UK plans to ban the sales of plastic straws to tackle ocean plastic pollution

April 19, 2018 by  
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8.5 billion plastic straws are tossed out in the United Kingdom every year, according to a recent study cited by the government . They plan to take action — by ending sales of plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plastic drink stirrers and straws in a bid to reduce ocean plastic waste. The UK is cracking down on ocean plastic . The government announced the ban at the summit for the Commonwealth heads of government. Prime Minister Theresa May said, “ Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world…the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban .” Related: Queen of England bans plastic bottles and straws at royal estates The ban won’t take effect immediately; the statement said the government would work with industries to ensure time to adapt and create alternatives. Plastic straws utilized for medical reasons could also be excluded from the ban. May challenged other countries in the Commonwealth, which includes 53 member countries across Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean, to battle marine plastic as well. The UK government is committing to £61.4 million, around $87.4 million, in funding for research and better waste management for developing countries , according to May, who said, “The Commonwealth is a unique organization, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments, and coastlines. Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.” The UK government’s microbead ban went into effect in January of this year, and their five pence single-use plastic bag law has resulted in nine billion fewer bags distributed, according to the government. Another statistic the government drew on to back the plastic straw scheme is that one million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals perish due to eating plastic waste and getting tangled in it. They also said there are more than 150 million metric tons of plastic in the oceans on our planet. + United Kingdom Government Images via Depositphotos and Carly Jayne on Unsplash

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UK plans to ban the sales of plastic straws to tackle ocean plastic pollution

Couple converts $7,000 Joshua Tree cabin into a sophisticated desert oasis

April 19, 2018 by  
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When Kathrin and Brian Smirke decided to buy an abandoned property in the desert landscape of Joshua Tree for $7,000, they knew that they had a massive undertaking on their hands. The old cabin , which dated back to 1957, had been left rotting in the desert for years. But with a lot of vision and hard work, the ambitious duo converted the 480-square-foot homestead into a beautiful desert oasis. The couple chronicled the massive renovation project they lovingly call “The Shack Attack” on their blog, We Are in Our Element . The poor state of the structure meant gutting the interior down to the base boards to start fresh. Over a period of two years, the couple revamped the cabin into a beautiful desert home. “We spent over a year planning, demolishing, building, planning again, building, and then finally decorating this little gem,” Kathrin explains. “What makes this home special is that we did a lot of the work ourselves, including the design, complete demolition, framing, plumbing, trim electrical, and we even built a lot of the interior fixtures and art.” Related: Stunning Lucid Stead Cabin Reflects the Colors and Movements of the Mojave Desert The process was quite detailed, with the Smirkes focused on reducing the project’s footprint at every turn. They also had to deal with several building restrictions included in the sale of the property, namely not being allowed to increase the square footage of the structure. Nevertheless, they were determined to fit a comfortable living room, kitchen, full bathroom, and bedroom that would accommodate a king-size bed into the compact space . Using various reclaimed materials, they converted the space into a light-filled home. Large sliding glass doors in the entrance and the bedroom open the interior up to incredible views as well as an abundance of natural light. Additionally, they managed to salvage some materials from the original building – Brian created a few decorative pieces by repurposing timber from the original structure. In the kitchen, Kathrin and Brian formed and poured the concrete countertops themselves and made the floating shelves out of leftover clear pine and plywood. At the back of the home is a compact sleeping area that fits a comfortable king-size platform bed. Again, multiple windows in the room add a light and airy touch to the small space. To take full advantage of the desert landscape , the couple put a lot of work into creating a seamless connection between the interior and the exterior. A large covered porch offers stunning views. But, without a doubt, the heart of the project is the outdoor bathtub, an old water trough painted white. Surrounded by a wooden deck, this is the ultimate space for relaxing while the desert sun sets. The Shack Attack is available to rent via Airbnb throughout the year. + We Are in Our Element Via Dwell Images via We Are in Our Element

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Couple converts $7,000 Joshua Tree cabin into a sophisticated desert oasis

