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Sierra magazine
Up to Speed: Two Months, One Page

Biologists observe octopuses off the coast of Indonesia carrying coconut shells to use as emergency shelters.

Thousands of dead octopuses wash up on Portuguese beaches.

World Watch estimates that methane from livestock, clearing of rainforests for pasture, and other emanations from animal agriculture amount to more than half of the world's total greenhouse-gas emissions.

Lakes of liquid methane dot the surface of Saturn's moon Titan-a camera on the Cassini spacecraft catches sunlight reflecting off one.

Water is found on the moon.

Brown pelicans are removed from the endangered species list. In the 1960s they were almost wiped out by DDT.

"Technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency," declares Pope Benedict. He warns, however, against a "supposedly egalitarian vision of the 'dignity' of all living creatures," saying it verges on Paganism.

No new coal plant broke ground in the United States in 2009.

No new solar plants or wind farms are likely to be built on a million protected acres of California's Mojave Desert, because of opposition from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D). She does propose a large tax credit for building solar projects on degraded lands.

Solar panel theft is on the rise.

The CIA puts its spycraft to work monitoring environmental trends like desertification, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels. The program existed in the 1990s, but was killed by the Bush administration.

A Japanese whaling ship strikes a boat belonging to the conservationist Sea Shepherd Society off Antarctica, shearing away its bow.

The EPA proposes strict new limits on ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog, reversing a 2008 Bush-era decision.

At the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, many countries announce substantial commitments to reduce carbon emissions, but despite strong personal intervention by President Barack Obama, there is no final, binding climate accord.

Federal and state governments will use $1.79 billion in funds obtained through the bankruptcy of copper-mining giant ASARCO to clean up and restore the company's 19 Superfund Sites. ASARCO had attempted to sell off its most valuable assets to a shell company before seeking Chapter 11 protection. (See "Going for Broke," May/June 2006.)

The EPA signs off on a permit for Patriot Coal's Hobet 45 mountaintop-removal mine, in Lincoln County, West Virginia. The mine will bury more than three miles of streams under millions of cubic yards of rubble.

A major study in the journal Science demonstrates the damages from mountaintop-removal operations like Hobet 45. Its conclusion: "Mining permits are being issued despite the preponderance of scientific evidence that impacts are pervasive and irreversible and that mitigation cannot compensate for losses."

Paddy Power, Ireland's largest bookmaker, is taking bets on how many polar bears will be left at the end of next year. Odds are 13 to 8 on fewer than now. —Paul Rauber


 

Photos and illustrations: iStockphoto/grajte (octopus), iStockphoto/Sergey_Peterman (water), iStockphoto/CarolinaSmith (moon), iStockphoto/Agustinc (Thief), iStockphoto/penfold (solar panel), iStockphoto/pixhook (money), iStockphoto/blamb (polar bear)

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