"Piggy Bank," a turtle that swallowed 915 coins, has died

March 23, 2017 by  
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A venerated sea turtle who was fed hundreds of coins by supplicants seeking good fortune is dead . The 25-year-old animal was living in a pond in a town near the Gulf of Thailand in late February when rescuers found her close to drowning from the weight of her cache—about 11 pounds worth. After naming her Omsin, which is Thai for “piggy bank,” a team of veterinary surgeons operated on the turtle for seven hours. By the time they were finished, they had filled a bucket with 915 coins, in currencies both foreign and domestic. Omsin was expected to survive, if not thrive. By all accounts, her rehabilitation at Bangkok’s Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animals Research Center went smoothly. She received laser therapy on her belly incision. A large kiddie pool, coupled with physical therapy for a wonky flipper, helped her ease back into water. Following a liquid diet, Omsin returned to eating solid food. “She is getting stronger,” Nantarika Chansue, a veterinary scientist who tracked Omsin’s progress on Facebook, wrote on March 9. Just as her doctors began planning her release to the wild, Omsin’s condition suddenly deteriorated. They found her intestines in a tangle in the space where the coins once filled. An infection had developed, causing her abdomen to swell up with gas and fluid. Related: Sea turtle is rescued after being dragged onto a beach and beaten for selfies Despite rushing the turtle into intensive care on Sunday night, then emergency surgery on Monday, Omsin lapsed into a comma. On Tuesday, she died, a victim of ignorance and superstition. “At 10:10 a.m., she went with peace,” Nantarika said during a news conference. Visibly weeping, she called Omsin her “friend, teacher and patient.” Nantarika was comforted by just one thought. “She at least had the chance to swim freely and eat happily before she passed,” she said. Via the Washington Post Photos by Unsplash

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"Piggy Bank," a turtle that swallowed 915 coins, has died

San Diego brewery unveils beer made from 100% recycled wastewater

March 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

San Diego is aiming to to become the most environmentally sustainable city in the United States. As part of its ambitious Climate Action Plan , last year the city council unanimously approved a $3 billion initiative to recycle wastewater for drinking. Now the city is demonstrating that the pure water program can be used for just about anything, even a cold beer, by partnering with Encinitas-based craft beer maker Stone Brewery to unveil Stone Full Circle Pale Ale — a beer made with 100 percent recycled wastewater from the city’s pure water program. “Just a great example of what this is gonna be like in terms of the future and Stone who’s a huge driver of not just the craft beer industry but sustainability, that’s what our pure water program is all about,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at Stone’s Point Loma location last week, where city leaders gathered to sample the beer and talk up the pure water program. Related: San Diego to become largest U.S. city to run on 100% renewable energy The wastewater recycling plan puts purified water treated at the Point Loma Water Treatment Plant back into the freshwater system rather than the ocean — providing a steady source of potable water to protect the water supply from drought and disruptions to water imports. The pure water program is expected to deliver 30 million gallons of recycled water a day within five years and 83 million gallons of drinking water per day when fully implemented in 2035 — providing one-third of the city’s freshwater supply. Stone, the largest brewery in San Diego and ninth largest in the country, produced five barrels of the beer using water trucked in from the city’s pure water demonstration plant in Miramar. “We like trial and we like testing and if we can help others jump on the same bandwagon, we would love to do that because it’s a great thing for the City of San Diego,” said Stone Chief Operating Officer Pat Tiernan. + Stone Brewery + San Diego Water Sustainability Program Via UPI Images via Wikimedia  and Twitter

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San Diego brewery unveils beer made from 100% recycled wastewater

Archaeologist suggests ancient humans helped catalyze the Sahara’s desertification

