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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India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment

May 20, 2019 by  
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The Indian government has embarked on many large scale renewable energy projects that are predicted to enable the world’s second most populous country to surpass its commitment to cut carbon emissions. According to a recently released report from Moody’s, 45 percent of all energy produced in India will be from non-fossil fuel sources by 2022. This is impressive, considering India only committed to 40 percent non-fossil fuel sources under the international Paris Agreement in 2015. Although coal remains the largest energy source, the aggressive additions of renewable sources will decrease coal’s overall contribution. Moody’s report, “Power Asia – Climate goals, declining costs of renewables signal decreasing reliance on coal power,” focuses on the role of investors in the energy industry as well as predictions for investments. Related: India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 “There is a realization that renewables are quicker, cleaner, cheaper and also strategically in India’s interest because of energy security; it just makes financial sense to invest in renewables,” Sameer Kwatra, from the Natural Resources Defense Council,  said . The Indian government has invested in large scale wind, power and solar projects, including tripling its solar power capacity in three years. Much of the increase in renewable energy has been due to decreased prices in renewable technology and interest from private investors. If battery production and storage capacity also increase, the report expects that renewable energy sector growth could spike. Similarly, banks and private investors are under increased pressure to withdraw investments in fossil fuel companies and pipeline projects. Despite the fact that investments in renewable energy have been higher than fossil fuel investments for three years in a row, the coal industry is still growing steadily alongside the renewable industry, with Indian populations using more electricity annually. India’s success is a considerable achievement for the entire world. After the U.S. and China, India is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases . Via CleanTechnica Image via DoshiJi

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India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment

Breezy home in Mexico uses strategic cross ventilation and natural light to reduce its energy use

May 20, 2019 by  
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RDLP Arquitectos have unveiled Casa Puebla, a beautiful family home that incorporates traditional Mexican design with modern passive features . The stunning project features a contemporary shell over two rectangular volumes clad in raw concrete, paying homage to the tilework found in traditional Mexican constructions. The design features several passive design elements, including cross ventilation, natural light and sun shades, all of which reduce the home’s energy needs. According to the architects, one of the principle inspirations behind Casa Puebla’s beautiful,  nature-inspired design was the Popocatépetl volcano, one of the most beloved natural icons in central Mexico. Using the fiery landmark as a pillar of the design, architects then blended a series of natural elements with an avant-garde aesthetic. Related: The Nogal House saves energy with smart site-specific design The structure was built with two interconnecting rectangular volumes that form an L-shape. To add a bit of “visual contradiction,” the heavier concrete block was set on top of the lower glass-enclosed block. This unusual feature was instrumental in creating a double-height formation that ensures continual vertical ventilation throughout the interior. In addition, the design was strategic in creating multiple outdoor nooks that are shaded by the roof of the upper level. These outdoor areas, used for reading, entertaining and dining, forge a strong connection between the interior and the outdoors. As an implicit tribute to the local vernacular, the home was built with locally sourced, natural materials, primarily concrete and wood. The exposed concrete cladding , which provides a strong thermal envelope, pays homage to the use of tiles in traditional Mexican architecture. Vertical wooden shutters provide shade from the harsh summer sun while diffusing natural light throughout the interior. The use of concrete continues inside, where board-formed concrete makes up the walls and the pillars that frame the floor-to-ceiling glass panels . On the ground floor, an open floor plan houses the kitchen, dining and living rooms, and sliding glass doors lead to the exterior spaces. Contemporary furniture and elements run throughout the home, including a “floating” staircase that leads to the upper level. + RDLP Arquitectos Via Archdaily Images via RDLP Arquitectos

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Breezy home in Mexico uses strategic cross ventilation and natural light to reduce its energy use

