Suspicious radioactive cloud over Europe may have originated in Russia

November 16, 2017 by  
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A radioactive cloud of pollution sounds like a plot point out of a B movie – but that’s what multiple European monitoring stations recently detected. Official monitors in Germany and France detected ruthenium 106, a nuclide, in late September, and some people suggested it originated in Kazakhstan or southern Russia . Multiple European monitoring stations confirmed the presence of ruthenium 106, according to France’s Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety , in the atmosphere of the majority of countries in Europe. The cause for alarm appears to have drifted away for now: the institute said since October 13, they have not detected ruthenium 106 in France. They said in a recent statement , “The concentration levels of ruthenium 106 in the air that have been recorded in Europe and especially in France are of no consequence for human health and for the environment .” Related: UNEP chief: Polluters should pay for environmental destruction, not taxpayers But there is some question over how much ruthenium 106 leaked in the first place. The institute said the amounts at the source would have been significant. If such an accident had occurred in France, authorities would have had to implement measures to protect populations for a few kilometers around the point of release. Where did the ruthenium 106 come from? Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection said on October 11 , “Recent analyses as to the source of the radioactive substance suggest a high probability of a radioactive release in the Southern Ural, although other areas in the South of Russia still cannot be ruled out.” Just a few days earlier, on October 8, they’d said in a statement “Russia must be assumed to be the region of origin” and called on Russian authorities to provide information. The German and French agencies did not think the ruthenium 106 came from a nuclear reactor accident, as other nuclides probably would have been detected in such an event. France’s institute said the source could have been “nuclear fuel-cycle facilities or radioactive source production.” French agency senior official Jean-Christophe Gariel said he talked to counterparts in Russia last week, and “they told us that our results were coherent and correct, but that they were not aware of any event that could have caused that.” Via The New York Times , the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety , and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Depositphotos and Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety

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Suspicious radioactive cloud over Europe may have originated in Russia

EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants

October 6, 2017 by  
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Big Brown, a coal -fired Texas power plant, spews out sulfur dioxide at rates as much as 50 times higher than coal plants fitted with newer technology. Under President Barack Obama , the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aimed to clean up Big Brown and six other Texas plants in three to five years. But President Donald Trump’s EPA, headed by Scott Pruitt , just released a final rule that will enable these polluting plants to keep on pumping lung irritants into the air. Big Brown and the other six plants together generate more sulfur dioxide pollution than power stations from over 25 states combined, according to Sierra Club senior attorney Elena Saxonhouse. She wrote the former EPA had slated the stations for cleanup, “setting emission limits for sulfur dioxide consistent with modern scrubbers,” equipment that can yank out sulfur dioxide before it billows out of a plant’s smokestacks. The two boilers at Big Brown and nine other coal-fired boilers don’t have scrubbers at all. Four other boilers also part of the proposal do have scrubbers, but they’re from the 1970’s and don’t work as well as modern technology. Related: Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites But it seems Pruitt doesn’t care about harmful pollutants. He tossed out the proposed rule for a final rule Sierra Club described as a do-nothing plan, where Big Brown and the other plants can go on polluting as normal. Saxonhouse wrote in an article for Sierra Club, “Pruitt’s decision to scrap the proposed clean air protections fits a pattern of backward-looking decisions in this Administration , which has tied itself in knots trying to prop up the coal industry .” The cleanup plan would have implemented the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze program. The proposed upgrades would have removed over 180,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution a year. One analysis found the proposal could have saved over 600 lives every single year. But the final rule means the coal plants can keep polluting, potentially leading to harmful health impacts for humans. According to Saxonhouse, “In making this about-face, EPA had to shove aside reams of technical and scientific data prepared by the previous administration, and ignore the legal framework of the Regional Haze program. And EPA failed to take any public comment on the new plan, despite the fact that thousands of citizens had written in to support the strong proposal.” Via Sierra Club Images via Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons and Roy Luck on Flickr

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EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants

Transforming Urban Deliveries

October 4, 2017 by  
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Economic growth and the expansion of e-commerce means there is a growing number of commercial vehicles on city streets contributing to congestion and air pollution. Several new technologies and business models have the potential to mitigate these negative effects while also making urban deliveries more affordable. The attractiveness of these technologies will vary by city and be heavily influenced by population density and economic conditions.

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Technology, the Universe and Everything — A Living Systems View of Spaceship Earth

October 3, 2017 by  
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Half a century ago, the first images of Earth from space were broadcast around the world. These catalyzed awareness that, for better or worse, Earth is a dynamic, interconnected system. For tech companies pursuing “sustainability,” this awareness presents a paradox of cosmic proportions. On the one hand, we hope that new innovations will improve the quality of life for billions of people. Yet we’re accelerating the transformation of ecological commons into expendable commodities.

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Technology, the Universe and Everything — A Living Systems View of Spaceship Earth

Crazy Texas tire fire demonstrates why America needs the EPA

April 18, 2017 by  
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100,000 tires caught fire in arid Odessa, Texas earlier this month. The blaze was too much for local volunteer firefighters to extinguish as the isolated area’s closest fire hydrant is four miles away. So the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came to the rescue. Turns out the government body has some value after all, despite what some politicians and the president think. The Texas tire fire started Sunday, April 9 around 3 PM. Roads were closed and local people were told to shutter their windows because of the toxic black smoke billowing from the fire. West Odessa Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy Ellis told local news publication OA Online the fire was way beyond their means to extinguish. “We haven’t even been able to get down in the pit where it started because it’s so hot you can’t get down in that pit,” he said. “The rubber just stays hot and it will adhere to your boots and the bunker gear.” YouTube user SF1 captured the massive tire fire with a GoPro Karma drone. Related: Republican senator claims the EPA is brainwashing children Firefighters created a break around the pit to at least prevent the fire from spreading, and then the EPA arrived Monday the 10 to help out. In cases like the Texas tire fire – when a disaster is too overwhelming for local or state resources – the agency can provide strategists, teams, and equipment. GOOD said if the agency hadn’t gotten involved the fire may have raged for weeks. Burning tires can emit hundreds of toxic pollutants into the atmosphere, according to Gizmodo, and breathing in that smoke can lead to negative health effects. Investigators don’t yet know who was responsible for the tire fire. OA Online reported the pit of tires is on private property; their storage could have been against regulation. According to a recent Abilene Reporter-News article , authorities said the fire is finally extinguished. Via GOOD and Gizmodo Images via screenshot

