Venice’s worst flood in 50 years blamed on climate change

November 14, 2019 by  
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Venice is inundated with floodwaters, with more than 85 percent of the city, including its historic basilica and centuries-old buildings, experiencing floods. Both residents and tourists are forced to navigate streets in waist-high waters, prompting the Venetian mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, to issue a state of emergency for the city. Nearly a third of Venice’s 1,100 raised walkways are now overwhelmed by high water. While exceptionally high tides, called acqua alta , have occurred here every five years or so, this year’s deluge is the worst since 1966. A combination of climate change and a billion-dollar project derailed by political scandal are factors contributing to the damage. “Venice is on its knees,” Brugnaro lamented earlier this week on Twitter. “We need everyone’s help to overcome these days that are putting us to the test.” Heavy rain, strong southerly winds and a full moon worked together, scientists say, in drawing the tidewater higher than usual. Traditionally, Venetians have recognized that whenever water climbs to more than 4.5 feet above the hydrographic station at Punta della Salute, the tide is then deemed an “exceptional” one. Meanwhile, the high tide earlier this week had a high-water mark registering 6 feet 2 inches, which is just a couple of inches below the highest Venetian flood ever recorded back in 1966. Related: Study estimates sea level rise two times worse than worst-case scenario Climate change is exacerbating the situation as melting ice, snow and glaciers around the world are raising sea levels. The sea level rise places Venice at greater risk. But other aspects are at play as well. Venice is sinking due to subsidence from plate tectonic movement underneath, wherein the Adriatic plate is subducting beneath the Apennines Mountains. Similarly, Venice has long been pumping groundwater from beneath the city; as the ground compacts from centuries of building construction, the city is shifting while it settles, causing a subsidence range of 0.04 to 0.20 inches (or 1 to 5 millimeters) per year. Unfortunately, Venice’s planned project for a series of large, movable undersea barriers, called MOSE, is still far from completion, due to soaring cost overruns, delays and corruption scandals. MOSE’s floodgates are designed to be raised above the seabed to shut off the lagoon from rising sea levels. The endeavor is still in a testing phase. Via NPR and BBC Image via Shutterstock

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Venice’s worst flood in 50 years blamed on climate change

Waterstudio unveils the world’s first floating timber tower

November 14, 2019 by  
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Amsterdam-based design firm Waterstudio is already well-known for its incredible floating architecture, but it continues to break ground in the world of innovative design. Now, the firm, which is led by Koen Olthuis, has unveiled the world’s first floating timber tower. Slated for the waters of Rotterdam, the tower is made out of CLT and will house office space, a public green park and a restaurant with a terrace. Waterstudio’s most recent project is a contemporary take on floating architecture. The 130-foot-tall tower will be made out of cross-laminated timber, making the structure much lighter than concrete builds. Additionally, working with CLT means the building will be made with a renewable resource , providing the city of Rotterdam with a cutting-edge sustainable landmark. The tower will also make use of large expanses of glass to let plenty of natural light into the interior. Abundant vegetation, including pocket gardens planted with vegetables, will be found throughout the tower — inside and out. Related: Waterstudio.nl’s Sea Tree is a protected floating habitat for flora and fauna According to Olthuis, the building’s design is akin to a sheet of paper that has been pushed together until a tower forms in the middle. The base of the tower is located on a flat platform, which will be covered in vegetation. Rising up from the deck, the tower’s facade is marked by a series of V-shaped columns. Inside, a spacious atrium will be flooded with natural light . Although the tower will be mainly used as office space , there are several areas slated for the public. With offices located on the upper floors, the lower floors and main deck will house several publicly accessible spaces, such as a gallery and a coffee bar. Also on the lower deck, a restaurant will feature a beautiful terrace that provides stunning views of the harbor. For additional space, a lush, green courtyard will let workers and visitors enjoy fresh air day or night. This area is designed to be a flexible space for various functions and events happening year-round. + Waterstudio Images via Waterstudio

