Elon Musk’s first tunnel is almost complete and he’s offering free rides

May 11, 2018 by  
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Another day, another genius marketing idea from Elon Musk . In an Instagram post , Musk announced that he plans to offer free rides in The Boring Company’s first tunnel — which he described as “almost done.” Musk went on to say: “As mentioned in prior posts, once fully operational (demo system rides will be free), the system will always give priority to pods for pedestrians and cyclists for less than the cost of a bus ticket.” First Boring Company tunnel under LA almost done! Pending final regulatory approvals, we will be offering free rides to the public in a few months. Super huge thanks to everyone that helped with this project. Strong support from public, elected officials & regulators is critical to success. As mentioned in prior posts, once fully operational (demo system rides will be free), the system will always give priority to pods for pedestrians & cyclists for less than the cost of a bus ticket. A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on May 10, 2018 at 6:49pm PDT The Boring Company will offer rides in the tunnel under the Los Angeles , California area “pending final regulatory approvals” in a few months. Elon Musk thanked people who have been involved in the project, and said “Strong support from public, elected officials and regulators is critical to success.” As he often does, Musk answered a few questions about the project on Twitter. He said the company has already started working on a route between New York and Washington, D.C., and that they hope to start work on a route between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2019. Musk explained that one would be a true Hyperloop with “pressurized pods in near vacuum tunnels,” and that passengers on that route would be able to travel faster than if they were on a jetliner. Related: Boring Company confirms plans to use excavated dirt for low-cost housing bricks When one Twitter user requested a stop near Vandenburg, an Air Force base in Santa Barbara County from which SpaceX launches rockets, Musk responded , “A cool thing about the design is that’s easy to incorporate branch loops to serve small to mid-size cities without slowing down the main loop at all.” The Boring Company’s frequently asked questions page says the initial test tunnel is in Hawthorne, California. According to the Los Angeles Times , in April the City Council’s public works committee unanimously approved an environmental review exemption for a 2.7-mile tunnel. The Boring Company Images via The Boring Company

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Elon Musk’s first tunnel is almost complete and he’s offering free rides

