Research suggests humans emerged 2.8M years ago amid major climate change event

May 18, 2017 by  
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Mystery still shrouds much of the story of our origins, but new Arizona State University (ASU) research sheds new light on why we first emerged where and when we did. Around 2.8 million years ago our genus, Homo , could have emerged in a valley in Ethiopia . It was a time of change on that Earth long ago; it appears forest landscapes altered into grassy ones where our ancient ancestors lived. Back in 2013 an ASU team discovered a jawbone with teeth at Ledi-Geraru, and the incredible find is the oldest evidence of Homo we’ve yet found and dates back around 2.8 million years. The find was 400,000 years older than other fossils we’d discovered to that point. Building on that discovery, ASU scientists hoped to answer two questions: why did humans emerge in Ethiopia’s lower Awash Valley, and why did they emerge at that point in time? Related: New ‘Hobbit’ fossils provide a glimpse into human relative Animal fossils help scientists recreate the conditions of the past – what they ate help indicate the environment in those days. Scientists discovered that the animals found with the 2.8 million-year-old Homo fed on grass, seeming to support the guesses of many in the scientific community humanity emerged as grassy environments were spreading in a period of global cooling. According to IBTimes UK, the landscape in which early humans lived would have been similar to today’s Serengeti region. Scientist Joshua Robinson said evidence had hinted at the connection between the emergence of humans and the spread of those grassy, open environments, “but, until now, we had not direct environmental data for the origins of Homo now that it’s been pushed back in time.” The 2.8 million date is also incredibly important for the fossil record. The famous Lucy fossil ( Australopithecus ), which dates to around 3.2 million years ago, was found just around 18 miles west of ASU’s 2013 discovery. But the geological sequence ended around 2.95 million years ago, until the recent findings. ASU researcher John Rowan said although Lucy’s species endured many environmental changes, it appears they didn’t last through the ancient climate change as open environments spread. The diet of early humans was still very similar to what Lucy would have consumed, however. The ASU research was published online this week in Nature Ecology & Evolution . Four ASU scientists worked on the study with one geoscientist from the University of South Florida . Via Arizona State University and IBTimes UK Images via Kaye Reed/Phys.org and Josh Robinson/Arizona State University

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Research suggests humans emerged 2.8M years ago amid major climate change event

Britain installs worlds biggest wind turbines near Liverpool

May 18, 2017 by  
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It’s official: Britain is now the world’s leader in wind turbine technology. Yesterday, Danish company Dong Energy finished installing 32 of the world’s biggest turbines in Liverpool Bay as part of the Burbo Bank extension. Standing 195-meters in length with blades longer than nine London buses, the turbines are now live and generating clean energy . Each of the new turbines stands taller than the Gherkin skyscraper and has more than twice the power capacity of those in a neighboring wind farm which was completed a decade ago, according to the Guardian. Said Benjamin Sykes, the country manager for Dong Energy UK, “That shows you something about the scale-up of the industry, the scale-up of the technology.” Sykes hailed the installation as a “very important milestones” for the renewable energy sector. The Guardian notes this is the first time 8MW turbines have been commercially used anywhere in the world. As a result, the UK can now boast that it has installed more offshore wind power than any other country. Subsidies, agreeable regulations, and a maritime past have made this monumental achievement possible. Related: Siemens Creates the World’s Largest Turbine Blades for New UK Wind Farm! Now, the UK has a capacity of 5.3GW, which means enough electricity can be generated to power 4.3 million homes. And, the sovereign state has no intention of slowing down. Eight more projects are already under construction, and they are expected to add more than half the capacity again. In Germany, Sykes recently received approval to build the world’s first subsidy-free offshore wind farm . By the time that project begins construction, he believes turbines as powerful as 13MW or 15MW will be on the market. “There’s every reason to think they will arrive,” said Sykes. Improved technology will also ensure those in the clean energy sector continue to receive taxpayer support in the UK, as ministers have made it clear cuts need to be made in the industry. “This and other projects have been crucial for driving costs down for the whole industry,” said Skyes, referring to the Burbo Bank extension. + Dong Energy Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay , Dong Energy

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Britain installs worlds biggest wind turbines near Liverpool

Minimalist barn-inspired home was built as a "landscape viewing instrument"

