China is planting 6.6 million hectares of new forest almost the size of Ireland

January 11, 2018 by  
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The government of China has announced its plans to plant forests in 2018 that will occupy at least 6.6 million hectares, roughly equivalent to the size of Ireland . As the United States forfeits its leadership on climate change, China has been eager to seize the moment by taking bold action to mitigate the impact of climate change . The State Forestry Administration of China is working towards raising the total percent of the country’s territory covered by forests from 21.7 percent to 23 percent by 2020, then to 26 percent by 2030. The massive reforestation project will be a collaboration between the Chinese government and internal and external groups that know how to get the job done. “Companies, organisations and talent that specialise in greening work are all welcome to join in the country’s massive greening campaign,” said Zhang Jianlong, head of the forestry administration. “Cooperation between government and social capital will be put on the priority list.” This latest announcement is not the only reforestation project being conducted in China. The strategy of planting trees has also been utilized to fight desertification in the Gobi Desert , with mixed results. The most recent reforestation project may have more success as it is focused on planting in regions already well suited for hosting forests . Related: Shanghai’s sponge districts fight flooding with green space After China declared a national emergency over pollution in 2014, the nation of nearly 1.4 billion has invested heavily in improving the health of the environment and developing clean technologies. Reforestation is one weapon in this war on pollution . In 2018, trees will primarily be planted in the northeast Hebei province, Qinghai province in the Tibetan Plateau, and in the Hunshandake Desert in the northern autonomous Inner Mongolia region. China has already spent 538 billion yuan ($82,765,920,000) on its reforestation efforts over the past five years and plans to spend much more as it transforms much of its land into forests. Via The Telegraph Images via Depositphotos and Anthony Anastas/Flickr

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China is planting 6.6 million hectares of new forest almost the size of Ireland

The world’s first vertical forest for low-income housing is coming to the Netherlands

January 10, 2018 by  
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Stefano Boeri has designed and built vertical forests across the globe, but his latest project, slated for Eindhoven in The Netherlands, will be unlike anything that has been done before. That’s because, for the first time ever, the forest tower has been funded by a social housing project, and the tower will provide low-income housing. The Trudo Vertical Forest looks to be an example of how good architecture can tackle both climate change and urban housing issues. Stefano Boeri has constructed vertical forest projects in Milan , Utrecht, Nanjing , Tirana, Paris , and Lausanne, but the Trudo Vertical Forest will be one-of-a-kind. Built to provide low-income housing, the tower will have 19 stories with 125 units, all covered in a luscious vertical forest that features a wide variety of plants and trees. “The high-rise building of Eindhoven confirms that it is possible to combine the great challenges of climate change with those of housing shortages. Urban forestry is not only necessary to improve the environment of the world’s cities but also an opportunity to improve the living conditions of less fortunate city dwellers”, said Stefano Boeri. Related: Bosco Verticale: World’s First Vertical Forest is Finally Complete in Milan Stefano Boeri Architetti was retained by Sint-Trudo to complete the tower, which will be an urban home to 125 trees and 5,200 plants. The 246-foot tower covered in a rich, biodiverse environment will help control urban pollution and provide homes for a variety of animals and insects. “The Trudo Vertical Forest sets new living standards. Each apartment will have a surface area of under 50 square meters and the exclusive benefit of 1 tree, 20 shrubs and over 4 square meters of terrace. Thanks to the use of prefabrication, the rationalization of technical solutions for the facade, and the consequent optimization of resources, this will be the first Vertical Forest prototype destined for social housing” states Francesca Cesa Bianchi, Project Director of Stefano Boeri Architetti. + Stefano Boeri Architetti

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The world’s first vertical forest for low-income housing is coming to the Netherlands

