Polish village heals post-WWII blues with hand-painted homes

February 6, 2017 by  
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The small village of Zalipie, Poland leaves a big, bright, and beautiful impression on travelers. Everywhere you look you will see hand-painted floral designs on homes, barns, bridges, wells, and chicken coops. The tradition began a century ago, but only within the last few decades was it transformed into an annual contest to turn the tiny town into a living piece of art, and heal post-WWII blues at the same time. 100 years ago, locals would touch up their homes for the holidays by painting over soot stains caused by their wood-burning stoves. Often, this would not completely cover up the marks, so people got creative. The practice of painting flowers began informally and blossomed into a town tradition over the years. And the designs spread outside the home to the exterior of buildings and even backyard and community structures. Related: Poland unveils glowing bright blue bike lane that’s charged by the sun The trend continued over the decades, and then a new annual contest was created to bring up the spirits of the local community after WWII . The Malowana Chata (Painted Cottage) competition officially became an event in 1965 and still continues today. The media have improved from cooking fat-based paints to more hardy materials and the villagers have worked hard to preserve as much of the original artwork as they can. Zalipie is only an hour and a half outside of Krakow, so visitors traveling by car can easily enjoy the breathtaking blooms. Via Mental Floss Images via Flickr  (CC BY-ND 2.0)  ( 1 , 2 , 3 ), Wikimedia ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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Polish village heals post-WWII blues with hand-painted homes

China is now the largest producer of solar power in the world

February 6, 2017 by  
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One way China is working to battle climate change -causing carbon emissions is by developing a vast army of renewable energy projects. Even as the country struggles with pollution , it has made great strides on clean energy . They’re now the largest producer of solar energy by capacity in the world, adding 34.54 gigawatts of the country’s installed capacity of 77.42 gigawatts last year alone. The country’s National Energy Administration (NEA) announced over the weekend that in 2016, installed photovoltaic capacity in China more than doubled. Their data revealed the jump to 77.42 gigawatts after the country added 34.54 gigawatts. The provinces in which capacity increased most include Shandong, Henan, and Xinjiang, which is also one of the provinces with the largest overall capacity. Gansu, Inner Mongolia, and Qinghai join Xinjiang in that latter category. Related: China to spend $361 billion on renewable energy projects by 2020 And China’s not stopping here. Based on the NEA’s solar energy development strategy, between 2016 and 2020, they aim to add over 110 gigawatts of capacity. Solar power plants in China generated 66.2 billion kilowatt-hours in 2016, amounting to one percent of total power generation in the country, according to NEA. Currently 11 percent of generated power in the country originates from non-fossil fuel sources, but China hopes to bump that number up to 20 percent by 2030. To help attain that goal, they plan to pour over $360 billion into renewable energy projects, including solar, wind, nuclear, and hydropower. As the country still relies heavily on air-polluting coal , such an investment could help China work towards cleaner skies again. It will boost the economy too, creating more than 13 million jobs, according to the NEA. Engadget notes there are a few countries that edge China out in terms of solar energy relative to population size, such as the United States, Germany, and Japan. But with regards to capacity, China claims the prize. Via Reuters and Engadget Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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China is now the largest producer of solar power in the world

Chinese fishery installs immense floating solar farm for extra income

February 6, 2017 by  
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A fishery in eastern China now doubles as a solar power station. An immense array of photovoltaic panels has been installed across 300 hectares to generate not only clean electricity , but additional money for the fishery. Lines of solar panels stretch over the waters of a fishery in Cixi City, which is in the Zhejiang Province in eastern China . People’s Daily Online reports with a 200 megawatt (MW) capacity, it is the biggest solar power station constructed on a fish farm in the country. The panels will be connected to the state grid and will provide the fishery with an annual income of 240 million RMB, which is around $34 million. Fish should still be able to thrive in the waters underneath the panels; People’s Daily Online says the panels will provide shade, but PV Magazine also noted they were intentionally spaced out to allow sunlight to filter through, which is necessary for the fish to grow. Related: $11 million floating solar testbed in Singapore will be the largest in the world The huge station can generate enough power for 100,000 households, and could maybe even replace 7.4 tons of coal, according to People’s Daily Online. The solar panels should generate an impressive 220 million kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. PV Magazine reports there’s a similar 120 MW installation in China in the Jiangxi Province, but clearly the Cixi City project is much larger. The new solar system certainly wasn’t cheap; it cost 1.8 billion RMB, or $260 million. But Electrek reports the floating solar farm will pay for itself in about seven or eight years. The fishery turned renewable energy plant could offer a model for other fisheries or coastal areas around the world; PV Magazine reports construction just finished in late 2016, so it’s time to see how the fish farm functions with solar panels atop their pond. Via Electrek , People’s Daily Online , and PV Magazine Images via Max Pixel and screenshot

