Koalas declared "functionally extinct"

May 16, 2019 by  
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The Australian Koala Foundation declared koalas officially “functionally extinct,” a term which means that though there are still about 80,000 koalas, they are either unlikely to reproduce another generation, prone to inbreeding due to low numbers or may no longer play a significant role in their ecosystem. The iconic Australian animal is on a fast track to extinction and has suffered from deforestation , disease, climate change-driven drought and a massive slaughter for fur in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Australian government listed the species as “vulnerable” in 2012 when there was thought to be between 100,000 and 500,000 koalas. Since the declaration, the government has done very little to develop or implement a protection and recovery plan. Related: 1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report With an estimated population that could even be as low as 43,000, koalas are very likely to inbreed and become even more susceptible to disease. At these small population numbers, the marsupial has very little impact on its ecosystem, the eucalyptus forest. Koalas were once critical to the nutrient cycling of the forest, with their feces an important source of fertilizer. Large koalas can consume up to 1 kilogram of eucalyptus leaves per night. Logging and urban development has encroached into what was once an abundant forest ecosystem, leading many to believe that the government needs to declare and expand protected areas of the forests. The Australia Koala Foundation has proposed a Koala Protection Act that focuses on conserving the forest as the primary strategy for protecting koalas. “The koala is one of Australia’s most recognizable symbols, but its survival hangs in the balance,” the  San Diego Zoo said  in a statement. “Formerly thought to be common and widespread, koalas are now vulnerable to extinction across much of its northern range.” According to fossil records, Koalas are native to Australia and have been there for at least 30 million years . Via EcoWatch Image by Mathias Appel

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Koalas declared "functionally extinct"

A Chinese highway becomes a vibrant, community-centered ‘livable street’

May 16, 2019 by  
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London-based design studio WallaceLiu has given the residents of the southwestern Chinese city Chongqing a new “livable street” to enjoy. The firm was recently tasked with converting a half-mile long, 65-foot-wide highway into a  serene linear urban park , now named Yannan Avenue Park. The green space comes complete with an open-air promenade lined with ample lounge areas, playgrounds and a series of vibrantly colored canopies that light up the area with playful pops of color. The city of Chongqing has experienced rapid growth over the last decade, and as such, the city has been developing at a breakneck pace. Unfortunately, the city’s green space has been quietly disappearing to make way for new property developments — until now. Thanks to the WallaceLiu team, local residents now have a new linear park that has something for just about everyone. Related: A disused railway will become a sustainable green corridor in Taiwan According to the architects, the inspiration behind the design was to reclaim some of the city’s urban space for the residents, replacing asphalt with greenery and a welcoming public space to enjoy fresh air. The firm said, “We imagined the entire highway to be transformed into a walkable and playful place, where the elements of a highway-dominated urban landscape — curbstone, road markings, traffic signage, pedestrian fences, hedge boundaries and limited pedestrian crossings — would be replaced by a characterful and vibrant open promenade.” Lined with shade trees, seasonal shrubs and flowers, the serene walkway includes several “nooks” that were designed to encourage neighborhood interaction. Ample benches and seating are located throughout the park, with most configured as sociable places that foster conversation. Additionally, there are more than a few spaces for children in the linear park , including a rock-climbing wall. To add a sense of whimsy to the design, the firm installed six colorful canopies that provide respite from the searing summer heat as well as reflect colorful plays of light onto the landscape. + WallaceLiu Images via WallaceLiu

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A Chinese highway becomes a vibrant, community-centered ‘livable street’

Phoenix Earthship features a food garden and jungle in off-grid fashion

May 16, 2019 by  
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An earthship is an accommodation with low environmental impact. The design of an earthship incorporates natural and recycled materials in the architecture and decor. It is built with conservation of natural resources in mind so that it produces its own water, electricity and food. Most earthships reuse discarded tires, cans and bottles for wall construction, and mud is common for wall plaster and floors. The energy savings through self-heating and cooling properties are remarkable. Most earthships rely on solar and wind energy as well as rain and snow harvesting for water needs. The Phoenix Earthship is a prime example, located completely off the grid with its own garden. Available as a short-term rental through Airbnb , the Phoenix sleeps up to eight people in the 5,300-square-foot structure near Tres Piedras, New Mexico, so you can try out earthship living. Like most homes, the Phoenix has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen and a living room, and then there’s a jungle — inside. Related: Couple builds an ‘Earthship’ tiny home for less than $10K The architectural and decorative details are incomparable with the building creating its own microclimate. That means plants and animals thrive in a space that is basically a greenhouse surrounded by the dry, sage-brush covered mesa surrounding it. The greenhouse and jungle areas feature a fish pond, birds, turtles, a food garden, banana trees and even a chicken coop that can provide fresh eggs during your stay. The water process functions as a semi-closed unit, beginning with water runoff collection . After use, gray water feeds into the indoor plants that both drink and filter it, where it is stored and then pumped to the toilets as needed. From the toilet, the water heads to a traditional sewer where overflow is consumed by outdoor plants. The entire structure looks like it was carved out of a hillside, with rounded walls and alcoves making up each space. Natural glass, clay, wood and rock can be found in every nook and cranny. Dubbed a “work of sustainable art,” the Phoenix Earthship provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy the actual nature outside the glass with a fire pit and seating, views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and spaces for unparalleled stargazing. In contrast to the remote feel and off-grid design, the Phoenix provides solar-powered modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, television and a cozy indoor fireplace with a water fountain feature. + Phoenix Earthship Images via Earthship Media

