Archaeologist suggests ancient humans helped catalyze the Sahara’s desertification

March 17, 2017 by  
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The Sahara Desert we know, with its rolling sand dunes and hot temperatures, used to be a verdant grassland with lakes. Scientists have traditionally attributed the dramatic change to a wobble in Earth’s orbital axis , but now archaeologist David K. Wright of Seoul National University is suggesting actually, humans may have been to blame. A 10,000-year or so wet period called the African Humid Period brought moisture to northern and eastern Africa. But around 8,000 years ago the moisture balance began to change. Today below the sand-dominated landscape can be found signs of rivers and plants, remnants of a greener history. In an article published in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science , Wright explained humans used to be thought of as passive agents in the end of the African Humid Period. But he thinks humans might actually have been active agents in the change. Related: The Mediterranean will become a desert unless global warming is limited to 1.5°C Wright said, “In East Asia there are long established theories of how Neolithic populations changed the landscape so profoundly that monsoons sopped penetrating so far inland.” He thinks a similar phenomenon could have happened in the Sahara. People growing crops and raising livestock could have changed the environment , exposing soil, and sunlight bouncing from the soil could have warmed the air, influencing atmospheric conditions enough so there wasn’t as much rainfall, which only added to the desertification of the Sahara. As yet, Wright needs more evidence for other scientists to fully get on board with his ideas. He said, “There were lakes everywhere in the Sahara at this time, and they will have the records of the changing vegetation. We need to drill down into these former lake beds to get the vegetation records, look at the archaeology , and see what people were doing there.” If Wright turns out to be right, his research could yield insights into how we can adapt to large scale climate change . Via Phys.org and ScienceAlert Images via Charly W. Karl on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Archaeologist suggests ancient humans helped catalyze the Sahara’s desertification

Lucid releases details about new electric car – including $60,000 price tag

March 17, 2017 by  
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Lucid has released new details about its much-anticipated electric car , including an extremely affordable starting price tag for a fully featured luxury electric car. Unveiled at a recent VIP event in California, the Lucid Air comes in at just $60,000 for a base model—a figure that drops to a very-palatable $52,00 after the $7,500 federal tax credit for EVs gets factored in. And while we’re talking about a base model here, the performance and features boasted by the Air are far from Spartan. The car has a 240-mile range powered by a 400-horsepower, rear-wheel electric motor—along with equipment for autonomous driving, 12-way power front seats, four interactive touch screens, and more. You can get even more if you get in on the ground floor, as the first 255 Lucid Airs manufactured will be special Launch Editions priced at above $100,000 with a unique trim, 21” wheels, boosted audio, and up to 315 miles-worth of range at 1,000 horsepower. The company will also offer other configurations and options that include a battery with up to 400 miles of range, a twin-motor configuration with all-wheel drive, a glass canopy roof, rear executive seats that recline up to 55 degrees, 22-way power front seats; a 29-speaker audio system, and more. Related: New York will give you a $2,000 discount to buy an electric car According to TechCrunch , the company recently released its pricing information in an effort to quell speculation that its vehicles would start at more than $100,000. Now they’ve revealed that you can not only get a luxury electric car for less than $60,000, but also one that’s high performance with great equipment; it’s getting harder and harder not to dump the gas guzzler and switch to electric. If you’re raring to get one of the first Airs off the line, you can reserve yours here –with a $2,500 deposit. Via Lucid and TechCrunch Images via Lucid

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Lucid releases details about new electric car – including $60,000 price tag

