Biggest environmental news stories of the decade

December 31, 2019 by  
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As we begin a new decade, we’re taking a look over the biggest environmental news stories since 2010. There’s a little good news, and a lot of not-so-good news. Still, we can look back and learn from what is happening in the hopes of taking action and restoring a brighter future for our planet. Climate change moves into the mainstream, and more kids get involved While a few climate deniers still fill high-ranking political posts, climate change is much more widely accepted as fact — rather than something to “believe in” — than it was in 2010. According to the TED blog, only four TED Talks specifically on climate change were posted in 2010 and 2011, although speakers mentioned the phenomenon. By 2015, TED said, people had shifted to seeing climate change as happening now, rather than in the far-off future, thanks to debates about whether or not places like the island nation of Kiribati were already sinking. Related: 12 good things that happened for the environment in 2019 By the end of the decade, climate change is on the forefront of many people’s minds, especially young people. Worldwide movements like Extinction Rebellion use massive, nonviolent protests to urge politicians to slow the warming. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg rose to international prominence, taking politicians to task about ignoring climate change and even being named Time Magazine’s person of the year in 2019. Deepwater Horizon The decade started with a tragic oil spill on April 20, 2010, one of the worst in history. The explosion on British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operating in the Gulf of Mexico, killed 11 people. It leaked oil into the gulf for 87 days, for a total of 3.19 million barrels of crude oil polluting the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Images of people trying to wipe oil off pelican wings filled the news. Cleanup costs reached at least $65 billion . In addition to economic blows, especially to Louisiana’s shrimp and oyster industries, the animal death toll was high. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, about 82,000 birds, 6,165 sea turtles, 25,900 marine mammals and uncountable numbers of fish perished in the spill. Researchers are still gauging the long-term effects. Extreme weather events become more frequent As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned, global warming escalates weather disasters. The last decade saw 111 climate-related natural disasters that each cost more than $1 billion in damage. These include tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, drought, heatwaves and winter storms. In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, killing 2,981 people and costing an estimated $93.6 billion in damages. Notable U.S. disasters included Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the Missouri tornadoes of 2011. Animal extinctions Humans continued to edge out other animals in the struggle for habitat and resources. According to the World Wildlife Fund , species loss currently stands at between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate, which is the rate Earth would lose species if humans didn’t exist. In 2012, Lonesome George, the last Pinta tortoise , died at over 100 years old. Formosan clouded leopards no longer slink across Taiwan. The Christmas Island pipistrelle, a microbat, has ceased its ultrasonic squeaking. No more baiji dolphins cavort in the Yangtze River. In this last decade, the planet also lost Caribbean monk seals, West African black rhinos, Madagascar hippopotami and Liverpool pigeons. Rainforest deforestation The decade’s final year witnessed much of the Amazonian rainforest go up in smoke. Brazil and Bolivia were particularly hit hard. Many attributed this tragedy at least in part to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s push for development over preservation. Horrifying photos from the National Institute for Space Research revealed enormous bald swaths where trees once stood. During its peak in August 2019, more than 70,000 individual fires were burning. The rainforest plays a critical role in regulating the entire world’s climate, so concerns stretched far beyond Brazil. Related: Amazon rainforest might reach irreversible tipping point as early as 2021 Increase in ocean plastic During the last decade, plastic continued to fill the oceans. But awareness of ocean plastic also grew. A 2018 United Nations study reported that people dump approximately 13 million tons of plastic into the world’s oceans annually, and the researchers expected this number to grow. At the same time, many concerned citizens in cities around the world worked to decrease plastic waste by banning straws and plastic bags. Some hotel chains vowed to no longer stock beverages packaged in single-use plastic bottles. Many companies started developing products made from recycled plastic. Reusable water bottles became an important fashion accessory. China stopped buying American recycling Americans became more adept at recycling , but they weren’t necessarily aware where their recycled goods went. In 2018, China enacted a policy called National Sword. Suddenly, Americans realized their old plastic had largely been going to China , but China didn’t want it anymore. Now at the end of the decade, American cities are scrambling to save unprofitable recycling programs. Ironically, some cities have canceled these programs just when they’ve convinced people to recycle. Right now, it’s cheaper for American companies to produce new plastic than to recycle old. This is one of the many environmental problems that must be addressed in the coming decade. Images via Shutterstock

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Biggest environmental news stories of the decade

