Joining forces: The role of the natural and social sciences in addressing the Global Nitrogen Problem

A wealth of scientific knowledge exists on the role of nitrogen in the natural and agricultural world, with research dating back over a century. Nitrogen sustains life and has enabled modern food production to keep up with the demands of the growing human population. However, we have reached a critical state where the use of synthetic nitrogen needs to be regulated due to the multitude of environmental impacts. The problem is that the effect nitrogen has on the planet is rarely discussed outside of scientific circles. With the recent development of international campaigns to address the global nitrogen problem, it’s time to put nitrogen research into practice with the help of social science.

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Planting Trees for your Next Flight: Studying Behavior Around Carbon Offsetting

Want to fly without the carbon guilt? Offsetting programs let you pay to plant trees to take that carbon from the air, and researchers are studying how social factors and global policies might influence these environmentally-minded behaviors.

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Pollution to Solution: Can We Get Rid of Plastics in Our Oceans?

The issue of marine plastic pollution has become a pressing, global concern. A few organizations have been created over the past few decades that have tried to address the threat of marine pollution, but none have been solely dedicated to the issue. This has led to a lack of dedication towards the issue at the international scale, and only recently have increased measures been taken to address marine plastic pollution. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was created by world leaders in 2015, and since then a number of conferences and independent initiatives have taken place across the globe to promote ocean health. Gatherings like the United Nation’s Oceans Conference and statewide bans on plastic bags can provide the groundwork to evolve these agreements and engage governments and communities to work to reduce marine plastic pollution.

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Preserving Culturally-Important Xochimilco Wetlands Requires Policy and Personal Change

Created by the Aztecs in 500 CE for agriculture, Xochimilco is an area of culturally important wetlands in southern Mexico City. Despite its cultural and economic importance, this area is experiencing wetland degradation and loss due to urban development and water quality issues. Even with a high level of local concern about wetland degradation, little effort will be made toward conservation without a change in public policies regarding local infrastructure and development.

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Palm Oil’s Inconvenient Truth

Palm oil is quickly growing to be one of the most economically lucrative crops, at a huge expense to the environment. With weak political clout by environmental groups in western nations and high demand for palm oil products in India and China, there is little that can be done to curb rainforest habitat loss as the market for palm oil continues to soar.

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Summertime Sadness: Hurricanes and Water Quality

Hurricanes are natural disasters that can turn water quality nasty! Just how nasty depends on what’s on the land that’s being flooded. Hurricane Fran (1996) struck the Cape Fear region in southeastern North Carolina, and researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington noticed dissolved oxygen plummeted as a result of swamp water and swine farm waste flooding. The lack of oxygen in the water caused widespread death of fish and critters living in the bottom of the rivers, not to mention all that sewage introduced bacteria and disease into the environment! Swamp water flooding may be a natural, unavoidable consequence of hurricanes, but we must have policies and practices in place to reduce further degrading water quality from human activities.

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