shale, companies have set their sights on Europe and its abundant reserves of this “unconventional” gas. But from Britain to Poland, critics warn of the potentially high environmental cost of this looming energy boom.
One of the tenets of conservation management holds that alien species are ecologically harmful. But a new study is pointing to research that demonstrates that some non-native plants and animals can have beneficial impacts.
For decades, deadly outbreaks of cholera were attributed to the spread of disease through poor sanitation. But recent research demonstrates how closely cholera is tied to environmental and hydrological factors and to weather patterns — all of which may lead to more frequent cholera outbreaks as the world warms.
Grizzly bears mating with polar bears. Red foxes out-competing Arctic foxes. Exotic diseases making their way into once-isolated polar realms. These are just some of the worrisome phenomena now occurring as Arctic temperatures soar and the Arctic Ocean, a once-impermeable barrier, melts.
Across the U.S., companies are planning scores of projects to burn trees and wood waste to produce electricity, claiming such biomass plants can be carbon-neutral. But critics contend that combusting wood is not really a form of green energy and are urging a go-slow approach until clear guidelines can be established.
The inland Niger delta of Mali is a unique wetland ecosystem that supports a million farmers, fishermen, and herders and a rich diversity of wildlife. But now, the country’s president and Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi have begun a major agricultural project that will divert much of the river’s water and put the delta’s future at risk.
An increasingly productive way of restoring fisheries is based on the counter-intuitive concept of allowing fishermen to take charge of their own catch. But the success of this growing movement depends heavily on a strong leader who will look out not only for the fishermen, but for the resource itself.
To shift the global economy from fossil fuels to renewable energy will require the construction of wind, solar, nuclear, and other installations on a vast scale, significantly altering the face of the planet. Can these new forms of energy approach the scale needed to meet the world’s energy demands?
The world’s oceans have been experiencing enormous blooms of jellyfish, apparently caused by overfishing, declining water quality, and rising sea temperatures. Now, scientists are trying to determine if these outbreaks could represent a “new normal” in which jellyfish increasingly supplant fish.
With high gold prices fueling a global gold rush, millions of people in the developing world are turning to small-scale gold mining. In many countries, including Colombia, miners are putting themselves and those who live nearby at risk by using highly toxic mercury in the refining process.
The Chinese government has begun to make environmental records available to the public, empowering green groups and citizens as they try to force factories — and the Western companies they supply — to comply with the law.
To offset their own carbon emissions, European companies have been overpaying China to incinerate a powerful greenhouse gas known as hfc 23. And in a bizarre twist, those payments have spurred the manufacture of a harmful refrigerant that is being smuggled into the U.S. and used illegally.
The idea of creating biochar by burning organic waste in oxygen-free chambers — and then burying it — is being touted as a way to cool the planet. But while it already is being produced on a small scale, biochar’s proponents and detractors are sharply divided over whether it can help slow global warming.
Long a proven technology in Europe, green roofs are becoming increasingly common in U.S. cities, with major initiatives in Chicago, Portland, and Washington, D.C. While initially more expensive than standard coverings, green roofs offer some major environmental — and economic — benefits.
The fringes of the coldest continent are starting to feel the heat, with the northern Antarctic Peninsula warming faster than virtually any place on Earth. These rapidly rising temperatures represent the first breach in the enormous frozen dome that holds 90 percent of the world’s ice.
While the collapse of climate legislation in Congress was a setback for some green businesses, many others are moving ahead with projects to develop renewable energy. One major reason: The clean-tech sector is rapidly growing worldwide, and U.S. companies don’t want to be left behind.
In the past century, populations of wild tigers have plummeted from 100,000 to 3,500. Now the World Bank and conservationists have launched an eleventh-hour effort to save this great predator, focusing on reining in the black market for tiger parts and ending the destruction of tiger habitat.
In China, millions of tons of waste from livestock farms are causing severe water pollution and massive emissions of methane. Now, some large livestock operators are turning to biogas fuel production in hopes of creating “ecological” factory farms.
With large swaths of forest destroyed by wartime defoliants, and even larger areas lost to post-war logging, Vietnam has set an ambitious goal for regenerating its woodlands. But proponents of reintroducing native tree species face resistance from a timber industry that favors fast-growing exotics like acacia.
