There were 227 environmental defenders killed in 2020

September 15, 2021 by  
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As if it’s not bad enough that the world is suffering from  weather  extremes and other climate-related disasters, last year a record 227 environmental defenders died for protecting the planet, according to an  annual report by Global Witness . The report, which was released Monday, says that the number of murdered land defenders has more than doubled since 2013. “It’s the communities that are most impacted by the  climate  crisis who are speaking up to protect their land, their communities and our planet,” said Julie Anne Miranda-Brobeck, head of U.S. communications and global partnerships for Global Witness, as reported by EcoWatch. “It’s those environmental and land defenders who are especially vulnerable to killings and attacks.” Since the counts are based on publicly available data, the true number of fatalities may be underestimated. Related: Indigenous land defender Félix Vásquez murdered in Honduras Global Witness began publishing its annual report in 2012. Since then, the number of fallen environmental or land defenders has increased every year but one. According to the  U.N. Environment Programme  definition, environmental human rights defenders are “individuals and groups who, in their personal or professional capacity and in a peaceful manner, strive to protect and promote human rights relating to the environment, including  water , air, land, flora and fauna.” The report found that like climate change, violence against land defenders disproportionately impacts the Global South.  Colombia  (65 murders), Mexico (30 murders) and the Philippines (29 murders) were the most dangerous countries for those defending land. Latin America was especially deadly, while Africa’s fatalities more than doubled since the previous study, from 7 to 18. A killing in Canada was the only land defender murder recorded last year in the Global North. More than 71% of the land defenders killed in 2020 died defending forests. Other extractive industries, such as mining, large hydroelectric projects and agribusiness, were also deadly. The study authors noted that government inaction contributed to the deaths and that governments used the pandemic to limit protesting and free press rights. In 2020, 158 countries imposed new restrictions along these lines. Via EcoWatch Lead image via Fabrice Florin

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There were 227 environmental defenders killed in 2020

Get your vegan jewelry fix with KEVA’s cactus leather line

September 13, 2021 by  
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It’s time for animal leather to step aside. Cactus by KEVA is here with a collection of vegan leather goods that proves there’s much more to leather than animal hide. This leather is organic, animal-friendly, sustainable and vegan. It’s also PETA-certified, made in the U.S. — oh, and it looks amazing, too. Processing animal leather is a  toxic process  that involves chemicals like formaldehyde, cyanide, chromium and lead. These chemicals are commonly used by tanneries, which create waste that can contaminate the water nearby. Statistics from the CDC show that people who live near tanneries are more likely to contract serious diseases, such as cancer. All the chemicals , stiffeners and additives used to process leather also make it nearly impossible to biodegrade. This is only a part of how animal-based leather negatively impacts the environment. Collections like Cactus are working toward changing all that. Related: Miomojo presents luxurious plant-based leather bags The leather comes from the Nopal cactus , a plant perhaps better known as the prickly pear. It’s grown on an organic ranch in Mexico. The process is pretty simple; mature leaves are taken from the plant, cut and then placed in the sunlight to dry naturally for three days. No more energy than that is needed to create this vegan leather . There is no irrigation system on the ranch. Rainwater and natural minerals from the Zacatecas region of Mexico are all that feed these plants. Even with repeat harvesting, prickly pear plants last for eight years.  The leather is created from the leaves, then processed with KEVA’s patented formula to create a highly durable, flexible and beautiful leather product. The Cactus collection uses this vegan leather for beautifully and sustainably designed earrings , bracelets, watches and key rings. KEVA was created by Eva Harris and Ginny Ball, who began the company because they wanted lightweight, beautiful leather earrings. Every piece of jewelry is hand-made in their Richmond, Virginia workshop. These vegan leather accessories can be purchased on Amazon, at boutiques around the U.S. and on the KEVA website. + KEVA Images via KEVA

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Get your vegan jewelry fix with KEVA’s cactus leather line

