U.S. loses 24 million acres of natural land

August 7, 2019 by  
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Mother Nature might be ticked, because the United States is losing land fast. If you’ve ever visited the glorious Grand Canyon, you already know how vast it is. Imagine what a combined nine Grand Canyons would look like, and you have the equivalent of the amount of natural land the U.S. has lost from 2001-2017. That’s 24 million acres if you do the math. The reason? According to a recent study conducted by the Center for American Progress, “How Much Nature Should America Keep,” it’s all because of agriculture, energy expansion, an increase in housing build-outs and other human-made developments, making the U.S. more susceptible to climate change . Related: Scientific consensus reaches beyond 99% on human-caused climate change The study calculated the country’s land degradation by adding up the impact of all the above factors to come to an assessment. Bottom-line, the center said that the “U.S. needs to set a goal to protect 30 percent of land and oceans by 2030 to stem the rapid decline of natural areas, which will protect the country from the worst impacts of climate change and wildlife extinction .” The report also found that presently, 12 percent of the country’s land area has been saved as national parks , wilderness areas and other kinds of protected areas, while 26 percent of the country’s ocean area is protected from drilling for oil and gas. The report continued, “The United States is entering an era in which it will rely more than ever on the integrity and stability of the natural world to provide economic prosperity, safeguard the health of communities and weather the effects of a changing climate.” As for the sharpest losses of natural areas, these took place in the southern and Midwestern U.S. as the carbon footprints of cities, farms, streets, power plants and other developments increased from 47 percent and 59 percent of land area, respectively. To turn things around — and hopefully protect 30 percent of land by 2030 and avoid even more land degradation — the U.S. must increase its current land conservation blueprint at both the federal and local levels. + Center for American Progress Via Reuters Image via Tony Webster

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Largest nature reserve in Niger threatened by oil development

August 5, 2019 by  
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One of the largest nature reserves on continental Africa may soon be destroyed by the China National Petroleum Corporation in the name of oil exploration and economic development. Just seven years after its establishment, and only months after finally becoming operationally managed, Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve could be reduced in size by half. The Niger government announced plans to remove over 17,000 square miles from what was originally a 38,600-square-mile park. The park is known for containing part of the Sahara desert and low mountain ranges. The specific area of the park that will be converted into oil operations is the most important section in terms of threatened biodiversity. It is home to the critically endangered addax (a type of antelope) and the dama gazelle. There are only an estimated 100 addax remaining, but they continue to be hunted for their meat. Now, the oil development project could shrink their habitat and decimate the addax’s main source of water. The China National Petroleum Corporation is one of the largest oil companies in the world. In exchange for a much-needed $5 billion investment in Niger, the Chinese have exploration rights and permission to build a pipeline that carries 20,000 barrels of oil out of the country every day. Paradoxically, China will be hosting the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020, yet government officials and oil executives seem unbothered by this localized biodiversity issue in the Sahara. The government has proposed to add land to the park along a different border. According to Sébastien Pinchon, a member of the nonprofit that manages the park on behalf of the Niger government, that new area “has little ecological value.” Via Mongabay Image via Shankar S.

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FDA approves Impossible Burger sales at grocery stores

August 5, 2019 by  
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Fake meats have had a great year. Sales for artificial, plant-based and lab-grown meats have skyrocketed, and they are even predicted to surpass the meat industry in the next 20 years . But there’s one fake burger that shines above the rest: the Impossible Burger. Already sold at high-end restaurants around the world as well as major fast-food spots like Burger King and White Castle, the Impossible Burger tastes the most like real meat. It even has a blood-like substance called soy leghemoglobin, which received Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approval on July 31, which means Impossible Burgers are approved for sale in grocery stores starting September 4. The soy substance, generally called heme, was thought to be an allergen, but the FDA just deemed it safe for sale to customers in raw burgers. Meat products also contain an animal-based heme, which gives red meat its juicy flavor, texture and feel. The scientists behind the Impossible Burger have mimicked animal heme so closely that customers claim this burger is the closest thing to the real thing. Related: Impossible Foods tests a fish-less fish protein Impossible Foods, the creator of Impossible Burgers, will have to significantly ramp up its production to meet the demand of grocery stores around the country. Critics argue that the fake meat trend is just a fad and that it has yet to impact animal-based meat sales, but the expansion of the Impossible Burger and other Impossible Foods products might make enough waves to actually impact and disrupt the meat industry. Ninety-nine percent of all animal-based meat products consumed in the U.S. originate from factory farms with abusive animal conditions. The livestock and meat industry is also a major contributor to carbon emissions. Artificial meat products offer a solution for animal lovers and environmentalists. Impossible Foods also believes that with its top-notch recipe, it can even convert meat-lovers who want a guilt-free product without sacrificing taste. + Impossible Foods Via Gizmodo and Vox Image via Impossible Foods

