On this week’s podcast: Inside Al Gore’s Climate Reality training, and a digest of our World Water Day stories.
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Episode 69: An inconvenient podcast; Bechtel engineers green infrastructure
There are those who work for months or even years to create a beautiful tiny home out of nothing, but if you don’t have time for all that, now you can order your own ready-made Mobile Home. The compact structure, designed by Ruzanna Andressa Oganesya, is built on a moving platform and can be transported virtually anywhere. Those looking to go off grid hassle free can order it to be delivered to their desired location, ready to use as a serene mountain retreat or even as an urban home addition. The Mobile Home is a prefab modular construction that is wide enough to fit on a freight-liner truck bed, making delivery ultra-convenient. The home is compact, approximately 150 square feet, and comes with all of the basic necessities, including a selection of furnishings. The compact house is a unique shape, almost completely covered in glass panels. Adding to its charm is a lovely open-air deck that leads into the interior. Related: Inhabitat spends the night in a Harvard-designed tiny cabin in the woods On the interior, a mezzanine floorplan allows for optimal use of space. The bedroom hovers over the living space connected by an open staircase. Along with the glass walls, a skylight floods the home with natural light . Strategically located just over the bed, it allows residents to enjoy a bit of stargazing as they nod off to sleep. + Ruzanna Andressa Oganesya Via Yanko Design
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This ready-made tiny home can be shipped to any destination
The world’s first hydrogen-powered train recently took its maiden voyage, reaching 50 miles per hour in a passenger-free trial run on a test track in Salzgitter, Germany. The zero-emission Coradia iLint train leaves only water vapor in its wake, is completely silent, and integrates many different innovative elements to propel it down the track. These include clean energy conversion to create electricity, flexible energy storage via batteries, and smart management between traction power and available energy. It’s based around the frame of a regular diesel train and designed to run on traditional, non-electrified tracks with a combination of sustainable operation and high performance. “This test run is a significant milestone in environmental protection and technical innovation,” said Dieder Pfleger , vice president of Alstom Germany and Austria—the company that manufactures the train . “With the Coradia iLint and its fuel cell technology, Alstom is the first railway manufacturer to offer a zero-emission alternative for mass transit trains. Today our new traction system, so far successfully proved on the test ring, is used on a train for the first time – a major step towards cleaner mobility in Europe.” Related: Germany unveils world’s first zero-emission hydrogen-powered passenger train White tests of the train at the Salzgitter plant only go up to 50 miles per hour, testing at a facility in Velim, Czech Republic have seen the train travel up to nearly 90 miles per hour. Hydrogen gas used for testing the train is essentially a waste byproduct of industrial processes, and the company has plans to use wind energy to produce the hydrogen fuel needed in the future. + Alstom Images via Alstom
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World’s first zero-emissions hydrogen train aces maiden voyage
Immersive experiences bring people face-to-face with our impact on marine ecosystems.
9 VR videos that dive deep into water issues
Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group and French studio Silvio D’ascia Architecture unveiled new renderings of their competition-winning designs for a loop-shaped metro station in Paris. Created as part of Société du Grand París’ Grand Paris Express project, the Pont de Bondy station is one of 68 new stations planned for the redevelopment that will expand the existing metro system by 200 kilometers. The sculptural station will include a bridge and tunnel wrapped around a giant atrium next to the riverbank.
For an industry that relies heavily on natural resources such as clean air, soil and water, becoming more environmentally friendly is not just a marketing ploy — it is a necessity.
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Five changes agri-businesses need to make if they want to survive
Beijing’s pollution problem is no secret – earlier this year the city even created an environmental police squad in a bid to stop smog . Now, the nearby province of Hebei – which contributes to Beijing’s smog with it’s heavy industry economy – is taking some creative new steps to combat the dangerous health risk that kills millions of people each year. The government is turning to nature to create a “green necklace” of trees and green belts as a natural way to fight pollution. People have recently pointed fingers at Hebei’s heavy industry as a source for some of Beijing’s hazardous pollution . The city has suffered from numerous smog outbreaks, often during the winter, according to Reuters. So the Hebei government announced this week both they and Beijing will plant trees and use wetlands and rivers to create a green necklace to protect the major global city. In a website notice, the government said it will increase forest coverage and set up green belts with the help of river systems, farms, mountains, and wetlands near Beijing. Related: China’s crazy smog-sucking vacuum tower might actually be working Transportation rules for Beijing and border areas are also part of the plan, which according to Reuters is part of a government effort to integrate the city, Hebei, and Tianjin, a major port city just southeast of Beijing. What have been described as fortress economies in the area could have prompted a race to the bottom in environmental law enforcement, according to Reuters. The cross-regional plan could also help address overpopulation – around 22 million people currently live in Beijing – by trying to limit urban development on the city’s borders. Beijing also plans to move some industries and “non-capital functions” out to Hebei, hoping such moves will also help cut pollution and congestion. Limited coal consumption is another piece of the strategy to clear the skies over Beijing, and the city just decommissioned the last coal-fired power plant earlier in March. Via Reuters Images via Bert Oostdijk on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons
