Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project

February 20, 2019 by  
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Zimbabwe is raising awareness about animal trafficking with the annual World Pangolin Day. The pangolin is the most often trafficked mammal in the entire world, with an estimated one million of the scaly mammals being sold in the black market over the past 10 years alone. The pangolin project hopes to curb those numbers and raise awareness about the growing problem of animal trafficking around the globe. Behind drugs, weapons and humans, animal trafficking is the fourth highest illegal trade in the world. “It breaks my heart to know how the greed of mankind is pushing this animal to the brink of extinction,” the head of the Tikki Hywood Foundation, Lisa Hywood, explained. “Time is running out for the pangolin, so we all need to take action.” The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) outlawed the trade of pangolin in Asia and Africa, two regions of the world that contain all eight of the endangered species. The ban has given the pangolin protective status, but officials are still dealing with large scale poaching. Related: 60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction In honor of Pangolin Day, several groups are using the occasion to raise awareness about other trafficked animals throughout the world. This includes the Tikki Hywood Foundation, which produced a documentary in 2016 about saving pangolins from poachers and the black market. While efforts like Pangolin Day are doing a great job at raising awareness, environmentalists and conservationists face an uphill battle ahead of them. In fact, animal trafficking numbers have steadily grown over the past few years, despite bans against trading endangered species like pangolins. Last week, for example, authorities in Hong Kong uncovered nine tons of pangolin scales in a shipyard, along with over 1,000 elephant tusks. The shipment was headed to Vietnam by way of Nigeria, and officials believe the cargo would have sold on the market for as much as $8 million. Sadly, experts believe around 13,000 pangolins were killed to account for the nine tons of scales seized in Hong Kong The incident in Hong Kong is one of many examples of the growing problem of animal trafficking around the world. Fortunately, initiatives like World Pangolin Day is helping raise awareness about animal trafficking and making it harder for illegal traders to operate. Via UN Environment Images via David Brossard 

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Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project

SolarCity’s co-founders charge up African venture dedicated to improving ‘energy access’

February 8, 2019 by  
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What’s next for serial entrepreneurs Lyndon and Peter Rive.

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SolarCity’s co-founders charge up African venture dedicated to improving ‘energy access’

Capturing carbon to fight climate change is dividing environmentalists

February 8, 2019 by  
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Bioenergy is a controversial topic — here’s why.

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Capturing carbon to fight climate change is dividing environmentalists

Companies pledge $1.5 billion to reduce plastic waste

January 23, 2019 by  
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The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), a group of 28 companies that produce plastics and consumer goods, announced last week that it has pledged to spend $1.5 billion over the next five years to reduce plastic waste. Global companies like  Exxon Mobil , Dow DuPont, Procter & Gamble, Royal Dutch Shell and BASF are all part of the AEPW. The investment will go toward building waste collection infrastructure in Asia and Africa, designing waste-management systems in cities close to rivers that transport waste to the ocean, educating governments, cleaning up highly-polluted areas and funding startups that are developing technologies to prevent plastic waste. Related: Simple tips to reduce single-use plastic As the plastic waste problem continues to grow, 8 million tons are now ending up in the oceans every year, and this is resulting in bans on some single-use plastic products. According to the AEPW, 90 percent of global ocean pollution comes from only 10 rivers. More than half of the “land-based plastic litter” that leaks into oceans comes from five Asian countries: China , Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. A spokesperson for the AEPW said that none of China’s major plastics and chemical groups are part of the alliance, but the team is hoping to change that. While most of the alliance members are plastic makers, there are two that make consumer goods: Procter & Gamble and Henkel. More are expected to join the group in the near future. Kraft Heinz, Nestle and Unilever have already made individual pledges to transition their packaging into materials that are recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. Related: Nestle ditching plastic straws, water bottles to reduce plastic waste In an October report, IHS Markit, a London-based information provider, said that 59 percent of global plastic waste comes from single-use plastic packaging. “While there is no single answer to the issue of plastic waste in the environment, we are collaborating to promote infrastructure, education and engagement, innovation and clean-up efforts to keep plastic waste in the right place,” said the AEPW website . + AEPW Via Reuters Image via Monica Volpin

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Companies pledge $1.5 billion to reduce plastic waste

