Climate change pushes US weather to extremes

February 18, 2021 by  
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Terrible hurricanes in the summer and temperatures now plunging to the lowest they’ve been in decades in much of the U.S. — is all this bad weather just bad luck? Not according to climate scientists, who say this deadly weather is one more sign of climate change . Oklahoma City saw a temperature this week of -14°F, the coldest it’s been since 1899, before Oklahoma was even a state. In Texas, Dallas dropped to -2°F, while southerly Houston and San Antonio got down to 13°F and 12­°F, respectively. In New Orleans, if COVID-19 hadn’t already ruined Mardi Gras, ice would have. Many cities across the U.S. have or are expected to hit record low temperatures this week. Related: Spiders are becoming aggressive thanks to climate change Then, there were power outages galore — more than 4.2 million people without power in Texas alone on Tuesday morning — to make deadly storms even more lethal. In this topsy-turvy world, Texans would be more comfortable right now in Iceland. “There are waves in the jet stream and because of climate change and the warmer air in the Arctic and the largely ice-free Arctic sea, those waves are able to go far south,” said Chris Gloninger, a meteorologist with NBC10 Boston. “So places like Alaska or Iceland, which today is in the low 40s, is warmer than places like Texas, Louisiana or Oklahoma. That’s why we’re seeing these extremes.” Texas is especially vulnerable to the current storms because its main electric grid is separate from the rest of the country. Texas is better known for A/C than for heaters, and this week’s need for cranking up the heat broke the grid, plunging vulnerable Texans into cold and darkness. At least 20 people in the state have died from these conditions. Are we convinced yet? Extreme weather sure is making it harder for climate change deniers to win their arguments, according to Michael E. Mann, author of The New Climate War, as reported by NBCLX . “We really are so close to seeing the action that we need to confront the climate crisis,” Mann said. “But there are still obstacles that have been thrown in our path by the same institutions that were denying climate change years ago. There’s no way to deny it now because people can see it playing out in real time in the form of unprecedented, devastating weather events.” You can find more information on where to donate money or resources to those experiencing these life-threatening cold conditions here and here . Via NBCLX and CNN Image via NOAA ( 1 , 2 )

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ZHA unveils solar-powered student residences for HKUST

February 18, 2021 by  
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In response to an urgent demand for more student housing at its Clear Water Bay campus, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has tapped Zaha Hadid Architects and local architecture firm Leigh & Orange to design the university’s new residence halls that will house more than 1,500 students once complete in 2023. The student housing buildings also incorporate sustainable design features in line with the university’s pledge to transition the Clear Water Bay campus to carbon-neutral operations. In addition to implementing rooftop solar and high-performance insulation, the architects will optimize the residential facilities’ energy-efficient operations with digital design tools, including Building Information Modeling (BIM) and 3D simulations. Inspired by the university’s mission to solve pressing global issues with technology and innovation, the architects have harnessed the power of digital design tools to optimize the design across multiple site parameters, including terrain, solar radiation, sight lines and soil considerations. As a result, the new residences will be strategically integrated into a steep, sloping site with a hexagonal configuration that embraces the natural landscape. The digital tools will also ensure passive solar considerations, proper material selection and efficient construction strategies to minimize time and waste. Related: ZHA’s sculptural “urban oasis” in Hong Kong to be LEED Platinum The 35,500-square-meter HKUST residence halls will comprise three differing clusters that all include communal living areas and rooms that face open spaces. The “Y” cluster apartments will accommodate 27 students; the “V” cluster will house 36 students; and the “Linear” cluster will offer collective housing for 18 students. The residences will be connected via a rooftop walkway — the main circulation route connecting to the academic blocks in the north — that will include shaded gathering spaces and photovoltaic arrays . To protect against Hong Kong’s intense sunlight, the buildings will be wrapped in high-performance, prefabricated facade units fitted with double-glazed windows and external solar shading fins. + Zaha Hadid Architects + Leigh & Orange Images via Visual Brick

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ZHA unveils solar-powered student residences for HKUST

