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ZSL animal photography prize 2015 – in pictures

A contemplative picture of a shaggy-haired grizzly bear, silhouetted against a mountain-lined horizon has been chosen as the Adult Judges’ Choice in the ZSL animal photography prize 2015. Attracting more than 450 entries from around the world, the winners are selected by a panel of expert judges including ZSL honorary conservation fellow and television presenter Kate Humble, and renowned ornithologist Bill Oddie

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Source: Guardian Environment

Female snake living in captivity without a male companion gives birth – again

For the second time in two years, a female yellow-bellied water snake in Missouri reproduced on her own, a rare occurence called parthenogenesis

For the second time in two years, a captive snake in south-east Missouri has given birth without any interaction with a member of the opposite sex.

Officials at the Missouri department of conservation’s Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center say a female yellow-bellied water snake reproduced on her own in 2014 and again this summer. The snake has been living in captivity, without a male companion, for nearly eight years. An intern who cares for the snake found the freshly laid membranes in July.

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Source: Guardian Environment

We need a cure for plant blindness

Let’s elevate plants from their throwaway status and recognise their vital role in keeping us all alive, argues Robbie Blackhall-Miles

Humanity is suffering from an illness the extent of which is not fully known. The impact of this is being felt across the globe. It renders humankind unable to see the plants in their environment and leaves us deeming the vegetation that surrounds us as nothing more than wallpaper, a nice background for the more important things that enhance our lives.

Take a photograph of a lion in the wild in Africa and ask anyone what they see. The answer you will invariably get is “a lion”. If you are lucky, you may get the answer “a wild lion” or if you are extremely lucky, “a wild lion in Africa”. Generally you won’t get the answer “The African savannah in the dry season with some amazing acacia scrub and a lion lying on a bed of dry red grass (Themeda triandra) in the shade of a really old sausage tree (Kigelia africana)”.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Cameron gives top environment policy job to oil man ahead of major climate talks

Environmentalists slam appointment of ex-Schlumberger consultant as energy and environment adviser just months before global climate summit in Paris

Environmentalists have criticised a decision to appoint a former consultant to major oil and gas companies as David Cameron’s key adviser on energy and environment policy.

Stephen Heidari-Robinson, a little-known consultant from oilfield services company Schlumberger, arrives in Downing Street just months before the prime minister is expected to attend the UN’s global climate change summit which begins in Paris in December.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Seven ways to get water on the climate agenda

How can we keep the issue of global freshwater shortage on policymakers agendas? Our expert panel had these suggestions

There is a need for a grassroots movement to strenghten the case for water in the climate debate. This grassroots movement for water exists, but could be stronger. In many countries local NGOs, water committees and youth associations have worked on raising awareness. In France, local water parliaments work together to tackle water and climate change issues. These initiatives could be further shown in other countries. Heloise Chicou, deputy director and climate program officer, French Water Partnership, Paris.

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Source: Guardian Environment

How 'big society' beat one Birmingham area's reputation for drugs and crime

Since 1994, a group of Balsall Heath residents have successfully battled drugs, prostitution and unemployment destroying the heart of their community. How? By picketing, rallying and setting up a progressive local forum

At first glance, Balsall Heath does not look like the kind of place that would be feted by politicians. Twenty years ago, it was notorious for crime and prostitution, and today it is still within the 20% most deprived areas in the UK. It lies close to the “Balti triangle” in Birmingham, a city whose reputation has taken a battering in recent years, thanks to the so-called Trojan Horse scandal (which saw allegations that some Birmingham state schools were being taken over by hardline Muslims who were undermining headteachers), and the outlandish claim on Fox News that it was a no-go area for non-Muslims.

But something in the densely packed rows of terrace houses, shopping streets of fast-food outlets and sequin-strewn Asian fashion shops has attracted everyone from David Cameron to David Blunkett, from Jack Straw to Iain Duncan Smith.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Boris Johnson speaks out against government plans to cut solar subsidies

London mayor’s warning of the threat of proposed Tory cuts to jobs and future investment is welcomed by green politicians and industry leaders

Boris Johnson has said he is “very concerned” about the government’s proposals to cut subsidies to the fast-growing solar industry.

The mayor of London reminded ministers that 10,000 local jobs were dependent on this renewable power technology which had, in his view, “many, many attractions”.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Republicans to break rank with party leaders in call for climate change action

At least 10 House Republicans sign on to resolution in mini-rebellion seemingly designed to put pressure on presidential candidates and party leaders

Nearly a dozen Republican members of Congress will break ranks with leaders of their party on Thursday, and call for action against climate change.

The mini-rebellion a week before the pope visits Congress appears timed to ratchet up the pressure on Republican presidential candidates and congressional leaders to soften a party line of casting doubt – or simply denying – the existence of climate change.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Haute Route highs and heartbreak – what motivates cyclists on tough rides?

Peter Kimpton explores cyclists’ goals and experiences on the extremes of Haute Route in the Pyrenees

She crossed the line. Then, in a brief epiphany between two complete strangers, we hugged for a few seconds and both wept. Day upon day of mountain stages, several with nearly 4,000 metres of vertical ascent, this one with four major climbs, two of them first class category, can do strange things to a person.

The effort, the altitude, the agonising achievement, it can all strip back the boundaries of your personality, lay bare emotions, inhibitions, expose the hurt, bring out the joy, and, like the stunning vistas of the French Pyrenees, bring everything into stark relief.

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Source: Guardian Environment