Mountain Heroes cyclist aims for world record to fight climate change

August 6, 2018 by  
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Michael Strasser, famous cyclist and the first cyclist to join the  UN Environment’s  Mountain Heroes campaign, has now been cycling for nearly two weeks. His goal? Establishing a new world record by cycling from Alaska to Patagonia through the longest overland route. But the 14,300-mile and nearly 610,000-vertical-foot  Ice2Ice expedition is not just about immense feats of strength and stamina. Strasser also seeks to demonstrate how personal transportation choices can mitigate climate change. Originally an architect, Strasser began his expedition on July 23. The Austrian cyclist is now crossing Canada and has been updating followers and contributors on his journey in real time. His candid memos are paired with a live tracking map that includes the time spent cycling as well as distance and elevation details. He wrote, “Yesterday, for example, that damned smoke was back in the morning for the first two hours,” referring to a forest fire that had broken out close to his trail. “And then, while I was still angry about the very rough roads, a little black bear appeared on the side of the road and put a smile on my lips.” The cyclist hopes to inspire action in order to protect mountain ecosystems , which provide freshwater around the world and are home to a diverse array of plants and animals. Related: Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution A rise in pollution and the impacts of climate change have put stress on these delicate mountain ecosystems. The glaciers through which Strasser is traveling have been reduced by nearly a third since the 1960s, displaying a visible amount of loss in ice and snow cover. Along with the fragile biological diversity in these areas, the retreating glaciers serve as one of the Earth’s most reliable sources of fresh drinking water. Climate change is disproportionately affecting these mountainous regions, along with high elevation zones such as the Arctic and Antarctica. “It would mean a lot to me if I could motivate every single person who follows me to sometimes take a bike instead of their car,” Strasser said. “If my attempt is to bike 23,000 kilometers and 185,000 vertical meters, then everyone can manage one or the other kilometer in their daily life too. I think if all of us contribute something even small, something big can come of it.” + Ice2Ice + UN Environment Images via Michael Strasser

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Mountain Heroes cyclist aims for world record to fight climate change

Companies push to start oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

June 1, 2018 by  
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Following Congress’s move to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas production, a long-sought goal of the Republican Party, fossil fuel companies are moving forward with their plans to develop the wilderness and hope to survey the region by winter. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation, two Alaska Native companies, as well as one oil company have applied for a permit to begin seismic surveying on the refuge’s coastal plain. However, despite promises that the process would be as environmentally sensitive as possible, documents obtained by the Washington Post indicate that the Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the initial plan as “not adequate,” noting its “lack of applicable details for proper agency review.” The area the companies hope to explore for oil is also the location of the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd, from which the local Gwich’in First Nation community finds food and cultural significance. In fact, the prospective area where two teams of 150 people are proposed to survey isn’t even visited by the Gwich’in people out of respect for its importance. The speed with which the companies have pushed to begin oil drilling has concerned the locals. “Why can’t they just wait to have more information?” Gwich’in Steering Committee executive director Bernadette Dementieff told Earther . “The oil isn’t going anywhere. There’s nothing wrong with waiting. It makes no sense to rush.” Perhaps the oil companies are concerned that the U.S. may, under a different Congress, return to its long-held status quo of banning oil drilling in the refuge. Related: Spending bill would open the world’s largest intact temperate forest to logging Although the nearby Native town of Kaktovik supported oil and gas drilling in 2005, more recently, the mayor sent a letter to Congress to oppose opening the land to industry. The process has moved forward so quickly since the bill opening the refuge to oil drilling was signed into law that Dementieff was not even aware of the drilling application until she was contacted by Earther. “That is completely insane and disrespectful,” she said. Dementieff believes that Native communities in Alaska will rally together to stop the drilling from ever occurring. “We’ll go to every courtroom. We’ll go to every community meeting. We’re not giving up. We’re not going to allow them to destroy the calving grounds.” Via Earther Images via  Depositphotos and Bob Clarke

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Companies push to start oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Trump administration wants to allow "extreme and cruel" hunting methods in Alaska

