Rolls-Royce unveils prototype for world’s fastest electric plane

January 15, 2020 by  
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Innovation is the name of the game for luxury industry leaders like Rolls-Royce, so it’s no surprise they have a variety of sustainable travel projects in the works. Last month, Rolls-Royce released its newest project — an all-electric plane set to take flight later this spring. Dubbed ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight), the initiative is aimed at not only using electrification, but setting records in the industry, including a top speed of over 300 miles per hour. The current record for an all-electric plane is 210 miles per hour, so the goal is a leap in both power and performance. Plus, the plane is set to bring an  eco-friendly option  to a traditionally high-polluting industry. With the densest battery pack ever used in an electric plane, ACCEL should be able to travel around 200 miles per charge. For reference, that’s the distance between London and Paris. The three electric engines are expected to produce a constant 500 horsepower with a quiet ride and zero emissions. Related: AeroMobil reveals flying taxi that transforms from car to electric airplane Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical said: “Building the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft is nothing less than a revolutionary step change in aviation and we are delighted to unveil the ACCEL project plane. This is not only an important step towards the world-record attempt but will also help to develop Rolls-Royce’s capabilities and ensure that we are at the forefront of developing technology that can play a fundamental role in enabling the transition to a  low carbon global economy .” Rolls-Royce has undertaken this endeavor with a host of partners. YASA brings a history of electric motor manufacturing, and an eager start-up, Electroflight, provides technology and research. The team also includes the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK. Funding for the plane is subsidized by the government of the United Kingdom where the blue and white one-seater prototype was unveiled in December. Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The UK has a proud heritage and enviable worldwide reputation for advances in aviation technology. The electrification of flight has the potential to revolutionise the way we travel and transform aviation for decades to come – ensuring we can travel worldwide while maintaining a low carbon footprint . Backed by Government funding, Rolls-Royce is pushing the boundaries even further, and this new innovation could become the fastest electric plane ever.” Continued testing is underway with the goal of making an initial run for the speed record in the spring of 2020. + Rolls-Royce Images via Rolls-Royce

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Rolls-Royce unveils prototype for world’s fastest electric plane

Snhetta to revitalize Midtown Manhattan with vibrant garden

January 15, 2020 by  
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Midtown Manhattan will soon become much greener thanks to New York City Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of Snøhetta’s design for a new privately-owned public space (POPS) in 550 Madison, a Philip Johnson-designed postmodernist landmark. Designed as a “vibrant sensory retreat,” the new public space will take the shape of a lush garden — the largest of its kind in the area — that will become a haven for both people and urban pollinators. The garden is being developed as part of the recent renovation of 550 Madison, which will open this year as a multi-tenant building under The Olayan Group. This structure will be the only LEED Platinum and WELL Gold certified building in the Plaza District. Proposed for the west end of the tower, the 550 Madison garden will engage the public with a series of interconnected outdoor “rooms.” The landscape design takes inspiration from its urban surroundings and architecture. Philip Johnson’s playful use of circular motifs at 550 Madison will inform the geometry of the garden rooms, while the layered planting plan references the canyon-like verticality of Midtown Manhattan. The lush circular rooms will encourage passersby to slow down, linger, and connect with nature. “Privately-owned public spaces are a critical part of New York City’s public realm. Urban life thrives in and around spaces that allow us to connect with one another and to nature,” said Michelle Delk, Partner and Director of Landscape Architecture at Snøhetta. “Moreover, we need to make the most of the spaces we already have and recognize that they are part of a network that contribute to the livelihood of the city. We’re thrilled to be a part of renewing the future of this historic site.” Related: Philip Johnson’s secret brick and glass home in Manhattan, NYC The immersive green respite will comprise a seasonal Northeastern planting palette that will include evergreens, perennials and flowering shrubs. Over 40 trees will be planted in the space. An enormous glass canopy will flood the interior with natural daylight . The architects will also install a central water wall as a point of interest and noise buffer from the commotion of the neighborhood. Informational signage will punctuate the space and provide details about the site’s environmental and cultural history. + Snøhetta Via ArchPaper Images via Snøhetta

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Bina Venkataraman on thinking ahead in a reckless age

November 6, 2019 by  
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In a talk that draws on her new book The Optimist’s Telescope, Bina Venkataraman, the Director of Global Policy Initiatives at the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard, illuminates our untapped power to think longer term.

