Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

March 16, 2020 by  
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The worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) prompted many to purchase face masks for protection. Unfortunately, these protective masks have been harming the environment. Why is that? The masks are made of the plastic polypropylene, which is not easily biodegradable. No surprise then that the accumulation of discarded face masks litters the environment and poses serious risks to the equilibrium of  habitats  and the health of wildlife, especially marine organisms. Environmental groups are now sounding the alarm on how cast-off coronavirus masks are escalating the  litter  and plastic pollution predicaments. Related:  The Ocean Cleanup has first success collecting plastic from Great Pacific Garbage Patch “We only have had masks for the last six to eight weeks, in a massive volume…we are now seeing the effect on the environment,” explained Gary Stokes, founder of Oceans Asia, a marine  conservation  organization. Stokes elaborated with the example of the Soko Islands off Hong Kong. On one 100-meter stretch of beach, Stokes discovered 70 masks, then an additional 30 the following week.  Hong Kong’s dense population means that its citizens have struggled with plastic waste.  Single-use plastic  makes matters more challenging. What’s more, Hong Kong does not effectively  recycle  all its waste. Instead, roughly 70% of its garbage ends up in landfills. That 70% is equivalent to approximately 6 million tons of refuse. Conservationists have been attempting to remove these masks from the environment through beach clean-ups. “Nobody wants to go to the forest and find masks littered everywhere or used masks on the beaches . It is unhygienic and dangerous,” added Laurence McCook, head of Oceans Conservation at the World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong. Jerome Adams, the United States Surgeon General, has also  advised people to stop purchasing medical face masks , as they are ineffective at preventing COVID-19. Scaling back public purchasing of the masks would not only keep more masks available for medical professionals, but could also reduce the amount being discarded and its impact on the environment. Via Reuters Images via Pixabay

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Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

A zero-waste, self-sustaining home of the future

March 12, 2020 by  
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Designed by Shanghai-based firm YANG Design , the Green Concept House is a futuristic concept that envisions a residence where sustainable technologies are embedded into the living spaces to create a zero-waste, 100% self-sustaining home. The design features several high-tech systems that use spare household energy to provide water, lighting and energy for growing plants throughout the home, essentially becoming a living greenhouse. House Vision is an annual event that invites architects to create futuristic residential designs that incorporate innovative technologies. This year, against the backdrop of the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing’s Olympic Park, 10 dwellings were unveiled, one of which was the incredible Green Concept House by Yang Design. Related: A greenhouse is transformed into an experimental living space in Taiwan Like the other full-scale home prototypes, the Green Concept House was a collaboration between architects and leading global companies that specialize in the various fields of technology, such as energy, vehicles, logistics and artificial intelligence. The 1,600-square-foot structure is a powerhouse of futuristic tech that merges organic food production into the house in order to create a living space that is 100% self-sustaining. Several compact garden pockets in every corner of the layout would allow homeowners to care for almost any type of plant using spare household energy (from solar and wind power generation ) to provide water and light for the gardens. The setup would permit residents to closely monitor their home gardens, including fruits, vegetables and herbs, via an app on their phones. For example, the app would sound an alarm when one of the plants is in need of specific care. Another notification would alert homeowners when a specific fruit or veggie is ready to be picked. Using this full-circle system, homeowners will not only be able to grow their own organic fare but will also be able to lead zero-waste lifestyles . + YANG Design Via ArchDaily Images via YANG Design

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Adorable baby gorilla wants you to recycle your phone