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FDA approves Impossible Burger sales at grocery stores

Ethiopia plants 350 million trees in one day

July 31, 2019 by  
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Ethiopia broke the world’s tree-planting record by planting more than 350 million trees in just one day. The effort is part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Green Legacy Initiative, which aims to address climate change and deforestation. The goal of the program is to plant more than four billion indigenous trees throughout the country. It has already reportedly planted three billion, and last week’s efforts made significant progress toward meeting the target. Related: Scientists confirm tree planting is our best solution to climate change Some government offices were shut down for the day to allow staff to participate in the planting efforts. Representatives from the United Nations, African Union and foreign embassies also came out to support the event. “We’re halfway to our goal,” the prime minister announced midway through the planting day, and he encouraged Ethiopians to continue the work in the remaining time. He later announced on Twitter they had not only met the “collective #GreenLegacy goal” but exceeded it. The prime minister is hopeful that he can reach his final target if every citizen plants 40 seedlings. The government is running educational videos about planting and maintaining trees to encourage citizens to join in. The biggest concern for young seedlings is grazing by goats and other livestock that would destroy the trees before they have a chance to grow. Ethiopia’s forest cover is alarmingly low and plummeted over the last few decades. At the start of the 20th century, the country had approximately 35 percent forest cover, but that number dropped to just 4 percent in 2000. Over 80 percent of Ethiopians rely on agriculture or forest products for their income. “I think we demonstrated the capacity for people to come together collectively and deliver on a shared vision,” said Billene Seyoum, Ahmed’s press secretary. The previous record for tree planting was held by India, where 66 million trees were planted in one day in 2017. Via CNN and Climate Change News Image via Pixabay

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Iceland will unveil monument for the first glacier lost to climate change

July 24, 2019 by  
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Scientists and local Icelanders will unveil a monument next month that memorializes the first glacier out of the country’s 400 glaciers to be lost to climate change. The Okjokull glacier, nicknamed “Ok”, no longer qualifies as a glacier, given that it is melting at a faster rate than it can expand. When this happens, glaciers become known as “dead ice”. Scientists in Iceland and Texas’ Rice University believe that this will be the fate of all Icelandic glaciers by year 2200— unless the world takes drastic action to curb climate change . “By marking Ok’s passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth’s glaciers expire. These bodies of ice are the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and frozen within them are histories of the atmosphere. They are also often important cultural forms that are full of significance,” said Cymene Howe, a professor at Rice University. Related:Earliest human air pollution detected in glaciers The unveiling celebration will be held on August 18 and attended by scientists, locals, media and Hiking Society members. Just 100 years ago, the glacier covered nearly six square miles and was over 150 feet thick. The plaque, located at a site where the glacier once covered, will read: “Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.” The plaque is in both Icelandic and English. The plaque also monumentalizes the current count of carbon parts per million in the atmosphere, which reaches a record breaking 415 parts per million in May. “An Icelandic colleague said: ‘Memorials are not for the dead; they are for the living,’” Howe said. “We want to underscore that it is up to us, the living, to respond to the rapid loss of glaciers and the ongoing impacts of climate change. For Ok glacier it is already too late.” The Guardian Image via RICE University

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Iceland will unveil monument for the first glacier lost to climate change

City of Berkeley bans natural gas in new buildings and homes

July 23, 2019 by  
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The Californian city of Berkeley has become the first in the country to pass a ban on natural gas piping in new buildings, including private homes. Although it is considered cleaner than oil, natural gas is still a fossil fuel and contributes to global warming . New buildings in Berkeley, with few exceptions, will have to rely on electricity for heating water and kitchen appliances starting in January 2020. The natural gas ordinance was spearheaded by councilmember Kate Harrison, who told the San Francisco Chronicle , “It’s an enormous issue. We need to really tackle this. When we think about pollution and climate change issues, we tend to think about factories and cars, but all buildings are producing greenhouse gas .” Related: California is the first US state to require solar energy for new houses The legislation passed unanimously, but some critics outside of the city town halls and council meetings argue that electricity prices are higher than natural gas . The mandate will come at an expense to homeowners and renters in the Bay Area’s already stifling housing market. The ordinance also comes with funding for a two-year position for one staff member in the Office of Planning and Development who will oversee the implementation of the ban. David Hochschild, chairman of the California Energy Commission, reported that at least 50 other cities throughout the state of California are considering such a ban in hopes of addressing the contribution that buildings make to climate change and to encourage higher usage of electricity and renewable energy. Berkeley has a history of progressive bans, including becoming the first city in the country to ban smoking in restaurants and bars back in 1977. Earlier this year, the city banned single-use plastic utensils in restaurants (such as plastic forks). Restaurants and cafes throughout the city must use compostable utensils for takeaway meals and beverages. The city also passed an ordinance adding a 25 cents tax onto single-use cups, such as coffee cups. Via San Francisco Chronicle and NRDC Image via Pixabay