The number of salmon in the Pacific Ocean is twice what it was 50 years ago. But there is a downside to this bounty, as growing numbers of hatchery-produced salmon are flooding the Pacific and making it hard for threatened wild salmon species to find enough food to survive.
Amid China’s seemingly boundless emissions of industrial pollutants, there are signs of hope. Discharges of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, have actually decreased, offering some evidence that China is starting to establish a culture of pollution monitoring and control.
Will electric cars one day become part of a network of rechargeable batteries that can help smooth out the intermittent nature of wind and solar power? Many experts believe so, pointing to programs in Europe and the U.S. that demonstrate the promise of vehicle-to-grid technology.
The U.S. has invested billions of dollars trying to create a controlled form of nuclear fusion that could be the energy source for an endless supply of electricity. But as a federal laboratory prepares for a key test, major questions remain about pulling off this long-dreamed-of technological feat.
Across the Far North, populations of caribou — an indispensable source of food and clothing for indigenous people — are in steep decline. Scientists point to rising temperatures and a resource-development boom as the prime culprits.
In the early 20th century, Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov created a preserve outside St. Petersburg that today contains one of the world’s largest collections of rare seeds and crops. Now, scientists and conservationists are waging an international campaign to save the reserve’s fields from being bulldozed for housing development.
As Scotland asserts its identity and its autonomy, environmentalists are working to restore its denuded landscape – planting native forests, creating wildlife corridors, and reintroducing species that were wiped out centuries ago.
Ecuador's Yasuni National Park is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and is home to remote Indian tribes. It also sits atop a billion barrels of oil. Now, Ecuador and the United Nations are forging an ambitious plan to walk away from drilling in the park in exchange for payments from the international community.
The freshwater eel, which spawns in the middle of the ocean, was once abundant in much of the world. But the proliferation of dams, coastal development, and overfishing have drastically reduced eel populations, with few defenders coming to the aid of these fascinating — though still not fully understood — creatures.
Coffee production has long been vulnerable to drought or excess rains. But recently, a tiny insect that thrives in warmer temperatures — the coffee berry borer — has been spreading steadily, devastating coffee plants in Africa, Latin America, and around the world.
The Yangtze has been carved up by dams, used as an open sewer, and subjected to decades of overfishing. Now, Chinese scientists — alarmed by the disappearance of the Yangtze river dolphin and other creatures — are calling for a 10-year moratorium on fishing in the world’s third-longest river.
The Gulf of Mexico’s capacity to recover from previous environmental assaults — especially the 1979 Ixtoc explosion — provides encouragement about the prospects for its post-Deepwater future. But scientists remain worried about the BP spill's long-term effects on the health of the Gulf and its sea life.
While some studies have suggested that frequent use of cell phones causes increased risk of brain and mouth cancers, others have found no such links. But since cell phones are relatively new and brain cancers grow slowly, many experts are now recommending taking steps to reduce exposure.
With 20 percent of the world’s population but just 7 percent of its available freshwater, China faces serious water shortages as its economy booms and urbanization increases. The government is planning massive water diversion projects, but environmentalists say conservation — especially in the wasteful agricultural sector — is the key.
Environmentalists in the U.S. are increasingly trying to use the Endangered Species Act to ease the impact of global warming on numerous animals and plants, including the American pika. The goal is not only to protect the habitat of at-risk species but also to force reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
A dispute between Egypt and upstream African nations has brought to the fore a long-standing controversy over who has rights to the waters of the Nile. The outcome could have profound consequences for the ecological health of the river and for one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands.
Unearthing photographs of the Himalaya dating back more than a century, mountaineer and filmmaker David Breashears has assembled a powerful visual record of the rapid retreat of the region’s glaciers. By comparing archival photographs from such renowned explorers as George Mallory to photographs taken in the past three years, Breashears has documented the steady disappearance of these great rivers of ice, whose melting will eventually threaten the water supplies of hundreds of millions of people across Asia.
New technologies, feed-in tariffs, and tax credits are helping propel the small wind industry, especially in the United States. Once found mostly in rural areas, small wind installations are now starting to pop up on urban rooftops.
