The National Butterfly Center is threatened by Trump’s border wall

November 2, 2018 by  
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The National Butterfly Center is a 100-acre wildlife preserve and botanical garden in South Texas. Not only is it the habitat of more than 100 different species of butterflies, but it is also home to several endangered plants and threatened animals. It happens to be located directly in the path of the Trump administration’s proposed border wall, and that means its future is in question. In September, Congress approved a federal spending bill that included $1.6 billion to fund the wall’s construction, and last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a waiver of 28 different laws that protect public lands, wildlife and the environment in order for construction. If the planned wall actually becomes a reality, it could cut the privately-owned center in two, leaving up to 70 percent of the preserve’s land between the wall and the Rio Grande. “It’s going to be a no-man’s land, Border Patrol’s enforcement zone,” Marianna Trevino Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, told NPR . “They will clear everything. So it’s not like all of this habitat is going to become Garden of Eden, undisturbed. It is going to be eliminated.” Related: Trump’s border wall threatens Texas plants and wildlife A group of scientists published a paper this summer outlining the proposed wall’s negative environmental impacts, and more than 2,700 scientists signed the paper to call on the Trump administration to rethink its border strategy. They would prefer the DHS follow existing environmental laws and avoid physical barriers. There are also multiple lawsuits pending against the Trump administration arguing that the DHS doesn’t have the authority to waive environmental laws to build the wall. But in the past, similar lawsuits in California and New Mexico have been unsuccessful. Wall construction could begin in February 2019. In the meantime, the butterfly preserve will continue to use its property as though the wall will not be built. “We have long-term plans for this place,” Trevino Wright said. “We’re not going to just pack up and abandon that.” + National Butterfly Center Via NPR Images via Alan Schmierer ( 1 , 2 )

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KOGAA creates an energy self-sufficient City Cell in response to climate change

November 2, 2018 by  
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Galvanized by the growing debate on climate change , Brno-based KOGAA Architectural Studio and NEXT Institute Research Platform have teamed up to create the City Cell Prototype (CCP), a pop-up installation that serves as a testing ground for ways cities can combat climate extremes. Completed this year, the temporary pavilion of nearly 300 square feet is presently located at Malinovsky Square in Brno, Czech Republic’s second-largest city. Built of timber and powered by solar energy, the City Cell Prototype is a multifunctional design that includes rainwater reuse, urban greenery, human shelter and educational opportunities. The City Cell Prototype is primarily constructed from pre-dried KVH timber, a material that has the added benefit of not requiring any additional protective coatings. Elevated off the ground on footings, the wooden structure is centered on a tree set inside a “biofilter.” To make the pavilion look inviting to the public, KOGAA inserted low-slung seating and made the all-timber envelope as transparent as possible using slatted wood screens and two entrances. In addition to the tree, planters have been installed on both ends of the structure, with one wall comprising rows of street-facing planters. Despite the pavilion’s minimalist appearance, the structure features multiple systems that work together to ensure energy self-sufficiency. The sloped roofs, which are made from a translucent material to let light through, are angled to channel rainwater into the centrally located biofilter, where the runoff is then filtered through settling and phyto-processes. Once filtered, the rainwater is stored in tanks and then pumped up to a drip irrigation system connected to the pavilion’s planters. The water pump is powered by solar energy harvested from photovoltaic panels mounted to the roof; solar power also provides electricity for the LED lighting system. Related: An experimental greenhouse pops up at a busy Copenhagen intersection “Together with the vertical greenery, the biofilter allows water retention and evaporation, allowing the surrounding microclimate to cool down,” the architects explained. “Its shape develops from the need to provide shading, collect water and the intent to create a spatial communication between the new object and the existing square, also achieved through the two-sided openness.” After the testing period, the CCP could be included in more permanent projects. + KOGAA Architectural Studio Images via Boys Play Nice

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KOGAA creates an energy self-sufficient City Cell in response to climate change

