Jakarta’s massive bus system pilots electric vehicles

June 3, 2019 by  
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Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta, is piloting a program to transition from public buses to electric vehicles . Jakarta’s bus system is the largest in the world with over 200 million riders and new routes added every year. The addition of cleaner vehicles promises to have a significant impact on the city’s toxic levels of air pollution. Starting in April, the city began testing electric buses produced by Chinese and Indonesian manufacturers. After the pilot trials, the city will test the buses with passengers. The city’s governor, Anies Baswedan is determined to make Jakarta one of the greenest cities in the world and cleaner transportation is a big step towards that goal. Related: UK-based company is making home delivery as green as possible with e-cargo bikes “We see the move toward electric vehicles as a vital way to combat air pollution and transition to a greener future. The electric bus trial program will give us a good sense of the changes we need to make to the system to ultimately replace all of Jakarta’s fleet of public vehicles with electric models,” said Transjakarta Chief Executive Officer Agung Wicaksono. The United Nation’s Environment Program is providing support for the initiative as part of their effort to reduce air pollution . In Asia and the Pacific alone, air pollution kills 4 million people every year. Bert Fabian, Program Officer for the UN Environment Program’s Air Quality and Mobility Unit, said: “The transition to electric mobility can have a dramatic effect in reducing pollutants and making cities healthier and more enjoyable places to live.” For some Jakarta residents, though, the clean vehicle program cannot come soon enough. This month, 57 residents unified to sue the city for its inability to address unacceptable air pollution . The lawsuit, which will be filed on June 18, will pressure the government to do more to clean up the air in the city and argues that transportation is only partially responsible. Citizens also call on the government to crack down on coal-fired industries surrounding the city. + U.N. Environment Program Image via Shutterstock

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Henning Larsen wins bid to design a sustainable business district for Shenzhen

May 13, 2019 by  
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Danish architectural firm Henning Larsen Architects has won an international competition for the design of the Shenzhen Bay Headquarters City, a new district in the southern Chinese city spanning 5.5 million square meters. Working alongside two other local firms, Henning Larsen’s green and sustainable master plan will help cement Shenzhen  — often likened to China’s Silicon Valley — as the innovation center of the country. A critical part of the Shenzhen Bay Headquarters City is reconnecting the business district with the waterfront and emphasizing the pedestrian urban realm — something that Chinese planning authorities have long overlooked in favor of vehicular traffic. In Henning Larsen’s approach, cars will be relegated to an underground network of roads and highways so that commuter cars will rarely be seen aboveground in public areas. Moreover, the master plan’s central organizing axis will consist of a linear waterway that visually and physically connects the district to two larger bodies of water. “Our design aims to make Shenzhen the waterfront city it should always have been,” said Claude Godefroy, partner and design director of Henning Larsen’s Hong Kong Office. “To create an attractive waterfront, we brought commercial and cultural facilities meters away from the seashore, so citizens will finally be able to enjoy the atmosphere of Shenzhen Bay in an activated urban environment, like in Sydney, Singapore or Copenhagen.” Related: MVRDV unveils a “three-dimensional city” skyscraper for Shenzhen The architects also want to introduce a more “porous urban fabric.” Rather than create massive shopping malls that sit beneath tall buildings, Henning Larsen proposes siting smaller buildings between the towers and tucking retail partially underground. The city’s porous nature will optimize access to sea breezes to combat the urban heat island effect . As part of its “Forest City” vision for the master plan, the firm also plans to introduce 10,000 trees, roof gardens and ground-level bioswales to help cool the environment and create habitats for birds and insects. + Henning Larsen Images via Henning Larsen

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eVolo announces winners of the 2019 Skyscraper Competition