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Phoenix Earthship features a food garden and jungle in off-grid fashion

Penalties for protesting pipelines increase in 15 states

May 16, 2019 by  
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At least 15 states have passed or proposed bills that further criminalize trespassing on fossil fuel infrastructure, a trend that environmental and free speech advocates argue unnecessarily targets pipeline protesters and indigenous leaders. In 2018, Louisiana passed a bill that makes trespassing on so-called “critical infrastructure” a more serious offense than existing trespassing laws. While trespassing has long been considered a misdemeanor, the law now specifies that the same act on particular private property is now a felony. Throughout the country, trespassing laws have been edited to define ‘critical infrastructure’ as fossil fuel facilities, including proposed pipeline routes where there is no existing infrastructure yet. Related: For the first time in 86 years, environmental activists in the UK sentenced to jail “These are people saying, ‘let’s make sure we have something left for future generations’ … and for that we were charged with felonies, we were beaten, we were stepped on, I was choked,” Cherri Foytlin, a pipeline protester in Louisiana,  told the press . Similar laws have passed in Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Indiana and Iowa. The backlash is largely due to the massive 2017 protest of a pipeline at Standing Rock , led by the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe. Bi-partisan supporters of the states’ new legislation argue that the intent is to dissuade acts of terrorism; however, many opponents feel the existing trespassing laws were sufficient. For many environmental activists, these new laws are further proof of the government’s allegiance to the fossil fuel industry, and they believe threats of felonies, jail time and high fines will discourage other activists from voicing their opinions against pipeline development. Across 15 states, possible consequences include 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. Those who do not trespass themselves but merely support activists verbally or financially are also liable before the law. This month, the Natural Resources Defense Council published an alarming blog post inquiring if merely “liking” a Facebook post about a pipeline protest could be considered illegal under South Dakota’s newest legislation. In Indiana’s Bill 471 , so-called “conspirators” can also be fined up to $100,000. Via Grist Image via Luke Jones

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Penalties for protesting pipelines increase in 15 states

1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report

May 7, 2019 by  
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A new study released Monday by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reports that nearly one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction largely due to unsustainable economic development. The global assessment is the largest and most comprehensive study about biodiversity loss and the role of capitalism. The report synthesizes more than 15,000 scientific papers published over three years; it was released on May 6 and endorsed by more than 130 countries. The report focuses on the disappearance of key species such as pollinators, coral reefs , fish and medicinal plants and specifies the devastating role of industrial farming, fishing and climate change . “If we want to leave a world for our children and grandchildren that has not been destroyed by human activity, we need to act now,” Robert Watson, who chaired the study,  told Reuters . The report’s drastic findings mirror the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s report from October that recommends drastic economic and social changes are needed to slow extinction. Related: Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change According to the report, the list of threatened species includes 40 percent of all amphibians, 33 percent of reef-building corals and sharks and one third of all marine mammals. The report calls the rate of extinction “unprecedented” and “accelerating,” explaining that the current rate of extinction is tens to hundreds times higher than it has been over the last ten million years. The report also delves into the economic valuation of ecosystems and biodiversity loss and the impact on human societies. For example, the report findings indicate that $577 billion dollars annually in crop production are at risk if bees and other pollinators become extinct. The loss of mangroves and coral reefs could put 300 million coastal residents at risk of flooding. Reuters described the report as “a cornerstone of an emerging body of research that suggests the world may need to embrace a new ‘post-growth’ form of economics;” however, this acknowledgement continues to ignore ‘non-traditional’ and non-academic voices that have been calling for and modeling more sustainable economies and ecosystems for centuries. + United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Via Reuters Image via Pixels