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Austin Maynard Architects restores a beach shack in their crusade against McMansions

February 6, 2017 by  
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Austin Maynard Architects is taking a stand against McMansions. Tired of seeing Australia’s handsome old shacks demolished to make way for less culturally interesting housing, the Australian architecture firm completed a beautiful renovation and addition to an old beach shack in the town of Lorne. The restored project, called the Dorman House, is a lovely celebration of the Australian beach shack vernacular with stunning ocean views and a modern and eco-friendly design. The Dorman House comprises two parts: the restoration of an old post-war beach shack that remains mostly unchanged, and the addition of a contemporary new extension. The clients, Kate and Grant, had asked Austin Maynard Architects to preserve the original shack and add an extension that would allow for clear and elevated ocean views without dominating or damaging the existing structure. Although the simplest solution would have been to bulldoze the existing shack and start anew, the architects and clients sought the more sustainable solution. “Modest, humble shacks are being replaced with incongruous and unnecessary McMansions ,” wrote the architects. “Increasingly we see a duplication of the suburban home where once stood the shack. Through this process we not only lose important parts of our built heritage, we also lose a significant part of our social and emotional diversity. We lose parts of ourselves. At Austin Maynard Architects we do our best to avoid the simple temptation of demolishing and replacing. Where extensions are required/desired, we aim to retain and respect the existing shack and its scale.” Related: Gorgeous solar-powered THAT House is an eco-friendly rebel “with just enough space” The new extension is an elevated timber box that sits atop the original shack and comprises an open-plan kitchen, dining, and living room accessed via a spiral staircase. The interior is lined with Silvertop Ash and opens up to gorgeous ocean views and breezes through full-height windows. Most of the glass faces north and all windows are double glazed with thermally separated frames, while solar shades are in place to minimize solar heat gain in summer. The exterior cladding will develop a gray patina over time. The structure directly below the timber box is clad in polycarbonate and is used as a light-filled bedroom. Recycled timber decking was used in the construction and locally sourced materials were also used wherever possible. + Austin Maynard Architects Images via Austin Maynard Architects

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Austin Maynard Architects restores a beach shack in their crusade against McMansions

Pipeline breach spills 53,000 gallons of oil on First Nations land

January 25, 2017 by  
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This is why millions of people around the world are opposed to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines just pushed through by Donald Trump. 53,000 gallons or around 1,260 barrels of oil was reported to have spilled on First Nations land in Saskatchewan, Canada last week, though some local residents warn the spill may have occurred earlier. The oil has leaked onto agricultural land, but the government said it has not infiltrated water sources. The leak is Saskatchewan’s largest pipeline breach since a 225,000-liter oil spill last year; some of that oil made its way into the North Saskatchewan river. The recent spill happened on reserve land owned by the Ocean Man First Nation and covered a 66-foot radius. Some 52,834 gallons of oil spilled. Related: Major oil spill 150 miles away from DAPL protest validates Standing Rock concerns With multiple pipelines in the area, the government is uncertain which was responsible for the spill. They think the source could be a pipeline owned by Tundra Energy Marketing Limited (TEML), so the company is leading clean-up efforts. So far 170,000 liters, or around 44,909 gallons, have been recovered, according to the government, which also said wildlife and air quality have not yet been harmed by the spill. TEML released a statement and said, “Clean-up work on the site commenced immediately and involved the removal of surface oil with vacuum trucks. Additional clean-up work and remediation will be conducted to ensure that the affected land is restored appropriately.” The pipeline was reportedly shut down as soon as the breach was found. But some people wonder if the spill was already underway before the government was made aware of it. Ocean Man First Nation chief Connie Big Eagle said one band member, a longtime oil industry employee, smelled a strange odor near the site of the spill. Big Eagle told CBC News the smell was “going on for about a week.” Via CBC News ( 1 , 2 ) Images via ripperda on Flickr and Ingrid Taylar on Flickr

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Why American ranchers are feeding Skittles to their cattle