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Learn about polar bears during a free virtual field trip to the Arctic Tundra this November

October 31, 2019 by  
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Discovery Education and Polar Bears International have once again partnered to host an exciting, immersive and free virtual field trip to the Arctic tundra. Students from K-12 and teachers everywhere are welcome to virtually observe the polar bears of Canada’s Hudson Bay in their natural habitat. Registration is now open for this engaging, educational webcast, where audience members will be transported beyond classroom walls to the site of the annual Canadian polar bear migration. Students and educators worldwide can tune in to the Virtual Field Trip to the Arctic Tundra event that will take place on two dates: Wednesday, November 13 at 12 p.m. Central Time and Thursday, November 14 at 11:30 a.m. Central Time. Both events, which will be live and span at least 30 minutes each, will treat attendees to visually engaging material about the polar habitat, sea ice, Arctic adaptations, climate change and especially the polar bears. Related: Newly released video game challenges players to survive the climate apocalypse To coincide with the webcast events, there will also be two live question-and-answer virtual sessions, where attendees can inquire more about the north polar region’s wildlife , environment and careers on the tundra. These virtual Q&A sessions will be held on Wednesday, November 13 at 1:30 p.m. Central Time and Thursday, November 14 at 1:00 p.m. Central Time. Following both dates, Discovery Education Experience will archive the events and their respective Q&A sessions in both the Polar Bears content channel as well as the Virtual Field Trip content channel. These will serve as digital curriculum and classroom instructional resources that both students and teachers can enjoy. Now in its sixth year, this virtual event has been a wonderful collaboration between Discovery Education and Polar Bears International. Their partnership in this Tundra Connections program brings important awareness to polar bears and their habits, ecology, threats and the need for conservation to secure the future of these majestic animals of the Arctic. “Discovery Education is excited to present the upcoming Tundra Connections Virtual Field Trip to teachers and students worldwide at no cost,” shared Discovery Education Director of Product Development Kyle Schutt. “Discovery Education understands that these types of events can spark in students a lifelong interest in a particular subject, and we encourage all educators to bring their students to the Arctic with us. Who knows, your class may contain the next great wildlife biologist!” + Discovery Education + Polar Bears International Image via Pixabay

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Yes, climate marches are working

