Escape to the Redwoods in this recently renovated Sea Ranch timber cabin

August 8, 2018 by  
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If you’ve ever dreamed of staying in The Sea Ranch community, here’s your chance to spend the night in one of the original mid-century cabins recently restored by Oakland-based design practice Framestudio . Originally designed by San Francisco Bay area architect Joseph Esherick in 1968, the Timber Ridge Sea Ranch Cabin was created as part of Demonstration Homes, a project led by developer Oceanic to show how the local design guidelines could produce a beautiful and low-cost getaway. Renovated last year, the 684-square-foot timber cabin is available for short-term rentals on Esherick MiniMod . Set amidst a forest of towering redwood trees in the historic south end of The Sea Ranch, the compact timber cabin — dubbed the Esherick MiniMod — is a peaceful getaway. Framestudio sensitively modernized the three-level cabin while preserving its historic elements; the structure is one of the few remaining Demonstration Homes that’s still close to its original state. Priorities included an updated galley kitchen, increased capacity to sleep a total of six and secure storage areas. “Framestudio developed a scheme which restored many of the original details, hallmarks of Esherick’s design, using wood which had been reclaimed from alterations not original to the design,” the project statement reads. “New interventions were conceived to contrast in color from the historic framework of the home, but constructed from materials suitable for the age of the home.” Related: Wooden Sea Ranch Cabin is nestled in a Californian redwood forest The home’s open-plan nature was preserved, but the layout of the two adjoining bedrooms can be manipulated with a new full-height partition that divides the sleeping area into two separate sections and slides away when not in use. For extra storage, the bedroom alcoves were updated with blue laminate cupboards. Framestudio also added a built-in sofa that includes extra storage and a pullout queen-sized bed. Rates at the Esherick MiniMod begin at $120 per night . + Framestudio + Esherick MiniMod Images by Drew Kelly

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Escape to the Redwoods in this recently renovated Sea Ranch timber cabin

Can electrification short-circuit the Utility Death Spiral?

August 8, 2018 by  
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What if utilities could rekindle their profits while protecting the environment?

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Can electrification short-circuit the Utility Death Spiral?

The warmest ocean temperature in a century was just recorded in California

August 7, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have recorded the warmest sea surface temperature in more than a hundred years near a pier in San Diego. The Institute, affiliated with the University of California, San Diego, has been collecting data on sea surface temperatures at the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier since 1916. The 2018 level surpassed an unusual 1931 record by 0.2 degrees, coming in at a whopping 78.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Related: Ocean heatwaves have risen by more than 50% since 1925 According to a press release from Scripps , “the ocean region off Southern California has been experiencing anomalously warm temperatures for the past week, and other observational networks farther off the coast have reported record or near-record temperatures as well.” The continuous rise in temperature will have serious implications for sea life and marine ecosystems. For example, it could help create a toxic algae bloom, such as the one that spread along the north Pacific coast in 2014, altering the biodiversity of the area indefinitely. This bloom had a devastating impact on sea lions and other marine mammal groups, closed fisheries, and pushed species of jellyfish and stingrays further inward to shore, causing a perilous domino effect of altered food chains. In 2015, El Niño significantly altered water temperature levels off the coast of California . However, after such environmental phenomena, seawater temperatures are supposed to return to historical averages. This time, it never happened. “It really is weird,” explained Scripps research scientist Clarissa Anderson in an interview with NPR. “We have different records going back decades and while [our ocean water] temperature is tightly connected with the equator, we’re now seeing [temperatures] stabilize at the equator while temperatures in southern California keep going up.” According to researchers, the record temperature is yet another sign of the mounting effects of climate change . + Scripps Institute Via NPR

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The warmest ocean temperature in a century was just recorded in California