January 25, 2017 by  
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The next time you bite into a burger , do not be surprised if you taste the rainbow. American farmers have been secretly feeding rejected Skittles to their cows as an alternative to grass or corn. The great Skittles cowspiracy was brought to light after thousands of Red Skittles, bereft of their signature S, were found scattered across a rural road in Wisconsin . The X File was closed relatively quickly as experts asserted that these Skittles were likely en route to a cattle troth. Although Skittles are packed with high fructose corn syrup, as so many foods are , they are nonetheless cheaper than the real thing and surprisingly more nutritious, at least according to some experts. Joseph Watson, owner of United Livestock Commodities, said that sweets like Skittles have “a higher ratio of fat [than] actually feeding them straight corn.” Skittles also may be a greener feed product than corn, simply because they would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Instead, these candies, edible but not nearly up to the mass production standards of a multinational corporation, are converted into animal mass, meat and fat. Related: This all-natural native corn is bejeweled with brilliantly colored kernels These particular Red Skittles, at first perplexing, were investigated and explained by local authorities. “The Skittles were confirmed to have fallen off the back of a truck,” wrote the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office. “The truck was a flatbed pickup and the Skittles were in a large box. Due to it raining at the time, the box got wet and gave way allowing the Skittles to spill out on the roadway.” While the average consumer has no idea that they may be eating candy-fed sirloin, this practice has been ongoing for several years. The use of this diet is believed to increased in 2012, when corn prices increased dramatically. This particular absurdity of growing corn to make the candy to feed the cows to make the burgers, while entertaining, is another sign that our food system has become disconnected from natural cycles. Via the Independent Images via Tim Green  and Gareth Jones

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Why American ranchers are feeding Skittles to their cattle

Phase 3 of world’s largest solar park slated to begin this month

January 20, 2017 by  
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Work on the world’s largest solar park is set to move forward this month. Phase 3 of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai will add 800 megawatts (MW) of clean energy to the enormous solar park. The project could be a big win for the environment, expected as it is to displace 6.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year when it is completed. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and energy company Masdar are ready to commence Phase 3 of the groundbreaking solar park now that the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract has been awarded. Phase 3 will be 16 square kilometers, or a little over six square miles, when its three stages – adding 200 MW, 300 MW and 300 MW at a time – are complete, maybe in 2020 in time for the 2020 Dubai World Expo , according to New Civil Engineer. Related: Record-breaking solar prices in Dubai prove cheaper than coal Domingo Vegas Fernández, President of Spanish firm Gransolar , which received the EPC along with Spanish infrastructure company Acciona and Italian construction firm Ghella , said in a statement, “Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park project marks a new global milestone in the development of renewable energy in the Middle East and the world.” When the solar park is totally finished – probably sometime in 2030 – it will generate up to 1,000 MW. Phase 3 follows a publicized bidding war in mid 2016, where one record-breaking bid for Phase 3 was a cheap 2.99 cents per kilowatt-hour , allowing solar power in Dubai to be even cheaper than coal. Dubai ruler and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, for whom the solar park is named, recently presented the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, which calls for 50 percent of energy sourced from renewables. Dubai aims to boost their share of renewables by “seven percent by 2020, 25 percent by 2030, and 75 percent by 2050,” according to Masdar . Via New Civil Engineer and Masdar Images via Dubai Electricity and Water Authority – DEWA Facebook and (????)?*:??? on Flickr

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Phase 3 of world’s largest solar park slated to begin this month

World’s largest CO2 sink stores 27,000 grams of carbon per square meter

January 16, 2017 by  
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Natural areas that capture and store carbon on Earth are becoming an increasingly precious resource, and researchers may have found the mother of all of these in an unlikely place – a small bay in Denmark they claim holds a world-record amount of carbon . According to Phys.org , seagrass and underwater meadows have the capacity to store large amounts of carbon dioxide that has garnered the attention of scientists looking to find ways to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. While meadows of this kind of seagrass are found throughout the world, scientists have pinpointed one meadow in Denmark, which they say is the most efficient. The meadow is located in a bay called Thurøbund on the island of Thurø in the South Funen Archipelago of Denmark , a place where Professor Mariann Holmer of the University of Southern Denmark says has special conditions that add to its carbon capturing capabilities. Related: Breakthrough technology turns coal plant CO2 into baking powder Many seagrass meadows around the world have been investigated. Recently, I was part of a study investigating and measuring carbon storing capabilities of 10 seagrass meadows in the Baltic Sea. No place comes even close to Thurøbund,” says Professor Holmer . “It is a very protected bay—and also very productive. So the seagrass thrives and when the plants die, they remain in the meadow. They are buried in the sediment, and in this process, their carbon content gets stored with them. In Finland, the seagrass grows in open coast areas, which means that the dead plants are much more often washed out to sea, taking the carbon with them. Once the carbon has been taken out to the sea, it is unclear what happens to it.” To put it into perspective with some numbers, Thurøbund stores 27,000 grams of carbon per square meter, and the highest numbers found in other locations around the world have never been more than 10,000 to 11,000 grams per meter squared. Via Phys.org Images via Arnaud Abadie and James St. John , Flickr Creative Commons

