BREAKING: Trump announces U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement

June 1, 2017 by  
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During a highly anticipated speech at the Rose Garden, climate denier President Donald Trump announced that the United States of America will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement secured under Barack Obama’s leadership. President Trump stated that the accord was “bad” and poorly negotiated by the Obama administration, and that he “is keeping his campaign promise to put American workers first.” Part of Trump’s speech read, ”The Paris Accord is a BAD deal for Americans, and the President’s action today is keeping his campaign promise to put American workers first. The accord was negotiated poorly by the Obama administration and signed out of desperation. It frontloads costs on the American people to the detriment of our economy.” Before the announcement was officially made, Donald Trump was cited by The Daily Best telling congressional staffers on a conference call that he is withdrawing from the Paris accord. Energy policy adviser for the White House, Michael Catanzaro, confirmed that “the United States is getting out of the Paris agreement.” Catanzaro added that Trump “will be open to and will immediately be looking for a better deal.” Reportedly, the Trump administration will follow steps for withdrawal laid out in the agreement. In total, says Catanzaro, removing the U.S. from the deal will take four years. “But we’re going to make very clear to the world that we’re not going to be abiding by what the previous administration agreed to,” he said. Despite the fact that countries such as Costa Rica run on 100% renewable energy and Denmark once generated 400% of the power it needs from wind turbines , the Trump administration remains resistant to transitioning the U.S. to run on renewable energy resources. This is because President Trump, a businessman, believes that energy sourced from fossil fuels is the solution to making America great again – and he thinks climate change is a “hoax” invented by the Chinese . Related: China says they’ll stay in the Paris Agreement – with or without Trump At the time of its signing, 195 countries, including the United States, pledged to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change in order to prevent global catastrophes which may result from rising temperatures. President Barack Obama committed America to a goal of lowering emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The broad aim was to increase these cuts over time. With the United States exiting the Paris Agreement, carbon emissions are likely to increase, potentially propelling global disasters resulting from rising sea levels , severe weather conditions, and increased temperatures. On a positive note, China and the European Union are prepared to publicly recommit to the agreement with or without the United States. Also, Trump cannot technically withdraw from the agreement until November of 2019. Finally, many U.S.-based companies, including Apple , have ambitious goals to run on 100% clean energy in the near future. With support from educated consumers, the U.S. may reach its previously contracted emissions goal with or without the President’s support. Via CNN Images via Pixabay , Wikimedia Creative Commons

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BREAKING: Trump announces U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement

Brilliant bamboo house uses ground water for natural cooling

April 14, 2017 by  
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This experimental bamboo home is helping to set the pace for sustainable growth in China. Milan-based Studio Cardenas designed Energy Efficient Bamboo House, a home with a minimal carbon footprint and Feng Shui-inspired construction. Located in the Longquan International Bamboo Commune in Zhejiang, the energy-saving abode uses locally available natural materials to create a cost-effective building that saves substantially on energy use. The architects built the house primarily out of bamboo, a renewable material that grows in abundance in the Baoxi area. “For the structure of the Energy Efficient Bamboo House we explored new ways of building using bamboo as a construction material,” wrote Studio Cardenas. “Sustainability for us is not only the use of natural materials such as bamboo but to design appropriate construction solutions.” To that end, the architects developed a modular “industrialized bamboo construction system” with precise geometry and lightweight aluminum connections to allow for easy expansion, disassembly, and transport. Drawing upon the building’s Chinese context, the architects applied Feng Shui principles to the layout, which comprises nine squares on each floor. The interior is mostly open plan with minimal dividing walls to allow positive energy (Qi) and natural ventilation to flow freely. The modular bamboo construction sits on a rammed earth base that houses the technical room, while gray Chinese clay tiles clad the exterior and terra-cotta clay tops the roof. Related: Rammed earth school in Vietnam blooms like a colorful jungle flower To minimize energy use, the Energy Efficient Bamboo House uses groundwater coupled with a geothermal heat pump for indoor heating and cooling. Since this system takes advantage of earth’s naturally stabilized temperatures, it’s at least 25 percent more energy efficient than conventional systems and is estimated to use 15 percent less energy than traditional chiller plants. + Studio Cardenas

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Brilliant bamboo house uses ground water for natural cooling