Giant curtain built in Peru to study climate change in the cloud forests

January 5, 2018 by  
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Biologist Dan Metcalfe is leading a study that seeks to understand how climate change may impact the cloud forests of Peru and elsewhere by using a giant curtain to affect the local environment. A professor at Lund University in Sweden, Metcalfe describes his unprecedented plan as “an experimental approach where we actually physically try to remove clouds from a portion of the forest.” Cloud forests are unique ecosystems, which, although small in land area, provide enormous regional ecological benefits. Despite their importance, there has been little research on how climate change may impact cloud forests. Metcalfe’s study will test how the forest reacts to reduced cloud and moisture cover in hopes of understanding what is in store for these precious habitats. At only 1 percent of the world’s total forested area, cloud forests are well adapted to mountainside locations near the equator between 500-4,000 meters (1640-13,000 feet) in elevation. Cloud forests function as moisture banks for rivers and lowland habitats, storing water in its spongy soil and releasing it when needed down below during a dry spell. Many species of plants and animals are endemic to cloud forests and may face threats to their habitat due to climate change. Scientists suspect that clouds will form further uphill, leaving the forest to deal with decreased levels of moisture. Metcalfe’s experiment intends to observe what effects this change might have on the forests and those who call it home. Related: Fly through Ecuador’s cloud forest on a human-powered sky bike! After earlier curtain designs proved impractical, Metcalfe salvaged a damaged tower not longer suitable for climbing to rig up a ten-story tall curtain. Even after reaching a final plan, Metcalfe’s project continued to endure delays and obstacles. A key team member became sick, essential gear was destroyed by fire , and Metcalfe’s wife gave birth to two children, limiting travel to Peru. After four years of work, the curtain is almost finished and extensive data on the cloud forest and climate change will soon be arriving. Via the Guardian Images via William Ferguson/Wake Forest University ,  Dan Metcalfe/Lund University , and  Caroline Granycome/Flickr

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Giant curtain built in Peru to study climate change in the cloud forests

Trump plan to reduce marine monuments could put vital ecosystems at risk

January 2, 2018 by  
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A report from United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking three ocean monuments and opening them up to commercial fishing . The monuments, two in the Pacific Ocean and one in the Atlantic Ocean , are undersea treasures, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s administrator between 2009 and 2013, Jane Lubchenco, who told The Guardian , “These ‘blue parks’ harbor unique species, a wealth of biodiversity , and special habitats.” President Donald Trump may not just take aim at land-based national monuments , but at the following three marine monuments. The over 490,500-square-mile Pacific Remote Islands monument, created by George W. Bush and expanded by Barack Obama, includes largely untouched coral reefs and is “the last refugia for fish and wildlife species rapidly vanishing from the remainder of the planet,” per the Fish & Wildlife Service . The 10,156 square mile Rose Atoll monument “protects diverse marine ecosystems and the millions of wildlife dependent upon the Central Pacific.” And the 4,913 square mile Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument is the United States’ only protected area in the Atlantic Ocean, featuring underwater mountains and canyons, deep-sea coral, and endangered whales and sea turtles. Related: Patagonia is suing the Trump administration over Bears Ears: “The President Stole Your Land” In his report Zinke said, “While early monument designations focused more on geological formations, archaeological ruins, and areas of historical interest, a more recent and broad interpretation of what constitutes an ‘object of historic or scientific interest’ has been extended to include landscape areas, biodiversity, and viewsheds.” Fishing organizations aren’t always pleased about the monuments. In March, a New England coalition sued the federal government over fears fishers would be out of a job due to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument. The challenge is based on the idea Obama exceeded his authority in designating the monument. Conservation groups worry activities like seabed mining or oil drilling could be next if monuments are opened for fishing. Pew Charitable Trusts Director of U.S. Oceans, Northeast Peter Baker told The Guardian, “It shouldn’t be too much to ask to protect two percent of the U.S.’s exclusive economic zone off the Atlantic coast for future generations.” Lubchenco said, “Creation of highly protected blue parks like these monuments is beginning to re-establish the all-important balance of places to be used and places to be treasured. We need both.” Via The Guardian Images via USFWS – Pacific Region on Flickr and NOAA photo by Hatsue Bailey

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Trump plan to reduce marine monuments could put vital ecosystems at risk

Pacific starfish bounce back after massive die-off

January 1, 2018 by  
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It may feel like it’s a constant stream of bad news for the environment, so brace yourself for something good. A few years ago, it seemed as though we may completely lose sea stars after a mysterious wasting syndrome rapidly killed millions of the creatures from Canada to Mexico. But this year, researchers say that starfish are making a massive comeback. Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, which is linked to warming waters , hit the West Coast from 2013 to 2014, causing starfish to sort of “melt,” dropping limbs, deflating and wasting away. But where sea stars had practically vanished in some areas, they can be seen popping up again. “They are coming back, big time,” said Darryl Deleske, a researcher for the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium . Related: Researchers in Oregon Expect Wasting Disease to Completely Wipe Out Starfish Populations in the Near Future These types of die-offs have happened every decade since the 1970s, but never on the scale of 2013. But lately, places that were completely devoid of starfish are filling up with them once again. Sadly, it isn’t time to celebrate, yet. While populations seem to be rebounding, the disease hasn’t completely disappeared. It appears to be active in Washington and has never completely stopped in California or Oregon. Still, experts are hopeful that future generations of sea stars will be more resilient to the disease. Via Phys.org Images via Unsplash and UCSC

