Earth news stories
A clever and unconventional new atlas by guerrilla cartographers, called Water: An Atlas, explores the importance of water in everything from ancient mythology to rising seas to modern warfare. One map of the Dakotas, created by a team of activists and scholars, ties the threat to drinking water posed by the Dakota Access Pipeline to historical land seizures and the US federal government’s violence against Native Americans.
Vast underwater Roman ruins have been discovered off northeast Tunisia, apparently confirming a theory that the city of Neapolis was partly submerged by a tsunami in the 4th century AD.
New archaeological research from Utah shows that prehistoric inhabitants of the Escalante Valley could have been nourishing themselves with wild potato tubers for thousands of years. This is the earliest evidence of potato use in North America to date. The wild Four Corners potato can yield up to 125 small tubers on one plant.
This picturesque word-painting from Guardian’s Country Diary tells of Cornwall’s St. Dennis landscape then and now – the legendary hunting grounds of King Arthur form the waterlogged bog and headstreams of the river Fal, overlooked by a moss-covered fort. Tin working was recorded here in the 11th and 12th centuries; and from 1930 to 1950 sand and gravel were extracted. The area is now designated a nature preserve.
Corn, known also as maize, is a vital crop throughout the Americas. First domesticated in Mexico some 9,000 years ago, scientists are still working to determine when it became the staple crop we know today. In a recently published paper, a team of scientists suggests that maize was fully domesticated as a staple crop in Honduras around 4,300 years ago.
Disaster volunteers from Louisiana’s Cajun Navy and Cajun Coast Search and Rescue Team don’t wait to be called. They know all about floods, and they dove right in, bringing with them a veritable armada of fishing skiffs, airboats, jonboats, even kayaks, to help rescue stranded humans and animals from the watery wrath of Hurricane Harvey. Formed in the aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the Cajun Navy are literally life savers, and a reminder that our darkest tragedies often tend to reveal the best in humanity. As their unofficial slogan says, “Not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear hipwaders.”
As the stalled tropical storm that was once Hurricane Harvey continues to drench Houston, Texas, turning streets into muddy rivers, NASA workers are keeping watch over a giant $8.6 billion space telescope at the edge of the city. The James Webb Space Telescope is currently sitting inside a massive, sealed cryogenic chamber at the Johnson Space Center, as floodwaters rise, and here’s how they are protecting it.
A picture’s worth a thousand words… Article contains a link to watch trending NBC video footage of historic post-hurricane flooding in Houston, Texas.
In an unusual reproducibility effort, 14 ecology labs across Europe have teamed up to watch grass grow, using identical soil and seeds shipped round the continent. Their study is part of a budding movement to bolster trust in ecological research. Following the reproducibility crisis that has gripped psychology and biomedical science, ecologists are starting to recognize that their own field might not be immune to doubts over the reliability of its findings.
According to Japanese weed museum curator Junichi Takayasu, the earliest evidence of cannabis in Japan dates back to the Jomon Period (10,000-200 B.C.) with pottery relics recovered in Fukui Prefecture containing seeds and scraps of woven cannabis fibers. Cannabis once played a key role in Japan’s religion, especially in Shintoism, which is the country’s indigenous religion, where it was revered for its cleansing abilities, which is why priests used to wave bundles of its leaves to bless believers and exorcise evil spirits.
Maya cultivars affected politics, laws, customs, technology and financial empires. They have spurred armed revolutions, initiated rebellions, altered political boundaries, inspired industrial, technical and scientific revolutions, started college systems, promoted deadly habits, sparked sporting empires and changed cultural speech, music and lifestyles.
Floating colonies of fire ants, as many as 500,000 in one group, are banding together to stay above water in flood-wracked Houston, Texas—and they bite. “Floodwaters will not drown fire ants,”said a specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “Floating fire ant colonies can look like ribbons, streamers, mats, rafts, or an actual ‘ball’ of ants floating on the water.”
Mouse beans, makatomnica in the Lakota language, also called hog peanuts, are seeds from a perennial climbing plant native to areas cross the Great Plains. Meaty and filled with protein, mouse beans were once an important, reliable food source for the Oceti Sakowin peoples, Lakota, Dakota and Nakota living along the Missouri River. Their near-extinction in that environment is a metaphor for the devastating impact of US development and flooding of tribal lands on Native peoples and cultures. As explained by ethnobotanist Linda Black Elk, tribal elders tell stories of times gone by when women would dig up the large caches of beans gathered by mice on the floor of cottonwood forests along the Missouri River, singing beautiful songs that asked the mice’s permission to share their harvest.