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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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In a world first, the UK declares a climate emergency

Jendretzki Design envisions an eco retreat for NYC’s Rat Island

May 7, 2019 by  
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New York-based Jendretzki Design has proposed building an off-grid eco resort on NYC’s remote Rat Island. The design firm’s renderings show a series of prefab gabled cabins with ultra-large glass facades built on the island’s edge to provide stunning views of the ocean. According to the plans, the cabins and all buildings on site would be zero-energy, running on solar and wind power with rainwater collection systems. Rat Island (originally named “Rattle Island” for the locals that stood on the small island with rattles to warn passing ships about the dangerous rocks) is a privately-owned, 2.5-acre island that is just off of City Island Harbor and the greater Long Island Sound . Mostly made up of Manhattan schist bedrock, the island was once used as a quarantine hospital during the typhoid fever scares of the 1800s, but it is now vacant of any buildings due to the fact that the rocky outpost becomes submerged during high tide. Related: Go glamping with views of the Statue of Liberty on NYC’s Governors Island Despite its rocky terrain and low-lying stature, Pablo Jendretzki believes that the remote island would make the perfect spot for a serene eco retreat . “There is a small canal penetrating through the island that was carved out of the rocks about 100 years ago that we incorporated into the design so that canoes and small boats can arrive directly under the main building on high tide,” the studio said. According to the conceptual plans, the challenging terrain would require all structures to be built on concrete braces and piers bolted into the rocky landscape. The boutique retreat would be comprised of prefab wooden cabins with pitched roofs, all with living areas, bedrooms, a kitchenette and bathroom. Glazed facades would provide unobstructed views of the sea. The resort’s buildings would run on renewable energy, namely solar and wind power. The carbon-neutral structures would also have rainwater collection systems for potable and service waters. Additionally, the island’s waste would be directed to a compost treatment system. According to Jendretzki, the building plans are merely conceptual at the moment, but the firm is currently conducting zoning analysis to determine the feasibility of the project. + Jendretzki Design Via Dezeen Images via Jendretzki Design

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Floating treehouse inside Mexican forest is a dreamy escape from city noise

May 7, 2019 by  
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In the heart of Mexico City, local architectural firm Talleresque has completed Casa Flotante (Floating House), a treehouse-like oasis in the forest. Elevated on nine stilts, the three-story home and work studio stands tall and narrow, mimicking the surrounding trees. As a celebration of indoor-outdoor living , the house is built of locally sourced materials and large glazed windows that pulls the outdoors in. Raised above sloped terrain, Casa Flotante floating house is anchored into the forest floor and spans a total area of 936 square feet. The base, which consists of nine pillars organized in a grid layout, supports a large timber platform above and has space for storage and a water cistern below. A short flight of stairs leads to the first floor, where nearly half the area is used as an outdoor living room edged in with planters. Inside is a compact living space with a workspace that faces the outdoors, a kitchenette and dedicated area for the drum set. An outdoor staircase wraps around the slender home to the second floor where the bathroom and shower is located, and then winds up once more to the final floor where the bedroom is found. Timber is the predominate material used in the project, from the exterior cladding and stair treads to the interior walls, floors, ceilings and furnishings. Floor-to-ceiling windows , large glazed openings and skylights illuminate every the floating house like a lantern, creating a constant connection with the outdoors. Related: This elevated prefab home in Chile takes in striking volcano views “Casa Flotante is much more than all its spaces,” says Juan De La Rosa of Talleresque. “It’s a bridge between nature and shelter, which invites all trees and plants inside. The behavior is not to dominate but to reflect. To give into the landscape… like a mirror. Made of light and reflections, the atmosphere multiplies its views and sensations. Size and proportion lets one ascend in a spiral, through the house between the studio and the bedroom: Between pleasure and creation; through thoughts and dreams.” + Talleresque Images by Studio Chirika

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Floating treehouse inside Mexican forest is a dreamy escape from city noise

