Bits n’ pieces from East, West and beyond

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East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact.

A recent sampling:

• Data on being a sibling, compiled by The Atlantic: when sibling interactions are positive during adolescence, the outcome is likely to be a healthy development of empathy, pro-social behaviors, and academic success. But, in a large group of siblings, there’s less school success (except for Mormons). If sibling relationships are poor, a result can be self-harm, anxiety and risk from “substances,” and even the chance of becoming psychotic by age 18.

• A new study in Science Advances looks at the impact on streams and lakes from 100 years of pumping groundwater. In some areas water flow fell 50%, and some streams dried up. As water tables dropped, pumping became more costly and difficult, with greater impact on wetlands and trees. In coastal areas the pumping can result in seawater contamination. A top concern: the chances of refilling aquifers.

• A study from Sweden, shared in PLOS One, finds that infants exposed to pets typically have fewer allergies -- and the more pets, the better the outcome. A Microbiome study shows those born into pet homes are likely to have two gut microbes linked to a lower risk of both allergies and obesity.

California legislators have signed into law a bill requiring presidential and gubernatorial candidates to release five years of tax returns in order to appear on the ballot. Republicans are objecting by suing the state, according to Huffington Post.

• New research, printed in the International Journal of Drug Policy, shows marijuana use linked to reduced workplace fatalities. In states with legalized marijuana workplace fatalities amongst 25- to 44-year-olds fell by 19.5%. Where legalization was active for over five years, the fatalities fell by 33.7%.

The researchers speculate that may be due to marijuana replacing alcohol, noting that a separate study shows THC-influenced drivers appear to take fewer risks, so may be more risk-averse.

• In Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks grizzly bears fatten up for hibernation by eating up to 40,000 miller moths per day, says the Xerces Society.

• One out of four Americans has chemical sensitivity; almost half have had it medically diagnosed, according to research from University of Melbourne, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Those diagnoses have increased 300% in the last decade. An estimated 55 million U.S. sufferers said they had either missed work days or lost jobs due their illness. A study author described chemical sensitivity as a “serious and potentially disabling disease.”

• The latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says exploitation of land and water is proceeding at a rate that could create a crisis for food growers: a half billion people now live in places turning into desert, soil is being lost up to 100 times faster than it naturally regenerates, and months of extreme weather, like floods and wildfire, are impacting crops and livestock.

• Good land management practices, such as no-till agriculture, can result in a ton of CO2 stored in the soil when three tons of CO2 are removed from the atmosphere. Hence the research exploring best ag practices for various regions around the world, as reported in the book The Soil Will Save Us.

• Recently a Cuban asylum-seeker is one of many seriously ill immigrants who have been deported. The man was described by over a hundred doctors as being too fragile to travel, but courtesy of Immigration and Customs enforcement he was forcibly put on a plane to Cuba.

• Acupuncture combined with standard medical care, for back and neck pain, is more effective than standard medical care by itself, according to new data from UC-Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

• The strongest-ever hurricane to hit the Bahamas, in early September, caused an estimated $7 billion in damages, with winds up to 185 mph.

Homeless numbers are about 70,000, with 45% of homes either destroyed or damaged.

Blast from the past: In 1957 oceanographer Roger Revelle and chemist Hans Suess warned readers of the journal Tellus that the rapid pace of releasing CO2 and other gases into the air amounted to an alarming experiment with the environment. Those releases increased dramatically as populations grew and more soil was cultivated (releasing CO2) to feed more people.

Revelle’s work led the USDA and the EPA to begin examining the issue in the 1980s; they wanted to determine how much soil carbon was already lost, and how to recapture it. The topic has gained momentum worldwide with scientists and farmers; one such scientist, Rattan Lal, who went from poor farm boy in rural India to a scholarship at Ohio State University and a PhD in soil sciences, is working on test plots worldwide to determine the best agricultural practices for removing CO2 from the air and getting it back into soil. That, along with other efforts to shrink society’s CO2 footprint, has the potential to reverse climate change. Further details are in The Soil Will Save Us, by Kristin Ohlson.

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