These images show a stretch of the Mississippi River just south of Memphis, Tennessee. The top one was taken by a NASA satellite on August 8, 2012, and the bottom one by a different NASA satellite on August 14, 2011. See how there are huge patches of light tan along the river in the image from 2012? Those are newly exposed sand bars, the result of record low water levels.
This summer’s record-setting temperatures (July was literally the hottest month on record) and dry weather conditions have created historic droughts. We can now see how those conditions have affected our waterways. On August 17 of this year, water levels in the Mississippi were 2.4 to 8.3 feet below their normal “river stage” levels.
Well, it looks like the Sierra Club is starting to get a bit more social media-savvy. The group recently created this subway-style map of the U.S. National Parks for its Facebook page. It’s not to scale, nor is there an actual mass transit system connecting all these parks (though wouldn’t that be nice?), but it is fun. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve only been to five of these.
by Julie Ma
Who owns the seas? For 64 percent of the world’s oceans—the amount that lies beyond national jurisdictions—the answer is no one. The high seas, as they’re known, are like the planet’s commons: since they don’t really belong to anyone, no nation invests enough in offering them the protection they deserve, even though they constitute 45 percent of the planet’s surface area. A coalition of NGOs, scientists, and activists called the TerraMar Project aims to reconfigure our relationship with the high seas by offering the opportunity to become a “citizen” of an imaginary aquatic nation.
You might only notice your local sanitation workers if your trash doesn’t get hauled away on time. But a photography project by garbage collectors in Hamburg, Germany will have you seeing the people who empty your dumpster every week in a different light.
The aptly named Trashcam Project started in March after a group of workers-cum-amateur photographers teamed up with a local creative agency and got some pointers from a professional. Now they’re documenting the city they help keep clean by turning dumpsters into gigantic pinhole cameras.
To make the cameras, Hamburg’s sanitation department agreed to let a hole be drilled into the side of 1,100 dumpsters. The dumpsters are then rolled into place, a large sheet of photo paper is hung inside, and the lid is shut.
On a sunny day the exposure time for a photo can take as little as five minutes, but on cloudy ones, the workers may have to wait 90 minutes, giving them plenty of time to speculate on how the image will turn out. The photos are then developed in a special lab, and as you can see, the results are pretty spectacular.
All of the Trashcam Project images can be found on their Flickr page, and there’s even talk of exhibiting the photographs in a local gallery. The video below shows the workers in action, setting up their trashcams—sure, it’s in German, but it’s nice to see these guys getting to capture images of the city they know so well and share them with the world.
BRITTANY SHOOT, GOOD Writer
Plastic water bottles are an easy target for environmentalist ire, and for good reason. The marketing and selling of bottled water has been one of the most successful commercial campaigns of the past several decades—and it’s helped add billions of tons of waste to ocean trash vortexes like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Meanwhile, the availability of free and clean water in public spaces is drying up, as drinking fountains are slowly and quietly phased out of urban plans. Even tree-huggers who do carry canteens can find it tricky to locate working public hydration stations to refill bottles brought from home.
When Los Angeles environmental activist Evelyn Wendel first learned about the ocean’s floating landfills several years ago, she started spreading the word like a reluctant physician in a hospital waiting room. “I tell people about the garbage patch,” Wendel says. “But I apologize when I do. I say, ‘I’m sorry to have to give you the bad news.’”
Here’s the good news: Wendel is building a path toward reversing our reliance on pre-packaged water. For years, the eco-minded Hollywood production and marketing veteran was fixated on finding new sources of clean drinking water. Eventually, she honed in on an obvious solution: Use GPS data to map this vital public resource. In 2008, she launched the nonprofit WeTap to help thirsty people find and keep tabs on drinking fountains.
When Brooklyn-based collage artist Mac Premo was preparing to move from his longtime studio to a much smaller one, he knew he had to get rid of hundreds of items from his past. But instead of simply tossing everything in the trash, he decided to catalog each item and the memories associated with them.
The result was The Dumpster Project, a public art installation inside a 30-foot-long dumpster. He took each discarded item, photographed it, then placed it inside of the dumpster to create a giant collage filled with remnants of his life. The objects often tell a story of a specific place and time, with an emphasis on the friends and family that made the memory important. About 500 of the objects will be recorded along with a description on the project’s blog, highlighting items from moments that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but collectively make up an entire existence.
“I think that we define ourselves through the things that we collect and the things that we keep,” Premo says in a video about the project. “I think we imbue meaning into objects and I think subsequently those objects become a record of who you are.”
Such a great post from GOOD.is on where our used clothes go.
Ethical Style: Where Do My Used Clothes Go?
Today, we only hang on to about 21 percent of the clothing we buy every year. What happens to the pieces that don’t make the cut? Most of them end up in landfills—only about 15 percent of discarded clothing is recycled or reused, whether by individual or industry. Perhaps it’s time to start asking a new question: Why do we have so much junk that we are in the position to inundate the world with our reject piles?
Fish Out of Water: Five Ocean Species We’re Eating to Death
The prickly little sea urchin isn’t the only one in danger—consumers have taken a serious jab at oceanic ecosystems with their collective knives, forks, spoons, and chopsticks. Thanks to human appetites, for some species of ocean dwellers, there just aren’t that many fish in the sea.
Hybrid Sharks Show How Nature Adapts to Climate Change
Off the coast of Australia, researchers have found a new breed of shark cruising the deep blue. The first hybrid shark is a genetic mashup of the common black tip and Australian black tip. The result is a more robust breed of shark with a timely adaptation: an increased coastal range. The researchers speculate that the interbreeding may help ensure the survival of the shark species in the face of climate change or fishing pressures. (Long live Shark Week.)