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City of Berkeley bans natural gas in new buildings and homes

France announces eco tax on plane tickets

July 11, 2019 by  
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The French government announced that it will roll out a tax on all international flights departing from France starting in 2020. The small tax will generate a predicted $200 million USD in revenue every year that the government will invest into cleaner transportation technology and infrastructure. Depending on the cost of the flight, the tax could cost anywhere from $1.70 to $20 USD per ticket. The eco tax will not apply to domestic flights within France nor flights arriving in the country from international origins. It will also exclude flights traveling to overseas territories still under French rule. A spokesperson from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) dismissed the utility of the tax, stating, “National taxes will do nothing to assist the aviation industry in its sustainability efforts.” Instead, the spokesperson, Anthony Concil, recommended national governments should help airline corporations invest in cleaner fuels and more advanced technology . In fact, shares in AirFrance, Ryan Air and EasyJet all went down after the announcement was made. Related: Airplanes’ contrail clouds are more harmful than their carbon emissions On the other side of the coin, environmental activists are somewhat content that the announcement is at least a step in the right direction and a nod to the role the transportation industry will have to play. According to Andrew Murphy from Brussels-based Transport and Environment, “This alone won’t do much, but at least it’s a recognition by the French government that more is required.” Germany, Italy and England already have similar eco taxes. In England, the additional fee can be up to $214 USD, and it generates a total of $3.7 billion USD annually. Other European countries are also looking to reverse a longstanding tax break for airline fuel that effectively subsidizes the industry’s use of fossil fuels and misses a significant opportunity for government tax revenue. Via AP News Image via BriYYZ

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Why co-living might be the perfect situation for you

June 27, 2019 by  
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While a college dorm room might come to mind when you hear the phrase co-living, that type of shared housing is just one example of what the concept means for both those deep in their studies and career-bound people, too. Co-living is not a new idea, but one that has evolved over many years to include several different ideas and populations. At its core, co-living simply means sharing a space with one or more other people. However, the modern concept encompasses lifestyle choices, socialization, a sense of community, financial aspects and shared resources. Around the world, different groups have embraced co-living and the reasons seem to be centered around a few general motivating factors. Related: Cambridge’s first co-housing development fosters sustainable living Money Co-living typically saves money compared to paying all the bills for a house or apartment individually. If you remember sharing an apartment with a roommate, you understand the concept. Splitting bills for utilities and rent is a financially conservative idea, but modern co-living cuts out the need to hassle your roommate for the rent. Instead, many newer co-living opportunities allow you to pay for your space only, as each person rents directly from the management company. Social life While it does appear that most newly graduated housemates make the choice in order to take advantage of the lower costs, even more people report they are moving toward co-living for the social interaction. This includes singles, married couples without children and older individuals. The advantage of co-living is two-fold in that many responsibilities are shared as far as upkeep, cooking and the like. This allows more time for socializing, which is a major draw for this crowd. In this market, shared spaces can include a kitchen or other social areas such as rec rooms and outdoor gathering spaces. Communities organize events to draw residents together with activities like game night, wine tastings, movie night, dinners and more. Sustainability While the co-housing philosophy began as a way to connect people and make better use of space, the idea of sustainable living has moved to the forefront of the co-living concept. A key component to co-living is sharing resources, which is an ideal way to live more sustainably. Many co-living situations encourage community gardens , for example, leading to more helping hands and less waste. Pretty much everything from building materials to yard tools are minimized with shared living spaces. Think two community grills for many people instead of one for each resident, and you’ll see just a small part of the picture. Shared philosophies Living sustainably is an example of a mindset that those within a co-living situation might share. There are other philosophies that bring people together as well. Religious beliefs, communal living or co-parenting philosophies might bring groups together to find their ideal living situation. For example, single women with children might find that other women in the same situation can help raise their kids together, cook meals and offer a social outlet while still allowing privacy in their own space. Urban lifestyle In many cities, housing is in a state of crisis , motivating a solution in the form of co-housing. Urban co-living situations are often built out of a necessity for resource management and lack of space. Fortunately, the need for affordable living options also fits well with many people seeking that type of living arrangement. Co-living opportunities exist around the world and in all types of environments. Where one person might be drawn to remote farm living, many find urban living in a shared space ideal for their needs. Frequent travelers, for example, embrace co-living as a way to keep a home base at a low cost and perhaps have a second base in a different urban landscape. Is co-living for you? While there are many undeniable advantages in regards to co-living, it’s not for everyone. Some typical disadvantages of this arrangement include small living spaces and sharing a space with strangers. If you are an introvert who doesn’t enjoy a lot of social interaction, this might not be your scene. Then again, perhaps the 3-bedroom urban setting isn’t for you, but the country cabin with a shared garden is. In a recent study initiated by IKEA , respondents overwhelmingly admitted that they do not want to share space with kids and teens, so unless you’re childless or are able to find a welcoming option, co-housing might not be for you. The key is finding a community that fits your goals, budget and co-living philosophy. Co-living offers many solutions to the residential, financial and social issues we face today. In a society that has become individualistic and separate, it’s an opportunity to encourage a closer sense of community. While being personally closer helps, it’s really the sense of shared responsibility and philosophies that makes friends out of roommates and family out of community members. Images via Shutterstock

