Polar bears could go extinct sooner than scientists previously thought

February 5, 2018 by  
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We’ve long known climate change will cause trouble for polar bears in the wild, but a new study reveals their metabolic rates are higher than we thought, and a changing environment is making it harder for them to snare enough food to satisfy energy needs. As they struggle to find prey, The Guardian reported they could go extinct faster than scientists previously feared. A team of scientists led by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Alaska Science Center and the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) studied nine polar bears over three years during a time period in April, in the Beaufort Sea near Alaska . They discovered the bears required three juveniles or one adult ringed seal every 10 days. But five of the nine polar bears didn’t reach that goal during the study, and their body weight plummeted as a result – up to around 44 pounds, during one study period of 10 days. Related: Video of starving polar bear ‘rips your heart out of your chest’ USGS biologist Anthony Pagano told The Guardian, “We found a feast and famine lifestyle – if they missed out on seals it had a pretty dramatic effect on them. We were surprised to see such big changes in body masses, at a time when they should be putting on bulk to sustain them during the year. This and other studies suggest that polar bears aren’t able to meet their bodily demands like they once were.” Metabolic rates the scientists measured in the field averaged over 50 percent higher than previous studies predicted. Combined with other studies on drops in the numbers of polar bears recently, and their body condition, scientists say this new study, published this month in Science , reveals the bears are in a worse plight than we thought. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average, per The Guardian. Polar bears hunt for prey on sea ice , but as that ice diminishes, many polar bears must resort to foraging for food on land – like in garbage bins of remote towns, according to The Guardian. + University of California, Santa Cruz + Science Via The Guardian Images via Jessica K. Robertson, U.S. Geological Survey and Anthony M. Pagano, USGS

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Polar bears could go extinct sooner than scientists previously thought

Tesla inks deal to turn 50,000 Australian homes into solar power generators

February 5, 2018 by  
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50,000 homes in South Australia will soon receive solar panels and Tesla batteries as part of a groundbreaking plan to transform homes into grid-connected power generators. This latest collaboration between the state of South Australia and Tesla seeks to create an interconnected energy system in which homes can share energy through a smart-grid system. Select homes will receive solar panels and rechargeable batteries for free, while the project will be funded by the sale of excess energy produced by linked, energy-producing homes. The recently announced plan is only the latest renewable energy initiative in South Australia, which began its comprehensive efforts towards clean power after a state-wide blackout in 2016. “My government has already delivered the world’s biggest battery, now we will deliver the world’s largest virtual power plant,” said state Premier Jay Weatherill in a statement . “We will use people’s homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefiting with significant savings in their energy bills.” To be fair, South Australia’s big battery was a collaborative effort with Tesla, one that began with a bet in which Elon Musk offered to offer the battery for free if it was not built within 100 days. Related: South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant Musk won that bet, but South Australia is reaping the victorious benefits of clean energy. The latest plan will begin with a trial phase in which 1,100 public housing projects will be equipped with a 5kW solar panel system Tesla battery. This will then be followed by similar installations at 24,000 public housing projects, with further accepted homes over the next four years. With up to 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt hours of battery storage, the clean energy potential of the interlinked 50,000 homes will be invaluable as Australia seeks to turn away from coal, the country’s main energy source. Via Phys.org Images via Tesla

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Tesla inks deal to turn 50,000 Australian homes into solar power generators

