On this week’s podcast: Inside Al Gore’s Climate Reality training, and a digest of our World Water Day stories.
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Episode 69: An inconvenient podcast; Bechtel engineers green infrastructure
Immersive experiences bring people face-to-face with our impact on marine ecosystems.
9 VR videos that dive deep into water issues
It could have been angry and defiant. It could have been despondent and fatalistic. Or worse, it could have been rosy and effervescent.
A week inside Al Gore’s climate reality
18 Latin American cities have signed onto the Clean Bus Declaration, but high upfront costs and technology risks may be holding zero emission fleets back.
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What are the roadblocks to Latin America’s clean bus transition?
Ocean acidification is increasing rapidly in the Arctic Ocean . New research from an international team reveals between the 1990’s and 2010, the area of acidified water expanded northward by around 300 nautical miles from near Alaska nearly up to the North Pole . The depth of acidified waters hiked up too, from around 325 feet to more than 800 feet. 13 scientists from institutions in China, Sweden, and the United States scrutinized data from the 1990’s up through 2010 to see how acidification has escalated in the Arctic Ocean, and they found both area and depth of acidified waters spread. Acidity in the area is six times greater than it was 20 years ago. Paper co-author Wei-Jun Cai of the University of Delaware said in a statement, “The Arctic Ocean is the first ocean where we see such a rapid and large-scale increase in acidification, at least twice as fast as that observed in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans.” The journal Nature Climate Change published their research online in late February. Related: Melting Arctic Seas are Turning into Giant Pools of Acid, Researchers Warn There are a few possible reasons for such rapid acidification. One is the lack of summer sea ice ; water is exposed to the atmosphere for lengthier periods of time now and therefore has more time to absorb acidifying gas like carbon dioxide . Currents in the atmosphere have also sent Pacific Ocean water, which tends to be more acidic, into the Canada Basin. Co-author Richard Feely of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the combination of those two phenomenon likely led to the speedy acidification. Naturally the news isn’t great for marine life. Feely said mussels, clams, and small sea snails may have a hard time maintaining or building their shells in acidified waters. As sea snails in particular are an important source of food in the Arctic food web, sustaining herring and salmon, their decline could impact the rest of the marine ecosystem . Via the University of Delaware and the Toronto Star Images via Pixabay and Tammy Beeson/University of Delaware
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Large section of Arctic Ocean is six times more acidic than 20 years ago
Structure Tone , one of Manhattan’s largest construction firms, isn’t giving “sick building syndrome” a chance. Its new headquarters at 330 West 34th Street is the first in New York City to be certified WELL , meaning that it’s deliberately designed to boost the wellbeing of the people inside it. The 82,000-square-foot office space received a Silver rating for a host of prescriptive features, including flooring, soundproofing, furniture, paint, and sealants that have low or no volatile organic compounds—that is, toxic gas emissions that frequently contribute to indoor pollution. Other pro-health elements include scrupulous air and water filtration, circadian-attuned lighting that promises to foster alertness in the day and better rest at night, and sit-and-stand desks so employees can keep their bodies limber and moving. Structure Tone even brought in acoustic consultants to dampen ambient noise and minimize distractions. Related: Foster + Partners aims to be first WELL-certified NYC tower Nutrition-wise, the company has its staff covered, as well. An on-site café serves up plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, along with beverages that contain less than 25 grams of sugar. There is also an automated system that allows employees to “customize their own health profile” and learn to make more nourishing choices. “Targeting WELL certification for our new office was important to us not only for our employees’ health and wellness, but also to ensure as construction managers that we understand what it takes to build these kinds of spaces,” said James Donaghy, chairman of the board at Structure Tone. “We have already seen our clients incorporating wellness into their built environments and firmly believe WELL will play a strong role in the workplaces of the future.” Related: Tour the WELL-certified building where Leonardo DiCaprio recently purchased an apartment Although less widely known than programs such as LEED , the WELL Building Standard offers a new paradigm for our built environment, chiefly by incorporating features that promote the mind and body. It’s not meant to supplant environmental building certifications, according to the International WELL Building Institute, but rather augment them. And the captains of industry had best pay attention. “Having Structure Tone achieve the first WELL certification in New York for its headquarters is indicative of its global leadership,” said Rick Fedrizzi, chairman and CEO of IWBI. “This is a company that at its core deeply understands the connection between the health of people and the importance of designing and constructing spaces that enhance health and wellness. We congratulate them on this significant achievement.” + WELL Building Institute
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NYC’s first WELL-certified office boasts a host of health-boosting features