July 5, 2019 by  
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If you’re on social media or watch the news, you probably noticed that protest marches have increased in incidence and popularity in this era of Trump. The President’s political and personal actions have sent the opposition out on the streets, including mass protests for issues from women’s rights to climate change and everything in between. Up until recently, social scientists believed aggressive protests alienate activists from potential supporters, but the massive popularity of recent climate marches have turned this idea on its head. The popularity of the People’s Climate March (2017) and Youth Climate Strike (2019) spurred participation from all walks of life and changed the stereotypical face of an activist to be– well, anyone. This critical shift may render marches one of the most powerful political tools. Trump’s election was a “blessing for the climate movement.” His anti-environment policies, like closing national parks and slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, have galvanized the opposition and united groups that don’t agree on much except that Trump is terrible for the environment. Related: Climate change will push 120 million into poverty Climate fanatics have become likeable A new study from Penn State University examined public opinion before and after the March for Science and the Peoples’ Climate March, both in 2017, and found that unlike previous marches, these helped boost likability and support. So, what is different about climate activists? All of the nearly 600 people interviewed heard about the marches through the media, but did not attend. The results of the survey indicated that across political affiliation, participants reported that the activists were “less arrogant, less whiny and less eccentric” than other activists. Clearly, activists have a negative connotation in the minds of the American public, but something about these climate marchers was slightly different. Activists get a bad rep A widely cited study on activism from 2013 concluded that depending on the tactics, certain acts of civil disobedience lose supporters. For example, acts viewed aggressive, militant or wasteful (think: throwing red paint on a fur coat) mostly earn activists scorn— but not support. These feelings of scorn reduce peoples’ willingness “to adopt the behaviors that these activities promoted,” the research team from the University of Toronto reported . “If you were a bystander in 2017, if you were looking at the march, you’d see people of faith, labor unions, people of color and frontline communities,” the director of the People’s Climate Movement, Paul Getsos said about the March. “It wasn’t your typical kind of activist march; it counters the narrative that no one cares about climate change. If we were just mobilizing the usual activist base, I know for a fact it wouldn’t have had the same impact.” What is the point of marches? In general, the goal of a march is to inspire people to support the cause and to get government to act. In her article “ To have impact, the People’s Climate March needs to reach beyond activists ,” Jill Hopkes argued the goal of marches needed to be to gain attention and support from people who did not already support the cause. Garnering this far-reaching impact is incredibly important and it’s where marches can get it right or get it wrong. Surprisingly, survey respondents of the University of Tornoto study, who identify as conservative, reported an increase in what researchers call “collective efficacy.” This means an increase in their belief that together, we can solve the climate crisis . Climate marches, because of their palatability and sheer numbers, may make a difference in terms of gaining supporters across the aisle, but will that lead to action? In an op-ed for Grist, Director of Climate Justice for the Center for Popular Democracy, Aura Vasquez, argued that this intentionality to reach not only across aisles but across cultures is critical. “It’s about sending a message of unity that crosses color lines and income scales. It’s about demonstrating the diversity of the climate movement, the diversity that gives us our strength,” wrote Vasquez. Related: Polls show climate change is a determining issue for 2020 elections The Climate Movement started at Standing Rock Aura Vasquez also makes sure to give credit where credit is due, citing: “Standing Rock is when the movement truly bloomed, bringing together thousands of people from every corner of the country to block a pipeline that threatens ancient water sources and blatantly disregards treaties with sovereign First Nation.” As the protests at Standing Rock bubbled and grew into something larger than just a small sect of activists, the indigenous-led movement began to make “a powerful argument that wove together environmental, racial and economic justice, water protectors were able to attract both die-hard climate activists and allies brand-new to the cause,” said Vasquez. From there, the momentum for the climate and science marches grew. Suddenly, with over 300 marches throughout the country, the climate movement became something that everyone could get involved with, even those who weren’t militant (or privileged) enough to skip out on work and fly to North Dakota to protest a pipeline. Inclusive tactics will reach non-believers Researchers and critics of general marches have suggestions for how the activists can be more inclusive and effective, including more carefully selecting who is the face of the protest and what messages they use in order to avoid the “whiny, arrogant and eccentric” stereotype. Seasoned environmentalists may have thought people would join their fight when the science came out over 30 years ago that fossil fuels were altering the climate. But the truth is that emissions have gotten drastically worse. It’s clear, then, that facts from scientists might convince some, but they aren’t enough to sway the public. Climate Outreach suggests that the visuals used by both the media and the activists themselves also have a role to play in their reputation and supporters they attract. According to the climate communication advisors, visuals that show the negative impacts of climate change alongside positive solutions help people understand the gravity of the crisis. Climate Outreach also encourages “careful use” of protest imagery, since many people still do not identify with activism. However, to the extent that protest images show diversity and unification– rather than aggression– this new research indicates these images may be the turning point toward finally achieving political action, together. Via Grist Images via Mark Dixon, NiklasPntk , filmbetrachterin

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Earliest human air pollution detected in glaciers

