The Guardian view on friendly bacteria: an ally against plastic | Editorial | Opinion

Plastic bottles at a dump in Northern Thailand. And bacterium that can consume even one kind of plastic could become a desperately-needed ally.’ photograph: Rungroj Yongrit?EPA



Thanks to a genetically engineered enzyme, a bug that eats plastic bottles developed a much bigger appetite for our rubbish. It is a hopeful sign
Plastic bottles at a dump in northern Thailand
Plastic bottles at a dump in northern Thailand. ‘A bacterium that can consume even one kind of plastic could become a desperately needed ally.’ Photograph: Rungroj Yongrit?EPA

Evolution never sleeps. Before 1970 there can have been no significant bacteria that ate plastic, because there was not enough of that plastic in the world to sustain a population. But in 2016 a group of Japanese scientists discovered a new species, Ideonella sakaiensis, in the samples they were sifting from a bottle-recycling plant, that was able to attack and eat PET, the plastic used in most bottles, almost all of which ends up in landfill or dumped at sea, where it may last for centuries. Everything that rots in nature does so because it is being eaten by bacteria. Most plastics – among them PET – were considered totally impervious to bacterial attack, making them almost indestructible unless burned or crushed. So a bacterium that can consume even one kind of plastic could become a desperately needed ally in the struggle to stop the oceans being choked with plastic waste.

What has captured the imagination of the world is that a subsequent group of scientists, who were trying to understand on a molecular level how I sakaiensis breaks down and digests plastic bottles, found the enzymes that it uses and made a slightly different version of one to see what would happen. The new enzyme is much more efficient than the version found in nature, and works on more kinds of plastic. This kind of molecular tweaking of substances, already found in nature, is at the root of another recent scientific breakthrough, the Crispr-Cas9 technique for genetic engineering. It offers some hope that we can use technology to moderate and even to some extent to reverse the impacts that earlier technologies, such as those that make it easy to manufacture billions of tons of plastic, have had on the world around us.

This is going to be essential. The mass production and use of plastics has had such an effect on the Earth that some scientists, speculating wildly that there will still be people around to care about such things in the unimaginably distant future, have proposed the detection of plastic deposits as the best signal of the Anthropocene, the era in which human activity becomes the most powerful factor affecting life on Earth. One of the things this story shows is that our environment is not static and never has been. It is a dynamic system, in which changes of every sort have unintended consequences – PET was widely adopted partly because it seemed to have no ill effects on human health, at a time when no one asked how we would ever get rid of it – and every action produces an unexpected reaction, so that some bacteria learn to be resistant to antibiotics while others learn to feed off plastics. Even plastics have their uses to clean up pollution: they are used as sponges to clean up oil spills, although Australian scientists have just discovered a blend of sulphur and cooking oil that promises to work even better. There is no simpler world to which we can retreat – and for the sake of our children, we will simply have to manage these things better than our parents’ generations did.

Petition · World Animal Protection: Stop Yulin Dog Meat Festival ·

Gerald Padrique started this petition to World Animal Protection and 2 others

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is an annual event where over 10,000 dogs are being eaten and slaughtered. The festival is held in Yulin, Guangxi, China, during the summer solstice where the festival goers get a chance to eat dog flesh and lychees. And about 10,000 to 15,000 dogs are being butchered.

The citizens of China and event organizers said that dogs are being killed humanely. But animal rights campaigners, activists, and petitioners counterclaimed that they are slaughtered cold-bloodedly based on the photographs from the event. There was a witness who claimed that some of the dogs are stolen household pets, because of their collars.

Dogs are considered as part of our family. They are faithful pets that protect and love us, their owners. They can be a shepherd that will look for our home whenever we are not around. Some of them are trained to help cops and investigators to solve various crimes.

Dogs are more than an animal. They are a good companion, a trustworthy defender, and a friend. For this reason, dogs and all animals deserve to be loved and protected. Just like humans, dogs have feelings, and they feel pain. It is not right to kill and torture them in any possible ways. We should realize by now how ruthless it is to take the life of an animal for a festival.

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival should be banned and stopped to end the misery that thousands of dogs are facing right now. Cease this inhumane act and bring animal rights back to life.

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Petition · VetsEDU: Veteran Consumer Protection Act ·

Veteran Consumer Protection Act
VetsEDU started this petition to VetsEDU

Veterans & Active Military, like all consumers, are potential targets for deceptive and unfair business practices. VetsEDU’s must safeguard our Veterans & Active Military from these practices. Our efforts to eliminate such practices through aggressive enforcement and a vigorous, ongoing educational campaign are an important part of our Veteran & Active Military protection work.

Specifically, VetsEDU is working hard, along with other military agencies, to identify, stop, and prevent illegal and misleading advertising related to VA mortgages and refinancing.

Some lenders marketing VA mortgages may use aggressive and potentially misleading advertising and sales tactics. Lenders may advertise a rate just to get you to respond, or you may receive a VA mortgage offer that provides limited benefit to you while adding thousands of dollars to your loan balance. In addition lenders may charge fees or points to our Veterans & Active Military just to make more money.

