Wildfires are decimating the Amazon rainforest at unprecedented rates

August 22, 2019 by  
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has clashed with environmentalists since taking office in January. But criticisms are climbing to new levels as Amazon wildfires reach an all-time high in Brazil following a significant increase in deforestation . Between January and August of this year, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) recorded almost 73,000 fires. This is nearly twice the number for the whole of 2018 — 39,759 — and marks an 83 percent increase over this same period last year. Since last Thursday alone, satellite images identified more than 9,500 new fires. Most of these are burning the globe’s biggest tropical forest, located in the Amazon basin. Related: Save the environment by pooping less, says Bolsonaro Bolsonaro has promised to promote mining and farming in the Amazon region, ignoring international worries about deforestation. While wildfires are common in the Amazon’s dry season, farmers sometimes deliberately start fires to illegally clear their lands for raising cattle. INPE said this large number of fires can’t be attributed to the dry season alone. “There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average,” said INPE researcher Alberto Setzer, according to Al Jazeera . Bolsonaro remains unconcerned about the rampant Amazon wildfires caused by queimada, the name for farmers clearing land by fire. “I used to be called Captain Chainsaw,” he said . “Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame. But it is the season of the queimada.” The president also posited another theory: environmentalists who hate him are starting fires to make him look bad. “They are now feeling the pinch from the lack of funding,” Bolsonaro said . “So, maybe the NGO types are conducting these criminal acts in order to generate negative attention against me and against the Brazilian government. This is the war we are facing.” Meanwhile, the Amazon wildfires continue to burn at the equivalence of more than 1.5 soccer fields per minute. Via CNN , Al Jazeera and Reuters Images via Pixabay and NASA

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Wildfires are decimating the Amazon rainforest at unprecedented rates

In a world first, the UK declares a climate emergency

May 7, 2019 by  
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In a victory for peaceful protest and the planet, the United Kingdom parliament is now the world’s first national legislative body to proclaim a climate change emergency. The decision comes on the heels of major protests by Extinction Rebellion that snarled London traffic for a week last month. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn proposed the emergency declaration. “Today, we have the opportunity to say, ‘We hear you,’” Corbyn told parliament . “By becoming the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency, we could, and I hope we do, set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments all around the world.” Related: Extinction Rebellion LA protests climate change by supergluing themselves to Universal globe The declaration was one of several demands made by Extinction Rebellion. Extinction Rebellion’s other demands call on Britain to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2025 and for citizens’ assemblies to be responsible for working out these initiatives, rather than the powers-that-be. Michael Gove, environment secretary under conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, acknowledged the danger of climate change. “Not only do I welcome the opportunity that this debate provides, I also want to make it clear that on this side of the house, we recognize that the situation we face is an emergency,” Gove said . “It is a crisis, it is a threat, that all of us have to unite to meet.” Gove and Corbyn both vowed to confront Donald Trump on his environmental stance when the U.S. president visits the U.K. in June. Many municipalities and regions of the U.K. have also declared climate emergencies, including Scotland, Wales, Manchester and London, noting that the clock is winding down for Earth’s inhabitability by humans. As one sign hoisted by a Scottish school child during last month’s protests said, “Dinosaurs thought they had time, too.” Via Reuters , The Guardian Image via David Holt

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Stop Fish Bombing! uses gunshot detection technology to foil marine criminals