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Waterstudio unveils the world’s first floating timber tower

This year’s ozone hole could be the smallest it has been in 30 years

September 17, 2019 by  
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For decades, scientists have closely observed the ozone layer , which protects Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This year, just in time for World Ozone Day, the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) announced the state of the ozone hole — its size is the smallest it has been in the past 30 years. Ozone is created in our atmosphere when the sun’s high-energy UV rays rupture the stable covalent bonds of atmospheric oxygen (O2) molecules, transforming them into free radicals. Free radical oxygen atoms, being charged particles, readily react with other oxygen molecules to form ozone (O3). In nature, ozone molecules continually cycle so that they form and re-form at equilibrium. Related: The ozone is finally healing and could be completely repaired by 2060 However, the late 1970s saw scientific acknowledgment that pollutants from industrial and consumer emissions of chlorofluorocarbons ( CFCs ) prevent the normal balanced reformation of ozone, foreshadowing a weakened ozone layer. By 1985, the first recognized “ozone hole” — a patch of thin ozone layer in the upper atmosphere — was detected, alarming scientists and policy makers alike. Two years later, in August 1987, the Montreal Protocol , a landmark international agreement, banned production and use of ozone-depleting substances. A few weeks afterward, the United Nations designated September 16 as International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer — more commonly known as World Ozone Day — to spread awareness for stewardship of our planet’s fragile ozone layer. Since then, scientists and researchers, like those at CAMS and the intergovernmental World Meteorological Organization (WMO), have meticulously tracked the ozone hole. Daily readings are documented thanks to a worldwide cooperative network of stations. Interestingly, the WMO projected that a recovery of the ozone layer to pre-1970s levels might be foreseeable around the year 2060. But this year’s findings could alter those projections. The 2019 hole is appearing to be the smallest size it has been in the past three decades, and its behavior has been intriguing. A polar vortex in early September affected the hole’s opening, then displaced the hole so that it was off-center and “far from the pole.” “This year, we have seen that the ozone hole has been particularly unusual,” said Antje Innes, senior scientist at CAMS. “Although it started growing relatively early, at the beginning of September, a sudden warming of the stratosphere disturbed the cold polar vortex that gives rise to the ozone hole.” The deputy lead at CAMS, Richard Engelen, shared that the small size of this year’s ozone hole is encouraging, but there is still a need for further study. “Right now, I think we should view this as an interesting anomaly,” Engelen said. “We need to find out more about what caused it.” + CAMS Via BBC Image via CAMS

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This year’s ozone hole could be the smallest it has been in 30 years

Robotic fish offer a solution to controlling invasive species

September 17, 2019 by  
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Invasive species have become a growing environmental challenge, causing serious harm to ecosystems. An interdisciplinary team from New York University (NYU) and the University of Western Australia is utilizing robotic fish to curb the damaging effects of invasive species by scaring the invaders enough so that they reproduce less. For the study, the invasive species in question are mosquitofish. The enormous environmental impact that mosquitofish have unleashed has led the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list them amongst the world’s 100 most-harmful invasive exotic species. Related: Invasive longhorned tick could spread disease across the US What makes mosquitofish a successful invasive species? For one, in their new environments, they no longer contend with their primary predators, the largemouth bass. This allows mosquitofish populations to burgeon. Secondly, mosquitofish have high genetic variability, permitting them to acclimate and adapt quickly. They spread exponentially throughout their new environment, often displacing local fauna by out-competing for the same food or even preying on them. To address the challenge of invasive mosquitofish, lead researcher Maurizio Porfiri of NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, together with a team of collaborators, has conducted biomimicry experiments in the laboratory using biologically inspired robotic fish. The robot fish act as predators, simulating largemouth bass, to provoke mosquitofish stress responses. Stressing the invasive mosquitofish depletes their energy reserves and, in turn, disrupts their reproduction rates. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study using robots to evoke fear responses in this invasive species ,” Porfiri explained. “The results show that a robotic fish that closely replicates the swimming patterns and visual appearance of the largemouth bass has a powerful, lasting impact on mosquitofish in the lab setting.” Porfiri is no stranger to biomimetic robotics. For over a decade, Porfiri has designed and deployed robotic fish, studying their interactions with live fish to glean new insights into animal behavior. This recent research moves the scientific community closer toward realizing the potential of aquatic robots in assisting with environmental protection efforts. “Further studies are needed to determine if these effects translate to wild populations , but this is a concrete demonstration of the potential of robotics to solve the mosquitofish problem,” confirmed Giovanni Polverino, Forrest Fellow at the University of Western Australia’s Department of Biological Sciences and lead author of the paper. “We have a lot more work going on between our schools to establish new, effective tools to combat the spread of invasive species.” + Journal of the Royal Society Interface Image via NYU

