Syrians face toxic time-bomb of radiation, poison and pollution

This article was published by Middle East Eye on February 21, 2017

Syria faces public health catastrophes that will linger for decades due to toxic rubble dust, oil fire pollution and the US-led coalition’s use of depleted uranium weapons on Islamic State targets, campaigners have warned.

The US last week admitted it had fired armour-piercing DU ammunition in its war against IS, and had hit not only military targets but also un-armoured civilian targets such as oil trucks, and despite promising otherwise.

Meanwhile, health and environment experts say rubble and dust produced by years of bombing and fighting in built-up areas could have huge health impacts, as fine particles thrown into the atmosphere cause numerous respiratory illnesses, and add to pollution caused by the bombing of oil infrastructure.

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Resurrected Jeypore ground gecko faces second death sentence

This article was published by Mongabay and Scroll.in

In India — a land that’s home to the regal tiger, the majestic elephant and the flamboyant peacock — gaining the Endangered Species spotlight can be difficult. Equally challenging in a land with 1.3 billion mouths to feed, is the conservation of habitat that is vital to threatened species.

The Jeypore ground gecko (Geckoella jeyporensis) was first noted in India’s Eastern Ghats in 1877, then not seen again and presumed extinct. Rediscovered by scientists in 2010, it exists in just two known areas covering a mere 20km2 of degraded habitat threatened by development.

Conservationists are working with the public and private sectors, and with local communities, urging the creation of “gecko reserves” to protect G. jeyporensis as well as the golden gecko (Calodactylodes aureus). But whether these little reptiles will inspire enough public enthusiasm is anyone’s guess.

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Beirut’s last public beach has become a battleground in the city’s fight for public space

This article was published by CityMetric on December 14, 2016

Beirut’s last public beach has become a battleground in the fight to expose Lebanon’s disappearing public spaces, privilege and rampant development. Protesters have been taking to Ramlet al Baida beach to oppose construction of the private Eden Bay Resort, which describes itself as having, “A privileged sense of style”.

Lebanon’s coastline is being swallowed up – and activists fear this project could be the death knell for Beirut’s only remaining public beach.

“These spaces are being threatened by real estate developments, suffocating the city even more,” says urbanist Nadine Bekdache. Already, the city only has 0.8m2 of green space per person, when the minimum according to the World Health Organization should be 9m2.

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Inside the world’s weirdest museums

This article was published by Urban Walkabout on October 4, 2016.

I love a good museum. I seek them out in every new place. And while a history museum makes me happy, there’s nothing like a museum that’s just a little bit weird.

Here’s a sample of the world’s strangest historical institutions.

The Buddha Darshan Robotic Museum, Nepal

A visit to Nepal ultimately leads to contact with the ancient religions that permeate the land. My friend Sophie and I visited the beautiful lakeside town of Pokhara, a favourite on the tourist route. We began with a jaunt across the lake to hike to the Shanti Stupa monument, where we took in the view of the rolling Himalayan foothills and soaked in the peace after which the pagoda is named. We trekked down the opposite side of the hill, bracing ourselves for the long walk back to town.

But our spiritual experiences for that day were far from over, for we were shown a sign. And that sign read: “50 per cent off the Robotic Buddha Museum”.

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Silencing Palestinian voices

This article was published by Overland on July 5, 2016.

The most recent battleground for Palestinian voices in Australia was the hearts and minds of high-school drama students – and a play portraying love and idealism in the Gaza Strip during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.

When it premiered in 2014, Tales of a City by the Sea, by Palestinian-Australian Samah Sabawi, enjoyed a sell-out season and praise from the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. But a few weeks ago, after pro-Israel groups registered their displeasure, questions about its appropriateness for Year 12 drama students were raised by politicians from both major parties.

More than 1400 Palestinians – 82 per cent of them civilians – were killed during Operation Cast Lead, in which 4000 homes were also destroyed by bombardments and Israeli ground troops. Ten soldiers and three civilians were killed on the Israeli side.

Tales of a City by the Sea’s 2014 premiere was due to occur on the same day in Melbourne and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but two months before that could happen the Gaza Strip was again decimated in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.

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Local pollutants blamed for Himalayan climate change

This article was published by SciDev.Net on June 18, 2016.

Climate change may be global, but the future of Himalayan mountain glaciers and the Tibetan plateau snowpack could come down to local air pollution, scientists say.
Since the 1960s there has been observational evidence of regional snowpack retreat and black carbon deposition over snow covers, but climate model limitations made quantifying climatic impact difficult.
Adjusted regional climate projections that recognise the impact of black carbon warming effects are crucial to local adaptation planning, Yangyang Xu, post-doctoral fellow at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, tells SciDev.Net.

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Nepalis face ‘cancer risk’ from indoor pollution

This article was published by SciDev.Net on May 4, 2016.

Nepalis who have never smoked are among those facing an increased risk of lung cancer due to common household air pollutants, says a new study.
Women and children are particularly vulnerable to long-term exposure to household air pollution, say researchers from the University of Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, University of Utah School of Medicine and Nepal’s B.P. Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital who were involved in the study.
Due to be published this month (May) in Environmental Research, the study investigated the association between exposure to household air pollutants created by burning biomass fuels — such as wood, charcoal, crop residue and dung — and lung cancer risk.

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