March 17, 2017 by  
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The Sahara Desert we know, with its rolling sand dunes and hot temperatures, used to be a verdant grassland with lakes. Scientists have traditionally attributed the dramatic change to a wobble in Earth’s orbital axis , but now archaeologist David K. Wright of Seoul National University is suggesting actually, humans may have been to blame. A 10,000-year or so wet period called the African Humid Period brought moisture to northern and eastern Africa. But around 8,000 years ago the moisture balance began to change. Today below the sand-dominated landscape can be found signs of rivers and plants, remnants of a greener history. In an article published in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science , Wright explained humans used to be thought of as passive agents in the end of the African Humid Period. But he thinks humans might actually have been active agents in the change. Related: The Mediterranean will become a desert unless global warming is limited to 1.5°C Wright said, “In East Asia there are long established theories of how Neolithic populations changed the landscape so profoundly that monsoons sopped penetrating so far inland.” He thinks a similar phenomenon could have happened in the Sahara. People growing crops and raising livestock could have changed the environment , exposing soil, and sunlight bouncing from the soil could have warmed the air, influencing atmospheric conditions enough so there wasn’t as much rainfall, which only added to the desertification of the Sahara. As yet, Wright needs more evidence for other scientists to fully get on board with his ideas. He said, “There were lakes everywhere in the Sahara at this time, and they will have the records of the changing vegetation. We need to drill down into these former lake beds to get the vegetation records, look at the archaeology , and see what people were doing there.” If Wright turns out to be right, his research could yield insights into how we can adapt to large scale climate change . Via Phys.org and ScienceAlert Images via Charly W. Karl on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Archaeologist suggests ancient humans helped catalyze the Sahara’s desertification

Trump team claims funding climate change is "a waste of your money"

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Predictions that the environment wouldn’t fare well under Donald Trump are already coming true. His budget proposal aims to slash Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding by 31 percent, tossing out climate change programs because as White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said, those are “a waste of your money.” Perhaps Trump’s America First budget proposal shouldn’t come as a surprise: it’s highly militaristic and hard on the arts, the sick, the poor, foreign aid, and of course climate change. Under the Trump budget, pollution cleanup efforts and energy efficiency measures would be shoved to the side. Related: Trump to purge climate change from federal government Over 50 EPA programs could be lost under the Trump budget, including large-scale cleanup efforts for the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes and assistance for Alaskan villages hurting because of climate change. States would be left to pick up the pieces. And so much for Trump’s blustering about jobs – around one in five EPA workers would lose theirs under the so-called America First budget. Mulvaney hearkened back to campaign trail language when he said, “This comes back to the president’s business person view of government , which is if you took over this as a CEO, and you look at this on a spreadsheet and go, ‘Why do we have all of these facilities, why do we have seven when we can do the same job with three, won’t that save money,’ and the answer is yes…You can’t drain the swamp and leave all the people in it. So, I guess the first place that comes to mind will be the Environmental Protection Agency.” He also doubled down on Trump’s view of climate change. “We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mulvaney said. “We consider that to be a waste of your money.” Ultimately Trump’s budget is simply a recommendation; Congress will write and pass a budget. It remains to be seen if they’ll gut the EPA as much as Trump wishes. Via The Guardian Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Eric Vance/USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency on Flickr

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Trump team claims funding climate change is "a waste of your money"

