December Excursions

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No December Meeting 
Circumstances have made a December meeting impractical, so we will forgo our usual meetup.

As we always do, there will be no January meeting.

Paddlesports and the Outdoors

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Illuminata Regatta Set for December 21 
Salem’s annual, floating celebration of the holiday season, the Illuminata Regatta, is set to coincide with the winter solstice, this year. The event features canoes, kayaks and dragon boats bedecked with lights and decorations, plying the waters of Salem’s Willamette Slough, below Riverfront Park. Activities are slated to run from 5:30 to 7 pm. Thanks to Stephanie Hazen for the heads up on this. No contact info has been made available at this time. For reference, winter starts about an hour-and-a-half after the regatta concludes.

Whitewater Paddleboarding on the Deschutes 
Jim Ryan, writing for the Oregonian, gave stand-up paddleboarding a go on the rapids of the Lower Deschutes River, in Central Oregon. If you have an interest, you might take a look at his appraisal of the sport: https://www.oregonlive.com/travel/2019/10/we-tried-stand-up-whitewater-paddleboarding-on-the-deschutes-river-heres-how-it-went-video.html

 

Nature and the Environment

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A Looming Water Crisis in American Cities 
Cities across the U.S. face a crisis posed by aging infrastructure and burgeoning contaminants, say researchers. Axios outlines the problem: https://www.axios.com/water-crisis-clean-prescription-medicine-cities-america-865d9d51-924c-47c8-9719-f661c0c7629a.html

Brazil: Pantanal Wetlands Aflame 
While world attention has been focused on blazes in the Amazon basin, another huge, vital, ecological jewel in Brazil has also been burning. The Pantanal wetlands, considered to be one of the world’s most biodiverse areas, has suffered terrible wildfires. The BBC reports: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-50257684

Organic Farming Found Worse for Climate 
A recent study published in Nature Communications crunches the math on organic vs. conventional farming, vis-a-vis climate change. The results are a mixed bag that, when taken in total, don’t favor organic farming. MIT Technology Review summarizes the news: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/614605/sorryorganic-farming-is-actually-worse-for-climate-change/

Groundwater Use Devastating Freshwater Ecosystems 
Analyzing the effects that drawing from groundwater have on a drainage’s total freshwater ecosystems, researchers conclude many systems worldwide have been drawn to levels pointing toward collapse. Ars Technica has the troubling story: https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/10/our-groundwater-use-is-destroying-freshwater-ecosystems/

A Gel to Prevent Wildfires 
Out of Stanford University, in the charred state of California, comes the encouraging news that researchers there have produced a nontoxic, biodegradable gel that can protect vegetation for an entire season. The Smithsonian has more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/gel-could-prevent-wildfires-180973278/

 

Health, Fitness and Safety

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Can Diet Fight Depression? 
Research has found that a diet rich in fruit, whole grains, vegetables, fish, olive oil and low-fat dairy was associated with a significantly lower risk of depression. Though the mechanism isn’t clear, the findings have held up across different studies, in different countries. NPR looks into the story: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/10/09/768665411/changing-your-diet-can-help-tamp-down-depression-boost-mood

Data Reveals Drug Prices Ballooning 
Statistics indicate big pharma is exercising little restraint when it comes to drug price increases. A transparency law passed in California in 2017 has laid bare the numbers, and Ars Technica shares some of the details: https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/10/new-drug-pricing-data-shows-stunning-hikes-one-whopping-667-increase/

The Best Workouts for Traveling 
The Washington Post has compiled a number of workout routines, to fit different travel scenarios. Using the principles of yoga, Pilates and HIIT, the various workouts are designed to address such things as jet lag, tight time constraints, a lack of equipment and other travel-related circumstances: https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/tips/best-workout-every-travel-scenario-according-experts/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

 

Travel, Photography and Animals

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Winning Wildlife Photographs
The London National History Museum’s 55th annual contest attracted some stunning entries. Both the Smithsonian and the BBC covered the event with galleries featuring winners in selected categories. The two galleries differ some, in their selections, so here’s both: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/see-fox-spook-marmot-cougar-take-down-alpaca-and-more-wildlife-photographer-year-winning-images-180973378/ and https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50036823

Fall Foliage Near Champoeg 
Jamie Hale at the Oregonian has composed a gallery of photos featuring the season’s fall colors, at the historic park on the banks of the Willamette River: https://www.oregonlive.com/life-and-culture/g66l-2019/10/3c5b7946893049/fall-color-glows-beside-river-views-at-champoeg-state-park-.html

 

