TIME Environment

Starbucks is Selling California Spring Water For $1.95 a Bottle Amid a Historic Drought

California's Central Valley Heavily Impacted By Severe Drought
Justin Sullivan — Getty Images Well water is pumped from the ground on April 24, 2015 in Tulare, California.

A bottled-water company owned by the coffee giant is drawing on precious springs in the bone-dry state

A Starbucks owned bottled-water company in California is continuing to sell locally sourced spring water, as the Golden State battles one of the worst droughts in recent memory, according to a report in Mother Jones.

Starbucks acquired Ethos Water, an enterprise that gives a nickel of every $1.95 bottle sold to water charity projects around the world, in 2005. Ethos has reportedly raised around $12.3 million for water charity projects to date.

However, the company partially relies on water from private springs in central California’s Placer County and also operates a factory further south in Merced, where it uses local water sources at its production facility. Both areas are in territories that are experiencing “exceptional drought” conditions, according to federal authorities.

The Merced Sun-Star reports that locals are increasingly irritated that the company is continuing to tap the area’s scarce water resources amid the blistering dry spell.

A Starbucks spokesperson told Mother Jones that Ethos water came from “a private spring source that is not used for municipal water for any communities.” However, the magazine also spoke to a geologist with the state’s Department of Water Resources, who said that local communities downstream could still be adversely affected “if you capture and pull it out before it ever makes it.”

Read more at Mother Jones.

TIME Environment

Flying Is Sometimes Greener Than Driving

The energy used per person can be lower on a plane than in a car

Next time you feel guilty about booking a flight when you could have driven, cut yourself some slack: in many cases, flying may be the more environmentally sustainable choice.

New research by Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute suggests that the energy expended per person is often higher when driving than when flying the same distance—more than two times higher on average, the Washington Post reports. This calculation depends on the energy efficiency of the vehicles involved, as well as on the fact that passenger planes are often crowded, dividing the necessary fuel among many people. On the other hand, drivers are often alone.

It’s important to note that most of the time, drivers are only traveling short distances, while flyers are traveling long ones—so the overall impact of drivers vs. flyers isn’t a clean comparison.

[Washington Post]

TIME Research

Air Pollution May Make Your Brain Age Faster, Study Says

Air pollution can also increase your risk of a stroke

Long-term exposure to air pollution may cause your brain to age more quickly and put you at higher risk for a stroke, a new study suggests.

Exposure to higher levels of air pollution may be linked to lower total cerebral brain volume, according to a study published in the May issue of Stroke, which analyzed health data from nearly 1,000 men and women over 60 who did not have dementia and had not had a stroke.

Total cerebral brain volume naturally decreases as humans age, resulting in declines in ability to learn new things and retrieve information, but the researchers found that air pollution exposure may be linked to premature brain aging and higher risks for certain brain strokes.

The findings add new knowledge to the impact of air pollution on the structure of the brain, a link that has remained largely unclear in research.

Specifically, a 2 microgram per square meter increase in PM2.5 (particulate matter in the air that is less than 2.5 micrometers wide) was associated with a 0.32% lower total cerebral brain volume, the study said. To put that in context, brain volume decreases at about 0.5% per year after age 40, and PM2.5 levels can vary widely across the world. For example, the PM2.5 in Beijing is about 175 micrograms per square meter, while the PM2.5 in New York City is about 30 micrograms per square meter.

TIME Environment

California Governor Proposes Fines Up to $10,000 for Water Wasters

The new fines would mark a dramatic increase from the current maximum fine of $500 per day

Californians who waste water could face fines of up to $10,000 under a new proposal from Governor Jerry Brown as the state works to combat a four-year drought.

The regulation would rely on local authorities to collect the penalties, which would be a dramatic increase from the $500 per day that water-wasting can currently incur. The move is Brown’s latest response to a drought that has left California in a state of emergency.

“These measures will strengthen the ability of local officials to build new water projects and ensure that water is not wasted,” he said in a statement. “As this drought stretches on, we’ll continue to do whatever is necessary to help communities save more water.”

On Tuesday, Brown said he would ask state agencies to cut back on bureaucratic red tape slowing projects aimed at increasing the state’s water supply.

TIME Environment

Heatwaves Caused By Climate Change 75% Of the Time, Study Finds

This picture shows two men attempting to push a car out of floodwaters after a storm swept Changsha, central China's Hunan province on taken on April 7, 2015
AFP/Getty Images This picture shows two men attempting to push a car out of floodwaters after a storm swept Changsha, central China's Hunan province on taken on April 7, 2015

Heavy precipitation is another result of climate change

Climate change is increasingly causing extreme weather like heavy rains, heat waves and severe storms, according to a new study.

Three-quarters of all hot spells occurring over land can be traced back to human activity, according to a study published Monday in Nature Climate Change. Global warming also causes 18% of heavy precipitation, the report finds, a figure that will increase to 40% if temperatures continue to rise.