Why this city is waging a war on shamrocks

March 17, 2017 by  
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St. Patrick’s day is here, and with the plastic shamrocks popping up in stores everywhere, it got me thinking about the real plant, which grows everywhere around the world, and is under attack with a vengeance by the city government in San Francisco. Oxalis, Sourgrass , Wood Sorrel , Bermuda Buttercup , Shamrock , and False Shamrock – these are just a few names for a genus of wildly prolific edible plants (aka “weeds”) which grow everywhere around the world. Even if you aren’t familiar with the name of this plant, you’ve likely encountered the clover-like leaves and pretty yellow wildflower of oxalis in a lawn before; it infiltrates grassy areas everywhere, street medians and even sidewalk cracks in cities ranging from New York and Cape Town to Sydney and San Francisco. Children love to eat it and play with it, and most school kids are familiar with “sourgrass”. In January and February, entire hillsides in San Francisco burst in vivid yellow bloom with Oxalis flowers . Whether this is a problem or not depends on who you ask. Many San Francisco residents see the hillsides of bright yellow flowers as a beautiful first sign of spring, whereas others, especially those who espouse a nativist point of view, see this plant as an “invader” that must be stopped at all costs – even when that environmental cost includes dousing entire hillsides in dangerous pesticides such as glyphosate and triclopyr . It’s oxalis season in San Francisco right now, which means that many San Francisco gardeners are waging a war against this prolific little weed in their backyards. It also means it is Garlon season for San Francisco’s Park and Rec Department. Garlon (chemical name Triclopyr ) is a broadleaf pesticide weed killer that is used by San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks department mainly for the purposes of killing oxalis. Very little research has been done on this chemical, but it is known to be toxic to mammals and possibly carcinogenic – specifically correlated with breast tumors in rats . Glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup), another popular herbicide for killing oxalis, has been classified by the WHO as a probable carcinogen . In the past few months the city of San Francisco has sprayed Garlon on hillsides in public parks several times to try to eradicate oxalis; below are a few videos of these most recent offensives taped by the San Francisco Forest Alliance: Native plant advocate Jake Sigg (former president of the California Native Plant society and spokesperson for the San Francisco Natural Areas Program) recently spoke at a public hearing on pesticides about how he thinks San Francisco needs to use much more herbicide to try to eradicate oxalis, simply because it is such a challenging task:   “Yellow oxalis is almost unstoppable –you have to kill that corm, that bulb, the only way you can do it is with herbicides. It’s impossible to do it manually. I wished I’d brought pictures of San Bruno Mountain where they sprayed the entire mountainsides of oxalis. That’s the only way they got rid of it there. I hate to hear all this unwarranted fear about herbicides. I was a gardener all my life, and I’ve used herbicides and I’m 88 now. I’ve used a lot of them, and it would seem if they’re really that bad I would have problems by now!”   What Sigg doesn’t mention in this quote is that there are many pollinator species, including honeybees, bumblebees, and other types of butterflies , that forage on oxalis nectar during the winter time of year when no other flowers are blooming, and could be harmed by the herbicides sprayed on these flowers. So, in the interest of trying to protect one butterfly species (the Mission Blue Butterfly ), San Francisco’s Park and Rec department has apparently decided it is an acceptable tradeoff to poison other pollinators that are important to local ecology and human agriculture. In a Bay Nature Magazine article , Doug Johnson, executive director of the California Invasive Plant Council says there is just no point in trying to wage war against oxalis. “It’s not a target for landscape-level eradication because it’s just way too widespread,” he said. photo of a coyote in a field of oxalis in San Francisco, by Janet Kessler   In oxalis’s case, the benefits that would accrue from fighting it on all fronts aren’t quite enough to justify the costs—there’s just not enough time or people to dedicate to the effort. (Not to mention that eliminating oxalis takes a doggedness that even Sigg describes as “fanatic.” He managed to eradicate it from his garden, but it took him five to six years, and he sometimes had to comb through his plants by hand.) Instead, Cal-IPC focuses its efforts on the battles that can be won: new, potentially dangerous weeds that can be stopped, or existing weeds that threaten valuable resources.   I visited some of the areas that had been sprayed with Triclopyr recently and the results were not impressive. The fields of bright yellow flowers were not gone, just missing in little patches here and there. It is easy to see how it will immediately grow back. California native Oxalis Oregana, growing right next to “invasive” yellow oxalis on a San Francisco city street. The question around what is “native” and “non-native” seems like an arbitrary and potentially slippery debate as it often taps into deeply held xenophobic sentiments about what is valuable, and what should be allowed to thrive in a given location. That said, I find the discussion around “native plants” versus “invasive species” to be particularly fascinating and confusing when it comes to oxalis. It is often the claim of native plant advocates in any location, that oxalis is an non-native invader that needs to be eradicated. The truth is that oxalis grows all around the world, and there are many species of oxalis that are native to California, including Oxalis Californica (Yellow Wood Sorrel) , and another forest-dwelling species with whitish lavender flowers called Oxalis Oregana (Redwood Sorrel) . Oxalis has been growing in California for thousands of years, and the original native people of this country – the American Indians – widely ate both its leaves and bulbs . There is a species of oxalis from South Africa (Oxalis Pes Caprae) , which is the invader that native plant advocates will tell you that they are doggedly fighting in San Francisco parks, but to an untrained eye (like mine), this plant looks exactly the same as the native yellow oxalis. When I was living in New York City, we had a yellow flowered oxalis “weed” growing everywhere that looked pretty much the same as both of these other species, but naturalists in that area called it Oxalis Stricta , which is native to North America. Different species of native and non-native oxalis – can you tell the difference? And does it matter? I suppose plant experts can distinguish between these different types of oxalis, but can your average gardener or pesticide applier? And what specifically makes a native plant “a weed”? It seems there is no scientific definition of the word “weed” – it is just a term used to designate prolific plants that reproduce quickly and sprout up in locations where they are not wanted. And in public lands – who determines if a plant is wanted or not? That is the heart of the fierce battle now waging between native-plant advocates and anti-pesticide activists. Oxalis Pes-Caprae (South African Oxalis) reproduces underground with little teardrop shaped bulbs, so just killing one plant doesn’t kill the underground bulb, which just spreads and pops up somewhere else – much to the dismay of gardeners who like to keep their gardens oxalis free . This plant is literally everywhere – including sidewalk cracks and highway medians, so it really is impossible to get rid of. And is that necessarily really a bad thing, I would ask? Wood Sorrel doesn’t just have aesthetic value with its sunny yellow flowers, but is also useful as an edible plant. I first learned about this cute little weed from renowned New York City foraging guide Wildman Steve Brill , and then discovered my kindergartner was picking and eating it every day at school in New York City. “Oh that stuff? We call it sourgrass, mom” he told me. Now that I live out in San Francisco, both of my children are very fond of oxalis and encounter it every day; in our backyard, surrounding sidewalks and parks in our neighborhood, and at their outdoor schools. We see both the native lavender variety (Redwood Sorrel) and the yellow flowers. Both of my kids are in an outdoor forest school in San Francisco’s parks, so they spend their all of their days playing in nature. Kids are naturally drawn to the vivid yellow flower, and I’ve found them making buttercup daisy-chains, using sourgrass as currency in some complicated grade school game, and, of course, chewing on it. I am personally concerned about pesticide use on oxalis, mainly because San Francisco’s “sourgrass” is in my children’s hands and mouths on a daily basis, and I don’t want them ingesting cancer-causing pesticides. As soon as the weather gets warmer than about 70 degrees, which happens by April, the Oxalis withers and dies back until next season. So, what is the point – I would argue – of wasting money, time, and damaging our local ecosystem with poison, in order to wage a futile war against this useful, beautiful and clearly unstoppable plant. What are your thoughts on oxalis? Experience with this plant? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! + Why it’s okay to love oxalis and to stop poisoning it + A history of the little yellow flower that is everywhere