May 18, 2017 by  
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Halifax-based firm MLS Architects has created a minimalist barn-inspired home that pays homage to the local vernacular of Lower Kingsburg, Nova Scotia. The A-frame form of the Muir Craig house takes on the traditional shape of the local barns found in the area , and was built with simplicity in mind using corrugated metal and wood on the exterior, with exposed wood framing on the interior. The entire design for the three-bedroom home with two baths was kept simple to reduce the budget and blend the design into its surroundings. The steep gabled roof is similar to those in the same area. Also in an attempt to keep things subtle, the interior living space was left open and uncomplicated in order to keep the focus on the home’s beautiful natural surroundings. In fact, according to the architects, the home was meant to be purely a “landscape viewing instrument in which every opening is subtly positioned to frame specific landscape features and nearby vernacular precedents.” Related:Barn-inspired contemporary home ages beautifully over time The minimalist design found inside the 1,400-square-foot interior of the home follows what the architects call an “outsulation” strategy. Exposed wood framing with large ceiling beams gives the interior a playful country-home feel. Baltic birch plywood , which was chosen for its durability as well as its affordability, covers the walls of the home, further blending its design into its rural setting. + MLS Architects Images via MLS Architects

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Minimalist barn-inspired home was built as a "landscape viewing instrument"

Savvy seniors are buying tiny homes to enjoy their golden years in off-grid style

May 18, 2017 by  
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There’s no rule that says tiny home living has to be just for the young. In fact, seniors are starting a new trend by investing in smaller spaces so they can live out their golden years off-grid and burden-free. Take a look after the jump at some fearless retirees who are making the most out of retirement in custom-made tiny homes. According to Tumbleweeds Houses , the latest trend in tiny home living is spawned by older adults who are looking to downsize as they grow older. For example, retiree Bette Presley recently took the tiny home leap at age 72. After deciding to minimize her lifestyle, she moved into a 166-square-foot Tumbleweed Elm cabin and hasn’t looked back since. The compact space has all of the comforts of home, but without the hassle of maintaining a larger area. Additionally, living off-grid was important to Presley and her tiny home is RVIA certified and comes equipped for solar power . Related: Genius elevator bed slides vertically on rails to maximize space in Alaskan tiny home Converting herself into a minimalist lifestyle was surprisingly easy for Presley, who told the San Luis Obispo Tribune , “We are consumers. We buy too much. We don’t need all our belongings,” she said. “I just experienced the clutter, to live in excess, and I didn’t find it particularly satisfying.” Presley is far from alone in finding joy when breaking the confines of excess. A disabled widow, Dani, bought a compact Tumbleweed shell cabin after attending a workshop and has spent a number of years building it into the accessible home of her dreams. She has built a custom wheelchair ramp that leads up to the extra-wide front door and even created a custom-made chair lift using a rock climbing harness that lifts her up to the sleeping loft. Nature-loving retiree, Adele, loved the mobile aspect of a tiny home so she invested in a tiny Tumbleweed Cypress on wheels. Not only is the cabin travel-ready, but also has a large outdoor living space, a covered porch and even a hot tub. She was even able to customize the interior with more windows in order to enjoy the beautiful views of the Oregon farm where her tiny home is parked. Tiny homes are also quite convenient for those who are still working in their later years. The famed Sausage Nonnas recently hit the road in three ultra-cute “tiny grandma homes” to deliver their world-famed sausages to lucky families during a campaign called Sausage Sunday. Via Tumbleweed Houses Images via Tumbleweed Houses, Sausage Nonnas and The Tribune

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Savvy seniors are buying tiny homes to enjoy their golden years in off-grid style

Revolutionary printed solar sheets reach final trial stages in New South Wales

May 15, 2017 by  
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When disaster strikes, whether it be man-made or natural, power is the resource people need most. For this reason, Professor Paul Dastoor has been working for decades to develop a lightweight “printed solar ” panel that is capable of generating power . Now, the invention is in its final trial stages at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales. The revolutionary solar panels are made by printing electronic ink onto clear, plastic sheets. The final product is lightweight enough it can be quickly shipped to populations in distress – and that is the point. “What we do know right now is that if there’s a disaster the first thing people need is power,” said Dastoor. “Typically that’s generated by a diesel generator and you have to truck in fuel.” Compared to a silicon model, the lightweight solar panels are made from glass, which makes them much lighter. This, in turn, makes them ideal for developing countries. ”If I had 1000 square metres of typical silicone cells, that would weigh the equivalent of roughly three African Elephants . 1000m2 of this material would weigh about 100 kilograms,” said Vaughan, putting the product’s weight into perspective. The panels are also very economical to produce. After doing extensive economic modeling, the research team has concluded that they can produce the printed solar scales for less than $10 a square meter. “Try buying carpet for less than $10 a square metre,” said Vaughan. Related: MIT unveils new solar 3D printer that can build houses on other planets Based on data collected by the research team thus far, it is estimated that the university’s small printer can produce hundreds of meters of solar cells every day. In Professor Dastoor’s words, this “means that we’ll be able to power using scaled up printers , say thousands and thousands of homes… it’s very exciting.” You can expect to find the printed solar panels available for sale in about three years time. And, they won’t be marketed to just go on roofs . “One of the things about these cells is that they’re not as sensitive to light intensity,” said Dastoor. “Any part of the roof will generate electricity ; even walls, windows, surfaces of vehicles, tents, lightweight structures, roofs that can’t take a heavy conventional silicone solar cells are now accessible to these modules.”The inventor will “massively increase” the area of solar cells so energy can be produced in a variety of new ways. Added Dastoor, “We think it’s going to be a big change to the way in which we think about power being generated renewably .” Via ABC News Images via Kerrin Thomas of ABC News