Republican senator claims the EPA is brainwashing children

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma claimed Thursday on CNN that the Environmental Protection Agency is “brainwashing” America’s children, defending Donald Trump’s plan to cut the agency’s funding by 31 percent. He told the network: “We want to deliver the services. We ought to make things clean. But we ought to take all this stuff that comes out of the EPA that’s brainwashing our kids, that is propaganda, things that aren’t true, allegations.” This isn’t the first time Inhofe has made a controversial statement while he’s been in office. During the 2002 midterm election, he compared the EPA to the Gestapo , and has declared global warming to be a hoax on multiple occasions. (Unlike Donald Trump, however, he doesn’t believe it’s the work of the Chinese government. The credit instead goes to Barbra Streisand .) In 2015, he made headlines by bringing a snowball onto the floor of Congress in an attempt to disprove the existence of climate change. So while his statements this week are deeply troubling, they’re not at all unexpected. Related: Trump to purge climate change from federal government The most recent comments came during an interview asking Inhofe his opinion on proposed funding cuts to the EPA. The plan would cut a staggering $100 million from the agency’s climate change programs, and reduce its overall budget from $8.3 billion to $5.7 billion. This could have far-reaching impacts beyond reducing the EPA’s ability to fight climate change – it could also affect its ability to enforce clean water and air regulations, and would cut 3,200 jobs from the agency (about 1/5 of its workforce). The cuts would also end specific programs to restore the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes, along with a program to certify eco-friendly appliances under the Energy Star Label. The proposal would also cut funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by as much as $990 million and funds for critical health research carried out under the National Institutes of Health by $5.8 billion. Defense spending, on the other hand, would increase by $52 billion. Related: Scott Pruitt attacks critics and EPA employees in first speech The budget would need to be approved by Congress before it could be implemented, however, with lawmakers like Inhofe in office, we may have reason to be concerned. Via Business Insider Images via  Gage Skidmore , Screenshot/C-SPAN

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Republican senator claims the EPA is brainwashing children

Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave’ inspires beautiful home design in California

March 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

California-based architect Mario Romano ‘s motto “live in art” is clearly visible in his design of the stunning Preston House, inspired by Hokusai’s “The Great Wave.” The home’s exterior was clad with layers of brushed aluminum to create a “rolling” volume that reflects the varying tones and colors of the sky. Although the 5,700 square-foot home is certainly unique in its artful aesthetic, it also has various eco-friendly features incorporated throughout the design. The home’s sculpture-like volume was meant to mimic the blowing winds, detailed brush strokes and the “solitude of barreled water” found in Hokusai’s famous print. However, the unique materials were not only chosen for their art-inspired aesthetics. The aluminum facade sits one inch above the building’s waterproof skin, strategically allowing it to breathe. This feature pulls double duty as a rain screen system that allows air to flow into the layers, essentially stopping any moisture from growing into mold. It also helps ventilate the home by pushing rising hot air outwards and upwards, away from the main volume. Related: Philip Johnson’s Wiley House hits the market for $12 million The home’s interior is a luxurious space comprised of six bedrooms and five baths and a number of common areas, each with its own distinct design. The architect used his own product line, M.R. Walls and Floors, which are resistant to bacteria and water, to cover much of the walls and flooring. Using customized digital tools and CNC technology, the surfaces convert  eco-friendly materials into bold design patterns inspired by nature. For example, the interior flooring on the second floor appears to be wooden planks, but it’s actually an innovative material called SIMOWOOD, which is made of recycled rice husk. + Mario Romano

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Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave’ inspires beautiful home design in California

Gorgeous Bostanl Bridge doubles as public park, designed for sunset watching

March 16, 2017 by  
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This beautiful footbridge in Izmir, Turkey, offers much more than a passage from one side of Bostanl? Creek to the other. The timber-clad bridge doubles as a public park with a cascading seating structure that complements the adjacent Bostanl? Sunset Lounge. Studio Evren Ba?bu?: steb designed both the bridge and lounge area as vibrant urban spaces that offer stunning views of the bay. Both interventions are part of the ?zmir Sea coastal regeneration project designed to turn the site into a public attraction point in Izmir’s Kar??yaka district. Perfectly aligned with the masterplan , the footbridge connects two sides of Bostanl? Creek, but also function as a place to rest and enjoy beautiful sunsets. Bow-shaped and elongated, the building uses a girder geometry to allow the passage of small boats underneath. The steel frame supports several cascading thermo-wood surfaces that can be used as seating surfaces. Related: Gateway Villetaneuse footbridge unfurls like a leaf over train tracks outside Paris The same materiality and design concept extends to the Bostanl? Sunset Lounge, which forms an inviting urban space that stretches between the artificial slope and the embankment. Wide ash wood gives warmth to the project which promotes an easy way of living–the vision of the entire Izmir Sea coastal regeneration initiative. + Studio Evren Ba?bu?: steb Via Archdaily Photos by ZM Yasa Architecture Photography

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Gorgeous Bostanl Bridge doubles as public park, designed for sunset watching

The Biomimicry Manual: What can the honeybee teach a designer?

