New evidence shows oil and coal were central in the decision to reduce Bears Ears

March 2, 2018 by  
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Despite lip-service to the contrary, new evidence reveals that oil and mining played a central role in the decision to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has repeatedly stated that mineral extraction was not a factor in drawing up the new boundaries for the monuments, but documents obtained by the New York Times show that this is untrue, and that Zinke – along with Utah Senator Orrin Hatch – encouraged removing protections from areas known to have oil, coal or uranium deposits. Documents show that in March 2017, Hatch asked the Interior Department to look at the boundaries of Bears Ears in order to “resolve all known mineral conflicts.” In May, Bureau of Land Management officials asked for information on a uranium mill within the monument. The resulting map, which was drawn to exclude protected areas that were thought to contain minerals, is almost exactly the same as the map Trump unveiled as he cut the size of Bears Ears. Documents also show that Zinke’s staff used coal deposit estimates when determining which parts of Grand Staircase-Escalante should be excluded from protection. “The Kaiparowits plateau, located within the monument, contains one of the largest coal deposits in the United States,” a Spring 2017 Interior Department memo said. Staff members were asked to research “annual production of coal, oil, gas and renewables (if any) on site; amount of energy transmission infrastructure on site (if any).” Minerals weren’t the only determination used in changing the boundaries. Cattle grazing and timber were also factored in. When Trump reduced the national monuments, the Bureau of Land Management started to ramp up for a practice known as “chaining” in Grand Staircase-Escalante. Chaining involves putting a large chain between two bulldozers, which then move through forests to destroy native vegetation and open the land for cattle – a devastating practice that decimates the local environment. Related: President Trump shrinks Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments by 2 million acres Zinke claimed in December that he had recommended reducing the size of Utah’s protected areas because he wanted to take “an approach in which we listen to the voices of the people, not Washington, D.C., special interests,” citing the fact that Utah government leaders were opposed to the designation of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. While about half of Utahns want Bears Ears reduced , a vast majority oppose the break-up of Grand Staircase-Escalante. Local Utah leaders have sought to reduce the monuments since they were established in order to generate money by leasing the land – but even they were surprised by the size of the ultimate reduction. “Obviously they were looking at facts other than the ones we had raised, we assume,” said John Andrews, associate director of the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. Despite Zinke’s language, it was clear early on that mining and oil extraction were the real focus for reducing the national monuments. In December it was revealed that large Uranium firms were lobbying for access to the areas . At the time, Zinke denied that energy extraction was a factor in the decision-making process. “This is not about energy. There is no oil and gas assets. There is no mine within the Bears Ears…” he said. Via The New York Times Images via Patrick Hendry and the BLM

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New evidence shows oil and coal were central in the decision to reduce Bears Ears

The Nuclear Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight as it has ever been

January 25, 2018 by  
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Today, the world is the closest it has ever been to doomsday since since the nuclear arms race of the ’50s. Scientists and researchers moved the Doomsday clock – an indicator for how close humanity is to nuclear annihilation – to 2 minutes to midnight today. Researchers at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists cited the threat between North Korea and the United States, facilitated by President Trump’s harmful rhetoric, as the main reason for the shift. The closest we have ever been to midnight was in 1953, during the height of the nuclear arms race between the US and the USSR – when it was also 2 minutes to midnight. Last year, the clock ticked to 2.5 minutes to midnight, from an all-time distance of 17 minutes to midnight in 1991. Related: Several scientists predict the apocalypse will occur uncomfortably soon According to concerned scientists, the rhetoric between the leaders of the US and North Korea has gone a long way towards threatening all of humanity. But the US withdrawal from the Paris agreement and denigrating the nuclear deal with Iran has also contributed to the problem. “Divorcing public policy from empirical reality endangers us all. What we need is evidence-based policy making, not policy-based evidence making,” said theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Via CNN Images via Deposit Photos and Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

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The Nuclear Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight as it has ever been