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Why this city is waging a war on shamrocks

Republican senator claims the EPA is brainwashing children

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma claimed Thursday on CNN that the Environmental Protection Agency is “brainwashing” America’s children, defending Donald Trump’s plan to cut the agency’s funding by 31 percent. He told the network: “We want to deliver the services. We ought to make things clean. But we ought to take all this stuff that comes out of the EPA that’s brainwashing our kids, that is propaganda, things that aren’t true, allegations.” This isn’t the first time Inhofe has made a controversial statement while he’s been in office. During the 2002 midterm election, he compared the EPA to the Gestapo , and has declared global warming to be a hoax on multiple occasions. (Unlike Donald Trump, however, he doesn’t believe it’s the work of the Chinese government. The credit instead goes to Barbra Streisand .) In 2015, he made headlines by bringing a snowball onto the floor of Congress in an attempt to disprove the existence of climate change. So while his statements this week are deeply troubling, they’re not at all unexpected. Related: Trump to purge climate change from federal government The most recent comments came during an interview asking Inhofe his opinion on proposed funding cuts to the EPA. The plan would cut a staggering $100 million from the agency’s climate change programs, and reduce its overall budget from $8.3 billion to $5.7 billion. This could have far-reaching impacts beyond reducing the EPA’s ability to fight climate change – it could also affect its ability to enforce clean water and air regulations, and would cut 3,200 jobs from the agency (about 1/5 of its workforce). The cuts would also end specific programs to restore the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes, along with a program to certify eco-friendly appliances under the Energy Star Label. The proposal would also cut funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by as much as $990 million and funds for critical health research carried out under the National Institutes of Health by $5.8 billion. Defense spending, on the other hand, would increase by $52 billion. Related: Scott Pruitt attacks critics and EPA employees in first speech The budget would need to be approved by Congress before it could be implemented, however, with lawmakers like Inhofe in office, we may have reason to be concerned. Via Business Insider Images via  Gage Skidmore , Screenshot/C-SPAN

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Republican senator claims the EPA is brainwashing children