March 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

What exactly is biomimicry ? I think of it as a way of unlocking a whole world of super-powers for humanity. It is literally the next stage of human evolution. Leonardo DaVinci himself said, “Those who are inspired by a model other than Nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain.” Maybe we’ve been studying the wrong master, trying to make a living on this planet in ways that will ultimately deplete us all. That’s certainly the case with humans and honeybees . Yes, humans love honey, and the busy hum of bees in the garden is a sound that gives us peace on a warm day. But we have much more to learn from them. Find out the lessons they have to teach in today’s entry of The Biomimicry Manual ! Great designers know that people feel good when they are surrounded by plants and other living things. Gardens are good for the soul. That’s ‘biophilia.’ Nature makes us happy. We love using ‘organic’ raw materials, like honey and beeswax, because they are useful and renewable, pleasing and non-toxic. They won’t sit in a landfill for the next thousand years like yesterday’s plastic. The Earth will recycle them. That’s ‘bio-utilization,’ using nature because it’s just good stuff. Our herds of goats and sheep, the crop varieties we’ve grown and selected for millennia because they taste the way we want, and even the family dog are ‘bio-assistants.’ They help us make and do the things we need. Honeybees, for instance, are not ‘wild animals,’ but domestic helpers. We have shaped their evolution to suit ourselves. Biomimicry is a little different. It only “uses” life’s ideas. It’s when you have a problem, and you ask, “how other living creatures solving it?” Instead of harvesting that creature or its by-products, you copy the idea itself and make it anew, make it human. Every plant and animal , fungus, and bacteria has a whole genome worth of time-tested, sustainable ideas to inspire us. That’s a lot of superpowers. Myself, I like bioinspiration of all kinds. John Todd ‘s ‘ Living Machines ‘, for instance, do a little of everything: biophilia, bio-utilization, bio-assistance, and biomimicry. He uses a pleasing array of living plants and bacteria (both domestic and wild) to imitate the way a natural wetland ecosystems works, filtering and treating sewage in the process. Believe it or not, a bee has to eat eight pounds of honey to make a single pound of wax to safely store her honey and larvae in. It’s an expensive proposition, and it has to be done efficiently. The ancient Greeks understood that modular hexagonal honeycomb makes the most storage possible with the least amount of material. Architects and designers are tapping this for all sorts of applications. Panelite , in New York, offers hexagonal ClearShade insulating glass. It passively regulates heat, while still letting in lots of light. The Sinosteel skyscraper in Tianjin, China uses honeycomb windows the same way. Our honeybee has other brilliant design ideas as well. For instance, her 300 degree field of vision literally gives her eyes in the back of her head. Nissan Motors is working on a laser range finder inspired by these curved, compound eyes, which will detect and avert potential collisions. German researchers are designing a honeybee-inspired wide-angle lens for aerial drones, while other researchers are using their navigation tricks to optimize GPS and tracking systems. We know that it’s physically impossible for bumblebees to fly. And yet they do, with incredible efficiency and maneuverability. So what are we missing? We aren’t completely sure, but one thing they have is the ability to zip and unzip their two-part wings for flight and landing. What if our airplanes could do that? Wouldn’t that save space on aircraft carriers and in busy airports? And when we say something is “the bees’ knees,” it’s even better than we thought. Insect joints contain ‘resilin,’ a springy protein. Turns out to be the most efficient elastic known, dramatically better than natural or synthetic rubber. With it, bees can flap their wings a thousand times a minute, and fleas can jump one hundred times their body length. An Australian government research group has mimicked this “near-perfect” rubber, creating 98% bounce back. That’s practically a perpetual-motion machine! These examples are taken from Jay Harman’s new book, The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and how Nature is Inspiring Innovation . There are so many good ideas in nature, it boggles the mind, And that’s just the bees! There is literally an infinite world of time-tested, sustainable ideas to learn from. And if we get “buzz-y” studying them, we can unlock a whole new set of super-powers to take us into the future. + The Biomimicry Manual  An evolutionary biologist, writer, sustainability expert, and passionate biomimicry professional in the  Biomimicry 3.8 BPro certification program , Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker blogs at  BioInspired Ink  and serves as Content Developer for the  California Association of Museums ‘ Green Museums Initiative. She is working on a book about organizational transformation inspired by nature.