Polls show climate change is a determining issue for 2020 elections

May 20, 2019 by  
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Recent polls indicate that climate change will be a central issue for voters in the upcoming 2020 presidential elections. According to the George Mason University poll , 38 percent of participants indicated that the topic is “very important” for their decision, while the lead researcher, Anthony Leiserowitz said, “This is truly a top-tier issue for the Democratic base.” The poll, released in early May, only sampled 1,000 people, but the results are consistent with similar polls by Manmouth University and CNN, which showed that climate change ranks as the second most important topic, right below healthcare. According to CNN , 82 percent of Democrats say it is “very important” that candidates take aggressive action to combat the climate crisis. The increased interest is likely due to a surge in both public awareness as well as extreme weather events ranging from wildfires to hurricanes. Related: Climate activists will turn up the heat at presidential debate “With the salience of wildfires in the West, sea-level rise in the Gulf Coast and Florida and the way that weather affects farmers, people are beginning to see the effects of climate change,” said Sean Hecht of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. In 2018, an alarming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  report upped the urgency of climate change and massive protests broke out across the globe. In 2016, no candidate had a specific climate platform, but reports indicate that this year, candidates will need to detail specific action plans if they hope to be taken seriously. With protests already planned for the first Democratic debate, it is almost certain that journalists will ask candidates tough questions about their positions on the environment and the fossil fuel industry. According to Bill McKibbens from 350.org , voters will be looking for more than broad support. Many progressive democrats are demanding candidates formally endorse the Green New Deal , while others expect candidates to refuse campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry — a long standing tradition with presidential hopefuls. Currently, only Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand and Jay Inslee have specific climate change platforms. Via Reuters Image via Molly Adams

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Polls show climate change is a determining issue for 2020 elections

UN lists plastic as hazardous waste, votes to control international trade

May 15, 2019 by  
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On May 10, 187 countries voted to list plastic as hazardous waste and tighten control over its international trade. The governing agreement, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal dictates legally binding standards for importing and exporting toxic materials. For the first time ever, the agreement now includes plastic , with the exception of PE, PP and PET plastics. The new agreement gives lower income countries — particularly Southeast Asian countries — more control over the indiscriminate dumping of toxic materials. “This is a crucial first step toward stopping the use of developing countries as a dumping ground for the world’s plastic waste , especially those coming from rich nations,” said Von Hernandez from Break Free From Plastic. European nations and the U.S. export waste to African and Asian countries as a way to dispose of their trash and hazardous materials. Sometimes these countries are paid for their recycling or landfill services, but many times the dumping happens without permission. Under the Basel Convention agreement, export countries must receive written permits before dumping hazardous waste, which now includes most contaminated, mixed and non-recyclable plastic . Related: A guide to the different types of plastic In 2018, China banned imports of plastic waste and nearby countries Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand saw a massive upsurge in dumping. With China no longer an option, the $200 billion global recycling industry suddenly had no buyers that could handle the scale of the world’s plastic addiction. Ports in the U.S. and Europe began to overflow with plastic while exporters struggled to find new dumping sites. The U.S. is not a member of the Basel Convention and therefore could not participate in the vote. As the largest exporter of plastic, however, it will be required to obtain permits when dumping in participating countries. The American Chemistry Council and Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries were among the outspoken opponents, arguing these new obstacles will hinder recycling programs. One million citizens around the world signed online petitions in support of the new agreement. “Plastic waste is acknowledged as one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues,”  said Rolph Payet , executive secretary of the convention. “The fact that this week close to 1 million people around the world signed a petition urging Basel Convention Parties to take action here in Geneva at the COPs is a sign that public awareness and desire for action is high.” + UN Environment Via Plastic Pollution Convention and CNN Image via Jasmin Sessler

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UN lists plastic as hazardous waste, votes to control international trade