Modern technology is allowing an increasing number of people to travel without taking time off work. Internet, smart phones and laptops allow us to work remotely instead of wasting away in an office. Arkansas natives Zack and Annie (and dog Lola) are the latest digital nomads to reject the grind of 9-5 life. The couple recently converted a former school bus into an ultra-modern solar-powered mobile home on wheels , and now they’re living the dream. After several years of working in an office, the couple decided to turn their lives around and finally see all the places they have always wanted to visit. Zack found a job as a web developer, which allows him to work remotely. Related: 8 buses converted into gorgeous mobile homes perfect for adventure “We began the overwhelming process of trying to figure out what vehicle we wanted and which one would best suit our needs,” the couple wrote on their blog. “Going through this process is probably the most crucial part of starting into this lifestyle. Picking the wrong vehicle could make for a miserable experience. We narrowed down our choices and finally made a decision. A 2001 Thomas HDX school bus.” Related: This couple ditched their tech jobs for life and work on the road in a converted school bus They sold their house and converted the school bus into a permanent home on wheels with a standing workspace, kitchen, king-sized bed, bathroom with a composting toilet and lots of storage space. The couple is currently traveling in their fancy new home nicknamed “Stormy”. You can follow their story on their Instagram page and website. + Natural State Nomads Via Treehugger
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Solar-powered home on wheels frees US couple from the 9-5 grind
A zoo in the Czech Republic announced Tuesday that it plans to preemptively remove the horns from its herd of rare rhinos. The decision comes a week after poachers broke into a French zoo, shot dead an endangered white rhino and hacked off its horn. As extreme as it sounds, the surgery could be potentially lifesaving. “It’s for the sake of rhino safety,” Andrea Jirousova, spokeswoman for the zoo in the central Czech town of Dvur Kralove nad Labem, told AFP . “The attack put us on alert, the danger is really intense.” The March 7 death of 4-year-old Vince from Thoiry Zoological Park outside Paris sent shockwaves through the wildlife community. Experts say that the animal’s death likely marks the first time a rhino has been killed in a zoo. The message the tragedy sent was chillingly clear: No living rhino, not even one held in captivity, is safe from poachers. The Dvur Kralove zoo currently houses 21 black and southern white rhinos, including three calves who will be excluded from the surgery. At up to $60,000 per kilogram, rhino horn sells more on the black market than gold or cocaine. Most of the demand for horn comes from China and Vietnam, where it’s prized for its purported medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. Related: Poachers broke into a French zoo to kill a rhino and steal its horn Jirousova said that the rhinos would be kept under anesthesia for the procedure, which involves removing the horns with a chainsaw, then filing down the edges. The move, she added, is entirely unprecedented. “We have never done this because of poachers,” Jirousova added. “We did it for other reasons like transport or health concerns.” Via AFP Photos by Flowcomm and Son of Groucho
In another move aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, President Donald Trump on Wednesday told car executives and auto workers gathered near Detroit that he would order a review of the fuel economy standards for cars and trucks that were put in place by the Obama Administration in 2012. The rules would have raised average fleetwide fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — well above the current 35.5 mpg requirement that has been credited with decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that climate scientists say are the primary drivers of global warming. Trump spoke at a former WWII bomber factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan that is being repurposed to test autonomous vehicles. The president said that he would “ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs, your factories,” adding that the White House is “setting up a task force in every federal agency to identify and remove any regulation that undermines American auto production.” Related: US vehicle emissions hit record low as fuel economy climbs to record high While Trump talked of ending the “assault” on the US auto industry, it is unclear exactly what he is referring to. Despite carmakers complaining about the EPA’s fuel economy standards, a recent report from the regulatory agency found that Detroit was actually outperforming the GHG emission standards while at the same time selling a record number of new cars and trucks. Last year automakers sold a record 17.55 million vehicles in the US — the seventh straight year of rising sales. Also, Trump didn’t mention that Obama has been credited with helping to save the domestic auto industry. A bipartisan congressional oversight panel concluded that the government intervention resulted in the industry becoming more efficient, allowing automakers “to become more flexible and better able to meet changing consumer demands, while still remaining profitable.” Via The Christian Science Monitor Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia
Trump orders review of Obama-era fuel economy standards
These stunning nature-inspired sculptures are so beautiful you might not notice at first glance what they’re carved from—old farm equipment. Self-taught artist Dan Rawlings recycles these discarded tools into canvases and sculptures . By giving these forgotten tools new life, he hopes to remind others to appreciate the value of our existing possessions and the environment rather than succumb to the never-ending excesses of commercialism. Based in Gloucestershire, UK, Rawlings is drawn to the fun challenge of working with old found objects that still have sentimental value even if they’re damaged beyond use. Using a variety of tools including a handheld plasma torch, welders , and scalpels, the artist reshapes and carves intricate nature-inspired scenes. He writes: “I try to create images that remind people of the moments when everything seems possible and free; times when climbing a tree, or sitting admiring the way its branches twist and curl means nothing, but means everything.” Related: Artist Nikki Ella Whitlock recycles wine bottle fragments into ethereal mosaics Although Rawlings works with many different materials, he’s most well known for metal carvings . His manipulation of metals can be seen in his reworking of old saws to the walls of vans. + Dan Rawlings
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Antique farm equipment reborn as delicate works of art