by Tom Bosschaert

Aug. 16, 2014

Tom Bosschaert

Bird declines are linked to popular pesticides, dark snow accelerates climate change, and Ukraine demands the return of combat dolphins from Russia. Read all about it in this Wormfood.

Global News: Silent spring part II

    • Research has identified the world’s most widely used insecticides as the key factor in the recent reduction in numbers of farmland birds. The neonicotinoid insecticides are believed to seriously harm bees and other pollinating insects, but the suspected knock-on effects on other species had not been demonstrated until now.

  • BBC staff is ordered to stop giving equal airtime to climate deniers. This video ridicules lopsided television debates on climate change.

  • A new estimate suggests we are currently running at 1000 times the normal rate of species extinction. This rate of extinction is only seen in the fossil record after incredibly dramatic and unusual occurrences, such as huge asteroid strikes or supervolcano eruptions.

Energy & Environment: Dark snow accelerates climate change

  • The phenomenon of "dark snow" is being recorded from the Himalayas to the Arctic. Dark snow accelerates global warming by decreasing the Earth’s albedo (reflectivity), leading to a longer melt season, which in turn creates feedback where more solar heat is absorbed and the melting accelerates. Any reduction in albedo is a disaster, says Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Oceans Physics Group at Cambridge University.

  • China is mandating that electric cars make up at least 30 percent of government vehicle purchases by 2016. This is the latest measure to fight pollution and cut energy use after exempting the autos from a purchase tax.

Business & Economy: Another crash around the corner?

  • One shock away from a further crisis.” That’s the verdict on economy stability in an new paper published by the Jimmy Reid Foundation. Financialisation – the ballooning of finance and its intrusion into every part of life – led to the calamity of 2008. Since then, as the paper demonstrates, remarkably little has been done to even restrain the process.

  • Executive pay has grown from 60 times that of the average worker to almost 180 times since the 1990s, according to a report. The High Pay Centre, a think tank, said shareholders were still backing high executive pay deals despite new powers to vote them down at annual meetings.

Science, Technology & Design: Magnetic field flipping

  • Earth's magnetic field flip could happen sooner than expected. Changes measured by the Swarm satellite show that our magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than originally predicted, especially over the Western Hemisphere.

  • India will install a 50 megawatt solar power plant on a 1.27 million square metre floating platform by the end of the year.

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds birth control microchip that lasts 16 years inside the body and can be turned on or off with remote control. The birth control microchip would hold nearly two decades worth of a hormone commonly used in contraceptives and dispense 30 micrograms a day, according to a report from the MIT Technology Review.

Urban Environment: Food spending worldwide

  • These maps show how much countries spend on food.

  • Ten innovative urban farm projects.

  • Eritrea, the United Nations says, is the planet's least-connected country. Less than 1% of its people have landlines; just 5.6% have cell phones. As for the Internet, less than 1% use it, and connections are almost all dial-up. Few Eritreans knew of the Arab Spring, and the government "still hasn’t reported" on the death of Moammar Gadhafi, says an activist.

Unexpected and Intriguing: Russia steals combat dolphins

  • Ukraine demands the return of combat dolphins from Russia. Trained to carry out military tasks, they were seized during the annexation of Crimea.

  • US father takes unclaimed African kingdom so his daughter can be a princess.

  • Russian orthodox priest says football is gay – because of its shoes. "Wearing pink or blue shoes, [the players] might as well wear women's panties or a bra," Shumsky wrote, adding that he was also offended by the "unthinkable" hairstyles of some of the players in Brazil.

  • Chinese president Xi Jinping vows China won't bully other nations. "It's not in Chinese people's genes to seek to dominate or bully, to be militaristic," he said.

This bi-weekly digest is assembled from items sent to us by Except members. Have questions, comments, or news items to suggest? E-mail Read past Wormfood global news reports here.

Aug. 16, 2014