New study claims climate change could be linked to heart defects in newborns

February 5, 2019 by  
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Climate change may be linked to heart defects in newborns. The Journal of the American Heart Association just released new research that shows how higher temperatures are related to congenital heart issues in babies born in warmer months. With climate change worsening, mothers in the U.S. are exposed to more heat than ever before. Scientists have previously shown that women who are exposed to heat during pregnancy have a higher chance of having a baby born with a congenital heart defect. Every year in the U.S., around 40,000 newborns have heart issues at birth. Related: Follow this diet for both personal and planetary health According to CNN , the number of babies born with heart defects is expected to rise between 2025 and 2035 as temperatures continue to heat up across the U.S. The study predicted that around 7,000 additional cases of heart defects will occur during the 10-year stretch, with the Midwest region seeing the biggest rise. “Our results highlight the dramatic ways in which climate change can affect human health and suggest that pediatric heart disease stemming from structural heart malformations may become an important consequence of rising temperatures,” Dr. Wangjian Zhang explained. Heart problems are among the most common issues doctors see in newborns. Babies who are born with heart defects have poor overall health and can experience issues in early development as well. It is unclear why excess heat contributes to heart problems in newborns. Previous studies conducted on animals have shown that heat is detrimental to fetal cells and can disrupt proteins that are important in development. This could be what is going on in human pregnancies, though more research is needed to confirm. With heat being linked to heart problems, doctors are now warning women to avoid excess heat exposure while pregnant. This is similar to what doctors have been telling people with pulmonary and cardiovascular disease for years. Unfortunately, climate change will continue to drive temperatures up all across the U.S. Locations that will be directly impacted include the Midwest, the South and southeastern states, like North Carolina and Georgia. In addition to heart issues, women exposed to heat are also at a greater risk of giving birth early. Via CNN Image via Shutterstock

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New study claims climate change could be linked to heart defects in newborns

The PACT Act hopes to ban animal cruelty at the federal level

February 4, 2019 by  
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Even though it has been a federal crime to create and distribute animal torture videos for nearly a decade, the actual act of animal torture has not been banned at the federal level. Now, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) are trying to change that with the re-introduction of the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT Act). If passed, the PACT Act would prohibit “intentional acts of crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling or otherwise subjecting animals to serious bodily harm,” according to a press release . The law would also make it easier for U.S. attorneys to prosecute the horrible acts, and those convicted would face seven years in prison plus fines. Related: New Jersey first state to ban wild animals in circuses Currently, all 50 states have separate laws against animal cruelty . However, according to CNN , the federal statute would allow authorities to go after criminals who cross state lines or torture animals on federal property. Rep. Buchanan said that animal torture is “abhorrent,” and we should be punishing people who commit this act “to the fullest extent of the law.” Buchanan added that protecting animals from cruelty is one of his top priorities. Rep. Deutch said the legislation is “common sense,” and animal welfare is an important issue for many Americans. He explained that Congress should build on current state and local laws to guarantee animals a level of protection throughout the entire country. According to the press release, there are exceptions included in the law, such as “normal veterinary care, hunting and conduct necessary to protect life or property from a serious threat caused by an animal.” Multiple groups have endorsed the legislation, including The National Sheriffs Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Humane Society of the United States. In a petition to garner support for the bill, the Humane Society wrote that even though every state has felony penalties for malicious cruelty, we need a federal law to close the gap for when it occurs on federal property or in interstate commerce. + PACT Act Via EcoWatch Images via Kimdewar0 and Timur85

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Green-roofed Hanging Villa is embedded into a lush jungle landscape