The net-zero Lightbox 23 boasts sustainable features and stunning views

August 7, 2018 by  
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Portland residents in search of an energy-efficient home need look no further than Lightbox 23, the new net-zero project from Lightbox Portland and Steelhead Architecture . A speculative development project in northeast Portland, Lightbox 23 has two units and numerous sustainable features, including super-insulated walls, high-performance ventilation systems, and two 10-kW solar arrays. But sustainablity isn’t the project’s only draw – it also boasts beautiful design and stunning views of Mt. St. Helens’ and Mt. Adams’ snow-capped peaks. A set of floating stairs, which provides access from each floor to the half-levels above and below, serves as the duplex’s backbone. A deck on the building’s north side can be accessed from the exterior. From this deck, residents can enjoy the open air and, on a clear day, the distant peaks of the two mountains. Related: Net-zero Acacia Avenue House saves up to 90% of heating and cooling costs While the solar array on top of the building provides the building with its energy, part of making the project net-zero included finding ways to reduce the energy load overall. To tackle this problem, Steelhead Architecture turned to affordable super-insulation. Each unit has two-by-eight walls filled with blown-in cellulose, along with two inches of rigid insulation affixed to the exterior of the plywood. The concrete slabs have 3 more inches of rigid insulation. The roof construction has a similar mix of insulation, which eliminates the need for any vents. The home’s mechanical system further supports the unit’s net-zero goals. All-electric ducted heat pumps, which are much more efficient than gas systems, provide heat for the apartments. Furthermore, nothing on the project uses gas at all. A heat recovery ventilator with its own ducts effectively controls air exchanges with zero energy loss. To ensure a low heat/cooling loss, the architects sought out leaks and used repetitive joint sealing, further reducing the project’s energy use. Lightbox 23 is an exploratory project of Lightbox Portland, which is devoted to high performance, high-density modern progress. There are three additional Lightbox Portland/Steelhead Architecture projects presently underway. + Steelhead Architecture Images via Josh Partee Photography

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The net-zero Lightbox 23 boasts sustainable features and stunning views

Egypt set to open its first solar farm – and it’s the largest in the world

August 2, 2018 by  
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Egypt has long relied on environmentally taxing fossil fuels. Over 90% of electricity is generated from oil and natural gas, and the country subsidizes fossil fuels , making them a cheap option for its 96 million citizens. However, Egypt’s government plans to change courses and put itself on the clean energy map with the inauguration of the world’s largest solar park. Dubbed the  Benban complex , it is under construction in Egypt’s Western Desert and set to open next year. Located 400 miles south of Cairo, the $2.8-billion project will single-handedly revolutionize energy supply for the nation, and none too soon. The World Health Organization recently named Cairo the second most polluted large city on the planet. The Egyptian government, in response, aims to nearly halve its natural gas consumption and provide at least 42% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by the year 2025. Investment in Egypt’s  clean energy  market has increased by 500% since the announcement. Related: The largest solar farm apiary in the US opens this week The country’s prospects look good, says Benjamin Attia, solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie , an energy research and consultancy firm based in the United States. “I can’t think of another example where so many big players have come together to fill the gap,” he stated, referring to the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in supporting the Benban complex. The IMF has backed a reform program that aims to rescue the country’s economy, and scaling back fossil fuels is one part of it. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi has unequivocally encouraged the country’s environmental push, inaugurating other big electricity projects, including the creation of wind power farms in the Red Sea’s Gulf of Suez. Several nations have aided with the initiative, including the United States, which is helping to train hundreds of employees in wind and solar energy at local technical schools in Egypt. The Benban complex’s 30 solar plants will be operated by 4,000 workers and generate as much as 1.8 gigawatts of electricity, which will in turn provide energy to hundreds of thousands of residences and business operations. + Benban Complex + WHO Via The LA Times

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Egypt set to open its first solar farm – and it’s the largest in the world

UK bag tariff halves plastic bag marine litter, reduces sales of plastic bags by 86%

