Galapagos beach shelter shows off the versatility of renewable bamboo

January 23, 2017 by  
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Bamboo makes sense no matter where you use it. The Scarcity and Creativity Studio built this minimalist bamboo beach shelter in just two weeks, after all the commissioning details were sorted out. Located on the Playa Man in the capital of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador , the structure was built with locally-grown bamboo to ensure a versatile, flexible and renewable landmark for the local community to use. The project is part of a larger initiative to improve beach facilities in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of Galápagos Province located on San Cristóbal, the easternmost island of the archipelago. The shelter, which provides shade and open air showers to users of Playa Man, was built in two weeks using locally-sourced bamboo, wire ties and concrete stoppers. Related: This solitary lookout shelter is a bridge between ancient civilization and modern life The team arrived in Galapagos to find that the The Municipality of San Cristobal, where they were supposed to build a new shade shelter and facilities, cancelled the project. They decided to use the four weeks to find a new home for the project, approaching several local institutions. Out of four proposed projects–a bridge, yoga training facility, police tower and shade shelter–they opted for the latter and reused the bamboo they had already purchased. Hopefully, this project will start a local, if not global trend of building with this strong and sustainable material that replenishes itself in only four years . + The Scarcity and Creativity Studio Via  Archdaily

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Galapagos beach shelter shows off the versatility of renewable bamboo

Heroic dolphins could save critically endangered porpoise from extinction

January 16, 2017 by  
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Seal Team 6, a squad of dolphins trained by the US Navy to locate undersea mines and other submerged objects, may be the last, best chance of survival for the world’s most endangered marine mammal . The team of superhero cetaceans will be recruited to help locate the sixty or so remaining vaquitas in the wild, so that a small group of the porpoises may be captured and relocated to establish a captive breeding population. Distinguished by their small size and dark rings around their eyes and mouths, vaquitas are endemic to a narrow stretch in the upper regions of the Gulf of California in Mexico . The vaquitas population has been in decline for decades due to the tiny porpoise’s habit of becoming trapped in fishing nets meant for other sea creatures. While ex situ conservation , the establishment of a protected captive breeding population, is not a new idea, it remains controversial. “I don’t like this idea at all,” said Omar Vidal, director general of the World Wildlife Fund Mexico in Mexico City.”The risk of killing a vaquita while catching them is very high. With only 50 or 60 animals left, we can’t play with that.” Related: China’s ‘extinct’ dolphin may have been sighted again in the Yangtze River Despite the risks, the Seal Team 6 project, currently in planning stages, will likely commence in spring. However, the Navy and its dolphins will not be alone. “An international group of experts, including Navy personnel, have been working on two primary goals: determining the feasibility of locating and catching vaquitas, as a phase One,” wrote Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, chairman of the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita. “As a second phase, to determine the feasibility of temporarily housing vaquitas in the Gulf of California .” Vaquitas have never successfully been held and bred in captivity before, so the team will be paying particularly close attention to creating holding pens, likely located in a protected bay, that meet the specific needs of the animals . While creating a net-free, safe environment for wild vaquitas in their natural habitat remains the ultimate goal, the situation is now desperate enough to merit risk. “Given the crisis we’re in, we need to explore all of our options,” said NOAA biologist Barbara Taylor. Via Science Magazine Images via Marion Doss/Flickr and  Paula Olson/Flickr

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Heroic dolphins could save critically endangered porpoise from extinction

This all-natural native corn is bejeweled with brilliantly colored kernels

January 15, 2017 by  
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Through his quest to reconnect to his roots, Barnes isolated several traditional strains of seeds that fell to the wayside when his ancestors traveled to what’s now Oklahoma in the 1800s . Through years of selective growing , Barnes grew corn that looks bejeweled, creating a colorful celebration of native heirloom varieties of corn. Related: Plant a Wish Restores Native Plant Habitats Around America Barnes didn’t hoard the wealth, however, sharing corn seeds with Native American tribe elders and other growers he encountered. According to SeedBroadcast , “…he was able to reintroduce specific corn types to the elders of those tribes, and this helped their people in reclaiming their cultural and spiritual identities. Their corn was, to them, literally the same as their blood line, their language, and their sense of who they were.” One such grower was Greg Schoen. The two became friends in the early ’90s , and Schoen took the rainbow corn to a new level, creating hybrids by planting the rainbow corn next to typical yellow corn. Schoen eventually passed the seeds to the non-profit organization Native Seeds/SEARCH , who now sell the seeds online . They also protect the seeds in a bank containing around 2,000 rare varieties . Native Seeds/SEARCH began during a project to design sustainable food sources with Native Americans. They continually heard that people wanted to plant the seeds their grandparents did , so the organization started to protect ” endangered traditional seeds ” and the diversity of plants present specifically in the American Southwest. The fabulous corn kernels possess an outer layer tougher than most , which means they aren’t the best for backyard corn-on-the-cob chomping, but they can be either ground for cornmeal or popped like popcorn. You can purchase a packet of the seeds for $4.95 here , and profits go right back to the organization to continue their conservation efforts. Via My Modern Met and Lost At E Minor Images via Glass Gem Corn Facebook