March 1, 2019 by  
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A nonprofit organization called Stop Fish Bombing! (SFB) is combating a famously destructive and illegal fishing practice. By adapting technology developed by the California company SST Inc. to detect gunshot locations, the nonprofit hopes to catch villains who are destroying the underwater world through fish bombing. Fish bombing — also called blast or dynamite fishing — uses explosives to stun or kill fish, making it easy to gather them up en masse. Dynamite doesn’t discriminate. Everything from fish eggs to dolphins to coral reefs die in the blast. While the short-term effect means an easy haul for fishermen, the long-term effects spell doom to the fish, the fishing industry and reef-related tourism. Eventually, the repeated blasts create dead zones, destroying biodiversity and whole ecosystems. Fish bombing is practiced in many places around the world, including Tanzania, Malaysia and Nicaragua. Related: Loophole allows 1M tons of sludge to be dumped on Great Barrier Reef SFB has adapted urban tech for the marine world. Law enforcement in more than 90 cities use SST Inc.’s ShotSpotter technology to find shooters. Acoustic sensors are placed throughout neighborhoods. When somebody fires a gun, multiple sensors detect and timestamp the sound. “The precise location of the gunshot is determined based on the time it takes for the sound of the gunshot to travel to each individual sensor, effectively triangulating the sound. The exact location of the detected gunshot is indicated by a dot on a map,” according to a video on the SpotShotter site. Back at the command center, analysts use audio technology to differentiate gunshots from other percussive sounds. Translating this tech to an underwater environment, SFB places sensors on piers and boats to locate blasts. In one success, the nonprofit triangulated the positions of 16 explosions in Sabah, Malaysia within 60 meters in about 10 seconds. They were able to safely detonate 19 bombs. By photographing boats in the vicinity at the time of blasts, SFB can help local law enforcement efforts. SFB, based in Hong Kong, was founded by Scubazoo, SST and Teng Hoi Conservation Organization . Scubazoo is a production and filming company specializing in marine and jungle locations in South East Asia. Teng Hoi focuses on environmental problems and education in Hong Kong and internationally. In addition to its work on fish bombing, SST has also adapted its ShotSpotter technology to deter rhino poachers in South Africa. Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife Environmentalists now have one more tool in their race to save reefs. George Woodman, founder of Teng Hoi Conservation Organization, said, “Fortunately, we now have the technology to detect and locate fish bombs as they happen and publish this information on tablets and phones for access by everyone.” + Stop Fish Bombing! Via UN Environment Images via Shutterstock

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Senate approves major public lands bill

February 15, 2019 by  
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On Tuesday the U.S. Senate reversed the trend of shrinking protected space by approving a public lands bill that adds 1.3 million acres of wilderness, creates five new national monuments, expands some national parks and reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This major new public lands bill is a hodgepodge of more than 100 individual bills related to conservation and outdoor recreation. Now more than 350 miles of river will attain the designation “ wild and scenic ,” which safeguards them and limits development. Outdoor lovers will enjoy nearly 700,000 acres of new recreation areas and 2,600 miles of new trails. In Montana and Washington, 370,000 acres of land will be excluded from mineral development. Related: Bureau of Land Management moves forward with the sale of sacred land The National Park Service will administer three new national monuments created by the bill: the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home in Mississippi, former residence of the murdered civil rights leader; Camp Nelson, Kentucky, a Civil War hospital and recruiting center; and Mill Springs, Kentucky, a Civil War battlefield. The two other new national monuments will be Jurassic National Monument, 850 fossil-rich acres in Utah, and the Saint Francis Dam in California, site of a tragic collapse in 1928. The Land and Water Conservation Fund , a bipartisan 1964 creation of Congress, expired last September. The fund used revenue from offshore oil and gas to fund conservation of water resources, natural and recreational areas and cultural heritage. The new public lands bill revives the fund. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been a pre-eminent program for access to public lands,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. However, this public lands bill victory came after a fight. Republican Senator Mike Lee derailed the bill last year by trying to exempt his home state of Utah. Lee has been an outspoken opponent of the 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, created at the end of President Barack Obama’s term, and other obstacles to development and mineral extraction. “This victory was a long time in the making, and it is the result of the steadfast efforts of many who care deeply about America’s natural treasures,” said Sen Richard Burr, R-N.C. “Protecting this program is the right thing to do for our children, grandchildren and countless generations so that they may come to enjoy the great American outdoors as we have.” Via APNews Images via Free-Photos

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The ozone is finally healing and could be completely repaired by 2060

November 7, 2018 by  
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Finally, some good news about the environment. Earlier this week, the United Nations announced in a report that the ozone layer is on the mend. If the current recovery rate continues, parts of the ozone could be fully repaired by the 2030s. The entire layer — even the highly damaged parts over the North Pole and South Pole — could be completely healed by 2060. The study, Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2018 , monitors ozone recovery, and it is the latest in a series of reports that the UN releases every four years. This year, it shows that the ozone has been recovering at a steady rate of 1 to 3 percent since 2000 because of the global efforts made to reduce CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals. Related: Levels of ozone-destroying CFCs are mysteriously rising Over the past few decades, humans have done significant damage to the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. But through global agreements like the 1987 Montreal Protocol, we have made huge steps toward healing it. The protocol mandated that countries phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting chemicals. The EPA has described it as the most successful environmental global action in history, with 197 countries signing the agreement. “If ozone-depleting substances had continued to increase, we would have seen huge effects. We stopped that,” said Paul Newman, a NASA scientist and co-chairman of the new UN report. Newman added that if we hadn’t made these changes, two-thirds of the ozone layer would have been destroyed by 2065. Scientists have cautioned against claiming victory too soon. Banned CFC emissions are increasing in China , but the Chinese government has promised to fix the problem. Newman said we need to wait until 2060, and let our grandchildren do the celebrating. Still, these recent findings could help contribute to future climate action. In 2019, the Montreal Protocol is set to be enhanced with the Kigali Amendment, which hopes to tackle climate change by targeting greenhouse gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration. + Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2018 Via Huffington Post Image via Shutterstock

