Congo could open its national parks to oil drilling

July 2, 2018 by  
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Two national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo could soon face pollution threats and habitat destruction if oil drilling is given the green light. The national government announced on Friday, June 29, 2018 that it is deciding on whether to permit oil wells in parts of the Salonga and Virunga National Parks, which are both home to rare and endangered wildlife. Under the plan put forward by the Congolese government, over one-fifth of Virunga National Park could open for oil exploration. Virunga is home to approximately half of the world’s mountain gorillas . Salonga National Park occupies more than 13,000 square miles of the Congo Basin , the second largest rainforest in the world. The dense jungles are home to bonobos, along with the African golden cat, forest buffalos and pangolins. The government did not elaborate on how much of Salonga could be available for oil drilling. In statements to the press, the government expressed its rights to allow oil well construction in both parks, while claiming it would be mindful of wildlife protection in both areas. Related: New Ebola outbreak strikes the Democratic Republic of the Congo These plans come under heavy criticism from inter-governmental organizations and environmental watchdog groups, whom already denounced previous plans. As World Heritage Sites , UNESCO calls drilling and illegal resource extraction continuing threats to conservation in both the Salonga and Virunga . Oil drilling is not the only issue facing the wildlife in these parks. Poaching and kidnapping remains a major concern in both preserves. After two British tourists were held hostage and a park ranger was killed in the first five months of 2018, government officials have closed Virunga through 2019. Opening the parks to drilling comes as the national government prepares for another wave of sanctions. Before the announcement, the United Nations Security Council upheld an asset freeze and travel ban against the nation. Although British oil and gas exploration firm Soco International previously tested the Virunga area for viability, its license is no longer valid. No other petroleum companies have announced plans to drill in either of the two parks. Via  Reuters  and  BBC Images via Fanny Schertzer ( 1 , 2 )

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Architect turns four shipping containers into an affordable and eco-friendly home

July 2, 2018 by  
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Architectural firm  Matt Elkan Architect has unveiled a beautiful home on Australia’s south coast, with a unique twist: it’s made out of four shipping containers. In addition to constructing the home out of repurposed containers , the firm included a number of sustainable features in order to make the shipping container house as environmentally friendly as possible. From the beginning, architect Matt Elkan worked with the homeowners to create a design that would reflect their vision of an eco-friendly family home . He also wanted to prove that great design doesn’t have to break the bank. According to Elkan’s project description, “This project was always about economy, efficiency and how to do as much as possible on a very limited budget. However, the scale belies the efficiency of program and generosity of the outcome. The client’s conviction from the outset was that good architecture does not need to be expensive, and this project attempts to prove the theory.” Related: Stunning shipping container home can be yours for $125k Although keeping the budget as low as possible was a priority, minimizing the home’s environmental impact was of utmost importance as well. There was no excavation on the landscape and the four shipping containers were laid out strategically to take advantage of natural lighting and passive temperature control. The architects used natural wood insulation on the flat roof, and they did not include any VOC finishes in the building. Additionally, the home has Low E windows and recycled HW doors. For water conservation, 500 liters of water can be stored on-site. The result of this strategic design? A beautiful 1,000-square-foot home that sleeps up to ten people. Unlike some shipping container homes , the design proudly shows the shipping container aesthetic throughout the exterior and interior. The home’s exterior was painted in a dark grey, and the doors were left in their original state with script that marks their weight and shipping details. The interior also proudly shows its industrial origins. The container walls were painted in a glossy white with a few accent walls made of blonde wood, which was also used for the ceiling and flooring. Sliding farmhouse-style doors give the home a modern touch. An abundance of windows throughout the home flood the interior with natural light and also provide a strong connection to the home’s gorgeous surroundings. Many of the floor-to-ceiling windows can be concealed by the large shipping container doors. The living space opens up to a wooden deck, further blending the home’s interior with the exterior. + Matt Elkan Architect Via Dwell Photography by Simon Whitbread

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Architect turns four shipping containers into an affordable and eco-friendly home

Wild chimpanzee mothers teaching offspring to use tools captured on video for first time

