Whimsical guesthouse uses prefab timber and corten steel

May 4, 2020 by  
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Belgian firm  Atelier Vens Vanbelle  has created a stunning guest home for a client who works in the film industry. Located in the Uitbergen region of East Flanders, the Alex Guesthouse boasts an eye-catching design comprised of a unique curved volume made out of prefabricated timber  and clad in corten steel. Tucked into a wooded area of a private yard, the guesthouse sits on a slightly-raised hill, overlooking the main home on one side and a dense forest on the other. The property belongs to an executive in the film industry who tasked the Belgian architects to create a unique space to accommodate international guests. Comprised of a main cabin-like area with living space and one bedroom, the  compact structure  also houses a bar and cinema for entertaining. R elated: Old ruins are transformed into a cozy, off-grid guesthouse in France Prefabricating the materials off-site  enabled the architects to reduce the project’s construction time and costs, as well as reduce the home’s impact. Additionally, the natural materials used in its construction not only allow the structure to blend perfectly into its peaceful natural surroundings, but also reduced the project’s overall environmental footprint. Inside the whimsical guest home, visitors will find a bright and airy space, with minimal furnishings. With walls lined in varying exposed layers of LVL wood, the interior has a modern cabin-like aesthetic. The fun space is flooded with  natural light  thanks to a massive circular window. On the ground floor, the main living area, along with a combo kitchen and dining room make up the central living space, with the large bedroom off to the side. The guest home also has a basement space below and a watchtower above. The basement is set up with a quaint entertainment space, complete with a bar and film-viewing room with ample seating. Working upwards through the home, a  spiral staircase  wraps upwards to the watchtower that leads out to an open-air outdoor space to take in the views. + Atelier Vens Vanbelle Via Design Boom Photography by Tim Van de Velde

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Whimsical guesthouse uses prefab timber and corten steel

Meghan Markle narrates new Disney elephant documentary

March 27, 2020 by  
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Meghan Markle is returning to show biz to narrate a new Disney documentary about African elephants . This will be her first film since the former Suits star gave up her career to marry Prince Harry. The film Elephant will start streaming on April 3 on Disney+. Elephant focuses on Shani, an African elephant, and her son, Jomo, as they migrate across the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. Led by matriarch Gaia and accompanied by the rest of their herd, they face common problems of the modern elephant: predators, diminished resources and brutal heat. Related: Villagers in India knit sweaters to protect rescued elephants from the cold Disneynature and the Disney Conservation Fund will donate some of the film’s proceeds to Elephants Without Borders . This charitable organization focuses on elephant research, education and outreach and works with the government of Botswana and Botswana’s Department of Wildlife & National Parks to run an elephant orphanage . This latest documentary is one of a series of Disneynature films narrated by celebrities. Meryl Streep, Jane Goodall and Morgan Freeman have also done voiceovers on Disneynature productions. Natalie Portman narrated Dolphin Reef, which will also premiere on April 3. You can see a joint trailer for Elephants and Dolphin Reef here . Botswana featured prominently in the royal love story between Markle and Harry. Harry has long been active in conservation work in Africa, having visited since his teens. He became president of African Parks in late 2017 and is a patron Rhino Conservation Botswana. Soon after Markle met him in 2016, Harry invited her to camp in the Botswana wilderness . “She came and joined me for five days out there, which was absolutely fantastic,” he said, according to People. “So then we were really by ourselves, which was crucial to me to make sure that we had a chance to know each other.” The following year, they again visited Botswana, this time to aid Dr. Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders. + People Image via Wikimedia Commons

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16 must-see environmental documentaries