February 21, 2020 by  
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The first lowland gorilla born in the Los Angeles Zoo in 20 years is building her fan base while raising awareness about the connection between cell phone manufacturing and critically endangered gorilla populations. Baby Angela was born last month to mom N’dijia and dad Kelly. Along with Rapunzel and Evelyn, the LA Zoo is now home to five western lowland gorillas. This species is native to Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Because only about 100,000 western lowland gorillas still survive in the wild, any new baby is cause for celebration. Related: Hope for mountain gorillas — new census results reveal the population is increasing Female lowland gorillas typically give birth every six to seven years in the wild. But the stress of captivity often short-circuits normal breeding habits. So far, mom and baby seem extremely bonded, zookeepers told the Today Show. N’dijia carries Angela around constantly, and Kelly shows affection by sniffing the baby and sometimes putting his lips against her. Gorillas in the wild face many dangers, including poachers, diseases, such as Ebola, and mining operations. While these threats may seem far away from the life of the average city dweller, most humans have a direct tie to gorillas through their cell phones. The Congo Basin is rich in coltan, a black metallic ore used in mobile phone manufacturing. Not only do miners disrupt gorilla life and ruin habitats, the miners — who are often there illegally — hunt wildlife, including gorillas, for food. Recycling your old cell phones is an easy way to help gorillas. A recycling company called ECO-CELL partners with primate conservation groups including Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), the Jane Goodall Institute and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Many zoos in the U.S. and Canada collect phones for ECO-CELL. So far, the company has recycled about 1 million cell phones. Phones that still work are sometimes reused by gorilla care staff and in veterinary labs. “ECO-CELL’s focus is squarely on the informed consumer piece,” Eric Ronay, founder of ECO-CELL, told Mongabay . “If we can reach consumers en masse, especially young consumers, and inspire them to demand ethical, gorilla-safe products, then the entire electronics landscape will change dramatically.” + LA Zoo Via Mongabay and Today Image by Jamie Pham via LA Zoo

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Why the mystifying axolotl must be saved from extinction

