Standing our ground by investing in our soil

May 26, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

This is a call to farms — to reconnect to one another and places where we live, all the way down to local food systems and the soil.

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Standing our ground by investing in our soil

Man plans to swim the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness for plastic pollution

May 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

You’ve heard a lot about the ocean plastic crisis, and may even know a fair amount about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch . But for many of us, the issue can still seem far away when we drink out of a plastic bottle or tote groceries in a plastic bag. Professional distance swimmer Ben Lecomte aims to offer a fresh, personal perspective on ocean health as he swims 5,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean . Inhabitat caught up with Lecomte just days before he plans to leave for the potentially record-setting trek. Lecomte could be the first man to swim across the Pacific Ocean, but that’s not his goal for this venture. “My goal is to do something a little bit out there, a little bit extreme, to get the attention on an issue very important to everybody: the state of the ocean ,” he told Inhabitat. He’ll leave from Tokyo and swim to San Francisco, across thousands of miles, in a journey that could take around six months. Related: The Ocean Cleanup is about to send a giant plastic collector to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch Lecomte’s father taught him how to swim in the Atlantic Ocean . “I remember spending a lot of summers on the beach and never seeing plastic. Within my lifetime, now it has suddenly changed. I cannot walk on a beach where I don’t see any plastic,” he said. “I have children, and I ask myself, how is it going to be for them when they are older and they walk with their kids, is it going to be worse, is it going to be better? The only way to make it better is first of all, we have to be aware of the problem, and second of all, we have to start taking action. And it’s something that we can do. We have a solution, but it means we change our habit, we change our behavior, and then by our collective action, we can make a difference.” A volunteer-staffed, wind – and solar -powered sailboat will accompany Lecomte as he swims for around eight hours a day. He’ll need to consume about 8,000 calories daily, but he said he won’t take breaks on the boat and so won’t each much during those eight hours, just liquids like soup. He’ll eat two large meals in the morning and at night, and eat if he wakes up in the middle of the night. Will the sailboat inadvertently cover some of the distance? Lecomte says they’ll try to keep the boat in the place where he stops, but if they move, they will travel back so he can pick up where he left off. Along the way, they’ll gather over 1,000 samples for 27 scientific partners with two main research focuses: ocean health and human health . Lecomte said that in the past, scientists typically haven’t been able to gather samples from across an entire ocean — that would take too long. But his journey offers a perfect opportunity to do so. Plastic is a primary emphasis; Lecomte will swim right through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Radiation from Fukushima and phytoplankton are among other ocean research areas. To delve into human health, Lecomte will be working with NASA . “Since I’m going to be in low gravity, there are a few things they would like to find out how it’s going to affect me or not. My bone density is going to change; pressure on my eyes is also something that affects astronauts, [and they want] to find out if that’s going to change for me,” he said. The wealth of information Lecomte could collect, and awareness he could raise, has the potential to be immense. But will such a voyage leave its own impact on the Pacific Ocean? Lecomte told Inhabitat renewable energy will generate the power they need. They won’t throw out trash, keeping everything on the boat, and will limit plastic packaging . The team has partnered with several organizations, including Mission Blue , the Ocean Voyages Institute , and the Ocean Institute . “They already have initiatives in place we want to reinforce,” said Lecomte. “For example, the Ocean Institute has 2,500 kids that go to their activities and learn about the plastic problem in the ocean, and that will do some of the data and collect some of the samples we’ve collected, and replicate some of what we do. We’ll try to be in connection with them and interact with those kids so they know what they are doing is being done in the middle of the ocean as well.” Lecomte is scheduled to leave on Wednesday, May 30. Seeker and Discovery are partnering for a project to cover Lecomte’s journey called The Swim , and they’ll produce content with Nomadica Films . Live coverage, mid-form and short-form videos, weekly Instagram stories, and weekly Discovery updates will all be part of The Swim, and the groups plan to release a feature-length documentary next year. You can also see where Lecomte is via The Longest Swim’s live tracker . + The Longest Swim + The Swim Images courtesy of Ben Lecomte

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Man plans to swim the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness for plastic pollution

