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Friday Finds: Big Win for Great Barrier Reef


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08 June 2012, 11:13 AM
Plus: fatty flame retardants and debris tsunamis
Great Barrier Reef. (Shutterstock)

Coal project kept out of Great Barrier Reef
This week, Australian environment minister Tony Burke put a stop to a billion dollar coal project that could have negatively impacted the Great Barrier Reef, reports CorpWatch. The world’s largest coral ecosystem, the Great Barrier Reef contains an abundance of marine life, is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and provides a major boost to the Australian economy. The massive coal project—the first of several proposed coal projects—would have increased the likelihood of damage to the delicate reef ecosystem by expanding the number of ship journeys occurring near the reef. Though Burke’s decision is a big win for the environment, many of the ocean’s reefs still face other environmental stressors like pollution and ocean acidification, which could alter their very existence. Currently, Earthjustice is working to reduce ocean stressors to help protect coral reefs and the millions of creatures (including us) that depend on them.

Flame retardants may be making you fat
Flame retardants are back in the news again, and this time they’re being tied to obesity, anxiety and developmental problems, reports the Chicago Tribune. According to new research, small doses of flame retardants can disrupt the endocrine system by altering levels of thyroid hormones, among other effects. Given that the average American baby is born with the highest recorded levels of flame retardants among infants in the world, the recent study is raising concern amongst researchers and parents alike. And though flame retardants have been widely touted as lifesavers for preventing household fires, research by government and independent scientists has found that they actually provide no meaningful protection from furniture fires. Find out more in the Chicago Tribune’s special report, “Playing with Fire.”

A tsunami of debris may hit west coast
A fishing boat, motorcycle and a concrete and metal dock left over from the Japanese tsunami last year recently turned up along the shores of the west coast, and ocean activists are warning that there may be more debris to come, reports the Associated Press. Japanese government officials estimate that about 1.5 million tons of debris from the 2011 tsunami is currently floating around in the ocean. Not surprisingly, the idea that this debris could eventually make its way to the west coast is making many people a little nervous, especially considering that clean up responsibility for the debris falls on the states and funding for the cleanup doesn’t currently exist. As a result, some ocean activists are calling on Congress to step in and set aside millions to help with the cleanup, an unlikely occurrence given that Obama is planning to slash NOAA’s marine debris program by almost 30 percent. In the meantime, West Coasters continue to warily eye the shoreline and keep their fingers crossed that a tsunami of debris doesn’t come their way.

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