February 20, 2020 by  
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Today’s axolotls are experiencing extirpation, but scientists and pet enthusiasts are saving them from true  extinction . Why? Axolotls have long fascinated the learned and laymen alike, thanks to the animal’s powers of regenerating and self-healing. While all organisms can regenerate to some degree, the axolotl’s capabilities are far more advanced. Historical documentation cites Spallanzani, in 1768, as the first Western observer of an axolotl’s complete regeneration of tail and limb. Then in 1804, renowned naturalist Alexander von Humboldt collected the first wild specimens, shipping them to Europe . By 1863, axolotls first debuted in official science laboratories when a French expedition shipped 34 of them to the Natural History Museum in Paris. French zoologist Auguste Duméril received six of those original 34. His successfully bred lines launched the global axolotl diaspora as he shared line progeny with international colleagues. Related:  Light pollution, habitat loss and pesticides push fireflies toward extinction Present-day wild axolotls have not fared well. Despite its status as “the most widely distributed amphibian around the world in pet shops and labs,” the wild axolotl is nearing extirpation, said Richard Griffiths, an ecologist at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK, to  Scientific American . The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)  catalogs axolotls on the Red List, delineating threat risks from  habitat loss ,  water pollution , fierce competition with non-native species, predation by invasive species, climate change-induced droughts, disease and inbreeding. Only popularity in both the pet and laboratory industries keeps axolotls from all-out extinction. But what are axolotls exactly? They are  amphibians  in the Ambystomatidae family of mole salamanders and are identified by neoteny. That is, they retain larval traits or juvenile characteristics. What distinguishes them from juveniles of other salamander species is retention of their unmetamorphosed larva appearance, even as adults. Peculiarly, they appear as “sexually mature tadpoles,” spending entire lives underwater , veritably breeding in that form, unlike other salamanders that metamorphose and crawl onto land. Of course, with iodine, axolotls can be induced into metamorphosis, even developing into bona fide salamanders that phenotypically resemble tiger salamanders. However, metamorphosed axolotls experience much-diminished lifespans compared to neotenous counterparts. The most widely recognized axolotl is  Ambystoma mexicanum , whose only remaining natural  habitat  is Mexico City’s canal system. Legend says while the Aztecs built Tenochtitlan, their capital, they discovered, in the lake, a large, feathery-gilled salamander. They named it after Xolotl, their fire and lightning deity. As Quetzalcoatl’s twin brother, Xolotl enjoyed shapeshifting powers.  Live Science  explains how Xolotl apparently “transformed into a salamander, among other forms, to avoid being sacrificed so the sun and moon could move in the sky,” showcasing even then how axolotls captivated the fancy of this ancient civilization and garnered placement in their pantheon. Regrettably, Mexico’s endemic axolotls are dwindling drastically. From JSTOR Daily , the “first robust count of axolotls” in their natural habitat amounted to an estimated 6,000 axolotls per square kilometer. That population survey transpired in 1998. By 2015, the population plummeted, numbering “only 35 per square kilometer,” therefore revealing precipitous extirpation. Formerly at the  food chain  apex, what changed for axolotls? Development sprawl, tourism and recreational use drained the natural water levels of axolotl habitats. Whatever water has remained is polluted by litter and offal, pesticides and non-organic fertilizers, heavy metals and toxic chemical runoff. Because axolotls breathe through their highly permeable skin, they are incredibly susceptible to pollution, which adversely affects axolotl health, growth and development. Moreover, from the 1970s to 1980s, tilapia and carp, non-native fish that reproduce faster than can be caught, were released into the canals, disrupting local food webs and  ecosystems . Tilapia and carp also forage around the canals’ aquatic plants, where axolotls lay eggs, further reducing offspring numbers even more in a prelude to the grim species-level extirpation of wild axolotls. Additionally,  climate change  and severe weather, which the IUCN acknowledges as threats to the axolotl, in turn, perpetuate drought conditions, again decimating the axolotls’ natural habitat. It is feared only a few hundred axolotls remain in the wild. Whereas wild axolotls might not all be rescued from Mexico’s canals, the species are nonetheless thriving in captive breeding programs at universities and scientific laboratories as well as in private aquariums of pet owners. Indeed,  Scientific American  documented that “tens of thousands can be found in home aquariums and research laboratories around the world. They are bred so widely in captivity that certain restaurants in Japan even serve them up deep-fried.” In fact, from Duméril’s progeny lines, scientists continue to successfully breed axolotls to this day. This accounts for the  Journal of Experimental Zoology ’s assertion of axolotls being “the oldest self-sustaining laboratory animal population.” Duméril’s generosity ignited Europe and America’s axolotl breeding craze, says  Scientific American , giving way to the 1930s breeding stock at the University at Buffalo, New York. That stock was then hybridized with both wild axolotls and tiger salamanders ( Ambystoma tigrinum ). As that hybridized lineage population flourished, it was then relocated to the University of Kentucky – Lexington, where the current Ambystoma  Genetic Stock Center has evolved into academia’s epicenter of global axolotl breeding. From there, tens of thousands of axolotl embryos are sent to contemporary research labs. For more than 150 years, the scientific community has remained intrigued by axolotl regenerative abilities, which are quite unlike those in mammals . Axolotls, for one, can completely regenerate amputated limbs, even after multiple amputations, with each new limb as functional as the original. From  American Zoologist , their cells ‘know’ what to regrow, even supernumerary limbs when regenerating tissue grafted onto other body quadrants. Should axolotls have damaged internal organs, they would be regrown. Crushed spinal cords can be fully repaired as well. In other words, no other animal comes close to axolotl regeneration and self-healing. Likewise,  Science  journal has documented axolotls readily receiving transplanted heads. By the same token, back in 1865, “Duméril’s second generation of axolotls spontaneously transformed into air-breathing adults.” This hidden developmental stage led to 20th-century researchers discovering thyroid hormones, explains  Nova . Nowadays, the axolotl  genome  has been sequenced, and  Max Planck Institute  reveals it “is more than ten times larger than the human genome.” Besides being the largest genome decoded so far, the axolotl’s genome contains an “enormous number of large repetitive sequences.” Could these account for axolotl plasticity in developmental, regenerative and evolutionary assets, such as why it retains its tadpole-like qualities into adulthood? By studying the axolotl genome, scientists hope for ample opportunities to understand the gene regulation processes that make regeneration possible. These findings would revolutionize medicine and aging science. Meanwhile, laboratory-bred axolotls are still vulnerable to loss — from inbreeding,  disease  or laboratory disasters like fires. Crossbreeding is not without its challenges. For more genetic diversity, the lab-bred stock must be crossbred with wilds, but wilds are being extirpated, making their collection difficult. That leaves hybridization with tiger salamanders, but the true axolotl gene pool gets diluted as a result. With numbers in the wild not likely to rebound without help, it’s imperative to strengthen axolotl  conservation  efforts. Perhaps establishing sanctuaries and ecological refuges in the wild, as well as enacting more enforceable legislation, can help save axolotls from extirpation. No matter the case, axolotl conservation will require heavy human involvement. Once this exceptional organism goes extinct, the world loses out on all the knowledge they can provide. Via Nova and Scientific American Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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Antarctica reaches record high temperature