October 17, 2016 by  
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Scientists have long known that animals use tools, but now for the very first time they’ve captured wild chimpanzee mothers on video teaching their children to utilize them as well. Researchers led by Stephanie Musgrave of Washington University in St. Louis filmed chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo at Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. Before the video it was rare to see primates teaching their young, according to the researchers , and the new findings have exciting ramifications. Chimpanzee mothers employed a few different techniques to teach their offspring how to use probes made from herbs for termite fishing. In one video, the mother split her tool and gave half to her child, and they began to fish for termites together. In another video, after a chimpanzee child couldn’t get any termites using a tool, a chimpanzee mother gave it the tool she had been using and then changed the child’s probe so she could use it herself. A third video showed a mother giving a child her own probe before she left to find materials to make another one. In addition, chimpanzee children were captured asking their mothers for the tools. Related: Help move hundreds of chimpanzees from labs to a safe haven in Georgia According to Musgrave, sharing tools as some of the chimpanzee mothers did allows their offspring to learn about the form and material for successful probes. The mothers aren’t able to forage as much themselves when they share tools, but the offspring get the opportunity to practice termite fishing. As the mothers experienced reduced ability to work for the benefit of their young, the researchers can say the chimpanzees were indeed teaching. Another satisfied criteria is the chimpanzee children’s termite fishing improved as a result of the teaching. Musgrave told The Independent, “Studying how young chimpanzees learn the tool skills particular to their group helps us to understand the evolutionary origins of culture and technology and to clarify how human cultural abilities are similar to or different from those of our closest relatives.” In early October, Scientific Reports published the research prepared by Musgrove and four other scientists from institutes, conservation societies, and universities from the United States, the Republic of Congo, and Germany. Via The Independent Images via Wikimedia Commons and screenshot

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Wild chimpanzee mothers teaching offspring to use tools captured on video for first time

11 brilliant ideas for family costumes that will blow you away

October 17, 2016 by  
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Halloween is just a couple of weeks away , so ghouls and goblins everywhere are getting ready to put on fabulous costumes and party it up ’til way past the witching hour. If you haven’t finalized ideas for your own family-themed costumes, don’t fret! There’s still plenty of time to put some great outfits together. In fact, here’s a look at some of the best family get-ups we’ve come across in recent years, from the Simpsons to the cast of Beetlejuice. It’s pretty amazing what you can assemble with a few household items and a bit of creativity, so hopefully these images will inspire some Halloweeny ideas for your own crew. Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington, Sally, Lock, Shock, and Barrel are all ready to celebrate the spookiest night of the year. If grandpa wants to get in on the fun as well, you can toss a burlap sack over him and have him growl all night as  Oogie Boogie .  Photo via Events to Celebrate Van Gogh and Starry Night This adorable duo channels Van Gogh and his most famous painting into a spectacular costume pairing. If parents and other siblings want to get in on the fun too, there can be additional paintings, or even a giant disembodied ear trundling around. Labyrinth This one’s a bit more involved, but if you’re handy with papier mache and have an old 80s prom dress on hand, you can totally channel   Ludo, Sara, Jareth, and goblin ball attendees   for a crew that’s fit to run through any Goblin Kingdom. The Simpsons What better way to get five kids into the Halloween spirit than dress them up as some of the world’s favorite, yellow-hued characters? Some bright yellow shirts and tights, some foam headpieces and styrofoam glasses, and voila! Star Wars Could this Star Wars-themed family  be any more awesome? They converted a stroller into R2-D2 so their little padawan could climb in and rest whenever needed. Gnomes! Some plaid shirts, red paper cone hats, and felt flowers are all you need to transform into a ridiculously adorable garden gnome family like this one that the Kammans put together. The Incredibles This costume set is as unbelievably cool as it is easy to make! Red tights and shirts are worn beneath black shorts, and then gloves + basic masks complete the look.  Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! This wasn’t one of our previous year’s entries (unfortunately!) but it’s absolutely brilliant. The Maitlands, Lydia Deetz, and Beetlejuice are all out in fine form, with costumes that are likely a combination of thrift shop finds and some papier mache sculpting. Via College Humor Walking Dead Family Photographer Carmen Farrell captured her family’s zombie-licious costumes on film. These will be great to show the kids once they’re in high school! Nesting Dolls Amber Sharipov came up with a brilliant ode to her Ukrainian heritage, dressing the whole family like an arrangement of traditional nesting dolls. To replicate this timeless ensemble, outline a dress shape from an already existing dress and a triangle for kerchiefs onto an old red flannel sheet and cut it out. Sew the sides, cut shoulder straps, and glue on embellishments. Paint on some rosy cheeks and you’ll have the most adorable ‘Matryoshkas’ on the block. Tetris This coordinating Tetris set is just brilliant. Not only are these costumes super-simple to make (just paint a few boxes and duct-tape them together), but every member of the family can be a piece that suits their size and shape… right down to the littlest cube. Creating family-themed costumes is a great way to celebrate this marvellously creepy  holiday together, and for most outfits, all that’s needed is a bit of ingenuity and craftiness. If you can slap together some papier mache , knot some yarn into a wig, and go nuts with a little stage makeup, you can come up with some pretty spectacular results. Be sure to take some fabulous photos if you’re planning to submit your group’s costumes to this year’s costume contest (high-res, landscape pictures that are at least 728px wide are best!) so get crafty and get your Halloween faces on! + Enter Inhabitat’s 2016 Halloween Costume Contest   