Antony Gibbon’s minimalist wooden Jutt House appears to float above the earth

February 5, 2018 by  
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UK-based architect Antony Gibbon just shared his latest nature-inspired design with Inhabitat – and it’s a stunner. The Jutt House is minimalist wooden home designed to bring its occupants closer to serenity of the natural environment. Thanks to a glazed front facade and a “floating” entryway, the home blends into virtually any environment. The Jutt House is part of Antony Gibbon’s Inhabit treehouse series, and it’s specifically geared towards clients looking for an affordable, yet visually pleasing home. The building is strategically designed for an affordable and simplified construction process. The home sits flat on the ground, with a one or two meter overhang at the front, and it requires very little structural engineering. Related: Antony Gibbon’s Ventt House is a minimalist retreat embedded into the rocky landscape The home’s “floating” entryway allows it to be set on virtually any landscape, and amazing views are all but guaranteed with the home’s fully glazed front wall. Inside, natural light floods the living space. The home’s elongated volume has an efficient open layout with a second floor sleeping loft accessible via a spiral staircase. + Antony Gibbon Designs + Antony Gibbon on Instagram Images via Antony Gibbon

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Antony Gibbon’s minimalist wooden Jutt House appears to float above the earth

A president confronts the existential threat of climate change

January 20, 2018 by  
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Towards the end of his second term, former president Barack Obama toured the Arctic with a Rolling Stone journalist. There, they faced our uncertain future.

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A president confronts the existential threat of climate change

512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth

December 14, 2017 by  
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A recently identified 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the world’s oldest living vertebrate. Although scientists discovered the 18-foot fish in the North Atlantic months ago, its age was only recently revealed in a study published in the journal Science .  Greenland sharks have the longest lifespan of any vertebrate animal, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the species would boast the oldest living individual vertebrate as well. Nonetheless, the fact that this creature may have been born as early as 1505 is remarkable. “It definitely tells us that this creature is extraordinary and it should be considered among the absolute oldest animals in the world,” said marine biologist Julius Nelson, whose research team studied the shark’s longevity. To determine the shark’s age, scientists used a mathematical model that analyzes the lens and cornea of a shark’s eye and links size of the shark to its age. Greenland sharks grow at a rate of about 1 centimeter per year, which allowed scientists to estimate a particular shark’s age. The ability to measure the age of this mysterious shark is relatively new. “Fish biologists have tried to determine the age and longevity of Greenland sharks for decades, but without success,” said Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland. “Given that this shark is the apex predator (king of the food chain) in Arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or for 1,000 years.” Related: Airbnb is offering a night in an underwater bedroom surrounded by 35 sharks The Greenland shark thrives in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Despite its considerable size, comparable to that of a great white shark, the Greenland shark is a scavenger and has never been observed hunting. Its diet primarily consists of fish, though remains of reindeer, polar bear , moose, and seals have been found in the species’ stomachs. To cope with life in deep water, the living tissues of a Greenland shark contains high levels of trimethylamine N-oxide, which makes the meat toxic. However, when the flesh is fermented, it can be consumed, as it is in Iceland as a dish known as Kæstur hákarl. Via International Business Times Images via Wikimedia and Julius Nelson

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512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth

Tesla’s all-electric semi truck has a bold new competitor

December 14, 2017 by  
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Just one month ago, Elon Musk made headlines with the debut of his revolutionary Tesla Semi Truck . The super-sized electric marvel is able to get 500 miles on a charge, reach 60 mph in five seconds without a trailer (or 20 seconds with one), and boasts regenerative braking able to recover 98 percent of kinetic energy to the battery. Impressive? Yes. But there’s another kid in town with designs to beat Musk to the market with an electric rig of his own. Dakota Semler, the 25-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Thor Trucks , has developed with his team an all-electric semi that’s been dubbed the ET-One. The ET-One is the first product from the company and Semler hopes it will be the flagship model in a robust, customizable line that will also eventually include delivery vans and work vehicles. The goal, Semler relayed to Bloomberg, is to “work on a one-off basis, customizing clients’ fleets per their specifications.” Related: Revolutionary Tesla Semi Truck arrives with a whopping 500-mile driving range Like Musk’s model, the ET-One boasts a sleek, futuristic aesthetic, an all-electric motor that ditches dirty diesel in whole, and the ability to haul up to 80,000 pounds of cargo—something currently only the industry’s highest class of trucks can tow. The Thor version also uses a 22-inch touchscreen on its dashboard which communicates with the vehicle’s electric motor and battery packs, which can carry the truck 300 miles on a charge. Thor is hoping to bring the ET-One to market in 2019 at an estimated starting price of $150,000; the Tesla Semi is expected to sell for $150,000 with a 300-mile range, and $180,000 with 500 miles of range. The prices are more than that of comparable gas semis which range from $100,000 to $125,000, but wholly competitive over the long term when factoring in the cost of fuel over the life of the truck as well as maintenance.  Electric engines require far less regular maintenance than their diesel counterparts. While Thor has a ways to go before it scales—its team is just 17 employees—it is diligently making plans to make the ET-One more widely available for demos in 2018, and hunting down the capital needed to grow (currently, the project is funded by founder Semler who also has Malibu Wine Safaris and multiple real estate companies in his portfolio). With that said, the inevitability of stricter emission rules in the coming years will surely give Thor the boost it needs. Via Bloomberg Images via Thor Trucks

