Can Florida save its prized Everglades from climate change destruction?

March 19, 2019 by  
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Half of all Floridians will live underwater by the end of the century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s predictions . In her disheartening article in The Guardian , researcher and author of Rising, Elizabeth Grant instructs Floridians to flip a coin – tails and your home is headed under the sea. Overpopulation, unsustainable development and sea level rise also threaten to destroy Florida’s famous Everglades, but the newly elected Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, is an unexpected champion of its restoration. The Everglades are an expansive wetland preserve in Southern Florida that originally spanned millions of acres. Since European settlers arrived, the wetlands were rapidly drained and filled to make way for farms, roads and housing. Now, 1.5 million acres remain protected in the Everglades National Park, which is home to incredible biodiversity, such as “mangrove forests and cypress swamps, alligators, orchids, storks and ibises, as well as threatened species such as the Florida panther,” according to  The Guardian Related: Meet Squid: Key West’s solar-powered boat for dolphin tours Florida’s history of wetland destruction Changes to the landscape, including draining, paving and building, as well as carving out agricultural lands, have damaged the wetland’s sensitive ecology. The amount of water flowing into the wetland had already been cut in half by the 1960’s and is currently a third of what it used to be. Fresh water from Lake Okeechobee, its main source, has largely been rerouted to irrigate farms and re-enter the wetlands full of agricultural chemicals. Steve Davis, senior ecologist from the Everglades Foundation explained to The Guardian , “We only get about a third of the water in the eastern Florida Bay that we received historically. A national park, a world heritage site, an international biosphere reserve, and we’re starving it of fresh water.” These changes in water circulation not only introduce synthetic nutrients that kill wildlife and produce toxic algae blooms, but an overall decrease in water, exacerbated by drought and sea level rise, also changes the water salinity. In 2015, a decline in rainfall caused the water to be twice as salty as the ocean, leading to rapid die-off of its expansive sea grass, which caused a domino-effect die-off of the hundreds of species that live and breed in sea grass beds. Recent changes to a fragile ecosystem In 2017, Category 4 Hurricane Irma tore through and uprooted the mangroves – an ecosystem typically celebrated for its fortitude and ability to protect infrastructure during storms. Without mangrove roots and sea grass beds to stabilize the sediment, what used to be a mecca for birdwatching, fishing and buggy tours is now what The Guardian’s Oliver Milman calls a “mud pit.” “The water used to be so clear you could see the seagrass move back and forth. Now you can’t see the bottom. The dead water sort of moves around the bay and you think ‘I’ve just gotta get out of here,’” a seasoned fisherman lamented to Milman . Related: Can the Cayman Islands save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? An unexpected green champion – for some In January 2019, Florida elected a new governor: Ron DeSantis, a self-proclaimed “conservative warrior” and Trump bestie . In just two months in office, DeSantis released a progressive $250-billion plan to restore the Everglades and invest in water quality remediation infrastructure. Though DeSantis’s predecessor, Rick Scott, set the bar pretty low in terms of green policy (he reportedly banned the phrase “climate change” ), environmentalists are generally hopeful about DeSantis’s commitment. “Our water and natural resources are the foundation of our economy and our way of life in Florida,” Governor DeSantis said in a news release . “The protection of water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state.” The four-year plan, “Achieving More Now for Florida’s Environment ,” designates $625 million per year to address water pollution, restore ecosystems and raise the Tamiami Trail, a highway that traverses the Everglades and cuts off water circulation. Annual Budget Breakdown: $360 million for Everglades restoration, such as creating a reservoir and raising the highway to allow water to flow beneath it $175 million for targeted water quality remediation infrastructure, monitoring and treatment $50 million to restore natural springs $40 million to develop alternate water supplies and reduce water drawn from Everglade sources Many Democrats, however, believe the proposed budget is still too modest and needs to be reassessed. In 2000, a similar “Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan” passed Congress with ambitions to redirect freshwater and reduce sea water incursion. In the nearly 20 years since the bill passed, the crisis of sea level rise had become far more serious. The Guardian reports that the sea level is now three inches above the 1993 average and future levels are a “moving target.” A more comprehensive restoration plan, conservationists argue , would need to consider the worst-case predictions. Still, the new plan provides one billion dollars more than the budget from previous years, which is a welcomed, albeit insufficient, increase in much needed investment. “This is not a partisan issue,” DeSantis said in a news release . “This is something that Floridians from all walks of life and political persuasions think needs to be done. I look forward to working with the Legislature on bringing this into fruition and getting the job done for the people of this state.” Via The Guardian Images via Shutterstock 

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Can Florida save its prized Everglades from climate change destruction?