Air pollution caused by fossil fuels kills millions

February 10, 2021 by  
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New research has revealed that fossil fuel pollution caused approximately 8.7 million deaths in 2018. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research , was a collaboration by scientists at Harvard University, the University of Leicester, the University of Birmingham and University College London. Experts found that countries that burn fossil fuels heavily for manufacturing and transport are the most affected. Countries such as the U.S. and many developed countries in Europe recorded 1 of every 10 deaths due to air pollution. The total was also higher than global deaths caused by tobacco and malaria combined. “We were initially very hesitant when we obtained the results because they are astounding, but we are discovering more and more about the impact of this pollution,” said Eloise Marais, study author and geographer at University College London. “It’s pervasive. The more we look for impacts, the more we find.” Related: Air pollution could increase risk of irreversible blindness The researchers have also established that the rate of deaths due to pollution is significantly lower in Africa and South America. They found that there are direct links between air pollution from burning fossil fuels and ailments such as heart disease, loss of eyesight and respiratory ailments.  According to Karn Vohra, a graduate student at the University of Birmingham and one of the researchers, the focus was on discovering the impact of pollution on specific populations. They looked at specific regions and used 3D modeling of pollution data to get more precise results. “Rather than rely on averages spread across large regions, we wanted to map where the pollution is and where people live, so we could know more exactly what people are breathing,” Vohra explained. This is not the first study to link loss of life or disease with air pollution. According to a recent academic  publication , the average global life expectancy would increase by more than a year without fossil fuels . A 2019 study by Lancet estimated that 4.2 million people die annually due to air pollution. The new findings place the figure much higher than previous studies, and some experts believe that the impact might even be worse than that presented by the latest report. + Environmental Research Via The Guardian and CNN Image via Juniper Photon

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IKEA purchases forested land in Georgia for conservation

February 4, 2021 by  
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The Ingka Group has acquired over 10,800 acres of land in southeastern Georgia to protect it from developments. Ingka is an investment group of the Swedish retail firm IKEA , which has several stores in the U.S. The group announced on January 14 that it will be purchasing land close to the Altamaha River Basin in a bid to conserve it. “We truly believe responsible forest management is possible and we see that a large part of our responsibility towards the land we own — and by extension the planet — is to restore forests and plant more than we harvest,” Krister Mattsson, managing director of Ingka Group, said. “In all our properties nature conservation is important. In this particular U.S. investment in Georgia, first it is important that the land cannot be broken up into small units and it remains forever forestland.” Related: IKEA offers open-source design for Bee Homes The land was acquired from a nonprofit conservation group, The Conservation Fund. The forest is home to many species of plants and animals, including the endangered longleaf pine and the gopher tortoise, which need to be protected by keeping the forest intact. Before the arrival of Europeans in the U.S., the forest covered about 90 million acres. However, due to land clearing for development, fire suppression and agriculture, only  4% of the forest remains .  After purchasing the land, Mattsson promised that Ingka Group will continue supporting the local timber industry. The group also plans to open the forest for recreational purposes. “We are honored to work with Ingka Group and applaud its dedication to preserve and enhance forest quality in the U.S. and Europe,” said Larry Selzer, president of The Conservation Fund. “Well-managed forests provide essential benefits, including clean water and important wildlife habitat, as well as mitigating climate change.” Ingka Group has been at the forefront of championing environmental conservation. The group has so far purchased about 613,000 acres of forested land in the U.S., Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Lithuania. Besides the recent purchase, the group also owns land in Oklahoma, South Carolina, Alabama and Texas. Mattsson explained, “For all the forests we own, our commitment is to manage them responsibly, to preserve and increase the quality of the forests over time.” + Ingka Group Via CNN Image via David Mark

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Trump administration disregards border wall’s environmental impact

December 30, 2020 by  
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An environmental row rages on as the Trump administration races against time to complete its target 450 miles of the border wall along the American-Mexico border. At the beginning of 2020, the Trump administration vowed to meet this goal within the year. In a last-ditch effort to deliver the promise, workers across 37 different construction sites along the border rush to meet the deadline. While workers erect the bollard steel wall, environmental conservationists and other groups voice frustration over how these reckless actions fail to consider nature. According to Kate Scott, Executive Director and President of the Madrean Archipelago Wildlife Centre, the construction disrupts the natural migration of wildlife and birds. “I feel great pain in my heart,” Scott said while speaking to CNN. “It’s like driving a stake through my heart because the river should be allowed to be, and not have this monstrosity. This wall of shame.” Like several other conservationists, Scott has been at the border watching and documenting the harm the process causes to wildlife . She watched as construction workers erected steel bollards at the San Pedro River, which flows from Mexico to the United States. Her frustration with the process is that it hampers the free migration of birds and other animals across the river and natural terrain. According to the  National Audubon Society of Arizona , about 40% of all bird species in North America spend some part of their lives on the San Pedro River. Due to the construction process, most of the birds and other animals have been pushed away from their natural habitat and travel pathway.  Despite the project’s effects on wildlife and nature, Customs and Border Protection insists the project meets environmental requirements. The organization claims the project has been analyzed and measures have been put in place to reduce environmental impacts. In contrast to these denials, conservationists have already collected enough evidence to show the project’s negative effects on wildlife. At the start of the construction in 2019, a non-profit organization, Wildlands Network, put up cameras in the San Bernardino Valley to monitor the project’s impact on wildlife migration. According to Myles Traphagen, Wildlands Network borderlands program coordinator, all  migrations across the border stopped dead  at the end of the second week of December. All hopes now rest on incoming President Joe Biden to put an end to the Trump administration’s reckless actions. Although Biden promised not to continue with wall construction , conservationists want the wall pulled down entirely, especially in areas where it affects wildlife. + CNN Image via Ted Eytan