WOHA’s final design for Singapore Pavilion nears completion

September 10, 2021 by  
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The net-zero energy Singapore Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai advocates green architecture and showcases the possibilities of integrating nature within urban environments. Displaying lush greenery, digital solutions and art, the Pavilion exemplifies Singapore’s vision of sustainable development to become a “City in Nature.” The Pavilion features extensive, multi-layered greenery, achieved by the careful planting of more than 170 plant varieties and large mature trees. Constructed by  WOHA , the building is titled “Nature. Nurture. Future.” It’s set to debut on October 1. Related: WOHA to transform polluted swamp into green university WOHA has designed a striking pavilion with hanging gardens . The building is orientated around three central cones on three levels. At the top is a solar canopy. Vertical walls of plants envelop visitors in an inviting three-dimensional green space that provides a cool respite from the buzz and excitement of the Expo grounds. Landscape design and digital and art elements are helmed by Singapore landscape architecture firm  Salad Dressing , in close partnership with WOHA. The planting strategy for the Pavilion includes plants from diverse, unique habitats from the natural heritage of Singapore, including varieties found in the tropical rainforest , freshwater forest streams and mangrove habitats.  Dubai’s desert environment poses a significant challenge to installing such a biodiverse human-designed habitat. The Pavilion’s perimeter is protected by trees and palms that thrive well in the Dubai climate, mimicking natural forest layers to shade and shield the interior. Sun-loving plants such as Singapore’s national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, frame the Pavilion’s entrance, where they receive the most direct sunlight. As part of water conservation efforts, potable water produced through the on-site solar desalination process is deployed through drip irrigation to minimize water wastage. Leaf litter is also used to replace water-consuming ground cover and retain water in the soil . Together with misting, the greenery helps to increase humidity and thermal comfort within the Pavilion.  Measuring about 70 centimeters in diameter, three climbing robots weighing 40 kilograms each will be deployed to traverse the vertical green walls of the Pavilion’s thematic cones. These prototypes from  Oceania Robotics  work in service of plant health. In addition to inspecting the health of the plants, they will also capture data for the calibration of irrigation and grow-light settings to help the plants thrive. The robots can recognize plants in poor health that need to be replaced. The customized planting palette and innovative technological applications used in water and energy management are design strategies that enable the Singapore Pavilion to achieve its net-zero energy target. Visitors are invited to participate in a generative artwork at the Galleria that allows them to visualize the performance of the Pavilion’s integrated ecosystem and how it impacts the environment. This generative artwork is a result of interactive mobile gameplay using the Pavilion’s data collected through the climbing robots and sensors. Players “collect sunlight” using solar panels to power the desalination process that will produce potable water for the virtual saplings, which then grow into trees to remove pollutants in the air. The gameboard is unique for each player and determined by real-time data from the Pavilion. Through this game, visitors can learn more about the Pavilion’s sustainable strategies. This playful interaction is also a reminder for visitors of how their actions impact collective environmental outcomes.  + Singapore 2020 Expo Images © Singapore Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai and Arthur Ng/National Parks Board

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WOHA’s final design for Singapore Pavilion nears completion

Half of nitrogen applied to crops is lost

September 9, 2021 by  
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Food production is becoming less efficient at using nitrogen fertilizer and excess nitrogen damages the environment and the climate.

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Half of nitrogen applied to crops is lost

Siemens Gamesa makes "world’s first" recyclable wind turbine

September 8, 2021 by  
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Siemens Gamesa claims to have created the world’s first recyclable wind turbine blades. The RecyclableBlade turbine blades are ready to be used offshore. The new blade design allows the parts and materials to disintegrate at the end of their lifespan. The turbine blades use several materials combined and cast together with resin. Gregorio Acero, Head of Quality Management & Health, Safety and Environment at Siemens Gamesa, says the company plans for the turbines to “generate renewable electricity for 20-30 years.” Related: Wind-powered lamp post helps reduce light pollution Thanks to the chemical structure of the new resin material used, it is possible to separate the resin from other components when the turbine reaches the end of its lifespan. While the tower and nacelle components of wind turbines have established recycling protocols, Siemens Gamesa’s invention improves the recyclability of the composite materials in turbine blades. Previously, the difficulty of separating these materials led to many turbines going to the landfill once no longer usable. Siemens Gamesa CEO Andreas Nauen says that thinking about recycling and reusing products is a must if the world wants to successfully address the climate crisis . “The time to tackle climate emergency is now, and we need to do it in a holistic way,” said Nauen. “In pioneering wind circularity – where elements contribute to a circular economy of the wind industry – we have reached a major milestone in a society that puts care for the environment at its heart.” Siemens Gamesa has partnered with RWE to install the turbines with recyclable blades in a first-of-its-kind project. The turbines will be installed at the Kaskasi offshore wind power plant in Germany . Siemens Gamesa will be monitor and maintain them starting in 2022. “The RecyclableBlade is another tangible example of how Siemens Gamesa is leading technological development in the wind industry,” said Nauen. + Siemens Gamesa Via CNBC and Renewable Energy Magazine

