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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Pacific nuclear site contaminating clams and groundwater, despite U.S. denial

June 4, 2019 by  
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Giant clams and groundwater near a U.S. nuclear waste site in the Marshall Islands have been found to have high levels of radiation. Despite claims that the waste is contained and the ocean contamination is old, local scientists and environmental justice advocates believe the site was not adequately protected and is currently leaking. The Marshall Island’s site was used as a testing location from 1946 to 1958. There, the U.S. military conducted 67 known nuclear weapons tests on coral reefs, a critical ecosystem now known to host up to 25 percent of all marine life. The nuclear tests included the detonation of the “Bravo” hydrogen bomb, which is thought to have been 1,000 times bigger than the bomb dropped in Hiroshima. According to a testimony by the Marshall Islands’ health minister, the bomb covered the islands in white ash, which children played with and even ate, thinking it was snow. Related: Ocean explorer finds plastic waste during world’s deepest dive In 1977, the U.S. military piled contaminated ash and soil into an atoll– a ring shaped reef– and topped it with 18 inches of concrete. Perhaps it was meant to be a temporary fix, as the bottom of the containment was never insulated, but the structure has remained for 42 years. Visible cracks in the concrete leads many researchers to believe that there is likely leakage at the bottom as well. “The bottom of the dome is just what was left behind by the nuclear weapons explosion. It’s permeable soil. There was no effort to line it. And therefore, the seawater is inside the dome,” said Michael Gerrard of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. U.S. Department of Energy scientists claim it is safe to eat small amounts of the giant clams, which are a delicacy in the islands as well as an export to China. However, international scientists widely distrust their claim that since there is no direct proof of leakage, the contamination to the shellfish and lagoon is just from the old testing and not from ongoing spillage. “What they’re saying is, here is the dome. And here, in the lagoon area, there is radiation … But as far as leaking from the dome, we don’t think that’s the case? The doesn’t make any sense,” said Mayor James Matayoshi of Rongelap Atoll. Via Eco Watch Image via UNESCO

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Pacific nuclear site contaminating clams and groundwater, despite U.S. denial

This incredible tiny house resort in the Catskills is the place to be this summer

June 4, 2019 by  
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If you’re feeling the need for a little R&R this summer, look no further than this fabulous tiny home resort in upper-state New York. Tucked into the dense woodlands of the Catskills, A Tiny House Resort features nine gorgeous tiny homes , including a renovated Airstream. Not only are the accommodations incredibly charming, but guests can enjoy a heated swimming pool, wellness center, arts and crafts workshops, and even goat yoga. Tucked in the woodlands, with a 1/2 mile of creek frontage and an onsite waterfall. A Tiny House Resort is truly an incredible space. Each of the adorable tiny homes , which range from 100 to 400 square feet, have different layouts, but all include kitchens, full bathrooms and comfortable beds. They also come with open-air decks with barbecue grills to enjoy al fresco dining and socializing. Additionally, there are a few onsite fire pits so that guests can truly immerse themselves in the outdoors, day and night. Related: Disconnect in these A-frame tiny cabins in the Catskills In addition to the tiny home accommodations , guests can enjoy any number of activities. There are plenty of hiking trails nearby, and adventurers can also enjoy free kayaks and rafts to enjoy exploring the adjacent river. For those looking for a little culinary cleanse, the resort even has its own veggie garden and hen house for collecting fresh eggs. For a little luxury, stressed-out city dwellers can relax with an invigorating massage in the open-air wellness center and spa, or a leisurely bath in the hot soaking tub. Budding artists and DIYers will love the arts and crafts center which is located in a renovated Airstream . Finally, for those who’d like to get bendy in nature, there’s also outdoor yoga— including the ever-popular goat yoga. + A Tiny House Resort Via Tiny House Blog Images via A Tiny House Resort

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Korvaa is the worlds first headphones grown from bio-based materials