For 16 years, this stork has flown 8,700 miles to return to his one true love

April 16, 2018 by  
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Just when you thought the world was one raging garbage fire , along comes this amazing stork to brighten the day. For the past 16 years, without fail, one male stork has flown 8,700 miles to be with his mate who can no longer fly after being shot by poachers. Klepetan the stork travels from his winter nest in South Africa to his mate’s Malena’s home in Croatia every single March where they reunite and raise a new brood. Malena was injured by a gunshot in 1993, but a local hero took her home after finding her by a lake and nursed her back to health. “If I had left her in the pond foxes would have eaten her. But I changed her fate, so now I’m responsible for her life,” said Stjepan Vokic, the man who cares for Malena. Now, although she can’t migrate any longer, she has a pretty sweet life. Vokic has built an “improvised Africa” where she can stay warm, and he cares for her by bathing her, catching her fish in the river and making sure her feet are moisturized. He even watches stork documentaries with her so she won’t get lonely, and takes her fishing. Related: This friendly fish has visited a Japanese diver for 25 years Klepetan arrives every March as spring begins in Croatia after traveling for a month from his winter home. Every spring, Vokic builds a new nest on his roof so that when Klepetan arrives, the couple can mate, and so far, they’ve had 62 chicks together. In the fall, Klepetan migrates back to South Africa with his new little family, and Malena stays behind with her human friend. Vokic says that the couple struggles to say goodbye every year, and Malena hides and stops eating when she knows Klepetan is about to go. Via Oddity Central Images via HRT

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For 16 years, this stork has flown 8,700 miles to return to his one true love

New evidence shows humans survived massive volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago

March 13, 2018 by  
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In a newly published study , scientists reveal evidence that groups of humans survived a massive volcanic eruption at the Toba caldera, a supervolcano in Sumatra. “It is possible that people moved out of terrestrial locations and into this more productive coastal zone,” study co-author Curtis Marean told Inverse . “Think of it as a refuge.” Inland wildlife, plants and fungus faced a greater disruptive impact than those located closer to the coast, a key fact that enabled savvy human communities to survive the decade-long volcanic winter and endure the centuries-long consequences of the massive volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago. The Toba eruption was so powerful that shards of tephra, the rock debris projected from a volcanic event, managed to reach as far as South Africa , nearly 5,600 miles from the Toba caldera. “Glass shards are a form of tephra that preserve a record of the chemical composition of the lava erupted during the eruption. The shapes and sizes of the shards also provide information about the nature of the eruption,” study author  Gene Smith told Inverse . “We can tell quite a bit about a volcanic eruption by studying products ejected from the volcano.” Related: Wave of earthquakes shake Yellowstone’s super-volcano The researchers observed that the global impact of the Toba eruption encouraged communities to move to coastal areas, which were less affected by the eruption. The flexibility and attentiveness of these early human communities is worth noting, as modern society may not be quite as dynamic in the face of such an event. “Hunter-gatherer economies are very resilient, but I don’t think the complex modern economies are,” said Smith. “A Toba-like event is a civilization killer for us. Perhaps our study will waken people up to the potential of volcanic catastrophe.” Via Inverse Images via Depositphotos ,  Smith et al. and  Dr. Jayne Wilkins

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New evidence shows humans survived massive volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago

David Adjaye unveils designs for National Cathedral in Ghana

March 7, 2018 by  
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In celebration of Ghana’s 61st year of independence, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo revealed designs for a National Cathedral of Ghana to be built in Accra. The government appointed David Adjaye to design the project, a Ghanian British architect of Adjaye Associates who rose to international prominence for his work on the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The multi-faith landmark will be a multifunctional space home to Africa’s first Bible Museum and Documentation Center as well as venue for presidential inaugurations and state funerals. The new National Cathedral will be built on a 15-acre landscaped site next to Osu Cemetery. Envisioned by Adjaye as a “physical embodiment of unity, harmony and spirituality,” the multi-faith building will house a series of grand chapels , baptistery, two-story 5000-seat auditorium, music school, central hall, choir facilities, art gallery, retail, and other multipurpose space. The building’s adornments and furnishings will be designed in collaboration with Ghanaian and African artists. Related: National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in Washington, DC A new ceremonial route and landscape will link the Cathedral to prominent Accra landmarks including Independence Square, the State House, and Africa Unity Circle. “It is an immense honour to be granted the opportunity to contribute something of this scale and import to my home country,” said Adjaye. “I have sought to craft a building that not only understands its landscape but one that will be unique to Accra and the Ghanaian Nation.” + Adjaye Associates Via ArchDaily Images via Adjaye Associates

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David Adjaye unveils designs for National Cathedral in Ghana