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Pacific starfish bounce back after massive die-off

China reveals more than 18,000 officials failed to protect the environment

December 28, 2017 by  
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Many of China’s major cities are devastated by pollution – but the nation is making efforts to clean up its skies and waterways. The past year has seen factory closures and the creation of an environmental police force in Beijing – and now a national crackdown has revealed that more than 18,000 officials either didn’t take action or didn’t perform well in their jobs to safeguard the environment since 2016. National Environmental Inspection Office deputy director Liu Changgen told reporters, “We will not let the inspection become a passing gust of wind. It needs to keep blowing all the time.” Beijing inspectors went to some of the most polluted cities in the world, according to Reuters , to discover thousands of officials had failed in their roles to care for the environment. In one example, sewage from 150,000 people in Jingdezhen was dumped straight into rivers because of a lack of treatment plants. Whole cities were blamed for air pollution spikes, and the ministry attributed issues to administrative failures. According to Liu, “The names of the officials, their jobs and their violations will be reported up the chain of command, who will decide how the officials will be punished.” Related: 40% of China’s factories shuttered in pollution crackdown Liu said the next step entails scrutinizing cases from prior inspections to “identify any higher-ranking officials for ill management.” Northern China has launched a program to transition millions of households from coal to natural gas for heating. Per a 143-page plan released in August, the Ministry of Environmental Protection hopes to slash average concentrations of PM 2.5 particles by more than 15 percent in 28 cities during winter in the smog-afflicted provinces of Shandong, Henan, Shanxi, and Hebei, where Beijing is located. They also aim to reduce average PM 2.5 in Beijing to under 60 micrograms per cubic meter. China’s official air quality standard is 35 micrograms – but the World Health Organization recommends levels shouldn’t be greater than 10 micrograms. Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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"Garbage emergency" declared in Bali as clean-up unfolds

December 28, 2017 by  
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The Indonesian island of Bali recently declared a “garbage emergency” in response to the overwhelming amount of plastic waste that has floated ashore and spoiled pristine beaches. “When I want to swim, it is not really nice. I see a lot of garbage here every day, every time,” said Vanessa Moonshine, a traveler from Australia told 24Matins . Although places in Indonesia have been described as “paradise on earth,” the nation of more than 17,000 islands has some work to do to reclaim its title and is mobilizing clean-up efforts to do so. Indonesia is the world’s second largest contributor to marine debris, outdone only by China , the most populous country in the world. In addition to degrading the beaches , plastic waste blocks waterways, impacting transportation and increasing flooding risk, while posing a risk to marine animals. The waste issue has become so debilitating that Bali officially declared a “garbage emergency” over a 3.7 mile segment of coastline last month, prompting the mobilization of resources. 700 cleaners with 35 trucks removed 100 tons of debris each day from the area, which includes the popular beaches of Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak. Related: Indonesia pledges $1 billion annually to tackle ocean pollution problem While economic concerns may have motivated this particular cleanup, the dangers of plastic waste are more insidious than loss of tourism. “Garbage is aesthetically disturbing to tourists, but plastic waste issue is way more serious,” I Gede Hendrawan, an environmental oceanography researcher from Bali’s Udayana University, told AFP . “Microplastics can contaminate fish which, if eaten by humans, could cause health problems including cancer.” Fortunately, Indonesia is taking action. The nation of 261 million has pledged to reduce marine plastic waste by 70 percent by 2025, in part by boosting recycling programs and reducing plastic bag usage. Local inventors have even created a type of biodegradable plastic made from seaweed , an abundant crop in Indonesia. Via 24Matins Images via Depositphotos (1)

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"Garbage emergency" declared in Bali as clean-up unfolds