February 4, 2019 by  
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Architect Tonny Wirawan Suriajaja of Jakarta-based design firm TWS & Partners has created a spacious family retreat that takes advantage of its verdant and paradise-like valley setting in more ways than one. Tucked into the side of a lush mountain far away from snarling traffic in Bandung, the capital of Indonesia’s West Java province, Hanging Villa is an urban respite that boasts spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and harnesses solar gain and cross breezes for natural heating and cooling. To integrate the building into the landscape, mainly natural materials and an earthy color palette were used to enhance the surrounding view. Commissioned by a client who values large family gatherings as well as personal space, Hanging Villa includes a mix of large communal areas and separate private spaces. The multi-level building consists of a series of stacked volumes rotated on their corner axes to optimize views in multiple directions. The outdoor spaces — such as the accessible green roof , roof deck and outdoor pool — have also been created to accommodate larger groups and various events. To seamlessly connect the interiors with the exterior spaces, the architects used timber and other natural materials to dress the interiors and also installed full-height glazing throughout. The building has also been strategically oriented to optimize views and access to natural light and natural cross ventilation. Meanwhile, insulating glass and other materials help prevent heat loss without creating indoor humidity. Related: This contemporary light-filled home feels like an extension of Bali’s tropics “The design creates a healthy indoor environment quality by adequate ventilation , which leads to the increase of comfort and health benefits for the occupants,” the firm explained. “The shallow pool function as an element that produces a cool refreshing breeze as the wind flows into the building while benefiting the occupant by reducing the operating cost of using air-conditioner.” + TWS & Partners Via ArchDaily Photography by Fernando Gomulya via TWS & Partners

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Is a tiny home right for you?

February 4, 2019 by  
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Tiny house living is obviously more affordable compared to living in a traditional home, and it offers mobility and a smaller carbon footprint. The visible drawbacks are lack of storage space and fewer amenities, but there are more pros and cons to tiny house living that you might not have thought of. And what is a good thing today might end up being a negative down the road. Here are some expected — and not so expected — pros and cons to tiny house living that you should know if you are considering joining the tiny house community. Pros Less to clean Of course, less space means fewer things for you to clean in your tiny home . So, you can do everything you need to do in just minutes to make sure your home is clean and organized. Even a deep clean will only take you a couple of hours. Mobility Tiny house living combines the best parts of living in a traditional house with the best of living in a travel trailer or camper. You can have those must-have comforts like a washer and dryer or heat and AC, but you are also able to easily travel at the same time. You can place them on a trailer and go wherever you want, whenever you want — especially when your tiny home is custom built for travel. You can work from home and be on the road at the same time. Money The rate of home ownership in the tiny house community is 78 percent, compared to 65 percent for traditional homeownership. On top of that, 68 percent of tiny homeowners don’t have a mortgage, and that can free up a lot of cash. One out of three tiny house owners have at least $10,000 saved for retirement. Maintenance and utility costs are low, and renting a spot at an RV park or campground is much cheaper than paying rent for an apartment. Another pro is that you can splurge on upgrades in your home since you are building such a small space. Think hardwood or bamboo floors or exotic interior woods. Related: This countertop dishwasher promises to wash your dishes in just 10 minutes Less consumption When you only have about 300 square feet to work with, you are forced to consume less. If you can’t fit things into your cupboards and closets, you will have to buy fewer items when you go to the grocery store — and that means less waste. Also, since you can’t store food, you will buy fresh veggies, fruits, and seafood, which means healthier cooking . Energy efficiency Heating and cooling a small space can be done with a small window unit and propane tanks, or you can opt for solar panels. So, tiny house living automatically means built-in energy efficiency. But depending on where you live, the summer heat might be tough competition for a small window AC unit. No septic system required If you build a tiny home in the city, you can connect to a sewer system to enjoy modern plumbing. Remote tiny houses don’t require a septic system because you can use a composting toilet that will need cleaned about once every six weeks. You could also install a black water tank and plumbing for traditional flushing on a portable home if a composting toilet doesn’t sound like an attractive option. Cons The legal gray areas With tiny house living still being relatively new, you can find yourself in a legal gray area in many parts of the country. Some places might classify you as an RV, so you will need to park your tiny home in an RV park . But some places don’t consider tiny homes RVs, and instead, classify them as a house. And, depending on if you are traveling or looking for a permanent spot, you can end up in a legal black hole or have a lot of red tape to deal with. If you are wanting to build a tiny home in a permanent location, some communities and neighborhoods have building codes that dictate the minimum size of a home, so a tiny home might not be approved. Cleaning more often There might not be a lot to clean, which saves you time. But, the tiniest bit of disorganization can feel like a disaster in 250 square feet. So, you will need to clean your tiny home more often if you want to avoid a constant mess. Related: Potato peels offer a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials Unsustainable packaging Living in a tiny home makes it extremely difficult to buy items in bulk and use sustainable packaging. If you have zero storage space for those items, or if you are parked in a location that doesn’t have easy access to sustainable products, this means you might have to buy more items in unsustainable packaging. Towing challenges If you want to move to a tiny house so you can easily travel, that means that you will need to buy a large truck for towing. This will mean lower gas mileage and the smaller carbon footprint from your tiny house will be offset by the emissions from your big pickup truck. Accessible storage You can design your tiny home to have more storage than most people would expect. The problem is that those areas might not be very easy to reach. You can’t put everything in dressers or on counters. So, if you need to access things that are in those built-in storage spaces, it can be difficult or frustrating. Images via WinnieC , Shutterstock

