For frack’s sake

Seven years after it was banned in the UK, fracking has begun again. Cuadrilla, an energy company, has resumed fracking at a well in Lancashire. The previous ban was due to the operations causing ‘minor earthquakes’. However, only a few days after Cuadrilla resumed activities, seismic events ranging from 0.4 to 1.1 magnitude have occurred.  Tremors of 0.8 magnitude caused work to be suspended on Friday and Saturday, with an event of 1.1. magnitude on Monday again pausing operations, as a tremor above 0.5 requires fracking to be stopped while tests are carried out.

CuadrillaThis news may be unsurprising to the many people who have protested against fracking, a controversial procedure due to the possibility of triggering seismic activity and the non-renewable nature of the energy. Earlier this month, the prison sentences of two green activists who had protested against fracking were quashed after the court of appeal ruled they were ‘excessive’. Energy sources such as coal, gas and oil exacerbate climate change and critics argue that the opening of new power plants or fracking sites indicates a lack of commitment on the government’s part to the Paris Agreement, the goal to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C in order to minimise the effects of climate change.

It is unclear what will happen if seismic events continue to occur at the fracking sites in Lancashire, but it is certain that if we continue to consume and rely on fossil fuels, we will have bigger problems than 1.1 magnitude tremors.

Lavender fields forever

Do you like the smell of lavender? Maybe you have a scented candle which calms you down, or a bottle of essential oil to help you sleep. Thanks to a new study from Kagoshima University, Japan, scientific evidence is growing to suggest that the purple flower’s properties are as powerful as aromatherapy lovers have been reporting for years.

lavenderPlants and other natural products may contain a plethora of active ingredients, each contributing to its purported effects. Extracting, identifying and purifying these individual chemical components are just some of the challenges of studying the effects of natural species.

In their study, Kashiwadani and co-workers tested linalool, an alcohol from the lavender extract which has been reported to have anxiolytic effects (meaning to reduce anxiety). Mice were exposed to linalool vapour, and subsequently showed an increase in exploration of the test chamber compared to mice that had not been exposed to linalool. They also noted that this occurred without motor impairment as seen when using another anti-anxiety class of drugs, the benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium).

While the results from this study seem to support anecdotal evidence about the relaxation properties of lavender, it is worth noting that studies in mice often cannot be replicated in human patients. As mentioned previously, linalool is only one component of lavender, and until further studies have been conducted to determine the effects of the remaining compounds, lavender will be seen more in candles and bath products than in anti-anxiety drugs.

Now you see me…

Hurricane Walaka has caused a Hawaiian island to be wiped off the map. Scientists have confirmed that East Island, an 11-acre island atop a coral reef, has disappeared.

HawaiianIslandAlthough small, the island hosted a US Coast Guard Radar until 1952, and is part of a protected marine area called the French Frigate Shoals. It was home to the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal, of which there are only 1,400 remaining in the wild, green sea turtles and other wildlife. Small, sandy islands like East Island are highly at risk due to rising sea levels associated with climate change.

The hurricane was categorized as Category 5 with winds over 157 mph. Warmer weather as well as warmer seas can affect the severity of storms, as well as their frequency. Powerful weather events like these can have a huge impact on vulnerable shores, but it remains to be seen how the wildlife that rely on the French Frigate Shoals cope with the loss of East Island.

Written by Isobel Tibbetts

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