May 23, 2018 by  
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Donald Trump’s administration is angling to amend hunting regulations for national preserves in Alaska , and not for the better. Announced this week, the proposed changes would reverse Obama-era rules that forbid hunting methods the Sierra Club described as cruel and extreme. Among these methods? Baiting bears with human food and shooting wolf pups and bear cubs in their dens. The National Park Service (NPS) announced the proposal this week, saying it would toss out 2015 regulatory provisions banning hunting practices that Alaska allows on state land. Their proposal would affect national preserves, but not national parks . The Associated Press reported that increasing hunting rights on federal lands has been among Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s priorities; the Washington Post said that the NPS’s proposal is in keeping with an order from Zinke to assent to states’ wishes to expand recreational hunting. Related: Trump fills his wildlife protection board with big-game trophy hunters These rules would allow Alaska officials to make the final decision about methods such as killing bear cubs with their mothers, shooting swimming caribou from a boat, targeting animals from snowmobiles or airplanes, hunting animals in their dens, baiting animals with sweets, or poisoning animals. “Targeting cubs and mothers through baiting and other extreme hunting measures has no place on our public lands ,” said Alli Harvey, an Alaska representative for the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “Zinke is undermining science-based wildlife management and the basic premise of public lands as places for wildlife conservation . This decision overrides fundamental national environmental safeguards in the name of narrow interests.” You can comment on the proposal on the Regulations.gov website until July 23. + Sierra Club + National Park Service Via The Washington Post and the Associated Press Images via  Depositphotos (1)

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Trump administration wants to allow "extreme and cruel" hunting methods in Alaska

California man files lawsuit against Monsanto for allegedly hiding dangers of glyphosate

May 23, 2018 by  
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In a monumental trial, DeWayne Johnson will soon become the first person to face Monsanto in court for an alleged cover-up of the cancer-causing dangers of its herbicide products. Johnson, a father of three and resident of California , has cancer, which he believes was caused by his exposure to Monsanto-produced chemicals in his work as a groundskeeper. Though Monsanto has denied it, studies have demonstrated a link between glyphosate , the active ingredient in Monsanto herbicides, and cancer. Last week, presiding Judge Curtis Karnow issued a ruling that allowed for the consideration of evidence with regards to whether Monsanto knew about the dangers of its products and systematically concealed it, as well as the specifics of Johnson’s case. Johnson’s lawsuit, which will be filed on June 18th in San Francisco county superior court, is part of a larger legal fight against Monsanto. Approximately 4,000 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against Monsanto alleging that the failure to disclose the dangers of its chemicals has led to  cancer . The soon-to-be-filed lawsuit says that Monsanto “championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies,” while engaging in a “prolonged campaign of misinformation,” which caused harm to the public. “We look forward to exposing how Monsanto hid the risk of cancer and polluted the science,” Michael Miller, Johnson’s lawyer,  told the Guardian . “Monsanto does not want the truth about Roundup and cancer to become public.” Related: California adds Monsanto’s glyphosate to list of chemicals known to cause cancer Monsanto claims there is no evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic. “Glyphosate-based herbicides are supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health and environmental effects databases ever compiled for a pesticide product,” Monsanto said in a statement . “Comprehensive toxicological and environmental fate studies conducted over the last 40 years have time and again demonstrated the strong safety profile of this widely used herbicide.” Monsanto will soon have to defend this position in court, not only in California, but also in St. Louis, Missouri , where Monsanto was founded. Via The Guardian Images via Chafer Machinery , Avaaz and Mike Mozart

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California man files lawsuit against Monsanto for allegedly hiding dangers of glyphosate

LEED Platinum fire station boosts firefighter wellness in Seattle

May 16, 2018 by  
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Firefighting is consistently ranked one of the most stressful jobs in the U.S. — which is why the well-being of firefighters becomes all the more important in architecture firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s design of Seattle Fire Station 32. Located in the heart of the Alaska Junction neighborhood in West Seattle, the 18,000-square-foot fire station boasts a handsome and modern appearance that not only enhances firefighters’ wellness, but also welcomes the community. The fire station , completed last year, is crafted to be highly energy efficient, and it recently achieved LEED Platinum certification. Filled with natural light and optimized for scenic views, Seattle Fire Station 32 is set in the heart of the neighborhood at the threshold between single-family residential areas and a denser commercial zone. To mitigate the site’s small size, the architects built upward, resulting in a four-story building with a basement. The building engages the civic arena with public areas that are visible from the street, such as the beanery and station office. The entrance of the office is marked by a 25-foot-tall wall-mounted fire truck sculpture . A 59-foot-long ladder truck and the firefighters’ activities are also put on full display behind a glazed end wall along Alaska Street. Related: Seattle’s Firestation 30 is a Copper-Clad Green Community Beacon Private bunk rooms and individual offices are tucked along the quiet residential-facing side of the building. The operational and administrative areas are housed on the lower floors, while the firefighters’ living spaces are located on the third floor. This floor opens up to an outdoor terrace overlooking the green roof . “The hose drying tower acts as a visual marker for the station between the southern residential hillside and tall mixed-use buildings to the north,” the architects wrote. “With a subtle lantern effect at night, the tower acts as a beacon of safety for residents and visitors.” The project was awarded a 2018 Green GOOD DESIGN Award , and earned LEED Platinum certification this month. + Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Images by Nic Lehoux

