Five things you may have missed in the news – August

A look into: A headway made in the gas crisis; Minimum wage debacle; ALS ice bucket challenge dilemma; Honeybee population decline; and New method for tracking endangered animals.

     1. Headway made in the gas crisis? The only way we’ve ever know to acquire propane gas was as a fossil fuel. This type of fuel is found produced by the decomposing remnants of organisms trapped in the layers of sediment below the surface of the earth. This process is technically renewable as organisms are continually passing and the fuels are being produced, however the rate is insufficient for the amount which our economy consumes in a year. The solution? Scientists have genetically engineered E. coli organisms to produce propane consisting of the same molecular make up as that found in fossil fuels. Though the amount of propane is limited, the process is possible and we can continue searching for options to sustain our gas-reliant cultures worldwide. Read more about it!court - gas crisis

     2. Minimum wage debacle – A recent leaked recording demonstrates the reason Americans’ struggle to raise minimum wage has appeared to be at a standstill. It appears the average American is not the baseline for what minimum wages needs to be, but rather the rich. Our government seems to have been encouraging the high class rather than taking an interest in voting for the raise in minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. This change has been presented at least 17 times and has been denied continually. When inflation raises the average cost of living, our economy cannot survive through continuing to pay the same wages, they need to be risen so the population can continue to function. About 71% of Americans are in favor of raising the minimum wage requirement, 54% of which wants it to be raised to $10.10 or higher. Will this leak about the lack of effort by representatives cause the change that the economy needs and so many Americans want? Read more!

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     3. ALS ice bucket challenge dilemma? We’ve all seen those videos on YouTube and our Facebook news feed, you know the one where someone has a bucket of ice water poured on their head. These videos have gone viral on social media sites, but do you know why this challenge is important? The meaning behind accepting the challenge? Not many people do, Chris Baraniuk attributes this to the fact that ”modern altruism is all about performance” and Arielle Pardes calls this phenomenon “narcissism masked as altruism”. Both hinting that those who accept and complete the challenge are participating as much (if not more) for the personal attention than for the actual charity. In our society, I challenge you to take a moment to read about what ALS is and what the challenge does to contribute to this disease and the individuals affected. Read more about the controversy surrounding the ice bucket challenge!

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     4. Honeybee population decline – In the past sixty years the honeybee population in the United States has declined by 42%. This is not just an issue of conservationists, but for all Americans. Nearly a third of our country’s food production is reliant on the honeybee populations. Along with bats, butterflies, and hummingbirds, honeybees are important to the pollination part of plant life cycles. As they are the greatest contributors, our plants will be unable to continue producing such high quality fruits, etc. as the genetic variation will decrease dramatically. This also means the ability to fight off diseases and succumbing to them will increase dramatically. If we don’t try to save this population, we will need to be prepared for the food shortage bound to come soon after their demise. Disney Nature’s feature called Wings discusses this issue further and mentions possible actions we can take to help keep this insect alive, you can also read more about the issue.

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     5. New method for tracking endangered animals? Our current methods for tracking endangered animals consist of invasive procedures which causes a disturbance in the purity of data obtained. Most of these techniques require using anesthesia in order to approach the animal and gather the data. Now, imagine an option in which we can use the footprint of a polar bear or snow leopard or even a water sample from a lake and be able to determine nearly all data information from the cells found in the sample. Sounds like something out of a Science Fiction and Fantasy movie right? Fortunately for us, the species, and conservation biologists this method has been used and was very accurate in a depiction of a polar bear’s recent actions involving a seagull and seal. This new option is much less expensive an invasive than any previously used alternate. Read more! 

Collecting Polar Bear DNA from tracks on snow

-Courtney Gettel, Bison Run ALA