Trump official delays protection of endangered species at oil lobbyist’s request

April 20, 2018 by  
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A top United States Department of the Interior official appears to have used his position to delay the protection of an endangered species at the request of the oil industry. As reported by the Guardian based on acquired documents, Interior official Vincent deVito acquiesced to a 2017 e-mail from the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) asking that the Texas hornshell mussel not be placed under protection for six months in the interest of continued, uninhibited oil industry activity. While the mussel was eventually placed on the endangered species list in 2018, former Interior officials and government watchdogs have expressed concerns over the ethics and legality of deVito’s actions. Of particular concern is the Trump Administration’s seeming disregard to science in favor of political decision making. “Listing decisions under the Endangered Species Act are meant to be entirely science-based decisions that result from – in some cases – years of review by experts in the field, not political appointees,” former Interior associate deputy secretary Elizabeth Klein told The Guardian . “A delay in and of itself might not be the end of the world – but then again it very well could be for an imperiled species.” In response to criticism, Interior press secretary Heather Swift said in a statement that deVito “maintains that he simply responded with an acknowledgment of receipt on the mussel email and maintains he had no role whatsoever in the listing.” Related: New evidence shows oil and coal were central in the decision to reduce Bears Ears There’s a portfolio of instances where DeVito used his official capacity in ways that would appear to be favorable to the fossil fuel industry. For example, DeVito described his close consultation of industry lobbyists before proposing a reduction of royalty rates on offshore oil and gas from 18.75% to 12.5% – a recommendation that was ultimately rejected by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. DeVito was also influential in approving a coal project near the habitat of the endangered Big Sandy crayfish in West Virginia . “It a scientific integrity violation for a political appointee to essentially leapfrog the Fish and Wildlife Service’s process when you have an Endangered Species Act listing involved,” former career Interior scientist Joel Clement told The Guardian . Via The Guardian Images via New Mexico State Land Office and YouTube

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Trump official delays protection of endangered species at oil lobbyist’s request

Bottlenose dolphins spotted in Canadian Pacific waters for the first time

April 20, 2018 by  
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Bottlenose dolphins typically reside in tropical or warm-temperate waters around the world — but researchers recently glimpsed a group of around 200 of the dolphins and around 70 false killer whales off northern Vancouver Island’s west coast in Canada. They said this sighting is “the only occurrence of common bottlenose dolphins recorded in Canadian Pacific waters” — and a warming trend could be to blame. In July 2017, Halpin Wildlife Research , working with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Department of Environment and Climate Change , documented the dolphins and whales. In research published this month in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records , the three researchers involved said the sighting “is the most northerly record” for common bottlenose dolphins “in the eastern North Pacific .” Related: A beluga whale living with dolphins learned to “speak their language” Lead author Luke Halpin said in a statement , “The sighting is also the first offshore report of false killer whales in British Columbia. To see the two species traveling together and interacting was quite special and rare. It is known that common bottlenose dolphins and false killer whales seek each other out and interact, but the purpose of the interactions is unclear.” Warming in eastern North Pacific waters between 2013 and 2016 could be the reason for the presence of the dolphins and whales. Halpin said he’s documented warm-water species in British Columbia waters since 2014, including a loggerhead turtle and a swordfish . He said, “With marine waters increasingly warming up, we can expect to see more typically warm-water species in the northeastern Pacific.” + BioMed Central + Marine Biodiversity Records Images via Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith on Flickr and the National Park Service

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Bottlenose dolphins spotted in Canadian Pacific waters for the first time

Conservationists sound the alarm to address ‘America’s wildlife crisis’