December 23, 2019 by  
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From animals facing extinction to pollution to global warming, the world is changing — quickly. Some days you may feel like you’re the only one concerned with what is happening to the planet. But there are a host of scientists, environmentalists, authors, journalists, adventurers and Hollywood actors that share your mindset and went through the effort of getting it to the screen. Here are some top environmental documentaries to watch if you’re looking for a show that keeps sustainability in focus. Before the Flood, 2016 Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio in conjunction with National Geographic, Before the Flood follows DiCaprio as he talks with world leaders, politicians, scientists and religious figures to better understand the thinking around the climate crisis . Related: Attenborough Effect inspires people to drastically reduce single-use plastics Chasing Coral, 2017 Coral is a barometer for the health of the planet . As a measure of this health, coral is showing that the earth is sick. This documentary follows scientists, divers and photographers underwater, where they investigate the reasons behind the detrimental disappearance of healthy coral around the globe. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, 2014 In a world where many people either deny climate change or talk in generalizations about the causes and solutions, this documentary puts a fine point on the pervasive damage that agriculture has on the planet, connecting it to global warming, water use , deforestation and ocean dead zones. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, 2017 No list of environmental documentaries would be complete without mentioning the climate change film that added fuel to the conversation, An Inconvenient Truth , which features Former American Vice President Al Gore’s efforts to inform and inspire climate policies around the globe. The story continues with An Inconvenient Sequel , following Gore on his environmental campaign, sharing poignant personal and public moments with activists across the planet. The True Cost, 2015 The True Cost exposes another major contributor of pollution, waste and consumption — the fast fashion industry. This is a first-hand account of the human cost of clothing manufacturing, exposing low-wages and poor treatment of workers. It also highlights toxins added to the soil and waterways via plant growth (such as cotton) and throughout the manufacturing process (such as dyes). Director Andrew Morgan connects all of this to the driving force of the media, culture, societal norms and consumerism. Chasing Ice, 2012 This award-winning film pulls together years of time-lapse photography to document the planet’s rapidly melting glaciers . More Than Honey, 2012 In light of mass colony collapse, this documentary seeks to provide a better understanding of the importance of honey bees while looking for answers as to what is causing the decline in bee populations. A Plastic Ocean, 2016 Adventurers Craig Leeson and Tanya Streeter team up with an international team of scientists and researchers to reveal the astonishing amount of plastic waste consuming the ocean and coastlines, endangering animals and polluting the food chain. The images and reporting cover 20 locations over the course of four years. Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, 2014 This film uncovers the nasty truth behind food waste , from farms to retail consumption. The lens follows filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer as they vow to sustain themselves for six months without buying groceries, instead relying on food that would otherwise be thrown out. The Story of Stuff, 2007 The Story of Stuff appears to be a playful, 20-minute video that is actually a dart thrown directly into the bullseye of consumerism and capitalism. This powerful animation cuts straight to the point of the damaging effects of manufacturing, material sourcing, convenience and quick disposal of the “stuff” in our lives. Explained, 2018 This docuseries , a Netflix original, highlights a range of topics, many of which pertain to the environment. Look for episodes titled, “The Future of Meat,” and “The World’s Water Crisis” to get started. Tomorrow, 2015 Where many documentaries are fatalistic, Tomorrow aims to focus on the positive. From French filmmakers Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent, Tomorrow is a mostly uplifting journey around the planet, discovering people and communities focused on solutions through agriculture, energy , economy, education and government policy. Tapped, 2009 Plastic is a well-known environmental issue. In Tapped , directors Stephanie Soechtig and Jason Lindsey aim directly at the bottled water industry as a major contributor to the problem. They explore the financial and environmental impact of the industry, including material sources, manufacturing, and post-consumer waste. No Impact Man, 2009 Following the journey of author Colin Beavan, No Impact Man provides a look inside his dedication to going green. The cameras follow Beavan as he disconnects from all modern conveniences including electricity, gas-powered transportation, shipped food and public waste disposal in an effort to experience a life without environment impact. What begins as a journey about minimalism leads to a discovery about happiness, relationships and balance. How to Change the World, 2015 Drawing from archived video from 1971, this film tells the story of the passionate pioneers that founded Greenpeace and somewhat unintentionally gave birth to the green movement. Patrimonio, 2018 It’s happening all over the world — corporations moving into small communities and changing their ways of life. Patrimonio is an example of one community forever driven toward change as a resort and housing development, packaged commercially as a holistic yoga retreat, moves into town. Images via

