The Demise of the Cavendish Banana

bananas

The Cavendish variety accounts for nearly 100% of the bananas imported around the world. (Photo credit: Muellek Josef/Shutterstock)

Whether sliced into a bowl of cereal, split in two and served with ice cream, or peeled and eaten, the banana is a common part of the American diet. Americans eat more bananas annually than oranges and apples combined. Bananas are an excellent source of vitamins, including B6 and C, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. While Americans typically view bananas as a snack food, in other parts of the world, they hold a much more important nutritional role. In some areas of Africa, where more than 200 species of the fruit are grown, bananas account for 80% of consumed calories. However, the banana that you know and love – a variety called the Cavendish – is in danger of being wiped out by a catastrophic disease currently spreading across the globe.

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Are We in a New Epoch? The Case for the Anthropocene

freeway

The proliferation of concrete on Earth’s surface is one piece of evidence scientists suggest supports the designation of a new epoch called the Anthropocene. (Photo credit: UpperCut Images/Alamy)

The Holocene Epoch began around 12,000 years ago. Are we now in the Anthropocene? In a recent study published in Science magazine, some scientists argue that we indeed have entered a new epoch. [Read more…]

Quinoa: The Mother Grain

harvesting quinoa

The quinoa boom has greatly benefited Altiplano farmers and their families. (Photo credit: David Mercado/Reuters/Corbis)

In recent years, quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) has gained wide popularity around the world.

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The Environmental Impact of Plastic Bags

plastic bags in trees

A huge number of plastic bags are used each year. A large proportion of them end up as litter. (Photo credit: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock)

“Paper or plastic?” is a common question heard at the checkout line. Though the environmental impact of paper versus plastic bags continues to be debated, perhaps the best answer is “I’ve brought my own.” [Read more…]

Botanic Gardens Help Protect Threatened Plant Species

botanic garden

Botanic gardens are home to a large percentage of threatened plant species. (Photo credit: ©Wikimedia Commons)

While botanic gardens might seem like just a pretty or relaxing place to visit, it turns out they hold a very important role in the global conservation and preservation of threatened and endangered plant species. However, some researchers think botanic gardens should be taking an even bigger part in ensuring that threatened and endangered plant species are protected from extinction. [Read more…]

Solar Power Savings

solar panels

Switching from coal to solar power could save thousands of lives, according to new research. (Photo credit: Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Transitioning from coal to solar power in the United States could prevent the premature death of nearly 52,000 Americans annually, according to a study recently published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

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A Closer Look at the Environmental Consequences of Fracking

wastewater from fracking

This containment pond holds contaminated water produced by the fracking process. (Photo credit: Dwight Nadig/E+/Getty Images)

While not exactly a new technology, fracking (which is short for “hydraulic fracturing”) has been a common topic in the news recently. Fracking is known both for its potential to ease U.S reliance on foreign sources of energy and for its possible adverse effects on the environment, which scientists now think include the potential for starting earthquakes.
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Not So Rosy: The Environmental Cost of Flowers

flowers for sale

Have you ever considered the environmental cost of a bouquet of flowers? (Photo credit: Creatas/Jupiterimages/Getty Images)

Flowers are an important part of many cultures. They are used at ceremonies and holidays, and given to honor someone for a significant achievement or for his or her special day. Many people buy flowers to mark an occasion or simply to decorate their homes without giving a thought about where the blooms came from. What is the environmental cost of flowers?

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The Rise of the Local Food Movement

farmer

Small-scale farmers are the backbone of the local food movement. (Photo credit: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images)

Eating locally is growing in popularity across the United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the growth in popularity resulted in profits of $4.8 billion for the local food industry in 2008. These profits include both direct-to-consumer and intermediated sales, such as through a restaurant or grocery store. Small farms accounted for 81 percent of these sales. A farm is considered “small” if it grosses less than $50,000 annually in sales. [Read more…]

Wax Worm Caterpillars Have a Taste for Plastic

wax worm

Scientists have discovered that wax worms (Galleria mellonella) can digest plastic. (Photo credit: Kuttelvaserova Stuchelova/Shutterstock)

Federica Bertocchini’s discovery that wax worms can eat through plastic happened completely by accident. Bertocchini, an amateur beekeeper, was dismayed to find that her beehives were infested by wax worm caterpillars. After cleaning out the hive, she went to pick up the plastic bags she had placed the pests in, only to find the bags riddled with holes.   [Read more…]