Copycat Tower Bridge in China sparks controversy

March 2, 2017 by  
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China is infamous for copying famous architecture from other countries – according to The New York Times the country boasts 10 White Houses, a couple of Great Sphinxes, four Arcs de Triomphe, and at minimum one Eiffel Tower. Now in the city of Suzhou, a Tower Bridge based on London’s iconic landmark is drawing attention, although the New York Times says it’s unclear why the bridge , which was completed in 2012, has suddenly been garnering international notice. Images of Suzhou’s Tower Bridge have drawn awe – one news outlet described the Chinese bridge as even more magnificent than the original. Suzhou’s bridge certainly is much larger; it accommodates a five-lane highway and flaunts four towers instead of two. Pedestrian walkways and observation platforms allow people to enjoy the views and architecture of the bridge. Related: China officially bans ‘weird’ architecture But not everyone is enamored with the Chinese Tower Bridge. Suzhou, which has been called the Venice of the East, has its own architectural traditions, such as whitewashed courtyard houses and ancient gardens. Some of China’s most beautiful traditional architecture can be found in the city. Li Yingwu, president of Beijing-based firm OAD Group , called Suzhou’s Tower Bridge plagiarism. He said, “I was really surprised that it got built in Suzhou, because it has preserved its culture really well. It shows that local officials lack confidence in their own culture. They don’t understand that architecture essentially is about culture. It’s not merely an object.” One news outlet, JSChina.com.cn , even suggested the copycat bridge would hinder promotion of the country’s traditional culture. Suzhou has 56 other copycat bridges, according to The New York Times, imitating international bridges like Australia’s Sydney Harbor Bridge or Paris’ Alexandre III Bridge. Architect Cheng Taining of the Chinese Academy of Engineering told Beijing News in 2015 some officials believe foreign-style structures bestow status on an area, making it look more modern or sophisticated. Via ArchDaily and The New York Times Images via CCTV Facebook

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World’s oldest fossils discovered in Canada – and they’re 4 billion-years-old

March 2, 2017 by  
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Around four billion years ago, bacteria formed tiny tubes and filaments, likely in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. An international team of scientists lead by the University College London (UCL) recently discovered those microorganism remains, preserved for billions of years, which the scientists think could be the oldest fossils humans have ever unearthed. The discovery might even hold clues to life on other planets like Mars .

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World’s oldest fossils discovered in Canada – and they’re 4 billion-years-old

Net-zero Acacia Avenue House saves up to 90% of heating and cooling costs

March 2, 2017 by  
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This energy-efficient home in Oakland Hills features a patented steel construction technology inspired by the aerospace industry. The house, designed by BONE Structure , features state-of-the-art sustainable technologies and materials which make it not only highly ecological, but also built to last. The house has a soy-based polyurethane thermal envelope that provides optimal insulation. This technology patented by BONE Structure allows homeowners to save up to 90% of their heating and cooling energy costs . All BONE Structure homes are open-concept living spaces without load-bearing walls and have large windows that let in ample amounts of natural light . Related: Low-impact Cape Cod house is designed to provide all its energy on-site The house that is currently for sale features bay and canyon views, floor-to-ceiling windows and a bright open interior. It boasts five bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms, a living room, home office, gourmet kitchen and a two car garage with interior access. + BONE Structure

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Net-zero Acacia Avenue House saves up to 90% of heating and cooling costs

See how the "Kiss-Kiss House" snaps in half like a branch to embrace the landscape

March 2, 2017 by  
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Homes built to embrace the landscape, rather than working against it, always seem to have a good story to tell. The Kiss-Kiss House, a prefabricated home that gets its name from its linear shape broken into two bars kissing at an angle to frame the existing bedrock, is no exception. Designed by Minneapolis-based Lazor Office , the cedar-clad home is perched above bedrock on the shore of the remote Rainy Lake in Ontario. Inspired by driftwood, the Kiss-Kiss House is clad in unpainted cedar panels that also help blend the home into its forested surroundings. The home’s main structure, made up of two modules set at an angle, is set atop bedrock and is thus raised with elevated pathways that also preserve and frame the rock. Views of the water were prioritized and embraced through floor-to-ceiling , full-length glass on the lakeside facades of the two modules. The home’s elevated position and uninterrupted views create the sensation of floating over water when in the home. Related: Apple design director perfects a prefab home into an ultra-minimal, modern dwelling “At the kiss line between two prefabricated modules, the lineal form of the house snaps like a branch held together only by bark,” writes Lazor Office. “The open break forms a V-shaped outdoor room facing the water.” The larger of the two modules contains the master suite, kitchen, and lounge, while the other module houses the playroom, mudroom, and two bedrooms. The private areas are located at the ends of the modules, whereas the communal areas are closely linked together by the breezeway . Elevated walkways connect the modular home to a walled vegetable garden, dock house, and garage. + Lazor Office Images via Lazor Office

