In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Rhino, South Africa.

Rhino in South Africa. (© Steve Slater)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. On eve of trial, Supreme Court leaves landmark climate case – filed by kids – in limbo

Twenty-two young people are suing the federal government for violating their constitutional rights, but the trial keeps getting pushed back.

The story: The plaintiffs — ranging in age from 11 to 22 years old — are filing suit against the federal government for violating their right to a clean environment, Brady Dennis of The Washington Post reported last week. The lawsuit claims that the government knew that fossil fuels were contributing to climate change and took no action to spare its citizens from the consequences.

The big picture: “These young plaintiffs, mere children and youth, are already suffering irreparable harm which worsens as each day passes with more carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere and oceans,” lawyers of the plaintiffs wrote to the Supreme Court. According to a recent report, some of the worst effects of climate change will be felt as soon as 2040.

Read the story here.

  1. Microplastics find their way into your gut, a pilot study finds

Microplastics — tiny broken pieces of plastic about the size of a grain of rice — are now inside humans, a new study confirms.

The story: Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in tap water — 83 percent of the tap water around the world to be exact — and in seafood, but now they are inside people’s gastrointestinal (GI) tracts, Douglas Quenqua reported in The New York Times last week. Many different types of plastic were found during the study, but the most common was a component of plastic bottles and caps.

The big picture: The wide variety of plastic types discovered inside the human GI tract means that we are ingesting microplastics from several different sources, not just seafood or water. While the plastic pieces found in the study were too large to do humans harm, one big concern is that plastics can carry harmful chemicals that may be absorbed by the body during digestion.

Read the story here.


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  1. ‘Rewilding’ landscapes with rhinos and reindeer could prevent fires and keep Arctic cool

Reintroducing large mammals such as reindeer and rhinoceroses to their environments could mitigate the effects of global warming.

The story: Rewilding — “reintroducing lost species to reestablish healthy food webs” — may be the solution to global warming that forest, savannah and tundra environments need, Elizabeth Pennisi wrote in Science Magazine last week. Mammals have been found to prevent large wildfires by eating plants that would otherwise serve as fuel for fires.

The big picture: In the tundra, plant overgrowth results in insulation of soil temperatures — leading to carbon previously stored in frozen soil to be released into the atmosphere. By reintroducing mammals such as caribou, the tundra would not release as much carbon, because ground-warming plants would be reduced. This reintroduction may be “one of the few ways humans in the Arctic can mitigate global warming, or at least its consequences,” said Johan Olofsson, an ecologist with Umeå University in Sweden.

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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