Old Swedish farm is reborn as a cozy woodland cabin holiday home

March 19, 2019 by  
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Swedish architectural practice Wingårdh Arkitektkontor converted a large old farm in the south of Sweden into a holiday home with a cozy woodland cabin atmosphere. Commissioned by a family who reside in the nearby city of Malmö, the countryside retreat was fashioned as a luxurious escape into nature built predominately with timber and designed to embrace views of the lush forest through floor-to-ceiling glazing. The adaptive reuse project—dubbed Kvarnhuset (The Mill House)—has respected the farm’s traditional gabled forms, while imbuing the interiors with new contemporary flourish. The original farm buildings included a cowshed, stables, hayloft and barn. Wingårdh Arkitektkontor transformed those structures into sleeping quarters, a kitchen, a gym and other additional rooms, while adding a new freestanding wing to the late 19th-century house. The annex consists of a guest bedroom as well as a sauna with a dressing room and bathroom. Since the existing creek onsite was too small for bathing, the architects also built a small bathing pool next to the sauna so that the family can engage in the “Swedish ritual of sauna and bathing.” “The detailing of the annex surpasses all of Wingårdh’s prior work,” the architects explain in their project statement. “The entire building is crafted with the precision of fine cabinetry and the craftsmanship and materials – oak and limestone – infuse the atmosphere with warmth and authenticity. The heavily detailed architecture of the interior is more than a mere background for its contents. By contrast, the simple exterior gives no indication of the care lavished on the inside, particularly the façade towards the courtyard.” Related: Tham & Videgård Arkitekter designs Swedish “vertical village” built from CLT The architects also reference Japan’s traditional teahouse architecture as a major inspiration. However, unlike the straightforward simplicity and austerity of those teahouses, the Mill House offers a more luxurious experience. + Wingårdh Arkitektkontor Images by Åke Eson Lindman

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Old Swedish farm is reborn as a cozy woodland cabin holiday home

Students around the world join climate strike on March 15

March 13, 2019 by  
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On Friday, March 15, tens of thousands of high school and middle school students in more than 70 countries plan to walk out of their classrooms and protest at town and city halls. Young people are uniting around the world in a coordinated demand for their leaders to take radical action to curb greenhouse gas emissions and slow down the impacts of climate change. How did the climate strikes start? The international youth climate strike movement began in August 2018 when 16-year-old environmental activist, Greta Thunberg skipped school to protest outside the Swedish Parliament. Since August, her actions caused a ripple effect throughout the world and snowballed the movement to include teens throughout the world. Related: 8 women leading the change for a better world Since Thunberg’s protest, students have similarly skipped out on school to hold up “Youth Climate Strike” and “School Strike for Climate” signs outside government buildings in the U.K., U.S., Japan, Uganda, Germany, Thailand, Switzerland and France, among others . Frustrated by inaction— or insufficient action— from politicians throughout their young lives, these students are panicked about the scientific predictions for the future and unwavering in their call for change. In New York, for example, 13-year-old Alexandria Villasenor has forgone her classes for the past twelve consecutive Fridays in order to sit outside the U.N. headquarters and protest. On Friday, March 15, thousands of others will join what the young people have virally hashtagged as #FridaysForFuture . Find a Climate Strike near you To date, there will be over 700 strikes in 71 countries, however the number continues to grow as rallies are added to the map. Check out this world-wide map  to see the incredible number of strikes across the globe. This U.S. climate strike map  is tracking all of the registered climate strikes in the U.S. Students are rallying around the hashtags #FridaysforFuture and #YouthClimateStrike , in honor of Thunberg and other student activists who have skipped school to protest for climate action in the past months. The strikes are supported by outspoken environmental groups such as the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion. Climate Strike leaders are calling on students to walk out of their classes on Friday, March 15, to protest outside of the nearest town or city hall, and of course post a photo on social media. Not all students get a free pass Many of the U.S. climate strikes will take place at local House or Senate representatives’ offices where the youth plans to push for acceptance of the Green New Deal, a radical environmental proposal championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Similar protests have already met with dismay by representatives such as Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein, both Democrats from California, who feel the students are naively confident in the Green New Deal without understanding the complexities of politics and party relations. Related: Rep. Ocasio Cortez releases green new deal In the U.K., the Prime Minister condemned the climate strike as wasteful of teachers’ time. In Australia, despite support for the protests by labor unions, the Minister of Education announced that all students and teachers who leave school on Friday will be punished— to which Greta Thunberg quickly tweeted back “we don’t care.” Isra Hirsi, daughter of freshman Representative, Ilhan Omar (D-MN), is one of the young leaders of the behind U.S. climate strikes, but she also expressed concern about the movement’s lack of intersectionality– in other words its lack of recognition and inclusion of climate leaders from many different, overlapping and often disadvantaged, demographic groups. Early this week, Hirsi tweeted about the importance of recognizing that indigenous leaders, not young white students, have been leading climate activism long before these hashtags. What are the students asking for? The strikes are largely a response to a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change report, which indicates that the world has less than 12 years to implement radical change or the impacts of global warming will be devastating and irreversible. Mark Hertsgaard from The Nation wrote of the students: “They grasp what many of their elders apparently never learned: The climate struggle is not about having the best science, the smartest arguments, or the most bipartisan talking points. It is about power — specifically, the power that ExxonMobil and the rest of the fossil-fuel industry wield over governments and economies the world over, and their willingness to use that power to enforce a business model guaranteed to fry the planet.” While students around the world have different demands from their respective leaders, they are united in their call for swift and decisive action to curtail carbon emissions and for politicians to adopt firm environmental platforms. Such platforms, though, might look drastically different in each country. Columnist for The Guardian , George Monbiot, argued that the students must develop and articulate a clear position, or else he fears they will be divided, co-opted or worse– ineffective at ultimately influencing the actual legislation that will save their futures. Via The Nation Images via Mike Baumeister , niekverlaan