“With every degree of warming it is the rarest and the most extreme events—and thereby the ones with typically the highest socio-economic impacts—for which the largest fraction is due to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions,” Swiss researchers Erich Fischer and Reto Knutti wrote.

The study looked at heat waves and heavy rains from 25 climate models over the period from 1901-2005 as well as projections for 2006-2100.

TIME Innovation

Are We Breaking Up With Saudi Arabia?

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Is the special Saudi-U.S. relationship on the rocks?

By Ray Takeyh at the Council on Foreign Relations

2. Two-year degrees can really pay off.

By Liz Weston at Reuters

3. A self-contained urban farm, delivered in a box, could slash water use by 90 percent.

By Danny Crichton in TechCrunch

4. How a lake full of methane could power Rwanda and DR Congo.

By Jonathan W. Rosen in MIT Technology Review

5. Nope, we’re not going to live on crickets in the near-future.

By Brooke Borel in Popular Science

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Environment

How Earth Day Began: With Somber Reflection, and a Few Dump-Ins

Save Your Earth
Lambert / Getty Images An Earth day button, circa 1970

April 22, 1970: The first Earth Day is observed

Born from what TIME described in 1970 as a casual suggestion by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was meant as neither protest nor celebration, but rather as “a day for serious discussion of environmental problems.”

What surprised Nelson — and others — was how much enthusiasm the idea engendered. On this day, April 22, 45 years ago, nearly 20 million Americans took Nelson up on his suggestion and turned out for the inaugural Earth Day events. These cropped up all over the country, on college campuses and in public places — including Central Park and New York’s Fifth Avenue, which was closed to traffic for two hours while 100,000 people staged a quiet, contemplative parade.

A dissonant combination of festivity and somber reflection pervaded the holiday. Environmentalists found themselves transformed into celebrities for a day, suddenly overrun with invitations to share their grim prognoses for the planet. As TIME wrote in 1970:

Ecologist Barry Commoner’s schedule was the busiest, calling for him to rush from Harvard and M.I.T. to Rhode Island College and finally to Brown University. Population Biologist Paul Ehrlich was lined up for speeches at Iowa State, Biologist René Dubos at U.C.L.A., Ralph Nader at State University of New York in Buffalo. In addition, such heroes of the young as Dr. Benjamin Spock, Poet Allen Ginsberg and various rock stars planned to have their say, if not precisely about ecology, then about the joys of the natural life.

Along with educational lectures and nature walks, however, there were livelier, more dramatic demonstrations meant to draw attention to the need for environmental reform. According to the New York Times, some activists held “mock funerals of ‘polluting’ objects, from automobiles to toilets.” Per TIME, students at several schools collected piles of litter and then staged “dump-ins” on the steps of city halls and manufacturing facilities.

At San Fernando State College, a group of students offered rice and tea to passersby as a sample of the “hunger diet” they could expect in the future, when overpopulation led to worldwide famine.

Meanwhile, at Florida Technological University, some students held a mock trial for a Chevrolet charged with poisoning the air. Finding it guilty, they set about executing it with a sledgehammer — but according to TIME, “the car resisted so sturdily that the students finally shrugged and offered it to an art class for a sculpture project.”

Despite — or perhaps because of — their heavy-handed theatrics, these grassroots protests paid off. By the end of the year, Congress had authorized the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

By the following year, Earth Day had grown into Earth Week, and this time it was officially sanctioned by President Nixon. But the festivities were “cooler and saner” the second year, per TIME, which noted, “Instead of noisy confrontations, the 1971 ‘week’ that ended April 25 ran to practical matters, like arranging bottle pickups.”

Read more about the importance of the environment in 1970, here in the TIME Vault: Issue of the Year

TIME Environment

Obama’s Florida Visit Takes Climate Change Fight to the Front Lines on Earth Day

President Obama speaks during a press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, April 17, 2015.
Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images President Obama speaks during a press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, April 17, 2015.

"It’s about protecting our God-given natural wonders, and the good jobs that rely on them"

President Obama traveled to Florida on Wednesday to highlight the impact of climate change on the American economy. The choice of Florida, where sea levels are rising rapidly and state officials aren’t allowed to discuss climate change, brings Obama to the front lines of the debate over how to address the changing environment.

Obama’s Earth Day speech at Everglades National Park portrayed climate change as an issue with real-world effects that are relevant beyond the community of environmental activists. The site is a key source of drinking water for more than a third of Florida’s nearly 20 million people and tourism at the park provides a significant boost to the local economy, Obama said in his speech.

“This is not a problem for another generation. Not anymore,” Obama said. “This is a problem now. It has serious implications for the way we live right now. Stronger storms. Deeper droughts. Longer wildfire seasons.”

The visit comes one day after the White House announced measures to support national parks and prepare communities across the country for storms caused by climate change.

Obama’s decision to make his speech in Florida brings him to the nexus of the fight against climate change in the U.S. While the state’s natural treasures and densely populated communities face the pressure of rising sea levels, many in the state do not believe in climate change. State employees have been banned from even using the term “climate change” while working in their official capacities. (Obama seemed to take the Florida state government to task directly for its policy prohibiting discussion of climate change, saying “climate change can’t be omitted from the conversation.”)