These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

March 12, 2019 by  
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Humans have a long history of wiping out animal populations, and we continue to do so even to this day. According to a new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, people around the world are eating hundreds of animal species into extinction. If we don’t make some changes, the authors of the study warn that the food security of hundreds of millions of people could be threatened. Currently, we are in the middle of mass extinction that rivals the wiping out of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But this time, it isn’t a giant meteorite doing all the damage — it’s humans. Over the past century, we have accelerated extinction rates 100 hundred times greater than what would naturally occur without human impact. As we continue to destroy habitats with construction and invade wild areas for hunting, 301 species of land mammals are now critically endangered and have made their way to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The list includes 168 primates, 73 hoofed animals, 27 bats, 26 marsupials, 21 rodent species and 12 carnivores. There are also 1,414 species of fish on the Red List. “There are plenty of bad things affecting wildlife around the world, and habitat loss and degradation are clearly at the forefront, but among the other things is the seemingly colossal impact of bushmeat hunting,” said David MacDonald, professor at the University of Oxford and part of the international research team. Bushmeat is a traditional food source for rural people in societies across the globe. That is starting to change because of large-scale commercial hunting and road construction in remote areas. MacDonald said that the number of hunters continues to increase, and the roads are being built in the most remote places, so there is no place left for wildlife to go. Not only does this mass extinction threaten food security, but it also upsets ecosystems. To reverse this problem, the researchers in this new study have a few ideas. They recommend greater legal protection for the endangered species, empowering local communities to prioritize wildlife conservation , providing alternative foods and family planning to reduce the rate of population growth. The list of endangered animals is long, but here are a few highlights. Bluefin tuna One of the fastest fish on Earth, bluefin tuna can hit speeds around 40 miles per hour when they are hunting, can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh as much as 1500 pounds. However, with the growing demand for sushi, overfishing is becoming a huge problem, and the bluefin tuna numbers are dropping. Related: Endangered bluefin tuna sold for $3.1 billion to sushi tycoon Whale shark The largest fish in the sea, the whale shark has been on the critically endangered list for three years, because the population has dropped more than 50 percent in the last 75 years thanks to both legal and illegal fishing. According to National Geographic, fishing for whale sharks is extremely lucrative, because they can be “harvested for their meat, fins and other parts used in traditional medicinal products.” Of course, they are also in great demand for shark fin soup. Pangolin These nocturnal mammals have keratin scales, emit a harmful chemical like skunks and eat ants and termites. In Africa, they are a major source of food and medicine, but in China and Vietnam, they are a delicacy. This has led to the pangolin becoming the most trafficked animal in the world. Related: Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project There is an international trade ban on all pangolin species, but this has only resulted in rising prices as the population declines. Chinese giant salamander As the largest amphibian on Earth, the Chinese giant salamander has been around for more than 170 million years, and it can grow to be 6 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. The species is currently on the critically endangered list, because it is a Chinese delicacy. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. In just three generations, the population has plummeted by 80 percent. Sturgeon With fossil records dating back 200 million years, we know that sturgeon have survived two — maybe three — mass extinctions . This time, the species might not be so lucky. The beluga sturgeon is being overfished, because the eggs are needed for caviar. They take 20 years to reach maturity, but we are killing them to harvest the eggs at massive rates. You can learn more about the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species on the organization’s website. Images via Danilo Cedrone / UN Food and Agriculture Organization , Aruro de Frias Marques , A.J.T. Johnsingh / WWF-India , Petr Hamerník , USFWS and National Marine  Sanctuary

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These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

This sleek lamp provides light and grows food

March 12, 2019 by  
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As the population of the planet continues to grow, the ability to produce enough food is a continual discussion. Not only are we busy finding ways to make enough of the right kinds of foods to sustain the masses, but we’re simultaneously investing in opportunities for the backyard (or living room) gardener to grow their own foods. With an urban lifestyle in mind, start-up Benditas Studio has created a lamp that doubles as a vegetable garden. Brot, a dual functioning lamp and garden, made its inaugural appearance at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in February in the “Greenhouse” category as a debut piece from duo Caterina Vianna and Ferran Gest, self-proclaimed food and design lovers. Related: This hexagonal indoor farm grows more food in less space with 90% less water “We love food, and we love design, and this is how Benditas Studio came up,” shared Vianna. “When we say we design furniture for food, we mean that we create objects/services, not only for persons but for the food itself. We wanted to play with the meaning of furniture because we saw projects of ‘furniture for public spaces,’ ‘furniture for the living area’ or ‘furniture for the contract sector’ … but we never heard about a furniture for food. We design products and services that dialogue with food; merge them in a way to spread a new message.” The terracotta material of the lamp brings a natural feel to the space and a supportive element for the growth of the seeds inside. The bottom of two pieces contains a stainless steel tray to hold the plant. Different seeds are available, but the process is the same for them all. Simply soak the seeds for the specified amount of time, and then place them into the tray and moisten them two to three times per day. Produce like sprouts are ready to eat in as little as four to six days. The heat and light from the lamp in the upper piece furnishes warmth for the seeds while providing ambient light for the surrounding space. The Brot is not yet for sale, but the company hopes to find a production facility soon. + Benditas Studio Via Core77 Images via Benditas Studio

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This sleek lamp provides light and grows food

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