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This all-natural native corn is bejeweled with brilliantly colored kernels

Judge orders Exxon-Mobil to disclose 40 years of climate change documents

January 13, 2017 by  
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Last fall, the public learned that Exxon-Mobil may have spent millions of dollars researching the effects of climate change in the 1970s . Upon learning the disastrous impact of their own business practices, the company hid the results and continued as if no risks existed. This revelation prompted the Attorneys General of Massachusetts and New York, Maura Healey and Eric Schneidermann respectively, to pursue investigations that are already bearing fruit. On Wednesday, a Massachusetts judge ordered the fossil fuel behemoth to turn over 40 years worth of documents that will shed light into what Exxon-Mobil knew, when it knew it, and how it obscured this knowledge from the public. The decision by the Massachusetts court arrives at an inopportune time for Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon-Mobil and President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. Tillerson, already under the microscope as the Senate moves through the confirmation process, has thus far refused to answer questions about Exxon-Mobil’s alleged obfuscation and endangerment of public safety, which occurred decades before his tenure as CEO. Tillerson has also been more forthcoming about the threats posed by climate change than other prospective members of the incoming Trump administration, but if these latest legal actions produce smoking-gun evidence of Exxon-Mobil’s deception, Tillerson may find himself in hot water. Related: US Slaps New Sanctions on Russia, Stops Exxon from Drilling in the Arctic While an investigation, however productive, won’t change the past, clear evidence that the fossil fuel industry acted as Big Tobacco did in the 20th century by willfully ignoring its own dangerous practices and deceiving the public would provide additional leverage and pressure on policymakers and businesses to take action against climate change. While scientists assert that we can burn only 565 gigatons more carbon dioxide before the Earth is doomed to a global temperature rise over two degrees celsius, the fossil fuel industry currently sits on 2,765 gigatons of carbon in its reserves, making evident their need to comply in the move towards a carbon-free economy . Even with evidence, the fight will not be easy. Since the revelations in the fall, Exxon-Mobil and its allies have fiercely fought against any investigation. The fossil fuel giant has filed two lawsuits against Attorney General Healey, alleging that her actions were politically motivated. Similarly, a federal judge in Texas had ordered a deposition of Healey, which would have required her to show up in a Texas court. This order was cancelled at the last minute. However, these actions demonstrate that those who fight on behalf of the public against Big Oil will face obstacle after obstacle in the dawning Trump era. Via  Engadget Images via Mike Mozart  and ARLIS Reference

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Judge orders Exxon-Mobil to disclose 40 years of climate change documents

Native American tribe is fighting against the Pilgrim Pipeline in New Jersey

January 2, 2017 by  
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As oil and gas companies race to plan more pipelines to criss-cross America, conservationists are similarly ramping up their efforts to resist the environmentally destructive projects, and one such controversy in New Jersey is heating up quickly . The planned Pilgrim Pipeline would carry crude oil back and forth along the 178 miles from Albany, New York, to New Jersey’s Linden Harbor. The pipeline’s proposed route cuts through forests and a drinking water reservoir, prompting members of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation to organize a resistance camp, similar to the months-long backlash against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota. While that struggle has been long and difficult, the Ramapough Lunaape in New Jersey will face a different and perhaps even more challenging fight against corporate interests, for a number of reasons. As is often the case with resistance efforts led by indigenous people , the Ramapough Lunaape must first defend their right to protest. Last week, the New Jersey town of Mahwah issued summonses against the protesters for setting up a camp and erecting protest signs without permits, even though the activity is all taking place on tribal land. One of the key obstacles for the Ramapough Lunaape is that their nation is not recognized by the federal government, so they are not protected in the same way. The Ramapough Lunaape Nation is instead only recognized at the state level in New Jersey and New York. It doesn’t take an expert to understand how this issue will complicate their fight against the proposed pipeline . Related: US Army blocks Dakota Access Pipeline in major victory for protesters The tribe has made numerous attempts to gain federal recognition, but those efforts have all failed. One such bid, in 1993, was struck down after Donald Trump (yep, that guy) campaigned against the nation’s recognition in order to eliminate the possibility of competition for his casino in Atlantic City. The tribe hasn’t given up, though, and an ongoing petition is still active to collect signature in support of adding the Ramapough Lunaape Nation to the list of federal recognized tribes. The Pilgrim Pipeline has been in planning for more than two years, and local communities along its proposed route have been protesting the whole time. The planned route would loosely follow the New York State Thruway and I-287 and then through North Jersey’s environmentally sensitive Highlands. Protesters are worried about the pipeline’s proximity to the Highlands reservoirs, which provide water to 5 million New Jersey residents. Much like other pipeline projects across the country, the developers Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings have pledged to go “full steam ahead” despite the environmental and public health concerns. Via Grist Images via Northjersey Pipeline Walkers and  Pilgrim Pipeline