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LEED Platinum fire station boosts firefighter wellness in Seattle

Bold, monolithic stone home in India reveals its secret gardens

May 15, 2018 by  
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Mumbai-based Spasm Design recently unveiled a bold, monolithic home made from Dhrangadhra stone. The House of Secret Gardens features a cross-shaped layout with various access points to the exterior spaces, which feature vibrant greenery and an elevated rooftop garden . Dhrangadhra stone is a common building material in Ahmedabad that has been used for centuries due to its strong insulative qualities. The stone, which is found in local quarries, keeps homes warm in the winter months and cool during the searing hot summers. Additionally, the stone walls and floors help reduce reflected glare on the interior. Related: This home is a small timber cottage on the inside and an automated concrete monolith on the outside The living space is located in the center of the home. From there, multiple walkways lead to other rooms, including the kitchen, office and bedrooms. The architects used the unique layout to connect the home to its surroundings and installed transparent walls and open spaces to provide access to the outdoors. The result is a breezy home that seamlessly links to the outdoors. Several cutouts and windows throughout the home allow for optimal air ventilation. Because the light in Ahmedabad can be harsh, slatted skylights were included to filter in the sunlight . The interior rooms are clad in lime plaster with a texture similar to the exterior Dhrangadhra stone walls. The monolithic aesthetic is accented with timber statement walls and timber-clad ceilings. An abundance of courtyards and gardens add greenery while aiding the home’s passive climate control . Air moves through the courtyards and into the interiors, cooling off the living spaces. Several passages lead to the lush courtyards. Designed to mature over the years, the green lawn is decorated with trees and bushes. The home also features an extended pond and a stairwell that leads up to the impressive rooftop garden . + Spasm Design Via Archdaily Photography by Umang Shah , Photographix , Edmund Sumner via Spasm Design

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Bold, monolithic stone home in India reveals its secret gardens

Casa Bruma’s blackened concrete pavilions create a serene retreat in Mexico

May 15, 2018 by  
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Architects Fernanda Canales and Claudia Rodriguez completed a unique weekend home that consists of nine pavilion-like volumes, each carefully positioned for optimal views. Located in a rural site just a few hours outside Mexico City , the 6,500-square-foot holiday retreat — named Casa Bruma — was designed as a series of boxes in order to sidestep the removal of existing trees. To soften the look of the concrete, the architects darkened the facades with a black pigment and topped most of the units with gardens. Casa Bruma features nine volumes of varying heights — corresponding to topographic conditions and spatial hierarchy — clustered around a central stone-paved courtyard . “This design solution was born out of the need to respect every existing tree on the site and to provide every space with sunlight both during the morning and the afternoon,” the architects explained. “The result is an ‘exploded house,’ where the dwelling is composed of isolated volumes that are placed according to the views, the orientations and the existing vegetation.” Walkways connect the main buildings, which house the kitchen, dining room, living room, master bedroom and children’s bedroom. The two guest bedrooms and the garage are located in the remaining units on the other side of the courtyard. The living room and one of guest rooms also open up to outdoor roof terraces . Related: A lush rooftop oasis flourishes on this renovated Art Deco townhouse in Mexico City The minimalist design uses only five materials: black concrete , wood, stone, metal and glass. The natural materials palette and subdued colors give the home a “timeless character” and help the buildings recede into the landscape. Throughout the site, the element of surprise is a common theme, starting with a semi-hidden path at the entrance that gradually reveals glimpses of the courtyard. + Fernanda Canales Via Dezeen Images by Rafael Gamo

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Casa Bruma’s blackened concrete pavilions create a serene retreat in Mexico