Higher CO2 levels may lead to decreased nutrients in rice

May 24, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

According to new research from an international team of scientists, the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may cause a decrease in the nutritional value of  rice . Published in the journal Science Advances , the study concludes that rice contains lower levels of four essential B vitamins when grown under atmospheric conditions similar to those expected by the end of the 21st century. This aligns with similar studies that found that higher levels of carbon dioxide can result in reduced amounts of protein, iron and zinc in rice. The scientists conducted the study using 18 common strains of rice grown in fields in China and Japan. For the first time, research reveals that vitamins B1, B2, B5 and B9, all of which are important to the body’s ability to turn food into energy, decrease in rice as carbon dioxide levels increased. “This is an underappreciated risk of burning of fossil fuels and deforestation,” study co-author and director of the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment Kristie Ebi said in a statement . The adverse effects of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide reflect the unanticipated consequences of climate change. “People say more CO2 is plant food, and it is. But how plants respond to that sudden increase in food will impact human health as well, from nutritional deficits, to ethno-pharmacology, to seasonal pollen allergies — in ways that we don’t yet understand,” study co-author Lewis Ziska said. Related: Chinese scientists created a type of rice that can grow in saltwater The conclusion that rice will become less nutritional as climate change continues carries significant consequences for more than two billion people who depend on the grain as their primary food source. “Rice has been a dietary staple for thousands of years for many populations in Asia and is the fastest growing food staple in Africa,” Ebi said. “Reductions in the nutritional quality of rice could affect maternal and child health for millions of people.” Via University of Washington School of Public Health Images via University of Washington School of Public Health and  Depositphotos

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Higher CO2 levels may lead to decreased nutrients in rice

California man files lawsuit against Monsanto for allegedly hiding dangers of glyphosate

May 23, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

In a monumental trial, DeWayne Johnson will soon become the first person to face Monsanto in court for an alleged cover-up of the cancer-causing dangers of its herbicide products. Johnson, a father of three and resident of California , has cancer, which he believes was caused by his exposure to Monsanto-produced chemicals in his work as a groundskeeper. Though Monsanto has denied it, studies have demonstrated a link between glyphosate , the active ingredient in Monsanto herbicides, and cancer. Last week, presiding Judge Curtis Karnow issued a ruling that allowed for the consideration of evidence with regards to whether Monsanto knew about the dangers of its products and systematically concealed it, as well as the specifics of Johnson’s case. Johnson’s lawsuit, which will be filed on June 18th in San Francisco county superior court, is part of a larger legal fight against Monsanto. Approximately 4,000 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against Monsanto alleging that the failure to disclose the dangers of its chemicals has led to  cancer . The soon-to-be-filed lawsuit says that Monsanto “championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies,” while engaging in a “prolonged campaign of misinformation,” which caused harm to the public. “We look forward to exposing how Monsanto hid the risk of cancer and polluted the science,” Michael Miller, Johnson’s lawyer,  told the Guardian . “Monsanto does not want the truth about Roundup and cancer to become public.” Related: California adds Monsanto’s glyphosate to list of chemicals known to cause cancer Monsanto claims there is no evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic. “Glyphosate-based herbicides are supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health and environmental effects databases ever compiled for a pesticide product,” Monsanto said in a statement . “Comprehensive toxicological and environmental fate studies conducted over the last 40 years have time and again demonstrated the strong safety profile of this widely used herbicide.” Monsanto will soon have to defend this position in court, not only in California, but also in St. Louis, Missouri , where Monsanto was founded. Via The Guardian Images via Chafer Machinery , Avaaz and Mike Mozart

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California man files lawsuit against Monsanto for allegedly hiding dangers of glyphosate

Steven Holl Architects LEED Gold-seeking museum is a beacon for sustainability

May 22, 2018 by  
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Environmental design and contemporary art go hand-in-hand in Steven Holl Architects’ recently completed The Markel Center , the home of the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Located at the busiest intersection in Richmond, The Markel Center embodies VCU and the ICA’s commitment to sustainability with its LEED Gold-seeking design and energy-efficient technologies. Filled with natural light to reduce electricity demands, the museum draws energy from geothermal wells and features over 8,000 square feet of green roofs for extra insulation. Opened last month, VCU’s new Institute for Contemporary Art is free to the public and marks Richmond’s first art institution dedicated exclusively to exhibiting contemporary art . Sandwiched between VCU’s Monroe Park campus and the city’s art district, the ICA is a sculptural, 41,000-square-foot structure spread out across three floors and flooded with natural light from large glass walls, windows and skylights. The glass, which ranges in transparency from clear to opaque, filters out UV rays and, when backlit, gives the titanium-zinc-clad building a light, box-like appearance. The lobby, offices, cafe, bar, 240-seat auditorium , and concept shop, along with a 4,000-square-foot gallery, occupy the first floor and connect to the ICA’s central forum and outdoor garden, dubbed the “Thinking Field.” The second floor houses two forking galleries, an interactive “learning lab,” and a publicly accessible landscaped terrace . The top floor features a gallery with 33-foot-tall walls in addition to administrative suites and the boardroom. “We designed the ICA to be a flexible, forward-looking instrument that will both illuminate and serve as a catalyst for the transformative possibilities of contemporary art,” said architect Steven Holl. “Like many contemporary artists working today, the ICA’s design does not draw distinctions between the visual and performing arts. The fluidity of the design allows for experimentation and will encourage new ways to display and present art that will capitalize on the ingenuity and creativity apparent throughout the VCU campus.” Related: Steven Holl Architects unveils designs for geothermal-powered Angers Collectors Museum Clad in 100% recyclable titanium-zinc exterior paneling, the LEED Gold -seeking building draws energy from 43 geothermal wells for its radiant floor system. Native plants are used in the permeable landscape design as well as on the green roofs that cover three of the four gallery roofs. Nearly a third of materials used during construction were recyclable and nearly a quarter of the materials were regionally sourced. + Steven Holl Architects Images by Iwan Baan