The 6 most pressing environmental issuesand what you can do to help solve them

April 12, 2018 by  
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More than four decades after the first Earth Day , there are still many environmental concerns for communities around the world to address; perhaps none so pressing as man-made climate change . But progress is being made, and it could be argued that awareness about environmental issues is at an all-time high. For this coming  Earth Day we’re shining a light on the most pressing environmental concerns that affect us al, and showing what you can do to help restore ecological balance to this amazing place we call home. Image via Shutterstock CLIMATE CHANGE While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change  is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause, political will has not been strong enough so far to initiate a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy. Perhaps more extreme weather events such as droughts , wildfires, heat waves and flooding will convince the public to put more pressure on policymakers to act urgently to curb carbon emissions and address this issue before it’s too late. Related: 14 Awe-Inspiring Aerial Photographs Capture the Beauty of the Earth What You Can Do: Your home and transportation could be major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. A certified home energy audit can help make your home more energy efficient. If you commute via biking, walking or public transportation you are doing your part to fight global warming, but if you must own a motor vehicle, consider trading in your gas guzzler for a fuel efficient hybrid or better yet—go electric . When you fly, make sure to reduce your carbon footprint from air miles traveled with carbon offsets from a respected company such as Carbonfund.org . Image via Shutterstock POLLUTION Air pollution and climate change are closely linked, as the same greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet are also creating smoggy conditions in major cities that endanger public health. If you’ve seen horrifying images of pollution-choked Chinese cities and think the smog is isolated to Beijing or Shanghai, think again. U.S. scientists are finding that Chinese pollution is intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and contributing to more erratic weather in the U.S. Water and soil pollution might not get the media attention that air pollution does, but they are still important public health concerns. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council , dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk. While the Clean Water Act did much to make American water safe from harmful pollutants, today there is a new threat to clean water coming from the shale gas fracking boom taking place across the country and from the EPA itself . Soil contamination is a major issue across the world. In China, nearly 20 percent of arable land has been contaminated by toxic heavy metals. Soil pollution threatens food security and poses health risks to the local population. The use of pesticides and fertilizers are also major factors in soil pollution Related: Nine Chinese Cities More Polluted Than Beijing What You Can Do: Many of the solutions to air pollution are similar to those for climate change, though it’s important to either make a concerted effort to drive less, or switch to a lower-emissions vehicle. Switching over to green energy is also important, as that will cut back on fossil fuel emissions. If you aren’t able to install solar or wind power on your property or if your utility gets its electricity from dirty energy sources, consider signing up for a renewable energy producer like Ethical Electric that connects consumers to 100 percent renewable energy sources to power their homes. Image via Shutterstock DEFORESTATION Forests are important to mitigating climate change because they serve as “carbon sinks,” meaning that they absorb CO2 that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and worsen global warming. It is estimated that 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation . Cutting down trees also threatens animals and humans who rely on healthy forests to sustain themselves, and the loss of tropical rainforests is particularly concerning because around 80 percent of the world’s species reside in these areas. About 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the past 50 years to make way for cattle ranching. That’s a double whammy for the climate because cattle flatulence is a major source of methane gas, which contributes more to short term climate change than carbon emissions. Related: New Web App Uses Google Maps to Track Deforestation as it Happens What You Can Do:  You can support Rainforest Alliance and similar organizations, stop using paper towels and use washable cloths instead, use cloth shopping bags (instead of paper), and look at labels to make sure you only use FSC-certified wood and paper products. You can also boycott products made by palm oil companies that contribute to deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Image via Shutterstock WATER SCARCITY As the population increases and climate change causes more droughts, water scarcity is becoming more of an issue. Only three percent of the world’s water is fresh water and 1.1 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water. As the current drought in California dramatically shows, access to water is not just an issue for developing countries but the United States as well. In fact, by the middle of this century more than a third of all counties in the lower 48 states will be at higher risk of water shortages with more than 400 of the 1,100 counties facing an extremely high risk. Related: Could Solar-powered Desalination Solve California’s Water Supply Problem? What You Can Do: Just as energy efficiency is considered an important solution to the issues of climate change and pollution, water efficiency can help us deal with water scarcity. Some ideas to be more water efficient include installing an ENERGY STAR -certified washer, using low-flow faucets, plugging up leaks, irrigating the lawn in the morning or evening when the cooler air causes less evaporation, taking shorter showers and not running sink water when brushing your teeth. Also, consider using non-toxic cleaning products and eco-friendly pesticides and herbicides that won’t contaminate groundwater. Seventh Generation uses plant-derived ingredients for their household cleaning products. Image via Shutterstock LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY Increasing human encroachment on wildlife habitats is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity that threatens food security, population health and world stability. Climate change is also a major contributor to biodiversity loss, as some species aren’t able to adapt to changing temperatures. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index , biodiversity has declined 27 percent in the last 35 years. Related: Costa Rica is Closing its Zoos and Freeing All Captive Animals What You Can Do: As consumers we can all help protect biodiversity by purchasing products that don’t harm the environment. Next time you are at the grocery store, check to see if food packaging contains any of the following eco-labels : USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Marine Stewardship Council or Green Seal. Other product certifications include Forest Stewardship Council Certification, Rainforest Alliance Certification and Certified Wildlife Friendly. Also, reusing , recycling and composting are easy ways to protect biodiversity. Image via Shutterstock SOIL EROSION AND DEGRADATION Unsustainable industrial agriculture practices have resulted in soil erosion and degradation that leads to less arable land, clogged and polluted waterways, increased flooding and desertification. According to the World Wildlife Fund , half of the earth’s topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years. Related: Soil Erosion Could Cause Food Crisis, Expert Warns What You Can Do: Support sustainable agriculture that puts people and the planet above profit. Support sustainable agriculture by visiting the Sustainable Table for tips on fighting for a sustainable food system. On a smaller scale, you can make a difference in your backyard by switching to non-toxic green pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. The website Eartheasy.com sells natural lawn care products such as corn gluten organic fertilizer. + Earth Day Lead image via Deposit Photos

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46 tons of Mardi Gras beads found clogging New Orleans catch basins

