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August 22, 2019

In order to help mountain lions and other animals struggling with isolation in the Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles is building the world's largest wildlife corridor, which will cross busy Highway 101.

"The ecosystem needs to be reconnected for all wildlife," Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation told The Guardian. "Segmentation impacts animals both large and small, lizards and birds up to mountain lions." Animals were able to travel unimpeded before roads were carved into their habitat, and ecologists are worried now that mountain lions especially are stuck in just one area, making it difficult to mate. "We want these animals on the landscape and the population will go extinct if we don't do something soon," Pratt said.

The 165-foot long bridge will be surrounded by trees and bushes, so the animals won't even know they are on it. "The science tells us this is the better design," Pratt told The Guardian. "Some animals will use tunnels, some will not. We looked at the best solution for all wildlife so all creatures can use this." The $87 million bridge is now in its final design phase, and is expected to open in 2023. Pratt said if Los Angeles can undertake such a project, "it can work anywhere." Catherine Garcia

February 15, 2019

Schoolchildren in the U.K. took to the streets Friday morning as they went "on strike" to protest inaction on climate change policy, reports BBC.

Protest organizer Youth Strike 4 Climate said the protests reached 60 cities across the U.K. with an estimated 15,000 participants, per BBC.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's office criticized students partaking in the protest, saying the strike "increases teachers' workloads and wastes lesson time" reports Sky News.

The U.K.'s energy minister Claire Perry voiced support for the students protesting, and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called the students' actions inspiring.

Students protesting want the government to declare a climate emergency and make climate change an educational priority in school curriculums, per Sky News. The strikes were inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who staged weekly sit-ins outside the Swedish parliament in protest of climate change inaction.

A global school walkout is planned for March 15. Marianne Dodson

October 29, 2018

A stark new World Wildlife Fund report says that due to deforestation, climate change, and an increase in pollution, there was a 60 percent decline among 16,700 wildlife populations between 1970 and 2014.

The 2018 Living Planet Report is filled with sobering statistics, including that 90 percent of all seabirds have plastic in their stomachs, up from 5 percent in 1960, and over the last 30 years, half of the world's shallow-water corals have been wiped out. Ivory poaching in Tanzania between 2009 and 2014 reduced the country's elephant population by more than 60 percent; deforestation in Borneo killed 100,000 orangutans between 1999 and 2015; and it's expected that, as climate change causes the melting of Arctic ice, the number of polar bears is will decline by 30 percent by 2050.

The crisis is "unprecedented in its speed, in its scale, and because it is single-handed," said WWF Director General Marco Lambertini. "It's mindblowing. ... We're talking about 40 years. It's not even a blink of an eye compared to the history of life on Earth." The WWF is calling for an international treaty to protect wildlife, but warns it must be enacted within two years to actually make a difference, due to the fast pace of destruction. "If we want a world with orangutans and puffins, clean air, and enough food for everyone, we need urgent action from our leaders and a new global deal for nature and people that kick starts a global program of recovery," WWF U.K. CEO Tanya Steele said in a statement. Catherine Garcia

September 20, 2018

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Thursday signed a law that bans restaurant servers from automatically giving customers single-use plastic straws.

Straws will still be available upon request, and the law does not apply to fast food establishments. Brown said plastic trash is a major threat to marine life, and the California Coastal Commission has found that plastic straws and stirrers are among the most common pieces of trash found on state beaches. "Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences," Brown said in a statement. "Plastic, in all forms — straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc. — are choking the planet."

Restaurants that do not abide by the law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2019, will get two warnings, and then a fine of $25 per day, up to $300 a year. California is the first state to enact such a law. Catherine Garcia

December 29, 2016

It's going to be a lot easier to drive through Madrid — and the city council hopes that means it's soon going to be easier to breathe, too.