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Steven Holl Architects LEED Gold-seeking museum is a beacon for sustainability

Climate Victory Garden campaign aims to "Make America Green Again"

May 22, 2018 by  
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Want to take action  in the fight against climate change? Plant a garden! During World War II, people in the U.S. planted around 20 million victory gardens. Green America aims to bring the concept back with Climate Victory Gardens to combat climate change . Their goal is to help launch 40 million Climate Victory Gardens that together produce 12 million tons of produce . They hope everyday citizens will leverage their gardens as forces for change. “Instead of gardening in support of war efforts, we are gardening to fight climate change,” the Green America website states. Green America is encouraging people to cultivate Climate Victory Gardens as an individual way of lowering carbon emissions . The organization also encourages practices such as composting , cover crops, perennials and no-till to boost soil health so it will sequester carbon . Plus, local food tends to be more sustainable — it hasn’t traveled long distances to reach a consumer. To match the level of scale of victory gardens in the 1940s, Green America set its goal for 40 million Climate Victory Gardens. Related: Amazon patents network-based ‘gardening service’ Is 40 million gardens a realistic goal? A 2014 report from the National Gardening Association  found that 42 million households in America are growing food either in a community garden or at home. Existing gardens could adopt climate-friendly practices to become Climate Victory Gardens. “Americans want to take actions that have a direct impact on climate change. They are also increasingly concerned about the chemicals on store-bought produce,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of consumer and corporate engagement at Green America. “Climate Victory Gardens gives us all a way to reduce our impact on the planet, while ensuring the food we feed our families is safe and nutritious.” Green America’s Climate Victory Gardens map currently lists more than 275 gardens across the U.S. and around the world. Add your garden to the map or commit to growing one on Green America’s website . + Climate Victory Gardens + Green America Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Climate Victory Garden campaign aims to "Make America Green Again"

AEye reveals new, energy-efficient data type to help self-driving cars see

May 22, 2018 by  
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AEye , a San Francisco Bay Area-based company that develops hardware, software and algorithms that serve as the “eyes and visual cortex” of autonomous vehicles, has announced a new data type that will help self-driving cars see better and, as a result, reduce energy costs. The data type combines pixels from digital 2D cameras with voxels from 3D LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors. By joining these into a unified high-resolution sensor data type known as Dynamic Vixels, AEye has created a format through which autonomous cars can more effectively evaluate a situation based on 2D visual algorithms. In addition, the new data type allows the cars to use 3D and even 4D information on an object’s location, intensity, and velocity. This efficient format has yielded a visual system that is faster and more accurate while using eight to ten times less energy in the process. AEye believes that integration of data types is essential for improving the capacity of autonomous vehicles while reducing energy costs through more efficient computing. “There is an ongoing argument about whether camera -based vision systems or LiDAR-based sensor systems are better,” said AEye Founder and CEO Luis Dussan. “Our answer is that both are required – they complement each other and provide a more complete sensor array for artificial perception systems. We know from experience that when you fuse a camera and LiDAR mechanically at the sensor , the integration delivers data faster, more efficiently and more accurately than trying to register and align pixels and voxels in post-processing. The difference is magnitude better performance.” Related: Lyft launches self-driving cars on the Las Vegas strip AEye’s iDAR (Intelligent Detection and Ranging) perception system is modeled on human visual perception, using biomimicry to better equip autonomous vehicles for the safest ride possible. For example, iDAR is able to assess a child’s facial direction and determine the probability of whether this child will walk into the street, preparing the vehicle to stop in case the child does. “There are three best practices we have adopted at AEye,” said AEye Chief of Staff Blair LaCorte. “First: never miss anything; second: not all objects are equal; and third: speed matters. Dynamic Vixels enables iDAR to acquire a target faster, assess a target more accurately and completely, and track a target more efficiently – at ranges of greater than 230m with 10% reflectivity.” AEye plans to release the AE100 artificial perception system, its first iDAR-based project, this summer. It will be available to Tier 1 and Original Equipment Manufacturer companies that have autonomous vehicle initiatives. + AEye Images via AEye

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AEye reveals new, energy-efficient data type to help self-driving cars see