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Students around the world join climate strike on March 15

Is the Green New Deal the all-inclusive climate plan we need?

January 25, 2019 by  
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The media is abuzz with talk of a wildly ambitious proposal to address climate change and transform the economy. A group of progressive, first-term Democrats and youth activists are behind the proposal, called the Green New Deal. Met with doubt, inaction and controversy, these political newcomers argue that this extreme legislation is not only possible but absolutely necessary given the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recent report , which warns that the causes of climate change must be dramatically addressed within the next decade or the impacts will be catastrophic. In support of the youth activists, Representative Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) drafted a Green New Deal proposal and demanded that a newly selected committee convene to design a viable solution within one year. The ambitious proposal has seven goals: 1. Shift 100 percent of national power generation to renewable sources. 2. Build a national energy-efficient “smart” grid. 3. Upgrade all buildings to become energy-efficient . 4. Decarbonize manufacturing and agricultural industries. 5. Decarbonize, repair and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, especially transportation. 6. Fund massive investment in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases . 7. Make “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major U.S. export. Centered around building a green economy, the plan does not stop at decarbonization solutions; instead, it incorporates economic and social justice programs aimed at drastically reducing inequality. “The activism and enthusiasm, partly triggered by Ocasio-Cortez, seems to tie the climate problem in with a variety of other issues — including jobs for all, living wages, healthcare for all — and that coupling is a new twist in this story, and I think it’s really exciting,” Dan Schrag, professor of climate studies at Harvard, told PRI’s Carolyn Beeler . But this ‘reach for the moon’ approach by the optimistic freshman Democrats has been met with controversy and doubt from both major parties. In a lukewarm response, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), reinstated a previous Climate Crisis Select Committee, headed by Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL). Ocasio-Cortez and the youth activists, spearheaded by the Sunrise Movement , argue that Pelosi’s response is insufficient, pointing to inexcusable appointment of committee members who accept donations from, or have existing investments with, fossil fuel companies, including the committee Chair, Representative Castor herself. Related: 10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration Furthermore, critics of the response argue that the committee is ineffective without subpoena power, or the right to summon witnesses to court. Pelosi and other seasoned Democrats, however, are concerned the plan is naively optimistic, and wary that the environmental proposal includes divisive platforms such as guaranteed employment and universal healthcare . They argue the proposal must focus more singularly in order to receive the support needed to be effective. Opponents also question how the government will afford the aggressive budget. Since the proposal is more of what the Intercept called a “plan to make a plan,” no exact cost-analysis exists, but the green economy overhaul is expected to cost the government trillions of dollars . Watch Rep. Ocasio-Cortez answer the funding question with CNN’s Chris Cuomo: Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, is similarly unapologetic about the price tag. He  confirmed to The Intercept that the Green New Deal deliberately “touches on everything — it’s basically a massive system upgrade for the economy.” Supporters are determined that green energy -related policy and jobs can be the vehicle on which they transform pervasive inequality and unchecked capitalism and respond to catastrophically urgent climate issues. In fact, IPCC’s report states that adequately addressing climate change will require “unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society.” Despite the spike in tweets and Google searches over the past few months, media attention and controversy alone will not save the planet. So when the media’s attention shifts, will the committee be able to make any traction toward the proposed goals? Related: 6 positive advancements against climate change to lead us into 2019 Given the Trump administration’s disregard for climate science and refusal to hinder the fossil fuel industry, many believe it is unlikely there will be any legislative impact until 2021 at the earliest. This month, however, Governor Cuomo of New York announced his own state-level proposal , explicitly calling it a Green New Deal and including a statewide goal to become 100 percent renewable by 2040. A recent poll by the Yale Program on Climate Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication revealed that a majority of respondents from left, right and center political-affiliations support the general goals of the Green New Deal. Among millennials, a group that will soon become the largest voting group in the country, 51 percent of all respondents support the Deal. While the specific legislative promises are uncertain and likely impossible without more controversy and political disobedience , the proposed Green New Deal has politicians and the American public thinking about the need for drastic actions toward climate change and may succeed in turning the tide on inaction just moments before our last chance. Via Vox Images via Makunin and  Mrganso

