How much actual land would it take for the entire U.S. to be powered on solar energy—a source much cleaner than gas, oil or coal? The editors at Good magazine tackled the question in this 1-minute video and found that by dedicating just .6% of land in the Continental U.S. to solar plants, we could provide electricity for the entire country. As they point out, a full on conversion to solar wouldn’t be easy—battery storage would be a huge obstacle—but, the video suggests that solar remains a promising source of clean energy. Discuss

New findings by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation project that, when measured by weight, the ocean will have more plastic than fish by 2050. The study says that plastic runs economic annual losses of up to $120 billion due a low rate of reusing before plastic products are disposed. According to Keep America Beautiful, Americans produced more than 30 million tons of plastic in 2009 and recovered only 2 million tons. And, since the economy of plastic is largely linear, disposable plastics end up in oceans and landfills, slowly degrading and harming nearby wildlife. In a news release, Dominic Waughray of the World Economic Forum said:

"This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy. To move from insight to large scale action, it is clear that no one actor can work on this alone; the public, private sector and civil society all need to mobilize in order to capture the opportunity of the new circular plastics economy.”

Yesterday brought some good news out of the UN climate change conference in Paris: Carbon emissions stalled—and possibly even decreased—this year, according to a new study. And if the final data does end up showing a drop in global carbon emissions, it will be the first time Co2 levels have dropped during a period of strong economic growth. This is unusual, because most of the time, decreased Co2 emissions have come on the heels of economic downturn.

That just goes to show you can have it all. And who do we have to thank for this good news? None other than the world's largest contributor to global Co2 emissions: China. The massive country's new economic adjustments in decreased coal use and new energy sources such as nuclear, wind and solar power are largely responsible for the drop. Last year, China accounted for 27 percent of global carbon emissions followed closely by the U.S. with 15 percent. This year's decrease, while cause for celebration, is no reason not to continue climate negotiations. In fact, the study's author, Corinne Le Quéré, says this decrease is not likely to last because "energy needs for growing economies still rely primarily on coal, and emissions decreases in some industrial countries are still modest at best." Discuss

If you’ve ever wanted to see wild elephants up close, here's your chance (sort of). Google has partnered with the Save the Elephants research camp in Kenya to create new Street View areas at the Samburu National Reserve, showing where the elephants live. They also made a short film (the trailer is below) about the area, the elephants who call it home and the threats they face. According to google, in a recent two year period alone, more than 100,000 elephants in Africa were killed to obtain their ivory. They write, “Today, a visit to Samburu is a chance not only to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, but also discover a uniquely beautiful landscape where people’s live are interwoven with the landscape’s wildlife.”

You can go here to see the film and explore the park—while looking at images of the actual elephants—all through Google Street View. Discuss