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Iguanas reintroduced to island after 200 years

January 15, 2019 by  
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In 1835, Charles Darwin was the last person to officially see a land iguana on Santiago Island in the Galapagos. After that encounter, predators like the feral pig wiped the lizard population out of that location. Now — nearly two centuries later —  an initiative by the Galapagos National Park authority has reintroduced more than 1,400 land iguanas (Conolophus subcristatus) back to Santiago Island. Authorities said in a recent statement that on January 3 and 4, the land iguanas were taken from neighboring North Seymour Island and introduced to the coastal regions Puerto Nuevo and Bucanero, which have similar ecosystems to the iguanas’ former home. The Galapagos Conservation Trust says that the archipelago’s land iguana population suffered when species like cats, rats, dogs and pigs were introduced. Those species prey on baby iguanas and eggs, plus they compete for food. Some cats even target adult iguanas up to four years old. But, the last feral pig on Santiago Island was eradicated in 2000 as part of the Galapagos Conservancy’s Project Isabela, and the island became officially pig-free in 2004. Related: Endangered green and loggerhead turtles make Mediterranean comeback The Santiago Island iguana reintroduction initiative was in due to depleting vegetation on North Seymour Island, which was threatening also a main threat to the food source of more than 5,000 iguanas. However, some lizards did remain to avoid compromising the existing vegetation . “The land iguana is a herbivore that helps ecosystems by dispersing seeds and maintaining open areas free from vegetation,” says Galapagos ecosystems director Danny Rueda. Authorities will continue to monitor the iguanas that have been reintroduced to the Galapagos island in order to determine if the iguanas are properly adapting and creating nests, and also to see if they are finding necessary food. They will also keep a close eye on newer species found on the island, such as rodents and ants, to make sure they are not disturbing the iguanas’ nests. Galapagos National Park Director Jorge Carrión said on Twitter that reintroducing the iguanas to Santiago Island was “great news for #Galapagos, for #Ecuador, and the world.” Via CNN Image by 8moments

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Invasive longhorned tick could spread disease across the U.S.

December 17, 2018 by  
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The Asian longhorned tick used to be a species only found in China, Japan, Korea and southeastern Russia, plus parts of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. But last year, an established population was found in New Jersey, and since then, the ticks have been found in eight other states. Because the tick is parthenogenetic — which means the females can reproduce without needing male DNA — it is possible that it will soon occupy large parts of the Pacific Northwest and the eastern U.S. “There is a good chance for this tick to become widely distributed in North America,” said Ilia Rochlin, a researcher at the Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology. “Mosquito control has been very successful in this country, but we are losing the battle with tick-borne diseases.” Related: Winter ticks are responsible for New England’s moose massacres The Asian longhorned tick’s ability to clone makes it possible for them to cause “massive” infestations of hosts, and Rochlin said that researchers have already seen large numbers on livestock and dogs. He added that the ticks can bite humans, pets, farm animals and wildlife . The Journal of Medical Entomology published new research about the tick last week, and even though the tick can cause infectious disease, there have not been any reported illnesses in animals or humans in the U.S. One of the diseases the Asian longhorned tick can transmit is a hemorrhagic illness called thrombocytopenia syndrome. According to the CDC , the illness recently emerged in China, South Korea and Japan. The syndrome causes severe fever, nausea, diarrhea and muscle pain. Most patients must be hospitalized, and almost a third of infected people have died. The tick can also carry other illnesses like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Rochlin said that all of these illnesses can lead to severe disabilities. Asian longhorned ticks can spread quickly in favorable habitats. If you add that to their aggressive biting behavior and potential for carrying pathogens, Rochlin said the tick is a significant public health concern. + Journal of Medical Entromology Via CNN Image via James Gathany / CDC