10 shipping containers make up this modern, mixed-use structure in Shanghai

May 10, 2019 by  
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Yiduan Shanghai Interior Design has transformed 10 shipping containers into a striking mixed-use structure on Shanghai’s Chongming Island in China. Located on an open grass field, the building has been named “The Solid and Void” after the staggered arrangement of the shipping containers, which seamlessly connect to outdoor spaces framed by angular timber elements. To further tie the building to the outdoors, the architects used a predominately natural materials palette and white-painted walls to blend the structure into the landscape. Challenged by the site’s remote location and constrained by the narrow interiors of the shipping containers , Yiduan Shanghai Interior Design decided to think outside the box — literally. The designers expanded the project’s usable floor area to 19,375 square feet by adding “void boxes”: outdoor platforms framed by timber elements that extend the interiors of the containers to the outdoors. “The added boxes, framed by grilles, increased usable area, met the functional demands and formed a contrast of solidness and void with the containers ,” the designers explained. “Natural light can be filtered through grilles, generating a poetic view of light and shadows. The containers, and the new boxes generated from them, together produce staggered and overlapping architectural form, making the building look modern and futuristic.” Related: Ennead designs a striking nature preserve to protect China’s most important river The three-story building consists of a reception and display area on the first floor, a cafe and restaurant on the second floor and office space with meeting rooms on the third floor. Large windows pull the outdoors in; the thoughtfully designed indoor circulation guides users to different views of the landscape as they move through the building. The modern and minimalist appearance of the building helps keep the focus on the natural surroundings. Elements of nature also punctuate the building, from artfully placed rocks that line the walkways to the winding stream that runs through the middle of the building. + Yiduan Shanghai Interior Design Photography by Zhu Enlong via Yiduan Shanghai Interior Design

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10 shipping containers make up this modern, mixed-use structure in Shanghai

California bans pesticide linked to brain damage in children

May 10, 2019 by  
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In a move that is both a victory for environmental justice and a snub to the current president, the California Senate officially banned a pesticide that has been proven to cause brain damage in children. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had previously attempted to ban the toxic chemical, chlorpyrifos, nationwide, however, the Trump administration rejected the overwhelming scientific evidence of its health impact on pregnant women and children living near major farms. This week, California representatives voted to overrule the president in their own state. Public health activists believe the Trump administration is protecting the business interests of Dow Dupont, a chlorpyrifos manufacturer that previously donated to the president’s campaign. Related: EPA backs the use of toxic herbicide chemical glyphosate According to studies, the pesticide has been linked to impaired brain and neurological development among children. It has also been linked to increased risk of autism, memory problems and lower IQs among the children of women who were exposed to the chemical while pregnant. “Countless people have suffered as a result of this chemical,” the California EPA secretary, Jared Blumenfeld, said in an interview on Wednesday. “A lot of people live and work and go to school right next to fields that are being sprayed with chlorpyrifos … It’s an issue of environmental health and justice.” Low income and immigrant communities of California’s central valley are largely impacted due to their proximity to major industrial farms where the chemical is sprayed. Chlorpyrifos pesticides are often used on almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes and walnuts among other products. Research shows that the chemical is linked to these health concerns at even lower doses than originally thought. According to Dow Dupont’s spokesman, the manufacturing company is planning to challenge the ban, saying it unfairly hurts farmers who need a way to effectively control pests. The ban will “remove an important tool for farmers and undermines the highly effective system for regulating pesticides,” the spokesman said in a statement. However, California’s governor has proposed a $5.7 million plan to help farmers transition to more sustainable pest control options. “The science is definitive,” said Blumenfeld . “This job really should have been done by the U.S. EPA .” Via The Guardian Image via  skeeze

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California bans pesticide linked to brain damage in children

‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

May 8, 2019 by  
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The tourism industry is booming throughout the world but nowhere more noticeably than on the small tropical islands of Southeast Asia. Millions of tourists flock to these remote islands every day to enjoy the beaches and snorkel among the coral reef, but the traffic and waste they produce has forced some ecosystems to reach their breaking point. “Overtourism” is the new term for the overpopulation of tourists who wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems. Many Asian governments have had to close entire islands in order to allow habitats and species (like sharks and sea turtles) to rehabilitate. The environmental impact of overtourism The primary reasons that mass tourism negatively impacts the environment include: Discharge of human waste directly into the ocean by boats, cruise ships and hotels A government survey in the Philippines revealed that 716 out of 834 businesses on the famous Boracay Island did not have wastewater permits and were indiscriminately dumping sewage and waste into the water. Cruise ships, private yachts and many hotels along the coasts also dump waste directly into the ocean . Toxic chemicals from sunscreens pollute young coral species Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to alter the DNA of young corals , prohibiting normal and healthy growth. Related: Hawaii bans reef-killing chemical sunscreens Massive amounts of garbage and plastic pollution According to the Ocean Conservancy, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are responsible for up to 60 percent of all plastic pollution in the ocean. Globally, eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. Related: New study reveals microplastics are in the air Unsustainable development and the destruction of key habitats, like mangroves Almost 50 percent of all mangrove forests have been destroyed in countries including India, the Philippines and Vietnam. Mangroves are systematically cleared to make way for hotels, resorts and white sand beaches, but healthy mangroves are an essential part of healthy coastal ecosystems. Mangroves protect beaches from erosion and provide critical nursery and breeding grounds for young fish and other species. Why are there so many tourists? The rapid rise in tourism is mostly because of expanding middle classes in many countries. More people are able to afford vacations and travel, particularly in China. In 2018, Chinese citizens made a total of 150 million trips abroad, compared to just 10 million in 2000. Regardless of the origin of the tourists, Pacific islands’ infrastructure and ecosystems are unable to handle the surge and are in desperate need of regulation and management. “I would argue that tourism has not only been badly managed in general, it’s not been managed at all,” said Randy Durband, chief executive officer of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Islands close their borders to tourists When tourism began to rise, most island residents were happy to have the jobs and foreign investment, and their governments did not take the time nor resources to develop a management strategy or implement limitations. Now, many governments are scrambling to preserve the very ecosystems that bring tourists to their shores before they are destroyed beyond repair. After calling the waters around Borocay Island a “cesspool,” Filipino President Rodrigo Duerte closed the entire island and launched a large clean-up effort. A new management plan will reduce the daily visitors from 20,000 to approximately 6,000, ban single-use plastics , impose littering fines and ban jet skis from driving within 100 meters of the shore. With these steps, an acceptable rehabilitation of the island is expected to take at least two years. In Thailand, the government closed the famous Maya Bay indefinitely after conservationists reported that over 50 percent of corals had been destroyed. In addition to sunscreen toxins, boat anchors and physical impact from tourists walking on coral and taking pieces as souvenirs cause major damage. Current coral restoration efforts are underway to replant native corals, and species like black tipped reef sharks have reportedly returned. SEE: Can the Cayman Islands save to Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Closing islands is an extreme solution, but it demonstrates that many governments are realizing the importance of ecosystems even at the expense of tourism revenue. Sustainable tourism expert Epler Wood said, “We don’t advocate a closing unless it’s an emergency. We recommend balanced management that looks at supply and demand and measured responses based on planning and science that involves regular benchmarking, like water testing .” Tips for sustainable tourism Tips for governments: The nation of Bali has imposed a $10 tax on international passengers that goes directly toward cultural and environmental preservation initiatives, such as waste management. Many tourism-dependent islands in the Pacific and Caribbean have imposed similar tourist fees. In Palau, visitors are required to sign an environmental pledge that is stamped right onto their passports, promising to act respectfully and without damaging ecosystems. Bans on straws and single-use plastics can also be particularly effective on small islands without proper waste management systems. Finally, governments can invest in marine spatial planning and zoning initiatives that identify key vulnerable areas. Such spatial data allows governments to declare zones and enforce allowable activities within the zones, such as protected conservation areas versus recreation areas. Tips for tourists: According to the South China Morning Post, here are five tips to be a more sustainable tourist : Book hotels that employ sustainable initiatives to reduce waste, energy and water consumption. Choose tour operators who give back to the community — and keep tourism benefits within the local economy — by employing locals, supporting local growers and other initiatives. Be a plastic-free traveler and dispose of your garbage correctly. Research sustainable tourism initiatives you might want to support ahead of your trip. Engage in community-based tourism. “The basic model is: educate yourself, do the right thing and try to be of positive benefit,” said Marta Mills, a sustainable tourism specialist. “Act like you are a guest in someone’s home, because you are.” Via Yale360 Images via Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi , Laznes Binch ,  Stefan Munder , Juanjook Torres González and Jose Nicdao

