Global Warming Could Soften 66 Tons of Human Poop at Alaska’s Denali National Park

iStock.com/zzvision
iStock.com/zzvision

As North America’s tallest mountain, Denali has always been a challenge to climb. Those who dare to scale the Alaskan summit may be forced to dodge avalanches, bears, and altitude sickness—and piles of melting poo could soon be added to the list.

As USA Today reports, decades-old feces left behind by climbers could start thawing out as early as this summer due to climate change. Researchers say 66 tons of frozen poo has been dumped in snow pits or crevasses, according to estimates based on the average human “deposit.” That waste can eventually work its way downstream and end up on the surface of a glacier.

Situated in Denali National Park, the mountain—formerly known as Mount McKinley—rises to an elevation of 20,310 feet above sea level. That makes removing the waste difficult, but climbers are starting to embrace more sustainable practices. Companies that arrange expeditions at Denali have voluntarily offered to make their clients pack up and carry their own waste. Visitors were already required to carry their waste while climbing up the first 14,000 feet of the mountain, but the new measure would help protect the upper section of Denali as well.

“Climbers and particularly guide services are really embracing the new policy and are even exceeding it,” Michael Loso, a National Park Service (NPS) glaciologist, told USA Today. “It has become kind of an informal badge of merit to carry off all your waste.”

Of course, the softening poo is representative of a much larger issue. Some of Denali’s glaciers are melting at a rate that is concerning. The NPS has used comparative photography to measure some of the glaciers and concluded that most of the ones they studied had “retreated, thinned, or stagnated.”

Alaskan parks in general have also seen their ice-covered areas shrink by 8 percent in the last 50 years. “We have lost more glacier cover in the Alaskan national parks than there is area in the whole state of Rhode Island,” Loso said.

[h/t USA Today]

An Underpass for Turtles in Wisconsin Is Saving Dozens of the Little Guys’ Lives

Dmytro Varavin/iStock via Getty Images
Dmytro Varavin/iStock via Getty Images

Why did the turtle cross the road? Because an underground tunnel made it safe to do so.

In 2016, the Wisconsin Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to construct a tunnel beneath Highway 66, hoping to cut down on high turtle mortality rates, reports Robert Mentzer for Wisconsin Public Radio.

The tunnel, with Jordan Pond on one side and wetlands on the other, was a noble venture, but the turtles had no way of knowing it was a crossing point rather than a dark and potentially dangerous hole. So Pete Zani, herpetologist and associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, installed aluminum flashing outside of each opening, which would reflect the sky and let turtles know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Zani also installed grates above the tunnel to make it less shadowy, and a small cul-de-sac in a nearby piece of the fencing to encourage turtles who had missed the tunnel to turn around.

Zani and his team found that in the first year after construction, 85 percent fewer turtles were killed on the road, and no baby turtles were among the casualties. In the last few years combined, only 40 turtles died, compared to 66 deaths in 2015 alone.

That’s great news for local turtles, of course, and it’s great news for local humans, too. The intersection in question is always busy with truckers, commuters, and families en route to Jordan Pond, and turtle crossing can exacerbate traffic congestion and increase the chance of accidents.

Not all turtles have caught on, however, and it looks like some might never get the memo. Zani found that about 30 percent of snapping turtles and 20 percent of painted turtles make it through the tunnel, and those numbers have been consistent each year since construction. “They either get it or they don’t,” Zani told Wisconsin Public Radio.

Other animals are getting it, too. As part of the experiment, Zani set up a turtle-wrangling program in which students monitored trail cameras for turtle activity outside the underpass. In photos captured by the cameras, they noticed that rodents, mink, skunks, raccoons, and even house cats were traveling by turtle tunnel.

[h/t Wisconsin Public Radio]

Canned Aquafina Water May Be Coming to a Store Near You

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Like boxed cereal and egg cartons, bottled water is one of the most pervasive and familiar examples of consumer packaging around. But PepsiCo, which produces the LIFEWTR and Aquafina water brands, is looking to change that. The company recently announced a new strategy that would reduce its use of plastics and ultimately wean consumers off bottles entirely, turning them on to sipping water from aluminum cans instead.

According to The Takeout, Pepsi says it plans to change how its water is packaged in significant ways begining in 2020. The LIFEWTR brand will use plastic bottles, but the company plans to source those containers from 100 percent rPET, or recycled polyethylene terephthalate. Its bubly sparkling water line, meanwhile, will be sold in cans, rather than in both bottles and cans, as it currently is. So will Aquafina, one of the leading bottled water brands, though it will initially be offered in cans only at food service establishments while the company tests retail preferences. If all goes well, retail consumers will eventually be able to buy Aquafina in cans, too.

Such alterations would make for sweeping changes to the bottled water business, which has exploded in recent years. In 2016, the average American drank 39.3 gallons of packaged water per capita, edging out soda’s 38.5 gallons.

The move to cans stems in large part from consumer habits. Over half of all beer and soda cans are recycled compared to just 31.2 percent of plastic bottles.

PepsiCo expects the changes will result in saving more than 8800 tons of virgin plastic and 12,125 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The company is looking to make all of its packaging recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable by 2025.

[h/t The Takeout]

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