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The ozone is finally healing and could be completely repaired by 2060

This tiny shipping container home adapts to your needs

October 15, 2018 by  
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The tiny-living movement is thriving for a variety of reasons. An emphasis on minimalism, financial benefits and location freedom top the list. Many people who consider investing in a tiny home worry about size constraints, but the Calico tiny home by Katz Box offers a solution to that concern by offering a shipping container structure that adapts to its residents’ needs. Sustainability drives the Ohio-based Katz Box company with the goal of lowering the environmental impact of housing through reclaimed and recycled shipping containers. On the manufacturing end, the team is also committed to focusing on processing that minimizes waste. Related: Old shipping container repurposed as a 40-foot-tall parking booth In addition to creating an eco-friendly option through upcycling , the Calico design highlights a modular blueprint, meaning that each section of the interior is customizable to suit a variety of functions. An option for commercial or individual needs, the Calico provides a universal model to suit an endless array of demands, yet is completely tailored for a personal touch. The adaptable components don’t stop with the interior modular variations. In fact, this home can grow or shrink with the needs of the family. When more space is required, an additional shipping container or two can be added, making for a thoughtful and completely scalable design. Similarly, when the kids move out and it’s time to minimize, the added shipping containers can be removed. Mobility is another feature of the Calico, which can be relocated with ease. Appealing for the individual who moves often, it’s also an option for retail locations or temporary housing and offices, such as those on construction sites. Katz Box, the passion project company born from the sustainable mindset of owner Tobias Katz, is a relatively new option in the tiny-living movement. Founded in 2017, the objectives of Katz Box are many, including the goals of universal design elements and an accessible price point. Katz Box also aims to employ ultra-efficient building practices such as renewable energy and water conservation. + Katz Box Images via Tobias Katz

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Maya Bay closes following extensive environmental damage from tourists

October 11, 2018 by  
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The Thai beach that Leonardo DiCaprio made famous in his 2000 movie The Beach is closing indefinitely thanks to the damage caused by millions of tourists . Maya Bay, one of the most popular destinations in the world, is a small beach with silky sands and crystal blue water surrounded by cliffs on Ko Phi Phi Leh island. But over the years, it has sustained such massive environmental damage from pollution that authorities have closed it for at least a year. The movie may not have been a hit for DiCaprio, but the film’s location became so popular for tourists that up to 5,000 people and 200 boats visited each day. Thai authorities had originally announced they would close Maya Bay for four months. They have extended the plan to at least a year because of the extent of the destruction. Litter, boats and sunscreen have caused so much pollution, it has destroyed over 80 percent of the coral around the bay. Related: University of Queensland wants to drop “bommies” on the Great Barrier Reef “We have evaluated each month and found out that the ecological system was seriously destroyed from tourism of up to 5,000 people daily,” said Songtam Suksawang, the director of Thailand’s national parks department. “It’s very difficult to remedy and rehabilitate because its beach was completely destroyed as well as the plants which cover it.” He added that there had been evidence of damage to Maya Bay for years, but the government was reluctant to close it down because of the amount of annual revenue it generates — 400 million baht (about $12.3 million). Thailand’s department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation has said it will not lift the tourism restriction until the ecosystem “fully recovers to a normal situation.” According to The Guardian, this is a relief for local environmental activists who had argued that closing for just four months wasn’t enough. It will take years for the reef to be fully restored, because coral only grows about half a centimeter each year. Worapoj Lomlin, Maya Bay park chief, said the parks agency has already planted more than 1,000 corals to help rehabilitate the reefs, and the team will continue to expand the project. Via The Guardian Image via Joan and Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi

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Australia takes stand on single-use plastic bags