Trump to purge climate change from federal government

March 15, 2017 by  
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Al Gore tried to convince President Donald Trump about the importance of acting on climate change. So did Leonardo DiCaprio . Elon Musk joined Trump’s tech council . German Chancelor Angela Merkel reportedly is going to bring up climate change at her White House meeting with the president. But it all appears to be in vain as the Trump Administration begins to purge the federal government of any association with global warming. The president is expected to sign an executive order possibly as soon as this week that would drop climate change from environmental reviews and rescind other Obama-era climate policies — dramatically reducing the role that climate change plays in government decision-making. The directive will also urge the US Environmental Protection Agency to dismantle the Clean Power Plan , which has yet to be implemented because of legal challenges from conservative states. Regulators will be directed to rescind Obama-era regulations limiting methane emissions — a potent greenhouse gas that escapes into the atmosphere from various points along the natural gas supply chain. Related: Trump tries to keep 21 kids’ climate change lawsuit from going to trial The order will also ask the government to reconsider using the “social cost of carbon” metric when considering new regulations. In what was described by The Daily Beast as the “most historic climate change decision” ever taken by the federal government, for the first time in US history the government put a price on carbon at $36 per ton. Conservatives, including Republican elder statesmen who wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal recently supporting a revenue neutral carbon tax, should be discouraged by the fact that Trump does not want the federal government to factor carbon pollution in the rule-making process. Trump is also determined to revive the dying coal industry that has been replaced by cheap natural gas and renewables such as solar and wind. The president is expected to lift the coal leasing moratorium the Obama Administration put in place January 2016. When he was running for president, Trump pledged to end what he described as a “war on coal” and put coal workers back to work. Last September, Trump said that he would “rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration.” Via Reuters Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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Trump to purge climate change from federal government

Environmental activists deface Trumps California golf course

March 15, 2017 by  
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Under the cover of darkness early Sunday morning, a group of anonymous environmental activists broke into one of Donald Trump’s golf courses and defaced the green in an act of civil disobedience. In six-foot tall letters, they left a message that read simply: “NO MORE TIGERS. NO MORE WOODS.” The Trump National Golf Club, located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, overlooks the ocean just south of Los Angeles and was ranked last year as the 43rd best course in California. The activist collective sent a video of the protest, along with a statement, to the Washington Post . The vandalism was intended as a reaction to the Trump administration’s “blatant disregard” for the environment. In an anonymous interview with the paper, one group member noted, “Tearing up the golf course felt justified in many ways. Repurposing what was once a beautiful stretch of land into a playground for the privileged is an environmental crime in its own right.” All told, the protest took about an hour to complete. Four people scaled a fence and walked down a steep hill dotted with cacti to access the green near hole five, then dug up the grass using basic gardening tools. The LA County Sherriff’s Department confirmed that the course called with a complaint about the damage on Sunday. Related: Trump tries to keep 21 kids’ climate change lawsuit from going to trial This isn’t the first time a Trump property has been vandalized in recent months. In October, Black Lives Matter graffiti was left on the side of Trump’s new Washington hotel. Reportedly, neither the Trump Organization nor the golf course itself were willing to issue a statement to the Washington Post responding to the new incident. Via The Washington Post

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Environmental activists deface Trumps California golf course

At least 60 dead in Ethiopian garbage "landslide"

March 14, 2017 by  
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At least 60 people are dead after a mountain of trash collapsed at a dump in Ethiopia on Saturday night. The “landslide” at Koshe Garbage Landfill, which lies just outside the country’s capital of Addis Ababa, claimed mostly women and children, according to officials . With dozens still reportedly still missing, the final death toll could be even higher, they added. Around 150 people were present when the landslide occurred, a resident told the Associated Press . Several makeshift houses, inhabited by some of the landfill’s permanent residents, are now submerged under tons of refuse. Many of those who live at the 50-year-old landfill are scavengers who sort through the dross for items to sell. Others are there because it’s all they can afford. “My mother and three of my sisters were there when the landslide happened. Now I don’t know the fate of all of them.” Tebeju Asres, who lived at the site, told AP. Koshe, which means “dirty” in the local Amharic language, has experienced smaller collapses that killed two or three people, but nothing on this scale. Related: Ethiopia announces plans to build massive 1000MW geothermal power plant About 300,000 tons of waste from the capital’s 4 million people are deposited every year at Koshe, officials say. The city has been working to turn the garbage into a source of clean energy since 2013, when it began construction on what will be Africa’s first waste-to-energy plant when completed. The Koshe waste-to-energy center, which has $120 million invested in it, is expected to generate 50 megawatts of electricity. “In the long run, we will conduct a resettling program to relocate people who live in and around the landfill,” Diriba Kuma, mayor of Addis Ababa, told AP. Via BBC News Photo by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia Aid

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At least 60 dead in Ethiopian garbage "landslide"

6 Ways Online Education Prevents Planetary Pollution

March 10, 2017 by  
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Most people consciously manage their impact on the environment to the best of their ability. But did you know that choosing to earn your degree online can help keep the earth clean at the same time? Unlike the convenience of cars, the convenience…

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6 Ways Online Education Prevents Planetary Pollution

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