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EPA finalizes rule to make efforts against climate change more difficult

December 14, 2020 by  
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Like an evil troll throwing a curse over its shoulder before being banished from the kingdom, President Donald Trump’s EPA finalized a rule that could make it harder for Biden to address pollution and climate change. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, announced the new rule. “Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we are ensuring that future rulemakings under the Clean Air Act are transparent, fair, and consistent with EPA governing statutes,” said Wheeler, as reported by CNN . But critics say the change ensures that the EPA will continue to put the economy over environmental and public health interests. It allows the agency to disregard positive side effects of decisions, such as saving lives from being lost to air pollution, while fully weighing the economic impact. Related: Exxon’s leaked documents reveal devastating pollution plan During Trump’s four years in office, his administration managed to roll back more than 100 public health and environmental rules, putting the welfare of corporate polluters over that of the people. “For four years, this administration has waged war on public health by kowtowing to polluters,” said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, as reported by Common Dreams . “Now, on the way out the door, this amounts to sabotaging the efforts of the incoming administration to protect Americans from dirty air.” Poor air quality is especially troubling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. A study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found an association between air pollution and increased mortality from COVID-19 infection. Individual-level COVID-19 data isn’t publicly available, so the study couldn’t state a definite cause and effect, but the implication is clear. Yet this new EPA rule was proposed in June and passed at a time when COVID-19 deaths are at a high and still rising. New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone tweeted his disgust: “This rule will distort @EPA analysis by discounting the health benefits of air pollution standards & prioritizing the financial costs to polluters above health costs to the public. It’s a betrayal both of the #CleanAirAct and of EPA’s mission to protect human health .” Via Common Dreams and CNN Image via Johannes Plenio

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Good Days brings sustainable activewear to Hong Kong

December 14, 2020 by  
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Out of yoga studios and into closets all over the world, activewear remains a huge fashion trend. One company in Hong Kong is putting a twist on the trend by cleaning up the planet while making leggings, tops and sports bras. Good Days has created an entire activewear line made from recycled post-consumer plastic waste. Former Lane Crawford brand manager Libby Perry founded Good Days, Hong Kong’s first sustainable athletic apparel brand. The company works with sustainable suppliers and ethical manufacturers to create fashionable, eco-friendly activewear. The brand’s sustainable collection contains 30 pieces so far, available in a variety of colors. Each piece is made from fabrics made with recycled and recovered plastic. TopGreen, one fabric used in the line, comes from FENC in Taiwan, a supplier that repurposes 100% traceable post-consumer plastic and turns it into new yarn. A small portion of the nylon used to make these clothes comes from Varvico JL, an Italian company specializing in turning industrial waste into 100% regenerated yarn. In fact, the only virgin material used in the collection is certified organic cotton. Good Days is dedicated to diverting plastic that would have ended up in oceans or landfills otherwise. The company takes this plastic and repurposes it into usable, high-quality products. The plastic water bottle you drink out of today just may become part of a great-looking pair of leggings tomorrow. The brand uses no disposable plastic packaging, and all Good Days orders are sent in non-toxic and compostable packaging. Additionally, every delivery comes packaged in a reusable tote bag that has been made from repurposed rice sacks. All of this factors into Good Days’ sustainability values. As stated on the brand website, “the Good Days brand ethos is our commitment to keeping sustainable and ethical decision making at the heart of what we do.” + Good Days Images via Good Days

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Gray wolves at risk after being delisted as an endangered species