Global warming to blame for insect collapse in Puerto Rican rainforest

January 23, 2019 by  
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35 years ago, scientist Brad Lister left the Puerto Rican Luquillo rainforest after studying the arthropods of the region. He left an area that had a thriving insect population that provided food for all of the birds in the national park. But, when he returned in 2018, Lister and his colleague, Andres Garcia, made a shocking discovery — 98 percent of the ground insects had vanished. “We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” Lister told The Guardian. “We were driving into the forest, and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.” According to Lister’s study , published in October 2018, 80 percent of the insects in the leafy canopy were gone, and on the ground, 98 percent of the insects had disappeared. The believed culprit? Global warming. Lister noticed the huge decline as insects barely covered the sticky ground and canopy plates in the rainforest, and recalled the long hours it used to take to pick them off.  But now, after twelve hours in the forest, there were maybe one or two insects trapped on the plates. Related: Farming insects too much too fast could create an environmental disaster “It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rainforest,” Lister said. “We began to realize this is terrible– a very, very disturbing result.” Lister’s study is one of a handful of recent studies about the decline of  insect population, and the results are “hyper-alarming” according to experts. In Germany’s natural reserves, the number of flying insects has plummeted 75 percent in the last 25 years. A lack of insects due to drought and heat in the Australian eucalyptus forest has been blamed for the disappearance of birds. Lister and Garcia also studied the insect numbers in a dry forest in Mexico, and found an 80 percent insect collapse within the last three decades. Scientists call the crash of insect numbers a significant development and an “ecological Armageddon” as they are a vital part of the foundation of the food chain. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Global warming to blame for insect collapse in Puerto Rican rainforest

60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction

January 17, 2019 by  
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When people think of threatened and endangered species, charismatic animals like tigers and giant pandas are usually top of mind. But climate change  really hits home when it lands in your morning mug. Coffea arabica , the wild relative of the world’s favorite coffee, has hit the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. According to a study done by scientists at England’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew , 60 percent of wild coffee species risk extinction. The culprits? Climate change, deforestation, pests and fungal pathogens. Kew scientists undertook their research in African forests and on the island of Madagascar. Their computer models predict that by the end of the century, climate change could decrease the land now used for Ethiopian coffee production by 60 percent. Ethiopia is Africa’s largest coffee exporter — the annual export value tops $1 billion — and the birthplace of Arabica coffee. The wild Arabica coffee is a vital seed stock for coffee farmers. Related: Champagne could lose its classic taste due to climate change This is bad news for coffee lovers, the multi-billion dollar coffee industry and the farmers who depend on the crop for their livelihood. “Among the coffee species threatened with extinction are those that have potential to be used to breed and develop the coffees of the future, including those resistant to disease and capable of withstanding worsening climatic condition,” said Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at Kew. “The use and development of wild coffee resources could be key to the long-term sustainability of the coffee sector.” The Kew study is the first IUCN Red List assessment of the extinction risk to coffee worldwide. “A figure of 60 percent of all coffee species threatened with extinction is extremely high, especially when you compare this to a global estimate of 22 percent for plants,” said Eimear Nic Lughadha, senior research leader in Kew’s conservation department and lead scientist for Kew’s plant assessment unit. “Some of the coffee species assessed have not been seen in the wild for more than 100 years, and it is possible that some may already be extinct. We hope this new data will highlight species to be prioritized for the sustainability of the coffee production sector so that appropriate action can be taken to safeguard their future.” + Kew Images via Emma Sage and Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

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60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction

Is your sustainability team thinking enough about human rights?

November 12, 2018 by  
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By overlooking socioeconomic factors, we limit the potential for transformation.

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Is your sustainability team thinking enough about human rights?