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Native American tribe is fighting against the Pilgrim Pipeline in New Jersey

99-million-year-old dinosaur tail found immaculately preserved in amber

December 9, 2016 by  
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When a small, sparrow-sized dinosaur died about 99 million years ago, part of its tail was immaculately preserved in amber. Researchers who recently discovered the tail from a Hukawng Valley amber mine in Myanmar say it’s a notable find not only because it is the first dinosaur tail ever identified, but also because it is covered in feathers. Co-first author Lida Xing of China University of Geosciences found the amber piece in a Myanmar market in 2015, according to NPR . The Dexu Institute of Palaeontology agreed to purchase the specimen, and Xing and colleagues got to work scrutinizing it. Related: First dinosaur brain tissue discovered in 130-million-year-old fossil The dinosaur was likely a carnivorous coelurosaurus, part of a group that includes the mighty Tyrannosaurus , although the discovered dinosaur probably wasn’t very mighty itself. Scientists can tell it was tiny from the tail bone, which is a mere two millimeters across. Part of the mystery of dinosaurs with feathers is that many probably didn’t use that plumage to fly. The structure of the little dinosaur’s feathers instead resembles ornamental feathers seen on some modern birds . Scientists can see the way the feathers’ barbs bend means they’re far more flexible than feathers used for flight, and could have been employed to send signals or regulate the dinosaur’s temperature. The top of the feathers could have been dark brown, the scientists think, with the underside having no color at all. That or carotenoids – pigments responsible for orange, red, and yellow hues – may have brightened the underside feathers in life but broke down swiftly when the dinosaur died. Thrilled with the discovery, the scientists hope they might be able to find even more specimens in the future. With a conflict between the Kachin Independence Army – who currently possess the Hukawng Valley – and the Myanmar government hopefully coming to a close, scientists may be able to get more access to the amber mines, according to Xing. He speculated they might even find a whole dinosaur one day. 14 scientists from international institutions participated in a new study published by the journal Current Biology . Via National Geographic and The Economist Images via Lida Xing, et al.

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99-million-year-old dinosaur tail found immaculately preserved in amber

Autonomous concept car features an urban garden on wheels

December 9, 2016 by  
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From a Swiss think tank widely known for its outrageous car concepts comes the automotive dream to end all others: an autonomous vehicle featuring a mobile office and a living garden . The Rinspeed Oasis is set to be unveiled at the upcoming CES event held in Las Vegas in early January 2017. The fully autonomous concept vehicle takes a wildly different approach to commuting, with a built-in personal assistant, a lock-box for packages, and a host of other smart features that change the way we think about transportation. Rinspeed has promoted the “mobile office” notion in previous concept designs, and the Swiss think tank even transformed a Tesla Model S into a self-driving office on wheels. With the debut of the Oasis concept next month, Rinspeed is upping the stakes quite a bit in terms of innovation and thinking outside the literal box of a car frame. That’s the whole point of the Oasis concept, according to the company’s press release, which acknowledges some critics might be scratching their heads at the notion of growing plants inside a car. Related: Rinspeed turns Tesla Model S into an autonomous mobile office “Urban gardening on wheels as a new trend? A little bit out there? Maybe. But as always, the creation of Swiss mobility innovator Frank M. Rinderknecht is an oasis for inspiration in the otherwise rather expansive automotive wasteland,” the company said. The Oasis also features an onboard “personal assistant” that puts artificial intelligence to work for the car owner by linking personal data (via digital calendar and social media accounts, for instance) with the vehicle’s navigation system and traffic information. As a result, the vehicle can not only let you know whether you’ll make it to your destination on time, but can also give you a heads up if you’re about to miss an appointment. Let’s be clear about one thing: there are no plans for mass production currently in place. At CES, Rinspeed will do what they do for another year in row, which is reveal outlandish concepts to push the envelope of automotive design and hope that carmakers will follow. Via New Atlas Images via Rinspeed

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Autonomous concept car features an urban garden on wheels