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World’s largest CO2 sink stores 27,000 grams of carbon per square meter

Critics outraged by UK plan to build 1.8 mile tunnel under Stonehenge

January 16, 2017 by  
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One of Britain’s most well-known archaeological landmarks could soon have a tunnel carved below it. The government unveiled plans for a 1.8 mile tunnel running under Stonehenge as part of a $2.4 billion infrastructure investment, hoping to slash traffic plaguing the area. But not everyone is happy with the government’s plan; some experts believe a tunnel could destroy undiscovered artifacts. The British government is planning a $2.4 billion investment for the country’s A303 road, hoping to upgrade it into a “high quality, high performing route” that will improve trips for millions of people, according to the Department for Transport’s statement on the project. Part of the upgrades include a tunnel passing beneath the famous site. Officials say the tunnel would slash congestion and bolster the local economy. Related: Archaeologists reveal fresh details about 4,500-year-old “New Stonehenge” English Heritage , the charity managing more than 400 historic sites, backs the tunnel. UNESCO , which in 1986 designated Stonehenge as a World Heritage Site, say they could get behind the idea, but have not yet viewed final plans. Historian Tom Holland fears a tunnel could destroy the key historical site. He told CNN, “Recent finds show this place is the birthplace of Britain, and its origins go back to the resettlement of this island after the Ice Age. It staggers belief that we can inject enormous quantities of concrete to build a tunnel that will last at best 100 years and therefore decimate a landscape that has lasted for millennia.” Local chamber of commerce president and Amesbury Museum chairman Andy Rhind-Tutt is also against the tunnel, saying it won’t even really improve traffic and will “put a time bomb of irreversible destruction on one of the world’s greatest untouched landscapes.” The public can comment on the tunnel plan until March 5, and the government plans to announce the preferred route later in 2017. Construction could start in 2020, according to a Highways England spokesperson, and could be completed in four years. Via CNN Images via Good Free Photos and Pixabay

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Critics outraged by UK plan to build 1.8 mile tunnel under Stonehenge

Heroic dolphins could save critically endangered porpoise from extinction

January 16, 2017 by  
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Seal Team 6, a squad of dolphins trained by the US Navy to locate undersea mines and other submerged objects, may be the last, best chance of survival for the world’s most endangered marine mammal . The team of superhero cetaceans will be recruited to help locate the sixty or so remaining vaquitas in the wild, so that a small group of the porpoises may be captured and relocated to establish a captive breeding population. Distinguished by their small size and dark rings around their eyes and mouths, vaquitas are endemic to a narrow stretch in the upper regions of the Gulf of California in Mexico . The vaquitas population has been in decline for decades due to the tiny porpoise’s habit of becoming trapped in fishing nets meant for other sea creatures. While ex situ conservation , the establishment of a protected captive breeding population, is not a new idea, it remains controversial. “I don’t like this idea at all,” said Omar Vidal, director general of the World Wildlife Fund Mexico in Mexico City.”The risk of killing a vaquita while catching them is very high. With only 50 or 60 animals left, we can’t play with that.” Related: China’s ‘extinct’ dolphin may have been sighted again in the Yangtze River Despite the risks, the Seal Team 6 project, currently in planning stages, will likely commence in spring. However, the Navy and its dolphins will not be alone. “An international group of experts, including Navy personnel, have been working on two primary goals: determining the feasibility of locating and catching vaquitas, as a phase One,” wrote Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, chairman of the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita. “As a second phase, to determine the feasibility of temporarily housing vaquitas in the Gulf of California .” Vaquitas have never successfully been held and bred in captivity before, so the team will be paying particularly close attention to creating holding pens, likely located in a protected bay, that meet the specific needs of the animals . While creating a net-free, safe environment for wild vaquitas in their natural habitat remains the ultimate goal, the situation is now desperate enough to merit risk. “Given the crisis we’re in, we need to explore all of our options,” said NOAA biologist Barbara Taylor. Via Science Magazine Images via Marion Doss/Flickr and  Paula Olson/Flickr

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