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The Biomimicry Manual: What can the honeybee teach a designer?

China approves massive new park for endangered leopards and tigers

March 15, 2017 by  
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China just approved a massive new national park to help protect endangered big cats . The 5,637 square mile park – which will be 60 percent bigger than America’s Yellowstone National Park – will serve as a sanctuary for Siberian tigers and Amur leopards. Big cats have struggled in northeast China, where the park will be built. Excessive logging deteriorated the ecosystem and caused the population of wild Siberian tigers to plummet dramatically. A field survey by scientists from the United States, Russia, and China found signs of just six to nine of the tigers in the area in 1998. A 2015 northeast China logging ban may have helped; now experts estimate there are around 27 Siberian tigers there. Meanwhile Amur leopards are critically endangered , according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which said there are only over 60 of these animals still alive in the world. Related: Russia built a critical wildlife corridor to help save endangered big cats Small habitat areas have prompted Siberian tigers and Amur leopards to roam into residential areas looking for food, according to EcoWatch, which quoted a Jilin Forestry Department spokesperson as saying to ease conflict between humans and the big cats, they will relocate some communities and factories currently inside the area for the park. China’s new national park will be in the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, bordering Russia . The park will include a monitoring and rescue center for wild big cats, along with research facilities. WWF Beijing’s Species Program Director Fan Zhiyong said the initiative could help improve cooperation between the two countries to conserve wildlife . Jilin Forestry Department Director Lan Hongliang also said they expected the national park to act as a channel for international interchange on protecting wild animals. The Jilin government said they will start preparing for national park management by the end of this year. According to Xinhua, a plan and pilot park could be finished before 2020. Via Xinhua and EcoWatch Images via Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr and PublicDomainPictures.net

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China approves massive new park for endangered leopards and tigers

European firms eye artificial island for North Sea wind and solar farm

March 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Of all the opponents of wind turbines , few are as vociferous as the loose collective that planners and developers deride as “Nimby,” a term that derives from the acronym for “not in my backyard.” Driven to stake out real estate further offshore, a group of European companies have devised a plan almost breathtaking in its audacity: create a vast artificial island in the middle of the tumultuous North Sea, populate the area around it with thousands of spinning pylons, and drum up enough renewable energy for millions of Europeans by 2050. The venture, born of the 2050 goals laid out by the Paris agreement on climate change , is a collaboration between Denmark’s Energinet and the German and Dutch arms of electricity firm TenneT . To solidify the partnership, the companies will be meeting with Maroš Šef?ovi?, the European Commissioner for Energy, at the North Seas Energy Forum in Brussels next week to sign a trilateral agreement. If greenlit, the proposed 2.5-square-mile Power Link Island, also known as the North Sea Wind Power Hub, will boast its own harbor, air strip, solar farm, and artificial lake, along with homes for in-residence staff. Early estimates place the price of construction in the ball park of $1.3 billion. Dogger Bank, a large sandbank about 62 miles off the east coast of England, is thought to be the ideal location for the island because it’s centrally located, has waters shallow enough for turbines, and is buffeted by constant wind. Related: China is building artificial islands in disputed South China Sea territory Underwater transmission lines, coursing with energy, could potentially power the homes of 80 million people in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Belgium. By linking the energy markets of those countries, Power Link Island could facilitate international trading in electricity. It could even consolidate energy by serving as a connective hub for other, scattered wind farms or bud off smaller but similar enclaves. “This project can significantly contribute to a completely renewable supply of electricity in Northwest Europe,” said Mel Kroon, CEO of TenneT. There’s another upside: An island of significant scope could, through economies of scale, also whittle down costs. “Offshore wind has in recent years proved to be increasingly competitive and it is important to us to constantly focus on further reduction in prices of grid connections and interconnections,” said Peder Østermark Andreasen, CEO of Energinet. “We need innovative and large-scale projects so that offshore wind can play an even bigger part in our future energy supply.” + Energinet + TenneT Via The Next Web

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European firms eye artificial island for North Sea wind and solar farm

Frank Gehry-designed luxury hotel brings avant-garde design to historic Spain winery