With bad air pollution a growing concern in the Spanish capital, the city council announced that when nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere reaches a certain level in at least two measuring stations for two days in a row, and if the air is likely not going to quickly clear, there will be a restriction on which cars can be on the road from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., The Guardian reports. Vehicles with even-number registration plates will be allowed to drive on even-number days, and cars with odd-number registration plates will be able to be operated on odd-number days. There are a few exceptions: moped, hybrid cars, vehicles being used to transport disabled people or three or more passengers, buses, taxis, and emergency vehicles are all exempt from the ban.

There are 3.2 million people living in Madrid, with 1.8 million cars, and the ban will be lifted once smog levels drop by a specific amount. Should the air quality not improve, the city could go a step further and ban taxis, with the exception of hybrids. "It's not about traffic restrictions but about the important issue of public health," deputy mayor Marta Higueras said. "Lots of people suffer from breathing problems and are very affected by pollution." The conservative Popular party is criticizing the measure, calling it "ideological." Catherine Garcia

October 4, 2016

The swirling mass of garbage in the Pacific between Hawaii and California contains even more trash than researchers imagined, the Ocean Cleanup foundation says.

Known as the "great Pacific garbage patch," it's made of floating fishing nets, pieces of plastic, and other discarded items caught in rotating currents, with the center believed to be around 386,999 square miles and the periphery spanning 1,351,000 square miles. Ocean Cleanup conducted an aerial survey of the massive garbage patch, and founder Boyan Slat told The Guardian when they arrived, "we opened the door and we saw debris everywhere. Every half second you see something. So we had to take snapshots — it was impossible to record everything. It was bizarre to see that much garbage in what should be pristine ocean."

The patch is expanding so quickly the UN says it's becoming visible from space, and Slat calls it a "ticking time bomb." There are huge items that will "crumble down to micro plastics over the next few decades if we don't act," Slat warns, eventually being eaten by fish and entering the food chain. A 2014 study found more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world's oceans, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation earlier this year issued a report predicting that if something isn't done to combat the problem, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Ocean Cleanup is hoping to put an end to the problem through a V-shaped boom that uses sea currents to funnel trash into a cone. If it works, a 62-mile barrier could be put up by 2020. In the meantime, Slat says it's important to prevent plastic from ever entering the ocean: "Better recycling, better product design, and some legislation is all part of that. We need a combination of things." Catherine Garcia

February 12, 2015

Every year, about eight million metric tons of plastic ends up in the world's oceans, and that number is expected to increase over the next 10 years unless waste management improves in several countries.

In a report published in the journal Science on Thursday, lead author Jenna Jambeck, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia, said that her team measured the year 2010, and determined that anywhere from 4.8 million to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic went into the ocean, leaving them with the middle figure of eight million. That number is the equivalent of "five plastic grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world," she told The New York Times. "[That] sort of blew my mind."

The study projects that by 2025, that will increase to 10 bags per foot. Researchers determined these massive numbers by figuring out how much waste is produced every year by each person in the 192 countries that have coastlines, and then determining how much was probably plastic and how much could go into the ocean because of the country’s waste management practices. "This is a significant study,” Nancy Wallace, director of the marine debris program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Times. "Of course we know these aren't absolute numbers, but it gives us an idea of the magnitude, and where we might need to focus our efforts to affect the issue." Catherine Garcia

November 25, 2014

On Wednesday, the Obama administration will likely release details of a new regulation that will curb ozone emissions.

Ozone causes smog and is linked to asthma, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. The proposed regulation would lower the current threshold for ozone pollution from 75 parts per million to a range of 65 to 70 parts per million, sources familiar with the plan told The New York Times. It will primarily target smog from power plants and factories, particularly those in the Midwest.

Environmental groups are asking for the number to go even lower, down to 60 parts per million. "For the past several years, the public has been living with a false sense of security about whether the air they're breathing is safe," William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, told the Times. "Ozone is not only killing people, but causing tens of millions of people to get sick every day." Catherine Garcia

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