The surest sign of a warming Earth is the steady melting of its ice zones, from disappearing sea ice in the Arctic to shrinking glaciers worldwide. Now, scientists are using increasingly sophisticated satellite technology to measure the extent, thickness, and height of ice, assembling an essential picture of a planet in transition.
As utilities seek to build new nuclear power plants in the U.S. and around the world, the latest generation of reactors feature improvements over older technologies. But even as attention focuses on nuclear as an alternative to fossil fuels, questions remain about whether the newer reactors are sufficiently foolproof to be adopted on a large scale.
The practice of “commissioning,” in which an engineer monitors the efficiency of a building from its design through its initial operation, just may be the most effective strategy for reducing long-term energy usage, costs, and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. So why is it so seldom used?
A battle is quietly being waged between the industry that produces genetically modified seeds and scientists trying to investigate the environmental impacts of engineered crops. Although companies such as Monsanto have recently given ground, researchers say these firms are still loath to allow independent analyses of their patented — and profitable — seeds.
Among the natural treasures at risk from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the Breton National Wildlife Refuge, created by Theodore Roosevelt to halt a grave threat to birds in his era — the lucrative trade in plumage. Now, oil from the BP spill is starting to wash up on beaches where Roosevelt once walked.
Insecticides such as DDT have long been used to combat the scourge of malaria in the developing world. But with the disease parasite becoming increasingly adept at resisting the chemical onslaught, some countries are achieving striking success by eliminating the environmental conditions that give rise to malarial mosquitoes.
California’s high-tech giants have long used renewable energy to help power their Silicon Valley headquarters. Now, companies such as Google, Adobe Systems, and eBay are preparing for the next step — investing in off-site solar and wind installations and innovative technologies that will supply their offices and data centers with green electricity.
With nearly $800 billion in drugs sold worldwide, pharmaceuticals are increasingly being released into the environment. The “green pharmacy” movement seeks to reduce the ecological impact of these drugs, which have caused mass bird die-offs and spawned antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
Hydro fracturing is a profitable method of natural gas extraction that uses large quantities of water and chemicals to free gas from underground rock formations. But New York City’s concerns that the practice would threaten its water supply have slowed a juggernaut that has been sweeping across parts of the northeastern United States.
In recent months, protests over the severe illnesses caused by China's heavy industries have resulted in a crackdown on polluters. Leading the charge has been the state-run media, which the central government is now using to gain control over corrupt local authorities and powerful commercial enterprises.
Across western North America, huge tracts of forest are dying off at an extraordinary rate, mostly because of outbreaks of insects. Scientists are now seeing such forest die-offs around the world and are linking them to changes in climate.
Two billion people worldwide do their cooking on open fires, producing sooty pollution that shortens millions of lives and exacerbates global warming. If widely adopted, a new generation of inexpensive, durable cook stoves could go a long way toward alleviating this problem.
In the internal struggle over the nation’s climate policy, India’s charismatic Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has triumphed and is pushing his country toward low-carbon policies both at home and internationally.
The drive to extract and store CO2 from coal-fired power plants is gaining momentum, with the Obama administration backing the technology and the world’s first capture and sequestration project now operating in the U.S. Two questions loom: Will carbon capture and storage be affordable? And will it be safe?
The shrinking ice cap atop Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s most famous glacier. But the continent harbors other pockets of ice, most notably in the Rwenzori Mountains of western Uganda. And as temperatures rise, the Rwenzori’s tropical glaciers — located as high as 16,500 feet — are fast disappearing.
Few places are as well suited for large-scale solar projects as California’s Mojave Desert. But as mainstream environmental organizations push plans to turn the desert into a center for renewable energy, some green groups — concerned about spoiling this iconic Western landscape — are standing up to oppose them.
For years, the promise and hype surrounding electric cars failed to materialize. But as this year’s Detroit auto show demonstrated, major car companies and well-funded startups — fueled by federal clean-energy funding and rapid improvement in lithium-ion batteries — are now producing electric vehicles that will soon be in showrooms.
The treeless ecosystem of mosses, lichens, and berry plants is giving way to shrub land and boreal forest. As scientists study the transformation, they are discovering that major warming-related events, including fires and the collapse of slopes due to melting permafrost, are leading to the loss of tundra in the Arctic.
