Here’s this week’s weekly round-up:
Scientists discovered an ancient fossil proving multiple stages of pre-human evolution circa ~3.7 million years ago (that predates the first prehuman discovered, Lucy, by 500,000 years). The foot creates a puzzling debate, though, since it indicates that these pre-humans spent more of their time in trees than on the ground, but were still closer to modern man than they were chimpanzees, our closest primal relative. 500,000 years sure is a short time for evolution to kick in enough to make a tree-residing humanoid walk upright like Lucy, but possibly answers the question as to whether or not there was more than one pre-human line. Read the New York Times article here.
A major gas leak forced the evacuation of crews on an offshore platform in the North Sea. French officials announced that it could take as long as six months to stop the gas from leaking freely into the atmosphere. The leak occurred in a well that workers were in the process of capping and abandoning (sound familiar? *bp*). The volume of gas escaping was so high that it made the air poisonous to breathe and potentially flammable. Flammable air. Now that’s new. I guess the one upside is that it’s a gas leak, and not an oil leak. Although gas is odorless and can kill you in your sleep, at least it doesn’t leave all that goo everywhere (that’s sarcasm, btw). Read more about it here.
Paraguay is losing rain forest cover at at an alarming rate, causing changes in everything from food availability to temperature. Groups of natives who have been living in the Chaco forest for centuries are being forced out. This is bad news for everyone involved, minus the cattle farmers who are cutting down the forest to put in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) to feed an already overweight American population. We have all heard of deforestation before, but I urge you to read this and really think about the consequences of your eating habits.
The EPA took several major hits this week in the courts: a judge agreed to hear a couple’s case to have their property turned from a protected wetland into a housing development; another federal judge reversed a decision by the EPA to revoke a permit on one of the nation’s largest mountaintop removal projects; and Obama’s attempt to tighten CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants via EPA is tantamount to sucking water out the Mississippi with a straw: the damage is already done, and most facilities are switching to natural gas, anyways. All in all, not a good week to be the EPA.