Illicit trade in jaguar fangs linked to Chinese construction projects

March 5, 2018 by  
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Wildlife experts are worried that the illicit trade in jaguars appears to be growing — and they’ve connected it to Chinese construction projects . According to the journal a rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank” href=”https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-02314-5″> Nature , crackdowns on smuggling tiger parts for use in Chinese traditional medicine could be increasing the market for jaguars. Researchers pointed to recent killings in South America , including a dead jaguar discovered in a Belize drainage canal mostly intact, but missing its fangs. Jaguars are in trouble, according to the World Wildlife Fund , imperiled by habitat loss from deforestation and hunting. And now traffickers may be turning to these big cats for Chinese traditional medicine. According to the Nature article, wildlife trafficking “often follows Chinese construction projects in other countries.” Related: Rhino horn auction website says legal sales “best way to save the rhino” Oxford Brookes University ecologist Vincent Nijman told Nature , “If there’s a demand [in China ] for large-cat parts, and that demand can be fulfilled by people living in parts of Africa, other parts of Asia, or South America, then someone will step in to fill that demand. It’s often Chinese-to-Chinese trade, but it’s turning global.” The Guardian said according to experts, Chinese rail, power plant, and road projects in developing countries are stimulants of illicit trade in body parts of endangered animals. The Guardian quoted Nijman as saying the projects “act like giant vacuum cleaners of wildlife that suck everything back to China.” Eight packages with 186 jaguar fangs were confiscated in Bolivia between August 2014 and February 2015, according to Nature , before they could make it to China. Chinese citizens residing in Bolivia had sent seven of the packages. Eight packages were reportedly intercepted in 2016, and then another in China with 120 fangs. Bolivian biologist Angela Núñez told Nature over 100 jaguars could have been killed for those packages, but it’s impossible to be certain. In Brazil, there were over 50 seizures of packages with jaguar parts last year, according to Oxford Brookes University wildlife researcher Thaís Morcatty, with most packages destined for China or Asia. Nijman said few wildlife trafficking cases around the world end with criminal sentences. “The deterrent is when somebody ends up in jail,” he said, but that doesn’t often occur “because society as a whole in most countries is not interested.” Via Nature and The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Illicit trade in jaguar fangs linked to Chinese construction projects

The Seychelles creates debt-for-conservation deal with Leonardo DiCaprio

February 22, 2018 by  
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The Seychelles, an island nation in East Africa, recently announced the creation of two new Marine Protected Areas roughly as big as Great Britain. It’s part of what The Telegraph called a debt-for- nature swap: the island nation gets a $20 million debt relief plan backed by investors (including the foundation of our favorite eco hero Leonardo DiCaprio ), and in return it will place controls on fishing and tourism industries. In a debt-for- conservation deal designed by The Nature Conservancy , the Seychelles will protect areas covering 81,000 square miles. The move is not without controversy: fishing is limited in areas commercial fishermen and tour operators for years; in some places, like the Aldabra region, people won’t be allowed to fish at all. Tourism has been successful in the Seychelles in recent years, but The Telegraph said record numbers of visitors have taken their toll on the islands; commercial fishing has increased to meet demand. Biodiversity has eroded in the wake of two recent coral bleaching events. The Telegraph said debt restructuring will essentially send Seychelles repayments into a trust set to invest in plans to foster a sustainable blue economy. Related: Leonardo DiCaprio launches a new fund to save the lions Nature Conservancy said the Seychelles are among the nations most vulnerable to climate change because of their dependence on marine resources. They said the Marine Protected Areas will help the nation better prepare for the impacts of sea level rise , warming waters, and ocean acidification . “Without these Marine Protected Areas, activities like oil and gas exploration, deep-sea mining, dredging, and controversial fishing techniques could take place in one of the planet’s most biodiverse oceans with little or no restriction or direction,” the organization said. Today, Seychelles announced two new marine protected areas that equal the size of Great Britain. Join me and @nature_org in congratulating all those who made it happen. https://t.co/OygRCaKY37 — Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) February 21, 2018 DiCaprio tweeted the news, along with a link to a Nature Conservancy page where those in support can sign a letter congratulating the citizens of Seychelles. DiCaprio said, “This effort will help the people of Seychelles protect their ocean for future generations, and will serve as a model for future marine conservation projects worldwide. These protections mean that all species living in these waters or migrating through them are now far better shielded from overfishing , pollution, and climate change.” + Nature Conservancy + Congratulate the citizens of Seychelles Via The Telegraph Images via IIP Photo Archive on Flickr , Depositphotos , and Pixabay

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Scott Pruitt thinks global warming could be favorable for humans

February 9, 2018 by  
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt has once again aired thoughts that depart from mainstream climate science , according to The Guardian . In a recent interview with Nevada TV station News 3 , Pruitt suggested global warming could be beneficial for people. He said, “Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018? It’s fairly arrogant for us to think we know exactly what it should be in 2100.” Pruitt said in an interview with News 3’s Gerard Ramahlo, “No one disputes the climate changes , is changing, that’s, we see that, that’s constant. We obviously contribute to it; we live in the climate, right?…Now measuring that with precision, Gerard, I think is more challenging than is let on at times but I think the bigger question is…is it an existential threat? Is it something that is unsustainable or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have? I mean, we know that humans have most flourished during times of what, warming trends. I mean, so, so, I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming that that necessarily is a bad thing.” Related: Pruitt met with Dow Chemical CEO before denying pesticide ban The EPA administrator echoed an idea that’s been raised in the past of a debate on climate change, to go over “what we do know and what we don’t know, so the American people can be informed and make decisions on their own.” A snapshot of the EPA website on January 19, 2017, the day before Donald Trump was sworn into office, was very clear that the impacts of climate change would threaten human health . They said people could be exposed to disease , be threatened by extreme weather events, or face food insecurity due to climate change impacts. Via The Guardian and News 3 Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Scott Pruitt thinks global warming could be favorable for humans