In the past dozen years, three new diseases have decimated populations of amphibians, honeybees, and — most recently — bats. Increasingly, scientists suspect that low-level exposure to pesticides could be contributing to this rash of epidemics.
Since the government's collapse after a coup last March, Madagascar's rainforests have been plundered for their precious wood and unique wildlife. But now there are a few encouraging signs, as officials promise a crackdown on illegal logging and ecotourists begin to return to the island.
As wild fish stocks continue to dwindle, aquaculture is becoming an increasingly important source of protein worldwide. Now, a growing number of entrepreneurs are raising fish in large pens in the open ocean, hoping to avoid the many environmental problems of coastal fish farms.
On the eve of the Copenhagen conference, a group of scientists has issued an update on the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Their conclusions? Ice at both poles is melting faster than predicted, the claims of recent global cooling are wrong, and world leaders must act fast if steep temperature rises are to be avoided.
A number of biologists are challenging the long-held orthodoxy that alien species are inherently bad. In their contrarian view, many introduced species have proven valuable and useful and have increased the diversity and resiliency of native ecosystems.
The solar power boom in Germany, Spain, and parts of the United States has been fueled by government subsidies. But now some U.S. states — led by New Jersey, of all places — are pioneering a different approach: issuing tradable credits that can be sold on the open market. So far, the results have been promising.
Although it is a heavily urbanized nation, fully two-thirds of Japan remains woodlands. Yet many of the forests are timber plantations inhospitable to wildlife, especially black bears, which are struggling to survive in one of the most densely populated countries on Earth.
As humans increasingly encroach on forested lands and as temperatures rise, the transmission of disease from animals and insects to people is growing. Now a new field, known as “conservation medicine,” is exploring how ecosystem disturbance and changing interactions between wildlife and humans can lead to the spread of new pathogens.
Of the various geoengineering schemes being proposed to cool an overheated planet, one approach — extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using “artificial trees” — may have the most potential. But both questions and big hurdles remain before this emerging technology could be widely deployed.
The natural landscape of South Korea has been largely re-engineered, with nearly every river damned or forced into concrete channels. Now the government is reviving plans for a mammoth water project that would dredge and develop hundreds more miles of waterways and put added stress on the country's remaining wildlife.
By the end of the century, New York’s climate could resemble that of present-day Raleigh, North Carolina and its harbor could easily rise by two feet or more. Faced with this prospect, the city is among the first urban centers to begin changing the way it builds its infrastructure — and the way it thinks about its future.
For more than 40 years, scientists have dreamed of collecting the sun’s energy in space and beaming it back to Earth. Now, a host of technological advances, coupled with interest from the U.S. military, may be bringing that vision close to reality.
Recent studies show that wildlife in some African nations is declining even in national parks, as poaching increases and human settlements hem in habitat. With the continent expected to add more than a billion people by 2050, do these trends portend an Africa devoid of wild animals?
China is on its way to becoming the world’s largest producer of renewable energy, yet it remains one of the most polluted countries on earth. A year after the Beijing Olympics, economic and political forces are combining to make China simultaneously a leader in alternative energy – and in dirty water and air.
Clearing land for cattle is responsible for 80 percent of rainforest loss in the Brazilian Amazon. But with Amazon ranching now a multi-billion dollar business, corporate buyers of beef and leather, including Wal-Mart, are starting to demand that the destruction of the forest be halted.
In a matter of years or decades, researchers believe, animals and plants already are adapting to life in a warmer world. Some species will be unable to change quickly enough and will go extinct, but others will evolve, as natural selection enables them to carry on in an altered environment.
The environmental damage caused by mountaintop removal mining across Appalachia has been well documented. But scientists are now beginning to understand that the mining operations’ most lasting damage may be caused by the massive amounts of debris dumped into valley streams.
It took awhile, but the U.S. Midwest finally has recognized that the industries that once powered its economy will never return. Now leaders in the region are looking to renewable energy manufacturing and technologies as key to the heartland’s renaissance.
For years, the stumbling block for making renewable energy practical and dependable has been how to store electricity for days when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing. But new technologies suggest this goal may finally be within reach.
Researchers throughout the world are working to produce biofuel from algae. But a few are trying a decidedly novel approach: Using an abundant and freely available source — human waste — to make the fuel of the future while also treating sewage.