Bolivia creates a nature reserve for world’s rarest macaw

August 22, 2018 by  
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The blue-throated macaw is one of the most critically endangered species on the planet – only about 300 remain in the wild. However, the birds are getting some much-needed good news. Bolivian conservation organization  Asociación Armonía has partnered with the American Bird Conservancy , the International Conservation Fund of Canada , IUCN Netherlands and the World Land Trust to create a protected nesting area for the imperiled macaw. Related: Endangered green and loggerhead turtles make Mediterranean comeback This beautiful species of macaw has been declining in population for the past century – but thanks to a 1,680 acre (680-hectare) land purchase in Bolivia, which was made possible by the aforementioned organizations, the birds are making a slow recovery. “Increasing the Blue-throated Macaw population is more likely now that Armonía has secured this important site as a reserve,” said Rodrigo Soria, Executive Director of Asociación Armonía, of the land acquisition. Previously serving as a cattle ranch, the Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Reserve was named after the late founder of the Texas-based nonprofit Bird Endowment. The nature reserve will help further Asociación Armonía’s artificial nest box program, which was launched in 2005 as a way to increase the macaws’ population. “The acquisition means that we can continue the successful nest box program without worry of changing land ownership and management,” added Soria. The site is located in central Bolivia’s Beni savanna and, in combination with the existing Barba Azul Nature Reserve, provides 28,862 acres (11,680 hectares) of protected land for its blue-winged inhabitants. Related: Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet In memory of Rickman, the American Bird Conservancy and Asociación Armonía have pledged to match any contributions to the Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Fund  by up to a total of $100,000 in 2018. The fund aims to provide vital support for reserve management and habitat conservation to ensure the continued success of the nest box program. + American Bird Conservancy + Asociación Armonía

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Bolivia creates a nature reserve for world’s rarest macaw

Illicit trade in jaguar fangs linked to Chinese construction projects

March 5, 2018 by  
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Wildlife experts are worried that the illicit trade in jaguars appears to be growing — and they’ve connected it to Chinese construction projects . According to the journal a rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank” href=”https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-02314-5″> Nature , crackdowns on smuggling tiger parts for use in Chinese traditional medicine could be increasing the market for jaguars. Researchers pointed to recent killings in South America , including a dead jaguar discovered in a Belize drainage canal mostly intact, but missing its fangs. Jaguars are in trouble, according to the World Wildlife Fund , imperiled by habitat loss from deforestation and hunting. And now traffickers may be turning to these big cats for Chinese traditional medicine. According to the Nature article, wildlife trafficking “often follows Chinese construction projects in other countries.” Related: Rhino horn auction website says legal sales “best way to save the rhino” Oxford Brookes University ecologist Vincent Nijman told Nature , “If there’s a demand [in China ] for large-cat parts, and that demand can be fulfilled by people living in parts of Africa, other parts of Asia, or South America, then someone will step in to fill that demand. It’s often Chinese-to-Chinese trade, but it’s turning global.” The Guardian said according to experts, Chinese rail, power plant, and road projects in developing countries are stimulants of illicit trade in body parts of endangered animals. The Guardian quoted Nijman as saying the projects “act like giant vacuum cleaners of wildlife that suck everything back to China.” Eight packages with 186 jaguar fangs were confiscated in Bolivia between August 2014 and February 2015, according to Nature , before they could make it to China. Chinese citizens residing in Bolivia had sent seven of the packages. Eight packages were reportedly intercepted in 2016, and then another in China with 120 fangs. Bolivian biologist Angela Núñez told Nature over 100 jaguars could have been killed for those packages, but it’s impossible to be certain. In Brazil, there were over 50 seizures of packages with jaguar parts last year, according to Oxford Brookes University wildlife researcher Thaís Morcatty, with most packages destined for China or Asia. Nijman said few wildlife trafficking cases around the world end with criminal sentences. “The deterrent is when somebody ends up in jail,” he said, but that doesn’t often occur “because society as a whole in most countries is not interested.” Via Nature and The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Why scientists are transporting ice from a mountain in Bolivia to Antarctica

March 14, 2017 by  
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As climate change imperils glaciers , scientists are scrambling to build a library of ice archives. Ice stores climate data from the past, but if it melts, that valuable information could be lost. A project called Protecting Ice Memory aims to extract ice from the Illimani Mountain in Bolivia and preserve it in Antarctica . The Illimani glacier’s ice can help scientists reconstruct 18,000 years of records. Rising temperatures – especially in the wake of the last El Niño – endanger that data, so in May, a team plans to scale the mountain to obtain three cores, two of which will be sent to a cave at the Concordia Research Station in Antarctica, where annual temperatures are currently around negative 65.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if temperatures warm a few degrees, the samples should be safe in this natural freezer. Related: 50,000 new seeds deposited in Arctic Circle’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault It won’t be easy. The Illimani glacier is almost four miles above sea level. The summit isn’t accessible by helicopter, so the scientists must go up on foot. The team will camp partway up Illimani for a few weeks to acclimatize. Then local porters will tote their 4,500 pounds of equipment to the summit, and it will take another few weeks to install all that equipment. It will take two to four days to extract each one of the three ice cores. Then they’ll need to walk back down the mountain to ship the samples out – two to Antarctica and one to France to study. Patrick Ginot, a Protecting Ice Memory leader, told Fast Co.Exist, “We’re really close to losing the site. It’s really an emergency to extract the ice cores before another warm event will happen…The logistics are complicated to bring it to South Antarctica, but once it’s there, it’s safe.” Protecting Ice Memory has already gathered ice from the Col du Dôme glacier in the Alps’ Mount Blanc. The researchers will collaborate with an international team to obtain ice cores from other locations around the world and develop a library of ice archives possessing dozens of samples for future researchers. Via Fast Co.Exist Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Quebec food waste program to rescue 30.8 million pounds of food