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Revolutionary printed solar sheets reach final trial stages in New South Wales

Scientists discover enough new forests to cover 60% of Australia

May 15, 2017 by  
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A new survey of the world’s dryland habitats has found a massive amount of previously unreported forests — 467 million hectares (over 1.1 billion acres), which is 45 percent more forest than found in past surveys. The newly discovered dryland forests cover an area equivalent to 60 percent of the size of Australia, putting dryland forest extent on par with tropical rainforests and boreal forests. The discovery could be good news for reversing global warming as it increases the estimates of total global forest carbon stocks by 15 gigatons to 158 gigatons — an increase of 2 percent to 20 percent. Although dryland biomes occupy more than 40 percent of the Earth’s land surface, these forests were previously difficult to spot because of the relatively low density of the trees . Technological advances have made it easier to accurately measure dryland forests as demonstrated in this survey. The scientists used Google Earth Engine to analyze high-resolution satellite images of more than 210,000 dryland sites in order to determine tree number and density. The researchers then compared samples of their findings with field information for accuracy. Related: Meet the teen planting 150 trees for every person on Earth The study’s authors point out the importance of understanding dryland forests and dryland ecosystems because climate modeling suggests these biomes could expand by 11 percent to 23 percent by the end of the century, covering more than half of the Earth’s land surface. “Considering the potential of dryland forests to stave off desertification and to fight climate change by storing carbon, it will be crucial to keep monitoring the health of these forests, now that we know they are there,” said University of Adelaide School of Biological Sciences professors Andrew Lowe and Ben Sparrow, co-authors of the study. + The extent of forest in dryland biomes Via Phys.org Images via TERN AusPlots

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Scientists discover enough new forests to cover 60% of Australia

Only 25 glaciers remain in Montana’s shrinking Glacier National Park

May 11, 2017 by  
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Our warming climate is ravaging the storied glaciers of Montana’s Glacier National Park . The United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Portland State University recently released data revealing the devastation of climate change on the area over 50 years. The park’s glaciers shrunk by 39 percent on average, but some dwindled by up to 85 percent. An estimated 150 glaciers filled the park in 1850; today there are around 25. The researchers tracked two glaciers on United States Forest Service land and 37 glaciers in Glacier National Park . But now just 26 glaciers in the park are bigger than 25 acres, the benchmark for a body of ice to be correctly termed a glacier. Geologist Andrew Fountain of Portland State said, “While the shrinkage in Montana is more severe than some other places in the U.S., it is in line with trends that have been happening on a global scale.” Related: The Glaciers of Glacier National Park May All Disappear by 2030 The researchers scrutinized digital maps from satellites and aerial photography to measure the outer edges of glaciers in the late summer, when seasonal snow has disappeared and it’s easier to tell how large a glacier truly is. Site visits added to the data. The researchers looked at glaciers in 1966, 1998, 2005, and 2015/2016 to track 50 years of climate change in Glacier National Park. The news isn’t good; it shows visually how the mountain ecosystem has altered in the northern Rocky Mountains. Lead USGS scientist Daniel Fagre said, “The park-wide loss of ice can have ecological effects on aquatic species by changing stream water volume, water temperature, and run-off timing in the higher elevations of the park.” The loss of glaciers in the park named for them could also hurt tourism in the area. The research is intended to help park management and inform the public; according to USGS it will assist scientists in their understanding of the effects of large scale climate patterns on glaciers in distinctive mountain environments . Via United States Geological Survey Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Only 25 glaciers remain in Montana’s shrinking Glacier National Park