China wants to destroy space junk with giant lasers

January 18, 2018 by  
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Not only do we need to worry about pollution on Earth, but also in space . A team of six scientists in China are working on a very science-fiction-sounding solution: zapping that space trash with lasers . Could a space-based laser really help clean up the tens of thousands of pieces of junk orbiting our planet? From magnetic tugs to long tethers , the ideas of how to deal with our space mess have been imaginative but haven’t given us a firm solution yet. Could lasers offer an answer? Researchers from the Air Force Engineering University and Institute of China Electronic Equipment System Engineering Company published their work in the journal Optik last year on space-based lasers to tackle space debris. Related: ESA unveils magnetic space tug to corral broken satellites drifting in space According to the paper’s abstract, the scientists utilized numerical simulation to explore the “impacts of orbital elements of space-based laser station” on Earth-orbiting trash. Per Wired , a space laser could be mounted on a satellite , and in orbit “emit short bursts of near-infrared light:” 20 bursts a second over the course of a few minutes, which could be sufficient to break down the trash into smaller, less dangerous pieces. The scientists said in the abstract their work offers a “theoretical basis for the deployment of space-based laser station and the further application of space debris removal by using space-based laser.” The idea of space lasers isn’t wholly new – a 2015 paper cited by Gizmodo said there’s recently been a renaissance for the notion. That article says a laser would work by imparting energy into hunks of garbage so they could plummet out of orbit and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere . But would the rest of the world accept one country deploying lasers in space? Physicist Victor Apollonov of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ General Physics Institute told Gizmodo such technology could be put to military uses and “due to that, it is questionable.” He said people have been discussing the concept since the early 2000s, and there should be world-scale talks as a first step towards space lasers. Via ScienceDirect , Wired , and Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons and ESA

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China wants to destroy space junk with giant lasers

Scotland to ban manufacture and sale of plastic cotton swabs

January 11, 2018 by  
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Scotland could be the first country in the United Kingdom to ban plastic -stemmed cotton swabs. Both the manufacture and sale of the polluting items – hundreds were found during a recent Gullane beach clean-up – would be banned. Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said, “…people are continuing to flush litter down their toilets and this has to stop. Scotland’s sewerage infrastructure collects and treats some 945 million liters of wastewater each day. These systems are not designed to remove small plastic items such as plastic buds, which can kill marine animals and birds that swallow them.” Campaigners said the Scotland government plans to ban manufacture and sale of plastic-handled cotton swabs, according to The Guardian – and that move could slash the country’s contribution to ocean plastic pollution in half, according to Friends of the Earth Scotland director Richard Dixon. Cunningham launched a public consultation on a ban, describing it as evidence of the government’s goal to address marine plastic. Related: Scientists call for a worldwide ban on the ‘global hazard’ of glitter It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it. What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage. This sea horse drifts long with the trash day in and day out as it rides the currents that flow along the Indonesian archipelago. This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans. What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet??.?thanks to @eyosexpeditions for getting me there and to @nhm_wpy and @sea_legacy for getting this photo in front of as many eyes as possible. Go to @sea_legacy to see how you can make a difference. . #plastic #seahorse #wpy53 #wildlifephotography #conservation @nhm_wpy @noaadebris #switchthestick A post shared by Justin Hofman (@justinhofman) on Sep 12, 2017 at 8:28am PDT There have been concerns over how many of the items have washed up on beaches after people flushed them down toilets. Environmental charity Fidra recently found hundreds on the beach. The Guardian reported most large retailers have made the change to biodegradable paper-stemmed swabs, but smaller retailers still sell imported plastic-stemmed ones. Fidra, which is behind The Cotton Bud Project , said on the campaign website the physical structure of plastic cotton buds allows them to bypass filters at many waste treatment facilities, and they can be released into the sea with untreated sewage. There, they can “attract and concentrate background pollutants to toxic levels” and be consumed by animals who mistake them for food – causing the plastic and toxins to enter the food chain . The Cotton Bud Project encourages people to toss cotton swabs in the trash, not the toilet, and lists brands that sell swabs with biodegradable paper stems. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Scotland to ban manufacture and sale of plastic cotton swabs

New ‘thermal battery’ soaks up heat energy like a sponge

January 11, 2018 by  
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Scientists at MIT have created a new unconventional material that is highly effective at storing and releasing heat energy — and could be used as a battery. Called AzoPMA, the new plastic-like polymer is capable of holding 100 times as much thermal energy as water. If further developed, a thermal battery which stores and releases heat as energy is needed could revolutionize solar energy , much as powerful traditional batteries have transformed the smart phone and electric car industries. Research on AzoPMA was led by Dr. Dhandapani Venkataraman, a chemist at the University of Massachusetts , and recently published in the journal Nature . The material was given its name in reference to its azobenzene-based poly(methacrylate) composition. AzoPMA is able to hold so much thermal energy because it switches between two conformations, or shapes, depending on its heat . When the material is heated, molecules within take their high-energy form, which is effective at storing thermal energy . When it is cooled, they return to their low-energy form, which then releases heat energy as needed. Related: South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant The potential for thermal battery power is seemingly endless. “Thermal batteries today are where electrical batteries were a century ago,” MIT professor Dr. Jeffrey Grossman, who has led similar thermal battery research , told NBC News . “There are exciting applications we’re only starting to understand.” Venkatarman sees this feature as being especially useful in off-the grid locations. “Imagine when go camping, you’d be charging the molecules while you are hiking, then you’d discharge them to cook your dinner,” he said . AzoPMA could also be used as a non-burning material in solar-thermal ovens, which would reduce the risk of health damage from fumes on stoves common in rural areas, as a component of large household batteries, or spread out in small pieces to melt snow after a storm, without the need for electricity. Via NBC News Images via MIT and Nature