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Is the Green New Deal the all-inclusive climate plan we need?

Climate change doesn’t have to be polarizing

June 21, 2018 by  
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30 years ago global warming became front-page news — and both Republicans and Democrats took it seriously.

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Climate change doesn’t have to be polarizing

Green steel: ArcelorMittal wants to disrupt environmental construction

June 21, 2018 by  
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Steel and mining giant unveils ‘Steligence’ approach rethinking life-cycle analyses.

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DNC votes to ban fossil fuel company donations

June 14, 2018 by  
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The Democratic National Committee (DNC) recently adopted a ban on donations coming from fossil fuel companies, HuffPost reported . The executive committee voted unanimously on a resolution proposed by political strategist Christine Pelosi that doesn’t allow the organization to accept contributions from corporate political action committees (PACs) connected to the oil and gas industry . The text of the resolution says, “…fossil fuel corporations are drowning our democracy in a tidal wave of dark oily money; they have deceived the public about the impacts of climate change , fought the growth of clean renewable energy , and corrupted our political system.” Oil and gas companies in 2016 spent $7.6 million on Democratic races, compared to $53.7 million in direct donations to Republicans . In 2018, Republicans have taken 89 percent of the oil and gas industry’s donations thus far. The DNC confirmed the recent vote to HuffPost but did not comment on the record. Related: Climate change video directed by James Cameron heats up the DNC The resolution’s text says “hundreds of individual Democratic political candidates for office across the country have pledged not to take money from the fossil fuel industry.” Former president Barack Obama prohibited contributions from corporate PACs after winning the Democratic party’s nomination, but former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz lifted that ban before the 2016 election. HuffPost reported the DNC might consider a second resolution in August at a Chicago full board meeting to ban contributions greater than $200 from people working for the fossil fuel industry. Co-author of the recent resolution RL Miller told HuffPost, “So if Eddie Exxon is your college buddy and a frat-boy friend of yours and he’s employed at an Exxon gas station and wishes to donate $25 to have a barbecue and a beer with you, fine. But if Edward J. Exxon in Exxon’s middle management thinks you’re worth contributing $2,700 to out of his own salary, that is much more concerning to us.” + (((sfpelosi))) on Medium Via HuffPost Image via Depositphotos

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69% of Republicans believe global warmings seriousness is generally exaggerated

April 3, 2018 by  
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Have people changed their minds about global warming after President Donald Trump, infamous for his climate change denial, has spent a year in office? Gallup conducted their annual survey regarding the environment in early March, finding  that Americans’ thoughts on the topic “have increasingly become politically polarized” — and  Trump might have contributed to the divide. In 2017, 66 percent of Republicans thought “the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated.” In 2018, that number is now up to 69 percent. In contrast, four percent of Democrats think global warming is exaggerated, down from 10 percent last year. This is just one of Gallup’s findings — they said Americans’ concerns on the topic aren’t that different from last year, but some partisan views have shifted. They conducted telephone interviews between March 1 and 8 “with a random sample of 1,041 adults” residing in Washington, D.C. and all 50 states. Related: Despite Trump’s rhetoric, US officials are still working to stop climate change Is Trump to blame for the divide? Gallup said he may have contributed “by reversing a number of government actions to address the issue.” The announcement to pull America out of the Paris Agreement is perhaps the most notorious example; others include “the removal of climate change from the list of top U.S. national security threats and the elimination of the terms ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ from U.S. government websites and lexicons,” according to Gallup. 66 percent of Americans would “say most scientists believe global warming is occurring;” 64 percent say human activities caused the dilemma. These numbers fell a little from those in 2017; Gallup pinned that phenomenon on increased political polarization during the last year. Not all the numbers have dipped — 45 percent of Americans in 2018 “think global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime,” up from 42 percent in 2017. Gallup said the bottom line is that Americans’ higher level of concern over global warming, shown since 2016, remains largely intact. + Gallup News Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Footprints from world’s largest dinosaur discovered in Scotland