As Borneo's rain forests are razed for oil palm plantations, wildlife centers are taking in more and more orphaned orangutans and preparing them for reintroduction into the wild. But the endangered primates now face a new threat — there is not enough habitat where they can be returned.
The Mekong has long flowed freely, supporting one of the world’s great inland fisheries. But China is now building a series of dams on the 2,800-mile river that will restrict its natural flow and threaten the sustenance of tens of millions of Southeast Asians.
Biofuels – made from algae and non-food plants – are emerging as a potentially viable alternative to conventional jet fuels. Although big challenges remain, the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could be major.
Most Americans believe climate change is a serious problem but are not committed to making the hard choices needed to deal with it. Recent research begins to explain some of the reasons why.
After years of reluctance, scientists and governments are now looking to adaptation measures as critical for confronting the consequences of climate change. And increasingly, plans are being developed to deal with rising seas, water shortages, spreading diseases, and other realities of a warming world.
Over the past two decades, mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia has obliterated or severely damaged more than a million acres of forest and buried more than 1,000 miles of streams. Now, the Obama administration is showing signs it plans to crack down on this destructive practice.
The scrubby jatropha tree has been touted as a wonder biofuel with unlimited potential. But questions are now emerging as to whether widespread jatropha cultivation is really feasible or whether it will simply displace badly-needed food crops in the developing world.
New solar thermal technology overcomes a major challenge facing solar power – how to store the sun’s heat for use at night or on a rainy day. As researchers tout its promise, solar thermal plants are under construction or planned from Spain to Australia to the American Southwest.
With global warming pushing some animals and plants to the brink of extinction, conservation biologists are now saying that the only way to save some species may be to move them.
Bolivia accounts for a tiny fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it will soon be paying a disproportionately high price for a major consequence of global warming: the rapid loss of glaciers and a subsequent decline in vital water supplies.
Mostly conceived by international architects, China’s eco-cities were intended to be models of green urban design. But the planning was done with little awareness of how local people lived, and the much-touted projects have largely been scrapped.
With record-setting heat waves, bush fires and drought, Australians are increasingly convinced they are facing the early impacts of global warming. Their growing concern about climate change has led to a consensus that the nation must now act boldly to stave off the crisis.
Armed with vivid images from space and remote sensing data, scientists, environmentalists, and armchair conservationists are now tracking threats to the planet and making the information available to anyone with an Internet connection.
Two decades after the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s waters, the Prince William Sound, its fishermen, and its wildlife have still not fully recovered.
With carbon cap-and-trade legislation now on Washington’s agenda, companies and interest groups have been hiring lobbyists at a feverish pace. For every member of Congress, there are now four climate lobbyists, many of them hoping to derail or water down the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Aided by new access to remote regions, researchers have been discovering new species at a record pace — 16,969 in 2006 alone. The challenge now is to preserve threatened ecosystems before these species, and others yet unknown, are lost.
Long an isolated land with abundant forests and biodiversity, Laos is rapidly developing as China and other Asian nations exploit its resources. One of the first casualties has been the wildlife, now being rapidly depleted by a thriving black-market trade.
Led by China, the developing world is engaged in a flurry of dam construction, touting hydropower as renewable energy in an era of global warming. But critics point out that the human and environmental costs of dams remain high.
The clearing of Indonesia’s rain forest for palm oil plantations is having profound effects – threatening endangered species, upending the lives of indigenous people, and releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Even as they debut the next generation of hybrids and battery-powered cars, auto company executives are not confident that the American public will buy them.
Geologist Yong Yang has serious concerns about plans for a massive Yangtze River diversion project. When he went public with them, he found out how difficult it can be to challenge a government decision in China. The third in a series on Chinese environmentalists.
The potential for electric vehicles has been talked about for decades. But a former Israeli software entrepreneur is developing a game-changing infrastructure that could finally make them feasible — a standardized network of charging stations where drivers can plug right in.
Despite the creation of protected areas in the Amazon and other tropical regions, rain forests worldwide are still being destroyed for a simple reason: They are worth more cut down than standing. But with deforestation now a leading driver of global warming, a movement is growing to pay nations and local people to keep their rain forests intact.