May 10, 2019 by  
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eVolo Magazine has announced the winners of its 2019 Skyscraper Competition from a pool of 478 projects. A jury of architects and designers selected three winners and 27 honorable mentions. The annual award recognizes “visionary ideas for building [high-rise] projects that through [the] novel use of technology, materials, programs, aesthetics and spatial organizations, challenge the way we understand vertical architecture and its relationship with the natural and built environments.” Methanescraper, an energy-producing “vertical landfill” city district concept was crowned the first place winner. Serbian designer Marko Dragicevic placed first in the 14th iteration of eVolo’s Skyscraper Competition with “Methanescraper,” a proposal for a city district in Belgrade that serves as a “vertical landfill” for waste and recycling. The district’s towers would be built mainly of waste capsules, modular units that contain sorted trash. Methane gas produced by the decomposition of waste would be extracted by pipes, pumped into storage tanks for filtering and then sent into the generator, where the gas is burned and transformed into electricity used to power the tower and the city. In second place is the “Airscraper” by Polish designers Klaudia Go?aszewska and Marek Grodzicki. Taking inspiration from Le Corbusier’s philosophy of houses as “machines for living,” the Airscraper was proposed to help fight air pollution in Beijing. At 2,624 feet, the mixed-use building is envisioned as the Chinese capital’s tallest tower and would contain three types of modules — an Air-Intake module, a Solar-Gain module and a Green-Garden module — arranged around an inner chimney that uses the stack effect to suck in outdoor polluted air for treatment. Related: The Fire Prevention Skyscraper brings sustainable housing to areas affected by forest fires U.K.-based designers Zijian Wan, Xiaozhi Qi and Yueya Liu designed the third place winner, the “Creature Ark: Biosphere Skyscraper.” Inspired by Noah’s Ark, the designers created a vertical conservation skyscraper for fauna and flora that consists of five simulated ecological environments, from the bottom up: arid, tropical, temperate, continental and polar. + eVolo 2019 Skyscraper Competition Images via eVolo

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‘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

Ennead designs a striking nature preserve to protect Chinas most important river

March 25, 2019 by  
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Ennead Architects and Andropogon Landscape Architects have won an international competition for the Shanghai Yangtze River Estuary Chinese Sturgeon Nature Preserve. The proposed design takes the shape of an undulating sculpture mimicking the curves of Asia’s longest river while referencing “biomorphic anatomy.” The building will be clad in translucent PTFE panels and engineered with sustainable, energy-efficient technologies such as geothermal heating and cooling loops. The purpose of the Shanghai Yangtze River Estuary Chinese Sturgeon Nature Preserve is to rescue critically endangered species and to restore the natural ecology of Yangtze River, which has been plagued by pollution and construction. The project also aims to engage the public and raise environmental awareness with immersive exhibit experiences. To achieve these goals, the 427,000-square-foot nature reserve building, which will sit on a 17.5-hectare site on an island at the mouth of the Yangtze River, will consist of a dual-function aquarium and research facility, bringing together efforts to repopulate the endangered Chinese Sturgeon and Finless Porpoise. Ennead Architects and Andropogon Landscape Architects proposed a dramatic design for the building that takes cues from nature. Split into three wings united around a central spine, the structure will be built with a cross-laminated timber structural system wrapped in a lightweight PTFE skin, which will fill the interior with daylight. Inside, constructed wetlands landscaped with local flora and aquatic plants provide a beautiful connection with the outdoors, sequester carbon and serve as a biofiltration system for aquarium water, “resulting in a new paradigm of environmental equilibrium,” the designers said in their press release. Related: Ennead Architects break ground on celestial Shanghai Planetarium The landscape design in and around the buildings mimics the natural shoreline ecosystems found throughout the Yangtze River basin and provides opportunities for breeding and raising Chinese Sturgeons and Finless Porpoises. Visitors will be able to view these pools from suspended walkways that weave throughout the campus grounds. + Ennead Architects Images via Ennead Architects

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The environmental secrets the fashion industry does not want you to know