Human activity has decimated 60% of animal populations since 1970

October 31, 2018 by  
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A new study from WWF International has reported that humans have wiped out 60 percent of the world’s mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles since 1970, and experts are now warning that wildlife destruction is an emergency that is threatening civilization. As important species continue to die at alarming rates, the ecosystems that humans also depend on are being destroyed. The recent Living Planet Report involved 59 scientists from around the world, and these experts found that the growing consumption of food and resources by Earth’s population is destroying the web of life, on which humans depend for clean air and water. The main culprits of the destruction are overexploitation and agriculture. Related: WWF predicts wild animal populations will plummet 67 percent by 2020 “We are sleepwalking toward the edge of a cliff,” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “If there was a 60 percent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.” Barrett also said that this decimation is jeopardizing the future of humanity. Global sustainability expert and professor Johan Rockström said that we are running out of time, and we must address the ecosystems and climate if we stand a chance of safeguarding the planet for our future on Earth. According to The Guardian , many scientists believe that we have entered a sixth mass extinction , and it is the first caused by humans. Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said that the fundamental issue is consumption, and we cannot ignore the impact of wasteful lifestyles. In 2020, many nations of the world will be meeting at the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity to make new commitments to protect nature and wildlife. Barrett said we need a new global deal for people and the environment, and this is our last chance to do this right. As Tanya Steele, chief executive of the WWF said, “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.” + WWF Via The Guardian Image via Ray in Manila

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Sasaki designs Chengdu Panda Reserve to protect the giant panda

October 31, 2018 by  
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Thoughtful urban development and wildlife conservation go hand-in-hand in Sasaki’s winning proposal for the Chengdu Panda Reserve, a series of three sites spanning 69 square kilometers in the western Chinese city also known as the panda capital of the world. With approximately 1,800 pandas left in the wild, the city leaders of Chengdu have launched an ambitious plan to grow their city — partly in hopes of making a bid to host the Olympics — and provide greater tourism infrastructure to fund research and protection of the giant panda. The Chengdu Panda Reserve project will aim to enhance conservation of the giant panda habitat, advance research and promote educational outreach. The winner of an international competition, Sasaki’s designs for the Chengdu Panda Reserve will accommodate an estimated visitor count of more than 20 million — a figure that surpasses current annual visitors to Disneyland. The masterplan will consist of three sites: Longquanshan Panda Village, Beihu Panda Park and Dujiangyan Panda Wilderness. Related: China is creating a giant panda park three times the size of Yellowstone Longquanshan Panda Village will be located near Chengdu’s new airport and will offer a glimpse into conservation efforts as well as provide an educational overview of the city. Beihu Panda Park, an expanded version of the existing “Panda Base” visitor experience, will be placed close to downtown and provide a chance for guests to view pandas up close. The Dujiangyan Panda Wilderness, the most remote of the three sites, will primarily focus on research, including breeding techniques and assimilation of the giant pandas into the wild. “The city needs the panda and the panda needs the city,” said Sasaki principal, landscape architect and urban designer Michael Grove. “The reserve creates a series of destinations around Chengdu which increase public awareness of the giant panda, educates about its habitat  and highlights ongoing research efforts to protect this complex ecosystem. Our plan reconciles Chengdu’s urbanization with a conservation strategy for the panda, providing a sustainable framework to allow both to thrive.” + Sasaki Images via Sasaki

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Sasaki designs Chengdu Panda Reserve to protect the giant panda