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See how the "Kiss-Kiss House" snaps in half like a branch to embrace the landscape

Scott Pruitt can’t name a single EPA regulation he approves of

January 31, 2017 by  
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Scott Pruitt should send a shiver down your spine, even if your idea of environmentalism is reusing the same cup for your soda refill. At his confirmation hearing for head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a week and a half ago, Pruitt was unable to name even a single EPA regulation he supported. It showed a breathtaking, if perhaps unsurprising, amount of contempt for not only one of the nation’s most vital offices but also the very post he aspires to hold. During his tenure attorney general of oil- and gas-fueled Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the agency 14 times for anti-pollution regulations that he said were “inconsistent with its constitutional and statutory authority.” Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group , said that Pruitt could be the “most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history.” When Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee asked Pruitt to name “one Clean Air Act regulation—not a voluntary or grant program—on the books today” that he approved of, Pruitt hedged. “I firmly believe that the EPA plays an important role, especially as it relates to cross-state air and water pollution, but EPA must do so within the bounds of its legal authority as provided by Congress,” he said. “Regulations that are not on solid legal foundation and that cannot survive judicial review will not result in environmental protections.” While Pruitt disagreed with President Donald Trump’s assertion that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese government, he stopped short of declaring that human activity was to blame. “I do not believe that climate change is a hoax,” Pruitt told Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) at the hearing. Later, when pressed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to explain his position, Pruitt demurred by calling the issue “subject to continuing debate and dialogue.” In response to a query about whether “removing lead from gasoline was an important and successful EPA rulemaking,” Pruitt tersely said that he had “not evaluated this issue.” Lead cast a particularly large shadow at the hearing. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) asked Pruitt if he believed there was any safe level of lead in the human body, particularly for children and adolescents. “That’s something I have not reviewed nor know about,” Pruitt replied. “I would be very concerned about any level of lead going into the drinking water or obviously human consumption, but I’ve not looked at the scientific research on that.” Related: Trump’s EPA pick put industries before federal environmental policies According to EPA there is “no safe level of exposure to lead,” although an extremely small amount is allowed in pipes and plumbing fixtures. Equally alarming, Pruitt dodged senators’ questions about his ties with energy companies and other potential conflicts of interest by directing them to file open-records requests not once but 18 times. “Pruitt’s directive to senators to file Oklahoma open records requests is the political equivalent of saying ‘go pound sand,'” John Walke, Clean Air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council , said on Thursday. Suffice to say, none of this went down well with the committee. In a follow-up letter , Sanders, Markey, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) took Pruitt to task for what they dubbed his “troubling evasions.” In addition to calling out Pruitt’s murky public reporting of any political and legal conflicts of interest he may have as EPA administrator, not to mention his history of undermining environmental protections, the senators also condemned his “erroneous statements concerning well-established science.” “You did not know there is a safe level of lead in the human body,” they said. “You refused to repudiate statements you made that question the health impacts of mercury pollution. You refused to acknowledge that carbon pollution from human activities is widely recognized as the largest drive of climate change. These statements raise significant questions about whether instead of embracing science, you will be embracing ‘alternative facts.'” Perhaps most tellingly of all, Charles and David Koch , a.k.a. the Koch Brothers , are backing Pruitt’s power grab. Prognosis? Good for polluters, bad for everyone else.

