Sunflower-inspired tower design envelopes urban residents in mini forests

May 7, 2019 by  
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Concerned by the rampant growth of cities across Latin America and the loss of endemic species, Ecuadorian design studio oficina de Diseño (odD+) has proposed the Sunflower Tower, a conceptual residential building inspired by the seeds and petals of a sunflower. Proposed for Quito , the Sunflower Tower has been envisioned as a “vertical ecosystem” with lush, self-sustaining planters located on every floor of the high-rise. As a result, the building would offer year-round interest and natural air purification as well as food and habitat for local birds and insects. Currently in the design development phase, the Sunflower Tower was created as a residential high-rise spanning a little over 77,000 square feet. The multifaceted facade is defined by a series of arches backed by floor-to-ceiling glazing for panoramic views of the city. The balconies directly in front of the arches support lush gardens, while the facade’s protruding opaque elements provide protection from the sun. “Sunflower Tower utilizes its equatorial context to become a depository of plant and animal life in the city,” the architects explained. “With the ability to thrive all year round, incorporating a self-sustaining ecosystem into the built environment reduces the tower’s carbon footprint  and creates a constant and direct connection with nature, as every apartment is surrounded by its own mini forest in the midst of a dense urban setting. This creates a unique user experience, and changes the typical urban backdrop by adding a layer of nature to the lens.” Related: This staggered, residential tower is draped with greenery in Quito The interiors have been envisioned with a minimalist and contemporary aesthetic where even the private rooms, such as the bedroom and bathroom, look out across views of the gardens and city. The material palette’s muted colors keep the focus on the outdoors. The building is topped with a landscaped terrace and lounge space. + oficina de Diseño (odD+) Photography by Julia Bogdan via oficina de Diseño (odD+)

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Sunflower-inspired tower design envelopes urban residents in mini forests

1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report

May 7, 2019 by  
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A new study released Monday by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reports that nearly one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction largely due to unsustainable economic development. The global assessment is the largest and most comprehensive study about biodiversity loss and the role of capitalism. The report synthesizes more than 15,000 scientific papers published over three years; it was released on May 6 and endorsed by more than 130 countries. The report focuses on the disappearance of key species such as pollinators, coral reefs , fish and medicinal plants and specifies the devastating role of industrial farming, fishing and climate change . “If we want to leave a world for our children and grandchildren that has not been destroyed by human activity, we need to act now,” Robert Watson, who chaired the study,  told Reuters . The report’s drastic findings mirror the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s report from October that recommends drastic economic and social changes are needed to slow extinction. Related: Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change According to the report, the list of threatened species includes 40 percent of all amphibians, 33 percent of reef-building corals and sharks and one third of all marine mammals. The report calls the rate of extinction “unprecedented” and “accelerating,” explaining that the current rate of extinction is tens to hundreds times higher than it has been over the last ten million years. The report also delves into the economic valuation of ecosystems and biodiversity loss and the impact on human societies. For example, the report findings indicate that $577 billion dollars annually in crop production are at risk if bees and other pollinators become extinct. The loss of mangroves and coral reefs could put 300 million coastal residents at risk of flooding. Reuters described the report as “a cornerstone of an emerging body of research that suggests the world may need to embrace a new ‘post-growth’ form of economics;” however, this acknowledgement continues to ignore ‘non-traditional’ and non-academic voices that have been calling for and modeling more sustainable economies and ecosystems for centuries. + United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Via Reuters Image via Pixels

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1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report

Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

May 7, 2019 by  
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Captain Ross Files sees ripples on the surface of the water down a side canal and instructs Captain Steve Browning to turn in that direction. Files sprints up a ladder to sit on top of the boat, his bare feet and legs dangling, as he looks for more telltale signs in the water. After a minute, he admits defeat. “No, I don’t think that’s a ‘tee!” he calls back to Browning. The early sun rays illuminate the Crystal River in Florida as eight other tourists wearing wetsuits and snorkels share a boat— dreaming of swimming with manatees. By manatee standards, we’re a few weeks late. Cold winter waters in the Gulf of Mexico force manatees to seek warmer climes. Spring-fed Crystal River, 78 miles north of Tampa, provides a winning temperature for pods of manatees. About 700 manatees spent last winter here, but by early April the gulf is warmer than the river, so most manatees have vanished— which is why our captains are having to work so hard. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Florida is the only place in North America that you can legally swim with manatees. To animal lovers, this is an awesome opportunity, but one that can weigh on your conscience. While you many want to swim with manatees, the important question here is,  do manatees want to swim with you? Does raising tourists’ awareness help manatees? Biologists and conservationists are studying these questions and devising best practices for manatee tourism. History of Manatee Tourism After being placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967, before that they were widely hunted, the manatee population increased. Crystal River is currently the epicenter of manatee tourism. Coast Heritage Museum of Crystal River volunteer Maryann Jarrell, said back in the 1940s the river was extremely clear, giving one entrepreneur the idea to launch glass bottom boat tours. When Jarrell moved to Crystal River in 1971, the water was still stunningly clear and full of wildlife . “You didn’t need a rod and reel,” she told me. “Just put a net out and one of those fish was going to jump in it.” Once people discovered Crystal River, the water stopped being so clear. New residents built septic tanks, landscaped their riverfront houses and fertilized lawns. Runoff turned the water mucky. Despite the decrease in water clarity, the increased number of manatees opened up new tourism opportunities. Boats started taking out paying customers and dropping them in the water with manatees. Tourism became even more important after the Crystal River nuclear power plant shut down permanently in 2013, eliminating hundreds of jobs. “Before anybody could get a handle on it, there was this whole economy in that county based on people being able to swim with the manatees,” explained Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation at Save the Manatee Club. “Then it became a matter of not hurting business and not wanting to take that part of the economy away.” Now there’s a tension between allowing people to see manatees in the wild, but not hampering their reason for being in Citrus County, Tripp tells me. Best Practices for Manatee Tourism Dozens of boats are anchored in known party spot Homosassa cove, which is 10 miles south of Crystal River. Suddenly somebody spots a manatee and a couple of swimmers begin a hot pursuit, driving the manatee towards shore. Once it can’t go any farther without beaching itself, one swimmer encourages another to reach out and touch the manatee. This scenario contradicts everything we learned about passive observation from the boat guides and the 7-minute film “Manatee Manners,” which we watched before our swim encounter. Yet, even guides find themselves debating the finer points of passive observation— should you touch a manatee? Captains Mike and Stacy Dunn, owners of Manatees in Paradise, enacted a strict hands off policy for their company about five years ago. Despite naysayers swearing they’d lose customers, Mike Dunn said business improved and drew more respectful clientele. “We got away from the petting zoo mentality,” he said. When they do catch a customer trying to cop a feel, they send the swimmer back to the boat. Both Dunn and Tripp acknowledged that guides sometimes feel pressure to produce friendly manatees for the tourists. Most companies sell videos after the tour and customers are likelier to buy the video if it captures them interacting with manatees. Instead of selling the video for $40 like other companies do, the Dunns give the customers video for free— if they behave. “If they do touch a manatee, they don’t get the video at all.” Tripp has been working with the Manatee Ecotourism Association to develop best practices for manatee tourism and to start a certification program called Guardian Guides. To qualify, tour operators must adhere to strict standards, including varying the times and locations of their tours, insisting that patrons wear wetsuits and use additional flotation devices to decrease splashing, accompanying guests in the water and making sure everybody keeps their hands off the manatees. So far, Manatees in Paradise and Crystal River Watersports are the only two companies certified. Tripp would like to see manatees get their fair share of the tourism pie. “Even though the industry has been growing and growing exponentially, I’m not seeing tons more money go into manatee conservation,” she said. “I’m not seeing tons more people write letters on conservation issues.” Dunn sees an upside of tourism for the manatees. Since guides are in the water every day, they’re often the first to know when a manatee is in distress and proceed to contact authorities and often help in rescuing and rehabbing manatees. Dunn is also in close touch with manatee researchers, reporting on day-to-day behaviors he observes. The Manatee Experience The group climbs stealthily down the boat ladder. The water is murky, but Files assures us a manatee is nearby. Then suddenly this enormous thing appears out of the depths, floating silently like a blimp. It comes up, takes a breath then sinks back down as if we imagined the whole thing. Afterwards, on the boat, we’re awed. We’re on a manatee high. These creatures are so huge, quiet and alien. We got to slip into their world for just a moment. In the future, maybe the group will take Tripp’s advice and watch manatees from a boardwalk, where we’ll be able to see more of their authentic group behavior. But for now, we wouldn’t trade our up-close experience. Via  Manatee Ecotourism Association ,  Crystal River Watersports ,  Save the Manatee Club , Manatees in Paradise Images via Inhabitat, Manatees in Paradise

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Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

New York City passes landmark bill to cut carbon emissions of big buildings by 80%

