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Russian Zombie Pigeons, Fukushima (Somehow) Gets Worse, Firenadoes Are for Realz
Our top picks: the best environmental news and #greenreads from around the web.

Pigeon apocalypse: Russians are saying their pigeons are acting like zombies, stumbling around, flying aimlessly, and crashing into humans. Other birds just fall out of the sky—dead. (The only good news is the epidemic doesn’t seem to be Hitchcockian.) Experts say it’s more likely a combination of hot weather and Newcastle disease, a fatal avian virus that can spread to humans, who will experience flu-like symptoms but don't die. Even so, some think the mass bird die-off is a sign of the apocalypse predicted by tsarist-era mystic Grigory Rasputin. But don’t worry, that’s not scheduled to happen until at least … Friday. Guardian

Please, sir, I want some more: Bony, emaciated sea lion pups have been showing up on southern California’s shores in record numbers this year. Vets and volunteers have made Herculean efforts to rehabilitate the animals, while scientists have been trying to figure out what might have caused the hundreds of pups to starve. Biotoxins in shellfish? Disease? It’s possible the pups were just plain hungry. Though this, too, would be a problem, since sea lions have a reputation for eating just about anything. OnEarth

Incoming!: As the war in Afghanistan draws to a close, the U.S. Navy shifts its steely gaze to the Pacific. Unfortunately for marine mammals, that means enduring the military's training exercises involving 50,000 underwater explosions and 10,000 hours of high-intensity sonar use a year. Despite overwhelming research that this underwater raucous can stress and kill wildlife (see “A Sound Settlement to Protect Whales from Big Oil’s Noise”), the Navy says everything's fine. Associated Press

Death from above: Many people consider the Farallon Islands the Galapagos of California. Sitting 27 miles off of the coast of San Francisco, the archipelago provides habitat for a diverse array of seabirds ... and invasive rats that like to eat baby seabirds. In fact, scientists believe the islands harbor the world’s densest rodent population. To save the ecosystem, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to use helicopters to make it rain poison pellets. Not surprisingly, some wildlife organizations think this might not be the best idea. Huffington Post

It's complicated: Supporters of domestic oil and gas always bring up buzzwords like “energy independence” and “price at the pump” to justify drilling in more and more places across the country and off our coasts. Yet even though U.S. oil production has gone up 44 percent since 2008, the cost of crude oil hasn’t decreased—it’s risen 6 percent. And that doesn’t even take into account the less quantifiable price (yet no less scary) paid by Americans for the air, water, and land pollution that comes with increased oil and gas extraction. USA Today

No fly zone: Contamination levels at Fukushima are now the worst since a tsunami rocked the Japanese nuclear power plant in 2011. Learning this, officials from the UN to China have started using words like “shocked,” “deplorable,” and “house of horrors” to describe the deteriorating situation. And it's still not clear what will be done to contain the disaster. And now South Korea’s Asiana Airlines won't even fly there, citing safety concerns. Reuters

DAILY DISTRACTIONS

Firenado: When convection heat rises off a forest fire and in a swirling fashion, sucks in nearby towers of flames, well ... you got yourself a “fire tornado.” People have witnessed firenadoes only a handful of times and rarely catch them on film, but this gutsy biplane caught a terrifying glimpse of one emerging from the Alaska’s Tetlin Junction Ridge Fire. (Skip to 1:34 to look down the Devil’s maw.) Huffington Post

Under the sea: Google Maps has just released a new series of images that allow you to tour a handful of coral reefs from the comfort of your Internet browser. Part of me feels like this is cheating and that the natural world shouldn’t be so easily accessed. And part of me hopes you weren’t expecting to accomplish anything today, because there’s a sea turtle off Heron Island that wants to be your friend. Google Maps

OTHER HEADLINES

Palestinian Architects Look to the Past for Eco-Friendly Homes Reuters

Pew: FDA Allows Untested Chemicals in Food Environmental Working Group

The Battle Over Global Warming Is All in Your Head TIME

Coastal Cities Face $1 Trillion Floods by 2050: Study Guardian

Urgent Task for Insect: Stop a Relentless Vine New York Times

Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)
Image: bricolage 108

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