February 11, 2020 by  
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The frozen continent recently logged its warmest temperature to date, a whopping 65 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s quite a leap from its previous record of about 63 degrees Fahrenheit, set five years ago in 2015. The reading was documented at the Argentine research base of Esperanza and will soon be verified by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “Everything we have seen thus far indicates a likely legitimate record. But we will, of course, begin a formal evaluation of the record, once we have full data from SMN and on the meteorological conditions surrounding the event. The record appears to be likely associated (in the short term) with what we call a regional ‘foehn’ event over the area: a rapid warming of air coming down a slope or mountain,” Randall Cerveny, the WMO’s Weather and Climate Extremes rapporteur, shared. Related:  NASA finds cavity the size of Manhattan underneath Antarctic glacier Scientists advise that unless global warming is reined in, the South Pole’s ice and snow will disintegrate and cause sea levels to rise drastically. Currently, Vice reports that Antarctica sloughs off 127 gigatonnes of ice mass annually, equivalent to roughly 20,000 Great Pyramids of Giza! The warmer temperatures of the Antarctic are taking its toll on some of the continent’s well-known denizens. Frida Bengtsson, part of a Greenpeace expedition, told Time magazine in an email, “We’ve been in the Antarctic for the last month, documenting the dramatic changes this part of the world is undergoing as our planet warms. In the last month, we’ve seen penguin colonies sharply declining under the impacts of climate change in this supposedly pristine  environment .” Certain areas of the frozen continent have become the fastest-warming regions on Earth. The WMO has even cited Antarctic temperatures to have risen almost 3 degrees Celsius in the past 50 years. Meanwhile, the UN has been advising nations that global temperatures should not increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius. The WMO website further explained, Antarctica  measures nearly twice the size of Australia and generally measures annual temperatures ranging “from about -10 degrees Celsius on the Antarctic coast to -60 degrees Celsius at the highest parts of the interior. Its immense ice sheet is up to 4.8 kilometers thick and contains 90% of the world’s freshwater, enough to raise sea level by around 60 meters were it all to melt.” + World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Via Vice , CNET and Time Images via Pixabay

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Odd.Bot, the weed-pulling robot that could eliminate herbicides

February 11, 2020 by  
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The aging adage, “there’s an app for that,” is evolving into, “there’s a robot for that.” More and more automation is finding its way to the market for household chores like cleaning floors, and now that innovation is in farmer’s fields with Odd.Bot, an automatic weeding robot. Odd.Bot made an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month with an informational booth and the weed-plucking device on display. Martijn Lukaart, Founder and CEO, explains that Odd.Bot is currently intended for use in organic farming fields to make the weed-pulling process easier for large farms who currently do all the work by hand. Many large-scale farmers have already invested in a platform that allows workers to lay face down on a bed as they are propelled through the rows of crops. This provides workers a quicker and more comfortable way to pull weeds manually. However, Odd.Bot’s goal is to work the fields ahead of humans with many advantages for the  crops , farmers and workers. Related: California man files lawsuit against Monsanto for allegedly hiding dangers of glyphosate Firstly, Odd.Bot can improve crop yield by tackling weeds early on and continuously. This gives crops more room to grow without competition from weeds, and thus a larger yield. Additionally, Odd.Bot is 100% organic by achieving the task without any chemicals or harm to the plants . Using the robot provides farmers an alternative to the struggles of finding and keeping as many employees. Plus, it makes the job much easier for those workers who are on staff. Odd.Bot works by autonomously roving along rows of crops, propelled on heavy-duty tires. A mechanism in the center of the robot then extends down to extract weeds as it moves. Cameras and sensors keep the robot on task and away from growing crops, regardless of row width. The robots can be rented to clear fields for a jumpstart to the growing season or as helpful “hand” as crops mature. In addition to reducing the manual workload and minimizing the need for gas-guzzling tractors that pollute the environment, Odd.Bot also hopes to move into the traditional farming market where they can influence a diversion from traditional herbicide usage. On the company website, they state, “With our Weed Whacker we aim to save more than 170.000 liters of chemical herbicides in the next seven years.” By making organic farming more profitable, Odd.Bot also hopes to directly or indirectly contribute to providing healthy food at reasonable costs. + Odd.Bot Images via Odd.Bot