Missouri approves legislation to ban labeling plant-based ‘meat’ as meat

May 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Plant-based meat substitutes or meat grown in a laboratory — think the Impossible Burger or the Beyond Burger — won’t be able to be marketed as meat under new legislation recently approved by  Missouri  lawmakers in a 125 to 22 vote. Representative Jeff Knight, a Republican who backed the change, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch , “We’re not trying to mislead anyone. We’re just trying to protect our product.” Legislation outlawing companies from calling lab-grown or plant-based meat substitutes ‘meat’ is headed to the governor’s desk in Missouri. Senate Bill 627 is a package of changes to conservation and agriculture laws, including a provision stating, “This act also prohibits misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.” If the bill becomes law, Missouri will be the first state in America to address this issue. Related: TGI Fridays to sell Beyond Meat’s plant-based burger in hundreds of stores Mike Deering, the executive vice president of the  Missouri Cattlemen’s Association said in a statement , “This isn’t a Missouri issue. This is about protecting the integrity of the products that farm and ranch families throughout the country work hard to raise each and every day. I never imagined we would be fighting over what is and isn’t meat. It seems silly. However, this is very real and I cannot stress enough the importance of this issue…This legislation does not stifle technology , but it does ensure the integrity of our meat supply and reduces customer confusion.” Representative Deb Lavender, a Democrat, said we should be embracing the future, and that many people “are eating differently than they used to.” Representative Tracy McCreery, also a Democrat, said she found the bill somewhat disrespectful to consumers, saying, “You guys are just trying to protect your marketing money.” The bill did find bipartisan support. Democratic representative Greg Razer agreed with the policy and said, “I love me a pork chop.” Via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and EcoWatch Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Missouri approves legislation to ban labeling plant-based ‘meat’ as meat

Court in Germany paves the way for the immediate ban of older diesel vehicles

May 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

The top administrative court in Germany has issued a ruling that empowers municipalities to ban older diesel vehicles, effective immediately, in pursuit of cleaner air. This decision comes only one day after the European Commission filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice, the highest court in the European Union (EU), that cited Germany for its cities’ continued failure to meet EU standards on nitrogen dioxide (NO?) levels. “Such restrictions, in their intensity, do not go beyond other passage and stopping bans as justified by road law requirements, which motorists always have to reckon with and which they principally have to accept,” the court said in a 30-page statement. The recent ruling and how cities respond will have significant consequences for European automakers such as Volkswagen , which have invested heavily in diesel vehicles. Diesel is known to create less greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change while emitting greater amounts of other pollutants that can cause respiratory disease. In Germany, a more dramatic diesel ban may undermine the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which has been criticized for its closeness to the industry. “This ruling is a disaster for the government which one-sidedly stands in for the greed for profit by the carmakers while leaving 10 million owners of manipulated diesel cars alone,” Juergen Resch, managing director of Germany’s DUH environmental lobby, told Eco News . Related: Rome is banning all oil-burning cars by 2024 Once imposed, diesel bans could remove millions of vehicles from the road almost immediately. Only 2.7 million of the 15 million active diesel vehicles in Germany meet the EU emissions standards. The court recommended gradual implementation of bans, starting with the removal of the most polluting vehicles. The court’s decision is the most recent policy change following the 2015 Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal . Via Eco News Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Court in Germany paves the way for the immediate ban of older diesel vehicles

Parsons School of Design unveils sustainable public seating in New York City

May 21, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Leave it to the creative minds at the Parsons School of Design to renovate public seating for a more eco-friendly world. The school recently unveiled Street Seats, a sustainably-designed public seating area made from repurposed and biodegradable products for New Yorkers to find respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. The public space, which the school unveiled this week, was inspired by the need to create more seating areas for people to relax and take a load off. In a place like New York City , public seating can be quite limited. Students from the school’s architecture, interior design, product design, and food studies departments envisioned and built Street Seats over two parking spaces on the corner of 13th street and 5th Avenue in Greenwich Village. The students crafted the space with a variety of reclaimed materials . They used rot-resistant western red cedar to build tables and stools, which were then covered in repurposed fishing nets . Related: DIY Softwalks Kits Let You Turn Ugly Scaffolding into Fun Pop-Up Parks! The lighting system in the installation is completely off-grid and operates on solar energy . After sunset, a daylight sensor activates LED lights to provide a well-lit atmosphere. The seating area is surrounded by planters to reduce traffic noise and create a pleasant environment. The planters are made with biodegradable coconut fibers and jet webbing  and house herbs and native plants. The Greenbelt Native Plant Center donated seeds for the project. + Parsons New School of Design Images by Rafael Flaksburg via Parsons New School of Design

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Parsons School of Design unveils sustainable public seating in New York City

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