Trump officially supports completing the Dakota Access Pipeline, but it has "nothing to do" with his investment

December 5, 2016 by  
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  Even as water protectors and their allies celebrate their victory in securing an alternate route for the Dakota Access Pipeline, a new threat lurks right around the corner. After months of protest and increasing police violence, the US Army has denied the request to build an easement beneath Lake Oahe, indefinitely delaying the construction of DAPL. But the supporters of the pipeline will soon have a new powerful ally in the Oval Office as Donald Trump assumes the presidency. Last week, Trump officially announced that he supports completing the pipeline, but his investments in DAPL raise questions as to whether his personal financial stake in the project will influence his public policy decisions.   Trump maintains a stake in Energy Transfer Partners, the company that is leading construction of the piepline, as well as Phillips 66, which holds it own share in DAPL . Moreover, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners Kelcy Warren has been a prolific Republican donor, giving nearly $169,000 to the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. Trump’s opaque and complicated financial ties to businesses and governments around the world add another layer of uncertainty to an already unpredictable presidency. The president-elect has reportedly leaned on his new power to further his business career by pressuring Scotland to abandon wind farms against whichTrump once crusaded . His skepticism of climate change also indicates that environmental policies under a Trump administration will be firmly pro-fossil fuel. Related: North Dakota will fine pipeline protesters $1000 for bringing in food and supplies For their part, Team Trump denies any appearance of corruption. Trump’s position on DAPL “has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans,” read a note sent to campaign and congressional staff. “Those making such a claim are only attempting to distract from the fact that President-elect Trump has put forth serious policy proposals he plans to set in motion on Day One.” Via the Independent Images via Flickr  and Wikimedia

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Trump officially supports completing the Dakota Access Pipeline, but it has "nothing to do" with his investment

African giant rats tapped to sniff out environmental crimes

November 24, 2016 by  
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African Giant Pouched Rats have detected landmines for several years, and now they might be put to work stopping wildlife crimes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is allocating $100,000 to a trial project run by Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) in partnership with APOPO to see if giant rats can sniff out illegal shipments. The trial will determine if the rats can detect hardwood timber and pangolin scales and skin. The US government is funding 12 creative methods of stopping wildlife trafficking and poaching in 11 different countries, and the giant rats program is one of them. APOPO, which was founded almost two decades ago, has already demonstrated the rats’ sharp sense of smell is useful for detecting landmines and tuberculosis, and the new trial project will determine whether they can pick out the smells of illegally trafficked products. The first step of the program is to assess if the rats can distinguish between control substances and target substances in a laboratory. Related: U.S. gives South Africa millions of dollars to combat wildlife poaching According to EWT project head Kirsty Brebner and program manager Adam Pires , the giant rats are “relatively cheap to source, feed, train, breed, and maintain, and their small size makes them cheap and easy to transport.” A typical rat lives between one and two years, but giant rats can live for as much as eight years. Many illegal products are moved in shipping containers , and dogs have provided some help in sniffing out shipments in the past. But with superior agility and ability to reach container vents, giant rats might be able to detect illegal products more effectively than a dog can. EWT says if the program is successful, the giant rats may be trained to also detect other illegally trafficked products like rhino horns and elephant ivory. + APOPO + Endangered Wildlife Trust Via the Los Angeles Times Images via APOPO’s HeroRATS Facebook

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African giant rats tapped to sniff out environmental crimes

New 3D-printed magnets work better than traditional versions, with zero waste

November 3, 2016 by  
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There is virtually no limit to the items that can be produced with 3D-printing technology these days, and now researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have used it to create a better magnet that happens to help protect the environment. The new 3D-printed magnet outperforms traditional magnets as well, making it even more desirable. Because the 3D-printing process involves zero waste, manufacturing the magnets helps conserve rare earth minerals, meaning more of them can stay in the ground. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GJ2R9V93Eo The game-changing innovation created at ORNL  is an isotropic, near-net-shape, neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) permanent bonded magnet . Researchers working on the project report that the 3D-printed magnet has “comparable or better magnetic, mechanical, and microstructural properties” versus magnets with a similar composition that were created through conventional methods. The performance boost is just one of the benefits of this new technology, though. Related: How magnets could bring us closer to energy-free refrigeration The other perk involves conserving rare minerals, which are mined from the earth only to be wasted in traditional manufacturing processes. In order to produce the magnets, composite pellets are melted, compounded, and extruded layer-by-layer into desired forms using the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine, a special 3D-printer housed at the DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL. Using 3D-printing to manufacture the magnets is a zero waste process, while conventional sintered magnet manufacturing can result in material waste up to 50 percent. The results of the innovation were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports. Via Phys.org Images via ORNL

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