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Tesla’s all-electric semi truck has a bold new competitor

Denmark just opened the "worlds most humane" maximum security prison

December 14, 2017 by  
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The Danish island of Falster is now home to the world’s most humane maximum security penal institution, Storstrøm Prison. Designed by Danish architects C.F. Møller , the building has been hailed for its strategic features that create a vibrant community for the inmates, in lieu of the severe living conditions typically found in prisons around the world. Storstrøm, which can hold up to 250 people, is designed to be a mini-community where inmates can spend their time in an environment that is as “normal” as possible. Working with the Danish Prison Service, the architects created a vibrant community where the inmates would be reminded of a life they once left behind, therefore encouraging an eagerness to leave the system and return to society. Related: C.F. Møller is building a garden-filled vertical village in Antwerp The prison layout spans the size of 18 football fields and is centered around social activities. There are ample options for the inmates to spend their time exercising, studying, creating art , or praying in the onsite church. Additionally, inmates buy their own food at the grocery store. “We have concentrated all buildings around a center for joint activities. Here we have a square with, for example, an activity house, a grocery store, a school, a church and a devotional room. We have also made an effort to promote communication between inmates and staff,” architect Mads Mandrup of C.F. Møller told the Danish newspaper Berlingske. The cell conditions are also designed to provide a bearable lifestyle while incarcerated. The cells are 13 square meters and come equipped with a refrigerator, closet, and a 22-inch television. The cell’s floor-to-ceiling windows flood the interior with natural light , but are angled in a way to protect privacy. Although being hailed as a strategic design to help prisoners adjust to prison life, the various amenities have caused some to criticize the design as being too lofty for lawbreakers. However, officials claim that despite the decent living conditions on the inside, the prison is still a high-security fortress with a six-meter high wall and tension steel wires around the perimeter of the complex. + C.F. Møller Photography by Torben Eskerod via C.F. Møller

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Denmark just opened the "worlds most humane" maximum security prison

Video of starving polar bear rips your heart out of your chest

December 12, 2017 by  
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Conservationist Paul Nicklen recorded this devastating video of a polar bear struggling to survive in a warming Arctic. With now-viral footage, which Nicklen describes as so wrenching that “it rips your heart out of your chest,” Nicklen hopes to motivate action to save the bears and their polar climate. If that fails, he hopes to at least document this tragic ecological period. “When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like,” said Nicklen in an interview with National Geographic . “This is what a starving bear looks like.” Polar bears require solid sea ice to hunt its most essential prey, seals . If there is no sea ice, the bears have nothing to stand upon as they hunt for the mostly aquatic mammals. Polar bears are adapted for a food-free season of 3 to 4 months, the period during which the sea ice has historically melted in the Arctic. However, as climate change has extended the ice-free period in the Arctic , polar bears have suffered. Although the bears are not currently considered an endangered species, they are threatened and may slip into endangered status if their population continues to decline. Related: “You had to live it to believe it” – hundreds of polar bears rush to feast on one whale carcass Commentators on Nicklen’s video have questioned why he did not step in to help the starving bear, who spends much of the video desperately searching for something to eat. “Of course, that crossed my mind,” said Nicklen, according to the New York Times . “But it’s not like I walk around with a tranquilizer gun or 400 pounds of seal meat.” Feeding wildlife is also illegal in Canada, where the footage was taken. To effectively save the polar bears, rapid action must be taken to address climate change by shifting to a clean energy economy. Still, even as polar bears suffer an existential threat from melting sea ice, life seems to be finding a way; there are reports of polar-grizzly bear hybrids that have emerged as the two species increasingly share territory. Via New York Times and National Geographic Images via SeaLegacy