June 5, 2019 by  
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Researchers in Peru have discovered some of the earliest evidence of air pollution , and their report reveals new information about the extent that carbon emissions accelerate the melting of glaciers. The report, released by the National Institute of Research on Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems (INAIGEM) in Peru, also indicates that black carbon emissions in particular have a direct impact on the rate at which glaciers melt. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 According to Jesús Gómez López, the Director of Glaciers Research at INAIGEM, “There are different sources of black carbon that can deposit on glaciers, some are wildfires, burning of agricultural waste and the emissions from vehicle fleets. Studies show that the concentration of black carbon is greater in glaciers close to large cities.” The 1,200-year-old Quelccaya Ice Cap contained small traces of lead and mercury believed to be pollution from silver mines during the early Spanish invasion. Climate change and air pollution can often be tied to colonialism and the exploitation of indigenous populations and lands. Metal working and mining by the Incas had “most likely only a local impact on the environment surrounding their mining operations. In contrast, the mining … activities performed by the Spanish had an impact on the atmosphere of the entire South America continent,” said Paolo Gabrielli, a researcher from Ohio State who contributed to the first paper on the discovery. Although the age of the pollution is impressive, researchers are quick to point out that all glaciers contain human-caused pollution at this point. “Today, there are no glaciers on Earth where atmospheric deposition of anthropogenic origin cannot be detected,” said a report from Ohio State University. Researchers also suggest that emissions from fires, transportation and industry should be curtailed in order to reduce glacial melt and trap carbon in place. They also note that while air pollution is hundreds of years old, today’s level of air pollution is unprecedented. Via UN Environment Images via Cassie Matias

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No more neglect: Mongolia says rangelands are a global priority

April 12, 2019 by  
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When most people think of conservation , they often picture the large, hallmark mammals (think pandas) or key ecosystems like coral reefs and rainforests. Few people think about or even understand rangelands as a priority for land restoration, even though rangelands cover more than 50 percent of all land on earth. In March, Mongolian community-conservation leaders persuaded the United Nations to acknowledge the importance of rangelands and commit to global action to fill glaring gaps in data. As a result of their efforts, the United Nations adopted a resolution to recommend an official “Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists” and to center rangeland restoration within the already declared Decade of Ecosystems Restoration (2021-2030). In Mongolia, leaders have also submitted a “Rangeland Law” to parliament, which would ensure that herders have legal land rights and are named the primary protectors of their land. What are rangelands? The International Center for Agriculture Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) defines rangelands as land that is covered with grass and shrub species and used as a primary source for livestock grazing. Rangelands are also recognized for their ability to provide other environmental services, including carbon sequestration, eco-tourism opportunities, biodiversity, ranching and mining. Related: Less fertilizer, greater crop yields and more money — China’s agricultural breakthrough ICARDA estimates suggest that nearly 50 percent of all land surface is considered rangeland, which includes grasslands, savannas and marshes. Why is Mongolia on the forefront? Herding has been a defining part of Mongolian culture and tradition for more than 4,000 years . Up to 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product comes from sheep, cattle and other livestock. However, economic, environmental and migration changes have caused much of Mongolia’s rangelands to become degraded. The United Nations reports that nearly 57 percent of all rangeland in Mongolia is degraded and 13 percent is so degraded that it is believed to be impossible to restore. Despite this, Mongolia still has some of the world’s last remaining natural grasslands, and people there are committed to preserving these diverse ecosystems and their traditional way of life. “If nothing is done now, we face the danger of losing this beautiful land, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of nomadic herder families,” said Enkh-Amgalan Tseelei , a sustainable rangeland expert from Mongolia. Research shows that indigenous and local communities are some of the most effective stewards of natural land. However, these same groups rarely have legal land rights, making them vulnerable to dislocation and exploitation. According to the World Resource Institute’s  land mapping tool , indigenous and collectively-managed lands store about 25 percent of the world’s above-ground carbon , which means land restoration in these areas is essential to reducing climate change , and that indigenous people are the rightful leaders. We don’t know enough about rangelands The UN resolution aims to elevate awareness, earmark funding and increase collaborative action to improve the  protection and restoration of rangelands. The resolution also amplifies the role of community leadership and traditional management practices. Most critically, however, the resolution calls for increased research, pointing to major gaps in current scientific knowledge about the “status, conditions and trends in rangeland, pastoral land and pastoralism.” Another UN report from March suggests that current data on agriculture and livestock within rangeland regions and societies are insufficient to inform effective policy. The report, “A case of benign neglect: Knowledge gaps about sustainability in pastoralism and rangelands,” recommends further collection and disaggregation of data to highlight different needs and opportunities for locally based, sustainable management. For example, the report warns that some governments have misconceptions of rangelands and even consider them to be “forgotten” or “barren.” Seemingly environmentally progressive programs have implemented afforestation projects — meaning large  tree  planting initiatives — in rangelands. This can actually devastate rangeland biodiversity and have a negative impact on existing carbon sequestration. Pastoralism and marginalization Nearly 500 million people are considered pastoralists, yet these communities are among the most marginalized societies in the world. Herding, nomadic and pastoral groups face challenges such as land degradation, biodiversity loss, vulnerability to climate change, low investments, inequity, low literacy, inadequate infrastructure, lack of access to markets, lack of legal ownership and exodus of youth. Related: One of the last remaining communities still farming like the Aztecs If March is any indication of the next few years — and hopefully the next decade — pastoralists might have the attention, investment and collective action needed to make meaningful advancements in land restoration and community management. Deputy Director General of Integrated Sciences at the International Livestock Research Institute, Iain Wright, praised the efforts of governments and partners so far. “In my 35 years’ experience working on rangelands and pastoralists, this is the first real progress I am seeing,” Wright said. “The lack of data up to now has been critical, and this report forms one of the building blocks in getting this issue into the political and international agenda.” Via UN Environment Images via Jeanne Menjoulet , Ludovic Hirlimann , Sergio Tittarini ,  Christopher Michel , and Paulo Philippidis

