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Tesseract2 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

NASA Puts the Planet Up for Adoption in Time for Earth Day

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Tesseract2 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’re looking to feel a deeper connection to the planet you call home, NASA has good news. As Smithsonian.com reports, the space agency is putting Earth up for adoption one 55-mile-wide section at a time.

The project launched on April 6 in anticipation of Earth Day on April 22. Unlike other programs that invite you to symbolically adopt a panda or a star, this process doesn’t require a donation. Just type in your name and NASA will assign you one of 64,000 adoptable locations that cover the globe. The areas are divided into hexagonal tiles, each accompanied by Earth science data gathered on NASA missions. “With instruments in orbit, scientists get data for the entire planet in detail that they can't get anywhere else,” NASA states on the webpage. After receiving their block, users can click on the Explore Map link to take a more in-depth look at it from NASA’s Worldview tool. NASA writes:

“In Worldview you will be able to view images that highlight the amount of vegetation on land or view air quality measurements. You can see how far air pollution and soot from fires or volcanoes have traveled from land to the ocean or how much sea ice is present in the Arctic and Antarctic.”

Each section of Earth comes with a personalized certificate for the adopter to download. But the virtual arrangement won’t stay exclusive for long: If NASA cycles through all 64,000 locations, they’ll go through the list again for anyone who missed out the first time.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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Animals
Why Blue Dogs Have Been Roaming Mumbai
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Press TV News Videos, YouTube

Residents of Mumbai began noticing a peculiar sight on August 11: roving stray dogs tinted a light shade of blue. No one knew what to make of these canines, which were spotted in the streets seemingly unharmed but otherwise bucking nature.

Concerned observers now have an answer, but it’s not a very reassuring one. According to The Guardian, the 11 Smurf-colored animals were the result of pollution run-off in the nearby Kasadi River. Industrial waste, including dyes, has been identified as coming from a nearby manufacturing plant. Although dogs are known to swim in the river, the blue dye was also found in the air. After complaints, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board investigated and found the factory, Ducol Organics Pvt Ltd., was not adhering to regulatory guidelines for waste disposal. They shut off water to the facility and issued a notice of closure last Friday.

“There are a set of norms that every industry needs to follow,” MPCB regional officer Anil Mohekar told The Hindustan Times. “After our sub-regional officers confirmed media reports that dogs were indeed turning blue due to air and water pollution, we conducted a detailed survey at the plant … We will ensure that the plant does not function from Monday and the decision sets an example for other polluting industries, which may not be following pollution abatement measures.”

Animal services workers who retrieved five of the dogs were able to wash off the dye. They reported that no other health issues were detected.

[h/t The Guardian]

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environment
A Coral Reef in Mexico Just Got Its Own Insurance Policy
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iStock

The Puerto Morelos coral reef, about 20 miles south of Cancún, is one of Mexico’s most popular snorkeling attractions. It also serves a vital purpose beyond drawing tourists. Like all reefs, it provides a buffer for the coast, protecting nearby beaches from brutal waves and storms. And so the beachside businesses that rely on the reef have decided to protect the coral as they would any other vital asset: with insurance. As Fast Company reports, the reef now has its own insurance policy, the first-ever policy of its kind.

Coral reefs are currently threatened by increasing ocean acidification, warmer waters, pollution, and other ocean changes that put them at risk of extinction. Mass coral bleachings are affecting reefs all over the world. That’s not to mention the risk of damage during extreme storms, which are becoming more frequent due to climate change.

Businesses in Puerto Morelos and Cancún pay the premiums for the Reef & Beach Resilience and Insurance Fund, and if the reef gets damaged, the insurance company will pay to help restore it. It’s not just an altruistic move. By protecting the Puerto Morelos reef, nearby businesses are protecting themselves. According to The Nature Conservancy, which designed the insurance policy, coral reef tourism generates around $36 billion for businesses around the world each year. Perhaps even more importantly to coastal businesses, reefs protect $6 billion worth of built capital (i.e. anything human-made) annually.

When a storm hits, the insurance company will pay out a claim in 10 days, according to Fast Company, providing an immediate influx of cash for urgent repair. (The insurance policy is tied to the event of a storm, not the damage, since it would be hard to immediately quantify the economic damage to a reef.) The corals that break off the reef can be rehabilitated at a nursery and reattached, but they have to be collected immediately. Waiting months for an insurance payout wouldn’t help if all the damaged corals have already floated away.

The insurance policy is one of many new initiatives designed to rehabilitate and protect endangered coastal ecosystems that we now know are vital to buffering the coast from storm surges and strong waves. Coral reefs aren’t the only protective reefs: In the eastern and southern coastal U.S., some restaurants have started donating oyster shells to help rebuild oyster reefs offshore as a storm protection and ecosystem rehabilitation measure.

Considering the outsized role reefs play in coastal protection, more insurance policies may be coming to ecosystems elsewhere in the world. Hopefully.

[h/t Fast Company]

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