March 25, 2019 by  
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The fashion industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few decades. Having greater access to the latest trends in fashion is great, but the industry as a whole could do a lot better lessening its environmental impact on the world. Some of the biggest issues with the fashion industry are microplastics used in production, child labor violations and new disposable fashion trends— which put more waste into landfills around the world. If you are curious about how the fashion industry is affecting the environment, here’s an inside look at the industry’s biggest hidden secrets. Related: The sustainable wardrobe: it’s more accessible than you think Fashion’s Environmental Impact Mass-producing clothing items for the fashion industry has massive implications on the environment. The industry as a whole contributes greatly to water waste and has a large carbon footprint – and that is only considering production. Discarded items of clothing end up in landfills around the world, further polluting waterways and oceans. When it comes to clothing production, it takes thousands of liters of water to produce a single cotton shirt. Farms that grow cotton also use a quarter of the world’s insecticides. Around a trillion gallons of water are used to die fabrics, which further contributes to water waste . Child Labor Laws Aside from environmental concerns, the fashion industry also violates child labor laws in certain locations around the world. Areas most impacted by child labor violations include Bangladesh, Argentina, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. In Bangladesh, for example, child workers – most of whom are women – only take home around $96 every month. The country’s government, however, says that its citizens need at least $336 a month to meet basic living requirements. Given how the country has little regulations on labor and environmental practices, the situation is unlikely to change in the near future. Related: Faux fur or real fur, which one is better for the planet? Plastic Microfibers One of the biggest issues with the fashion industry is the use of plastics in garments. Synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester and acrylic are used in over 60 percent of clothing. Plastics are used in fashion because they are long-lasting, budget-friendly, pliable and light. The problem with incorporating synthetics in the production of clothing is that they leach plastic microfibers into the environment. These microfibers eventually make their way to the ocean, where marine organisms ingest them. Once eaten, the plastics can lead to digestive blockages, growth issues, problems in the endocrine system and even starvation. “One of the problems is plastic ingestion at all levels of the food chain, which may pass plastic to larger animals and humans. The question is ‘is it acceptable to us to end up eating plastic?’” Heidi Savelli, an expert with the UN Environment, explained. Discarded Clothing Fashion sales have skyrocketed over the past few decades. The industry has seen a growth of around 60 percent since 2000, which is partly because clothing does not last as long as it used to. On average, people retain a piece of clothing for about half the amount of time as they did in the late ‘90s. This trend of discarding and buying clothes has been profitable for the fashion industry, but it has led to disastrous effects on the environment. With production steadily increasing, more and more water is being used in cotton farming while excess materials are overcrowding landfills . Industry Solutions With the fashion industry causing a major concern for the environment , there are a few things it can do to become more eco-friendly. For starters, companies can make changes to the manufacturing process, which will reduce the amount of plastic that ends of polluting the environment. The primary issues in clothing are the density of the material and the length of fibers. If these two problems are addressed, then there will be a lesser chance of plastic microfibers shedding in the wash. Companies can also incorporate better finishing techniques when making clothing, which can also reduce microfiber issues. There also needs to be an improvement in the way microfibers are captured, both in efficiency and scale. There are capturing devices on the market, but they are not geared towards large-scale operations. What Can You Do? There are a number of different things you can do to lessen the fashion industry’s impact on the environment. For starters, you can repair clothing items instead of replacing them whenever possible. When it comes to laundry, washing less is the best way to reduce microfibre shedding. You should also look into investing in a front load machine, as they are better at handling plastic microfibres. If you want to go the extra mile, there are special bags that catch plastic debris in the wash and reduce these particles by over 80 percent. At the end of the day, doing your part to help curb disposable fashion will only go so far, and unless the industry makes some major changes, these environmental concerns will continue to grow. Via UN Environment , The Progressive Images via Shutterstock

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Panda Express introduces vegan options