The spinning house uses the force of hurricanes to anchor itself to the ground

December 28, 2017 by  
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This futuristic, hurricane-proof home is cleverly designed to use the force of storms to withstand extreme wind loads. Margot Krasojevi? Architects designed house to rotate around a helicoid retaining wall, burying itself into the land. The stronger the storm, the more tenaciously the home anchors itself to the earth. The Self-Excavation Hurricane House’s main living spaces are located in a precast reinforced concrete frame. This lightweight structure has a series of rubber-coated, concertina wall sections that provide the flexibility to adapt while the home rotates. Related: Floating, solar-powered ‘dragonfly’ bridge can sail to new locations The house is set upon an artificial island that is landscaped to flush flood water away from the main living areas. The surrounding topsoil directs water to deeper soil that functions as a bioswale . The wetland absorbs and temporarily stores floodwater, releasing it slowly into its surroundings. This part of the project helps with land reclamation and water purification . + Margot Krasojevi? Architects

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The spinning house uses the force of hurricanes to anchor itself to the ground

Architects experiment with terracotta in the fight against climate change

December 26, 2017 by  
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Architects have drawn on terracotta for thousands of years – but are now exploring combating climate change with the ancient building material . Ceramicists, engineers, and architects converged on Buffalo this year for the Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop (ACAW) to investigate environmentally responsive terracotta designs . Terracotta is durable, breathes, offers a natural system to transfer water and heat, lasts for hundreds of years, and can be sculpted, transforming buildings into artwork, according to the University at Buffalo (UB). ACAW participants came together to work on terracotta facade prototypes with an emphasis on bioclimatic design. Workshop co-organizer and UB chair of architecture Omar Khan said in a statement, “Buildings account for two-thirds of final energy use and more than half of the world’s greenhouse gases . Yet the materials and assembly methods used for building facades have remained essentially the same since the 1950s. The skin of architecture must adapt to and mitigate such changes in our environment. Bioclimatic design invites us to change the paradigm from disposability to longevity.” Related: Brilliant zero-energy air conditioner in India is beautiful and functional Four research teams developed prototypes during the four-day workshop. Team UB/Alfred designed a terracotta shingle system with digital sculpting techniques that supports passive cooling . Team AECOM created a terracotta counter-current heat exchanger able to channel heat throughout a building using little to zero energy. A team from structural engineering and design firm Walter P. Moore explored a post-tensioned system of terracotta panels to answer questions on insulation, heating and cooling , and thermal mass and ventilation, as well as how different composite formulations would boost terracotta’s structural possibilities. And Team Morphosis worked on a facade system with ribboned terracotta panels for natural ventilation and evaporative cooling , while creating the feeling of movement. UB said the teams “are expected to advance results into full-scale projects, patented products, and actual buildings.” + Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop Via the University at Buffalo Images via Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo (1,3); Alexander Becker (2,4); and Laura Garófalo (5)

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Architects experiment with terracotta in the fight against climate change

Super-insulated modern log cabin withstands frigid Finnish winters in style

December 26, 2017 by  
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Winters in Finland can plunge to a freezling -22 degrees Fahrenheit, but those chilling temperatures are no match for this well-insulated log cabin. Crafted by Helsinki-based company Pluspuu , this Log Villa on the Coast was commissioned as a client’s second home on the Turku coast. The light-filled abode harnesses geothermal energy for heating and cooling, and boasts superior insulation as well as triple-glazed windows. Built by Ollikaisen Hirsirakenne Oy with the latest Finnish log construction technology, this modern log villa is a custom, site-specific build that gave rise to one of Pluspuu’s newest house models, the Kustavi 125. Topped with a mono-pitched metal roof, the 125-square-meter two-bedroom home is raised off the ground and wrapped in black-stained glue-laminated timber . Black-painted aluminum window frames surround the large triple-glazed windows. Two covered terraces extend living space outdoors. Related: This modern log home in Finland is heated by the earth The light-filled interior is lined with timber treated with white wood wax and special batten wall panels, while clinker is used for the floors. Sweeping landscape and sea views can be enjoyed from the open-plan living room, kitchen, and dining area, as well as from the sauna . For insulation, the architects used 202-millimeter-thick laminated log walls and 500-millimeter-thick wood fiber insulation for the roof. Pluspuu (Finnish for “plus wood”) provides high-quality log houses in a variety of models and promotes the use of timber as a “breathable material with indisputably positive health effects.” + Pluspuu Via ArchDaily Images © Samuli Miettinen

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Super-insulated modern log cabin withstands frigid Finnish winters in style

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