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‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

Couple converts an old school bus into a chic skoolie for travel

May 8, 2019 by  
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When you are ready to explore the country, why not take your home with you? Sure, there are motorhomes and travel trailers to choose from. You could even pick up a Sprinter van. But for a real adventure, you could tootle about in a skoolie. If you didn’t catch the play on words, a skoolie is a converted school bus made into a tiny home on wheels . Couple Robbie and Priscilla have converted a school bus into their own travel-ready abode through a process of trial and error mixed with some frustration and a dash of luck. The couple wanted the exceptional 210-square-feet of open space that a school bus allows so they could bring along their pet cat and feel like they had more of a home than an RV. The 1998 Thomas School Bus was the inspiration that drove them forward with their plan. Related: A 1992 International School Bus gets a second life as an adventure-mobile The conversion took a year and a half to complete, with many obstacles along the journey. For example, discovering leaky windows required a complete replacement. Then, a blown gasket kept the project in park for several months. If ever there was a reward worth the labor, this homey project is it. As a result of their efforts, the couple was able to take to the road in March in a cozy, relaxed dwelling. The lengthy, flowing space is well lit with myriad windows throughout and white cabinetry lining one side. The gray laminate flooring accents the stainless steel appliances and is complemented by the cedar tongue-in-groove ceiling. Storage is tucked in several areas including beneath the raised bed, near the ceiling in the kitchen and under the couch in a sitting area. The tiny home’s unusually large bathroom features tile work alongside glass shower doors, and the bus also has two outdoor showers for convenient clean-up. Unlike most RVs, this skoolie features both air conditioning and a fireplace, which suits the couple well as they begin their trip in Canada and Alaska, planning to later hit all 48 contiguous states. + Going Boundless Via Curbed Images via Going Boundless

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Couple converts an old school bus into a chic skoolie for travel

One third of the world’s power now comes from renewable energy

April 4, 2019 by  
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After years of hard work and dedication, a third of the power generated around the world is now linked to renewable energy. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) just released new data that shows impressive growth in both wind and solar energy , which has contributed to the changes in energy sources around the globe. Locations differed in the rate of renewable energy capacity. Asia, for example, witnessed an increase in renewable energy by 11 percent, while Africa’s pace was a little above 8.4 percent. Also contributing the numbers is the fact that two-thirds of the power added last year came from renewable sources, and developing countries are leading the pack. Related: Amazon plans to reach net-zero carbon use by 2030 “Through its compelling business case, renewable energy has established itself as the technology of choice for new power generation capacity,” the director of IRENA, Adnan Z. Amin explained. Renewable energy has been on the rise for past five years, and the numbers released in IRENA’s study show they are not slowing down. While the numbers are a positive sign for the future, Amin believes they need to increase at an even faster pace if we want to reach our global climate goals. New technology, of course, is the driving force behind renewable energy. Not only does technology make these energy sources possible, but it also makes them easier than ever to access. This includes the use of wind and solar energy, which contributed the most to energy capacities in 2018. Wind energy experienced a growth by around 49 GW while solar energy led the pack with an increase of 94 GW. While hydropower is the largest source of renewable energy, its growth has steadily declined over the years. Other notable sources include bioenergy , which saw growth in both China and the UK, and geothermal energy which increased in Turkey, Indonesia and the United States. Considering the fast growth rate of renewable energy, environmentalists hope the trend will continue for decades to come. If more and more countries continue to invest in renewable energy, we should be able to make great strides in curbing global carbon emissions over the next century. + IRENA Image via IRENA

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