March 14, 2019 by  
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Good news for suburban vegans and those who find themselves trapped in airports or mini-malls: The Chinese fast food chain Panda Express has added its first vegan entrees. Vegan diners at all 2,000 locations can soon safely chow down on Panda Express’ chow mein and eggplant tofu. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ( PETA ) has long been chipping away at Panda Express’ resistance to offering any dishes sans chicken broth or animal-derived seasoning. Supporters of the animal rights group contacted Panda Express 234,000 times about adding vegan menu entrees. But ultimately it was Vegan Outreach’s 5,000-signature petition that coaxed Panda Express into taking the chicken broth out of the chow mein. In February, the Chinese chain adopted reformulated recipes for its eggplant tofu and chow mein. Other vegan options now include spring rolls, a super green side of kale, cabbage and broccoli and vegan brown and white rice. However, as the restaurants use up old inventory, they might still be serving non-vegan versions through March. Vegans also shouldn’t expect separate cooking surfaces anytime soon. “While seemingly small, this change by Panda Express will make a big impact,” Taylor Radig, campaigns and social media manager of Vegan Outreach , told VegNews . “Not only will the chain expand its customer base to include vegans, but it will also contribute less to animal suffering by using more plant-based ingredients.” Panda Express now joins a growing list of fast-food chains that have added vegan options, including Taco Bell, Panera Bread and Carl’s Jr. Vegan Outreach, founded in 1993, introduced the petition as part of its work to end violence toward animals . According to the nonprofit’s website, “We focus on reaching the people who are motivated enough to make changes now — of which there are always many in our target audience who just need some additional encouragement.” Some of these folks might not be ready to venture into a vegan raw food restaurant, but they may be willing to try Panda Express’ eggplant tofu and chow mein. + Panda Express Via VegNews Images via Rick Obst and Willis Lam

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These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

March 12, 2019 by  
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Humans have a long history of wiping out animal populations, and we continue to do so even to this day. According to a new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, people around the world are eating hundreds of animal species into extinction. If we don’t make some changes, the authors of the study warn that the food security of hundreds of millions of people could be threatened. Currently, we are in the middle of mass extinction that rivals the wiping out of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But this time, it isn’t a giant meteorite doing all the damage — it’s humans. Over the past century, we have accelerated extinction rates 100 hundred times greater than what would naturally occur without human impact. As we continue to destroy habitats with construction and invade wild areas for hunting, 301 species of land mammals are now critically endangered and have made their way to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The list includes 168 primates, 73 hoofed animals, 27 bats, 26 marsupials, 21 rodent species and 12 carnivores. There are also 1,414 species of fish on the Red List. “There are plenty of bad things affecting wildlife around the world, and habitat loss and degradation are clearly at the forefront, but among the other things is the seemingly colossal impact of bushmeat hunting,” said David MacDonald, professor at the University of Oxford and part of the international research team. Bushmeat is a traditional food source for rural people in societies across the globe. That is starting to change because of large-scale commercial hunting and road construction in remote areas. MacDonald said that the number of hunters continues to increase, and the roads are being built in the most remote places, so there is no place left for wildlife to go. Not only does this mass extinction threaten food security, but it also upsets ecosystems. To reverse this problem, the researchers in this new study have a few ideas. They recommend greater legal protection for the endangered species, empowering local communities to prioritize wildlife conservation , providing alternative foods and family planning to reduce the rate of population growth. The list of endangered animals is long, but here are a few highlights. Bluefin tuna One of the fastest fish on Earth, bluefin tuna can hit speeds around 40 miles per hour when they are hunting, can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh as much as 1500 pounds. However, with the growing demand for sushi, overfishing is becoming a huge problem, and the bluefin tuna numbers are dropping. Related: Endangered bluefin tuna sold for $3.1 billion to sushi tycoon Whale shark The largest fish in the sea, the whale shark has been on the critically endangered list for three years, because the population has dropped more than 50 percent in the last 75 years thanks to both legal and illegal fishing. According to National Geographic, fishing for whale sharks is extremely lucrative, because they can be “harvested for their meat, fins and other parts used in traditional medicinal products.” Of course, they are also in great demand for shark fin soup. Pangolin These nocturnal mammals have keratin scales, emit a harmful chemical like skunks and eat ants and termites. In Africa, they are a major source of food and medicine, but in China and Vietnam, they are a delicacy. This has led to the pangolin becoming the most trafficked animal in the world. Related: Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project There is an international trade ban on all pangolin species, but this has only resulted in rising prices as the population declines. Chinese giant salamander As the largest amphibian on Earth, the Chinese giant salamander has been around for more than 170 million years, and it can grow to be 6 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. The species is currently on the critically endangered list, because it is a Chinese delicacy. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. In just three generations, the population has plummeted by 80 percent. Sturgeon With fossil records dating back 200 million years, we know that sturgeon have survived two — maybe three — mass extinctions . This time, the species might not be so lucky. The beluga sturgeon is being overfished, because the eggs are needed for caviar. They take 20 years to reach maturity, but we are killing them to harvest the eggs at massive rates. You can learn more about the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species on the organization’s website. Images via Danilo Cedrone / UN Food and Agriculture Organization , Aruro de Frias Marques , A.J.T. Johnsingh / WWF-India , Petr Hamerník , USFWS and National Marine  Sanctuary

