Hydropower demand is damaging Indigenous lands

June 23, 2020 by  
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Many U.S. states are setting renewable energy goals, turning to hydropower as a cheap source of cleaner energy. But for Inuit hunters in far eastern Canada , Americans’ demand for cheap, renewable energy, particularly in the form of hydropower, is ruining traditional hunting grounds. The remote community of Rigolet on the northern coast of Labrador is downstream from Muskrat Falls, a dam on the Churchill River and an important drainage point for the province’s biggest watershed. The state-owned company Nalcor built the dam and has another — which would produce thrice the electricity — in the works. Most of the energy is exported to the U.S. Related: Fish-friendly whirlpool turbine makes hydropower green again But the Nunatsiavut government, which represents the area’s 2,700 Inuit people, said the dams disrupt ecosystems and expose residents to increased amounts of naturally occurring mercury. Flooding land unlocks mercury from the ground. Once it gets into the water, bacteria transforms it into methylmercury, a neurotoxin that gets into fish, waterbirds and seals as well as the people who eat these animals. The Inuit community living in Labrador already have higher methylmercury concentrations than non-Indigenous Canadians. “When they poison the water , they poison us,” said David Wolfrey, Rigolet conservation officer. These issues are all too common among First Nations people in Canada. A 2016 survey found that of 22 planned Canadian hydropower projects, all were within 60 miles of one or more Indigenous communities. Many U.S. states have announced ambitious energy goals in the last few years, including Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and California. Lacking ways to generate this much energy locally, they’ve turned their gaze toward Canada. The northern neighbor of the U.S. is second only to China in hydropower production. Canada already has 900 large-scale dams which supply about 60% of Canada’s domestic energy needs, and the country has big plans for tripling output and damming the last wild rivers. Nalcor and other dam-building companies have offered Indigenous populations money and support for local community initiatives. But residents are divided, and many will never be won over, such as Alex Saunders, an Inuit citizen who has been treated for methylmercury poisoning. “Think about what you’re buying here,” he said, as reported in The Guardian. “You’re buying the misery from the local people of northern Canada. That’s not a good thing.” Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Taming plastic waste with silica plastic blocks

June 23, 2020 by  
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In a bid to curb plastic waste pollution, India-based company Rhino Machines has invented a way of using plastic to make construction blocks. The silica plastic blocks (SPBs) are strong enough to build a house and can be useful in reducing world pollution problems. As the company behind this new technology, Rhino Machines experimented to determine the viability of making construction bricks from waste plastic and foundry dust. According to the company, they conducted experiments in collaboration with R+D Labs to prove that SPBs can be used to replace traditional construction blocks. Why recycle plastic waste? This experiment came from the need to find a permanent solution to India’s growing plastic waste problem. According to 2012 estimations by the Central Pollution Control Board of India (CPCB), India generates close to 26,000 tons of plastic a day. Additionally, as  The Economic Times  reports, over 10,000 tons of plastic waste go uncollected each day. This plastic waste litters streets, landfills and the seas. Furthermore, as non-biodegradable waste, the plastic ends up polluting rivers, agricultural land and even estates. The plastic waste pollution problem is not limited to India. According to a 2017  National Geographic  publication, over 91% of the plastic waste produced globally is not recycled. The same publication points out that as of 2018, the world has generated over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic since plastic began being mass-produced. About 6.3 billion metric tons of this waste ends up as waste in landfills , oceans and rivers. National Geographic also points out that if the global community doesn’t contain the current trend of plastic waste pollution, landfills will house 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste by 2050. All the problems caused by plastic waste are now pushing scientists and innovators to look for solutions that will create a sustainable world. Although some countries have banned single-use plastics , the current amount of plastic waste still takes an enormous toll on the environment. Technologies such as SPBs can help significantly reduce this waste. The convergence of plastic waste pollution problems and a need for urban housing developments also presents a unique opportunity for SPBs. According to the United Nations,  55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas . In urban areas, high population density leads to exacerbated plastic waste problems. The U.N. further estimates that about 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. By using available plastic waste to build housing for the growing urban population, SPBs could help reduce world plastic pollution.  How are SPBs made? When Rhino Machines started the SPB project, its objective was to attain zero waste through the reclamation of foundry waste . Initially, the experiment tested using foundry dust with cement to make bricks. This experiment resulted in 7-10% waste recycled for cement bricks and 15% waste recycled for clay bricks. The company realized the experiment required using resources such as cement , soil and water, which was not justified by the waste recycled. Further research led the team to use foundry dust with plastic waste to boost the project’s sustainability. Using plastic waste as a bonding agent eliminated the need for water and cement during mixing. Why SPBs? Building with SPBs contributes to the environment in two ways. Producing the blocks requires a mixture of about 80% foundry dust with about 20% plastic. Consequently, the project does not need water or cement. This means that the blocks use less natural resources while also reducing inorganic waste. The experiment to produce SPBs also uncovered additional positive revelations. Apart from the fact that these blocks are sustainable, they also offer the construction industry a strong building alternative. According to  Technology Times , SPBs are 2.5 times stronger than normal red clay blocks. Additionally, as SPBs are made from waste, “the cost of production can easily compete with the commonly available red clay brick or the CMU (concrete masonry unit).” Rhino Machines approached several organizations including hospitals, schools and local municipal corporations to collect clean plastic for the project. In about four months, the company collected over six tons of plastic waste and 15 tons of foundry dust. This collection helps demonstrate just how much plastic waste is available to be used in the production of SPBs. Furthermore, the company is “preparing to come up with an ecosystem solution so that the foundries across the country can develop and distribute” SPBs. As described in a statement from Rhino Machines, this is part of an effort to bring SPBs to impact zones that are part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), “a Government of India initiative for businesses to undertake philanthropic causes and give back to the community.” As the research and experimentation shows, SPBs have the potential to relieve plastic waste concerns not only in India but all over the world. If industries can adopt this new building technology , we may have hope for a future with less plastic pollution. Images via R+D Studio