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Black mountain cabin lights up like a lantern at night

April 18, 2017 by  
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Architect Tomislav Soldo designed a handsome mountain cabin that owes its existence to a fortuitously placed walnut tree. Set on a sloped site in the Croatian mountains, the 100-square-meter home was designed and built as an afterthought following the completion of a terrace beneath the shade of a walnut tree. Clad in Siberian larch painted black, the modern building features a ventilated facade and large windows that allow it to glow like a lantern at night. Located in Ogulin, the two-story compact cabin echoes the local vernacular with its use of timber and simple pitched roof . Two layers of black wood tar were painted onto the facade to protect the building from the elements and to minimize maintenance. The 30-centimeter-thick walls were constructed from aerated concrete blocks, saving the architects from adding extra thermal insulation and allowing for speedy construction. Thermal efficiency is improved with the installation of a ventilated facade made from Siberian larch cladding. Related: Salvaged wood clads handsome mountain cabin in Vermont In contrast to the dark facade, the interior features white-painted walls, light-toned timber floors, and black accents such as the wood-burning stove and window trim. The use of a light color palette, high ceilings, and large windows that overlook the mountains and forests give the home a spacious feel despite the small footprint. An open-plan kitchen, living, and dining room are located on the ground floor. The bedroom is placed on the mezzanine level and overlooks the living room below. + Tomislav Soldo Via ArchDaily Images by Jure Živkovi?

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Street artist uses reverse graffiti to transform dirty cars into animal art

April 18, 2017 by  
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Moscow’s filthy cars are getting a brand new look thanks to opportunistic street artist Nikita Golubev . Using reverse graffiti, a method of creating temporary art by removing dirt from a surface, Golubev etches amazing images of animals and other figures onto the sides of dirty vehicles. These unlikely works of art are part of his latest works in his “Dirty Art” series. Cars, vans, and large trucks are all fair game to Golubev, who uses his fingers and paintbrushes to wipe, scrape, and embellish images made on each surface. White vehicles encrusted in layers of dirt and grime offer up the ideal canvases for reverse graffiti , also known as “clean graffiti.” Depending on how much Golubev chooses to scrub away, he can create different shades of gray that give surprising depth and realism to his art. Related: REVERSE GRAFFITI: Street Artists Tag Walls by Scrubbing Them Clean These eye-catching pieces are temporary and will disappear over time or whenever the vehicle is cleaned. The prolific Moscow-based artist, who signs with the name ProBoyNick, drew on his ample art repertoire for the Dirty Art series, from his experience in painting to digital art. You can see more of his work on Instagram and Behance . + Nikita Gobulev Via Colossal Images via Nikita Gobulev

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Street artist uses reverse graffiti to transform dirty cars into animal art

9-year-old girl sues Indian government over climate-change inaction

April 12, 2017 by  
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Who runs the world? Ridhima Pandey, for one. The nine-year-old girl from India is suing her government for failing to stem planet-warming greenhouse-gas emissions . In a petition filed last week with the National Green Tribunal , a court that handles cases related to the environment, Pandey reproached the country’s officials for not enforcing their own prescriptions for mitigating climate change , the consequences of which the “children of today and the future will disproportionately suffer.” The tribunal has asked the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate , as well as the Central Pollution Control Board to respond within two weeks. “As a young person, the applicant is part of a class that amongst all Indians is most vulnerable to changes in climate, yet are not part of the decision-making process,” the 52-page petition, which names the above two agencies as respondents, said. “The government has failed to take any effective science-based measure, and there is a huge gap in implementation of the environmental legislations.” India, with its population of 1.25 billion, is one of the world’s biggest polluters, coming in fourth after China, the United States, and the European Union . That Pandey is the daughter of an environmental activist isn’t too surprising, though the lawsuit is reportedly her idea. Certainly she isn’t the first young person to take the Indian government to task over air pollution. Just last year, six teenagers filed a lawsuit over New Delhi’s infamously appalling air quality. Related: Air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death worldwide India isn’t completely oblivious to the damage climate change can cause. The South Asian nation, which officially ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change in late 2016, has pledged to generate at least 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030. But Pandey thinks the government could—and should—be doing more. Her petition included a call for the government to prepare a “carbon budget” that places a cap on the country’s carbon-dioxide emissions, ensure that industrial projects meet emissions standards, and create a time-bound national climate recovery plan. “Children in India are now aware about the issues of climate change and its impact,” Rahul Choudary, Pandey’s lawyer, said in a statement. “[Pandey] is simply asking her government to fulfill its own duty to protect the vital natural resources on which she and future generations depend on for survival.” Via Mashable and Reuters Photos by Unsplash

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Smog-filled Beijing is building a ‘green necklace’ around the city to curb pollution

March 23, 2017 by  
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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

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Smog-filled Beijing is building a ‘green necklace’ around the city to curb pollution

World’s biggest river island could be India’s first carbon-neutral sector

March 23, 2017 by  
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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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