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Siemens Gamesa makes "world’s first" recyclable wind turbine

20 livestock firms emit more greenhouse gas than Britain, France or Germany

September 8, 2021 by  
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What produces 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide? The animal agriculture sector. According to a new report by animal campaigners, 20 livestock companies contribute more emissions than Britain, France or Germany. And  governments  subsidize them to do so. About 2,500 banks, pension funds and investment firms financed global meat and dairy companies to the tune of $478 billion between 2015 and 2020, according to the  Meat Atlas . And the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicts meat production will rise by another 40 million tons a year by 2029. China, Brazil, the United States and some European Union members produce the most  meat . But lower-income developing countries are trying to get their piece of the shepherd’s pie. Poultry is growing especially fast, with experts predicting that it will account for 41% of all meat protein globally by 2030. Related: Air pollution from US meat production causes 16,000 deaths annually Food and agriculture campaigner Stanka Becheva, who works with Friends of the Earth, said, “we need to begin reducing the number of food animals on the planet and incentivise different consumption models,” as reported in The Guardian. Meat industry regulations need to be beefed up, too, “to make sure companies are paying for the harms they have created throughout the supply chain and to minimise further damage.” Banks and investors financing large, intensive projects to produce more animal  protein  also pose a problem. Paolo Patruno, deputy secretary general of the European Association for the Meat Processing Industry, minimized having such a meaty role in emissions. “We don’t believe that any food sector is more or less  sustainable  than another. But there are more or less sustainable ways to produce plant or animal foods and we are committed to making animal protein production more sustainable,” Patruno said, according to The Guardian. “We also know that average GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions in the EU from livestock is half that of the global average. The global average is about 14% and the EU average is 7%.” Meanwhile, the National Farmers’ Union in England and  Wales  is going for net-zero emissions by 2040. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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20 livestock firms emit more greenhouse gas than Britain, France or Germany

Designing sustainable habitats at the San Diego Zoo

September 8, 2021 by  
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What’s more amazing, a tiny nectar-drinking  bird  that weighs less than a nickel and can fly backward, or a giant carnivorous lizard that can smell a dying animal up to six miles away? They’re both impressive, and now visitors to the San Diego Zoo can experience both hummingbirds and Komodo dragons in brand new habitats just steps away from each other. The two new  habitats  have been carefully designed, both from an eco-materials standpoint and considering what will make these creatures feel most at home. The hummingbirds can bathe in their choice of three water ponds, each using recycled water, or nest in green walls. Visitor benches are made from recycled plastic lumber. Komodo Kingdom features three distinct environments that wild dragons would enjoy — mountain highland, woodland and beach. The habitat also features heated caves and logs, pools and misters to replicate the hot and steamy environment of their native Indonesia. Related: San Diego Zoo successfully clones an endangered Przewalski’s horse There’s also an area of deep, soft sand for egg-laying. Zookeepers hope that Ratu, the female, and Satu, the male, will like each other enough to make baby lizards. Satu only arrived a few months ago, in time for the opening of Komodo Kingdom in June. The two haven’t met yet, and are currently being kept in separate parts of the enclosure. So what’s it like designing habitats for such diverse creatures as Komodo dragons and hummingbirds? Inhabitat talked to San Diego Zoo  architect  Vanessa Nevers to find out. Inhabitat: How did you go about researching the lifestyle and preferences of Komodo dragons? Nevers: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s Architecture and Planning department worked closely with our  wildlife  care experts to determine not only the needs of the Komodo dragon but also the ways that the habitat design would encourage natural behaviors such as digging, soaking in shallow waters and basking, to name a few. Inhabitat: What factors did you take into consideration when designing Komodo Kingdom from a materials standpoint? Nevers: For the Komodo habitats, getting enough UV  light  into the space is critical, as is maintaining the hot, humid environments that Komodo dragons thrive in. The roof and clerestory at the two indoor habitats consist of an ETFE [Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a recyclable plastic that’s 100 times lighter than glass] system that facilitates appropriate levels of UV transmission and climate control. Other factors to take into account for habitat design are soils and plantings that are safe for the Komodo dragons and allow for natural behaviors. Also, the ability to create sheltered areas and pools that are just the right size, heated rocks and elevated areas for basking is very important and is usually executed with shotcrete rockwork. Inhabitat: What are the main features of the hummingbird enclosure? Nevers: Interestingly, the features that make the Hummingbird Habitat great for birds also make it very pleasant for people. The central spatial feature is a semicircular cenote-themed shotcrete structure with fly-through openings and vertical plantings. This structure breaks up the experience into three spaces which also helps define territories for the birds. The flowing ponds and streams, as well as a built-in misting system, add ambiance but also provide ample bird bathing opportunities. And of course, the tropical  plantings  with big broad leaves and the nectar-producing plants are also essential and enjoyable for both birds and people. Inhabitat: How did sustainability affect your choice of building materials? Nevers:  Sustainability  is an important consideration in the selection of all building materials. For example, the ceilings at Komodo Kingdom and Hummingbird Habitat are clad with Accoya wood, and the interior and exterior walls at Hummingbird Habitat are clad with Moso [a type of bamboo]. Both Accoya wood and Moso are Forest Stewardship Council-certified products. The ETFE system, which has been awarded the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), is used at both Komodo Kingdom and Hummingbird Habitat. It has low levels of embodied energy and can be recycled at the end of its useful life into components used in the manufacture of new ETFE systems. Inhabitat: Did anything surprise you during the process? Nevers: Komodo dragons like it hot, really hot! Their native habitat in the islands of  Indonesia  is usually about 95 degrees Fahrenheit with 70% humidity. This doesn’t sound surprising on paper, but stepping into the indoor habitats in Komodo Kingdom shortly before the dragons moved in was like walking into a sauna. The Komodo dragons love it, but I felt like I was melting! Inhabitat: How does it feel to design habitats for rare and endangered creatures? Nevers: Amazing! Being part of a team that creates habitats that allow these  animals  to thrive is one of the two most rewarding aspects of my work. The other is creating opportunities for people to really appreciate how incredible all life is and the importance of sustaining healthy habitats around the world. Inhabitat: What would you like people to know about the work that you do? Nevers: Zoo architecture is so much more than the design and construction of buildings; it truly is the architecture of experience. From the range of habitat experiences for the animals to the experiences in the guest landscape, these are all part of a larger effort to foster relationships with nature in support of  conservation  for a healthy planet. + San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Images courtesy of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Designing sustainable habitats at the San Diego Zoo