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Robotic fish offer a solution to controlling invasive species

Engineers invent origami-inspired self-watering pots that are made from 100% recycled materials

August 26, 2019 by  
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The summer months are a wonderful time to go exploring unknown parts of the world, but traveling for weeks on end means certain death for most house plants, until now. A team of plant-loving engineers have designed an innovative self-watering plant pot. POTR Pots are flat pack plant pots designed to self-water plants and are made from 100% recycled materials . POTR Pots were invented by Scottish designers, Andrew Flynn and Martin Keane, who happen to also be serious plant lovers. According to Flynn and Keane, who have just recently kicked off a Kickstarter campaign featuring their innovative design, the prototype is the plant pot for the 21st century. Related: Recycling can get kids free books in southern Italy The team embarked on their invention by creating an eco-friendly design using 100% recycled materials, which can be recycled at the end of the pots’ life span. All of the materials used in the design, mainly recycled polypropylene , were sourced from nearby locations to reduce the project’s overall carbon footprint. Using recycled polypropylene means that the pots are not only eco-friendly , but incredibly flexible and durable. The pots won’t break into a million bits like regular clay pots if dropped. Additionally, the material allows for folding origami hinges , which enable the product to be flat-packed. To open the pots, just pull on the Bobbiny recycled cotton cord and the pot is ready for use. Before adding in the plant itself, two ends of the cord must be looped under the inner pot stand and  inserted into the plant’s soil. The cotton cord allows the plant to suck up water when thirsty. Besides being incredibly practical and user-friendly, the pots, which come in various sizes, are incredibly eco-friendly. According to the designers, the POTR pots have almost 100 times less CO2 than clay or concrete plant pots, due to the use of recycled materials as well as the flat-pack design which reduces transport costs. + POTR Pots Via BBC Images via POTR Pots

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Engineers invent origami-inspired self-watering pots that are made from 100% recycled materials

Could the Florida Aquarium save ‘Americas Great Barrier Reef?’

August 26, 2019 by  
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Researchers at Tampa’s Florida Aquarium announced that they have managed to make a group of coral reproduce two days in a row. This is the first such successful attempt at Atlantic coral reproduction in a lab setting and could have important implications for saving barrier reefs. “Project Coral” is a program the aquarium designed in partnership with London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens . The objective: to create large coral egg deposits in a laboratory and ultimately repopulate the Florida Reef Tract. Related: Can the Cayman Islands save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Florida’s coral reefs are the world’s third largest barrier reef ecosystem. This phenomenal system, often called “America’s Great Barrier Reef,” extends from St. Lucie Inlet, north of Miami, to the Dry Tortugas, which are west of the Florida Keys. Biscayne National Park and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary contain about two-thirds of the reef tract. But pollution , climate change and the orange sponge that invades the weakened reefs have destroyed much of the ecosystem. Can Project Coral heal the threatened reefs? “It’s pure excitement to be the first to achieve a breakthrough in the world,” Roger Germann, CEO of the Florida Aquarium, told CNN . “Our team of experts cracked the code … that gives hope to coral in the Florida Reef Tract and to coral in the Caribbean and Atlantic Oceans.” The researchers started working with Staghorn coral in 2014 but then shifted their concentration to pillar coral. Devastated by disease, pillar coral are now almost extinct . Unfortunately, the female and male clusters are too far apart to reproduce. The aquarium’s coral greenhouses use high-tech gear like LED technology and computerized systems to imitate the real reef ecosystem and send out signals to encourage reproduction. The aquarium has proven doubters wrong — it is possible to generate native Atlantic coral spawn in a laboratory. It’s still too early to determine how this controlled experiment will transfer to all the variables involved in repopulating a wild reef. But this success has spurred scientists’ positive attitudes about a happy future for both the reef and Florida’s tourism economy. Germann said, “Now there really is hope … I think we can save it.” Via CNN Image via National Park Service