Please sign our petition today to help us stop these crooks and pass an educational law protecting those who have protected us!!!

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Petition · Ohio Department of Natural Resources: Prevent ODNR From Allowing Trapping Of Bobcats ·

Prevent ODNR From Allowing Trapping Of Bobcats
Jason Cooke started this petition to Ohio Department of Natural Resources

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife is considering instituting a trapping season in certain areas of the state after sightings of bobcats have continued to increase.

According to ODNR, the bobcat was removed from the list of Ohio endangered and threatened species in July 2014.

Verified sightings of bobcats have been on the rise in recent years- with more than 2,000 sightings from 1970 through 2017. Nearly 500 of those sightings happened in just the last year.

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Petition · Dimitris Papastergiou : Save the Trikala Shelter Dogs! ·

Debbie Pownall started this petition to Mayor of Trikala Dimitris Papastergiou

On the 31st May officials from the department of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have instructed the Municipality of Trikala to arrive at the gates of the Trikala Dog Shelter and release all 127 of our dogs on to the streets.

The reason? The shelter was created with the prospect of expanding and creating a modern one. However, because of the financial crisis, the funds have never been given or have not been found for this to be built. Despite the shelter running for many years the Ministry have decided the shelter must be closed because a new one has not been built. A vicious circle without meaning. The city, as it claims, has no money to build a modern shelter, and the letter of the law says the existing one must be closed because it is not within current specification.

We need to save these dogs from the abuse of man and an environment unknown to them. Life in this shelter is all they have known. Many are old, many need medication. To put them out on the street would mean certain death to them, one way or another. We can not let this happen.

Please sign our petition to save our dogs from this despicable fate. We can not let this happen. It is a death sentence.

As a community of supporters from all over the world we have kept this shelter going since 2011 with time, love and money. We can’t let these dogs die on the streets when there is somewhere safe for them to be!

Please email the Mayor Dimitris Papastergiou:

Letter to send:

Dear Mayor of Trikala,

We have known the city of Trikala and it’s dog shelter since 2011. We have seen your city evolving, having fun, with no improvements at all for the dog shelter. No infrastructure, just more and more dogs living there. We’ve seen the shelter in mud, we’ve seen it without water many times. Without electricity for many, many years.

We, their supporters from abroad, pay the majority of funds, with much pleasure, to keep this shelter running! Because we just don’t want to see the dogs dying on the streets.

We can see what the situation in Greece is like, due to the economic crisis, but we are watching the Municipality spend money for everything EXCEPT for the animals. It is time to prove that not only are you a smart city, but you are a city with emotions too.

We bring to your attention an extreme situation facing the 127 dogs currently housed at the Trikala Dog Shelter in Raxa.

On the 31st May officials from the Municipality have been instructed by the Ministry to release all 127 of the Trikala Shelter Dogs on to the streets! What exactly will happen on this date, will determine our own view of your city globally.

We have known most of the dogs at the shelter since they were puppies, we have followed their stories and grown to care for them! Many of us adopting them. We already know their is no place in your city that is friendly to dogs. We support the volunteers at Trikala Animal Welfare O Argos to be able to change all that, we know this takes time but we are still here.

Use your influence in order to prevent this releasing of the dogs happening, to prevent the slow death of all the dogs if they are released on the streets. We are very aware what happens to animals out there.

Please help stop this!

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The PBS Newshour Whale Oil Myth

Watts Up With That?

By Andy May

While researching fossil fuel history recently, I discovered a PBS article entitled “The Whale Oil Myth.” You can see the full article here. It is based on another blog post on the environmental history web site here. The authors are not identified, but the original ideas are from Dr. Bill Kovarik from the School of Communication at Radford University and the late Dr. Lester Lave, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University.

Both articles claim that petroleum-based kerosene, distilled with the Gesner refining process did not help save the whales from being fished into extinction. They claim that distinguished economists James Robbins (see his “How Capitalism Saved the Whales“) and Dr. Lester Lave (Dr. Lave has comments after both blog posts that are worth reading) are just plain wrong and whales would have done fine, even if kerosene had not replaced whale oil…

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Petition · Ugandan Wildlife Authority: Stop the revenge poisoning of the tree climbing lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park ·

Save the Lions of Uganda
Phil Dolliff started this petition to Ugandan and 2 others

On April 11th a cute pride of 3 lionesses and 8 cubs was found after being killed by poisoning probably in revenge for preying on livestock.

This is at least the second such mass poisoning of lions from Queen Elizabeth National Park. These tree climbing lions live in only two places in the world and are endangered by habitat loss and rapidly growing populations around the park.

Please sign the petition today to help us save these magnificent creatures by urging the Ugandan Wildlife Authority to take action to save these lions through better community outreach and better compensation for the herding families that surround the park and lose their livestock to lions that wander from the park.

Please also donate to Uganda’s conservation partners such as the African Wildlife Foundation. I have seen the unique and beautiful tree climbing lions in this park and urge you to help save them.

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