July 2, 2018 by  
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Single-use plastic bags are going out of style in Australia, but shoppers aren’t thrilled by the reduction. Two major retailers, Big W and Coles, have officially ended the use of plastic shopping bags from their stores. The move effectively outlaws their use in nearly every Australian state. After Tasmania and South Australia started by installing a plastic bag ban, national retailers voluntarily began relying on them in stores. On June 20, 2018, Woolworths stopped offering single-use bags, instead charging shoppers 11 cents for reusable plastic totes starting July 9. After sharp customer backlash, the totes will be free until July 8. Related: Billions of pieces of plastic trash are sickening the world’s coral reefs The other two retail chains pulled the plastic shopping bags off their shelves July 1. To quell community outrage, Coles brought on more staff to ensure check-out lines moved quickly as a result of the shift. As a nation, Australia is reducing its reliance on one-use plastic products to combat ocean pollution . According to the United Nations’ Environment Program , the world produces over 300 million tons of plastic annually. Approximately 2.6 percent – eight million tons and as many as 5 trillion plastic bags – end up in the ocean, where they can poison marine life. Without reducing single-use plastic production, the UN estimates plastics could outnumber ocean fish in just over 30 years. While the move is environmentally conscious , it isn’t popular with shoppers. According to Australian labor union SDA, around 43 percent of retail workers said they suffered “abuse” from shoppers because of the change. At least one was reportedly assaulted, leading the union to start a public service announcement campaign to educate the public about plastic pollution. In the United States, the National Conference of State Legislatures shows only two states have instituted single-use plastic bag bans for shoppers: California and Hawaii . Six major cities, including Austin, Boston, Chicago and Seattle, have all banned single-use bags, while four states and at least six cities charge fees to shoppers who opt for plastic bags. Via NPR and Reuters

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Hawaii is about to ban reef-killing chemical sunscreens

May 2, 2018 by  
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Hawaii lawmakers just approved a ban on coral reef-killing chemical sunscreens. If the governor signs the bill, the state will be the first in the nation – and the world – to outlaw the products. Chemical sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate have been shown to alter the DNA of young coral so that it isn’t able to develop properly. Yesterday, state lawmakers passed a bill that would ban sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. In addition to harming coral reefs, there is some evidence that these chemicals pose a danger to humans by acting as endocrine disruptors and potentially damaging human DNA. Related: Three-fourths of sunscreens don’t work as they claim and may contain harmful chemicals Opponents to the ban say that Hawaii, which already has a high incidence of skin cancer, will experience an increase in skin cancer rates. The ban won’t include prescription sunscreens that contain those ingredients, nor does it include sunscreens with physical sun blockers like zinc, so protection options will still be available. If signed into law, the ban will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021. Via Huffington Post Images via Channey and Deposit Photos

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The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

April 9, 2018 by  
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New reports show that nearly twice as much crude oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota last November than originally estimated. TransCanada spokesperson Robynn Tysver said that roughly 9,700 barrels of oil leaked instead of the estimated 5,000 barrels. This new information means the leak is among the biggest onshore spills in the United States since 2010. There are 42 gallons in one barrel of oil, so instead of 210,000 gallons as was originally estimated, around 407,700 gallons leaked in what TransCanada refers to as the Amherst incident . This means the spill was the “seventh largest onshore oil or petroleum product spills” reported to the United States Department of Transportation since 2010, according to Aberdeen American News. Related: Keystone 1 oil pipeline leaks 210,000 gallons days ahead of Keystone XL permit decision TransCanada started utilizing the pipeline again 12 days following the leak. Tysver told American News, “The remediation work on the property has been completed. We have replaced the last of the topsoil and have seeded the impacted area.” The Amherst incident cost the company around $9.57 million, according to the news publication, citing an updated pipeline safety administration report. TransCanada said on their website they sampled groundwater at 12 monitoring wells and there “was no impact to groundwater.” The Keystone Pipeline connects oil fields in Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States; Reuters described it as a 590,000 barrel-per-day pipeline. Aberdeen American News said according to a preliminary report, the pipe may have been damaged in 2008, during construction. Reuters said they had reviewed documents revealing Keystone has leaked far more oil, and more frequently, “than the company indicated to regulators in risk assessments” before operations started in 2010. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration , part of the Department of Transportation, could release the final report on the leak in the upcoming few weeks. Via Aberdeen News and Reuters Images via TransCanada

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The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

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