7 tiny homes to get you in the Halloween spirit

October 31, 2018 by  
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Tiny homes are a popular trend that allows people to live simply and affordably. But just because they are compact spaces doesn’t mean there isn’t room to get creative. To get you into the Halloween spirit, here are seven homes and resorts that don’t need any spooky decorations, because each tiny home itself represents the holiday perfectly with whimsy, imagination and larger-than-life personality. Travel to space in the Lunar Lander If you have dreams of going to outer space , you will love this tiny home inspired by the Apollo 11 mission to the moon . Located in Central Washington at the edge of the Columbia River, this tiny house — named the Lunar Lander — is elevated on steel pillars for minimal site impact and is only 250 square feet. Naval architect Kurt Hughes designed and built this home using boat-building techniques and materials like plywood, epoxy and fiberglass. The result is a unique and futuristic tiny home that is also environmentally friendly. Take a trip to the shire in the Hobbit House This 170-square-foot tiny house on wheels has a circular front door and an ivy-clad roof that will make you feel like you are living in the shire . Located at the WeeCasa Resort in Lyons, Colorado outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, visitors can choose to stay at one of the 22 tiny homes at the resort, but the Hobbit House is the most popular. The structure features handcrafted wood in the interior, plus a relatively spacious kitchen and living area. If you love The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, this might be the perfect place for you. Visit an enchanted forest in these owl tiny homes Who would have thought you could build a house in the shape of an owl? These original wood cabins are located in Bègles, France. The tiny homes are designed to look like three owls sitting together. Full of whimsy and magic, each 160-square-foot home  is free to tourists and campers visiting the Bordeaux region. The dwelling operates completely off the grid; there is no electricity or water access, but there are enough beds for nine people. The idea is to promote urban hiking by offering free nights in shelters. The project is an initiative of Bruit du Frigo in collaboration with  Zébra3 , financed by Bordeaux Métropole and with participation of the hosting municipalities. Related: Artist transforms parents’ home into the ultimate monster house Sail the seven seas in this pirate ship This steampunk tiny house has a wooden ship’s wheel and a pulley system, and the owners said that it “grew out of the movies.” Chloe Barcelou and Brandon Batchelder work in film, and they wanted to build a tiny home on wheels that they could take anywhere in the country — wherever the film jobs were. The all-black home looks like a mix between a pirate ship and 19th-century stagecoach, and Barcelou and Batchelder also added a steel blue door and ornately stenciled steps for easy access. Live like a mermaid in the Nautilus House The tiny house trend has become insanely popular in recent years, but Javier Senosiain of Arquitectura Organica was way ahead of the tiny home boom when he built the Nautilus House in 2006. Located near Mexico City, Senosiain said that he used “bio-architecture” to design the home, meaning the form is based on a living creature. Senosiain went all out with his shell idea and used stained glass in an unexpected and gorgeous manner while creating a living room that doubles as an indoor garden . Experience a real life fairytale in The Boot There was an old woman who lived in a shoe … but now, you can live in this magical boot in New Zealand. Available to rent on Airbnb , The Boot is a tiny home with a huge personality. Despite its quirky exterior, this fairytale-inspired home is a romantic retreat complete with crackling fireplaces, chocolates, homemade goodies and a private courtyard designed for snuggling. It’s the perfect vacation spot for Halloween or Valentine’s Day! Go back to the Wild, Wild West in these covered wagons Travel back to the Wild, Wild West at the Yosemite Pines RV Resort . Offering the ultimate glamping retreat, these covered wagons can accommodate up to six people each. Nearby, guests will find a community fire pit and swimming pool; the resort also offers year-round outdoor activities. Nature walks, hayrides, outdoor movie nights and hiking take place in the fall, making this retreat ideal for autumnal enjoyment. Images via Kurt Hughes , WeeCasa Tiny House Resort ,  Zébra3 , B&C Productions , Javier Senosiain , Neil Smith and Yosemite Pines RV Resort

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7 tiny homes to get you in the Halloween spirit

New study suggests it’s time to replace modern, grassy lawns

October 12, 2018 by  
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The lush green lawns surrounding many homes, businesses, parks and other outdoor spaces might not be the greatest idea, according to Australian scientist Maria Ignatieva and Swedish scientist Marcus Hedblom. In a new study published in the journal  Science , the urban ecologists suggested that we need to rethink the modern lawn in favor of more sustainable options. Ignatieva and Hedblom said that the negative environmental consequences of green lawns far outweigh the natural benefits, and we need to start exploring new forms of groundcover. The scientists claimed that the amount of water , fertilizer and mowing that lawns require is a problem — especially when we use gas-powered mowers that emit carbon monoxide and other toxins into the air. The use of those mowers negates any positives of the lawn pulling carbon dioxide out of the air. Related: How to transform your wasteful grassy space into a food forest garden The ecologists also pointed out that globally, lawns occupy an amount of land equivalent to the area of England and Spain combined. In arid regions of the U.S., lawns are responsible for 75 percent of household water consumption. To make matters worse, weed killers and fertilizers used to keep lawns pristine find their way to the water table. If you think artificial turf is a solution, think again. Turf does not contribute to carbon sequestration — the process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — and it also causes problems with water runoff. It is also possible that it could poison local water tables. Ignatieva and Hedblom said that some communities have started allowing natural meadows to grow instead of lawns. In places like Berlin, residents have allowed the landscape to grow wild. These ideas are a step in the right direction, but the ecologists suggest the need for more scientific research into some plant types that could develop into naturally short grass alternatives that don’t require a lot of water for survival. The study also urges people to change their way of thinking when it comes to their lawns. + Science Mag Via Phys.org Images via Daniel Watson

