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Global Ideas

Through the lens

The first pictures of earth from space, the first bicycles on earth, trash problems in the Mediterranean Sea, waterways changing color and controversial logging laws - a look back at the week in environmental news.

In 1946, American scientists launched a Nazi-built V2 rocket skyward and took the first pictures of earth from space. From the grainy black and white images you can discern clouds and the outlines of land. Space photography has come a long way in the intervening 70 years, with satellites like the European Space Agency's (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel delivering beautiful, detailed pictures in full color. Such satellites monitor the impact of climate change from melting glaciers in Argentina to rising sea levels in low-lying Amsterdam. The above image is of Australia's Lake MacKay. The salt lake only springs up after rainfall and lies in the Great Sandy Desert in the country's northwest. The greens and blues show desert vegetation, algae, soil moisture and minerals, according to the ESA. For more images from above, check out DW's short report.

In 1817, Baron Karl von Drais invented the world's first bike. The Draisine didn't have rubber tires or pedals and weighed 30 kilograms (66 pounds). To get moving on it, you have to keep one foot on the ground and kick with the other. Many cities banned the Drais' invention and it wasn't a commercial success but it sparked a revolution in thinking. And by the late 1880s we had arrived at the modern bicycle.

Activists say untreated waste is being dumped into the Mediterranean Sea off the Lebanese coast, killing marine life. The trash is being throw into the sea daily and is leaching liquid pollution that impacts marine wildlife in a practice that has been going on for about a year, say the activists. Video evidence shared on social media has helped highlight the problem. Fishermen have also sent pictures of floating garbage and dead fish, says the Lebanon Eco Movement, an alliance of non-governmental organizations. Lebanon has long had a waste management problem. In summer 2015, street protests erupted in Beirut when the government suspended trash collection. In March 2016, authorities dealt with the problem by moving the waste to coastal dumps.

Earlier this year, Polish lawmakers introduced legislation allowing landowners to chop down old trees to clear the way for housing or businesses. Environmental activists say the result has been a Polish chainsaw massacre even in protected areas.  The law has been dubbed Lex Szyszko for Poland's controversial environment minister Jan Szyszko. Critics say he's on the side of the logging industry. He garnered criticism last year after he sanctioned large-scale logging in the Białowieża Forest, one of the last remaining parts of the primeval forest that once stretched across Europe.

Residents of Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, took to social media this week to surmise why the mighty Bosphorus had suddenly transformed from its usual blue to a milky turquoise. Could it be a pollution spill or down to a recent earthquake? NASA scientists have settled the debate. The color change is due to a surge in coccolithophore, a species of phytoplankton in the nearby Black Sea. "This particular organism is plated with white calcium carbonate and, when present in large numbers, tend to turn the water a milky sheen," NASA told AFP.

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