Spending bill would open the world’s largest intact temperate forest to logging

March 22, 2018 by  
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The world’s largest intact temperate forest sits in southeast Alaska , where towering trees have been growing for over a millennium. But if Trump and his cronies have their way, those trees won’t be around much longer. As part of the budget bill being negotiated today, Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski is pushing to increase old-growth logging in the state. If the measure passes, it could lead to the destruction of one of the last old-growth coniferous trees in the United States. The move would support the last industrial-scale sawmill in that part of Alaska, which employs just 34 people. Viking Lumber Company has been operating in Alaska for over 60 years, and its equipment shows its age. But according to the company’s VP, they can’t afford to upgrade to newer equipment that can handle the smaller sizes of newer trees. If they can no longer cut down old-growth trees, the company will have to shut its doors. Related: The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is Cloning Trees to Save them for Future Generations But the Tongass forest and surrounding areas have been logged to death for decades, and the ecosystem can’t handle more. The forest encompasses 17 million acres of mostly untouched land that is home to wolves, bears, mink, voles, salmon and the largest concentration of nesting bald eagles in the world. Trees in the forest are cut down to make trim and moldings for homes, as well as soundboards for pianos. About 1/3 of it is exported to China. In 2016, after years of research and effort, the practice of old-growth logging was to be phased out over the next 20 years, but Murkowski wants to stop that from happening. If nothing else, her stance is consistent with her policy of opening Alaska up for more oil, gold and gas extraction, but the move could destroy something that the US has precious little of, all in the name of preserving a dying industry. Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia , Deposit Photos and Flickr

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Spending bill would open the world’s largest intact temperate forest to logging

The public health impact of Hurricane Harvey is worse than we’ve been told

March 22, 2018 by  
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More than six months since  Hurricane Harvey decimated much of Central America and the American Gulf Coast, the public still doesn’t have the answers it needs regarding the full public health impact of the powerful storm. This is of particular concern for Texas, in which the nation’s most substantial energy corridor is based. 500 chemical plants, 10 refineries and more than 6,670 miles of oil, gas and chemical pipelines are located in the impact area of Hurricane Harvey. And investigations by the Associated Press and the Houston Chronicle have found that the toxic impact of the storm is far worse than authorities reported. The investigators documented more than 100 specific instances of toxic chemical release into the water, the air, or land as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater flooded out of one chemical plant outside of Houston alone, mixing with storm water and surging across the sprawling urban environment. Hazardous chemicals such as benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene and other carcinogens were released into the flood waters during the storm. In the case of two major contamination events, officials publicized the potential toxic impact as less extensive than it actually was. Related: Houston Bike Share offers free bicycles to people who lost cars to Harvey While Texas regulators claim to have investigated at least 89 instances, they have not said whether they will take any enforcement action. Alarmingly, state and federal regulators only tested water and soil for contaminants in areas near Superfund toxic waste sites, ignoring the potential runoff of toxic chemicals during the unprecedented flooding of Houston and surrounding areas. During and after the storm, authorities only notified the public of dangers posed by two events: the explosions and burning at the Arkema chemical plant and an uncapped Superfund site by the San Jacinto River. “The public will probably never know the extent of what happened to the environment after Harvey,” Harris County supervising attorney Rock Owens told the Associated Press, “but the individual companies of course know.” Via NBC San Diego Images via Texas National Guard and  Depositphotos

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The public health impact of Hurricane Harvey is worse than we’ve been told

Sheldon Chalet combines extreme engineering with luxury on North America’s highest mountain

March 7, 2018 by  
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Sheldon Chalet is a cozy retreat perched on the flanks of North America’s highest mountain in Alaska . Set on Denali at 6,000 feet in elevation, the Sheldon Chalet offers views of breathtaking natural surroundings while enveloping its guest in a blanket of luxury and comfort. The building is anchored “deep into the granite, iron and titanium of the Sheldon Nunatak” and it offers all the amenities of a luxury resort . It sits 6,000 feet above sea level, on a glacier just below the summit of Denali, and it’s accessible only by plane. Related: Handsome timber chalet shows off the beauty of modern minimalism Guests can enjoy views of the towering peaks and the night sky while sitting around a cozy fireplace or while waiting for their personal chef to prepare fresh Alaskan fare. + Sheldon Chalet Via Uncrate

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Sheldon Chalet combines extreme engineering with luxury on North America’s highest mountain

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