February 1, 2018 by  
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In New Orleans , clean-up crews have found 46 tons of Mardi Gras beads in the catch basins on St. Charles Avenue between Poydras Street and Lee Circle. These festive plastic staples were clogging 15,000, or fully one-quarter, of the city’s basins, which are used to drain and protect the city from flooding . As part of a $7 million contract, crews from Baton Rouge-based EnviroSystems used nearly two-dozen vacuum trucks to extract 7.2 million pounds of debris, of which 93,000 pounds were Mardi Gras beads. “This is a staggering number,” interim director of the New Orleans Department of Public Works Dani Galloway told the Times-Picayune . In response to the massive amount of Mardi Gras beads posing a threat to the city’s ability to drain itself in case of flooding, the Public Works and Sanitation departments are currently brainstorming ways to prevent further damage from beads, including installing temporary “gutter buddies” to keep the beads out. During a press conference, Galloway also emphasized the need of ordinary citizens to step up and clear catch basins in their own neighborhoods. Dozens of residents in every city district have already received training on how to properly clean the catch basins. Related: New Orleans doesn’t need a hurricane to be inundated with water The clean-up operation comes after extensive flooding during the summer of 2017, which was blamed in part on the city’s backlog of clogged catch basins. This backlog existed despite $3 million having been allocated to deal with the problem. Following last summer’s flooding, the New Orleans City Council approved a $22 million emergency plan to address the issue . Although external contractors were hired to do the work, much of the labor was sourced within the city. “They are our own people doing this work,” said Galloway . “This is important because it maximizes economic impact on the city’s contracts for the people that live and work here.” Via the Times-Picayune Images via Depositphotos and Flickr/Infrogmation of New Orleans

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46 tons of Mardi Gras beads found clogging New Orleans catch basins

EPA ends "always-in" clean air policy opposed by fossil fuel companies

January 26, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is withdrawing a key  Clean Air Act provision. They’re reversing the “once-in always-in” policy for major sources of pollution , which requires sources like  power plants , to always be classified as a major source. Under the new change, if a source “limits its potential to emit below major source thresholds,” per the EPA , it can be reclassified as an area source. What’s the impact of all this? According to a statement from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) clean air director John Walke, “This is among the most dangerous actions that the Trump EPA has taken yet against public health .” The EPA , in their own words, is “reducing regulatory burdens.” They’re withdrawing a policy “for the classification of major sources of hazardous air pollutants under section 112 of the Clean Air Act.” According to Reuters, the “once-in always-in” policy was established in 1995. The agency said it had acted as a disincentive for sources to put pollution abatement and prevention attempts in place, “or to pursue technological innovations that would reduce hazardous air pollution emissions .” Reuters reported the petroleum industry, utilities, and others sought the withdrawal. Related: EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants A major source emits or could emit 10 tons a year of any risky air pollutant, according to the EPA, or 25 tons or more of a combination of air pollutants a year. Area sources are those with emissions under that threshold, and according to Reuters, are subject to pollution control standards that aren’t as strict as those for major sources. The NRDC doesn’t agree with the move. Walke said it would “allow the greatest increase in hazardous air pollutants in our nation’s history.” “This move drastically weakens protective limits on air pollutants like arsenic, lead, mercury, and other toxins that cause cancer, brain damage, infertility, developmental problems, and even death,” he said in a statement. “And those harmed most would be nearby communities already suffering a legacy of pollution.” + Environmental Protection Agency Via Reuters and the Natural Resources Defense Council Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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San Jose city council approves tiny home village for homeless

December 13, 2017 by  
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San Jose has been struggling with homelessness , and think they have an answer: tiny homes . The City Council recently voted nine to two approving a pilot program to construct a 40-unit tiny house village . Architecture firm Gensler unveiled two design concepts created pro-bono for the city earlier this month, with houses designed to be both aesthetically attractive and efficient. San Jose’s city council just approved a year-long tiny home village program. Elected officials must now determine three potential sites for the pilot. The idea was suggested around a year ago, and would offer 80- to 140-square foot shelters in what are called Bridge Housing Communities. San Jose seems to view the housing as an interim solution, referring to the shelters as emergency sleeping cabins . Around 25 people could dwell in each community, and The Mercury News said the city aims to have a village in each of the 10 city council districts. Related: Dutch studio unveils colorful solar-powered village for area homeless Gensler offered two designs, one called Folding Home and the other Better Together. A small bed, locking door, and windows could be features of the tiny homes. The city also said each site could have community bathrooms and showers, a cooking facility, common areas, and case management onsite to help residents. Some elected leaders have criticized the city’s plan for its cost: $73,125 per tiny house for 40 units. Some people have suggested sanctioned encampments as an alternative, but others argued against legal tent cities in Silicon Valley. Nonprofit Destination: Home executive director Jennifer Loving told The Mercury News, “Sleeping in a tent outside is not the best we can do. We have to start somewhere and a home, even temporary, is better than a tent on the ground.” + Gensler Via The Mercury News ( 1 , 2 ) and the City of San Jose ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Gensler/City of San Jose