March 14, 2017 by  
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Sending leftover food from grocery stores to food banks may seem like a simple answer to food waste , but management and distribution have complicated the process in the past. Now in Canada , Food Banks of Quebec (FBC) has launched their province-wide Supermarket Recovery Program (SRP) to simplify distribution and management, enabling over 600 grocery stores to easily give back. FBC first launched the SRP, which they say is the first of its kind in Canada, a few years ago. Last year that initial pilot, with 177 grocery stores participating, collected around 5.5 million pounds of food and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2,000 metric tons. This year the FBC launched their province-wide program, with 611 supermarkets participating. According to Global News, the province-wide program will collect around 30.8 million pounds of food and result in 13,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emission reduction every year. Related: This Danish grocery store selling expired goods is so popular that it’s opening a second branch Sam Watts, the executive director of Welcome Hall Mission, a group providing services for the poor in Montreal, said it used to be difficult for supermarkets to accommodate food banks asking them for donations one by one. The SRP makes it easy for them to give unused produce away. Food will be gathered from their stores on a schedule, and then taken to a distribution center and delivered to food banks. As a middleman handing storage – enabling food to stay fresh or frozen – SRP enables leftover food to get safely and swiftly to people who need it. Watts said in a Global News video, “Just to try and put competing companies together in a project like this, it took some real political will. The idea behind it is hey, we’ve got enough food in Quebec to feed everybody, let’s not be throwing things out. Let’s be recuperating what we can recuperate and let’s make sure we get it to people who need it.” Via Global News Images via Masahiro Ihara on Flickr and screenshot

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Scientists warn Amazon jungle faces death spiral

March 14, 2017 by  
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A new study reveals that the Amazon rainforest may face a “death spiral” of deforestation and drought over the next century. The data comes from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and while the entire forest is unlikely to disappear from the face of the Earth, large parts of the region are currently considered to be at risk. The study explores what might happen as climate change causes the region to experience more frequent and more intense dry seasons. While it may seem obvious that reduced rainfall causes trees to die off and forests to shrink, it’s also been shown that forest loss intensified regional droughts as well. When these two factors occur together, it can cause a self-reinforcing feedback loop that could wipe out large portions of forest. Related: A student-designed drone is hunting illegal loggers in the Amazon Rainforest It’s unclear exactly how much of the Amazon is at risk – computer models show this type of forest dieback could threaten up to 38 percent of the Amazon basin. However, researchers stress that eventually most of the Amazon forest could potentially be at risk. The future isn’t completely without hope, however: the study also found that the more diverse an area’s vegetation is, the less susceptible it is to the effects of the feedback loop. So increasing biodiversity could be a vital tool in protecting the Amazon – and other vulnerable regions – from the worst effects of climate change . The full study has been published in the journal Nature Communications . Via The Independent Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Casa Sanchez combines urban living with the lush Bolivian rainforest

February 9, 2017 by  
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Looking like a modest, one-story building when seen from the road, the Sanchez House actually boasts three spacious floors that offer stunning views of the Bolivian Amazon. Young Bolivian architect Juan Carlos Menacho designed the residence, named after its owners, to fit perfectly into a sloping site in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in eastern Bolivia. The 10,674-square-foot house is located in an exclusive gated community in Santa Cruz, and was designed to provide shade and protect from the region’s tropical sun. It utilizes the sloping site to create an illusion of small scale. Its wings are designed around the existing trees, with each room enjoying views of the surrounding greenery. Related: Bolivia’s Ecolodge del Lago takes inspiration from traditional Lak’a Uta architecture Several sustainable features incorporated into the design of the residence, including rainwater harvesting and the use of natural building materials , ensure an eco-friendly performance. The location itself combines urban living and proximity to nature. + Juan Carlos Menacho