March 29, 2018 by  
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A coalition of conservationist groups have called for urgent action to address the drastic decline in American wildlife . According to the groups’ recently released report, one in three animal species in the United States is vulnerable to extinction, while one in five face a severe threat amid a serious decline in American biodiversity. “Fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates are all losing ground,” Collin O’Mara, chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation, told the Guardian . “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to prevent these species from vanishing from the earth.” Over 1,270 species native to the United States are listed as at-risk under the Endangered Species Act, which include such iconic creatures as the grizzly bear and the California condor. In their recent report, the National Wildlife Federation, American Fisheries Society and the Wildlife Society argued that the actual number of at-risk species is significantly higher. The difference in numbers is accounted for by the data source. While federal authorities document species on a case-by-case basis, the report relies on data from  NatureServe , which determines the health of any particular species on a sliding scale. Related: Spending bill would open the world’s largest intact temperate forest to logging Some kinds of animals have fared worse than others. 40% of all freshwater fish in the United States are now endangered or at-risk while amphibian populations shrink within their known territory by 4% each year. “This loss of wildlife has been sneaking up on us but is now like a big tsunami that is going to hit us,” Thomas Lovejoy, a biologist at George Mason University who advised the report, told the Guardian . Species decline can be attributed to a variety of factors, including habitat loss, increased spread of disease, climate change , and pesticide use. The report emphasizes the need for a federal response to deal with this crisis, citing successful examples of species recovery efforts throughout the United States. This increased threat to biodiversity is not unique to the United States. “ Extinctions are ramping up, and if that continues it will be one for the history books for the whole planet,” environmental scientist Erle Ellis told the Guardian . The world is getting very humanized and I’m very concerned about the cost to biodiversity . It’s a challenge that will face us throughout this century and beyond.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Conservationists sound the alarm to address ‘America’s wildlife crisis’

New family of antibiotics discovered in soil offers hope

February 13, 2018 by  
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Antibiotic resistance threatens humanity even as superbugs are discovered in places like pig farms . But a recent discovery offers new hope. A Rockefeller University -led team of scientists found a new family of antibiotics in dirt, the BBC reported . The researchers hope the natural compounds could be used to fight infections that are difficult to treat. 12 scientists discovered malacidins, compounds which, based on tests, kill multiple bacterial diseases now resistant to most of our existing antibiotics. That includes the superbug MRSA . They utilized a gene sequencing technique to scrutinize over 1,000 soil samples that came from around America to find the new antibiotic family. The BBC said soil teems with millions of microorganisms that produce compounds that could be potentially therapeutic or serve as new antibiotics. Related: Antibiotic resistant bugs could kill 10 million people each year by 2050 Malacidins were present in many of the samples, suggesting it could be an important find. According to the BBC, the scientists gave rats MRSA and then tested malacidins; the compound eradicated the infection in skin wounds. They’re now working to boost the drug’s effectiveness so that perhaps it could be developed into a treatment for humans – but that could take a while. Rockefeller University scientist Sean Brady told the BBC, “It is impossible to say when, or even if, an early stage antibiotic discovery like the malacidins will proceed to the clinic. It is a long, arduous road from the initial discovery of an antibiotic to a clinically used entity.” Antibiotic Research UK professor Colin Garner, who was not part of the research team, said the find is good news but we really need antibiotics for gram-negative bacteria . These new compounds might tackle gram-positive infections like MRSA, but “our concern are the so called gram-negative bacteria which are difficult to treat and where resistance is on the increase.” The journal Nature Microbiology published the research online yesterday. Scientists from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School contributed. Via the BBC Images via Pixabay and Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

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New family of antibiotics discovered in soil offers hope

Scientists dash to explore Antarctic ecosystem hidden by ice for 120,000 years

February 13, 2018 by  
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Scientists are seeking to explore an underwater area previously covered by an Antarctic ice shelf for 120,000 years. Climate change is affecting every corner of the globe and while its challenges are well known, the dramatic changes also open up new opportunities for exploration. The recent breaking away of a trillion-ton iceberg the size of Delaware from Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf offers scientists a chance to gain a greater understanding of the polar aquatic ecosystem that dwells beneath the ice. Researchers are now in a race against time to study the 2,246 square-mile area before it begins to change. “The calving of [iceberg] A-68 [from the Larsen C Ice Shelf] provides us with a unique opportunity to study marine life as it responds to a dramatic environmental change,” said Kkatrin Linse of the British Antarctica Survey (BAS) in a statement. “It’s important we get there quickly before the undersea environment changes as sunlight enters the water and new species begin to colonize.” Two previous efforts to explore newly exposed Antarctic ecosystems in 1995 and 2002 yielded little in terms of studied life. However, both efforts took five to 12 years after an iceberg’s break before studying the area up close. By then, organisms had begun to occupy space in the newly open habitat. Related: Meteorologist warns collapse of two Antarctic glaciers could flood every coastal city on Earth Scientists are set to depart from the Falkland Islands on February 21, then spend three weeks aboard the BAS research vessel RRS James Clark Ross on which the team will gather and study biological samples from organisms, sediments, and water . During their study, the team may encounter such wild Antarctic creatures as the icefish, which creates natural antifreeze within its body to survive in frigid waters, or the bristled marine worm, described by Live Science as “ a Christmas ornament from hell. “ Via Live Science Images via NASA   (1)