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Black bear cub in Oregon euthanized after too much human contact

June 20, 2019 by  
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After months of eating trail mix and making human friends, a black bear cub had to be euthanized in Oregon. According to state officials, the unfortunate incident is a reminder to tourists and locals that bears and all wildlife should never be fed or engaged with. Visitors at a boat launch on Hagg Lake frequently saw the bear cub, and many continued to leave food and take photos with the bear. After the Washington County Sheriff’s Office received numerous calls about bear cub sightings and noticed circulating social media photos of “selfies” with the bear cub, they investigated the sightings and set out a trap. Deputies are working to get this bear cub near Hagg Lake to go back into the woods… please stay away from the area near Boat Ramp A. pic.twitter.com/tI8m5yTbyk — WCSO Oregon (@WCSOOregon) June 13, 2019 The state officials eventually caught the bear cub with the intention of releasing him farther into the forest , away from busy roads and popular family recreation sites. However, upon realizing that the bear was not fearful when they approached and instead had become very comfortable around humans, the officials reported that they had no choice but to euthanize the cub. Related: Seven commandments of leave no trace camping “This is a classic example of why we implore members of the public not to feed bears,” wildlife biologist Kurt Licence said in a statement. “While the individuals who put food out for this bear may have had good intentions, bears should never, ever be fed.” According to Oregon state law, it is illegal to scatter food to attract or lure wildlife . The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife explained that miscellaneous food can not only make bears sick, it can also cause them to become habituated to human interaction. This dependency and comfort opens the door for dangerous encounters, especially when the bears become older and larger. Many people expressed outrage upon hearing news of the killing; however, most understood that the state officials had no choice and that the situation could have been avoided by those who fed the bear. “They got the bear killed and that’s not OK,” local resident and frequent visitor to Hagg Lake Jennifer Harrison told the local news . “They tried to do something they thought was a good thing, but it ended up getting the bear killed, so please do not feed the bears.” Rangers guessed that the bear cub was approximately 3 years old. Via Huffington Post Image via Keaton

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Black bear cub in Oregon euthanized after too much human contact

Volkswagen’s $15 billion lesson on the stakes of sustainability

June 29, 2016 by  
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Could the automaker’s landmark U.S. settlement actually be a good thing for corporate environmentalism?

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Volkswagen’s $15 billion lesson on the stakes of sustainability

Climate Change is Greening the Arctic and That’s Not a Good Thing

April 1, 2013 by  
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Image via Shutterstock Normally news about greening spaces has a positive connotation, but when it comes to the Arctic , a greener landscape is not a good thing. Researchers published new projection models in the journal Nature Climate Change which reveal that by 2050, the great white north could have as much as double the amount of vegetative cover as it does now as a result of higher temperatures and precipitation changes. Read the rest of Climate Change is Greening the Arctic and That’s Not a Good Thing Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags:

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Why Are We Still Debating Whether to Embrace Sustainability?

October 20, 2011 by  
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Although a healthy debate is generally a good thing, a debate at the COMMIT forum earlier this month — on whether or not CSR practices are good for the bottom line — missed the point in three key ways.

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Why Are We Still Debating Whether to Embrace Sustainability?

Are Environmentalists Too Obsessed With Native Species? (Video)

August 19, 2011 by  
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Image credit: Permies From native plants in Brooklyn’s backyard to keeping native Australian stingless bees , there is much to be said for working with plants and animals that have adapted to the region you live in. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I’ve argued before that a war on invasive weeds may actually b… Read the full story on TreeHugger

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Week in Pictures: Pollution’s Dangerous Beauty, Incredible Edible Gardens, and More (Slideshow)

August 19, 2011 by  
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Photo: TreeHugger The production of petroleum, of metals, and of fertilizer– seen here –result in polluted runoff that, when captured in the right moment, are as beautiful as they are troubling. Photographer J Henry Fair has captured these moments for his new book The Day After Tomorrow and to open viewers to a vision of a cleaner future. We also have the most incredible edible gardens, 10 gorgeous new bikes we want now, and more, in our photo roun… Read the full story on TreeHugger

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Birds in New Zealand Developing Entirely New Songs

May 6, 2011 by  
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Photo: angrysunbird / cc There’s an avian music revolution underway on several small island in New Zealand as slew of new bird songs seem to have arisen out of nowhere — but this more diverse music scene isn’t necessarily a good thing for the birds themselves. Saddlebacks, birds native to New Zealand’s North Island, seem to have developed various regional ‘accents’ over the last 50 years after humans relocated the species to aid in their preservation.

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So What If Telecommuting Did Encourage Travel? Travel Is Good

October 14, 2010 by  
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photo: Gopal Aggarwal / Creative Commons Yesterday my fellow TreeHugger Sami posed the question ‘ Does Telecommuting Encourage Travel? ‘ To which I respond, so what if it does? Travel is good.

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So What If Telecommuting Did Encourage Travel? Travel Is Good

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