“Southeast Florida is really ground zero on climate change and sea level rise in particular,” said Christina DeConcini, director of government affairs at the World Resources Institute. “There’s a disconnect there. It seems if you were an elected official in the state of Florida, it would be incumbent on you to protect your constituents.”

To be sure, there’s a lot to protect. The southern Florida region, most threatened by rising sea levels, is home to real estate valued at more than $130 billion, as well as two nuclear power plants, 74 airports and hundreds of public schools, according to a government report. And then there’s the threat to the Everglades, which helps support the state’s $80 billion tourism industry.

In Miami and the surrounding area, much of the preparation for rising sea levels and other climate change effects has fallen into the hands of local initiatives, at least in part because the state government has been largely unresponsive. The Southeast Florida Regional Compact, a partnership between four counties in the Miami area, has developed tactics to manage streets that regularly flood with water, identify vulnerable transportation systems and prepare to relocate communities that may be especially affected by climate-related disasters.

“These four counties said, ‘you know what sea level rise and the consequences need to be dealt with together. The water doesn’t respect county boundaries,” said Colin Polsky, director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies. “I can’t say there’s zero collaboration with the state, but it’s kind of chilling if state officials feel like they can’t even use the words climate change.”

Obama’s speech on Wednesday seemed to be an implicit challenge to presidential contenders Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. The two Florida Republicans, a Senator and former Governor, respectively, have expressed doubt about man-made climate change, despite the clear evidence of climate change in their own backyards.

Aside from challenging Republicans on climate change, Obama touted his plan to reduce America’s carbon emissions by at least 26% by 2025. The commitment has been portrayed as key to fostering an international agreement on this issue at this December’s U.N. climate talks in Paris.

But even a landmark carbon emissions agreement won’t be enough to stop sea levels around Florida from rising in the short term, Polsky said.

“There’s already enough warming that we committed to our atmosphere based on the past couple hundred years of emissions,” he said. “We could stop emissions tomorrow and the ice would continue to melt.”

TIME Environment

Meet the Organizers of the Very First Earth Day

How a troupe of twenty-somethings mobilized millions of Americans to speak out on the environment

“It sounds as if the land has gone mad, and in a way some of it has—mad at man’s treatment of his environment.” When LIFE Magazine reported on the first Earth Day, which took place on April 22, 1970, it captured the burgeoning energy of a nascent environmental movement and the young men and women driving toward change.

The magazine’s focus was less on the pollution that threatened the planet than on the faces of the movement determined to curtail it. Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, had conceived of an environmental campaign that employed tactics, like the teach-in, of the anti-war movement. But he needed a group of budding young activists to organize it from the ground up.

Nelson enlisted Harvard graduate student Denis Hayes as national coordinator. Hayes brought on classmates Andrew Garling, who would coordinate the Northeast, and Stephen Cotton, who would manage the media campaign. Arturo Sandoval, a Chicano activist, joined the team to manage the Western effort, along with Bryce Hamilton to organize high school students and Barbara Reid to coordinate the Midwest.

The paths they took to their cramped Washington, D.C., headquarters varied widely. Reid, who had worked on Robert Kennedy’s campaign and then for the Conservation Foundation, was the only one with solid credentials in the movement. Hayes, who would go on to be a pioneering influence in solar power, grew up in the forests and streams of southwest Washington but focused his prior activism on the Vietnam War, as did Garling. Cotton came up as a student journalist during the civil rights movement, and Sandoval had organized Chicano students and laborers to fight against discrimination.

From a dingy office above a Chinese restaurant, the team orchestrated a history-making event. When the day they’d been working toward finally came, 20 million Americans took to the streets to rally for a more earth-conscious society, and the modern environmental movement was born. As dire as the problems that faced the environment were, Hayes maintained an optimistic outlook. As he told LIFE, “There’s no survival potential in pessimism.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

Read next: This Is the App You Need to Download for Earth Day

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Internet

New Google Doodle Celebrates Earth Day 2015

Google The Earth Day 2015 Google Doodle.

It comes with a nifty little quiz

In 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to spread the message of environmental awareness, and in the process created the first ever Earth Day. To honor what has become a global observance, a new Google Doodle has been created for Earth Day 2015.

The brainchild of the late Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day 1970 garnered bipartisan support and is widely considered to be the beginning of the environmental movement. The campaign led to remarkable change — generating momentum for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passing of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

In 1990 another big campaign was organized to honor the 20th anniversary of Earth Day and an estimated 200 million people worldwide participated in the celebrations. Afterward, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest honor a U.S. civilian can receive.

Earth Day 2015 includes a cleanup of the Great Wall of China, beach-litter removal in Lebanon and an attempt to protect 25,000 acres of rain forest in Indonesia.

The doodle features a spinning globe with various animal animations inside the Google letters. With a click, the animation links to a fun quiz where people can find out “which animal are you?”

Read next: This Is the App You Need to Download for Earth Day

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com