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Diliff via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Diliff via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

England’s White Cliffs Are Crumbling at an Accelerated Rate

Diliff via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Diliff via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Buddhist nun Pema Chödron may have said it best: “Everything—every tree, every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings, buildings, the animate and the inanimate—is always changing, moment to moment.” Though they often operate on a timescale that can be beyond our human perception, geological features are not exempt from the flow of time. In some places, that change happens fast. Geologists say chalk cliffs on England’s southern shore are eroding 10 times faster than they once did. The researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The picturesque chalk cliffs known as the Seven Sisters swoop gracefully along the British coast, attracting tourists and photographers. Yet for their serene appearance, the cliffs are not exactly safe.

Chalk is one of the softest minerals and easily broken—especially when it’s being constantly pounded by the sea. The site saw major landslides in 1999 and 2001, and a massive cliff-fall in May 2016 sent tons of rock into the water below. (“While we would encourage people to enjoy the beautiful coastline of East Sussex," reads the Seven Sisters Country Park website, “we would remind visitors that you do have a duty of care and responsibility for your own safety.”)

Understanding coastal erosion has become a big issue in a world facing rising sea levels. The tricky part is studying something that, by definition, is no longer there. Even tons of fallen rock will break down and be scattered by the sea.

But the ghosts of the old coastline still haunt the rock that remains. To find them, geologists used a technique called cosmogenic nuclide dating, which measures the extent of cosmic radiation in rock to determine its age and how long it’s been exposed. This, in turn, can paint a picture of how that rock has moved or been changed over time.

The white cliffs are studded with pieces of hard, chemically inert flint—a rock that makes a far more reliable historical witness than soft chalk. Working perpendicular to the cliffs themselves, the researchers pulled chunks of flint from exposed rock in a line beginning at the cliff and ending near the water’s edge.

They crushed the flint into microscopic pieces, then put them through a cosmogenic nuclide array to determine their age and history.

Next, the researchers fed that data into a mathematical model of the coastline, which allowed them to estimate the cliffs’ rate of erosion going back thousands of years.

They found that the coast is indeed crumbling fast—but they also learned that this pace is a relatively recent development. For most of the cliffs’ history, the authors write in their paper, the rate of erosion held steady at between 2 and 6 centimeters per year. But that rate has accelerated mightily in the last few centuries, now cruising along at 22 to 32 centimeters a year.

What changed (or changed more)? The authors can’t say for sure. Natural climate change is one possibility; wave action did become more violent during the so-called Little Ice Age, which took place from the 14th to 19th centuries. The cliffs have also become more vulnerable over the last few centuries, as ocean currents and human engineers picked away at the band of sediment protecting the coast from the ocean’s full force.

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Amsterdam is Turning Plastic Trash Into 3D-Printed Furniture
PrintYourCity
PrintYourCity

The city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands is taking a unique approach to waste management, Inhabitat reports. Under the direction of The New Raw, a Rotterdam-based design studio, recycled plastic is being used to make public benches that capture a lot of the area’s charm while providing solutions for the 51 pounds of plastic refuse each Amsterdam resident tosses away each year.

The initiative is called Print Your City! and encourages those materials to be repurposed via 3D printing to make new, permanent fixtures. The New Raw calls it a “closed loop” of use, where the plastic is used, reused, and materialized in the same environment. The bench, dubbed XXX, seats two and rocks back and forth with the sitters' movements, offering a metaphor for the teamwork The New Raw is attempting to cultivate with the general public.

A plastic chair is surrounded by trash
Print Your City!

“Plastic has a major design failure,” says Panos Sakkas, an architect with The New Raw. “It’s designed to last forever, but it’s used only for a few seconds and then easily thrown away.”

The goal is to collect more plastic material in the city to use for projects that can be designed and implemented by citizens. In the future, 3D printing may also support bus shelters, waste bins, and playground material—all of it recyclable.

[h/t Inhabitat]

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To Encourage Responsible Trash Disposal, a Startup in Nigeria Pays People for their Waste
iStock
iStock

Nigeria is home to more than 180 million people, who produce more than 32 million tons of waste per year and just 20 to 30 percent of this garbage is collected, according to one estimate. To provide Nigerians with incentive to dispose of their trash responsibly, Junks, a Nigerian waste management startup, provides people with the chance to exchange their trash for cash, according to Konbini.

The company offers to pay for items and materials like discarded electronics, glass, plastic, aluminum, books, and clothes. Once purchased, these materials are re-sold to wholesalers and recycling companies, according to Techpoint. Potential users who want to sell their trash are required to register on the startup's website, Junks.ng, and fill out a form with a description of the trash they're selling, along with their asking price and contact information. Once this information is received, representatives from Junks are sent to pick up and pay for the waste.

Computer programmer Bradley Yarrow founded Junks.ng in August 2017. Based in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, Nigeria, the company currently has just three employees, in addition to Yarrow. That said, the tiny startup appears to be doing big business, judging from a growing list of sold junk—which includes laminating machines, old laptops, and scrap car parts—already listed on Junks.ng.

[h/t Konbini]

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