CLEANUP ON ISLE TWO: The Maldives' tourism industry is an exercise in wastefulness, The Guardian reports. Thilafushi, an artificial island built in 1992 just to hold all of capital Malé's garbage, now covers 124 acres and receives 330 new tons of trash daily. Mali is one of South Asia's richest countries thanks to tourists, but nearly everything must be imported there, including thousands of tons of meat, vegetables and oil every year. Each tourist generates 7.7 pounds of trash and requires 132 gallons of water per day. (Source: The Guardian)
THE MISSING LEAK: The Tennessee Valley Authority knew years ago that the Roane County, Tenn., coal-ash pond was leaking, but didn't understand how bad it could get. The head of the TVA's ash-disposal program says she thought engineers had fixed the leaks when they attempted repairs in 2003 and 2006. When she heard of the spill on Dec. 23, she says she thought it would be just "two or three dump truck loads" of ash, not more than a billion gallons. (Source: The Chattanooga Times Free Press)
SMUGGLER'S GULCH: The Bush administration is completing a project to fill in this storied border canyon that had became a thoroughfare for illegal immigrants. Even though the flow of border crossings there had slowed considerably, the Department of Homeland Security said thousands still crossed unchecked. Environmentalists have long fought the enormous earth-moving project — which involves decapitating nearby hills and shoving 1.7 million cubic yards of dirt into the gulch — saying it threatens endangered species and the Tijuana River estuary. (Source: The Los Angeles Times)
TURBINE OUTFITTERS: Several buildings in NYC are experimenting with small rooftop wind turbines to decrease their reliance on grid power. Densely packed skyscrapers in the city break up breezes, meaning sustained gusts aren't always reliable, but many buildings use them anyway, including one five-story apartment building that will light its hallways, elevators and common areas with a 10-kilowatt turbine on the roof. (Source: The New York Times)
BUZZWORTHY: Scientists frustrated by years of mysteriously disappearing bees are still struggling to find ways to slow losses or at least diagnose the problem. Honeybees were imported here from Europe, but even native pollinators, such as butterflies and bats, are suffering, too. While not ruling out pesticides or other toxins as culpable, some researchers are now focusing on reintroducing native plants where pollinators pollinate. (Sources: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, The Associated Press)
PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE: The New Republic's Bradford Plumer looks at last week's coverage of greenwashing in the computer industry and wonders why planned obsolescence — making things that break quickly, or can't easily be repaired, to encourage frequent consumption — isn't mentioned more often as one of the industry's wrongs. (Sources: The Wall Street Journal, TNR)
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