Human activity has decimated 60% of animal populations since 1970

October 31, 2018 by  
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A new study from WWF International has reported that humans have wiped out 60 percent of the world’s mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles since 1970, and experts are now warning that wildlife destruction is an emergency that is threatening civilization. As important species continue to die at alarming rates, the ecosystems that humans also depend on are being destroyed. The recent Living Planet Report involved 59 scientists from around the world, and these experts found that the growing consumption of food and resources by Earth’s population is destroying the web of life, on which humans depend for clean air and water. The main culprits of the destruction are overexploitation and agriculture. Related: WWF predicts wild animal populations will plummet 67 percent by 2020 “We are sleepwalking toward the edge of a cliff,” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “If there was a 60 percent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.” Barrett also said that this decimation is jeopardizing the future of humanity. Global sustainability expert and professor Johan Rockström said that we are running out of time, and we must address the ecosystems and climate if we stand a chance of safeguarding the planet for our future on Earth. According to The Guardian , many scientists believe that we have entered a sixth mass extinction , and it is the first caused by humans. Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said that the fundamental issue is consumption, and we cannot ignore the impact of wasteful lifestyles. In 2020, many nations of the world will be meeting at the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity to make new commitments to protect nature and wildlife. Barrett said we need a new global deal for people and the environment, and this is our last chance to do this right. As Tanya Steele, chief executive of the WWF said, “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.” + WWF Via The Guardian Image via Ray in Manila

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Human activity has decimated 60% of animal populations since 1970

Garden-facing timber home uses highly efficient SIPs to minimize waste

October 31, 2018 by  
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When asked by a long-time friend to build a garden-facing retirement home in Hobart, Australia, Brunswick-based architectural practice Archier created the Five Yards House, a timber-clad abode that takes its name from the numerous “yards,” or gardens, integrated into the design. To minimize onsite waste and to ensure rapid installation, the design firm turned to SIP (structural insulated panel) construction, a high-performing methodology that “provides structural, insulative and aesthetic solutions in one,” according the the architects. High performance and environmentally friendly materials were also specified for the rest of the design, from operable double glazing to recycled timber to  LEDs . Strong connections with the garden were a priority in the 131-square-meter Five Yards House’s project brief. Rather than design a simple glass house for enjoying views of one garden, the architects designed the home around a series of unique gardens, each with its own distinct appearance and framed by full-height walls of double glazing. The entrance on the east side is flanked by two gardens, or “yards,” and opens up to a mud room, a library and a long hallway that extends to the far west end of the home. At the heart of the building is an  open-plan living room, dining space and kitchen that connects to the outdoors on both ends; a smaller garden is to the south, and a more spacious yard is to the north. The bedroom is located at the far end of the house and overlooks a small garden as well. Related: Industrial modern Sawmill House is built from recycled concrete blocks Because the house was constructed with SIPs, the building boasts high thermal performance, and the operable walls of glass allow for natural ventilation in summer to negate the need for mechanical cooling. A restrained palette of natural materials helps strengthen the indoor-outdoor connection. Recycled Tasmanian Oak timber was used to line the interior, and the exterior is painted matte black. + Archier Photography by Adam Gibson via Archier

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Garden-facing timber home uses highly efficient SIPs to minimize waste

Zambia plans to cull 2,000 hippos over the next 5 years

October 23, 2018 by  
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Two years ago, the Republic of Zambia in south-central Africa suspended its plans for the controlled slaughter of up to 2,000 hippos over five years following protests from animal rights activists . The country has recently revived those plans, claiming that the water levels in the Luangwa River — where most of the hippos are located — can’t support the current hippo population. According to Zambia’s tourism minister  Charles Banda, it would be too costly to move the hippos to another part of the country. Instead, the government has decided to proceed with its plans to cull the hippo population in eastern Zambia. “The South Luangwa National Park has a population of more than 13,000 hippos, but the area is only ideal for 5,000 hippos,” Banda said. Related: Hippos could be threatened with extinction due to demand for their teeth The Zambian government believes that overpopulation could threaten Zambia’s ecosystem , and Banda added that moving the hippos to other bodies of water would be “very expensive,” leaving culling as the only option. The government also insists that controlling the number of hippos in the area will stop the spread of anthrax — a bacterial disease commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa that kills animals — and the low rainfall in the region has just made the situation worse. As Reuters reports, during the summer of 2016, the British wildlife charity Born Free led a campaign against the culling of hippos and described it as trophy hunting . After the recent announcement to continue with the culling, Born Free said on its website that Zambia has not provided any solid, scientific evidence that there is actually a hippo overpopulation problem at the Luangwa River. Born Free also stated that scientific evidence suggests that culling hippos actually stimulates breeding, ultimately increasing the hippo population, which could potentially establish a “cycle of death and destruction.” Back in 2016, Born Free also questioned Zambia’s scientific rationale for killing 2,000 hippos when the population in southern Africa is around 80,000. Via Reuters and Born Free Image via Lars Plougmann and Sarah Depper

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Zambia plans to cull 2,000 hippos over the next 5 years

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