SolarGaps’ new solar blinds shade windows and generate clean energy

May 11, 2017 by  
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What if your window blinds could power your home in addition to shading its rooms? That’s the idea behind SolarGaps’ new solar blinds. These smart blinds designed to track the sun can be controlled via an app , and the company says their product will slash energy bills by as much as 70 percent. SolarGaps’ smart solar blinds, created by Ukrainian inventor Yevgen Erik, could revolutionize how we live our lives indoors, and obtain the energy we consume in our homes. The company says the blinds are extremely efficient can generate 100 watts of power per 10 square feet of a window – enough energy for three MacBooks or 30 LED light bulbs, according to the company. Related: National laboratory scales up quantum-dot solar windows that can power entire buildings The company also says the installation process is simple enough for homeowners to do themselves using SolarGaps’ instructions – and after the blinds are plugged in, the renewable energy they generate begins to power home devices. Their app allows users to change the angle of the blinds, lower or raise them, or check out how much energy they are generating. The blinds are made with solar cells from SunPower and come with a 25 year lifespan. The outer part is made with Aluminum . SolarGaps says they’ll work in a wide variety of climates and temperatures, from negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. The company also markets their groundbreaking blinds as affordable, and able to generate more electricity than competing smart blinds currently on the market. They’re currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter; a XS Sized Set is $390, 50 percent off the retail price, and measures 36 by 36 inches, or 32 by 36 inches. SolarGaps is also offering small, medium, large, extra large, and extra extra large sizes, as well as two custom bundles. You can check out the campaign here . + SolarGaps Images via SolarGaps Facebook and SolarGaps

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SolarGaps’ new solar blinds shade windows and generate clean energy

Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy

May 10, 2017 by  
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5.5 million people died prematurely because of air pollution back in 2013 – and half of those people lived in India or China. Air pollution continues to plague people around the world today, but now researchers from KU Leuven and the University of Antwerp have found a way to transform that dirty air into energy . They designed an air purifying device able to fit in a person’s hand that only needs light to work. The groundbreaking device houses two small chambers divided by a membrane. In one chamber air is purified; in the other hydrogen gas is generated. Nanomaterials in the device act as catalysts to both break down pollution and produce the gas. Scientist Sammy Verbruggen of both institutions, who’s lead author on a study published recently about the device in ChemSusChem , said the hydrogen gas can be stored and used as fuel in the future. Related: 9-year-old girl sues Indian government for climate change inaction According to KU Leuven, the processes underlying the device are akin to the workings of solar panels: “The difference here is that electricity is not generated directly, but rather that air is purified while the generated power is stored as hydrogen gas.” The higher the concentration of pollutants in the air, the stronger the electrical currents, according to the researchers, which means cities like Los Angeles, Beijing, and Delhi could really benefit from the technology . Verbruggen emphasized to Mic their device is just first proof of the concept, but could open up options in the future. Verbruggen told Mic, “There’s still a lot of work to do to make this applicable to daily life. It’s not like we discovered the holy grail yet. But this is a new field of opportunities.” The scientists are working to scale up their device and improve their materials to draw on sunlight more efficiently to set off the reactions. Via Mic and KU Leuven Images © UAntwerpen and KU Leuven and via Pixabay

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Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy

Georgia couple convert old Blue Bird school bus into a cozy home on wheels

May 10, 2017 by  
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Working under the motto of “Minimal, Mobile, Modern,” Julie and Andrew Puckett shunned their landlord’s attempt at raising their apartment rent and opted to convert a 1990 Blue Bird school bus into a sweet little home on wheels they’ve named House Bus . Currently parked in a green pine forest in Stone Mountain, Georgia, the couple’s beloved bus has all of the comforts of home. Once the couple decided to make the leap into tiny home living , they drove six hours to check out an old bus that was to become their future home. Working within a tight budget and even tighter time frame of just four months, the adventurous duo began to gut the interior. Thankfully, the bus had previously been used as a camper and already had updated plumbing and electric, as well as a basic living layout. Related: Traveling family renovates old school bus as both solar-powered home and hostel To convert the interior into a comfy living space, the couple gave the bus a sophisticated nomadic feel, complete with nautical touches. Of course, along with building out the living and sleeping spaces, the renovation included tons of creative storage solutions and multi-functional elements throughout the home to avoid clutter. Although the couple only had a short four months to restore the bus into their dream home, there were a number of additional challenges along the way, namely downsizing. Julie told Apartment Therapy that the biggest obstacle was “paring down our belongings to just the essentials and our most beloved items. We lived in a 1,000 square foot apartment before, so we had a lot of room to accumulate extraneous stuff. The hard work has been worth it, though. I no longer feel stifled by piles of clutter, and that’s made a tremendous impact on my creative process.” + House Bus Via Apartment Therapy Photography by Selena Kirchhoff and Julie and Andrew Puckett

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Georgia couple convert old Blue Bird school bus into a cozy home on wheels

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