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Could the Florida Aquarium save ‘Americas Great Barrier Reef?’

G7 summit: Fashion companies make a pact to protect the planet

August 26, 2019 by  
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Known as The Fashion Pact, a group of 32 major luxury brands, labels and companies, such as Adidas, Burberry, Kering, Hermes, Nike, Prada and Puma, shared its ideas to improve sustainability in the fashion industry at the G7 summit from August 24 to 26. While addressing French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, some of the pact’s members said they would focus on using other options in their work in order to protect forests and minimize plastic usage. Related: Zara pledges 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025 At the summit, Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti said, “We know that one company cannot solve the environmental challenges facing our planet alone, and we believe in the power of collaboration to drive real change.” Some of the pact’s ideas include pledging to 100 percent renewable energy for operations by 2030; removing microfiber pollution; boosting biodiversity and creating eco-friendly agricultural, mining and forestry processes; and cutting back on single-use plastics in packaging by 2030. The fashion industry initiative came to fruition in early 2019, when Macron asked François-Henri Pinault, the CEO of Kering Group, which owns Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, to form a coalition that discusses how the industry’s current practices impact the environment . Pinault talked about his ideas for the coalition at the Copenhagen fashion summit in May, according to The Guardian . “This has nothing to do with competition,” he told delegates at the time. “It’s a matter of leadership. Alone it is useless, you have to work with your peers. We might not succeed, but we will achieve more than not doing anything.” Several key fashion companies have been criticized for not addressing recent wildfires in the Amazon rainforest , despite donating millions of euros toward the restoration of the Notre Dame. Macron described the situation in the Amazon as an international crisis on Friday and said he wanted it to be addressed as a key issue at the 45th G7 summit. Via The Guardian and Reuters Image via Tokatlian

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G7 summit: Fashion companies make a pact to protect the planet

German court rules mass killing of male chicks legal

June 14, 2019 by  
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This month, the Federal Administrative Court in Germany ruled to uphold the common practice of killing male chicks, which are widely considered inefficient for meat production. The ruling is meant to be temporary, until an alternative and scalable solution is available, despite outcry by animal rights advocates. The hearing is in response to a ban of the practice from 2013 within a state in Germany. Following the ban, two major hatcheries challenged the decision, claiming that the practice was necessary for food production. On Thursday, the courts ruled that the practice was indeed legal– at least temporarily– and does not contradict the country’s Animal Welfare Act. Germany’s Minister for Agriculture, however, stated that the practice is ethically unacceptable. Related:Free at last: Canada passes Act to prohibit dolphin and whale captivity Male chicks are mass slaughtered throughout the world. They do not grow as fast as hens, and therefore are considered inefficient for meat production. The meat industry will be worth worth about US $7 trillion by 2025, and estimates show that about 84 percent of consumers had chicken in the last two weeks. Despite some reports that alternative meat demands are rising, meat industry statistics show growing demand for animal products, especially in wealthy nations. For every hen consumed, an equal number of male chicks has been slaughtered. The most common ways for slaughtering newborn chicks include gassing and high-speed grinders. In Germany alone, 45 million male chicks are slaughtered annually. One German company already has an alternative on the market– an egg they claim can be tested for sex before it hatches. The company can determine the sex of the egg just seven days after fertilization by extracting fluid from the egg and testing it for hormones. The company is selling their eggs in 200 German markets and hopes to take off as a solution to this animal welfare concern. Via The BBC Image via onefox

