California becomes first US state to ban plastic bags

California has become the first American state to ban the use of plastic bags for environmental reasons – but critics argue the policy will cost jobs.

Under the new law, plastic bags will be banned in phases. Grocery stores and pharmacies will be required to stop handing out disposable bags by July 1, 2015. Afterwards, customers will be charged 10 cents for paper bags or reusable plastic bags. By 2016, convenience stores and liquor stores will have to do the same.

“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks, and even the vast ocean itself,” said California Governor Jerry Brown on signing the milestone bill into law. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

The law allows exceptions for the purchase of meats, fruits and vegetables, and authorizes local governments to impose fines of up to $5,000 on businesses that violate the rule.

Environmental advocates claim that single plastic bags pollute rivers, oceans, parks, and beaches, adding that they are dangerous to animal life and don’t easily decompose. They also clog city storm drains, costing municipalities millions of dollars to clean up.



Why 35,000 Walrus Come Ashore in Northwest Alaska

The World Wildlife Fund said walrus have also been gathering in large groups on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea.

"It’s another remarkable sign of the dramatic environmental conditions changing as the result of sea ice loss," said Margaret Williams, managing director of the group’s Arctic program, by phone from Washington, D.C. "The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change."

Learn more from the Associated Press.

Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived

Evidence from around the world supports scientists’ assertion that global warming is already happening

Sep. 27 2014

Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion.

In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet’s warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside.

Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country’s president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. “He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating,” Tony de Brum, the islands’ foreign minister, revealed recently.

"Our airport retaining wall that keeps the saltwater out of the landing strip has also been breached. Even our graveyards are also being undermined – coffins and bodies are being dug out from the seashore."

Across the planet, it is getting harder and harder to find shelter from the storm. And things are only likely to get worse, say researchers.

As Europe continues to heat up, energy demands are expected to drop in northern countries, but equally they are destined to soar around the Mediterranean and in the south where there will be a desperate need for cooling and air-conditioning that will drive up power costs.

By the middle of the century, forest fires and severe heatwaves will be increasingly common while crops will be devastated and vineyards will be scorched.

Similarly, in the Alps, lack of snow and melting ice will make skiing, walking and climbing far less enticing for tourists. So if you are planning to cash in that little nest egg you have been nurturing to buy a retreat on the continent, think very carefully which part of Europe you pick. By this reckoning, Norway looks a good bet, as does Scotland.

Other parts of the world face different problems created by the billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that we now pump into the atmosphere from factories, power plants and cars. In Asia the main issue concerns the presence and absence of water. In the south-east of the region, continued sea-level rises threaten to further erode farmlands and coastal towns and cities, while inland it will be water scarcity that will affect most people’s lives. In this latter case, higher temperatures will combine with lack of water to trigger major reductions in rice yields.

In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that up to 139 million people could face food shortages at least once a decade by 2070.

Perhaps most alarming of all the forecasts that concern the future warming of our planet is the work of Camilo Mora at the University of Hawaii. His research – which involved using a range of climate models to predict temperatures on a grid that covered the globe – suggests that by 2047 the planet’s climate systems will have changed to such an extent that the coldest years then will be warmer than even the hottest years that were experienced at any time in the 20th century.

"Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced," Mora said in an interview with the New York Times recently. “What we are saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm.”

In other words, our species – which is already assailed by the impact of mild global warming – is now plunging headlong into an overheated future for which there are no recorded precedents.

This Chaco Tortoise (Chelonoidis chilensis) is ready for its close up! In 2008 the Turtle Conservancy traveled to Argentina and Uruguay to document the ecology, status, and distribution of this vulnerable species. You can see the full film at:

Coming from my hand, the phrase “my boyfriend lives in a dumpster” still seems unlikely, though it’s simple enough to explain why it’s true: Jeff, a science professor and university dean, is leading a yearlong social experiment in which a team of students, designers and engineers are converting a used dumpster into a high-tech, sustainable home in order to test the extreme limits of what one needs for a good life. Jeff, the intrepid guinea pig, is living inside it, on campus, during each renovation phase — from rusty bin to solar-powered über dumpster.

World on track for worst-case warming scenario

Sep. 22 2014

Presidents, prime ministers and ministers flying into New York City on Tuesday for a one-day United Nations summit on climate change have their work cut out for them. And this is why. As the graph above shows, despite everything they have done so far, we are on a clear course to extreme global warming.

Since the ignominious 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, over a hundred nations have pledged action on emissions. The world has seen a major shift away from coal in favour of gas, which emits fewer greenhouse gases. Solar panels have become much, much cheaper and are being deployed in regions around the world, as are other renewable sources of energy. But the latest number-crunching – published on Sunday in Nature Climate Change – shows that none of this is enough.

"Our study shows no progress in curbing global carbon emissions," says Corinne Le Quéré at the University of East Anglia in the UK. Global carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production grew 2.3 per cent in 2013. They are expected to increase a further 2.5 per cent this year. “And they are projected to be around that for the next five years,” says Le Quéré. “There is no progress in spite of all the talk.”

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More time lapses for you, here are some sketches from September!

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Matt Dillon supports turtle Conservation!


Environment Sketching for Production with Armand Serrano assignments

My CGMA class wrapped up last week, and I’m so happy to finally share what I’ve been working for my course! 

I chose to develop my concept for this illustration I made a few months back since I already have a story in mind for it. Throughout the eight weeks we delved into silhouette, composition, staging, values, adding meaning and history to the elements in our work, and improving on what we’ve done the week before.

Our instructor Armand Serrano stressed the importance of having a strong concept as the foundation of the artwork, with everything else—design, technique, perspective, composition, values, and color—working in support of it. He also reiterated the importance of getting the values down first then dealing with colors last, which is why only two of the illustrations above —my final pieces—are in color.


A mass of thousands of walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) were spotted hauled up on land in northwest Alaska during NOAA aerial surveys earlier this week. An estimated 35,000 occupied a single beach – a record number illustrating a trend in an unnatural behavior scientists say is due to global warming. No longer able to find sea ice, walruses turn to land to rest, breed, give birth.

This year, sea ice in the arctic reached one of its lowest points since satellite monitoring began in 1979, and is expected to decline ever-further. 

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A summary of the type of science done by the US Geological Survey at Lake Tahoe. Lots of geoscience plus lots of Lake Tahoe and mountain views!