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Scott Pruitt can’t name a single EPA regulation he approves of

China is spending over $500 billion to expand high-speed rail

January 2, 2017 by  
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China is planning some serious upgrades to its public transportation system in the next few years. By 2020, the country hopes to have increased its high-speed railway coverage by 18,650 miles. The project will cost an estimated 3.5 trillion yuan, or about $503 billion USD. Not only will the population be more mobile, but the rails will significantly cut down on carbon emissions and air pollution. Adding on 18,650 miles to a railway system is a humongous feat and difficult to comprehend. The expansion would be roughly the equivalent of driving from New York City to Los Angeles six and a half times. It will also connect 80 percent of the country’s biggest cities and leave room for further rural expansion. Related: Chinese firm aiming for world record with 373 mph maglev train Much of the existing and future high-speed rails are located in coastal and eastern regions of China. Yet, access to the west and poorer regions of the country are being considered for future investments, despite the fact that they will not be as profitable. “We believe these railway lines will break even over time as the flow of people and goods experience fast growth,” said Yang Yudong, administrator of the National Railway Administration. As a global observer, one of the most appealing aspects of the project is how much air pollution will be slashed by connecting a bustling population to efficient public transit. China has been battling smog for decades, and taking vehicles off the streets could be the piece of the puzzle needed to make lasting improvements. Via Clean Technica Images via Wikipedia , Wikimedia

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Bowl-shaped roofs harvest rainwater and promote natural cooling in arid environments

January 2, 2017 by  
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Water scarcity is felt unequally throughout the world with some regions worse off than others. Iran-based BMDesign Studios addressed their home country’s arid climates with an architectural solution to water shortages called Concave Roof, a double-roof system designed to collect and store rainwater, and promote natural cooling. The Concave Roof was engineered for arid environments, where rainwater collection can be tricky due to higher than average evaporation rates and low annual precipitation. The double-roof system, which includes a domed roof beneath a bowl-shaped catchment area, is designed to “help [make] even the smallest quantities of rain [flow down] the roof and eventually coalesce into bigger drops, just right for harvesting before they evaporate,” said the architects to ArchDaily . Stacking a concave roof atop a convex roof promotes natural cooling through shade and wind movement between the two roofs. Related: Rammed earth house blends traditional materials with modern techniques in Vietnam’s last frontier The bowl-shaped catchment area is steeply sloped to move raindrops towards a central collection point, where the rain is funneled into reservoirs . The reservoirs are placed between building walls to help regulate indoor temperatures. With this system, the architects estimate that 28 cubic meters of water could be harvested with just 923 square meters of a concave roof surface. BMDesign Studios’ vision also goes beyond the double-roof system and includes a massing design where the buildings and courtyards are sunken to promote natural cooling. The buildings would be organized around atriums to promote circulation and community. + BMDesign Studios Via ArchDaily Images via BMDesign Studios

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Bowl-shaped roofs harvest rainwater and promote natural cooling in arid environments

Michigan just made it illegal for cities to ban plastic bags

January 2, 2017 by  
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Michigan just passed a new law that prohibits local governments from banning, regulating, or taxing the use of plastic bags and other containers. That’s right: it’s a statewide ban on banning plastic bags . The law was likely aimed at shutting down a local ordinance in Ann Arbor’s Washtenaw County, which would have instituted a 10 cent fee on grocery store bags. Plastic bag bans, of course, are intended to help keep pollution out of the environment. The flimsy plastic bags used in many grocery stores are not biodegradable and tend to find their way into waterways and the ocean, where they break down into smaller pieces that poison fish, seabirds, and marine animals. Even worse, they can take hundreds of years to break down in the environment – or even longer in a landfill . Related: Morocco just officially banned plastic bags Given the environmental impact, what possible reason could Michigan have for shutting down plastic bag bans within the state? In a word: money. Businesses complain that bans or taxes on bags are simply too high a burden for their everyday operations. Michigan isn’t the only state to have taken this approach, either: Idaho, Arizona, and Missouri have all enacted similar laws in recent years. Hopefully, as plastic bag bans become more common, it will become clear that industry claims about the cost and complexity of implementing the bans simply aren’t true. So far in the US, plastic bags have already been banned throughout California and in cities including Portland, Seattle, Austin, and Chicago. If these major cities and the country’s largest state can adapt to paper and reusable bags, surely Michigan could do so as well. Via The Washington Post Images via Randy Wick and Eric

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Michigan just made it illegal for cities to ban plastic bags

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