GOING POSTAL: If I'm anything, I'm pre-approved. I'm also pretty good at potentially winning contests I never entered. I know this from the steady stream of junk mail that finds its way to my non-e-mail mailbox, part of my annual 40 pounds of junk mail. The New York Times reports this morning on its Green Inc. blog about the paper industry's enormous carbon footprint — it's No. 4 of all manufacturers — and the large, unwanted chunk junk mail comprises. Environmental nonprofit ForestEthics released a report recently that attributes 51.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year to mail ads, the equivalent of heating about 13 million homes during winter. And, as NASA's Dr. James Hansen puts it, "It is hard to imagine waste more unnecessary than the 100 billion pieces of junk mail Americans receive each year." (Sources: New York Times, Bicycle City, ForestEthics)

COAST IS CLEARING: About half of the oil that spilled onto Australian beaches last week has now been cleaned up, officials say, after it was revealed over the weekend that the spill was actually 10 times larger than originally reported. A Chinese oil tanker was sent careening last week by a tropical cyclone, losing 680 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer into the sea as well as the 250 tons of oil. On top of the 37-mile oil slick, many fear the fertilizer could lead to the growth of suffocating algae blooms off the coast. Experts say the beaches will require long-term ecological monitoring for effects such as albinism in mangrove plants, stunted coral growth and reduced fish populations. Still, despite its severity, no seriously injured animals have been found, and experts say the spill could have been much worse. (Sources: BBC News, Associated Press, The Age)

STATE OF THE ART: The Los Angeles Times reports that the Art Center College of Design, a nearly 80-year-old Pasadena art school, is emerging as a global leader in sustainable design, helping make environmental stewardship stylish. The school was founded in 1930 during the Great Depression's onset, when, like now, economic hardships had the design world rethinking long-held assumptions and paradigms. Especially in the last three years, though, sustainability has moved to the forefront of the school's curriculum — so much so that its chief academic officer says he hopes "the S-word" falls out of use because it's become so ingrained in everyone's consciousness. (Source: LA Times)

WORLD WATER FORUM: 2009 is shaping up to be a conference-heavy year on environmental issues. Many, if not most, focus on climate change due to that crisis's urgency and long history of being ignored, but the growing global problem of water scarcity is no less troubling — and it's inherently connected with warming climes. Hence this week's World Water Forum in Istanbul, a seven-day summit designed to address the shortages of drinking water in many impoverished places, and the threat of worsening disputes over dwindling rivers, lakes and aquifers. The 28,000 people expected to attend the conference, which is the fifth in a series, is a new record. (Source: Agence France-Presse)

CLIMATE CHANGE BLUES: Scientists normally are excited when they make breakthroughs. Climate scientists, however, don't get that luxury very often these days, as their findings increasingly reveal bleak days ahead. And not only are they turning up depressing news, but their audience is often skeptical or even defensive about their work. It's as if scientists know a bomb will go off, AFP writes, but can't find the right words to warn the people who could possibly defuse it. But while this makes many scientists despondent, they know better than to give up. "But even if you are pessimistic — and sometimes I am — it does not help," one climate expert tells the AFP. "What are you going to do? Chop off your hands and give up? That's not a solution either." (Source: AFP)

CHASING TAILFEATHERS: While they don't seem quite as crude as wolf whistling, the flirtatious serenades from committed male antbirds to single females still ruffle the feathers of their mates, according to new research published in Current Biology. When their man whistles to nearby temptresses, female antbirds will sing over them in an apparent attempt to muffle the message, the first evidence of such "signal jamming" among mates. Undaunted in their pursuit, the male antbirds may respond by simply singing a different tune. (Source: ScienceDaily)

Russell McLendon

Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.