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Environmental campaign floods UK Royal Mail with empty potato chip bags

September 28, 2018 by  
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The U.K. postal service has implored its public to stop mailing empty potato chip bags addressed without an envelope after a surge in chip bag mailings was encountered by its courier offices. The mailings are part of an environmental campaign urging the most popular brand of British crisps, Walkers, to reevaluate its plastic packaging. Walkers, owned by PepsiCo, is being met with a petition signed by more than 310,000 people and an online campaign that is sending unknown numbers of empty bags right to the company’s doorstep. Twitter is buzzing about the environmental activists , who have been posting pictures of themselves mailing the empty packets of chips through the Royal Mail service. The rebels are using the hashtag #PacketInWalkers to comment on the company’s latent efforts to revamp its packaging. An emailed statement from a Walkers spokesperson, released by CNN , stated, “We have received some returned packets and recognize the efforts being made to bring the issue of packaging waste to our attention. The returned packets will be used in our research, as we work towards our commitment of improving the recyclability of our packaging.” The company has announced that it plans to achieve plastic-free packaging by 2025. . @walkers_crisps 2025 is too long to wait for you to use plastic free packaging. It’s just not good enough. You produce 4 billion packs per year. I’m sending these back to you so you can deal with your own waste. #PacketInWalkers pic.twitter.com/S13uiZXpdx — Jarred Livesey (@Jaz_Livesey) September 22, 2018 For many campaign participants, such as Jarred Livesey, the commitments are vague and inadequate. “2025 is too long to wait for you to use plastic free packaging. It’s just not good enough,” he commented on Twitter last week. Despite PepsiCo working on a pilot project in the U.S., India and Chile that features compostable packaging , consumers are adamant about stopping the polluters as soon as possible. Related: UK’s Co-op to ditch single-use plastic bags for biodegradable bags Lisa Ann Pasquale went a step further in her Twitter commentary, suggesting, “What if — instead of buying crisps and posting the packages back to @walkers_crisps — we just save our planet AND cholesterol levels by not buying crisps… .” Pasquale makes a sound argument, considering the 11 million bags of potato chips Walkers produces daily in order to keep up supply for its spud-loving consumers, who consume approximately 6 billion packs of chips a year. The Royal Mail service is caught in the cross-hairs of this environmental argument. Bound by U.K. law to treat the empty potato chip bags as mail as long as they are properly addressed, there is not much else the national communications carrier can do. “If an item is addressed properly and carries the correct postage, then Royal Mail is obliged by law to handle and deliver the item to the stated address,” a Royal Mail spokesperson told CNN. “If they are taking part in this campaign, we would urge them to put crisp packets in an envelope before posting,” because improperly packaged bags could cause delays or be tossed from the sorting sequence. Via CNN Image via Allen Watkin

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Kroger plans plastic bag phase-out by 2025