Pollution has plagued India recently; a 2017 report showed people are more likely to die from air pollution not in China, as might be your first guess, but in India. But one area of the country could receive a breath of fresh air. Majuli, which is the largest river island in the world, could become the country’s first carbon-neutral district. Majuli, which is found in India’s Assam state, is home to plentiful biodiversity and the neo-Vaishnavite culture, which according to The Guardian is a monotheistic branch of Hinduism. But the river island is in trouble: monsoons and the river absorb homes as land is disappearing rapidly. In the middle of the 19th century, the river island was around 463 square miles, but in 2015 it was just around 154 square miles, and some research says Majuli could be gone in two decades. Related: New Delhi has the worst air pollution of any city on earth “Majuli is facing an existential crisis and therefore initiatives like designating [it] a carbon neutral district and biodiversity heritage site are [the] needs of the hour to preserve its rich heritage and legacy,” said Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The government aims to make the river island the country’s first carbon-neutral sector by 2020 . Sonowal aims to raise awareness among locals as the area works to become free of pollution. He suggested parents could give a sapling to their children for their birthdays, and plant trees around their homes. He also started an electronic registry to scrutinize the climate impact of any projects proposed for Majuli. A project called the Sustainable Action for Climate Resilient Development, started late last year, will ensure the river island’s infrastructure is low carbon . According to Sonowal’s office as quoted by The Times of India, “Further declaration of Majuli as a Biodiversity Heritage Site, the first in the state, enforces the rich biological biodiversity in the wild, cultivated areas of the island and cultural heritage of Majuli.” Via India Times , The Times of India , and The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )
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World’s biggest river island could be India’s first carbon-neutral sector
Engineers from the University of Glasgow have developed a synthetic skin that could help amputees regain their sense of touch. Clad in graphene, a form of graphite just one atom thick yet tougher than steel, the “electronic skin” even uses photovoltaic cells to harvest power from the sun. “This could allow the creation of an entirely energy-autonomous prosthetic limb,” said Ravinder Dahiya , head of the School of Engineering’s Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies group and the author of a paper on the subject in the current issue of Advanced Functional Materials . Graphene and solar cells are ideal bedfellows because of the former’s unique physical properties, Dahiya said. The material’s optical transparency, for instance, allows 98 percent of the light that hits its surface to pass through. Graphene is also electrically conductive, which means it can channel power to sensors that measure attributes like temperature, pressure, and texture. “Those measurements mean the prosthetic hand is capable of performing challenging tasks like properly gripping soft materials, which other prosthetics can struggle with,” Dahiya said. Related: Thought-controlled robotic arm returns the sense of touch to amputees Because the new skin requires only 20 nanowatts of power per square centimeter, even the lowest-rated photovoltaic cell on the market will suffice. The energy generated by the skin’s cells cannot be stored at present, but the researchers are exploring ways of diverting any unused energy into batteries that can be drawn from at a later time. Beyond prosthetics, the breakthrough could fuel further advances in robotics—a boon for an increasingly automated world. “Skin capable of touch sensitivity also opens the possibility of creating robots capable of making better decisions about human safety,” Dahiya said. “A robot working on a construction line, for example, is much less likely to accidentally injure a human if it can feel that a person has unexpectedly entered their area of movement and stop before an injury can occur.” + University of Glasgow
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Solar-powered skin could help prosthetics imbue sense of touch
German scientists are hoping to shine new light on ways to generate environmentally friendly fuels. At the German Aerospace Center (DLR)’s Institute for Solar Research, they have flipped on a system called Synlight, which they describe as the largest artificial sun on the planet. Synlight is comprised of 149 huge spotlights, pouring out a light intensity around 10,000 times the solar radiation naturally found on Earth. Synlight’s 149 spotlights are similar to those commonly used in cinema projectors. According to DLR, “These enable solar radiation powers of up to 380 kilowatts and two times up to 240 kilowatts in three separately usable irradiation chambers, in which a maximum flux density of more than eleven megawatts per square meter can be achieved.” They create a brilliant array, which scientists hope will help them figure out how to best use the huge quantity of energy from sunlight hitting Earth. The experiment doesn’t come without a cost: Synlight sucks up as much electricity in just four hours as a family of four could use in an entire year, according to the Associated Press. It’s also housed in a specially built structure in Germany. Related: Norwegian Town Creates ‘Artificial Sun’ to Light Up Dark Winter Days The focus for Synlight researchers will be on solar fuels, according to DLR, which said scientists will zero in on developing manufacturing processes. Scientists will delve into new ways to create hydrogen , which isn’t found naturally but must be created by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, according to ABC News. The publication quoted the institute’s director Bernhard Hoffschmidt, who said the furnace-light conditions Synlight can produce – up to 5,432 degrees Fahrenheit – are crucial to experimenting with new methods of creating hydrogen. DLR said industrial companies, such as those in air and space travel, will be able to use Synlight to test components with the help of DLR scientists. Via DLR , ABC News , and the Associated Press Images via DLR
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World’s largest artificial sun switches on in Germany