Here are some noteworthy science and environmental links folks are Digging today:
• Telegraph: "Gay ducks means end of rare species [in the U.K.]"
— Blue ducks are native to New Zealand, but their satellite population in the U.K. appears to be down to just three birds: two males and a female. You'd think that would be enough to keep the U.K. species going, but it seems the two male ducks are gay. Named Ben and Jerry, each was introduced separately to the lone female, named Cherry. Cherry and Ben didn't get along, but Cherry seemed receptive to Jerry, displaying mating and even nesting behavior. But it never worked out, and when keepers let the two males together, they hit it off immediately. "They stay together all the time, parading up and down their enclosure and whistling to each other as a male might do with a female he wants to mate with," the wetland center's warden tells the Telegraph. "It would have been nice to get a last clutch of eggs from Cherry but Ben and Jerry do make a lovely couple."
— Dubai has often been compared to Texas, due to its everything-is-bigger, oil-fueled indulgences. But in terms of its success despite the odds — a bustling metropolis in the unforgiving desert — it has a bit more in common with Southern California. Neither has natural freshwater resources capable of sustaining its growth, and neither has a sustainable scheme to get around the problem. Inhabitat highlights a new proposal to keep Dubai hydrated without overtaxing scarce freshwater resources: a towering vertical seawater farm, branching off into several sky gardens. It uses desalination to grow food crops in the clouds, but, as Inhabitat's Alexandra Kain acknowledges, development plans probably aren't in the near future given the current economic climate.
• Wall Street Journal: "Google's Renewable Energy Push"
— It does seem odd. Why is Google dabbling in government policy, issuing reports on renewable energy and sending its CEO to conferences to explain what a "smart grid" is? Shouldn't it just spend its time making sure I get the news I demand when I search things like "octuplets mom" and "brangelina"? Google is thinking outside the search-engine box, but it's always been a rather idealistic company — and, as CEO Eric Schmidt says in this Q&A, "we're happy to make money everywhere." Despite grumbles about overextension from some search-first shareholders, Schmidt is charging ahead with his company's national energy plan, even though the actual nation still doesn't have one. Here he explains his rationale, and the plan itself, to the WSJ's Alan Murray.
— People often use the words "green" and "sustainable" interchangeably, but Scientific American thankfully points out the differences between the two. "Green," while usually used with good intentions, is a nebulous cliche that generally means "environmentally friendly," itself a vague phrase. "Sustainable," however, is a concrete, easily definable term that's used so often because it applies to so many concepts, not because it's vague. The world's current financial and ecological predicaments can be said to have spawned from a lack of sustainable thinking — with oil companies and Wall Street execs putting short-term gains over long-term viability. As the world begins to embrace sustainable ideals, SciAm debunks 10 common myths about the concept.
— With the climate-change-denying International Climate Summit in full swing in New York, now seems like as good a time as any to peer into the mind of someone who sees the world as he or she wants it to be. The Guardian reports on researchers who are doing just that: trying to figure out the psychology of climate change. It largely comes down to thinking in broad metaphors rather than specifics — freedom vs. responsibility, growth vs. restraint — but the skepticism is also fueled by doubt, which is apparently fueled by right-wing think tanks: One academic study of skeptical books and reports found that 92 percent were directly associated with right-wing, free-market think tanks.
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