Beautiful Eichler-inspired home draws the eye with a dramatic roof

February 9, 2018 by  
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A coastal infill lot in Southern California has been transformed into a beautiful new home that leans heavily on mid-century modern influences. Surfside Projects and architect Lloyd Russell teamed up to design Avocado Acres House in Encinitas, a beach town just outside of San Diego. The Case Study Houses and Eichler Homes provided the main inspiration for the home, which also incorporates sustainable and energy-efficient design elements. Like all beloved mid-century modern homes in California, Avocado Acres Home embraces the outdoors with ample glazing . A sloping curved shed roof tops the single-story building and tie together its three pavilions that make up a U-shaped plan. “Straight lines with an angular street front geometry sits in stark contrast to the unique curvilinear roof profile,” wrote the designers. “A simple color palette of the open interior space complements the muscular concrete walls and extensive use of natural wood tones on the vaulted ceiling, flooring and cabinetry.” Related: Classic Eichler gets a tasteful renovation and expansion in the heart of Silicon Valley The main living spaces are placed at the front of the home near the street and arranged in an L-formation, however, high walls and clerestory windows preserve privacy. In contrast, nine-foot-tall sliding glass doors open the dining room up to the outdoor courtyard hidden from the street. Three bedrooms, including the master ensuite, are located at the rear of the home. The home’s sustainable features were certified by California’s GreenPoint Rated system. + Surfside Projects + Lloyd Russell Photos by Darren Bradley

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Beautiful Eichler-inspired home draws the eye with a dramatic roof

Newly-discovered dinosaur species was as long as a school bus – and could help solve a mystery

January 30, 2018 by  
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Fossils in Africa from the Late Cretaceous time period – around 100 to 66 million years ago – are rare. Scientists have been largely kept in the dark about the course of dinosaur evolution on the continent, but a new dinosaur species, Mansourasaurus shahinae , recently unearthed in the Sahara Desert in Egypt , now offers some clues. Carnegie Museum of Natural History dinosaur paleontologist Matt Lamanna said in a statement , “When I first saw pics of the fossils, my jaw hit the floor. This was the Holy Grail – a well-preserved dinosaur from the end of the Age of Dinosaurs in Africa – that we paleontologists had been searching for for a long, long time.” A team led by Hesham Sallam of Mansoura University in Egypt unearthed the fossils. Mansourasaurus shahinae was a long-necked dinosaur with bony plates in its skin, and consumed plants. According to a release from Ohio University, the new species belongs to a group of sauropods , Titanosaurs, which includes the largest land animals we know about. But Mansourasaurus was a moderate-sized titanosaur, weighing about as much as an African bull elephant. Ohio University said its skeleton is “the most complete dinosaur specimen so far discovered from the end of the Cretaceous in Africa” – parts of the skull, lower jaw, ribs, neck and back vertebrae, shoulder and forelimb, hind foot, and dermal plates were preserved. Related: How scaly dinosaurs turned into feathery birds – new gene study offers clues While it’s thrilling to find a new dinosaur species, there are other reasons why paleontologists are so excited about this find. During the Cretaceous Period, the continents joined together as the supercontinent Pangea started to split apart. The lack of a fossil record in Africa from the Late Cretaceous Period has been maddening for researchers who want to know how well-connected Africa was to Europe and Southern Hemisphere landmasses. Sallam and his team scrutinized the bones to determine, per the press release, the dinosaur was “more closely related to dinosaurs from Europe and Asia than it is to those found farther south in Africa or in South America” – so some of the creatures could have moved between Africa and Europe. The Field Museum postdoctoral research scientist Eric Gorscak, who was part of the study, said, “Africa’s last dinosaurs weren’t completely isolated, contrary to what some have proposed in the past. There were still connections to Europe.” The journal Nature Ecology and Evolution published the work online yesterday. 10 researchers from institutions in Egypt and the United States contributed. + Ohio University + Nature Ecology and Evolution Images via Andrew McAfee, Carnegie Museum of Natural History; Mansoura University; and Hesham Sallam, Mansoura University

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Newly-discovered dinosaur species was as long as a school bus – and could help solve a mystery

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