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Scientists dash to explore Antarctic ecosystem hidden by ice for 120,000 years

DFA’s flood-proof towers could survive six feet of sea level rise in New York City

February 13, 2018 by  
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New York-based architecture firm DFA just unveiled plans for 19 cylindrical apartment towers that can survive six feet of sea level rise at Manhattan’s Pier 40. The towers are wrapped in lattice facades with lots of vegetation, and they’re designed to address the city’s lack of affordable housing and flood-resistant buildings . The towers would offer apartments as well as recreational and commercial spaces, and they’re designed for a site currently occupied by car parking facilities and a football field. The entire development is expected to function as a floating island in the event of flooding. The living units in the high-rises are set 60 inches above expected storm surge levels. An elevated path flows along the base of the clusters and connects a series of public pavilions . Related: Waterstudio’s Koen Olthuis on FLOAT! “Beyond 2050, as regular flooding begins to engulf the coastline as we know it, the landscape deck transforms into a floating island with new pathways built to connect the evolved wetland ecosystem to Manhattan,” said DFA. The architects designed the complex as a response to construction trends in New York. They describe it as a long-term solution that will “safeguard the city from rapid changes in the environment or protect future generations of people”. + DFA Via Dezeen

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DFA’s flood-proof towers could survive six feet of sea level rise in New York City

Georgia considers plan to build America’s first truck-only highway

February 13, 2018 by  
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Georgia is exploring the feasibility of designating an entire highway just for trucks . The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is considering the 40-mile stretch where cars wouldn’t be allowed to drive – and WABE Radio says it would be the first of its kind in America. 4,317 people perished in crashes where large trucks were involved in 2016, the most recent federal statistics ready from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to WABE Radio. A separate highway for trucks could boost safety for both regular cars and freight operators, according to GDOT’s fact sheet on what’s called the I-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes. Related: Siemens debuts first electrified eHighway in the US The toll-free truck-only highway would stretch from Atlanta to Macron and would consist of two barrier-separated lanes. GDOT’s fact sheet says the project is “projected to reduce delay on I-75 by 40 percent in 2030” and could also lower maintenance costs on the lanes for passenger cars. It would be northbound, per WABE Radio, with its own entrances and exits. Atlanta-area truckers have shown support for the project. WABE Radio spoke to trucker Afori Pugh, who transports around 20,000 pounds of construction materials on his trips. He said it can be difficult; when drivers cut in front of a truck, they rarely realize how much danger they’re in and they don’t understand his industry. He thinks a truck-only highway could “unclog a lot of the traffic .” Georgia governor Nathan Deal also seems to support the project, saying the truck-only highway is “an important part of what our future transportation system should and will look like” in a Georgia Transportation Alliance meeting. But some people are balking at the estimated cost of $1.8 billion. U.S. Public Interest Research Group listed the state’s truck-only lanes among the worst highway projects in America in 2017, saying it “would represent a giveaway to the trucking industry, while undermining a rail -based approach to freight movement in Georgia that is intended to get trucks off the roads.” GDOT could choose a general engineering consultant by the end of this year; that person would be expected to be in charge of project development and seek public input in the environmental process. Construction could commence in 2025. Via WABE Radio Images via Rhys Moult on Unsplash and Ken Lund on Flickr

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Georgia considers plan to build America’s first truck-only highway