Rental is a new frontier for the great outdoors

September 3, 2021 by  
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There are a growing number of companies providing various options for outdoor or alpine sports equipment rental, in Europe and elsewhere. They offer a new way to save money while being respectful of the environment.

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Rental is a new frontier for the great outdoors

Leaded gasoline finally phased out worldwide

September 1, 2021 by  
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Leaded gasoline is no longer used anywhere in the world, according to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP). Algeria, the last country left using leaded gasoline, finished its stockpile in July. The campaign to end the use of leaded gasoline started in 1924, just a few years after the practice of adding lead to gasoline started. Leaded gasoline was used to improve engine performance, but concerns over its health effects began following the death of five workers at a Standard Oil refinery. Dozens of other workers were also hospitalized for convulsions. Related: Petaluma becomes first US city to ban new gas stations Studies later revealed that lead harmed both humans and the environment at large. It can contaminate the air, degrade soil quality and pollute water, among other effects. Those affected by lead are at risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke. Research shows that lead may also cause brain development issues in children. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has welcomed the discontinuation of leaded gasoline, saying, “Ending the use of leaded petrol will prevent more than one million premature deaths each year from heart disease, strokes, and cancer, and it will protect children whose IQs are damaged by exposure to lead.” Although lead’s negative health effects were discovered early, many countries continued using leaded gasoline. The campaign to put an end to leaded gasoline intensified in the 1980s, when most wealthy countries had stopped using it. By the early 2000s, only 86 countries still used leaded gasoline. In 2016, North Korea, Myanmar and Afghanistan stopped selling leaded gasoline, leaving only a few countries (including Iraq, Yemen and Algeria) still producing the gasoline. Since 2002, UNEP has helped governments phase out the substance. “Leaded fuel illustrates in a nutshell the kind of mistakes humanity has been making at every level of our societies,” Inger Andersen, UNEP executive director, said. The end of leaded gasoline use shows that “humanity can learn from and fix mistakes that we’ve made,” Andersen added. Thandile Chinyavanhu, climate campaigner at Greenpeace Africa, continued by saying that “if we can phase out one of the most dangerous polluting fuels in the 20th century, we can absolutely phase out all fossil fuels.” Via BBC and NPR Lead image via Pixabay

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Leaded gasoline finally phased out worldwide

How many trees are needed to offset a city’s carbon emissions?

