Japanese train barks and snorts to protect deer from harm

January 18, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Researchers from the Railway Technical Research Institute in Japan have equipped a train with a speaker that plays the sounds of dogs barking and deer snorting to protect deer from harm. A three-second deer snort is played first to catch the attention of any nearby deer, followed by 20 seconds of dog barking to scare the animals away. So far, the late-night tests of the anti-deer device have proven successful, resulting in a reduction in deer sightings by half. If further evidence supports the practice, it may be adopted more broadly, though the deer-dog combo noise would likely not be blasted in residential areas. Deer fatalities by train have proven to be a challenge because the animals are attracted to train tracks. To meet their iron dietary needs, deer lick the tracks to pick up iron filings that have formed through friction between the train wheels and the tracks. The transport ministry of Japan reports that in 2016, there were 613 cases of trains hitting deer and other wild animals, a record high number, with each collision resulting in delays of 30 minutes or more. Related: Utah plans $5 million wildlife bridge over deadly I-80 highway There have been several attempts to make railroads less attractive spots for deer, including spraying lion feces along the tracks. This plan was abandoned after rain washed away the animal waste products almost immediately. Another more successful plan involved the use of ultrasonic waves, projected when a train is coming to deter animals , then dropped when the coast is clear to regulate the use of the train tracks. Trials of this technology resulted in a notable decrease in deer deaths. For this, railway employee Yuki Hikita was awarded Japan’s Good Design Award in December 2017. Via BBC Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Japanese train barks and snorts to protect deer from harm

Norway shoots for 100% electric short-haul flights by 2040

January 18, 2018 by  
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More than 50 percent of new car sales in Norway were electric vehicles in December, according to Electrek . Now the country aims to take the electric revolution to the skies. Norwegian airports public operator Avinor wants all their short-haul flights to be electric in just over 20 years. CEO Dag Falk-Petersen told Agence France Presse (AFP) they’re hoping “to be the first in the world” to switch over to electric air transportation . Every short-haul airliner should be electric by 2040 in Norway, Avinor said this week. Falk-Petersen told AFP, “We think that all flights lasting up to 1.5 hours can be flown by aircraft that are entirely electric.” He said that would include all domestic flights and trips to nearby Scandinavian capitals. Related: Eviation Aircraft unveils all-electric plane with 600-mile range 2.4 percent of Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions come from domestic air transportation – and when international routes are taken into account the figure is over double that. Falk-Petersen told the AFP, “When we will have reached our goal, air travel will no longer be a problem for the climate , it will be a solution.” There are other benefits to electric flight besides lowered carbon emissions – such as reduced operating costs. Falk-Petersen also said electric flight would halve noise levels at least. Avinor will explore intermediary technologies, like hybrid fuel-electric options or biofuels , before making the switch to all-electric. The company recently teamed up with the Norwegian Air Sports Federation to purchase the first electric aircraft in Norway from Pipistrel . The Alpha Electro G2 is a two-seater aircraft with a range of 130 kilometers, or just over 80 miles. Falk-Petersen said in Avinor’s press release on the purchase that lower operating costs could have an impact on ticket prices as well. AFP reported Avinor also aims to start a tender offer to trial a commercial route with a 19-seat electric plane beginning in 2025. Via Agence France Presse and Electrek Images via Avinor ( 1 , 2 )

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Norway shoots for 100% electric short-haul flights by 2040

China built the ‘World’s biggest air purifier’ – and it seems to be working

January 17, 2018 by  
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What has been called the world’s largest air purifier by its operators is now up and running in the Chinese city of Xian in Shaanxi province. The 100-meter (328 feet) tall tower has already improved the local air quality, lead scientist Cao Junji told the South China Morning Post , adding that it could prove to be a valuable tool in the country’s fight against urban air pollution . “The tower has no peer in terms of size … the results are quite encouraging,” he said. Greenhouses covering the size of half a soccer field surround the base of the tower, into which polluted air is pulled. The smog is heated in the greenhouse by solar energy, then rises through the tower, passing through several layers of cleaning filters. Because Xian largely relies on coal for heating, smog can become exceptionally thick and harmful during the cold months. Despite the lower level of solar energy available during the winter , a special coating on the tower’s greenhouses allows it to absorb what is available more efficiently and continue to pull smog all year long. To determine the tower’s impact on local air quality, Cao and his team erected over a dozen monitoring stations. The team found that the average reduction in PM2.5, the most harmful particles in smog, was 15 percent during times of heavy pollution. Related: China is planting 6.6 million hectares of new forest — almost the size of Ireland Cao stresses that the results are only initial while further details will be released in the spring. A comprehensive scientific assessment of the tower’s effectiveness is also forthcoming. Nonetheless, what is known is promising. While there have been other similar smog-removing towers, many of which were powered by coal-fueled electricity, the Xian tower is unique in its very limited electricity needs. “It barely requires any power input throughout daylight hours. The idea has worked very well in the test run,” said Cao. While locals have marveled at the tower’s size, it is in fact a miniature version of smog-removing towers that Cao and his team hope to install throughout China’s dense, massive cities . The full-size version could reach as high as 500 meters (1,640 feet) while the surrounding greenhouses could cover nearly 30 square kilometers (11.6 square miles). Via South China Morning Post Images via South China Morning Post and Colin Capelle/Flickr