March 14, 2017 by  
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The bucolic hills of Spain’s wine country may be one of the last places you’d expect to see a Frank Gehry -designed building, but the starchitect’s iconic deconstructivist style has found home in the heart of the Rioja wine region. Spurred by Gehry’s successful Guggenheim Museum in nearby Bilbao, the Marques de Riscal winery in Elciego commissioned the world-renowned architect to dramatically renovate its 19th century grounds with an avant-garde touch. The new luxury complex features gigantic curving titanium sheets that pop against the lush landscape and includes a five-star hotel, restaurant, viticulture museum, and more. Completed in 2006, the Marques de Riscal complex includes Gehry’s first completed hotel . The 43-room luxury hotel prides itself as a work of art with a sculptural exterior and light-filled interior with cathedral-height ceilings and bespoke detailing. The stunning new complex was commissioned in hopes of bringing the “Guggenheim effect”—a term that refers to how Gehry’s art museum in Bilboa rejuvenated the city—to the winery’s small town of Elciego. Nearly eleven years after the unveiling, the Gehry-designed complex seems to have worked—the hotel has earned glowing reviews and brought greater tourism to the region. Related: How Frank Gehry’s provocative designs go from concept to reality Spread across two buildings linked by a suspended footbridge, the ultra-modern hotel features curved titanium plates tinted rose, silver, and gold—colors that represent the Marques de Riscal bottles, from the burgundy hues of rioja to the silver foil covering the cork. Due to the building’s sculptural design, the luxurious interior includes tilted walls and zigzag windows. The rooms and suites overlook beautiful views of Spain’s wine country. The winery grounds also include the Michelin-starred Marqués de Riscal Restaurant and a spa. + Frank Gehry Images via Marques de Riscal Hotel

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Frank Gehry-designed luxury hotel brings avant-garde design to historic Spain winery

Alaska gas leak endangering beluga whales won’t be fixed until the ice melts

March 6, 2017 by  
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A leaking natural gas pipeline in Cook Inlet, Alaska won’t be fixed until the ice melts – continuing to flow unchecked into a habitat for endangered beluga whales. Inside Climate News reports that Hilcorp Alaska, the company responsible for the leak, says it won’t be able repair the damage until later this month, at the earliest, due to concerns over safety for its workers. The 8-inch underwater pipeline has been leaking about 120,000 to 310,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day into the ocean since Feb. 7, 2017. “Given the typical weather patterns affecting ice formation and dissipation in Cook Inlet, we currently anticipate that the earliest that the conditions will allow diving will be in mid-to-late March,” wrote Hilcorp Alaska Senior Vice President, David Wilkins. Doing so before that date would likely make it unsafe for the divers who have to head underwater to fix the leak. But it would be appear to be a case of humans vs. whales, as the oil is leaking into a critical habitat for endangered beluga whales . Bob Shavelson, or the Alaska non-profit Cook Inletkeepe r, have concerns that methane in the leaking gas could displace oxygen in the water and create hypoxic zones that could be dangerous for the roughly 340 belugas in the area. Related: Hundreds of whales die in New Zealand’s third largest mass stranding As Inside Climate News reports, Alaska’s Department of Environment Conservation says Hilcorp didn’t respond to its request for a plan to monitor the leak and environmental impacts. Without such data the state agency can’t assess the threat posed by leak to Cook Inlet. The state has since asked Hilcorp to provide a plan by March 8 – more than a month after the leak began. In a letter to Alaska’s DEC, Hilcorp says the amount of dissolved methane coming from the leak is so minimal that it’s not toxic to aquatic organisms, and that belugas tend to avoid areas covered in ice – meaning that there are likely no belugas around the area of the leak. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says otherwise. In a recent letter the agency noted that Cook Inlet belugas tend to prefer ice cover, to the point that their presence has become associated with that of ice. “If a significant hypoxic zone is created by a continuing natural gas discharge,” the NOAA explained, “Cook Inlet belugas and multiple [physical and biological features] of their critical habitat could be adversely affected.” Via Inside Climate News Images via fooey and briangratwke , Flickr Creative Commons and Frank K , Wikimedia Commons

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Alaska gas leak endangering beluga whales won’t be fixed until the ice melts

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