U.K. Passes Ban On Pesticides For Bees

As a vital part of the food chain, bees deserve more attention than they are currently receiving. Though devices such as the BuzzBox are making beekeeping more efficient, they aren’t addressing the steep decline in bee populations. Stepping up to the plate, the U.K. is finally supporting a total ban on bee-harming pesticides.

“The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100 billion food industry, is greater than previously understood.

“I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.” [said environment secretary Michael Gove.]

The monetary value of pollinating insects in the U.K. has shot up to nearly £680 million per annum. At that price point, it’s difficult to believe that bees are simply an expendable asset in nature. In the long run, pesticides aren’t only a threat to wildlife, but to crop consumers altogether.

“We need to encourage farmers to move away from reliance on pesticides as the solution to the many problems that industrial monoculture cropping create.”

Looks like permaculture farming may be the way to go.

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Gene Therapy Can Treat Butterfly Children

An avalanche of medical successes this year are sharing a common theme — genes. Gene editing is allowing researchers to more efficiently remedy conditions such as paralysis and leukemia. Though initially an unlikely candidate, gene therapy is now also instrumental in treating junctional epidermolysis bullosa. It saw its first triumph on a “butterfly boy” in Germany.

[Doctors] took a patch of non-blistered skin from the boy’s leg and used a virus to carry a corrected version of the bad DNA into his skin cells.

They grew grafts of the corrected skin and, in three separate operations over several months, replaced the missing skin.

Considering most “butterfly children” don’t make it past 30, genetic skin grafting could make an impact commercially. The therapy corrects stem cells, regenerating healthy substitutes. Since his discharge, the German schoolboy has remained healthy, living without the need for medication.

“This is really the way to go. You can get to the patients early before they have all the complications and suffering,”

With a growing population of “butterfly children”, this breakthrough could potentially relieve a giant itching epidemic.

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Surgeons Save Music Teacher’s Music Function

2017 has been a year of breakthroughs in medicine. From 3D printing brain tissue to the accidental discovery of origami organs, it’s been smooth sailing for the science world. A group of doctors from the University of Rochester Medical Center saved not only a music teacher’s life, but also his music function.

“Removing a tumor from the brain can have significant consequences depending upon its location. Both the tumor itself and the operation to remove it can damage tissue and disrupt communication between different parts of the brain.  It is, therefore, critical to understand as much as you can about each individual patient.”

Substitute music teacher Dan Fabbio was suffering from a tumor near the center of his brain. Neurosurgeons used a brain mapping program to treat Fabbio and studied the patient for six months. In order to ensure that the operation was a success, Fabbio played his saxophone directly after surgery.

“It made you want to cry. He played it flawlessly and when he finished the entire operating room erupted in applause.”

While my saxophone-playing skills may be parallel to that of a squealing pig, it’s good to know that this musical genius got to retain his.

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China Fights Desertification With Giant Wall Of Trees

You can never go wrong with tree-planting. It is popular in India, where natives planted 66 million seedlings in record time. In Burma, engineering groups are using drones to restore forests. However, tree-planting in the Gobi desert is addressing a more urgent matter — desertification. In order to address erosion and degradation, the Chinese government is working on building a giant wall of trees, otherwise known as the Green Great Wall.

By 2050, the government intends to plant 88 million acres of forests in a belt nearly 3,000 miles long and up to 900 miles wide in places.

As a country swallowed by deserts and that is oddly skilled in wall-building, the project makes sense. Over the years, it has stabilized deserts and reduced the frequency of sandstorms. However, it has faced backlash. Most of the trees are planted in areas they don’t grow naturally and eventually die out. Thousands of farmers have been forced off their land to make way for trees.

“Combating sand is the [government’s] project, so it has deep political meaning. There are bureaucrats in every province and county. They get a lot of money for planting trees.”

There is no denying that the scheme is problematic, despite being well-intentioned. While a Green Great Wall may seem the easiest solution, perhaps we ought to be smarter about where we plant our trees.

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Britain Opens First Zero-Waste Packaging-Free Store

A Norway supermarket is selling expired food to alleviate food waste, and now Britain wants in on the action. Former Manchester United star Richard Eckersley runs Earth.Food.Love, a zero-waste packaging-free store. It’s the first of its kind in Britain.

It’s the first zero waste store in the UK, retailing a range of up to 200 pesticide-free products – but to shop there, you’ll have to come along with your own pots, jars and sandwich bags.

The store also uses eco-energy and is completely organic, so milk and alcohol are off the menu. Totnes is home to the charming boutique, as Eckersley claims it wouldn’t have fared as well in Manchester.

“We just didn’t think Manchester was ready for this kind of shop, but we hope the idea will spread and more people will follow the idea in future.”

Having played alongside Ronaldo and Rooney, Eckersley ought to give himself some credit for the store’s popularity. However, he and wife Nicola focus on being “ethical, wholesome, and organic.” But there is no denying the rewarding boost of fame.

