Court allows Trump’s border wall to violate several conservation acts

February 15, 2019 by  
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Donald Trump is moving forward with the construction of his controversial border wall, even if it means sidestepping important environmental laws. A federal judge ruled in favor of Trump’s wall construction along California’s southern border, a project that is expected to violate several conservation acts. The federal court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the power to wave environmental laws in the construction of the border wall, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act. The majority opinion argued that the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 gives the DHS power to ignore certain laws when it comes to border security. Related: 10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration “Because the projects are statutorily authorized and DHS has waived the environmental laws California and the environmental groups seek to enforce, we affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to DHS,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown said. According to EcoWatch , environmentalists and conservation groups attempted to stop the construction of the border wall in 2017. Building the prototypes for the structure has already violated at least 37 regulations in San Diego County. Once construction begins, environmentalists predict that more than 90 endangered species could be harmed by the time the wall is complete. California is not the only state facing an environmental crisis. Texas is also getting ready to start construction of its border wall , and conservation groups are worried about how the wall will affect one of the most successful butterfly sanctuaries in the country: the National Butterfly Center . A 5-mile portion of the wall will cut through the heart of the property, which has environmentalists worried about how it will affect the 200 variations of butterflies that call the sanctuary home. This includes the monarch, black swallowtail and the Mexican bluewing. Conservation groups are currently attempting to stall construction of the wall in Texas as they scramble to figure out a solution. The Trump administration has hailed the new court decision as a major victory in its effort to secure the border. The White House has not, however, addressed how building the border wall will break dozens of environmental laws and potentially harm endangered species. Via EcoWatch Image via Melissa McMasters

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Court allows Trump’s border wall to violate several conservation acts

Will the pope go vegan for Lent?

February 13, 2019 by  
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Pope Francis is known for his simplicity, favoring what’s been called “papal athleisure” over the fine silks worn by his predecessors, and urging Christians to forego greed. He doesn’t want to be a millionaire. But will he turn down the chance to donate a million dollars to the charity of his choice? That’s what a group of celebrity vegans, led by 12-year-old Genesis Butler, are offering if Pope Francis goes vegan for Lent. The group Million Dollar Vegan launched earlier this month by sending a letter from the young activist newspapers around the world. Butler’s open letter to the pope appeals to Francis’ concerns about climate change , environmental degradation and poverty. “In your encyclical letter, Laudato si’, you stated that every effort to protect and improve our world will involve changes in lifestyle, production and consumption. I agree with all my heart and seek your support in tackling one of the largest underlying causes of the problems we face: animal agriculture.” An encyclical is a papal letter sent to all the Catholic bishops. Related: If you won’t go vegan for yourself, will you do it for Beyoncé? Butler chose to go vegan at the age of six. She’s the founder of a nonprofit called Genesis for Animals and is the youngest person to give a TEDx talk. Million Dollar Vegan is a nonprofit campaign, launched by Matthew Glover and Jane Land, with a mission to fight climate change with diet change. Vegan heavyweights like Paul McCartney, Moby, Mean Suvari and Woody Harrelson support the campaign. Lent is the six-week period before Easter. Catholics mark this solemn time with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In the Catholic tradition, fasting means significantly reducing food intake, rather than abstaining completely. Many Catholics abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. However, also giving up fish, eggs and dairy is a big jump. The whole world is watching to see whether Pope Francis will agree to change his diet for six weeks. “We are launching this deliberately bold, audacious campaign to jolt our world leaders from their complacency,” Glover said. “We are thankful that Pope Francis has spoken out on these issues and that is why we are humbly asking him to try vegan for Lent and set an example of how each of us can align our principles of caring and compassion with our actions.” + Million Dollar Vegan Images via Million Dollar Vegan and Pete Souza

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Will the pope go vegan for Lent?

