Why large numbers of reptile species face extinction and what that means for our ecosystem | PBS News Weekend

“Globally, about 20 percent of reptile species are facing the threat of extinction. That’s according to a recent study in the scientific journal “Nature.” Geoff Bennett takes a deeper look now at what’s driving this extinction crisis and what it could mean for the rest of the world.”

“Geoff Bennett:

The study also found that if all threatened reptiles were to disappear, the world would lose a combined 15 billion years of evolutionary history.

Bruce Young:

It’ll take a big contribution by governments to kind of change the trajectory we’re on.

Geoff Bennett:

One of the reptiles most at risk is turtles, with nearly 60% of the species facing extinction, and a need of targeted conservation efforts.

Source: Why large numbers of reptile species face extinction and what that means for our ecosystem | PBS News Weekend

Fusion Energy Advance Is Hailed by a Seattle Start-Up – The New York Times

“Zap Energy, a fusion energy start-up working on a low-cost path to producing electricity commercially, said last week that it had taken an important step toward testing a system its researchers believe will eventually produce more electricity than it consumes.

That point is seen as a milestone in solving the world’s energy challenge while it moves away from fossil fuels. An emerging global industry composed of almost three dozen start-ups and heavily funded government development projects is pursuing a variety of concepts. Zap Energy, based in Seattle, stands out because its approach — if it works — would be simpler and cheaper than what other companies are doing.”

French Nuclear Power Crisis Frustrates Europe’s Push to Quit Russian Energy – The New York Times

“PARIS — Plumes of steam towered above two reactors recently at the Chinon nuclear power plant in the heart of France’s verdant Loire Valley. But the skies above a third reactor there were unusually clear — its operations frozen after the worrisome discovery of cracks in the cooling system.

The partial shutdown isn’t unique: Around half of France’s atomic fleet, the largest in Europe, has been taken offline as a storm of unexpected problems swirls around the nation’s state-backed nuclear power operator, Électricité de France, or EDF.

As the European Union moves to cut ties to Russian oil and gas in the wake of Moscow’s war on Ukraine, France has been betting on its nuclear plants to weather a looming energy crunch. Nuclear power provides about 70 percent of France’s electricity, a bigger share than any other country in the world.”

Margaret Renkl | Wondering How to Help Stop Climate Change? Do Less. – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — When I mention the new meadow I am cultivating where our front yard used to be, my adult children roll their eyes. The word “meadow” conjures the mental image of a sunny field of blooming wildflowers, but this one is a work in progress. A dream more than an actuality.

The new meadow where our front yard used to be is mainly white clover, chickweed and grass gone to seed, though there are also patches of low-growing violets, which I love, and creeping Charlie, which I do not. (An invasive species, creeping Charlie is the bane of the natural yard.) But already there are also some lovely clumps of fleabane — small daisylike flowers on knee-high stems — that look very much like the romantic fields brought to mind by the word “meadow.” Soon there will be other flowers, too. Perhaps not this year but certainly the next, and there will be even more the year after that.

This is not a statement of faith but of fact. Every year we let more patches of our yard go wild, and every year more flowers appear in the uncut areas. First came pokeweed and butterweed in the backyard, then white snakeroot and Carolina elephant’s foot in the side yard. Last year we had frost asters for the first time.

May is Garden for Wildlife Month, according to the National Wildlife Federation, but gardening doesn’t necessarily mean planting. It can also mean giving the volunteer flowers a permanent home. Because where there are wildflowers, there will be insects. And where there are insects, there will be birds and bats and tree frogs and many other creatures who rely on the protein insects provide.”

“. . . For years, we mowed it all into a conventional yard after spring’s first wild profusion of flowers was over. Then I read Douglas W. Tallamy’s 2007 book “Bringing Nature Home” and learned how much more we could be doing beyond tolerating moles and keeping the yard poison-free. We started planting native trees, flowers and shrubs, too, understanding that native wildlife needs native plants to eat. We started letting leaves and deadwood lie to feed and shelter insects. And we let the unused parts of the yard grow up.”

Margaret Renkl | On an Endangered River, Another Toxic Disaster Is Waiting to Happen – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — Almost four years ago, spurred by my decades-long fascination with Homer’s story of the lotus-eaters, my husband and I made a pilgrimage to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in Alabama to see American lotuses in full bloom. Jimbo Meador, our guide, was happy to take us on his boat to see the extravagant flowers.

A certified master naturalist, he was also happy to take birders to see the more than 300 species of birds that have been identified in that magnificent delta and to talk with history buffs about the original peoples who lived in the area or the fort where the last major battle of the Civil War was fought or the spot in the river where a ghost fleet of World War II Liberty ships was once anchored. Mr. Meador has spent his whole life talking about the crucial role the Mobile-Tensaw Delta plays in the human and ecological life of the region.

The biologist E.O. Wilson called this delta “arguably the biologically richest place” Americans have.”

Why Climate Change Makes It Harder to Fight Fire With Fire – The New York Times

“Summer is still more than a month and a half away, but enormous wildfires have already consumed landscapes and darkened skies in Arizona, New Mexico and Nebraska. Whipping winds threw flames across the terrain around Boulder, Colo., in December and March.

In Boulder, worries about wildfire used to be focused around August and late summer, when lightning strikes can ignite the timbers. “Now the focus is every month,” said John Potter, a deputy director at the city’s Open Space and Mountain Parks department.”

Get Ready for Another Energy Price Spike: High Electric Bills – The New York Times

“Already frustrated and angry about high gasoline prices, many Americans are being hit by rapidly rising electricity bills, compounding inflation’s financial toll on people and businesses.

The national average residential electricity rate was up 8 percent in January from a year earlier, the biggest annual increase in more than a decade. The latest figures, from February, show an almost 4 percent annual rise, reaching the highest level for that month and approaching summer rates, which are generally the most expensive.

In Florida, Hawaii, Illinois and New York, rates are up about 15 percent, according to the Energy Department’s latest figures. Combined with a seasonal increase in the use of electricity as people turn on air-conditioners, the higher rates will leave many people paying a lot more for power this summer than they did last year.”

Trash or Recycling? Why Plastic Keeps Us Guessing. – The New York Times

“The universal symbol for recycling, known as the “chasing arrows” logo, is stamped on so many things. But that doesn’t mean they’re recyclable.

Manufacturers can print the logo on just about any product. That’s because its main purpose isn’t to say whether it’s recyclable, but to identify the type of plastic it’s made from. (For example, if there’s a “3” in the center, it’s PVC, which most curbside recycling programs don’t accept.) The logo is so widely misunderstood that last year California banned its use on things that aren’t recyclable.

There are efforts to improve the system. But first, the central question:

Why is this so hard?

The rules are confusing.

The unhelpful symbol is just one aspect of a recycling system that is far too confusing to be broadly effective. It puts the burden on individuals to decode a secret language — to figure out not only whether a thing is recyclable, but also if their local recycling program actually accepts it.”

More big-tech billionaires backing next-gen nuclear startups — ANS / Nuclear Newswire

“The trend of big-tech billionaires of Silicon Valley investing in next-generation nuclear energy startup companies continues. In a March 22 article on the Bloomberg website, Lizette Chapman, of the site’s venture capital group, writes that these investors view nuclear power as “a solution to both cutting carbon emissions and weaning the world off now-controversial Russian gas.”

According to the article, venture funding for startups focusing on nuclear energy reached a peak in 2021, with an investment amount that year of $3.4 billion. That amount compares with $381 million in 2020 and only $131 million back in 2012.”

Source: More big-tech billionaires backing next-gen nuclear startups — ANS / Nuclear Newswire