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Connectable Plastic Bottles Are Completely Reusable

Plastic may be a landfill’s greatest enemy, but an innovator’s best tool. In the Philippines, thousands of bottles have been repurposed into lamps. Now, retired educator Steven Klein is creating connectable plastic bottles that are strong enough to build furniture.

Unlike traditional plastic bottles, Eco Connect bottles have a deeper recess in the base, so that the top of one can be readily connected to the bottom of the next, quite securely.

While a plastic bottle coffee table may not be everyone’s aesthetic, it is a thoughtful concept. Klein’s ultimate goal is to encourage bottling companies to switch to Eco Connect. Production will not require new machinery — just the connector pieces.

“An expanding variety of connector pieces, lights, and motors will become available to continue to grow the system. Also, a percentage of funds from connector purchases will be donated to water conservation programs,”

Eco Connect leaves consumers with no excuse for littering. It may not be stylish, but it sure is sustainable!

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Brewery Waste Can Grow Yeast For Beer Making

If there is one habit that pub regulars can’t seem to kick, it’s cracking open a cold one. Now that beers are becoming healthier, it seems no one has a reason to quit the drinking game. In fact, scientists in Singapore are experimenting with using brewery waste to grow beer yeast.

In beer making, yeast is the key ingredient for fermentation, a process where sugars from the grains are converted into alcohol. The beer brewing process thus needs large amounts of yeast.

Spent grain amounts to as much as 85 per cent of a brewery’s waste. This is of little value, so the discarded grain is often used as compost or for animal feed.

But it looks like potbellies will have to feed on something else in the meantime. Professor William Chen of Nanyang Tech has developed a conversion process that turns brewery waste into a valuable liquid nutrient.

“About 85 per cent of the waste in brewing beer can now be turned into a valuable resource, helping breweries to reduce waste and production cost while becoming more self-sustainable.”

I guess it’s safe to say that in the brewery world, nothing goes to waste.

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German School Ditches Bratwurst For Vegan Lunches

Schools around the world have played a role in the battle against depleting resources. The Panyaden International School in Thailand built a sports hall that gloats a zero-carbon footprint. Now, the German International School in India is shifting to strictly vegan lunches.

The school, now 100% vegan, makes its own mock meat, produces vegan cheese from cashews, and bakes its own bread. Care is taken to see that nutritional requirements are met, by substituting animal products with protein-rich food such as quinoa, lentils, seitan, beans and hemp seeds.

The shift was prompted when the school began rehabilitating injured and abandoned animals. Besides the guilt of consuming mutton meters away from one of the school’s goats, administration believed veganism was more ethical.

“We wanted to reduce the human impact on the environment and eating less meat is the simplest way,”

To prepare for the transition, teachers dedicated classes to informative documentaries. Staff treated parents to a vegan buffet, which was more “delicious and nutritious” than expected. With avocado toast becoming the next millennial craze, I can’t imagine getting teens to up their veggie intake to be too much of a stretch.

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L.A. Fighting Urban Warming By Painting Streets White

Climate change is a force to be reckoned with. With the help of technology such as the carbon calculator, we can much more easily reduce our damaging footprints. However, for some communities, the change is too gradual, and acting quickly is a much preferred option. This is why Los Angeles is painting its streets white — to combat urban warming.

15 streets were covered with this asphalt-based paint-like substance to cool down the streets by about 11-13 degrees Fahrenheit and therefore cools down the buildings around them.

In sunny California, road surface temperatures can boast a whopping 130 – 140 degrees. Being able to fry an egg on the road is no longer just a myth. In fact, it’s the perfect temperature — but not for bare feet.

It might not seem like a lot, but… if 35% of LA’s streets were covered with a reflective surface like this, it would translate into a 1-degree drop in temperature throughout the city.

1 degree may seem insignificant, but it’s enough to save $100 million in energy spending. It’s a small but practical fix. Not to mention the roads are looking and feeling a lot cooler.

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Billionaires Are Sponsoring Lab-Grown Meat

Lab-grown seafood may be actively solving over-harvesting, but it lacks any noteworthy benefactors. On the flip side, billionaires like Bill Gates and Richard Branson are sponsoring lab-grown meat by Memphis Meats. So what’s the beef?

“Instead of using animals as pieces of technology to convert plants into proteins to make things that we like to eat, drink and wear, we can just use biology to make those things directly,” said… an early investor in Memphis Meats.

Developers envision facilities that are more reminiscent to breweries than slaughterhouses. Admittedly, the former is less unsettling. But how will Memphis Meats grow tasty steaks and chops without the direct use of an animal?

The company’s scientists identify cells that they want to scale up production on — selecting them based on the recommendations of experts. Those cells are cultivated with a blend of sugar, amino acids, fats and water, and within three to six weeks the meat is harvested.

Production is quick but still small-scale. However, with further development, the process could cut greenhouse emissions, save water, and create a more sustainable agriculture industry. From its patrons, Memphis Meats has raised a charming $22 million. I sure hope the filet mignon is worth it.

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