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Restaurant UNDERs handcrafted tableware celebrates natural materials

April 12, 2019 by  
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When Snøhetta designed the spectacular concept for UNDER, the world’s largest underwater restaurant located along a rocky Norwegian shoreline, the renowned architecture firm wanted to reference the local landscape in all aspects of design, including the tableware. That’s why the Norwegian brand MENT was chosen as the main supplier for the design and manufacturing of the tableware for the restaurant’s 18-course menu. Founded by sisters Ingvild and Sidsel Forr Hemma, the Fåberg-based design brand designed a unique series of bowls, plates, mugs and other items all crafted by hand from natural materials and Norwegian minerals. Since June 2018, MENT has worked in close collaboration with UNDER head chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard to design, research, test and produce products evocative of the restaurant’s overall concept of celebrating nature, craft and sustainable sourcing. “Getting to work with such a thought out concept — and implementing it further in our design has been incredibly inspiring!” the designers said in a press statement. “For this project, MENT have made items in porcelain, stoneware, wood and clay, and in most products the colors used are made from Norwegian minerals. All items are handmade in MENTs workshop at Fåberg.” For the 18-course menu, MENT created approximately 500 products with 17 different unique designs that include bowls, plates, water jugs, toothpick holders, coffee and tea mugs, a milk-and-sugar set and large snack bowls. Several of the designs also vary in size, material and color. The tableware gets its earthy colors from iron pigments processed from natural magnetite sourced from the area of Nordland in Norway. The color and shapes of the products take inspiration from the Norwegian coast — from the different seaweed, sand and coastal rocks — defined by beautiful textures and a color palette of browns, grays and greens. Related: Europe’s first underwater restaurant opens its doors in Norway Because all of the tableware is handmade and created with natural magnetite with techniques that “are impossible to control,” each product has its own unique features. Although UNDER has already opened to the public, MENT will continue to work in collaboration with the restaurant and the head chef. + MENT Images via MENT