Vacant lots are being transformed into urban bee farms in Detroit

February 9, 2018 by  
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“Work hard, stay bumble,” is the motto of Detroit nonprofit Detroit Hives . The organization aims to conserve honeybees by turning abandoned urban lots into community bee farms. Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey started the nonprofit last year, and so far they’ve transformed one lot into a space with vegetable garden plots and three hives – and they’re just getting started. Something’s buzzing in Detroit. Detroit Hives is tackling a few issues, namely honeybee conservation , blight in the city created by vacant lots , and educating the community on bees . Paule told HuffPost the inspiration came from a cold that just wouldn’t go away. A local market worker told him to try local honey for its medicinal properties. He and Lindsey also began to realize how urban blight might play a part in allergies, as overgrown ragweeds took over. They could tackle that issue by producing local honey on vacant sites. Related: America’s first urban ‘agrihood’ feeds 2,000 households for free Lindsey and Paule took beekeeping courses and purchased their first vacant lot for $340 on Detroit’s East Side. Thousands of bees now buzz on the lot, and the neighbors love the farm, according to Lindsey. We transform Detroit Vacant lots into urban bee farms. We are responsible for a quarter of a million honey bees in the East Warren community and we offer tours and bee education for the community. Work Hard, Stay Bumble. #DetroitHives #Savethebees #UrbanBeekeeper #UrbanBeeFarm #Detroit #Michigan #PureMichigan #Nonprofit #VizzeeInc #Honey #Support #Donate #Canon #Beekeeper A post shared by Detroit Hives (@detroithives) on Aug 25, 2017 at 2:47pm PDT She told HuffPost, “They say they wish we were there 10, 20 years ago. That area has always been a place where people dump trash, so when we came there, we gave that area a sense of purpose. The neighbors keep an eye on the area to make sure that people aren’t dumping anymore.” We bring bee consciousness to your community by transforming blighted land into honey bee conservations. #beekeeping #DetroitHives #Michigan #PureMichigan #DNR #MDNR #urbanbeekeeper #blackgirlmagic #beeeducation #rawhoney #adidasoriginals #blackbeekeepers #blackbeekeeper A post shared by Detroit Hives (@detroithives) on Aug 4, 2017 at 10:58am PDT Per Black Enterprise, Detroit Hives has partnered with local vendors like The Black Bottom Brewery, Detroit Soup, and a homeless shelter to provide local, raw honey, and they also sell their sweet product. They offer public tours and speak at schools in the area to help the community learn more about bees. They aim to expand beyond their first farm this year. + Detroit Hives Via Black Enterprise and HuffPost Images via Eric Ward on Unsplash and Massimiliano Latella on Unsplash

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Vacant lots are being transformed into urban bee farms in Detroit

The sun is getting dimmer – but it won’t let us off the hook for global warming

February 9, 2018 by  
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Sun worshippers, take note – scientists say that Earth’s life-giving orb of light is dimming, and by 2050 we’ll be living in a colder, darker world than the one we know today. If you think that’s positive news for global warming, brace yourself: while we might get a short reprieve, in the long run, we are still as screwed as ever. The sun has a regular 11-year cycle in which solar radiation rises and falls. But according to a recent study in The Astrophysical journal Letters , for the past few cycles the high has been lower than normal. Consequently, the amount of heat and light we get from the sun has been dropping. In the next few decades, that effect is likely to continue, leaving us with 5 to 8% less radiation. The last time this happened was when the Earth went through what is known as a mini-Ice Age (aka The Grand Minimum to scientists), which happened during the mid-1600s. There’s some debate that this mini-Ice Age was actually due to volcanic activity, but the point is this: even though we may experience some reduction in the heat and light reaching the Earth, the rapidly warming planet is heating up faster than the sun is dimming. Which means that, in all likelihood, we may experience a few years that aren’t as hot as they could be, but they will still be hotter than normal. Related: Scientists Consider Blocking Out the Sun to Stop Climate Change Short term, this means that we might get a bit of a break from the effects of climate change. But the problem is that we humans have a hard time making difficult changes based on future consequences. If we start to see a lessening of global warming’s impact, many may conclude that the threat is over and continue business as usual. But eventually, the sun is going to heat back up, and when it does, we will be in really bad shape. + The Astrophysical journal Letters Via Outer Places Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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The sun is getting dimmer – but it won’t let us off the hook for global warming

More companies prefer green bonds, carbon taxes

February 7, 2018 by  
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Experts from Citi, Microsoft and Bank of America weigh in on the latest corporate efforts to reach dramatic emissions targets.

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More companies prefer green bonds, carbon taxes

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