August 2, 2018 by  
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Following a 5p charge per bag, the sale of plastic bags in the U.K. has fallen by 86 percent, according to reports from the “big seven” supermarkets in the country. Scientists at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) have also found that approximately 50 percent of plastic bag marine litter has been eliminated from the Earth’s waters since the tax was put into effect. Statistics on individual consumption show a decline from 140 bags per person to 19 as a result of the bag fees — a total elimination of 300 million bags. The 5p (roughly 0.07 USD) tariff introduced in 2015 seems to be working in the favor of marine ecosystems, which receive nearly all of the plastic waste after human handling. “Every plastic bag not purchased is one which will not end up in our sea, damaging habitats or harming marine life,” said Thomas Maes, a marine litter scientist who has been working on the 25-year study at CEFAS . Government scientist-contributed data has estimated that in the next 10 years, nearly one million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals  will die each year as a result of consuming or getting caught in plastic litter. Realted: Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution “Since efforts from across Europe came into effect, including the U.K.’s 5p charge, we have observed a sharp decline in the percentage of plastic bags captured by fishing nets on our trawl surveys of the seafloor around the U.K. as compared to 2010,” Maes said. While the reduction in plastic bags found in the ocean was significant, the CEFAS study revealed that the dumping was only replaced by other plastic items and fishing debris, maintaining the amount of litter at an equilibrium, at least for now. Government projections report that levels in marine plastics will triple in the next 10 years, making efforts on every level that much more important. +CEFAS Via SkyNews ,  Sky Ocean Rescue  and  Mirpuri Foundation

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UK bag tariff halves plastic bag marine litter, reduces sales of plastic bags by 86%

Deadly heatwaves may make parts of China uninhabitable by the end of the century

August 1, 2018 by  
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It is no surprise that the world’s most populous country, China , is also the largest polluter on Earth. However, for individuals living in China’s northern plain, the most densely populated region on the planet, it may come as a shock that their homes could become uninhabitable by the end of the century. The region is expected to be subject to aggressive heatwaves that could kill even the healthiest of people in just a matter of hours if carbon emissions are not reduced. In a recent study published by MIT’s Center for Global Change Science , researchers found that China’s northern plain will be the worst spot in the world for future deadly heatwaves. “China is currently the largest contributor to the emissions of greenhouse gases , with potentially serious implications to its own population,” said Professor Elfatih Eltahir, speaking on behalf of his team who ran extensive computerized climate models to research the unfolding event. “Continuation of current global emissions may limit the habitability of the most populous region of the most populous country on Earth.” Related: 6 ways that scientists are hacking the planet This is especially worrisome, because a large portion of the region’s 400 million people are farmers dependent on both the land and outdoor conditions for their livelihoods. According to Bloomberg , Chinese diets are becoming increasingly more like western ones — and it takes about 1 acre to feed the average individual in the U.S. When considering fields that are affected by pollution, which produce mercury-infected rice and milk powder with melamine, China barely has 0.2 acres of arable land per citizen. Pair the degradation of prime land by pollution with the dangerous heatwaves, and China will have a major humanitarian crisis in the near future. Eltahir and his team have previously published global models noting that the key driver to these heat waves is climate change, but that irrigation for farmland is also a serious contributor as water evaporation leads to harmful humidity levels. This combination of heat and humidity is measured in units called “wet bulb” temperature or WBTs. According to the U.S. National Weather Service, WBTs above 87.8 degrees Fahrenheit are classified with an “extreme danger” warning and, “If you don’t take precautions immediately, you may become seriously ill or even die.” WBTs above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will kill even the healthiest individuals sitting in the shade within just six hours. The country will be gambling with the lives of their citizens — not only those living in the northern region — if stricter regulations on carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are not adopted. + MIT Center for Global Change Science + Nature Communications Via The Guardian

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Deadly heatwaves may make parts of China uninhabitable by the end of the century

Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution

July 31, 2018 by  
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Dhruv Boruah, a former management consultant turned environmental hero is cleaning up the Thames River in London on a floating bicycle. The endeavor, named The Thames Project , is more about striking up conversations with passersby and raising awareness than it is about removing all of the plastic waste from the canals — an impossible feat for the one man show that is Boruah. The self-constructed rig, made up of a bamboo bicycle with yellow floats on either side, a rudder and a pedal-powered propeller in the front, has retrieved thousands of kilograms of plastic waste since beginning the project in 2017. “It’s a great conversation starter, and then I can tell them about my work, the plastic and how it all starts here in the canals,” he told CNN while on one of his “off-road cycling” missions. Related: A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal The 35-year-old philanthropist was impassioned by a yacht racing expedition from London to Rio de Janiero that left him thinking a lot about the dangers of plastic pollution . It was on this undertaking that Boruah had learned of the fortunate rescue of two turtles who were tangled in plastic in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. “Plastic is now in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat,” he explained. “You have to care because it’s about you, your health and the health of your children. Why are we destroying this planet for them?” Boruah’s bicycle nets are often filled with single-use plastic items such as styrofoam containers and water bottles. These get broken down into tiny microplastics over time that not only pollute the oceans, but also affect our air and food. When he is not striking up conversations with curious onlookers, Boruah is working with councils, businesses and communities to educate and encourage them to take action against plastic pollution. + The Thames Project Via CNN Images and video via Dhruv Boruah

