Yui Mok, AFP/Getty Images
Yui Mok, AFP/Getty Images

Watch Queen Elizabeth II and Sir David Attenborough Chat About Trees in a New Nature Documentary

Yui Mok, AFP/Getty Images
Yui Mok, AFP/Getty Images

When she isn't enjoying an afternoon tea or strolling the grounds of her palace with her corgis, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II likes to nurture her side hobby of conserving forests around the globe. The Queen discusses her love of trees with Sir David Attenborough in a new nature documentary called The Queen's Green Planet, airing on ITV in the UK on April 16, the Independent reports.

While walking through the gardens at Buckingham Palace, Sir David and the Queen chat about the royal family's history with trees as well as the legacy she hopes to leave to future generations. With the new initiative, The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy (QCC), she aims to create a global network of forest conservation projects connecting all 53 Commonwealth nations. When we don't see the Queen at her home with Sir David, we follow Prince Harry planting trees in the Caribbean and Prince William visiting Canada's Great Bear Rainforest with his family.

The Queen's insights on big topics like climate change come with amusing tidbits about her personal life. In the documentary, she reveals that her love of trees has had some unexpected consequences: "I’ve been quite difficult to give presents to so … they’ve said, ‘Oh, let’s give her a plant.’”

Leading up to the documentary's premiere later this month, viewers will have a chance to take part in the Queen's initiative. The ITV programs Good Morning Britain and This Morning are inviting people to sign up to receive their own saplings, which will be shipped out for planting in August of this year.

[h/t Independent]

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Air Quality in American National Parks and Big Cities Is Roughly the Same
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iStock

National parks usually have more vegetation, wildlife, and open spaces than urban areas, but the two don't look much different when it comes to air quality. As City Lab reports, a new study published in Science Advances found that U.S. national parks and the nation's largest cities have comparable ozone levels.

For their research, scientists from Iowa State University and Cornell University looked at air pollution data collected over 24 years from 33 national parks and the 20 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Their results show that average ozone concentrations were "statistically indistinguishable" between the two groups from 1990 to 2014.

On their own, the statistics look grim for America's protected areas, but they're actually a sign that environmental protection measures are working. Prior to the 1990s, major cities had higher ozone concentrations than national parks. At the start of the decade, the federal government passed the Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments in an effort to fight urban air pollution, and ozone levels have been declining ever since.

The average ozone in national parks did increase in the 1990s, but then in 1999 the EPA enacted the Regional Haze Rule, which specifically aims to improve air quality and visibility in national parks. Ozone levels in national parks are now back to the levels they were at in 1990.

Ground-level ozone doesn't just make America's national parks harder to see: It can also damage plants and make it difficult for human visitors to breathe. Vehicles, especially gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, are some of the biggest producers of the pollutant.

[h/t City Lab]

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India's Supreme Court Demands That the Taj Mahal Be Restored or Demolished
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iStock

The Taj Mahal is one of the most recognizable monuments on Earth, but over the years it's started to look less like its old self. Smog and insect droppings are staining the once pure-white marble exterior an unseemly shade of yellow. Now, The Art Newspaper reports that India's Supreme Court has set an ultimatum: It's threatening to shut down or demolish the building if it's not restored to its former glory.

Agra, the town where the Taj Mahal is located, has a notorious pollution problem. Automobile traffic, factory smoke, and the open burning of municipal waste have all contributed to the landmark's increasing discoloration. Insects and acid rain also pose a threat to the facade, which is already crumbling away in some parts.

India's highest court now says the country's central government must seek foreign assistance to restore the UNESCO World Heritage Site if it's to remain open. Agra's state of Uttar Pradesh has taken some steps to reduce pollution in recent years, such us banning the burning of cow dung, which produces heavy brown carbon. In 2015, India's Supreme Court ordered all wood-burning crematoriums near the Taj Mahal to be swapped for electric ones.

But the measures haven't done enough to preserve the building. A committee led by the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpu reportedly plans to investigate the exact sources of pollution in the area, a process that will take about four months. The Supreme Court plans check in on the status of site every day from July 31.

Air pollution isn't the only factor damaging the Taj Mahal. It was constructed near the Yamuna River in the 17th century, and as the water gradual dries up, the ground beneath the structure is shifting. If the trend continues it could lead to the building's total collapse.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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