Two deaths from cardiac arrest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

In the past two weeks two men have died from cardiac arrest while hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On August 22, Kirk Lazar, 70, of Evans, Georgia, collapsed while hiking the Juney Whank Falls Trail near Bryson City, NC. Bystanders immediately began CPR and emergency medical personnel responded quickly, but Lazar could not be revived.

On August 9, Harold Thompson, 58, of Knoxville, Tennessee experienced cardiac arrest while hiking along the Injun Creek manway in the Tennessee side of the park. Thompson’s brother and park medics administered CPR, but he was also pronounced dead at the scene. There have been 11 deaths in Great Smoky Mountains National Park this year. 

NOAA predicting widespread coral bleaching in Hawaii

Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch Program has indicated that coral reefs in Hawaii will enter into a major bleaching event within the next two months. Rising seawater temperatures causes coral bleaching, which change coral from their normal browns, greens and yellows into a white color. Right now, August ocean temperatures in Hawaii are 3 degrees higher than normal. 

Coral can recover from moderate heat increases but will die if the higher temperatures remain over an extended period of time. Hawaii experienced an unprecedented coral bleaching event in 2014 and 2015 where, in some areas, over 50 percent of coral died. This bleaching event is expected to be even more severe. Anyone dipping their toes into the waters of Hawaii are asked to avoid touching corals or coral reefs and to use reef safe sunscreen. 

Brazilians march in the streets to demand action on fires burning in Amazon

The “lungs of the earth” are burning. More than 74,000 fires have ignited so far this year in Brazil, half of them in the Amazon rainforest—marking an 80 percent increase in fires recorded over the same time period last year in the country. The fires are blamed on deforestation and a practice called slash-and-burn, which clears the forest for agricultural practices. Newly elected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ran on a platform of opening up the forest for increased development and has gutted many of Brazil’s environmental regulatory agencies. As the fires raged, Bolsonaro claimed they were a conspiracy to attack the government.

In recent days, thousands of Brazilians have taken to city streets to demand action. In Rio de Janeiro, protesters marched on the city’s famous Ipanema Beach. The pressure, both in Brazil and around the world, seems to have forced Bolsonaro to change his stance on the fires—at least temporarily. Last week, Bolsonaro ordered 44,000 troops to begin fighting the fires and to address the criminal activity behind them.

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