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German court rules mass killing of male chicks legal

Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies

May 29, 2019 by  
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On Monday, Malaysian authorities reported that the last male Sumatran rhino died in a nature reserve on Borneo island. Currently, there is only one female from the same species remaining in Malaysia. The male, Tam, is thought to have died from old age after he was discovered on a palm oil plantation. Efforts to breed Tam with females of the same species were unsuccessful. Related: Koalas declared functionally extinct Sumatran rhinos are one of five rhino species , and only one of three found in Asia. At their peak, Sumatran rhinos could be found in Bhutan, India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. They are the smallest rhino species in the world. Experts estimate that between 30 and 100 remain, with a few also living in captivity in Indonesia, and the U.S. Like most species on the brink of extinction , rhinos have suffered from deforestation and loss of habitat. Logging, roads, urban development, farms and palm oil plantations have carved up their habitat. According to experts, the fragmentation of natural spaces is the primary threat to their population. Small reserves and wild spaces are simply not enough. Disconnected populations also make it difficult for the solitary creatures to find mates and reproduce. “With logging, with roads for development, the patches of forest available are shrinking. Frankly it’s hard for them to find each other to mate and breed successfully,” said Cathy Dean of Save the Rhinos International. In addition, rhinos are frequently poached for their horns and other medicinal purposes. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists Sumatran rhinos as critically endangered , however Save the Rhino International believes there may still be hope for the species. According to their research, only about 20 rhinos could still provide enough genetic diversity to save them from extinction if they are able to successfully mate. Via BBC Image via Charles W. Harden

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Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies

Loophole allows 1M tons of sludge to be dumped on Great Barrier Reef

February 26, 2019 by  
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The world’s largest coral reef is facing a major sludge crisis. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority just approved the dumping of one million tons of sludge on the delicate reef system thanks to a loophole in the country’s law. Marine officials say that port industries have the right to dump waste that is dredged from the ocean floor wherever they want, including over the Great Barrier Reef . Environmentalists are concerned that the sludge will “smother” the reef and are looking to dump the waste elsewhere. Related: University of Queensland wants to drop “bommies” on the Great Barrier Reef “The last thing the reef needs is more sludge dumped on it, after being slammed by the floods recently,” Larissa Waters, co-head of the Greens Party, explained. “One million tons of dumping dredged sludge into world heritage waters treats our reef like a rubbish tip.” According to  BBC , Waters warned that if the sludge is dumped directly over the reef, it could have devastating effects on the ecosystem, which is already coping with global warming and recent flooding in the area. The majority of the sludge is being removed from ocean floors in Hay Point Port — a region that leads the world in coal exports. Although environmentalists are concerned about dumping one million tons of sludge on the Great Barrier Reef, officials with the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation do not believe it is an issue. The company just released a statement online about how the sludge dump will have a low impact on the coral reef and will only affect it in the short-term. The closer the sludge is dumped on the coral reef, the worse it will affect it in the long-term. Experts believe that if the sludge is placed farther out, then it will have less of an impact on the coral reef. That said, the waste still contains trace metals, which can harm the delicate ecosystem. The sludge controversy comes a year after Australia promised to dedicate $500 million AUD to preserve the Great Barrier Reef. Over the past few years, the coral reef has been reduced by 30 percent, mostly due to an invasive species of starfish called the crown-of-thorns and significant coral bleaching. Via BBC Image via Kyle Taylor

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