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Odd.Bot, the weed-pulling robot that could eliminate herbicides

Scientists announce the Doomsday Clock is within 100 seconds to midnight

January 24, 2020 by  
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Since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has been warning the public about how close humankind is to irreversible destruction. The nonprofit does this via its iconic indicator, the Doomsday Clock. Recently, the Doomsday Clock advanced one-third of a minute to now be within 100 seconds to midnight, with the midnight hour symbolizing our planet’s apocalyptic demise and humanity’s possible extinction . “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers — nuclear war and climate change — that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said in a statement. “The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.” Related: Immersive, dystopian exhibit shows what life could be like post-climate change The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is based at the University of Chicago and was founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project researchers, who developed and produced the world’s first atomic weapon. While the Doomsday Clock is a symbolic tool, it is nonetheless utilized as a means for raising awareness about the planet’s proximity to potential annihilation. Each year, the Bulletin ’s Board of Sponsors and its Science and Security Board assess the state of the planet to determine where the minute hand would rest on the Doomsday Clock. According to the Bulletin ’s website, the team evaluates three main focal points: nuclear risk , climate change and disruptive technologies. Because these major entanglements were initiated and heightened by humans, the nonprofit believes they can, with concerted international effort, be managed and possibly contained. Back in 1953, the Doomsday Clock was within two minutes of midnight when the first hydrogen bomb was tested. But international agreements to limit nuclear arms helped minimize the risks of global catastrophe, thus pushing the minute hand back. By the close of the Cold War in 1991, the Doomsday Clock was set back at 17 minutes to midnight. Unfortunately, the dawn of this new century has seen the minute hand creep ever-closer to midnight, mainly due to the growing climate crisis combined with geopolitical tensions exacerbating the threats of nuclear weapon misuse and the leveraging of cyberspace attacks to disrupt society. Rachel Bronson, the Bulletin’s current president and CEO, emphasized, “We now face a true emergency — an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin of error or further delay.” Similarly, former California Governor Jerry Brown, who is now the Bulletin’s executive chair, said, “Dangerous rivalry and hostility among the superpowers increases the likelihood of nuclear blunder. Climate change just compounds the crisis. If there’s ever a time to wake up, it’s now.” + Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Via University of Chicago News Image via Shutterstock

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Scientists announce the Doomsday Clock is within 100 seconds to midnight

Amazon rainforest might reach irreversible tipping point as early as 2021

October 25, 2019 by  
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Relentless Amazon deforestation and gross mishandling of the region by Brazilian authorities and agricultural advocates are pushing the world’s largest tropical rainforest closer to the brink of catastrophic ecological collapse. Even more alarming, once that tipping point is reached, there will be no way to reverse it. Estimates reveal that if mass environmental mismanagement persists, within two years’ time, the forest will collapse and will be unable to generate enough rain to sustain itself. The news was shared in a policy brief put forth by Monica de Bolle, a Peterson Institute for International Economics senior fellow in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the report only sparked controversy, with some climatologists and researchers arguing that the tipping point is still 15 to 25 years away. Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis The Amazon is currently experiencing excessive deforestation, 75 percent of which is attributed to two ‘forest-risk commodities’: soybeans and beef — Brazil’s main exports. Widespread deforestation and land clearing diminish regional rainfall, exacerbating the risks of fire, drought and heat stress. These environmental stressors leave the trees and ecosystem vulnerable to parasites and pathogens, further predisposing the flora to far-reaching forest dry-up and ecological decline. Sadly, an unhealthy Amazon rainforest can no longer produce enough rain to sustain itself. The mortality of the rainforest’s trees would release billions of tons of carbon, intensifying greenhouse gas emissions and global warming . Dire consequences include biodiversity loss, rampant ecosystem failure and climate repercussions. Carlos Nobre, a leading climate scientist in Brazil, is one of de Bolle’s detractors. “The Amazon is already 17 percent deforested, so when you calculate at the current rate of deforestation, this 20 percent to 25 percent is reached in 15 to 20 years,” Nobre said. “I hope she is wrong. If she is right, it is the end of the world.” No matter whether the tipping point is reached by 2021 or later, what’s clear is that if things continue unabated in the Amazon, the once-treasured World Heritage site will collapse, and the entire world will suffer. Via The Guardian Image via NASA

