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Science and Environment

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Toxic Mercury, Accumulating in Arctic, Springs from Hidden Source

Plant Diversity is Key to Maintaining Productive Vegetation

Don't Like Blood Tests? New Microscope May Make Them Needleless

The Scientist: Revenge of the Weeds: Plant pests are evolving to outsmart common herbicides, costing farmers crops and money

Dry Lands Getting Drier, Wet Getting Wetter: Earth's Water Cycle Intensifying

Science (AAAS): Can New Chemistry Make a Malaria Drug Plentiful and Cheap?

 

urban gardens

 

 

Green Space Can Make People Happier for Years

January 8, 2014—Nearly 10 years after the term "nature deficit disorder" entered the nation's vocabulary, research is showing for the first time that green space does appear to improve mental health in a sustained way. The report, which appears in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal Environmental Science & Technology, gives urban park advocates another argument in support of their cause.

Mathew P. White and colleagues note that mental well-being is a major public health issue, with unipolar depressive disorder the leading cause of disability in middle- to high-income countries. Some research suggests that part of the blame for this unhappiness lies in increased urbanization—nearly 80 percent of the world's population in more developed regions live in city environments, which tend to have little room for nature. Other studies suggest a link between happiness and green space, but no research had convincingly established cause and effect of nature on well-being over time. To help fill that gap, White's team decided to examine the issue.
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More Fresh Air in Classrooms Means Fewer Absences

June 5, 2013—If you suspect that opening windows to let in fresh air might be good for you, a new study by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has confirmed your hunch. Analyzing extensive data on ventilation rates collected from more than 150 classrooms in California over two years, the researchers found that bringing classroom ventilation rates up to the state-mandated standard may reduce student absences due to illness by approximately 3.4 percent.
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Outdoor Recess Time Can Reduce the Risk of Nearsightedness in Children

SAN FRANCISCO; May 1, 2013—Two new studies add to the growing evidence that spending time outdoors may help prevent or minimize nearsightedness in children. A study conducted in Taiwan, which is the first to use an educational policy as a public vision health intervention, finds that when children are required to spend recess time outdoors, their risk of nearsightedness is reduced. A separate study in Danish children is the first to show a direct correlation between seasonal fluctuations in daylight, eye growth and the rate of nearsightedness progression. The research was published in the May issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
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Outdoor Education Helps Minority Students Close Gap in Environmental Literacy

March 22, 2013—Environmental education programs that took middle school students outdoors to learn helped minority students close a gap in environmental literacy (EL), according to research from North Carolina State University.

The study, published March 22 in PLOS ONE, showed that time outdoors seemed to impact African-American and Hispanic students more than Caucasian students, improving minority students' ecological knowledge and cognitive skills, two measures of environmental literacy. The statewide study also measured environmental attitudes and pro-environmental behavior such as recycling and conserving water.

According to the PLOS One abstract, the study findings suggest that "ethnicity-related disparities in EL levels may be mitigated by time spent in nature, especially among black and Hispanic students."
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Admitting Psychology into the Science Club

Cognitive psychologist Brian Kurilla suggests that the field of psychology has evolved to the point that it has earned the right to higher respect within the scientific community.

"Although the field of psychology has made considerable progress over the last few decades in establishing itself as a rigorous, scientific discipline," he points out, "there are some who continue to criticize the field for being 'unscientific.'

These critics point to what they consider ambiguous terminology, a lack of experimental control, and ambiguous subjective measures of constructs like 'happiness' and 'life satisfaction' as reasons why psychology should be considered a 'soft' science at best. However," Kurilla convincingly argues, "these criticisms ignore the diverse methodologies and research areas within the field. There are, in fact, very good reasons to consider a different perspective."
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Cheaper than Therapy (And You Get Tomatoes)

More than half of all people in the world now live in cities, say global think tanks, and this trend is not expected to reverse. In fact, by 2050, urban areas may contain as many people as now make up the entire planet’s population.

With this in mind, global non-profits such as the New Cities Foundation hope to find innovative ways to make green spaces more accessible to the burgeoning population of urbanites. But is the occasional oasis of green enough? How important is it for people to have a garden to call their own?
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On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

Robert Nathan, who holds a doctorate in chemistry and biology from the California Institute of Technology, has semi-retired from a long and distinguished career as a senior scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. In “retirement” he cofounded the Los Angeles Gerontology Research Group and also serves on the board of the Volunteer Professionals for Medical Advancement (VPMA).

In this interview, he talks about some of his research into aging and human longevity. Are we on the brink of immortality?
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Green With Compassion

It can hardly be disputed that—barring natural disasters or other forces beyond our control—when human relationships are good, life is good, and perhaps the most important relationship when it comes to ensuring that life is good, or that it’s even possible at all, is the crucial interaction that occurs between people and the land they inhabit. When this relationship suffers, the sustainability of all life on earth is affected. On the other hand, when we have a good relationship with the earth, life has its best chance of thriving.

Unfortunately humanity’s track record with regard to its other relationships does not bode well for the planet. One has only to read the world’s newspapers, sit in its courthouses, or walk its battlefields to understand how our equally essential physical relationship with the earth could be so lightly esteemed. Why do we seem to have so much trouble with relationships, and what would it take to reverse that trend? Award-winning author Marc Ian Barasch explores this question in his 2009 release, The Compassionate Life: Walking the Path of Kindness.
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