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Video of starving polar bear rips your heart out of your chest

Hanoi’s koi cafe has a thriving ecosystem complete with an aquaponic garden

December 12, 2017 by  
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From the outside, this café in Hanoi, Vietnam looks fairly traditional with a tile façade that resembles fish scales and a heavy wood door. But inside hides a thriving garden centered around a koi pond. Farming Architects designed the space as a small, self-contained ecosystem with an indoor waterfall and an aquaponic vegetable garden. The café is nestled in an existing three-story building in Hanoi to which the architects added a steel frame. Its ground floor houses the fish pond filled with colorful koi carp, known as the Japanese national fish. The seating area next to it provides direct views of the water. Customers can also walk around the pond along a stepping stone walkway. Related: Bangkok Residents Turn Abandoned Mall into a Giant Fish Pond The architects included an indoor waterfall flowing down into the pond as a reference to an old Chinese legend according to which if a carp could leap over a waterfall on the Yellow River, called the Dragon Gate, it would be transformed into a dragon and fly away. It also helps oxygenate the water for the fish. The rooftop garden and the pond function as a single ecosystem. Excrements produced by the koi carp are used to create nutrients for the plants growing in the garden on the third floor. Produce grown here is used in preparing the dishes served in the café and helps purify the water that flows back into the aquarium. + Farming Architects Via Dezeen Photos by Nguyen Thai Thach

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Hanoi’s koi cafe has a thriving ecosystem complete with an aquaponic garden

Scientists protest Congress’s plan to open vital Arctic wildlife refuge to oil exploration

November 10, 2017 by  
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An Alaska senator recently introduced legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. 37 Arctic wildlife scientists, including several former officials from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Geological Survey, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, responded the next day with a letter . They oppose oil and gas exploration and development, stsating “such activity would be incompatible with the purposes for which the refuge was established, including ‘to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity.’” Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican of Alaska and chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released the legislation Wednesday. On Thursday, the 37 scientists sent the letter to Murkowski and Maria Cantwell, Ranking Member of the committee and Democrat from Washington. Related: Obama shuts the door on Arctic and Atlantic drilling for next five years Murkowski’s legislation targeted the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the scientists said in their letter, “Decades of biological study and scientific research within the Arctic Refuge have confirmed that the coastal plain specifically is vital to the biological diversity of the entire refuge.” They said polar bears, several migratory bird species, wolves, wolverines, Arctic grayling, caribou, Dolly Varden char, muskoxen, and grizzly bears all live in the coastal plain, which they said “contains the greatest wildlife diversity of any protected area above the Arctic Circle.” Polar bears are among the animals that stand to lose if drilling moves forward in this part of the Arctic. The scientists said three fourths of the coastal plain “is designated as critical habitat for polar bears, which are highly vulnerable to disturbance due to oil and gas activities.” Cantwell told Reuters she’d oppose the legislation. Murkowski’s spokesperson did not comment. Audubon , which made a copy of the letter available online , is calling on people to reach out to their representatives in Congress and ask them to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from development. Via Reuters , The Washington Post , and Audubon Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons , lead image via DepositPhotos

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Scientists protest Congress’s plan to open vital Arctic wildlife refuge to oil exploration

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