May 31, 2019 by  
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Move over plastic and aluminum — the headphones of the future may be built from fungus and biosynthetic spider silk. Helsinki-based multidisciplinary design studio Aivan recently unveiled Korvaa, the world’s first headphones made exclusively from microbially grown materials. Created using synbio (short for “synthetic biology,” an interdisciplinary branch of biology and engineering), Korvaa is the first physical implementation of the technology and marks a potential shift away from a fossil fuel-based economy and toward a more sustainable, circular “bioeconomy.” Aivan designers created the Korvaa in collaboration with synbio scientists, industrial designers, artists and filmmakers. The team chose headphones as their first physical implementation of synbio technology because of its compact form and incorporation of different material properties, from hard surfaces to mesh fabric. The name Korvaa originates from Finnish, in which the noun “Korva” means ear and the verb “Korvaa” means to substitute, compensate or replace. ”We’re looking at these different materials and their properties, trying to figure out how to use them, and what to make out of them — as opposed to designing an item and then figuring out what materials we want to use,” said Aivan product designers Saku Sysiö and Thomas Tallqvist. “Process-wise, it’s almost like something out of the stone age. It sets this particular project apart from any other contemporary, wearable-tech project.” Related: These sustainable headphones debuted just in time for Earth Day Two versions of the Korvaa headsets have been created. Each headset consists of six microbe-grown components with different properties: enzymatically produced, lignin-free cellulose; 3D-printed biodegradable microbial bioplastic PLA for the rigid headset frame; a leather-like fungal mycelium for the soft foam material inside the headset; biosynthetic spider silk for the mesh-like material inside the earphone; a composite of fungal mycelium and bacteria cellulose; and protein foam with plant cellulose. The documentation of the processes for creating both headphones will be displayed at the Fiskars Village Art & Design Biennale 2019 from now until September 19 as well as at Helsinki Design Week 2019 from September 5 to September 15. + Aivan Via Dezeen Images via Aivan

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Green batteries? Renewable energy storage will cost nature

May 20, 2019 by  
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Our quest to save the world by achieving 100 percent renewable energy will unfortunately also be devastating for the environment . An increase in renewable energy means an increase in the need for batteries to power electric cars and store energy from solar panels and wind turbines. However, batteries are made from unsustainably and unethically sourced metals. A new report , released by the University of Technology in Sydney, estimates that the surge in battery production will increase the demand for metals four times above what is currently available in the earth’s existing mines and reserves. The researchers calculated how the demand for “green batteries” will rise if countries meet their Paris Agreement commitments and transition to 100 percent renewable energy and transportation by 2050. Their findings indicate that the demand will exceed the amount of cobalt that is currently available and will consume 86 percent of the earth’s lithium. What metals are needed? Phones, solar panels, wind turbines and the batteries they use to store energy all use a variety of metals. In addition to lithium, batteries use cobalt, manganese and nickel. Solar panels are made from tellurium, gallium, silver and indium. Other renewable devices also use copper and aluminum. Related: Renewable energy surpasses coal for the first time in U.S. history The impact of metal mining Metal mining is largely unsustainable and there is currently no plan for ensuring a clean transition to renewable energy that reforms the mining industry. The following metals are especially problematic and in high demand: Cobalt 60 percent of all cobalt is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the mining process causes large scale heavy metal contamination of the air, water and soil. Moreover, the cobalt industry has widely documented human rights abuses, including employing children and forcing workers to mine in highly dangerous circumstances. After extraction in rural areas of the DRC, the raw metal travels to the capitol for processing and is typically transported to China, which refines 40 percent of all cobalt. Chinese companies then sell the refined cobalt to places such as Vietnam, where batteries are produced and then sold all over the world. In addition to the atrocious impacts at the mining site, the entire industry has a massive carbon footprint . Innovators are desperately trying to design a cobalt-free battery. Elon Musk even tweeted a commitment to discovering a new way to produce batteries, hoping to distance Tesla from the environmental and human rights issues tied to the cobalt industry. Such battery technology is not a likely possibility in the near future and the demand for renewable energy will cause a spike in the need to rely on the existing cobalt market at the expense of nature and thousands of lives. Lithium Lithium is largely extracted from South American countries such as Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The mines have contaminated drinking water reserves and cause conflict with local communities. Leaders from 33 indigenous groups sued mine operators over their right to clean water, however, they are up against a powerful industry that charges everything from our TV remotes to our beloved cellphones. Copper A new technology promises a more environmentally friendly strategy for extracting copper from the ground. It involves injecting an acid solution into the land while leaving the surface relatively undisturbed. However, the technology may still contaminate land and ground water. In Alaska , an indigenous group has been fighting a proposed copper mine on the site of a world’s most highly productive sockeye salmon fishery. Despite the importance of this ecosystem , the indigenous leaders have an uphill battle against powerful corporations, rising demand and limited copper reserves. Solutions: The greening of batteries Despite the negative impact of battery materials, experts still argue that the transition to renewable energy is worth it. Energy professor, Charles Barnhart of Western Washington University, told the media: “I want to be clear that when we talk about environmental impacts, we’re not trying to decide between ‘lesser evils,’” the destructive legacy of fossil fuels is incomparable. Although metal mining may never be clean, there are a few ways to improve the problem: Demand transparency from battery and electronics companies If mining operations and electronics companies know that consumers are paying attention to their supply chains, human rights practices and environmental impacts they are more likely to do the right thing. Respect rights of indigenous communities The sovereignty and voices of dissent from local communities must be recognized and supported both legally and financially in places from the DRC to Alaska. Increase energy efficiency The world’s transition to renewable energy seems to be the path forward, however people can still reduce their need for electricity in their every day lives. For example, homes built to make the most of natural light use less electricity during the daytime. Recycle batteries The lithium and cobalt recycling industry will be worth $23 billion by 2025 and will rise with increasing demand. Major companies like Tesla, Apple and Amazon are developing battery recycling programs for their products. Related: A growing number of states are aiming for clean energy Tips on how to recycle your batteries: Single-Use Batteries Identify a collection program or event in your area by calling your town hall or using Earth911’s Recycling Search program. Store batteries in plastic or cardboard containers and cover the ends with tape to prevent energy drain. Rechargeable batteries Identify a collection program. Many home and office supply stores have recycled battery dropboxes. Remove the battery from your electronics and cover the ends with clear tape. Via Earther Images via Shutterstock