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Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

September 25, 2019 by  
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Multinational auto manufacturer Honda Motor Company, headquartered in Tokyo, recently made the largest renewable clean energy purchase by any car maker. The electricity will be utilized to offset emissions from its United States factories, thus enabling Honda to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent in its North American manufacturing plants. With widespread public debate and mounting regulatory pressures, automakers have no choice but to shift their business models to address the carbon dioxide reduction challenge. It is no wonder then that a growing number of automobile companies are turning to renewables, like wind and solar, to achieve sustainable returns. Related: Beautiful, solar-powered EV charging stations promise to charge a vehicle in 15 minutes According to Honda, it currently obtains about 21 percent of its North American operations’ power from low- or zero-emission power sources.  But it hopes to improve upon that, thanks to clinching the car industry’s largest renewable energy purchase. Honda’s new clean energy deal involves the purchase of wind power from an Oklahoma wind farm as well as sourcing energy from a Texas solar farm. Projections show that, with this clean energy purchase, Honda can annually offset 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equal to “100,000 U.S. households’ worth of CO2-emissions from household energy usage,” as described in Honda’s press release. Honda revealed, “Two Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) will secure 320 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power totaling over 1 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable electricity annually.” How do VPPAs operate? Honda explained that VPPAs are “a way for Honda to purchase renewable energy in locations where it is unable to purchase renewables from the local electric utility.” The automaker buys “electricity from a renewable energy supplier, but the clean energy does not go directly to Honda’s facilities; instead, it is sold into the electricity grid where the clean power is generated.” In effect, Honda’s ‘virtual purchase’ of that “renewable energy adds more clean energy into the nation’s grid,” which decreases fossil fuel dependency and any accompanying carbon dioxide emissions. Honda’s VPPA purchase essentially “de-carbonizes” the electricity grid. Analysts say VPPAs are becoming an ever-popular means for large corporations seeking to meet carbon dioxide emission reduction goals.  Tech giants, like Google and Microsoft, for instance, have historically purchased VPPAs as well. Business industry pundits forecast an uptick of VPPA procurements in the next couple of years as renewable energy policy intensifies. Aligned with its revitalized green mission, Honda’s long-term plans go far beyond clean energy purchases, as it continues its commitment to sustainability. The company similarly announced plans to electrify two-thirds of its manufactured vehicular fleet so that they are charged via renewable energy by 2030. + Honda Motor Company Image via Honda Motor Company

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The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

September 13, 2019 by  
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The rate of world deforestation continues to accelerate, despite governments’ promises to reverse it. Now, the world loses 64 million acres a year of forested land, which is equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom, according to a new study by Climate Focus . Thirty-seven governments as well as many multinational companies, NGOs and groups representing indigenous communities have signed the New York Declaration on Forests since it sprang from the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in 2014. This declaration pledged to cut the deforestation rate in half by 2020 and to end it by 2030. Unfortunately, this feel-good, non-legally binding declaration has been hugely unsuccessful. Since the declaration was penned, tree cover loss has skyrocketed by 43 percent, while tropical primary forests have been slashed. The world is now in worse shape than when the well-intended pledge was made. Some countries are making an effort. Indonesia slowed its rate of deforestation by a third between 2017 and 2018. Some countries, such as Ethiopia, Mexico and El Salvador, are determinedly planting trees. But these attempts are overshadowed by deforestation in much of Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Major forests in these regions saw marked decreases in tree cover between 2014 and 2018. Latin America lost the most forest by volume, but Africa experienced the greatest increase in the rate of deforestation. Of course, the recent Amazon wildfires are bringing deforestation to a whole new level. Climate scientists worry about feedback loops, where climate change makes trees drier, leading to increased flammability and more fires and carbon dioxide, which in turn makes things drier, hotter and even more flammable. “Deforestation, mostly for agriculture, contributes around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions,” Jo House, an environmental specialist at the University of Bristol, told The Guardian . “At the same time, forests naturally take up around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This natural sink provided by forests is at risk from the dual compounding threats of further deforestation and future climate change . The continued loss of primary forests at ever-increasing rates. despite their incalculable value and irreplaceability, is both shocking and tragic.” + Climate Focus Via The Guardian Image via Robert Jones

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The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

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