November 2, 2020 by  
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Gray wolves are left vulnerable after the Trump administration removed their protections. The species has been listed as endangered for over 45 years; this listing has been instrumental in protecting the animals from hunting and helping to recover dwindling population numbers. But last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to have the gray wolf removed from the Endangered Species Act. Following that proposal , the government took action in delisting the gray wolf as an endangered species last week. “Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said. But the move has been sharply criticized by conservationists. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are about 6,000 gray wolves in the wild in the U.S. This number is alarming to scientists, who say that the wolves are still in great danger of extinction if they are not protected. Related: Washington’s wolf population is down to 122 after a pack is shot by state hunters Gray wolves were once driven close to extinction because of conflicts with farmers and a decline in their prey. Due to such constraints, the once-robust population of the wolves in the northern U.S. shrank abruptly, forcing the government to offer them protection by law. While listed under the Endangered Species Act, the gray wolf population has experienced growth in the Great Lakes and Rocky Mountains. But as populations grow, some states have been demanding to have the wolves delisted. Case in point, Wyoming successfully filed a petition that has allowed for the hunting of gray wolves in the state. With the delisting happening just days before the presidential election, the move is seen as a strategy to attract voters from areas where the wolves live. In a statement released by the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, chief political strategist Brett Hartl said that President Trump’s push for reelection is putting more wolves at risk. “Wolves will be shot and killed because Donald Trump is desperate to gin up his voters in the Midwest,” Hartl said. “Secretary Bernhardt’s nakedly political theater announcing the end to wolf protections in a battleground state days before the election shows just how corrupt and self-serving the Trump administration is.” Via CNN Image via Christel S.

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Doc Antle is the latest Tiger King star to be indicted

October 13, 2020 by  
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In the latest “Tiger King” criminal news, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle has been indicted on charges of wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty. Antle owns Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina and appeared on the “Tiger King” series as a wild animal trainer. After investigating for several months, Attorney General Mark Herring announced last Friday that Antle had trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina. Herring scrutinized Antle’s relationship with Keith Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia, and determined that both zoo owners trafficked lion cubs between the two states. A grand jury in Frederick County indicted Wilson and his nephew on 46 counts of animal cruelty in November 2019. Related: USDA closes Tiger King zoo for animal welfare violations In December 2019, Herring’s investigation led to a search of Antle’s property. Antle and two of his daughters, Tawny Antle and Tilakam Watterson, faced misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and violating the Endangered Species Act . Antle has denied all charges against himself and his daughters. “I have spent my entire professional life promoting the welfare and conservation of big cats and other species. I have deep regard and feelings for the animals in my care and would never hurt or abuse them in any way,” he told CNN . “I look forward to being able to answer these charges and to be able to clear my good name.” Netflix released “Tiger King”, a true crime documentary miniseries, in late March 2020. The series delves into the complicated relationships between big cat conservationists and collectors. The show focuses on Joe Exotic, former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, who last year was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison for murder-for-hire and wildlife violations. While the show became wildly popular amidst the pandemic, it’s done less for its stars, several of whom are now making their way through the legal system. “The show ‘Tiger King’ made a number of false statements about my personal life that I just let slide off my back,” Antle told CNN. “But what the State of Virginia has done, to falsely attack my treatment of animals, to attempt to slander my reputation and my life’s work, solely to appease animal rights activists that have influence over the elected officials that have brought these charges is far different and it’s very personal to me.” We’ll find out more when Antle has his day in court. Via HuffPost and CNN Images via Pixabay and Zoo Friend

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An award-winning forest tops the worlds first publicly accessible art depot

October 13, 2020 by  
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The Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, the first publicly accessible art depot in the world, has just completed construction in Rotterdam’s Museumpark. Designed by MVRDV , the bowl-shaped building draws the eye with its 6,609 square meters of exterior glass subdivided into 1,664 mirrored panels that reflect the surroundings and help blend the 15,000-square-meter building into the leafy park. In addition to an expansive art collection that will be made accessible to the public, the art depot features an award-winning rooftop forest at a height of 35 meters along with a rooftop restaurant that provides inspiring views of Rotterdam. Completed in preparation for the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s big move, the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen was built to house the artworks not on rotation at the museum and to put those stored pieces on display to the public. A complete collection of 151,000 objects will be made accessible and, by next year, the entire collection of Boijmans Van Beuningen will be made visible to the public in the same space for the first time since 1935. Related: MVRDV’s mirrored “salad bowl” art depot gets green light in Rotterdam As an art depot, the artworks will not be exhibited according to movement or era but rather by their climatic requirements so as to best preserve the artifacts. Each storage space is climate-controlled and organized into five different climate zones and organized by material type including metal, plastic, organic/inorganic and photography. In addition to its reflective facade, the art depot makes a strong visual statement indoors with its light-filled atrium crisscrossed with stairs and a suspended glass display case showcasing exhibitions of works selected by museum curators. The atrium branches out to exhibition rooms and curators’ studios that offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the museum maintains and cares for its art collection. Art is displayed throughout the building, from the ground floor lobby to the rooftop restaurant, which is surrounded by 75 birch trees. The art depot will open its doors to the public in autumn 2021. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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