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Architects transform a residential building into a lush, green oasis in the heart of So Paulo

May 20, 2019 by  
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Although São Paulo is known as a bustling metropolis, a local architectural firm, Lucia Manzano Arquitetura , is doing its part to add more green to the concrete and glass cityscape. The Lorena is a residential building in the heart of the city that is designed to integrate architecture and landscape. It infuses an abundance of vegetation throughout from its ground floor garden, which was planted with native shrubs and trees to attract local fauna, to the massive balconies covered in hanging greenery, and of course, a lush green roof. Sitting in the middle of São Paulo, the 28,000-square-foot Lorena building holds court in a quiet area, standing out significantly from its concrete neighbors thanks to the massive amount of vegetation that hangs from each of its outdoor terraces and rooftop gardens . According to the architects, the inspiration for the design was to create a strong relationship between landscape and architecture. To do so, the building was covered in layers of vibrant plants. Related: Translucent Ho Chi Minh City office tower infused with greenery helps combat urban pollution The concrete building is four stories, comprised of several 5,543-square-foot duplex units. The common areas, the ground floor and the rooftop were conceived as private gardens for the residents. On the ground floor, the landscaping includes  native vegetation , such as local species from the Atlantic Forest as well as fruit and native trees, chosen to attract local birds and insects. This space also has an extended splash pool to create a soothing oasis where the residents can relax. At the top of the building, residents can also enjoy a beautiful green roof . Equipped with large trees, shrubs and flowers, there are also plenty of lounge chairs to take in the stunning views of the city. When they are not strolling along the pool or taking in the rooftop vistas, residents have their own private escape at home. Each duplex has four bedrooms, each with its own private balcony that pulls double-duty as flowerbeds. The living space in each unit opens up to a balcony, merging the interior with the exterior. As well as creating the sense of being surrounded by a garden , the abundance of plant life also provides the residences with plenty of privacy. + Lucia Manzano Arquitetura  Via Archdaily Photography by Evelyn Müller via Lucia Manzano Arquitetura

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NASA Mars Habitat Challenge winner is a 3D-printed pod made of biodegradable materials

May 17, 2019 by  
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Multi-planetary architectural firm  AI Space Factory has been awarded first place in the NASA Centennial Challenge with its innovative 3D-printed design , MARSHA. The 15-foot-tall, pod-like design was digitally printed using a base of biodegradable and recyclable basalt composite derived from natural materials found on Mars. Not only does the concept envision a sustainable and resilient design that could meet all the demands of a Mars mission, but the interior living space would be modern and bright, complete with indoor gardens. The New York-based company managed to beat out 60 challengers that submitted designs for NASA’s Centennial Challenge, which looks for sustainable housing concepts for deep space exploration, including Mars . The MARSHA habitat was designed specifically with the desolate Martian landscape in mind, but it could be potentially viable for any environment. Related: Martian tiny home prototype champions zero waste and self sufficiency The prototype was built out of an innovative mixture of basalt fiber extracted from Marian rock and renewable, plant-based bioplastic, with three robotically placed windows. The materials used in the construction not only stood up to NASA’s pressure, smoke and impact testing, but the structure was actually found to be stronger and more durable than its concrete competitors. In contrast to most designs created for Mars, MARSHA is a vertical shape comprised of various levels. The interior spaces are designated by floor, with everything needed to stay indoors for extended periods of time if necessary. Living and working spaces would feature a “human-centric” design that would see modern yet comfortable spaces lit by diffused light. There would also be ample space for indoor gardens . CEO and founder of AI SpaceFactory David Malott explained that the inspiration behind MARSHA was to design a resilient structure that would be sustainable for years to come. “We developed these technologies for space, but they have the potential to transform the way we build on Earth,” Malott said. “By using natural, biodegradable materials grown from crops, we could eliminate the building industry’s massive waste of unrecyclable concrete and restore our planet.” + AI Space Factory Via Archdaily Images via AI Space Factory