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16 must-see environmental documentaries

Expedition Bigfoot casts new light on famous forest dweller with science and conservation in mind

December 11, 2019 by  
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In an era where people take “unplugged” vacations, there’s something idyllic about a hairy biped that looks just a little bit like us but has no use for our high-tech ways. Ironically, Expedition Bigfoot, a new Travel Channel show, is using the advanced technology that Sasquatch eschews to track this elusive creature all while celebrating the mysteries of nature and the importance of science and conservation . Expedition Bigfoot assembles an elite team of Bigfoot researchers for its eight-part series, which debuted December 8. A Bigfoot sighting algorithm helped them select the most promising three weeks of the year to search a 90,000-acre swath of central Oregon . The show promises “possible nesting sites, footprints and vocalizations,” “inexplicable events” and “one of the greatest pieces of video evidence in Bigfoot history,” according to the Travel Channel website. The Expedition Bigfoot cast includes Bryce Johnson overseeing expedition operations, Bigfoot researchers Ryan Golembeske, Russell Acord and Ronny LeBlanc, and primatologist Dr. Mireya Mayor. Inhabitat caught up with Acord, who spoke while en route to the annual Sasquatch Summit in Washington. Acord’s answers here have been edited for space. Inhabitat: What drives you to find Bigfoot? Acord: It’s that chase. I got interested in the same thing that got everybody else interested, that ’67 footage. That, to date, has been the best footage that anyone has ever seen. I want to find something equally impressive and capture that same kind of Class-A sighting on film and just be part of that. But I can’t think of a better hobby other than being out in the wilderness, breathing all that beautiful air, climbing the mountains , looking for something like this. So it’s a win/win. Inhabitat: How did you get involved with Expedition Bigfoot? Acord: I think the producers were looking for boots-on-the-ground researchers. Collectively as a team, I can’t imagine working with somebody else on something this important. They’re definitely the A Team, and I feel very, very honored to be part of this as a researcher. Inhabitat: Are you a 100 percent believer? Acord: I am a 100 percent researcher . I believe in the possibility. I believe that there’s so much out there that we have yet to discover. I don’t think for a second that it’s not possible. There’s too much historical evidence, there’s too much evidence that we’ve run into that points directly to that. I believe in the possibility. Absolutely. Inhabitat: What is your best guess on what Bigfoot is, based on research? Acord: I grew up hunting in Montana , so I know that if it leaves tracks, it’s got body weight. If it makes sounds, it’s got lungs in order to make a sound. If it pushes things around, it’s got muscle mass. I believe it to be a forest animal. I use the word “animal” loosely. I believe it to be of the forest, flesh and blood, that doesn’t need our electricity, our roads or our technology to survive. I think that it’s done a darned good job staying out of our path and avoiding us. Wherever it inhabits, wherever it lies, it is certainly not hurting our ecosystem whatsoever. I think that we’re encroaching on its space. Inhabitat: What is its range? Acord: I would think anywhere where there’s resources. I don’t think that we’re going to find him in the middle of the desert , but where there’s resources, trees, water. We’re all the same way. Humans are the same. I can physically walk from coast to coast if I take the time to do it. So I think there’s no limit to their range as far as where they can and will go for survival. Inhabitat: Do you ever worry about what’s going to happen if you find Bigfoot? Acord: That’s a double-edged sword. There could be two ways to look at that. Let’s suppose I’m in the Cascades and I find Bigfoot there. There will be a drive to protect that wildlife , to protect the landscape, to protect the environment. But then on the other side of it, there are ridiculous people on the planet that think that they have to be the ones that bag the big game. I don’t think you have to kill something to prove its existence. So a lot of researchers I know refuse to come forward with their findings simply because of that. Inhabitat: If you finally came face-to-face with Bigfoot, how do you think you’d react? Acord: I’m going to run up and grab a handful of chest hair. [Laughs.] I need a couple of samples. Let me get a selfie with you, let me get some pictures, but I want some hair. I always go with the camera ready, too. I will get as much documentation as possible. Especially face-to-face, within 5 to 10 feet, I’m going to be rolling every piece of film I’ve got and collect as much as I possibly can, as far as evidence goes. But if I can get close enough to grab a handful of fur, I’m grabbing it. Inhabitat: What are the most important pieces of equipment you have now that earlier Bigfoot seekers didn’t have? Acord: I have military-grade thermal imaging. It will not only record on the device itself, but I can also sync it to my Bluetooth and run it off my iPhone. I have night vision goggles. Anything that records is definitely key. One thing that you should always take with you is DNA collection. Take nitrile gloves, tweezers and a way to put it into a sealed environment . Don’t touch it with your skin, don’t breathe on it and just don’t contaminate it. Grab what you can, and research it once you get out to where you have the equipment. I have a microscope on my truck. Inhabitat: What do you want viewers to know about Expedition Bigfoot, without spoiling any surprises? Acord: The show is based on real, authentic research . It’s based on how we conduct ourselves in the field, what kind of technology is available to us and actually getting out there and doing it. The show is about consuming a piece of land, methodically working through it and really looking and doing in-depth research. The results certainly paid off. + Expedition Bigfoot + Russell Acord Images via Expedition Bigfoot and Adam Neil