April 3, 2018 by  
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Dozens of footprints from ancient sauropods , a kind of creature that scientists believe may have been the largest dinosaur ever, have been discovered in Scotland. These 170-million-year-old footprints are also the oldest ever discovered in Scotland. The sauropod footprints were located in a lagoon on the Isle of Skye, near a group of footprints from theropods, more ancient cousins of  Tyrannosaurus Rex.  “It shows both long-necked and meat-eaters were on the same site at the same time living together, side-by-side,” Dr. Steve Brusatte of Edinburgh University told the Telegraph . “It captures a moment in time 170 million years ago when they were just hanging out in a lagoon, living on the beach, back when Scotland was much warmer and dinosaurs were beginning their march to global dominance.” Scientists believe that the sauropods who left the footprints were least 49 feet long and weighed more than 10 tons. The theropods are thought to have stood at least six feet tall. In total, researchers documented approximately 50 footprints near Brothers’ Point on the Isle of Skye’s Trotternish peninsula. This wet and wild location made it difficult for scientists to study the footprints on-site, though  drones helped, particularly in creating a map of the dig site. Related: Turns out blood-sucking ticks really did plague the dinosaurs Despite its challenging environment, Scotland ‘s Isle of Skye has proven to be a bountiful trove of dinosaur fossils. “This tracksite is the second discovery of sauropod footprints on Skye,” study lead author Paige dePolo told Science Daily . “It was found in rocks that were slightly older than those previously found at Duntulm on the island and demonstrates the presence of sauropods in this part of the world through a longer timescale than previously known. This site is a useful building block for us to continue fleshing out a picture of what dinosaurs were like on Skye in the Middle Jurassic.” Via The Telegraph and Science Daily Images via  Paige dePolo/University of Edinburgh and University of Edinburgh

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Footprints from world’s largest dinosaur discovered in Scotland

Wyoming lawmakers launch bill that would ban selling renewable energy

January 17, 2017 by  
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In a move that puts the “R” in regressive, a group of Republican lawmakers in Wyoming just launched a bill that would effectively ban selling wind and solar power in the state. The measure proposes to fine utilities for purchasing energy produced by large-scale renewable power projects. According to Inside Climate News , the bill is chiefly sponsored by representatives from the state’s main coal-producing counties. If enacted, it would force utilities to use power from only approved energy sources like natural gas, nuclear power, hydroelectric, oil – and of course coal. Your average homeowner could still install a rooftop solar, backyard wind or other renewable energy setup, but the state’s utilities would get slapped with big fines for buying power from renewable projects. According to Inside Climate News, the move is confusing some locals who know the lay of the land. “I haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Shannon Anderson, director of local organizing group, Powder River Basin Resource Council . “This is essentially a reverse renewable energy standard.” But Inside Climate News adds that Republican Senator David Miller, the bill’s sponsor, says the goal of the legislation is to make sure Wyoming residents have access to inexpensive power. Related: Judge orders Exxon-Mobil to disclose 40 years of climate change documents “Wyoming is a great wind state and we produce a lot of wind energy,” Miller said. “We also produce a lot of conventional energy, many times our needs. The electricity generated by coal is amongst the least expensive in the country. We want Wyoming residences to benefit from this inexpensive electrical generation. “He added that he doesn’t want to see Wyoming “averaged into” other states that require utilities to supply “more expensive” renewable energy. The proposed bill would allow renewable energy producers in the state to sell power to customers outside Wyoming without a penalty. The cost of selling power in their own state would be $10 per megawatt hour of energy sold. Republicans significantly outnumber Democrats in both the state’s House and Senate, but Miller still puts his chances of passing the bill at “50 percent or less.” Via Inside Climate News Images via Flickr Creative Commons, Jeremy Buckingham and CGP Grey , Wikimedia Commons

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