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Pacific nation Vanuatu is the first to ban disposable diapers

June 25, 2019 by  
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The mothers of Vanuatu will shoulder the Pacific island nation’s dream of a pristine future with the recent announcement of a ban on disposable diapers. Despite backlash by parents in the country of about 250,000 people, the government announced that a ban will roll out by the end of the year. Vanuatu is believed to be the first country in the world to prohibit disposable diapers and has one of the strictest bans on single-use plastics , including plates, cups, drink stirrers, egg cartons, plastic flowers and food containers. Related: New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers Although the government admits it was a difficult decision that will disproportionately impact mothers, ministers argue that they had no choice. The low-lying islands of Vanuatu are already drowning in plastic pollution and the rising sea levels. “Vanuatu is safeguarding its future,” said Mike Masauvakalo, Minister of Foreign Affairs. “Eventually, plastics find their way into the water and the food chain and at the end of the day, the people of Vanuatu end up consuming [them].” A study by the Commonwealth Litter Program indicated that compostable waste and disposable diapers constituted nearly 75 percent of all plastic waste in the country. So, in addition to composting programs, a ban on diapers was an obvious target. “It is a long road ahead,” Masauvakalo said. “But knowing my country, we will work it out. Vanuatu is very vocal about the climate emergency. It is visible, we are living it. It is affecting our food supply and our fish populations.” Thomas Maes from the Commonwealth Litter Programme said , “Although Pacific islands produce a fraction of the waste of other countries, bad waste management practices may be contributing to the problem of microplastics in the oceans.” Meanwhile, in the U.K., the outcry was so vocal after a government official mentioned banning disposable diapers that he was forced to retract his mere suggestion. Via The Guardian and RNZ Image via Shutterstock

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Pacific nation Vanuatu is the first to ban disposable diapers

As temperatures increase, so do rat populations

June 25, 2019 by  
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The warmer weather creeping into cities across America is cause for international concern, but there’s one group that loves it– rats. The impact of climate change on pests and disease is widely studied and cited as a reason to worry at the local level, but the rise in rat populations specifically is hard to quantify. While lab rats are studied ad nauseum , ‘wild’ urban rats are mostly taboo for the scientific community, however, scientists are confident that even without scientific studies the number of rats is climbing. Recent news headlines have even warned city dwellers about the coming “ratpocalypse.” In New York City, the rat population could be anywhere between two and 32 million , but warmer weather gives rats a longer time frame to reproduce and that number– whatever it is– will grow exponentially. Rats typically hibernate in the winter , but during warmer months a female rat can have up to 72 pups. Each of those pups reaches sexual maturity after just one month, which means one female rat can create over 15,000 rats in just a year. Related: Climate twins: which city will your city feel like in 2080? The longer breeding season and overpopulation aren’t the only problem with rats. They are carriers of many diseases and pests– including ticks, fleas, bubonic plague and E.Coli. Increased rat infestations will likely cause an increase in incidences of sickness among humans, especially since contact with rat urine or feces alone is often enough to spread the contagion. With rising urban populations, rats are likely to increase even without the additional help of the climate crisis , so cities around the country will have to get serious about rat control. Last year, New York’s Mayor de Blasio launched a $32 million project to exterminate rats. There’s finally something that liberals and conservatives can agree on– we don’t want the ratpocalypse. Via Grist Image via DSD

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