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Penguin freeze out

Remnants of ancient penguin droppings hint that a cold snap 1,800 to 2,300 years ago caused a slump in the penguin population of maritime Antarctica, researchers announced earlier this month.

"[This] is a novel geochemical method to study historical penguin populations," says Liguang Sun of the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei. "The result suggests that without human intervention, climate change had a significant effect on penguin survival and its population fluctuation during the past 3,000 years in Antarctica."

Mr. Sun's team looked at a lake sediment core dating back approximately 3,000 radiocarbon years - the deposition of penguin droppings has a significant effect on the chemical composition of this core. "Changes in sediment geochemistry reflect fluctuations in penguin populations," the researchers explain.

Back to the Earth Waste

Two years ago, staff at the Whole Foods Market national grocery chain sent eight tons of trash to the dump every week. Today, six tons of that organic waste are composted on local farms.

Brainchild of the Center for Ecological Technology (CET), the commercial-waste composting project was started at 70 supermarkets and restaurants in western Massachusetts.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the US generates 14 million tons of food waste every year, 6.7 percent of the total US waste. Over four years, the CET diverted 22,000 tons of organic waste from landfills onto farms.

By composting this waste, CET planners estimate they reduced the amount of greenhouse gases that would have been emitted into the atmosphere by 5,700 metric tons.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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