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Conchs in the Bahamas could be extinct in 10 years

January 24, 2019 by  
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The Bahamas is famous for its large conch population, but some studies claim that could change significantly over the next decade if the archipelago doesn’t start enforcing its laws and introduce stricter regulations. Overfishing has devastated many of the Bahamian conch communities, and it is making reproduction so difficult, the sea slug could be extinct within 10 years. This would be devastating to Bahamian tradition and culture, not to mention the economic impact on the fishing industry. According to the Matador Network , about 9,000 fishermen, which is about 2 percent of the population, depend on the conch fishery. These sluggish sea creatures move too slowly to mate in just pairs. Instead, it’s safer for them to mate in groups, with at least 50 others nearby. But many of the Bahamian conch communities are below critical levels. Related: 60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction The conchs in the Florida Keys suffered the same fate more than four decades ago. Back in 1975, the once abundant conch population went extinct because of overfishing. Now, the Bahamas are facing the same problem, because the nation has some of the most lenient fishing regulations in the Caribbean. However, the Bahamas’ Department of Marine Resources announced on January 13 that it would be ending exports and increasing its regulatory staff in an effort to protect the conchs . There could be some push-back according to Shelly Cant-Woodside, the director of science and policy for the Bahamas National Trust. “We’re not used to regulations or enforcement,” Cant-Woodside told National Geographic . Because the conch industry is the only source of income for many residents of the Bahamas, they might not welcome new restrictions. Right now, the fishermen can legally fish adult conchs after they have had enough time to reproduce. But the Bahamas’ Department of Marine Resources will enforce this rule more strictly by recommending a mandatory minimum shell thickness. Biologist Any Kough said that the new recommendation is encouraging, and it is a “clear sign” that the department is aware of the troubles the conch population is facing in the Bahamas. Via Matador Network and National Geographic Image via Briana Baud

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Twenty aims to dramatically reduce the waste of household products

November 28, 2018 by  
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Dubai Design Week — an annual event celebrating and promoting design and creativity — took place earlier this month, with imaginative minds from all over the world competing for the coveted Progress Prize at the Global Grad Show. This year’s winner, Twenty, sets out to cut down the environmental costs of packaging and shipping household products, like shampoos or cleaners, by offering dry capsules and reusable containers — just add water , and the items are ready for use. Considered to be the largest creative festival in the Middle East, Dubai Design Week takes place at venues throughout the city, with the central hub of the festival being in the Dubai Design District. The competition’s coveted Progress Prize celebrates the next generation of design talent while recognizing the impact of design on society and the environment . Related: How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners This year, the competition announced Twenty — designed by Mirjam de Bruijn from the Design Academy Eindhoven in The Netherlands — as the winner of the Progress Prize for a collection of dehydrated household products designed to reduce waste and unnecessary emissions by eliminating water content. Judges chose Twenty from 150 selections that came from all over the world, which they then shortlisted to 11 finalists. Since most everyday cleaning products contain at least 80 percent water, Twenty proposes to eliminate the waste and simplify production and transportation with a capsule that you can put into a bottle, add water and then shake to create a cleaning liquid that is just as effective as a store-bought option. “I designed Twenty for people like myself who really want to be sustainable but also have busy lives and need products that are simple, economical, easy to use and fit into their lifestyle,” said de Bruijn. She added that she wants Twenty to be the new standard in household cleaning products, and she is working closely with the university to refine the product while talking to producers and retailers to adopt the perfect strategy for bringing it to market. Brendan McGetrick, the director and curator of the Global Grad Show, said that Twenty is exceptional because it is based on a smart analysis of something that we all need and take for granted. + Twenty Images via Twenty

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