April 22, 2019 by  
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New York City just passed a landmark bill to cut carbon emissions. City council members overwhelming voted in favor of a historic law, called the The Climate Mobilization Act, which will reduce emissions of buildings larger than 25,000 square feet by 80 percent over the next 30 years. The most significant portion of the bill will require these buildings to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent over the next decade. By 2050, these buildings will have to cut emissions by 80 percent total, greatly reducing overall air pollution in the Big Apple. Buildings of this size, including Trump Tower, represent a tiny portion of the city but cause about half of building-related pollution. Related: New York vows to ban plastic bags statewide in 2020 The new law comes on the heels of a study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that linked building emissions to climate change. Researchers with the IPCC concluded that carbon emissions in the United States grew by a little over 3 percent in 2018. Large buildings were a major contributor to the jump in emissions, and the study called for tighter restrictions in the building sector. New York City’s new initiative will undoubtedly help lower those numbers. The plan will also create jobs for thousands of New Yorkers. Lawmakers estimate that the law will put around 20,000 people to work, mainly in the construction industry. With the bill being beneficial to the environment and economy, city council members voted it in 45-2. “The Climate Mobilization Act is a down payment on the future of New York City — one that ensures we lead the way in the ever-growing fight against climate change ,” Costa Constantinides, a member of the city council, shared. Constantinides added that he hopes the new law will encourage other cities to enact similar legislation. Apart from curbing building emissions, the bill includes measures to boost energy efficiency in utility plants, encourage green roofs and various forms of renewable energy  and make it easier for individuals to receive wind project permits. Despite the positive outlook on cutting carbon emissions, the bill was met with considerable resistance on behalf of several real estate firms in the city. Via Climate Nexus Image via Bruce Emmerling

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New York City passes landmark bill to cut carbon emissions of big buildings by 80%

Luxembourg will be the first country to offer all public transportation for free

December 10, 2018 by  
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Luxembourg — a small, landlocked European country that borders Belgium, Germany and France — is going to be the first country on Earth to have completely free public transportation . The newly re-elected Xavier Bettel and a coalition government will lift the fares on all of the public trains, trams and buses starting in Summer 2019. The country’s capital, Luxembourg City, is small but has some of the worst traffic congestion in the world. It has a population of about 110,000, but more than 400,000 additional commuters from neighboring countries travel into the city each day for work. Related: Estonia will soon offer free public transportation The traffic jams aren’t just in the capital. The entire country (which is only 999 square miles) is home to approximately 600,000 people, but another 200,000 people cross the Luxembourg border every day to get to work. Free public transportation will begin next summer, and it will continue Luxembourg’s progressive approach to transport. This year, it started offering free transportation to everyone under the age of 20. Secondary school students can also ride free shuttles between school and home. Currently, all other commuters pay a little over two dollars for up to two hours of travel . Since the country is small, that fare covers just about every commute. But by 2020, all tickets will be abolished. There is still some work to do on the policy, because the government has yet to figure out a plan for the first- and second-class train compartments. Still, it is a step in the right direction to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. Via The Guardian Image via Rubentje01

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3,000-year-old underwater castle discovered in Turkey’s largest lake

November 22, 2017 by  
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Turkey ‘s Lake Van is the country’s biggest – but that isn’t the lake’s only claim to fame. Van Yüzüncü Yil University archaeologists and a team of divers recently discovered an underwater fortress there. The ancient nation of Urartu could have built the castle roughly around 3,000 years ago during the Iron Age. The team explored the lake based on local rumors of ancient ruins, despite other archaeologists familiar with the area telling them they probably wouldn’t find much. But it was the rumors that turned out to be correct: diving team head Tahsin Ceylan told Turkey’s newswire service Andalou Agency the archaeological site is around one kilometer, or a little over half a mile, large. The fortress’ walls that they can see are between 10 to 13 feet in size. Related: Haunting drowned figures send a chilling message in Europe’s first undersea sculpture museum Some of the remains are loose piles of stones, others are smooth walls, according to National Geographic . Visual assessments led the team to estimate the underwater castle is around 3,000 years old. It would have been built when the lake’s water level was hundreds of meters lower. According to ScienceAlert , Lake Van’s water levels have fluctuated dramatically throughout the years. Urartu, a kingdom that flourished between the ninth and sixth centuries BCE, was centered around Lake Van, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art . Other archaeological remains in the area, some higher than the current shoreline, are also the subject of study. And archaeologists and divers plan to return to the lake the learn more about the recently found sunken fortress. They’re not yet sure how deep the walls might be buried in lake floor sediment, and hope to learn more about the people who inhabited the castle. Via National Geographic and ScienceAlert Images via National Geographic on YouTube