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San Jose city council approves tiny home village for homeless

Turns out blood-sucking ticks really did plague the dinosaurs

December 13, 2017 by  
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Scientists have found the first solid evidence that prehistoric ticks consumed dinosaur blood. The discovery of a 99-million year old piece of amber in Myanmar offers a rare glimpse into the lives of Cretaceous animals, large and small. Trapped within the fossilized sap, the tick is seen grasping onto a feather presumed to be from a feathered dinosaur. Though Mezozoic-era blood-sucking insects encased in amber have become part of the public’s imagination thanks to the  Jurassic Park films, the fossil record previously lacked clear evidence that dinosaur blood was on the menu. “Ticks are infamous blood-sucking, parasitic organisms, having a tremendous impact on the health of humans, livestock, pets, and even wildlife,” study lead researcher Enrique Peñalver told EurekaAlert , “but until now clear evidence of their role in deep time has been lacking.” Although the tick in life did indeed drink dinosaur blood, it is not possible to extract DNA from an amber-enclosed insect, a la Jurassic Park , because of the short life of complex DNA molecules. Nonetheless, the fossil adds considerably to our understanding of ecology in the age of the dinosaurs. “The fossil record tells us that feathers like the one we have studied were already present on a wide range of theropod dinosaurs, a group which included ground-running forms without flying ability, as well as bird-like dinosaurs capable of powered flight,” said Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente, researcher at University of Oxford Museum of Natural History. Related: Scientists discover 52-million-year-old tomatillo fossil “So although we can’t be sure what kind of dinosaur the tick was feeding on,” continued Pérez-de la Fuente, “the mid-Cretaceous age of the Burmese amber confirms that the feather certainly did not belong to a modern bird , as these appeared much later in theropod evolution according to current fossil and molecular evidence.” In addition to the dino-centric discovery, researchers also identified a new species of tick, dubbed Deinocroton draculi or “Dracula’s terrible tick,”encased in a separate piece of amber. Via ScienceAlert Images via University of Oxford

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Paris banned all cars for a day to highlight pollution issue

October 2, 2017 by  
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People traversed the roads for several hours in Paris , France yesterday not in cars , but on their own two feet. The government held a Car Free Day , where the streets filled with bikers, walkers, and roller-bladers instead of smog. The goal for the day was to see public spaces less polluted and more peaceful. Paris held a Car Free Day in 2015 and 2016 as well. But this was the first time they extended the boundaries to include the entire city . From 11 AM to 6 PM local time, cars were asked to stay off the streets – with exceptions made for emergency vehicles, taxis, and buses. The Paris City Council hosted Car Free Day, together with collective Paris Sans Voiture , or Paris Without Car, which is behind the city-wide car-free idea. Related: Activists Show What it Would Look Like if Bikes Took Up as Much Room as Cars Pollution from cars is often an issue in France’s capital – the Associated Press said mayor Anne Hidalgo was elected after promising to slash air pollution and cut traffic . The government’s statement on the day said one of the Car Free Day’s objectives was “to show that cities can and must invent concrete solutions to fight against pollution” coming from road traffic. They encouraged people to travel by scooters , skates, bikes , or walking . The symbolic event also brought results. The government said Airparif Association conducted independent measurements during the Car Free Day using sensors and a bicycle outfitted with measuring instruments. They saw “an increased decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels along major roads” and “access roads to the capital.” Meanwhile, the Bruitparif Observatory looked at noise with the help of 11 measurement stations. They saw sound energy decreased 20 percent on average, as compared against a regular Sunday. Via Paris and Associated Press/NBC News Images © Henri Garat – Mairie de Paris

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Honolulu is the first US city to ban using your phone while crossing the street