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China built the ‘World’s biggest air purifier’ – and it seems to be working

Iceland supermarket commits to eliminating plastic within five years

January 17, 2018 by  
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Iceland Foods has committed to removing all plastic from its brand-name products within the next five years and replacing it with recyclable materials such as pulp and paper. The UK-based supermarket chain is the first major retailer in the country to commit to a complete elimination of plastic. “The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival,” Iceland managing director Richard Walker told the Guardian . “The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change.” Iceland acknowledges that it is now practical to make the switch to plastic-free products, thanks to technological advancements in alternative packaging . “There really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment,” said Walker. The supermarket chain has already removed plastic straws from its stores and products and will soon switch to paper-based food trays. Related: Britain’s first zero-waste store is packaging-free and only sells ethical goods The move by Iceland has been praised by environmental activists like John Sauven, executive director for Greenpeace UK , who acknowledged the “bold pledge” while pressing “other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge,” according to the Guardian . “Iceland’s commitment to go plastic-free by 2023 shows that powerful retailers can take decisive action to provide what their customers want, without the environment paying for it,” added Samantha Harding of the Campaign to Protect Rural England . Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has committed to eliminating all avoidable public waste within the next 25 years. May has also supported anti-plastic policies such as the expansion of a plastic bag tax, encouraging supermarkets to add plastic-free aisles, and funding research and development of plastic alternatives and support for developing countries as they seek to shift to away from plastic and its pollution . Via the Guardian Images via Iceland Foods

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Iceland supermarket commits to eliminating plastic within five years

Geothermal-powered Halifax home uses automation for energy savings

January 17, 2018 by  
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Omar Gandhi Architect completed a handsome luxury home in Halifax that’s both modern in appearance and in its use of energy-efficient technologies. Located in the south end of Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Syncline House is a two-story residence with a mezzanine set atop a rocky foundation that inspired the home’s name. Energy efficiency was a major feature of the new-build, from the ample natural lighting and triple-glazed windows to the use of geothermal and solar energy. Set atop a concrete base, Syncline House comprises two interconnected volumes connected via a light-filled atrium and clad in textured Fibre-C panels, a type of lightweight white fiber-cement panel that boasts fire resistance and long-term durability. The taller of the two volumes houses the communal areas like the open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen on the main floor and a media room and gym on the ground floor. The second volume contains a master ensuite, office, and dressing room on the main floor and a garage on the ground floor. A guest bedroom is placed on the mezzanine level. Related: Artists’ Wooden Cabin Climbs Up a Hillside in Nova Scotia Full-height triple-glazed windows frame stunning views of Point Pleasant Park next door and the ocean waters of the North-West Arm beyond. The homeowners can also enjoy the view from west-facing walkout decks that extend from the living room and from the master bedroom. The airy and light-filled interior features wide white oak flooring, whitewashed walls, and floor-to-ceiling header-less doors. Rooftop solar panels and geothermal heat pumps power the home that uses automated blinds and recessed windows on the southwest facade for passive cooling. + Omar Gandhi Architect Via ArchDaily Images via Omar Gandhi Architect

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Geothermal-powered Halifax home uses automation for energy savings

Most active volcano in the Philippines sends locals and tourists fleeing

January 16, 2018 by  
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Mount Mayon, the most active volcano in the Philippines , sent lava billowing down its slopes on Tuesday and prompted an evacuation of more than 21,000 locals who live in threatened areas. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, lava flowed as far as 1.2 miles from the crater while ash from the volcanic activity spread to several communities in the northeastern Albay Province, where Mayon is located. Although the sight of an active volcano is breathtaking, authorities have advised that people remain beyond the 3.7-4.3 mile danger zone around Mayon. “They say it’s beauty juxtaposed with danger,” Office of Civil Defense regional director Claudio Yucot said, according to CBS News . Of the at least 21,800 people to be displaced by Mayon’s most recent eruptive episode, over 16,800 have taken shelter in 22 schools throughout the region. Others found safety at the homes of relatives far from the danger zone. Locals have expressed concern for their livestocks, which authorities have met by setting up evacuation areas for animals such as pigs, poultry, water buffalo, and cattle.  Despite the vivid display of danger, the volcano’s current lava spell was sparked by lava fragments splitting from the lava flow, not from an explosive eruption from within the crater. Further, scientists have not observed the level of volcanic earthquakes that would indicate an imminent eruption. If such an eruption were to appear imminent, authorities say that they are ready for a large-scale evacuation operation. Related: Scientists construct new theory of Yellowstone’s supervolcano hotspot Mayon has erupted about 50 times in the past 500 years, often with great strength. Its first recorded eruption was in 1616 while the most destructive occurred in 1814, when 1,200 people were killed and the town of Cagsawa was buried. The most recent episode before the current occurred in 2013 when an eruption of ash killed five people who attempted to climb the volcano despite warnings. While Mount Mayon may be the most active, it certainly is not the only volcano in the Philippines. Mayon is a part of the Ring of Fire, an area in the Pacific in which seismic faults are plentiful and often produce earthquakes and volcanic activity. Via CBS News Images via Denvie Balidoy/Flickr and Tom Falcon/Flickr