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3,000-year-old underwater castle discovered in Turkey’s largest lake

Picturesque Swiss Alps town wants to pay new residents to move there

November 22, 2017 by  
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A two-week vacation in the Alps is great, sure. But what about a 10-year stay where you’ll be paid to sip hot cocoa in a charming chalet settled amongst snow-capped mountains? Indeed, as Travel+Leisure  shares, the tiny Swiss village of Albinen, near Leukerbad in the canton of Valais is offering new residents a hefty annual paycheck—25,000 francs (or $25,200 USD) per adult and 10,000 francs ($10,000 USD) per child to be exact—to live in their dreamy village for at least a decade. Like many small towns across Europe and the U.S., Albinen has seen their population dip over the last few years as residents, particularly families, have left for larger cities. As Swiss site The Local  reports, three families have moved from Albinen recently, including eight children. While these numbers will seem negligible to most of us, the loss forced the local school to close. As it stands, there are just 240 residents remaining and they are demanding officials save the village from demise. As such, the village council proposed the pay-to-stay measure which will be voted on November 30, 2017. Related: Italy is giving away hundreds of historic castles and villas for free Of course, there are several caveats for applicants. First, you must be under 45 years old. Secondly, the property you chose must be valued at no less than 200,000 francs ($201,600 USD). And again, you’ll need to commit at least 10 years to the village and make it your permanent place of residence. If you break the agreement (i.e. leave before your decade is up), you’ll have to repay the town all the money they invested in you. Although modest, Albinen offers clean streets and some nice amenities, including a spa.  The village is also sited near several larger towns. Plus you can’t argue those spectacular views of the Alps. Really, could you ask for a better Instagram shot? Via Travel+Leisure via  The Local Images via WikiCommons and Google Maps

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Picturesque Swiss Alps town wants to pay new residents to move there

A look into a Turkey sweatshops use of Syrian child labor to make ISIS uniforms

June 12, 2016 by  
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Syrian refugee children are working 12-hour shifts for a little over a dollar per hour to make ISIS uniforms in a Turkey sweatshop, according to The Daily Mail . The children, reportedly sent by their parents, work in a shop that makes uniforms, backpacks, and other military gear for the Syrian market. While the factory owner Abu Zakour concedes that school would be a better place for the children, he says the parents want their children to work. Complicating the issue is the language barrier and other social barriers that dissuade Syrian children from attending Turkish public schools.

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A look into a Turkey sweatshops use of Syrian child labor to make ISIS uniforms

Sony’s High-Tech Toupee Doubles As GPS and Blood Pressure Monitor

December 8, 2013 by  
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Something very funny is going on in the world of wearable technology. Fast on the heels of Microsoft’s anti-overeating bra comes Sony’s “SmartWig” –a high-tech toupee that’s equipped with a bevy of sensors meant to perform an odd assortment of tasks. The SmartWig includes an onboard GPS for navigating roads, ultrasound transducers that vibrate in response to oncoming obstacles, even an integrated laser pointer and remote to manipulate PowerPoint presentations. Because one of the biggest wishes of those who have lost or are losing their hair is more impressive PowerPoint presentations, right? Click the link to learn more about what Sony’s new gadget can do, and let us know if you think it’s brilliant or a little over the top (pun intended). READ MORE> Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Blood Pressure Monitoring , gps , hair loss solution , hair replacement , smart wig , sony , toupee , wearable technology        

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Sony’s High-Tech Toupee Doubles As GPS and Blood Pressure Monitor

MakerBot’s New Replicator 2 Brings Desktop 3D Printing to the Masses

September 20, 2012 by  
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Small businesses are about to have the opportunity to enter the world of 3D printing with the launch of the MakerBot Replicator 2 . The desktop 3D printer costs a little over $2,000 with an additional $50 for ABS or PLA plastic 1kg spools, making the device far more affordable and convenient than previous generations. With faster software and finer layer resolution, the newest MakerBot may soon become as ubiquitous in households and offices as personal computers or scanners. Read the rest of MakerBot’s New Replicator 2 Brings Desktop 3D Printing to the Masses Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: makerbot , makerbot replicator 2 , makerware , miracle grue , pla biofilament , prosumer , skeinforge , thingverse

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