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Lecomte reaches mile 1,000 in his swim across the Pacific Ocean

October 3, 2018 by  
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Ben Lecomte, the first person to swim across the Atlantic Ocean back in 1998, is now attempting to be the first swimmer to traverse the Pacific Ocean . The record-setter is taking on the challenge not only for himself, but also to raise awareness about ocean pollution, health and conservation. Lecomte has now passed the 1,000 nautical mile marker from his starting point in the port city of Yokohama, Japan. “My eyes are not too much on the milestones,” Lecomte said of his headline distance. “But it’s important to have milestones to celebrate any progress.” The swimmer is nearly a fifth of the way through his 5,500-mile expedition. Related: Man plans to swim the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness for plastic pollution Despite six years of preparation, Lecomte and his crew aboard the research vessel dubbed ‘Seeker’ have had to overcome many obstacles since leaving Yokohama in June. The team has been forced back to port by typhoons , suffered sea sickness aboard the 65-foot (20-meter) sailboat and rerouted several times to avoid cargo ships. Aside from this, Lecomte attempts to swim an average of 30 miles a day, aided by North Pacific currents and a protein-based diet of approximately 8,000 calories. Throughout the roughly eight hours it takes him to swim this distance, he is also collecting ocean debris and plastic that his expedition team geotags for research. “Every single day we collect trash,” Lecomte said. “I’m truly shocked by the amount of plastic I find on my way every single day.” The team has collected more than 1,300 pieces of floating trash along its journey, scooping up to four samples each minute with a specially designed net. Related: Mountain Heroes cyclist aims for world record to fight climate change Even among the heart-rending stages of Lecomte’s journey, there have still been touching moments. “I am very surprised by the amount of amazing encounters I made in the middle of nowhere — birds, jellyfish, swordfishes, turtles , dolphins, whales and even a shark who followed me for two days,” he said. “As I swim everyday, I see this wild and beautiful environment being affected by the virus of plastic. Every stroke is dedicated to inspire people and find ways to rethink their plastic consumption on land.” Viewers can tune-in to top science publisher Seeker.com and its social channels to watch daily videos and live moments from the expedition, with weekly updates also airing on Discovery. Follow Ben’s journey at Seeker.com/TheSwim . Via Seeker Images via Seeker

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Lecomte reaches mile 1,000 in his swim across the Pacific Ocean

LEGO reintroduces Vestas wind turbine set, now made with plant-based plastic

October 3, 2018 by  
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LEGO Group has just released a  LEGO Creator Expert set from the ‘vault’ that focuses on sustainable energy. The company announced its Vestas Wind Turbine creation at New York Climate Week in hopes of encouraging creativity while spreading the word about renewable and sustainable energy sources. The revamped wind turbine set will be the first LEGO set featuring the new plant-based plastic LEGOs, Plants from Plants. LEGO collaborated with Vestas, a leader in sustainable energy, to make the new and improved wind turbine set. Not only does the kit represent renewable energy, but some of the included plant elements are made from a plant-based plastic sourced from sugarcane. This is the first time LEGO has issued a set including pieces from its Plants from Plants initiative, and customers will be able to purchase the wind turbine this coming Black Friday (November 23). Related: LEGO is rolling out its first plant-based plastic pieces The Vestas Wind Turbine set is comprised of 826 pieces and stands 3 feet tall. The wind turbine overlooks a wooded area complete with spruce trees — made in part from sugarcane — as well as a cottage with a working porch light. The set will be available for $200. The toy company plans on using only sustainable materials in core products and product packaging by 2030. In addition to this commitment, LEGO has also pledged to become eco-friendly in the production of its plastic bricks. To that end, LEGO incorporates wind power in the production process and generates as much power from sustainable sources as it does from traditional ones. “We strive to make a positive impact on the environment and are committed to climate action and to use sustainable materials in products and packaging,” said Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at LEGO. “This wind turbine celebrates our first steps in bringing these ambitions to life, and we hope it will inspire builders to learn about renewable energy.” + LEGO Images via LEGO