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Earth’s Call Celebration: May 18 Live Webcast

May 10, 2019 by  
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Mark your calendar for the live webcast of the Earth’s … The post Earth’s Call Celebration: May 18 Live Webcast appeared first on Earth911.com.

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In a world first, the UK declares a climate emergency

May 7, 2019 by  
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In a victory for peaceful protest and the planet, the United Kingdom parliament is now the world’s first national legislative body to proclaim a climate change emergency. The decision comes on the heels of major protests by Extinction Rebellion that snarled London traffic for a week last month. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn proposed the emergency declaration. “Today, we have the opportunity to say, ‘We hear you,’” Corbyn told parliament . “By becoming the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency, we could, and I hope we do, set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments all around the world.” Related: Extinction Rebellion LA protests climate change by supergluing themselves to Universal globe The declaration was one of several demands made by Extinction Rebellion. Extinction Rebellion’s other demands call on Britain to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2025 and for citizens’ assemblies to be responsible for working out these initiatives, rather than the powers-that-be. Michael Gove, environment secretary under conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, acknowledged the danger of climate change. “Not only do I welcome the opportunity that this debate provides, I also want to make it clear that on this side of the house, we recognize that the situation we face is an emergency,” Gove said . “It is a crisis, it is a threat, that all of us have to unite to meet.” Gove and Corbyn both vowed to confront Donald Trump on his environmental stance when the U.S. president visits the U.K. in June. Many municipalities and regions of the U.K. have also declared climate emergencies, including Scotland, Wales, Manchester and London, noting that the clock is winding down for Earth’s inhabitability by humans. As one sign hoisted by a Scottish school child during last month’s protests said, “Dinosaurs thought they had time, too.” Via Reuters , The Guardian Image via David Holt

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In a world first, the UK declares a climate emergency

Jendretzki Design envisions an eco retreat for NYC’s Rat Island

May 7, 2019 by  
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New York-based Jendretzki Design has proposed building an off-grid eco resort on NYC’s remote Rat Island. The design firm’s renderings show a series of prefab gabled cabins with ultra-large glass facades built on the island’s edge to provide stunning views of the ocean. According to the plans, the cabins and all buildings on site would be zero-energy, running on solar and wind power with rainwater collection systems. Rat Island (originally named “Rattle Island” for the locals that stood on the small island with rattles to warn passing ships about the dangerous rocks) is a privately-owned, 2.5-acre island that is just off of City Island Harbor and the greater Long Island Sound . Mostly made up of Manhattan schist bedrock, the island was once used as a quarantine hospital during the typhoid fever scares of the 1800s, but it is now vacant of any buildings due to the fact that the rocky outpost becomes submerged during high tide. Related: Go glamping with views of the Statue of Liberty on NYC’s Governors Island Despite its rocky terrain and low-lying stature, Pablo Jendretzki believes that the remote island would make the perfect spot for a serene eco retreat . “There is a small canal penetrating through the island that was carved out of the rocks about 100 years ago that we incorporated into the design so that canoes and small boats can arrive directly under the main building on high tide,” the studio said. According to the conceptual plans, the challenging terrain would require all structures to be built on concrete braces and piers bolted into the rocky landscape. The boutique retreat would be comprised of prefab wooden cabins with pitched roofs, all with living areas, bedrooms, a kitchenette and bathroom. Glazed facades would provide unobstructed views of the sea. The resort’s buildings would run on renewable energy, namely solar and wind power. The carbon-neutral structures would also have rainwater collection systems for potable and service waters. Additionally, the island’s waste would be directed to a compost treatment system. According to Jendretzki, the building plans are merely conceptual at the moment, but the firm is currently conducting zoning analysis to determine the feasibility of the project. + Jendretzki Design Via Dezeen Images via Jendretzki Design

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