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Expedition Bigfoot casts new light on famous forest dweller with science and conservation in mind

Low-cost solar absorber could supercharge solar power plants

April 6, 2017 by  
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One of the major challenges in developing solar panels has been creating photovoltaic cells which can absorb as much solar energy as possible – without overheating to the point that they begin to simply radiate energy back into the atmosphere. In the past, this has meant that commercially available solar cells only manage to convert about 30 percent of sunlight they absorb into energy. Researchers from Purdue University may have found a way to overcome this issue by modifying regular silicon wafers to more efficiently absorb the energy at higher temperatures than ever before. The new study, published in the journal Applied Physics Letters , outlines how silicon wafers can be coated with thin films of tantalum and silicon nitride to enhance their ability to absorb sunlight. The modified surface is then able to selectively absorb photons within a certain range on the light spectrum, while reflecting those that cannot be used. Related: Flexible new solar panel is almost 80% lighter than traditional panels The resulting solar cells can withstand temperatures up to 535 degrees Celsius without any performance or stability issues, converting a staggering 50 percent of sunlight into useable energy. This research has some interesting applications – for instance, the same film could be painted on the surface of mirrored parabolic troughs used in concentrated solar plants in order to make them even more efficient. While the film isn’t yet ready for any kind of commercial application, the authors of the study hope it will inspire others to try a similar experimental approach to enhancing solar absorption. Via Phsy.org Images via Purdue University and Shutterstock

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Leonardo DiCaprio says climate action is America’s "biggest economic opportunity"

December 27, 2016 by  
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Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is taking President-elect Donald Trump to task on the topic of climate change. At this month’s United Nations Correspondents Association awards ceremony, DiCaprio called out a “few, very prominent people” who still deny the science on climate change – and then suggested that climate action offers America’s “biggest economic opportunity.” Hopes soared when DiCaprio met with the President-elect’s daughter , Ivanka Trump, earlier this month. The actor even met with the President-elect to clue him in on the fact that renewable energy could generate millions of jobs. But with top government positions offered to people like ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson and Energy Transfer Partners board member Rick Perry , it seems Trump refuses to acknowledge the science on climate change. Related: Leonardo DiCaprio schools Donald Trump on the benefits of renewable energy As DiCaprio received a prize at the U.N. event, he said the truth about climate change is spreading like wildfire. He said the world’s scientists have come to “overwhelming conclusions” that climate change is “largely human-caused and needs immediate urgent attention.” The actor and activist also said that “In less than 100 years of our pollution-based prosperity, we humans have put our entire existence in jeopardy.” DiCaprio’s recently released film Before the Flood is one of the most-viewed documentaries in history – and according to the actor, the impressive statistics show “just how much the world cares about the issue of climate change.” National Geographic Channel issued a press release back in early November stating the film was the “most-watched documentary in the world since 2000, and the most watched National Geographic film ever released.” DiCaprio also had a message of hope for those who fear backward environmental policies from Trump. “To those who may be discouraged by nay-sayers, let me remind you, the environmental awakening is all over the world and the progress we have made so far…has always been because of people, not governments.” The actor listed purchasing cleaner vehicles, eating smaller amounts of meat, and businesses going carbon-neutral as steps people have taken to battle climate change without the help of any government. Via Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Leonardo DiCaprio says climate action is America’s "biggest economic opportunity"