Polar bears invade small island in northern Russia, causing an emergency warning

February 12, 2019 by  
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Islands in northern Russia faced a crisis last weekend after a group of polar bears invaded the region. Officials in Novaya Zemlya issued an emergency warning for the small town of Belushya Guba, leaving residents scared to venture outside of their homes. Photos of polar bears invading garbage heaps surfaced over the weekend, while school officials say they have spotted the animals near buildings and homes in the area. Authorities claim they have seen polar bears enter the town in the past but have never experienced anything of this scale. Related: Polar bears could go extinct sooner than scientists previously thought “I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there has never been so many polar bears in the vicinity,” Zhigansha Musin, an administrative leader in the town, explained. According to EcoWatch , Russia has placed polar bears on the endangered species list, which means killing them is not an option. Officials are currently using non-lethal methods to try to remove the bears, but if they are unsuccessful, then culling them will be explored. Unfortunately, the bears have not responded to any attempts to scare them off the island. The polar bear invasion started back in December. Since then, officials have counted more than 52 bears in the region. Local officials also say that the bears are becoming more aggressive toward residents, and a few have entered homes and businesses. Locals are scared to venture outside of their homes out of fear of an attack. It is sad to hear that residents are fearful of their own safety. It is also unfortunate that these polar bears could be killed if the situation continues to escalate. But the underlying issue at hand is the growing problem of climate change and the affects global warming is having on the polar ice cap. As temperatures continue to rise all around the globe, the Arctic is experiencing double the rate of melting than any other location on Earth. The melting of permafrost and the polar cap is driving polar bears out of the region, forcing them to invade human settlements out of a basic need for survival. Via EcoWatch Image via Unsplash

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Polar bears invade small island in northern Russia, causing an emergency warning

Shark fins still being sold in US restaurants amid ban

January 24, 2019 by  
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Shark finning has sparked numerous controversies for the horrible act of animal cruelty that has led to the banning of shark finning in 12 U.S. states. However, the ban is so difficult to effectively enforce that some restaurants in at least 10 of the states still manage to have shark fins on their menus, and some are starting to question if the ban is worth it. Shark finning — the act of slicing fins off live sharks and throwing the wounded shark into the ocean , where they sink and eventually die of suffocation and blood loss — became illegal in U.S. waters back in 2000. Yet, shark fins have been making their way to the states from countries that don’t ban the practice and catch sharks. Although the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington D.C. — who supports the national shark fin ban — updates their yearly list of establishments that serve shark fin soup, restaurants are still featuring the infamous soup on the their menus. According to National Geographic ,  shark fin soup is a “status dish in Asian countries” and has a long history dating back to the Song Dynasty. Currently, the soup is traditionally served at wedding receptions as a sign of respect for guests. Related: Nine more states join seismic blasting lawsuit against the Trump administration The “luxury dish” is prepared by boiling the shark fins and removing the skin and meat. The softened protein fiber that is left behind is then shredded and put into the soup. Trying to ban this item from restaurants is proving to be a major problem for U.S. enforcement agencies due to understaffing. Not to mention, making a case against shark fin vendors can be difficult since the trade is mostly underground, like illegal drugs. “I know it’s going on, I know it’s out there,” says San Francisco marine warden William O’Brien. “But it’s a very private matter — it’s not the kind of thing that, you know, people are selling to the public.” To make matters worse, the fines and jail sentences for violating the ban are usually light and don’t deter the practice. Via National Geographic Images via Shutterstock

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Endangered bluefin tuna sold for $3.1 billion to sushi tycoon

January 10, 2019 by  
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A recent predawn auction at Tokyo’s new fish market brought a record-breaking bid for the endangered bluefin tuna. Sushi tycoon Kiyoshi Kimura, who owns the Sushi Zanmai chain, paid $3.1 million for the enormous fish, more than double the price from five years ago. Kimura’s Kiyomura Corp has won the annual action in the past, but the high price of the tuna this year definitely surprised the sushi king. Nonetheless, Kiyomura says: “the quality of the tuna I bought is the best.” The 612-pound (278 kg) tuna was caught off Japan’s northern coast, and the auction prices this year are way above normal. Normally, bluefin tuna sells for about $40 a pound, but the price has recently skyrocketed to over $200 a pound, especially for the prized catches that come from Oma in northern Japan. The biggest consumers of the bluefin tuna are the Japanese, and the surging consumption of the fish has led to overfishing which could result in the species facing possible extinction . Stocks of Pacific bluefin have plummeted 96 percent from pre-industrial levels. “The celebration surrounding the annual Pacific bluefin auction hides how deeply in trouble this species really is,” said Jamie Gibbon, associate manager for global tuna conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts. However, there have been some signs of progress when it comes to protecting the bluefin . Japan and other governments have endorsed plans to rebuild the stocks of Pacific bluefin, and the goal is to reach 20 percent of historic levels by 2034. Last year’s auction was the last at the world famous Tsukiji fish market. This year, it shifted to a new facility which is located on a former gas plant site in Tokyo Bay. The move would have happened sooner, but was delayed repeatedly over concerns of soil contamination. Via The Guardian  Image via Shutterstock

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Endangered bluefin tuna sold for $3.1 billion to sushi tycoon