After decades of living with fouled rivers and filthy air, residents of China’s Manganese Triangle are rising up and refusing to accept the intolerable conditions created by illegal mining activity. Their bold protests have shone light on the dark side of China’s economic boom. From Sichuan province, Chinese journalists Zhou Jigang and Zhu Chuhua report.
Despite daunting challenges, technology to harness the power of the waves and tides is now being deployed around the world – from Portugal to South Korea to New York’s East River. These projects, just beginning to produce electricity, are on the cutting edge of renewable energy’s latest frontier: hydrodynamic power.
Hard-pressed by economic straits, illegal panners are tearing up Zimbabwe’s countryside in search of gold and diamonds. They leave behind a trail of destruction: devastated fields and forests, mud-choked rivers, and mercury-tainted water. Andrew Mambondiyani reports from eastern Zimbabwe.
Scientists have long believed that thawing permafrost in Arctic soils could release huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Now they are watching with increasing concern as methane begins to bubble up from the bottom of the fast-melting Arctic Ocean.
Until now, geothermal technology has only been used on a small scale to produce power. But with major new projects now underway, deep geothermal systems may soon begin making a significant contribution to the world’s energy needs.
Scientists have been trying to identify the cause of a cancer epidemic that is wiping out Australia’s Tasmanian devils. Now new research points to an alarming conclusion: because of the species’ low genetic diversity, the cancer is contagious and is spreading from one devil to another.
Environmentalists had been looking to a new president and a new Congress to pass legislation dealing with global warming next year. But with tough economic times looming, the passage of a sweeping climate change bill now appears far less likely.
The commitment by Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, and other major companies to buy only sustainably-caught seafood is an encouraging sign in an otherwise bleak global fisheries picture. After decades of government inaction and ineffective consumer campaigns, corporate pressure may finally be starting to turn the tide on reckless overfishing.
After years of false starts and failures, the electric car may finally be poised to go big-time. With automakers from GM to Chrysler to Nissan preparing to roll out new plug-in hybrids or all-electric models, it looks like the transition from gasoline to electricity is now irreversible.
Massive withdrawals for irrigation, rapid population growth, and a paralyzing regional conflict have drained nearly all the water from this fabled river. A leading Israeli conservationist describes a multinational effort to save the Jordan River.
With the support of Gov. Sarah Palin, mining interests have defeated an Alaska ballot measure that could have blocked a huge proposed mining project. Now, plans are moving forward to exploit the massive gold and copper deposit at Bristol Bay, home of one of the world’s greatest salmon runs.
After years of optimistic predictions and false starts, it looks like solar's moment is here at last. Analysts say a pattern of rapid growth, technological breakthroughs, and falling production costs has put solar power on the brink of becoming the world's dominant electricity source.
Until recently, the idea of environmental advocacy was largely unheard of in China. But that’s changing rapidly. At a legal aid center based in Beijing, Xu Kezhu and her colleagues are helping pollution victims stand up for their rights. The second in a series on Chinese environmentalists.
As the Arctic's sea ice melts, energy and mining companies are moving into previously inaccessible regions to tap the abundant riches that lie beneath the permafrost and the ocean floor. The potential environmental impacts are troubling.
With soaring prices for agricultural goods and new demand for biofuels, the clearing of the world's largest rain forest has accelerated dramatically. Unless forceful measures are taken, half of the Brazilian Amazon could be cut, burned or dried out within 20 years.
As the public seeks answers about the future impacts of climate change, some climatologists are growing increasingly uneasy about the localized predictions they are being asked to make.
Quietly and somewhat surprisingly, green groups are cropping up throughout China and are starting to have an impact. In the first in a series on Chinese environmentalists, journalist Christina Larson visits with Zhao Zhong, who is leading the fight to save the Yellow River.
After years of U.S. inaction, a new president will have to move quickly to address global warming. In an e360 report, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert surveys the views of various nonpartisan groups and provides a blueprint for what needs to be done.
The world's greatest lake, holding 20 percent of the planet's surface fresh water, has long remained one of the most pristine places on earth. Now, as Russia's economy booms and its climate warms, the Siberian lake faces new threats.
By taking bits of a single gene, scientists are using DNA barcoding to identify new species. If a portable hand-held scanning device can be developed, one ecologist says, it could “do for biodiversity what the printing press did for literacy.”