Leonardo DiCaprio eyes Captain Planet revival with a contemporary twist

October 19, 2016 by  
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Leonardo DiCaprio may have found his next project to help the planet: a movie starring 90’s cartoon environmental superhero Captain Planet . Captain Planet and the Planeteers ended in late 1992, but it seems DiCaprio thinks the themes from the old TV show are relevant today. There’s a twist: sources told The Hollywood Reporter we might see Captain Planet in a new light, as a ” washed-up has-been .” DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way Productions and Paramount are reportedly attempting to obtain the rights for the TV series. DiCaprio would be a producer on the film – no word yet on whether or not he would play one of the characters. Jono Matt and Glenn Powell’s names have been floated to pen the screenplay. Related: Leonardo DiCaprio could be headed to Mars with SpaceX The original Captain Planet TV series followed the adventures of five children possessing magic rings that, when used together, could summon the environmental superhero. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter a DiCaprio Captain Planet film would be set after the timeline of the TV series. Instead of the hero taking “pollution down to zero,” Captain Planet could be portrayed as a ” washed-up has-been who needs the kids more than they need him .” Actor David Coburn, who voiced Captain Planet, has said he’d love to be involved with a Captain Planet movie. He told The Hollywood Reporter , “There’s nobody better to play Captain Planet than Leo. Well there’s me, then there’s Leo. But if it can’t be me, if Captain Planet can’t be a 51-year-old Jew, then Leo’s a good second choice.” Even though the TV show ended decades ago, Captain Planet is still making his mark through the Captain Planet Foundation , an active organization that works to inspire kids to become ” agents of environmental change ” through clubs, programs, and events. Via The Hollywood Reporter Images via Leonardo DiCaprio Facebook and Captain Planet Facebook

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Leonardo DiCaprio eyes Captain Planet revival with a contemporary twist

Planet Earth nature documentary is returning for a second season this year

February 29, 2016 by  
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A full 10 years after its initial debut, Planet Earth will be returning to the small screen for a second season this year. Following in its own innovative footsteps as the first BBC nature documentary to be shot in high definition, the series will now be filmed in 4K. It is hoped the new spellbinding images will propel 4K technology, just as the initial series did for HD. Read the rest of Planet Earth nature documentary is returning for a second season this year

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Leonardo DiCaprio will produce a dystopian climate change film based on a YA novel

February 5, 2016 by  
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Leonardo DiCaprio has announced plans to produce a post-apocalyptic climate change film based on a book for young adults. The Sandcastle Empire novel by Kayla Olson will be imagined on the big screen as an unsettling warning against what feels like an inevitable, dystopian future. Read the rest of Leonardo DiCaprio will produce a dystopian climate change film based on a YA novel

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Mongolian eagle huntress who broke gender barriers steals the show at Sundance

January 28, 2016 by  
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A young Mongolian girl has broken through gender barriers by learning how to hunt with golden eagles (an activity traditionally practiced by men in her culture) – and her story has made its way to the Sundance film festival . Aisholpan previously turned heads in a series of photographs , fearlessly taking on the male-dominated tradition, and now she’s gaining international recognition on the big screen – and she was just honored in a Comanche naming ceremony in Utah. Read the rest of Mongolian eagle huntress who broke gender barriers steals the show at Sundance

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