Though most of you are probably well into your summer break, the season does not officially begin until June 20. Called summer solstice, it is the day when the North Pole is most inclined towards the sun, allowing residents of the Northern Hemisphere, to enjoy the longest day of the year. Of course, the opposite is true for the Southern Hemisphere where residents will celebrate winter solstice and experience the shortest day (and longest night) of the year.
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Some fortunate visitors to the Chicago Botanic Garden recently witnessed the rare opening of not one, but two, titan arums. Better known as corpse flowers due to their pungent odor that resembles decaying flesh, the massive plants bloom once every ten years, and that too, for only a few hours. However, that may be a good thing given that when the petals unfurl, the stench emanated is so foul that it has earned the titan arum the title of the “world's smelliest flower.”
On Tuesday, June 1, President Donald Trump fulfilled yet another campaign promise by announcing that the US was withdrawing from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The goal of the historic pledge signed by 195 countries is to curb the use of fossil fuels to ensure that average global temperatures do not increase more than 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels. Environmentalists believe this is a critical threshold above which the planet could experience irreversible impacts, such as an unprecedented rise in sea levels and widespread plant and animal extinction.
While U.S. President Donald Trump, who pulled out of the Paris climate agreement on June 1, is convinced global warming is a “hoax,” the deteriorating condition of the world’s coral reefs seems to suggest otherwise. Often called “rainforests of the sea,” the incredible ecosystems that occupy less than 0.1 percent of ocean’s surface are home to almost 25 percent of all marine species. Unfortunately, the rising ocean temperatures caused by global warming are wreaking havoc on these fragile organisms.
Though plastic shopping bags are incredibly cheap and useful, their disposal causes widespread pollution. That's because the non-biodegradable polyethylene takes centuries to decompose and is also detrimental to wildlife who often mistake the colorful debris for food. Now, we may have an unlikely ally to help clean up our trash – a small wax worm bred primarily for use as premium fish bait.
As you are firming up your summer plans, you may want to pencil in the total solar eclipse on August 21. Dubbed the ‘Great American Eclipse,' it is not just the first total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States since February 26, 1979, but also the first that can be seen across the country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, in almost a century. The last time the celestial phenomenon was experienced coast-to-coast was on June 8, 1918!
Supermarket shelves are filled with plant-based milk alternatives, including soy, almond, and coconut milk, that cater to the lactose intolerant or those concerned about livestock welfare and environmental sustainability. While the milk-free options work well with cereal or in coffee, they fail miserably when it comes to making derivatives like cheese or yogurt. However, these shortcomings may soon be a thing of the past thanks to California-based start-up Perfect Day, which has figured out how to create lactose-free dairy milk in a laboratory!
Ever since Malaysian ecologist-architect Ken Yeang introduced the concept in the 1990’s, living walls and rooftops have become an increasingly common sight in both residential and commercial buildings. In addition to looking good, planted exteriors also help cut energy costs, and in the case of rooftop farms provide urban dwellers with homegrown produce. Now, Stefano Boeri wants to take green architecture to the next level with “Forest Cities” to combat China’s air pollution woes.