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New ‘thermal battery’ soaks up heat energy like a sponge

Seattle’s new Angle Lake Transit Station looks like a long-exposure photo of a dancer in motion

January 11, 2018 by  
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Architecture firm Brooks + Scarpa just completed construction on the new Angle Lake Transit Station and Plaza at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The building’s design was inspired by dance, and the architects wrapped the structure an undulating transparent envelope that mimics the motion of the human body. The team drew inspiration from an improvisational dance piece by famous contemporary dance choreographer William Forsythe. In it, dancers connect their bodies by matching lines in space that could be bent, tossed or otherwise distorted. Thanks to the use of ruled surface geometry and straight aluminum elements, the architects were able to achieve complex curved forms that look like a long-exposure portrait of a dancer. Related: Brooks + Scarpa completes forest-like kinetic sculpture ringed with rain gardens The seven-acre 400,000 square foot mixed-use complex features a seven-story cast-in-place and post-tensioned concrete structure. Its exterior façade is composed of over 7,500 custom-formed blue anodized aluminum panels. Brooks + Scarpa segmented each element into standardized sizes for the most efficient structural shape and material form, while maximizing production, fabrication and installation cost efficiency. This made it possible to install the façade on-site in less than three weeks without the use of cranes or special equipment. + Brooks + Scarpa Lead photo by Benjamin Benschneider

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Seattle’s new Angle Lake Transit Station looks like a long-exposure photo of a dancer in motion

Critically endangered red wolf may be forced into extinction by GOP

December 1, 2017 by  
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There are only 45 to 60 red wolves left in the wild, concentrated in a small area of North Carolina — but for Republicans, that is simply too many. The  Canis rufus, which was declared endangered in 1982 and critically endangered in 1996, has seen only slight growth in its population over the last 30-plus years. As such, the wolves have been protected through a captive breeding and reintroduction program funded by the federal government. But now with Republicans controlling the Senate, a covert push is underway to eviscerate the protective agency and force these red wolves into extinction. As IFLS shares, the initiative is  buried in a Senate report , written as: “The Committee acknowledges the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s request that the [Fish and Wildlife] Service end the Red Wolf recovery program and declare the Red Wolf extinct.” The claim is that “landowners and other species” are being impacted by the wolves and that “the program has failed to meet population goals for the red wolf”—though, notably, absolutely no research or data was accompanied to back up the statements. If passed, the program would come to a close next year. Related: Red Wolves Critically Close to Extinction After Hunters Kill 10 Percent of Population “Senate Republicans are trying to hammer a final nail in the coffin of the struggling red wolf recovery program,” Perrin de Jong, a Center for Biological Diversity staff attorney, said in a  press release . “It is morally reprehensible for Senator Murkowski and her committee to push for the extinction of North Carolina’s most treasured wild predator. Instead of giving up on the red wolf, Congress should fund recovery efforts, something lawmakers have cynically blocked time and time again.” The handful of existing red wolves are the result of an aggressive reintroduction effort started in 1987 to bring them out of extinction. Even today, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reports they are “one of the world’s most endangered wild canids,” though they have made “good progress” in rebuilding the population, despite illegal poaching and interbreeding with coyotes. The goal has been to grow the number to 220 red wolves. Rather than disassembling the program, the Center for Biological Diversity is calling on pols to improve it: “The science demonstrates that red wolves are still recoverable. A 2014  report  by the nonpartisan Wildlife Management Institute concluded that recovery would require augmenting eastern North Carolina’s existing wild population of fewer than 45 red wolves with two additional wild populations and investing additional resources to build local support for red wolf recovery.” Both the subcommittee and the Interior Department will decide the fate of the wolves. Unfortunately, as the two are under the control of the GOP, a party that has little interest in environmental conservation, the future of the red wolf is bleak. Via  IFL Science Images via Center for Biological Diversity

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Critically endangered red wolf may be forced into extinction by GOP

ANNOUNCING: Inhabitat’s 2017 Green Holiday Gift Guide!