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Behnisch Architekten breaks ground on green-roofed Agora cancer research center

October 17, 2016 by  
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The sculptural AGORA building will connect to an existing ISREC building on one side and sensitively respond to the surrounding landscape. Transparency is a major theme of the design, from the glazed skin that allows views inside, to the Cancer Research Center’s public level, called the agora. The building’s programmatic areas offer a high level of flexibility so that they can be changed as needed in the future. Related: Behnisch Architekten Wins Competition for New Green-Roofed Agora Cancer Research Centre in Switzerland “Spatial qualities, directly perceived through daylight, proportion and materiality, should be equally visible in public areas and in the highly technical laboratories,” write the architects. “Interdisciplinary communication and disciplinary communication are both central to successful research and are evident in the organization of the floor plans.” In addition to natural daylighting and climate control, the AGORA building will also use renewable and existing energy systems on site for a reduced environmental footprint. The building is slated for completion in 2017. + Behnisch Architekten Via ArchDaily Images via Behnisch Architekten

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"Invisible Dyaqua solar cells look just like stone, concrete, and wood

October 17, 2016 by  
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These familiar styles help designers avoid what the company calls “visual damage” typically associated with clunky solar panels . Buildings can be updated to include renewable energy generation without losing their historic charm. Each fixture is made from recyclable and non-toxic materials and can withstand the elements, whether affixed to a roof or patterned into a walkway. The unique assembly includes a top layer which is opaque to the eye, but allows solar rays through to the hidden photovoltaic cells inside. Related: Trailblazing slate tiles with hidden solar thermal reduce energy use by 85% Invisible Solar has already started production on its Rooftile, which is made to resemble classic clay tiles. They recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund their new designs, which will allow backers to gain early access to the brilliant new fixtures. Samples of each style will be sent out to each backer stamped as special edition and featuring a connection to an LED source to demonstrate the product’s power. + Dyaqua Invisible Solar Images via Dyaqua Invisible Solar

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"Invisible Dyaqua solar cells look just like stone, concrete, and wood

Sublime alpine home in Upper Austria marries modern and vernacular design

October 17, 2016 by  
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Clad in highly reflective, insulated metal panels, HAUS KW would have a pitched roof evocative of vernacular alpine design combined with a simple box-house design common in modern architecture. Wooden slats on the north facade pay further respects to traditional buildings, and structural timber used for framing the home is sourced sustainably from local sources. Related: Swiss Ski gondolas transformed into sublime saunas “The partially floating cast-in-place concrete slab allows for a smaller footprint of the building and less disturbance of the existing landscape,” Kweton writes in his design brief for the project. Striking a balance between opening the home to views and natural light and accommodating for privacy, Kweton has only included two glazed openings on the South and West side. Inside, the interior was kept “deliberately stark”, according to the architect, with a sealed concrete floor and flat white walls that draw attention to the warm wooden Sauna block and custom furniture pieces. + Paul Kweton

