Environmental Protection

It's Not All Bad News

Isn’t science awesome?

In just this past week, I’ve read several stories of incredible discoveries scientists are making, and it’s encouraging. It often seems like depressing news – acidified mollusks will impoverish already-poor nations, chemical spills poison plants and people, worst-ever droughts persisting – often overshadows the positive news.

Today, I’m here to celebrate the positive. Did you know NASA scientists have put together a prototype of a device that can use the sun’s heat to generate electricity even in the dark? It stores the heat in a specially configured tank of sodium-potassium-nitrate salt (salts hold heat longer than other materials), and uses it to make steam that turns a turbine, etc. After just 10 sunny days, it has stored enough energy to continue generating electricity for an entire day. In the sunny Southwest, these aren’t unreasonable weather patterns. Heck, here in Texas we’ve had more than a month of sunny days—though that’s starting to become a problem.

With natural disaster such as this so prevalent this year, many people’s minds are on climate change. Another encouraging find this week was research from the U.S. Geological Survey on adapting plants to changing climates. Researchers found that fungi are responsible for making certain plants salt- or heat-tolerant. By introducing these fungi to traditional crops, USGS scientists hoped to introduce these traits, too, as climate change is expected to bring hotter temperatures.

Finally, a fisheries company is making headway in farming the sought-after but endangered Bluefin Tuna. After years of careful management (without hormones or chemicals), the mature tuna in the company’s Croatian facility spawned naturally, an important sign of health in fisheries projects. The company aims to release some of the fry back into the wild and to keep others to boost its fish stocks.

So there you’ve got it: Good news about the planet we live on and the way science is helping improve it. I think I’m ready to handle any oil spill, natural disaster, chemical mishap or drilling nightmare the world can throw at me.

Posted by Laura Williams on Aug 08, 2011 at 12:43 PM


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