Center for Public Integrity on pollution and oil refinery expansion Crude oil from Canada must be refined somewhere, and communities across the U.S. worry that the Keystone XL approval will fuel the spread of refineries. "The thick, asphalt-like crude, known as bitumen, requires more processing than lighter forms of oil, which could lead to increases in pollution if not controlled. The burden would fall most often on communities, like southwest Detroit, populated mainly by low-income people of color."
The New York Times on how a unique salamander can survive in the wild The axolotl, a unique-looking salamander with feathered gills and spiked feet, is an animal mythologized by writers and beloved by both Aztecs and Mexicans. The exotic creature is now endangered due to polluted canals and overpopulation of tilapia in Mexico City water. It's one of the few freshwater animals that can be bred in an aquarium. Some scientists want to improve the canal to keep the salamander alive; others say it's okay to transplant the resilient animal.
BBC on how bananas could be the new potato Warming climates means changes in what crops grow best—meaning warm-weather plants like bananas or cassava could replace cooler weather ones like potatoes, a new study says. Maize, rice, and wheat supply may also decrease in developing countries, sparking a need for alternative crops. But diet changes are not impossible. "Two decades ago there was almost no rice consumption in certain areas of Africa, now there is. People have changed because of the pricing: it's easier to get, it's easier to cook. I think those sort of shifts do occur and I think they will in future.""
The Guardian on the diseased forests of the UK The UK's forests are under "unprecedented threat" from pests like ash dieback fungus, which showed up on trees last week. The government has cut down more than 3 million trees in an attempt to stave off similar plant diseases. Already, more than 10,000 ash trees have been cut down in an attempt to stop the fungus, and experts are worried about six to eight other threats for the forests. "In the last 10 years we have had as many new diseases as we had in the previous 40 or 50 years."
Nature on agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions The food system is responsible for up to one-third of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans, new reports by Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research say. Mostly agricultural production and fertilizer manufacturing contributes to the tally. "Reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint is central to limiting climate change," the report says. "And to help to ensure food security, farmers across the globe will probably have to switch to cultivating more climate-hardy crops and farming practices."