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Most active volcano in the Philippines sends locals and tourists fleeing

The organic farm teaching sustainable growing techniques in Canada’s cold, dark north

January 15, 2018 by  
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Tucked inside the lush boreal forest in Canada’s Northwest Territories, you’ll find something unexpected. There, cheek to jowl with the ever-encroaching trees sits a thriving farm with snuffling pigs, lush fruit trees, and acres of vegetables, all in an environment that is anything but hospitable to agriculture . But creating a flourishing, regenerative landscape perfect for establishing local food security is exactly what the Northern Farm Training Institute is all about. Their goal is to help people form their own holistic growing environments to support healthy, food-secure communities – even if they happen to be located above the 60th parallel.   The Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) was founded in 2013 as a way to train people in isolated communities how to grow their own food and to restore northern environment-based food systems. Since then, the farm has taught 147 people from over 30 communities – half of those from First Nations/Metis/Inuvialuit communities – to create their own farms. NFTI grew as Jackie Milke, a local Hay River Metis woman, recognized the need to alleviate food insecurity in local communities. She quickly realized that there was a large demand for this type of learning, and the 260-acre farm has since hosted 30 intensive workshops in what they call a “living classroom.” The farm consists of outdoor gardens, a hoop greenhouse, and a geodesic dome greenhouse. On the farm live herds of sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, and chickens, with an animal barn, industrial kitchen and farm store. There are also 10 small yurts that act as student housing, and one large yurt for classroom learning. All of this is surrounded by the nearby Hay River, fields, forests and ponds. Related: Utopian off-grid Regen Village produces all of its own food and energy Farming in the NFTI focuses on regenerative, holistically-grown food that improves the health of the land and wildlife. The farm is completely organic and uses tactics like minimal tillage, and supporting biodiversity and soil health to help maintain a healthy environment. The farm grows a variety of berries, cherries, herbs, greens, carrots, beets, beans, potatoes, radishes and cruciferous vegetables. To further support a healthy community, NFTI uses produce that is being thrown out by local grocery stores to feed their pigs. In the fall, they teach wool washing, felting and dying. Pigs are used to help clear land for farming, and sheep help weed and fertilize pasture areas. They also work with animals that are more comfortable in colder climates, like Iceland Sheep and yaks , rather than the Rambouillet sheep and Angus cattle so familiar in the US. During the winter, with just six daylight hours, aurora borealis overhead and a sunset at 3:45 pm, the Northern Farm Training Institute doesn’t sit back and take January off. They grow seedlings inside their greenhouses, using snow to water the plants. The sunlight bouncing off the snow outside creates an ideal lighting effect for the growing plants. And the farm collects and uses discarded shredded paper from local communities to keep the animals warm. They also teach cheesemaking classes and food storage classes. The farm’s goal can be summed up as this: “Together we can transform Canada’s north. Regenerative agriculture provides the key to our food security, economic growth, and environmental restoration.” If you’d like to check the farm out, you can stop on by, either as a visitor, student or volunteer. Head to their webpage for more information. + Northern Farm Training Institute images via NFTI

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The organic farm teaching sustainable growing techniques in Canada’s cold, dark north