Paddlesports and the Outdoors

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In Praise of Waldo Lake
Jamie Hale at the Oregonian did an article, with photos, on the merits of Waldo Lake as a late summer destination. You’ll find it here: https://www.oregonlive.com/life-and-culture/g66l-2019/09/3b113206978620/waldo-lake-is-the-perfect-place-to-end-your-summer-in-oregon.html

Meanwhile, the Statesman Journal has a podcast, by Zach Urness and David Davis, which explores the prospects for paddling to secluded campsites on Waldo. It, too, features a gallery of photos, and can be found here: https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/travel/outdoors/2019/09/20/explore-oregon-podcast-paddling-hidden-campsites-waldo-lake/2378883001/

 

Nature and the Environment

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Coal’s Fall Raises Life Expectancy, Economy 
As the use of coal declines as an energy source, the pollution its use fosters is also on the decline. The result is fewer sick people and a boost to the economy. Ars Technica explains: https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/09/the-fall-of-coal-and-its-pollution-linked-deaths-is-boosting-the-economy/

Water and Fuel From Air? 
It sounds too good to be true, but researchers at Berkeley have developed metal-organic framework technology, harnessed it to a solar panel, and produced a self-contained water source, capable of extracting useful quantities of water from air. The MOF technology shows promise in other areas, as well, such as extracting CO2 from air to create hydrocarbon fuels. Science Magazine reports: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/09/crystalline-nets-harvest-water-desert-air-turn-carbon-dioxide-liquid-fuel

Meet Sulphur Hexafluoride – The Worst Greenhouse Gas 
A little-known, artificial chemical that goes by the nickname SF6 is being leaked into the environment, on a daily basis. Commonly used in the electrical industry as an insulator, SF6 is said to have 23,500 times the greenhouse effect of CO2. The BBC illuminates: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-49567197

Wind Turbines Threaten Bats 
Although the threat posed to birds by wind turbines is widely recognized, the extent of the threat they pose to bats is only now coming to light. A study from Oregon State University has found that the migratory hoary bat is facing a serious survival threat from wind turbines in the state. The Oregonian examines the issue: https://www.oregonlive.com/environment/2019/09/oregon-state-study-says-wind-turbines-threaten-migrating-bats.html

Neonics Found to Damage Birds’ Health, Migration, Reproduction 
Canadian researchers studied the effects exposure to the common class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, had on birds. The results are alarming. Working with sparrows that migrated across the U.S., Mexico and Canada, researchers found significant issues including, weight loss, delayed migration and reduced survival. The Smithsonian has the troubling news: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/common-pesticides-delay-songbird-migration-trigger-significant-weight-loss-180973130/

 

Health, Fitness and Safety

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“Grease the Groove” and Make Exercise Easy 
Introduced by a former Soviet weight trainer, the idea here is that moderate exercise, more often, is better overall than traditional, periodic, “feel the burn” workouts. Interpretations of the premise vary, but many are finding the approach worthwhile. The Atlantic explores the subject: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/09/bro-do-you-even-grease-the-groove/598837/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Tea Bags Shed Microfibers Into Brew
The bags tea comes in are often made of rayon, a common synthetic fiber. It turns out that a cup of tea made with such a tea bag is rife with microplastics shed by the bag. Of course, all is not lost, as alternatives exist. New Scientist looks into the ramifications: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2217483-plastic-tea-bags-shed-billions-of-microplastic-particles-into-the-cup/

Soft Drinks Linked to Early Death 
Consuming soft drinks, whether sugared or sugar-free, has been firmly linked to an earlier demise. And it doesn’t matter what kills you; it will kill you sooner if you drink soft drinks, statistically speaking. The Guardian investigates: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/sep/03/soft-drinks-including-sugar-free-linked-to-increased-risk-of-death

 

Travel, Photography and Animals

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Comedy Wildlife Photos 2019 
The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2019 finalists have been announced, and the BBC is here with a chuckle-worthy gallery of their work: https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-49690173

Photographer Documents Human Impacts 
Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has traveled the world for decades, capturing striking images of dramatic landscapes shaped by human activities. At once eerily beautiful and viscerally disturbing, he provides a unique perspective. The BBC offers insights into his work and a new collaboration in film making: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-49669971/the-photographer-capturing-mankind-s-impact-on-planet-earth

Peak Fall Color Guide 
The Oregonian introduces a website which seeks to predict autumnal foliage colors across the lower 48: https://www.oregonlive.com/life-and-culture/g66l-2019/09/a6def7186e1441/when-will-fall-color-peak-in-oregon-for-2019.html