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Sublime alpine home in Upper Austria marries modern and vernacular design

Park City, Utah commits to 100% renewable energy

October 17, 2016 by  
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Park City, Utah is on the front lines of global warming as it grapples with decreasing snowfall and a shorter winter season that traditionally draws thousands of skiers and snowboarders from around the world. However the mountain community isn’t waiting for the snow to melt to take climate action – Park City just committed to 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2032. The announcement comes just months after Salt Lake City, Utah made the same pledge to transition to clean power. “Park City’s commitment for 100% renewable electricity is driven by our community,” said Mayor Jack Thomas. “The passion for the natural environment and our responsibility to take care of it is part of the fabric of what makes Park City a very special place to live. Park City can’t do it alone. I challenge other communities to across the nation join us in this goal.” Related: A unique community of modern green homes hug the desert floor in Utah A total of 19 American cities have now committed to 100 percent renewable energy, joining a growing global list of hundreds of cities, regions, countries and institutions – including the mountain community of Boulder, Colorado that in September committed to 100 percent clean energy by 2030. Last year, Aspen, Colorado became the third US city to reach 100 percent renewable energy after Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas. Park City is also aiming to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2022. Reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2022 and 100 percent renewables by 2032 are ambitious goals in a state that relies on coal for 80 percent of its power. But Park City is well on its way, with more than 1,200 solar panels installed on city facilities, a robust energy efficiency program and soon zero emissions electric buses transporting riders on city streets. Via Park City Government Images via Raffi Asdourian and Joseph De Palma

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Congo president joins fight against ‘blood ivory’ with 5-ton burn

June 10, 2015 by  
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Congo-Brazzaville, the nation officially known as the Republic of the Congo, has joined the ranks of nations standing ground against illegal ivory poaching, by torching an enormous pile of elephant ivory seized several weeks ago. President Denis Sassou Nguesso set ablaze around 5 metric tons (11,000 pounds) of ivory, mostly tusks, during a summit to create the first pan-African strategy to combat wildlife poaching. African elephant populations have rapidly declined in recent decades, primarily due to illegal poaching. Read the rest of Congo president joins fight against ‘blood ivory’ with 5-ton burn Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: africa leadership , africa wildlife preservation , africa wildlife protection , african anti-poaching , burning ivory , Congo , congo-brazzaville , destroying ivory , elephant ivory , elephants , illegal ivory , illegal poaching , protecting elephants from poaching , republic of the congo , seized ivory

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Is your mattress trying to kill you?

June 10, 2015 by  
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When we were kids we were scared of the monsters hiding under our bed, but as adults we should be more concerned with the monsters lurking in our mattress. The average person spends nearly a third of their lifetime sleeping – with their face, nostrils and lungs right above their mattress, inhaling all of the chemicals that are lurking inside. With all that time spent face-on-mattress, it’s incredibly disturbing to know that the standard mattress poses more threats to our health than most people ever realize. Conventional mattresses are required by law to contain dangerous levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), including flame retardants which are linked to many health issues , including allergies, asthma, hormone disruption, endocrine problems and cancer. These off-gassing chemicals collect in dust and remain circulating throughout your home for years. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural materials that make great mattresses, including wool, organic cotton and natural latex, and if you look carefully and read labels, you can easily find a safe and healthy mattress. Read on for tips to avoid toxic mattresses that are harmful to your health, and discover all the best natural alternatives. Read the rest of Is your mattress trying to kill you? Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: all-natural latex , cotton mattress , dangerous mattress , eco mattress , eco-friendly mattress , eczema , flame retardants , green mattress , green products , My Green Mattress , natural flame-retardants , natural latex mattress , natural mattress , natural mattress alternatives , organic bedding , organic mattress , pbdes , polybrominated diphenyl ethers , polyurethane , polyurethane foam , toxic flame retardant , toxic mattress , toxin free mattress , voc , VOCs , volatile organic chemicals , volatile organic chemicals in the home , wool mattress

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