August 25, 2018 by  
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The Kroger supermarket conglomerate announced on Thursday that it is planning a phase-out of plastic bags at all store locations as part of its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste commitment . The company owns more than 2,700 stores throughout 35 states, including popular chains such as Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer and Ralphs. Related: UK bag tariff halves plastic bag marine litter, reduces sales of plastic bags by 86% Kroger is making a “bold move that will better protect our planet,” according to CEO Rodney McMullen. “We listen very closely to our customers and our communities, and we agree with their growing concerns,” added Executive Vice President and COO Mike Donnelly in a press release. Seattle’s QFC grocery stores will be the first of Kroger’s chains to fully eliminate plastic bags, achieving the goal as early as next year. “Starting today at QFC, we will begin the transition to more sustainable options. This decision aligns with our Restock Kroger commitment to live our purpose through social impact,” announced Donnelly. Between the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste and the Restock Kroger commitments, the company hopes to divert 90 percent of waste from landfills by 2020 and provide food to families and individuals in need. Last year alone, the conglomerate sent more than 91 million pounds of safe, nutritious food to local food banks and homes, providing over 325 million meals in total. In 2017, 66.15 million pounds of plastic and 2.43 billion pounds of cardboard were recycled. Kroger, however, wants to achieve more. Related: Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment Estimates suggest that less than five percent of plastic bags are recycled annually in America and nearly 100 billion are thrown away each year. Single-use plastic bags are the fifth most common plastic pollutant, harming waterways and marine ecosystems. Harmful microplastics result from the breakdown process and have made their way into soils, waters, air, and nearly everything we ingest. That’s why Kroger, rather than merely lessening the number of plastic bags, plans to eliminate them completely by providing reusable, recyclable multi-use bags. Kroger joins companies such as Starbucks, McDonald’s and the Marriot International Group in a stand to eliminate single-use plastics, which follows legislation banning them in states such as Hawaii and California. + CNN + Kroger + NPR Image via Pixabay

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Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution

August 13, 2018 by  
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Many countries are fighting plastic pollution by enforcing harsher regulations such as special labels and plastic taxes, but the island nation of Dominica is now leading the pack by announcing that it will ban plastic foam and common plastics by 2019. With less than five months left to go, the heroic stand involves the elimination of single-use items such as plastic straws, plates, forks and knives as well as plastic foam cups and containers. “Dominica prides itself as the ‘Nature Isle,’” Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in his July 2018  budget address . “We must in every way deserve and reflect that designation. The issue of solid waste management affects that perception and we continue to grapple with it.” His hopes are to inspire not just a more environmentally prominent Dominica through successful sustainability measures , but to also create the world’s first-ever climate-resilient nation. Related: Shocking Caribbean photos reveal a “sea of plastic and Styrofoam” This undertaking to fight plastic pollution and become climate-resilient complements the country’s aim to better protect itself from natural disasters. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, which is still grappling with the humanitarian and economic effects of the disaster. “Extreme weather events are now more frequent and intense, brought on by climate change impacts that are real, visible, devastating and unrelenting,” Skerrit said. “We must rebuild and reset our society and economy and protect our environment in order to achieve a new, more resilient Dominica.” Dominica follows in the footsteps of countries such as the U.K., New Zealand and Australia, which have seen a significant reduction in plastic pollution after taking measures against single-use plastic bags. Major companies such as Starbucks and Disney have also gained traction in their battles against plastic straws. Dominica will be the first nation to launch such a strict initiative against the major pollutants of plastic and plastic foam, and hopefully many countries will look to the nation’s progress when adopting their own action plans. + Dominica Via CNN Image via JD Lasica

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Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution

New book reveals Cecil the lion suffered for at least 10 hours before dying

March 7, 2018 by  
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When Cecil the lion was killed by a game hunter in 2015 , people around the world were outraged. But despite the widespread attention to the situation, questions still lingered about what exactly took place. A new book on Cecil’s death finally gives us some answers, revealing that the lion likely suffered for 10 – 12 hours before being shot a second time, which ended his life. Cecil was shot with an arrow from a compound bow by dentist Walter J. Palmer from Minnesota. At the time, media outlets reported that the lion was in agony from a thoracic injury for 40 hours. While that seems to not be the case, the book says that “Cecil suffered incredible cruelty for at least 10 hours, severely wounded and slowly dying.” The arrow wound missed vital organs and arteries, incapacitating the lion but not killing him. The lion was finally relieved of his torture when the hunters located him and shot him with a second arrow. Related: Cecil the lion’s son shot and killed by trophy hunter Using data from the lion’s GPS collar and details from interviews with game staff, researchers and the local community, the book also confirms that the lion was lured out of the park in order to avoid regulations, a detail that has been disputed by the hunters. You can read all the details about Cecil’s tragic death in the book Lion Hearted: The Life and Death of Cecil and the Future of Africa’s Iconic Cats , which will be released on April 10. Via CNN Images via Flickr , Simon & Schuster and Flickr

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