New Jersey first state to ban wild animals in circuses

December 20, 2018 by  
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Last week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill banning the use of elephants, tigers and other wild and exotic animals in circus acts that travel through the state, making New Jersey the first state in the country to pass such a law. Known as “Nosey’s Law,” the bill is designed to protect animals in traveling circus acts from being exploited and abused. Nosey, the law’s namesake, is a 36-year-old African elephant that was forced to travel around the country with a circus even though the animal suffered from crippling arthritis. “These animals belong in their natural habitats or in wildlife sanctuaries, not in performances where their safety and the safety of others is at risk,” Gov. Murphy said in a press release . Governor Murphy said that the law finally became a reality because of the years of hard work by Sen. Ray Lesniak, and the bill passed the New Jersey legislature with only three opposing votes. The bill also overwhelmingly passed during the state’s last legislative session, but then-Governor Chris Christie refused to sign it. Christie’s pocket veto of the bill forced the legislature to start from scratch when Murphy became governor. One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Nilsa Cruz Perez, is now calling on other state’s to follow New Jersey’s lead. She said that circus animals suffer from routine abuse by their handlers for the sake of entertainment. But this law protects other animals from being abused like Nosey— who is now safe and living in an animal sanctuary . Last year, the public’s growing concern over animal welfare led to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus shutting down their “Greatest Show On Earth” after a 146-year run. When they removed elephants from their show tours, the circus was not able to recover from declining ticket sales. Illinois and New York have already banned the use of elephants in traveling or entertainment acts. But, New Jersey was the first to ban all wild and exotic animals. + State of New Jersey Via EcoWatch Images via Shutterstock

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New Jersey first state to ban wild animals in circuses

Indonesia unveils first zero-waste restaurant built with sustainably sourced materials

December 20, 2018 by  
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Eliminating food waste is an arduous task for restaurants around the world. But one new eatery in Bali, Ijen , has implemented various strategic methods to become Indonesia’s first zero-waste restaurant. In addition to only serving sustainably sourced food and providing leftover food scraps to local farms, the forward-thinking restaurant was almost entirely built with reclaimed materials . Ijen is part of the Potato Head Beach Club , which has locations in Jakarta, Bali, Hong Kong and Singapore. The zero-waste restaurant is located on the grounds of the Jakarta location. The design and operation of the open-air venue was designed to reflect the company’s ethos of running hospitality zero-waste venues with absolute minimal impact on the earth. Related: Zero Waste Bistro offers four days of sustainable food and design in NYC Ijen’s building materials feature a number of sustainable products mostly made from reclaimed materials. The interior furnishings include items made out of old motorcycle foam remnants and ethically-sourced Mersawa wood. The flooring was made from a cement mix comprised of broken plates and glassware. The candles found throughout the restaurant were with used cooking oil. Deadstock cloth napkins were given new life thanks to a local dye house. Even the menus are printed on sustainably harvested paper bound to boards made from recycled tires provided by local flip-flop brand Indosole. Additionally impressive is the restaurant’s commitment to working with local fisherman and farmers to provide sustainable farm-to-table menu options . Executive Chef Wayan Kresna Yasa works with local fisherman to source fresh fish caught using a hand-reeling process. Vegetables are farm-fresh, and rice served at the restaurant is provided by the UNESCO-protected Jatiluwih terraces. Although the kitchen strives to use all of its stock, there are a variety of methods used to reuse any leftover food scraps. Ijen staff members meticulously separate organic and inorganic waste. Additional food remnants are fed to pigs at local farms or composted on site . Shellfish shells are powdered and used in animal feed or fertilizer. All dry goods are sent to be recycled through a local responsible waste management service. + Ijen Restaurant Via Treehugger Images via Potato Head Beach Club

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Indonesia unveils first zero-waste restaurant built with sustainably sourced materials