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Casa Sanchez combines urban living with the lush Bolivian rainforest

Bolivia’s Ecolodge del Lago takes inspiration from traditional Lak’a Uta architecture

May 19, 2015 by  
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Read the rest of Bolivia’s Ecolodge del Lago takes inspiration from traditional Lak’a Uta architecture Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “green wall” , adobe house , bolivia , Copacabana , Ecolodge del Lago , Lak’a Uta Architecture , Lake Titikaka , solar water heater , stepped terrace , stone sculptures , vegetable garden

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Bolivia’s Ecolodge del Lago takes inspiration from traditional Lak’a Uta architecture

Swirling Green-Roofed Chinese Coin House Built in Accordance with Sacred Geometry

March 26, 2013 by  
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Read the rest of Swirling Green-Roofed Chinese Coin House Built in Accordance with Sacred Geometry Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: ancient architecture , bolivia , Chinese Coin House , Daylighting , eco design , Eiffel Tower , golden ratio , green design , green roof , Juan Carlos Menacho Durán , natural light , pyramids , sacred geometry , Santa Cruz , sustainable design

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Five most frequently asked questions about electric vehicles

October 5, 2011 by  
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Utpal Gogoi: Electric Car Frequently asked questions about electric vehicles The recent industrial espionage inside the various automobile producers signifies that Electric vehicle business is surely going to be a big one. Big giants like Renault, Nissan, Toyota, etc., and many other Chinese companies are continuously planning big to produce high amount of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in the near future. Insider’s information tells that China wants to be the largest producer of EVs by the end of 2012. Although, car manufacturers and also the government is trying very hard to present some highly efficient electric vehicles, people still have some doubts in their mind. Here is a list of top five questions that people often ask regarding the EVs. 1. Are these vehicles too expensive? Well, this is a common query that comes into the mind very often. A brief description of the prices of some of the models will make it very clear. In the year 2012, Nissan LEAF will be available in the market with a cost of $35,200 or $369 per month. Mitsubishi I can now be reserved at a cost of $27,990. Another world leading seller of hybrid cars, Toyota introduces the Prius Plug-In hybrid with an introductory reservation price of $32000. It is expected that the purchase prices will fall down fast in the near future. Apart from the purchase price, there should be one more comparison to judge the expensiveness of the EVs. This is nothing but the cost of driving a car. The cost of electricity is very much lower than gasoline. And also, the EVs are expected to require less servicing when compared to the gasoline powered cars. 2. Are the electric vehicles very slow? As the EVs make very less noise, some people finds out a conclusion that these are very slow. However, this is not the fact at all. Some of these may be slow sometimes, because they are equipped with only a small battery. But, their speed can be raised too, by adding a capacitor to them. The KillaCyle electric bike can get a speed of 0-60 mph in just a single second and can attain a maximum speed of 174.05 mph. Do you need any more examples now? 3. Do they take long time to charge the battery? Well, it totally depends on what type of battery you are using and also what electricity outlet you are using to charge the battery. Generally it takes around 3-8 hours to completely charge the battery. In case of the Nissan LEAF, with a 220-240 volt electricity outlet, it will take about 8 hours to completely charge the battery. Whereas, the eye-catching Tesla Roadster takes around 4 hours to fully charge the battery with a 240 volt electricity docket. 4. Will there be enough lithium in the future? Answer to this common question determines the future of electric vehicles a lot. The reason is that lithium is preferred as a very suitable component for the batteries. Actually, there is a great abundance of lithium stored in the earth’s surface. According to a survey conducted by U.S. geological survey group, there is 5.4 million tons of lithium stored in Bolivia, 3 million in Chile, and 1.1 million in China. Various sources say that a large stock of lithium is present in the U.S. too. A normal 24kwh battery used in the LEAF EV is generally weights 4 kg. So, with one million tons of lithium, we can get 250 million car batteries. This figure clearly shows that there should not be a problem in its availability in the coming future. And also, recycling of the batteries brings a very positive hope for the future. 5. Are these vehicles safe enough? There are, in fact, some safety concerns that are continuously arising regarding the electric vehicles. Some safety measures are yet to be adapted by the EV producers. Effective use of warning lights and sounds can make these vehicles safer. Especially, while reversing sound should be added to the engine so that it cannot create any type of chaos. Inclusion of cameras is another very good step that can surely be taken for granted. Well, there are some other questions too that often arises. These are like whether these vehicles will be able to go long distance or not, do they required recharging frequently while making a long distance journey, what is the right place to buy them, etc. Questions are always there and will always be, but the fact is that EVs are going to rule in the coming period and undoubtedly you can make a move towards these kinds of vehicles.

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Five most frequently asked questions about electric vehicles

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