December 1, 2017 by  
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The holidays are almost here – and we’re thrilled to announce Inhabitat’s 2017 Green Holiday Gift Guide ! We’ve hunted high and low for the best eco-friendly gifts to help make your holiday shopping a little easier. This year, we’ve rounded up gifts that will thrill the guys and gals in your life, gifts that you can make , gifts that won’t break the bank , gifts that cost nothing but time and even gifts for the home and for your furry friends (and if you leave things until the last minute, we’ve got gifts for that , too). Grab your laptop, put on some tunes and get ready to win the holidays. GIFTS FOR GUYS > GIFTS FOR LADIES > GIFTS FOR KIDS > GIFTS FOR THE HOME > GADGETS GIFTS > GIFTS FOR THE GREEN THUMB > GIFTS FOR FURRY FRIENDS > GIFTS OF TIME > MAKE YOUR OWN GIFTS > GIFTS THAT GIVE BACK > HEIRLOOM GIFTS > LAST MINUTE GIFTS >

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ANNOUNCING: Inhabitat’s 2017 Green Holiday Gift Guide!

Man buries 42 school buses to build North America’s largest nuclear fallout shelter

November 29, 2017 by  
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When doomsday arrives, Bruce and Jean Beach have no intention of elbowing their neighbors for space. The retired couple, who reside on 12.5 acres in the rural town of Horning’s Mills just outside of Toronto, Canada, have built themselves a massive, 10,000-square-foot underground bunker. Beyond being the largest private nuclear fallout shelter in North America (as far as we know, at least), the post-apocalyptic den has also been craftily built using 42 decommissioned school buses entombed in concrete. Dubbed “The Ark Two,” the creation, spearheaded by 83-year-old Bruce Beach, sits 15 feet beneath the earth and can accommodate 500 people for several months. The bunker has in fact been designed to support a community, equipped with everything from months worth of food supplies to plumbing, a well, kitchen, laundry, library, dentist, nursery, daycare, ER/surgery room, and even a morgue. And why buses? He says they were cheap (just $300 a pop) and have reinforced steel roofs, which make for ideal bomb shelter molds. Related: Reclaimed Bunker Offers Doomsday Luxury Accommodations Beach built the shelter 35 years ago he says “not for survival, but rather for the reconstruction of society” after an atomic catastrophe. He told the  National Post,  “People think, ‘What a nut,’ and I know that, but I don’t mind, I understand the world looks upon me that way.” Indeed, Beach’s endeavor has not been free of conflict. Because he built the shelter without a permit, he’s been in and out of court over 30 times with the Canadian government. Officials want the bunker welded shut, citing public safety issues. However, Beach argues that “it’s the very opposite of something that is hazardous,” rather “something that is protective in hazardous situations.” To try to win public support, Beach has built relationships with the media to drum up positive publicity—and it’s worked. For the time being, officials have backed off. Beach now even holds volunteer opportunities and “work weekends” at the site. Visitors who are willing to put in a little elbow grease are guaranteed admission into the Ark—that is, “so long as they do so before the catastrophe occurs,” Beach writes on his site . “I used to always say the end of the world was going to be two years from now,” said Beach to the National Post. “But now I say it is going to be two weeks from now—and if I am wrong, I will revise my date.” Via Oddity Central All images via Bruce Beach’s website

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Man buries 42 school buses to build North America’s largest nuclear fallout shelter

Trump administration wants to end uranium mining ban near the Grand Canyon

November 3, 2017 by  
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The Grand Canyon is one of America’s most beloved national parks , attracting over four million visitors annually — but President Donald Trump’s administration doesn’t seem to care about that. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently proposed lifting a ban on new uranium mining near the national park, as part of a broader effort, according to Reuters, to do away with regulations hindering development after a March executive order from the president. The Forest Service , which is under the USDA and manages the land that could be re-opened to uranium mining , prepared a report in response to Trump’s Executive Order 13783 titled “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.” They proposed lifting the mining ban, put in place in 2012 to protect the watershed around the Grand Canyon. Related: Big Oil celebrates Trump’s goal to open up drilling in national parks Uranium mining pollutes water, and impacts animals and plants as it removes water sources, according to Earthjustice . The Center for Biological Diversity reports past uranium mining in the Grand Canyon area “has polluted soils, washes, aquifers, and drinking water.” They said that according to nonpartisan polls, 80 percent of Americans and 80 percent of Arizona voters back permanent protection in the Grand Canyon region from new uranium mining. According to Reuters, global demand and prices for uranium are weak. The new report even says uranium mining doesn’t generate revenue for America, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Havasupai Tribal Chairman Don Watahomigie said in a statement, “This is a dangerous industry that is motivated by profit and greed with a long history of significantly damaging lands and waters. They are now seeking new mines when this industry has yet to clean up the hundreds of existing mines all over the landscape that continue to damage our home. We should learn from the past, not ignore it.” Via Reuters , the Associated Press , Earthjustice , and the Center for Biological Diversity Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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