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Friday Finds: Fracking Lands In Hot Water In City of Bath


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24 January 2013, 1:02 PM
Plus: Lead-poisoned parrots and climate change fairy dust
The City of Bath. (Photo courtesy of Daz Smith, Flickr)

Fracking may ruin spa time in UK’s historic City of Bath
People have taken part in the restorative waters in the city of Bath for thousands of years, but this centuries-old tradition may no longer be available if fracking companies are allowed to drill near the Mendip Hills, where the Bath water originates, reports the UK Express. Members of the Bath community are concerned that, if allowed, hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which involves drilling deep into the ground using a mixture of water, sand and chemicals to force gas to the surface, may contaminate the area’s pristine waters, or at the very least ruin the pristine image of the city. Up until now, the controversial drilling practice was banned by the government after it was linked to two earthquakes in Lancashire, a popular seaside resort in Britain. But recently government officials were enticed to lift the ban, most likely because fracking offers a new revenue stream that might boost the weak economy. Unfortunately for the fracking industry, the British are just as freaked out by fracking as many Americans, perhaps even more so because the UK lacks the wide-open spaces where U.S.-based fracking operations often take place. Of course, now that fracking is beginning to show its ugly head in iconic, popular tourist attractions like Cooperstown, NY, Americans and Britons now have one more thing in common besides the English language and our love of pubs.

Super smart parrots dumbed down by lead poisoning
New Zealand’s kea birds are best known (and most hated) for their ability to eat everything from leaves and roots to car seats and windscreen wiper blades, but it turns out that their flexivore eating habits are also resulting in unhealthy exposures to lead, reports Scientific American. Lead is a neurotoxin and unsafe at any dose. And, since kea seem to have a taste for lead-covered nails and weather-proofed lead roofs, scientists now believe that the many things we know about kea behavior may actually come from birds suffering from lead poisoning symptoms, such as anemia and psychic behavior. Kea are considered an endangered species thanks to a government-sponsored program back in the 1800s that put a bounty on kea beaks, but New Zealand’s Department of Conservation plans to step up its protective measures by creating a program of lead replacement on land under their domain. Though kea are notoriously smart and have so far been able to find ways around their various life challenges—like getting run over, poisoned, or shot, to name a few—only time will tell whether kea can outsmart this latest challenge, all under the haze of lead poisoning.
Mineral dust could stop climate change but may hurt oceans
Scientists have discovered a way to dramatically cut carbon emissions; the only problem is that it could damage the world’s oceans, reports the UK Guardian. The geo-engineering technique involves sprinkling three billions of tons of a mineral known as olivine—a magnesium iron silicate that’s common in the Earth’s subsurface—into the ocean where it can suck up approximately 10 percent of man-made carbon emissions from the atmosphere, and even offset ocean acidification. The idea looks pretty good on the surface, except that mining for the mineral creates its own carbon emissions. Also, there’s the tiny little issue that adding that much silicate to the ocean will most likely alter the balance of the oceans. Though we don’t know yet whether that could be a good or bad thing, we do know that dumping stuff into the ocean without knowing the full consequences, such as when we dumped millions of gallons of oil dispersants into the water during the BP oil spill, generally turns out to be a bad idea. 

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