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Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution

Hunters issued permits to import lion trophies to United States

July 27, 2018 by  
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A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has revealed that the U.S. government has issued over three dozen permits allowing trophy parts hunted from lions to be brought back into the United States from Africa. Despite the permits’ issue, lions remain on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to their threatened survival status in the wild. Friends of Animals obtained the documents and released them through The Huffington Post , which reported the animal rights violation on Thursday. The memorandum , released by the United States Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service on March 1, 2018, removes trophy import bans dating as far back as 1995. “If African wildlife is to survive the next few decades in their homelands, these elephants, lions and other animals—coveted by hunters for their strength and beauty—must be worth more alive than dead. That means safeguarding habitat along with photographic safaris and ecotourism must outpace blood-drenched trophy hunting expeditions,” declared Priscilla Feral, President of Friends of Animals, in a press release. Related: The Trump Administration decides to allow the import of elephant trophies after all New rules by the Fish and Wildlife Service require the filing of a FOIA request to see the details of government-issued permits that are determined on an individual basis – information that used to be publicly available . In this case, the majority of the permit recipients are Republican donors or are part of Safari Club International, a hunting advocacy group. While big game hunters argue that their activities help conservation efforts and local economies, animal rights supporters say that killing big game animals only further endangers their already at-risk populations. + Friends of Animals Via EcoWatch and The New York Times

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Hunters issued permits to import lion trophies to United States

Only 13% of Earth’s oceans remain untouched by humans for now

July 27, 2018 by  
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Only 13 percent of the planet’s oceans are unaffected by human activities, such as fishing and pollution, according to a recent study from the Wildlife Conservation Society . The study , published in Current Biology and executed in tandem with the University of Queensland, has completed the first systematic analysis of the Earth’s oceans and revealed that the only intact portions of global waters could be found in protected parts of the remote Pacific Ocean and around the poles. But even those waters have their tides turning toward becoming unsafe territories for marine wildlife . The research comes after studies in January and February revealed dead zones of marine wildlife quadrupled since the 1950s, and industrial fishing areas now cover half of the world’s oceans. “We were astonished by just how little marine wilderness remains,” Kendall Jones, lead researcher on the project, told NPR . “The ocean is immense, covering over 70 percent of our planet, but we’ve managed to significantly impact almost all of this vast ecosystem.” The cause of this human impression is due to enormous fishing fleets, global shipping and pollution run-offs from land. Add all of this to the distress caused by climate change , and it’s no surprise we’ve arrived at this point. Still, only 5 percent of the remaining wilderness found in the ocean resides in marine protection areas. Related: Astounding responsive map shows shark interactions with commercial fishers “Beyond just valuing nature for nature’s sake, having these large intact seascapes that function in a way that they always have done is really important for the Earth,” Jones said. “They maintain the ecological processes that are how the climate and Earth system function — [without them], you can start seeing big knock-on effects with drastic and unforeseen consequences.” In response to mounting pressure by scientists to create a protection status for the high seas, the UN Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) has planned negotiations to create a treaty in September 2018. The debate will center around cutting fishing subsidies valued at more than $4 billion by governments worldwide. According to Jones, fishing “would actually be unprofitable if it weren’t for big subsidies.” He continued by noting that “the vast majority of marine wilderness could be lost at any time, as improvements in technology allow us to fish deeper and ship farther than ever before.” + Wildlife Conservation Society + Current Biology Via  The Guardian Images via Nelly Lendvai and Rey Perezoso

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Only 13% of Earth’s oceans remain untouched by humans for now

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