August 26, 2021 by  
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Trees are nature’s lungs. While we enjoy their beauty, shade and fruits of their existence, they are silently working to clean the air. The natural process of all plants taking in carbon and releasing oxygen not only gives us clean air to breathe but also stores carbon that otherwise contributes to global warming . Countries around the world are in a race to find solutions for these types of greenhouse gases, which are a result of human activities like driving cars and manufacturing goods. While the push for electric vehicles and renewable energy through  solar panels , wind power and hydroelectricity takes the spotlight, another part of the solution equation is growing all around us in the form of trees. Related: Three Americans’ lifetime emissions enough to kill one person The simple fact is, planting trees is an exceptional tool in the fight against climate change. With this in mind,  Compare The Market  has presented its most recent research on the number of trees capital cities around the world would need to plant annually to offset the carbon emissions they contribute to the atmosphere. The study is based on information available through the Global Carbon Atlas Global City Emissions dataset, which measures emissions levels. While major cities work to reverse, slow down and stop the creation of these carbon emissions, what is the estimated number of trees it would take to counterbalance them? Which countries are the highest contributors and which have the lowest  environmental  impact? According to the data, Asia has some work to do. Five of the ten top carbon-emitting capital cities are in Asia. Note that for comparative purposes, the dataset measures transport, industrial,  waste  and local power plants emissions within city boundaries. The report combined data to show the total amount of carbon produced alongside the number of trees it would take to offset it. For example, the five cities in Asia, which include Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul, release a combined 219,506,539 tCO2 annually. The cities would have to plant 43,901,308 trees each year to offset those emissions. Individually, Beijing would need to plant 15,020,976 trees, followed by Singapore with 9,366,336 and Hong Kong with 8,975,292. Tokyo needs a 5,522,200-plant offset and Seoul 5,016,504. Other cities in the top 10 were Istanbul, Lagos, Santiago, London and Mexico City.  An energy spokesperson at Compare The Market comments, “Becoming carbon neutral is an essential goal for countries around the world, and as pledges roll in to reach this target by 2050 and beyond, immediate action is needed. One way we have studied is to offset emissions by planting trees which is great for absorbing CO2, with added benefits of supporting the ecosystem and  wildlife .” The tree offset calculation is based on information sourced from Carbonify.com’s carbon dioxide emissions calculator. The estimates are based on the assumption that five  trees  planted can clean up each ton of carbon dioxide produced.  The study stated, “A tree planted in the humid tropics absorbs on average 50 pounds (22 kg) of carbon dioxide annually over 40 years – each tree will absorb 1 ton of CO2 over its lifetime; but as trees grow, they compete for resources and some may die or be destroyed – not all will achieve their full carbon sequestration potential.” On the other end of the data spectrum are the countries performing better in the battle of low carbon emissions. For these results, a few substitutions were made in the face of missing data. Toronto, Milan and Basel were substituted to include Canada, Italy and Switzerland in the study. Reykjavik, Iceland was the least carbon-emitting capital in the study with total emissions of 346,630 tCO2 per year. The city would still have some work to do, planting 69,326 trees annually to offset its footprint. Of all the cities in the study, Reykjavik was the only one to come in below the 500,000 tCO2-produced mark. Even though nearly 70,000 is still a lot of trees, it was also the only city to have an estimate below 100,000 trees per year to offset carbon emissions. New Zealand took second place for carbon control with annual emissions of 621,179 tCO2. For Wellington to neutralize this, it will have to plant 124,236 trees a year. Basel, Switzerland, had the third-lowest number to plant at 156,786 trees to offset its 783,932 tCO2 footprint. Every other city in the study came in at over 200,000 trees a year. The study provides one tool in an array of options to reduce carbon release. Planting trees alone isn’t a sustainable solution, but neither is focusing solely on renewable energy or  recycling . To achieve goals set by world leaders, it will take a combination of actions across a range of environmental fields.  “The number of trees required may seem very high in cities like Beijing which would need to plant over 15 million trees, but this is if we only used plant power alone. There are many other initiatives and technologies in place, like the government incentives, which present lots of opportunities to offset carbon emissions on a small and large scale,” the spokesman said. + Compare The Market Images via Pixabay

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How many trees are needed to offset a city’s carbon emissions?

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