Climate change is killing reindeer in the Arctic

December 14, 2018 by  
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A new Arctic Report Card from the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has revealed that the wild reindeer and caribou populations have plummeted by more than half over the last two decades. According to the report, the impact of climate change in the Arctic has resulted in the reindeer population falling from 5 million to 2.1 million. The report found that the weather patterns and vegetation changes in the Arctic tundra have had a major negative impact on the reindeer, and the wild herds in northern Canada and Alaska have been hit the worst, with some of the herds shrinking by more than 90 percent. Related: Norway rejects wind farm in favor of wild reindeer “We see increased drought in some areas due to climate warming , and the warming itself leads to a change of vegetation,” said professor Howard Epstein, an environmental scientist from the University of Virginia. Epstein was one of the scientists involved with the research for the new report, and he explained that the reindeer eat lichen, which grows at ground level. But the warming temperature has led to taller vegetation, and it is “out-competing” the lichen. The warmer climate has also meant more bugs in the region, and that results in the reindeer having to spend their day getting the insects off of them or hiding from the insects. Increased rain has caused a problem, because it falls on snowy ground and creates hard layers of ice covering the tundra. This makes it difficult for the animals, because they can’t push their noses through the ice to get to their food. As for what can be done about the problem, the BBC reported that reducing carbon emissions and limiting temperature increases needs to be done on a global scale. Not only will this help the reindeer, but it will also decrease extreme weather events around the world. + NOAA Via BBC Image via U.S. Department of State

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Climate change is killing reindeer in the Arctic

A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for pets

December 13, 2018 by  
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Our pets are our best friends … our family. That’s why it is important to spoil your animals with eco-friendly gifts that will make them and the planet happy. From chew toys made from sustainable hemp and wool to collars made of recycled plastic, here our some of our favorite holiday gifts for pets. Chew toys Whether your dog likes to snuggle with its chew toys or is a tough chewer who rips everything to shreds, these toys will make Fido the happiest pup on the planet. Each option is handmade in the U.S. from sustainable hemp canvas and eco-felt wool. They are durable enough to withstand extra-tough dogs, and they can also hold up to a washing machine. Pet beds Whether you have cats, dogs or both, all your furry friends will love the Snuggle Bed , a cozy sleeping space that can transform into many bed types to suit your pet’s preferences. This particular bed is OEKO-TEX certified; the company’s pet beds are also made from 100 percent recycled materials . Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for family Cat trees Cats love climbing, scratching and — above all else — resting in baskets. Let your cat do all three with this cat tree , which features a carpeted base, a dangling ball for play, a scratch post and a basket-like sphere made from  banana leaf material . Best of all, this tree will fit right in with your home’s beautiful furniture. Aquariums If you keep fish as pets, make their home the best is can be with an eco-friendly aquarium. This specific tank uses fish waste to fertilize herbs growing atop the tank; the plants in turn clean the water for the fish . Related: How to make your own eco-friendly aquarium accessories Collars and leashes Adorn your lovable pets in nature-inspired collars and leashes made from recycled plastic bottles. For added style, this version mimics the “distinctive look and feel of a classic polo shirt,” making your pet cooler and classier than you. Images via  Rhaúl V. Alva , Honest Pet Products , Pet Play , Wayfair , Back to the Roots  and Lupine Pet

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Dutch designer creates leather alternative from palm leaves

December 5, 2018 by  
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The leather industry has taken a beating from conscientious consumers for decades, and for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the chemicals used in leather processing are toxic to humans and the environment. Animal advocates are also vocal about protecting the animals used to produce leather. So opponents of leather are always seeking alternatives. One Dutch designer, Tjeerd Veenhoven, is doing his part by developing leather look-alike rugs from palm leaves, called palm leather. Rather than relying on the resource-consuming practice of raising cattle, Veenhoven sources his materials from some of the 80 million trees currently growing naturally, creating a sustainable option to traditional leather. Related: A former leather tannery is transformed into an apartment trio in Lisbon Curiosity launched the invention when Veenhoven became intrigued by the pattern and texture of the palm leaf and asked a friend in India to send him some to experiment with. Although naturally brittle, he found that with glycerin, water and a few other materials he could soften the palm and give it better pliable qualities. Veenhoven’s motivation stems from the belief that producing less meat sources both for food and materials will benefit the planet through the reduction of required resources and the increase in plant systems that are more sustainable. Because of this belief, the processing of palm leather aims to use minimal water compared to cotton or leather and uses no harmful chemicals. In fact, all ingredients could be consumed by humans and are safe to return to nature. Bouncing around from his initial production in Holland, the manufacturing moved to India and then to the Dominican Republic where they are produced now with an emphasis on green initiatives. Related: Nike calls “Flyleather” its most sustainable leather material yet The rugs are assembled with small strips of the palm leather pressed together and mounted to a woven base, which can be produced in a variety of colors to suit different decor needs. The future of palm leather looks promising as other industries begin to notice it and the company focuses on other products that can be made with it. For example, car manufacturers striving to replace leather seats with a vegan option are eager to consider palm leather as an alternative. + Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven Via Dezeen Images via Tjeerd Veenhoven    

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Dutch designer creates leather alternative from palm leaves

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