Warming Trends: Asian Carp Hate ‘80s Rock, Beekeeping to Restore a Mountain Top and a Lot of Reasons to Go Vegan

A column highlighting climate-related studies, innovations, books, cultural events and other developments from the global warming frontier.

Asian carp are an invasive species wreaking havoc on U.S. waterways. Credit: Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images

Asian carp are an invasive species wreaking havoc on U.S. waterways. Credit: Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images

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Warming Trends
Science

Want to Irritate an Asian Carp? Play Some Tom Petty

As invasive, ecosystem-killing Asian carp continue to threaten the Great Lakes, government scientists are trying a new method to deter the fish from migrating northward in the Mississippi River: blasting noises that sound like the opening riffs of a 1980s rock song.

“It has kind of a throaty, guitar-like sound,” said Christa Woodly, a research biologist with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. “It increases in amplitude and at the tail end of it, it has this whirring sound at a much higher frequency. We developed all of the sounds to stay within the hearing range of the Asian carp.”

Previous research found that these noises were annoying to the four species of Asian carp that are wreaking havoc in U.S. waterways, but were out of the hearing range of some native species. 

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Some Asian carp species can exceed 100 pounds, and silver carp can jump out of the water, posing a danger to recreational boaters. They also outcompete native species for food resources and can rapidly take over ecosystems. 

Asian carp haven’t yet infiltrated the Great Lakes thanks to intensive, expensive deterrent technology. Researchers hope this three-year study that uses 16 speakers installed in Lock and Dam 19 in the Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa and Hamilton, Illinois, will be successful and provide another method of invasive species mitigation that could be used elsewhere to prevent the spread of Asian carp. 

“The goal here is to create something that is irritating to the fish, that kind of makes them want to turn around and go the other direction and not continue to move upstream,” said Marybeth Brey, a U.S. Geological Survey fish biologist.

Solutions

Spotting Wildfire With Artificial Intelligence

California’s Sonoma County was devastated in 2017 by the deadly Tubbs fire. This month, the county announced that it will begin using artificial intelligence to help with wildfire detection. 

Using a FEMA grant allocated for hazard mitigation, the county will use AI to monitor new and existing wildfire cameras 24/7. If the technology, which can observe, learn and make decisions like a human, detects a fire, it will alert emergency crews.

The system Sonoma County will use has been trained to detect wildfire in the camera images using more than 10 million images of smoke and fire. Once the system notifies emergency crews, firefighters can quickly respond and confirm whether the fire threat is real.

Neil Sahota, an artificial intelligence expert who has consulted with the United Nations on using AI to meet its Sustainable Development Goals, said the technology can be taken to the next level, from reacting to wildfires to predicting wildfires and preventing them from beginning. He said he believes the data exists to accomplish this, including climate data and information on where lightning might strike.

“What Sonoma is doing is a huge step in the right direction,” Sahota said. “AI isn’t always going to be perfect. It’s probably going to miss some wildfires, but if this predictive system can help us cut down wildfires by 20 percent, that’s huge.”

Culture

If You Need a Reason to Go Vegan, This Book Will Provide It

Going vegan is cheaper than buying a Tesla. That’s one of 72 reasons to adopt a vegan lifestyle listed in a new book. 

From the benefits of a plant-based diet to health, wellness and sex, to the consequences of a meat and dairy diet like animal suffering, pandemics and climate-warming emissions, “72 Reasons to Be Vegan: Why Plant Based, Why Now,” publishing on Tuesday, gives a comprehensive list of arguments in favor of a vegan lifestyle.

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Gene Stone, a vegan and journalist, was once a self-proclaimed “meataholic” and a veggie-hater. But once he learned the health benefits of a plant-based diet, he moved toward veganism and never looked back, he said. He and fellow vegan and health writer Kathy Freston wanted to share what they had learned in the form of a book.

“There wasn’t a single book that said, ‘This is why you should be vegan,’” Stone said. “There were health books, there were environmental books, there were athletic performance books, there were animal protection books, but there wasn’t a book that put it together.”

One of Stone’s favorite reasons listed in the book is No. 24: The Numbers Don’t Lie. If every American went vegan for a day, the authors note, they would collectively save 90 billion gallons of water, prevent 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from escaping into the atmosphere and reduce animal waste—a massive pollutant—by 4.7 million tons. 

“The goal of the book isn’t to create immediate change, but it’s to create immediate thought,” Stone said. “If you can change people’s thought patterns a little, if you can nudge them, or even interest them, that’s what I want this book to do.” 

Solutions

Beekeeping as Ecosystem Restoration

Pollinators are essential to rebuilding ecosystems. That’s why an initiative to restore areas damaged by mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia is training locals to be beekeepers, providing them the supplies to get started and paying them for the work they do.

The Appalachian Beekeeping Collective, part of the nonprofit Appalachian Headwaters, supports more than 100 beekeepers and also sells the honey produced online for about $15 a jar.

The Appalachian Beekeeping Collective trains locals to raise bees and sells their product online. Photo Courtesy of the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective
The Appalachian Beekeeping Collective trains locals to raise bees and sells their product online. Photo Courtesy of the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective

In the winter, experienced beekeepers teach their skills to people interested in getting involved. Then, in the spring, new beekeepers receive some hives and bee colonies, and mentors regularly check in to make sure the bees are thriving. 

“It helps teach people in our region to be connected with the ecosystem and the living environment,” said Kate Asquith, director of programs and outreach for Appalachian Headwaters. “It’s a huge tool for engaging with people in a region that wouldn’t be as interested otherwise.”

People in the Appalachian region tend to be hostile toward environmental protection, Asquith said, because the regional economy depended on coal for decades. She sees this collective as a way to get the truth about climate change out with the message that solutions can benefit the local economy and communities. 

“Beekeepers, more than most people, see the differences over the last couple of decades with what’s going on with the ecosystem and how the climate has changed,” Asquith said. “They see the impacts on the weather, when it rains and destroys blossoms, when there isn’t enough water for species to flower really well and for there to be good nectar flow, and they notice when things bloom.”

Culture

J.K. Rowling Wasn’t Thinking About Trees

It has taken nearly 24 million trees to print the 522 million copies of books in the Harry Potter series that have been produced since 1997, when the first book was published, according to an analysis by a U.K.-based energy-switching website.

All seven Harry Potter books ranked in the top 25 books requiring the most trees to produce, with “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth book in the series, ranking at No. 1. The fifth book is the longest in the series, at 766 pages, and has used up 4,979,000 trees since it was published in 2003, according to the analysis. 

The SaveOnEnergy analysis involved multiplying book sales for the 50 best-selling books globally by page counts to determine how many sheets of paper had been used to produce each of the best sellers. That value was divided by 10,000, the number of sheets of paper yielded by a single tree, on average.

Other top-ranking best sellers include “War and Peace,” which has used up 4,410,000 trees since 1869, and “The Da Vinci Code,” which has consumed 3,912,000 trees since 2003.