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These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

China closes Mount Everest base camp after overwhelming trash problem reports

February 22, 2019 by  
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China is taking steps to clean up Mount Everest amid growing concerns about trash accumulation. The base camp at the foot of the world’s tallest mountain is officially closed to tourists until further notice. The closure of the base camp comes after a surprising report from the Tibet Autonomous Region Sports Bureau, which claims it has picked up over 8 tons of trash from the site, including human waste and general garbage, last year alone. It is unclear when the base camp will open to tourists. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 “[N]o unit or individuals are allowed entry into the core area of the Mount Qomolangma National Nature Reserve,” local officials posted in Tibet . Qomolangma is what Tibetans call Everest. The notices were originally posted last December, though the closure is only now getting attention from media outlets around the world. Climbers can still gain access to Everest via China but not without a special permit. The country plans to issue around 300 permits in 2019. Tourists can also visit Everest, they just cannot reach the mountain through China. Anyone can still reach the north face of Everest via the Rongbuk Monastery, which is located around a mile from the main base camp. Trash buildup around the base of Everest has become a major issue over the past few years. China and Nepal have both initiated programs to deal with removing trash from the site, including encouraging climbers to take their garbage with them when they leave base camp. China, for example, has started to fine climbers who do not come off the mountain with their waste, while Nepal charges $4,000 for a refundable garbage deposit. Despite the efforts to curb trash accumulation, only about 50 percent of climbers came off the mountain with the minimum trash requirement. Although the majority of climbers reach Everest by way of Nepal, 40,000 visitors made their way to the Chinese base camp in 2015. China has not announced when it plans to reopen its base camp on the foot of Mount Everest. Via EcoWatch Image via Shutterstock

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Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok

January 31, 2019 by  
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Officials in Bangkok have closed schools for the rest of the week amid growing concerns of toxic smog . The Ministry of Education in Thailand announced the closing of around 450 schools in Bangkok and the surrounding area this week as the government tries to deal with a massive pollution problem. The air quality in the city of Bangkok has dipped to unacceptable levels. The amount of dust particles — also referred to as PM2.5 — deemed dangerous to health has far exceeded acceptable standards. This fine particulate matter is hazardous to health , because it is tiny enough to enter the body and do considerable damage to organs. Related: Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition According to The Guardian , the massive amount of pollution is caused by poor construction standards, car exhaust, factory fumes and crop burning. The pollution is so large in scale that it is unable to escape the city, leaving people trapped in a toxic environment. To combat the situation, residents in Bangkok have been wearing respirator masks to avoid inhaling the fine particles. The government, which has been under considerable criticism for not actively fighting pollution , has attempted to make it rain in the city by seeding clouds. The rain helps fight pollution by trapping the toxic particles. Officials have also sprayed water in strategic locations to help decrease the amount of dangerous particles in the air . Residents have been avoiding burning incense, which is a popular activity over the Chinese New Year. Despite their efforts, authorities were forced to close down 437 schools in Bangkok. They also declared a “control area” around the city that is over 580 square miles in size. Officials hope that closing schools will help alleviate some of the traffic and reduce vehicle emissions. “The situation will be bad until February 3 to 4, so I decided to close schools,” Aswin Kwanmuang, the governor of Bangkok, shared. School authorities plan to look at the situation next week to determine if the closing should be extended. The air quality index in Bangkok was measured at 171 this week, which is the highest it has been in more than a year. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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