July 31, 2017 by  
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Most people think they can walk and text, but statistics prove otherwise. Between 2015 and 2016, for instance, there was a 10 percent spike in pedestrian fatalities in the United States, likely due to the number of people walking while distracted by their phones. It’s because of this that Honolulu, Hawaii, recently passed legislation that targets  texters and other “smartphone zombies” as they step off the curb. On Thursday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed the “Distracted Walking Law” which is the first law of its type to be passed in the U.S. Reuters reports that it passed 7-2 earlier this month by the city council. Said Caldwell, “We hold the unfortunate distinction of being a major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalks, particularly our seniors, than almost any other city in the country .” The law will go into effect on October 25, at which time the Honolulu Police Department will begin handing out fines. First-time offenders will receive a $15-$35 fine, second time violates within the same year will be fined $35-$75, and those who are caught a third time will be charged $75-$99. People making calls for emergency services are exempt from the ban. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser , police will implement a three-month training and warning period until the law goes into effect. Related: This Clothing Staple Lets You Make Simple Gestures to Send a Text Maureen Vogel, a spokeswoman for the council, applauded the initiative. She said during a phone interview, “ Cell phones are not just pervading our roadways but pervading our sidewalks too.” Opponents, on the other hand, argue that it “infringes on personal freedom and amounts to government overreach.” Nonetheless, it is expected that the law will result in improved public safety — and that is applaudable. Via Reuters Images via Deposit Photos and  Pixabay

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The Hatchery announces new $30M food incubator for ‘global culinary capital’

July 11, 2017 by  
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A food incubator planned for Chicago’s East Garfield Park could provide much-needed economic growth for a struggling community. Nearly 40 percent of households there live below the poverty level, according to the Chicago Tribune . But the $30 million facility, being built by The Hatchery , could create 150 jobs in its first year, and in five years offer 900 jobs. The organization expects to break ground on the facility later this year. The Hatchery is a non-profit food business incubator started by three Chicago organizations: Accion Chicago , IFF , and Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago . They offer financing, production space, and other resources for startup food businesses, and the new $30 million facility could help them assist even more people in the community. Related: Rooftop wheat fields elevate Chicago’s urban farming scene to exciting new heights 75 to 100 entrepreneurs will be able to start their businesses in The Hatchery’s planned space, which will be around 65,000 square feet. The City of Chicago is providing around $8 million for the venture, largely through tax increment financing, and large food companies like Kellogg Company and Conagra Foods have also pitched in undisclosed amounts. Shared kitchen spaces will help businesses get on their feet, and as they grow they’ll be able to rent one of the 56 private production spaces. Event spaces, meeting rooms, and food storage will also be found inside The Hatchery, where entrepreneurs will be able to receive coaching and training. Accion Chicago will relocate their headquarters to the new facility. Locals will be able to obtain job training or go to food classes there. The space will also host a neighborhood market. Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised the project in a press release, saying, “Chicago is the global culinary capital and The Hatchery will give our local entrepreneurs access to food and beverage companies that operate across the world.” Construction is slated to begin in October or November of this year, and the space could open in 2018. + The Hatchery Chicago Via the Chicago Tribune Images via The Hatchery Chicago Twitter and The Hatchery Chicago Facebook

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Pence vows America will put boots on the face of Mars in near future

July 7, 2017 by  
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During a speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Vice President Pence made a bold promise that in the near future, the United States of America will send astronauts to both the moon and Mars. Now the chair of the National Space Council — which was revived this last Friday – Pence explained that new, ambitious goals will ensure America becomes a leader in space exploration  once again. “Here from this bridge to space, our nation will return to the moon and we will put American boots on the face of Mars,” said Pence. He then applauded the space organization’s efforts to make “science fiction ‘science fact.” Pence made sure to pay homage to Donald Trump, as well, who he referred to as a “champion” who will “usher in a new era” of American space leadership. According to CNN , Pence then noted the importance of space exploration for American national security interests. He also reaffirmed President Trump’s desire, which was revealed during his inaugural address in January, for the US to “unlock the mysteries of space.” He said, “I can assure you that under President Donald Trump , American security will be as dominant in the heavens as we are here on Earth.” Plans to reconvene the National Space Council before the end of summer were also shared. Reportedly, the Council will be comprised of many experts who are sourced from government agencies, such as the military , private industries, and academic institutions to enhance the present space policy. Related: NASA unveils 6 prototypical deep space human habitats for Mars and beyond Originally established in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush, the National Space Council was discontinued in 1993. One individual pleased with President Trump’s executive order to revive the Council is NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. Said Lightfoot, “The establishment of the council is another demonstration of the Trump administration’s deep interest in our work, and a testament to the importance of space exploration to our economy, our nation, and the planet as a whole.” Support from the White House is undoubtedly a positive achievement for the NASA, which already has plans to send humans — specifically teachers, farmers, and engineers — to Mars by 2030. With the revival of the National Space Council and a renewed vigor to investigate the “final frontier,” America may very well become a leader in space exploration. Via CNN Images via  Schriever Air Force Base , Pixabay

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