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LEGO reintroduces Vestas wind turbine set, now made with plant-based plastic

Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

September 28, 2018 by  
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Wetlands around the world are disappearing at an alarming rate. New research shows that these valuable ecosystems are vanishing at a rate three times that of forests . Unless significant changes are made, the disappearance of wetlands could cause severe damage around the globe. The Global Wetland Outlook , which was completed by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, found that more than a third of the wetlands on Earth have disappeared over a 45-year period. The pace that wetlands are vanishing jumped significantly after the year 2000, and regions all over the planet were impacted equally. Unfortunately, there is a handful of reasons why wetlands are diminishing around the world. This includes climate change , urbanization, human population growth and variable consumption patterns, all of which have contributed to the way land is used. Related: Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals There are several different types of wetlands found on Earth, including marshes, lakes, peatlands and rivers. Lagoons, coral reefs , mangroves and estuaries also fall into the wetland category. In total, wetlands take up more than 12.1 million square kilometers, an area larger than Greenland. Wetlands are crucial, because they provide almost all of the world’s access to freshwater — something that is key to survival. Humans also use wetlands for hydropower and medicines. From an environmental perspective, wetlands help retain carbon and regulate global warming . They also serve as the ecosystems for 40 percent of living species on Earth, providing food, water, breeding spaces and raw materials for these animals to live. If the wetlands keep vanishing at the current rate, many species will go as well. “The Global Wetland Outlook is a wake-up call — not only on the steep rate of loss of the world’s wetlands but also on the critical services they provide. Without them, the global agenda on sustainable development will not be achieved,” said Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We need urgent collective action to reverse trends on wetland loss and degradation and secure both the future of wetlands and our own survival at the same time.” With wetlands in danger of disappearing, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has pledged to make saving these regions a top priority. The parties involved with the group have targeted 2,300 sites for protection and hope to expand that to include more wetlands around the globe. + Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Image via Jeanethe Falvey / EPA

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Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

Judge stops bear hunt and returns Yellowstone grizzlies to the endangered list

September 27, 2018 by  
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The hunt for grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park is officially over. This week, a judge ordered that all grizzly bears living in or near the park to be put back on the list of endangered species. The ruling stops the attempts of wildlife officials to issue licenses for those want to hunt the bears, which have been protected from hunting for the past four decades. According to The Guardian , the population of grizzly bears has increased in the last 30 years from around 135 to more than 700 today. While the numbers are improving, grizzlies are only present in four locations in the Rocky Mountains. This has raised concerns about the recovery of grizzlies, as the populations are still isolated from each other. This is one reason why Judge Dana Christensen, who put in a lot of research on the case, decided to put the bears back on the endangered list. As Judge Christensen explained, true recovery means expanding grizzly populations to regions outside of the Rocky Mountains. Related: Montana judge to rule on first grizzly bear hunt in 40 years While environmental groups and activists praised the ruling, wildlife officials were disappointed by the turn of events. Officials in Wyoming recently put in motion plans for a bear hunt later this year. Up to 22 individuals were granted licenses to hunt grizzlies when the season opened. Luckily, citizens and conservationists launched a massive campaign — including the Shoot’em with a Camera, Not A Gun initiative  — to stop the sport hunting of these beautiful creatures. The fight to keep grizzly bears on the endangered list is sadly not over. Experts believe that state officials will attempt to repeal the ruling at a higher court. The pro-hunting organization Safari Club International is also expected to make a push toward making grizzly hunts legal once again. We can only hope that Judge Christensen’s ruling stands the test of time, allowing grizzlies to make a true recovery in the wild. Via The Guardian Image via Neal Herbert / Yellowstone National Park

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