Massive underwater volcanic eruption spewed rock raft visible from space

January 15, 2018 by  
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Passengers on a plane flight in 2012 saw something strange from the air: a raft of floating rock called pumice that grew to be roughly the size of Philadelphia, over 150 square miles, in the southwest Pacific Ocean . The raft hinted at an unusually large underwater volcanic eruption . In 2015, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of Tasmania led an investigation to collect materials and map the volcano – and they found some surprises. Over 70 percent of volcanic activity on our planet happens on the seafloor, but scientists don’t always get a close-up view of events typically hidden by seawater. In 2012, the Havre volcano, northeast of New Zealand, erupted – and this time researchers got a chance to study the aftermath in what the WHOI described as “the first up-close investigation of the largest underwater volcanic eruption of the past century.” The eruption was so massive it generated a raft of pumice that could be glimpsed from space. Related: Underwater Volcanic Eruption Creates a New Island in the Pacific Ocean WHOI scientist Adam Soule said in the institution’s statement, “Heading to the site, we were fully prepared to investigate a typical deep-sea explosive eruption. When we looked at the detailed maps from the AUV [autonomous underwater vehicle], we saw all these bumps on the seafloor and I thought the vehicle’s sonar was acting up. It turned out that each bump was a giant block of pumice, some of them the size of a van. I had never seen anything like it on the seafloor.” Lava came from 14 volcanic vent sites 3,000 to 4,000 feet below the surface in the eruption. Scientists had thought the explosion would generate mostly pumice, but also found ash, lava domes, and seafloor lava flows, per WHOI. Soule said, “Ultimately we believe that none of the magma was erupted in the ways we assume an explosive eruption occurs on land.” According to WHOI’s video, such research could help us better understand the planet’s evolution . The journal Scientific Advances published the research last week. 20 scientists at institutions in Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and Japan collaborated on the work. Via the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Images via Rebecca Carey, University of Tasmania, Adam Soule, WHOI, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ; Multidisciplinary Instrumentation in Support of Oceanography (MISO) Facility, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ; and the Sentry Group, WHOI

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Massive underwater volcanic eruption spewed rock raft visible from space

Denmark is cleaning up US pollution in Greenland

January 15, 2018 by  
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Denmark is cleaning up the United State’s mess – literally. Half a century ago, the US abandoned several military bases in Greenland, leaving behind toxic pollution . Now, the Danish government announced that it will foot the bill to clean it up, to the tune of $30 million dollars. After World War II , the US didn’t need it’s Greenland military bases anymore, so it abandoned them without cleaning up after themselves. Since then, Greenland has petitioned Denmark, which controlled the island as a colony during WWII, to clean up the pollution or request that the US do so. It appears that Denmark has opted for the former, and they signed a document last week committing to the cleanup process. Related: Greenland’s ice is melting faster than previously thought Although the extent of the remaining pollution remains unclear, it includes things like 100,000 oil drums at one airfield. Other bases contain radioactive and toxic materials, but those bases aren’t covered under this agreement. The current funding likely won’t cover the entire cleanup efforts, but Denmark has stated that it will make more money available if necessary. For now, specialists will take a look at the sites and determine just how much cleanup is necessary. Via Arctic Now Images via Wikimedia ( 1 , 2 )

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Denmark is cleaning up US pollution in Greenland

Drinking water for 170 million Americans tainted by radiation

January 12, 2018 by  
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Up to 170 million Americans in all fifty states may be exposed to radiation-tainted drinking water . Using data from 50,000 public water systems, the Environmental Working Group found that more than 22,000 utilities reported the presence of radium in treated drinking water between 2010 and 2015. Although only a small number of these systems had radium levels that exceeded the legal limits put in place by the EPA in 1976, these guidelines are in need of an update to ensure the public is aware of potential risks — which should be minimized. Perhaps unsurprisingly, President Trump ‘s nominee to be the White House environmental czar, Kathleen Hartnett White, does not even believe in the science behind the EPA’s current, insufficient standard for radium monitoring. Although the amount of radiation in the drinking water is minimal, there is a risk to public health, particularly if standards and policy are not based on the latest science. “Most radioactive elements in tap water come from natural sources, but that doesn’t take away the need to protect people through stronger standards and better water treatment,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG’s senior science advisor for children’s environmental health. “Millions of Americans are drinking water with potentially harmful levels of radioactive elements, but the outdated federal standards mean many people don’t know about the risk they face when they turn on the tap.” In Texas, about 80 percent of the water tested contained detectable levels of two radium isotopes. While Trump nominee Kathleen Hartnett White was the Lone Star State’s top environmental regulator, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would alter the numbers to make it seem that tap water in Texas met federal standards. Related: “Raw water” craze draws concern from health professionals During an 2011 investigation, Hartnett White admitted that she did not believe in the science that supported the EPA guidelines. When asked by a reporter what would come if Harnett White was wrong and the EPA was right, she simply said that “it would be regrettable.” After Harnett White admitted to the United States Senate that Texas did indeed alter data, her nomination was rejected. Nonetheless, the Trump White House decided to renominate her in hopes that senators would let her negligence slide. “Putting someone in charge of CEQ who deliberately falsified data to get around federal regulations is outrageous, and the fact that her deception left people at serious risk of cancer is even more alarming,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s vice president of government affairs. “The Senate should reject this radioactive nominee.” Via EWG Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Drinking water for 170 million Americans tainted by radiation

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