Trump plan to reduce marine monuments could put vital ecosystems at risk

January 2, 2018 by  
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A report from United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking three ocean monuments and opening them up to commercial fishing . The monuments, two in the Pacific Ocean and one in the Atlantic Ocean , are undersea treasures, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s administrator between 2009 and 2013, Jane Lubchenco, who told The Guardian , “These ‘blue parks’ harbor unique species, a wealth of biodiversity , and special habitats.” President Donald Trump may not just take aim at land-based national monuments , but at the following three marine monuments. The over 490,500-square-mile Pacific Remote Islands monument, created by George W. Bush and expanded by Barack Obama, includes largely untouched coral reefs and is “the last refugia for fish and wildlife species rapidly vanishing from the remainder of the planet,” per the Fish & Wildlife Service . The 10,156 square mile Rose Atoll monument “protects diverse marine ecosystems and the millions of wildlife dependent upon the Central Pacific.” And the 4,913 square mile Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument is the United States’ only protected area in the Atlantic Ocean, featuring underwater mountains and canyons, deep-sea coral, and endangered whales and sea turtles. Related: Patagonia is suing the Trump administration over Bears Ears: “The President Stole Your Land” In his report Zinke said, “While early monument designations focused more on geological formations, archaeological ruins, and areas of historical interest, a more recent and broad interpretation of what constitutes an ‘object of historic or scientific interest’ has been extended to include landscape areas, biodiversity, and viewsheds.” Fishing organizations aren’t always pleased about the monuments. In March, a New England coalition sued the federal government over fears fishers would be out of a job due to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument. The challenge is based on the idea Obama exceeded his authority in designating the monument. Conservation groups worry activities like seabed mining or oil drilling could be next if monuments are opened for fishing. Pew Charitable Trusts Director of U.S. Oceans, Northeast Peter Baker told The Guardian, “It shouldn’t be too much to ask to protect two percent of the U.S.’s exclusive economic zone off the Atlantic coast for future generations.” Lubchenco said, “Creation of highly protected blue parks like these monuments is beginning to re-establish the all-important balance of places to be used and places to be treasured. We need both.” Via The Guardian Images via USFWS – Pacific Region on Flickr and NOAA photo by Hatsue Bailey

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Trump plan to reduce marine monuments could put vital ecosystems at risk

Elon Musk is sending his Tesla Roadster to Mars in SpaceX rocket

December 4, 2017 by  
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If you were a billionaire running multiple groundbreaking companies, why wouldn’t you send your personal car to space? That seems to be Elon Musk’s latest plan. In a recent tweet, Musk said when SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Cape Canaveral next month, the payload will include his own Tesla Roadster playing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” on repeat – because why not? Musk is having way too much fun with his companies. SpaceX is slated to launch the Falcon Heavy for the first time next month, a rocket newsworthy in its own right for being “the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two,” according to SpaceX . As opposed to the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin engines, the Falcon Heavy is equipped with 27. Musk’s first tweet about the launch guaranteed excitement “one way or another.” Related: SpaceX to launch reused rocket in a historic first for NASA Falcon Heavy to launch next month from Apollo 11 pad at the Cape. Will have double thrust of next largest rocket. Guaranteed to be exciting, one way or another. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2017 Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity. Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2017 Around five minutes later on Twitter , Musk said he’s sending own midnight cherry Tesla Roadster to Mars . A red car for a red planet, Musk said – and it “will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.” Naturally people wondered if the billionaire known for his sense of humor was joking – but Bloomberg reported earlier this morning a “person familiar with the launch plan at SpaceX” confirmed Musk’s tweet. So Musk may not be joking after all, but he’s sure having a grand time envisioning his Roadster among the stars. A Twitter user named d00d asked Musk why he wants to send his car to space, and he responded , “I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future.” Don’t we all. Via Bloomberg Images via Wikimedia Commons and Brian Solis on Flickr

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Elon Musk is sending his Tesla Roadster to Mars in SpaceX rocket

NASA communicates with spacecraft 13 billion miles from Earth

December 4, 2017 by  
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For the first time in 37 years, NASA has communicated with Voyager 1 – which is 13 billion miles away from Earth. The space agency made contact with the spacecraft to reorient it and activate its back-up thrusters to better send information back to Earth. Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 is the only known spacecraft cruising beyond our solar system. Prior to leaving, Voyager 1 and its sister ship Voyager 2 gathered, then transmitted to Earth, the first detailed data from Jupiter , Saturn and Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. NASA’s most recent communication with the spacecraft has made adjustments to its alignment, which should extend its usable life by two to three years as it continues its flight into new interstellar territory. Voyager 1 still communicates with scientists on Earth through the Deep Space Network, a communications system designed in the 1970s that allowed the most recent adjustments to Voyager 1’s trajectory to occur. Voyager 1 has primarily used its main thrusters, which periodically make adjustments to the spacecraft’s flight path to ensure optimum functionality. However, over the years, the main thrusters have become worn down, requiring the earthbound team to turn to Voyager 1’s back-up thrusters, which had not been used since 1980.  “The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters,” said Chris Jones, chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Related: SpaceX to launch reused rocket in a historic first for NASA Despite its long hibernation, Voyager 1’s back-up thruster system returned to duty without major incident. “The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test,” said Todd Barber, propulsion engineer at JPL. The mood was one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all.” The team intends to conduct the same operation with Voyager 2, which is expected to leave the solar system within the next few years. Via Science Alert Images via Kevin Gill/Flickr   (1) and NASA

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NASA communicates with spacecraft 13 billion miles from Earth

14 green holiday gifts for gadget geeks

December 4, 2017 by  
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Looking for a great green gift for the gadget lover on your list? We’ve got you covered with the state of the art. From an amazing wheel that gives any bike an electric boost to a keyboard made of sustainably harvested wood and even a watch powered by body heat , we’ve rounded up 14 gadget gifts that are sure to please. Check them out here ! GREEN GIFTS FOR GADGET GEEKS >

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Italy bans the use of animals in circuses

November 13, 2017 by  
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Animal rights activists are winning victories as more countries prohibit animals in circus acts. This month the Italian Parliament adopted legislation to phase out animals in traveling shows and circuses, according to Animal Defenders International (ADI). It’s a big move, as there are an estimated 100 circuses with 2,000 animals in Italy . Italy became the 41st country to pass measures prohibiting animals in circuses. ADI said on their Facebook page that Italy’s Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini promoted the legislation to phase out animals in circuses. Related: America’s largest animal circus closes after 146 years ADI president Jan Creamer said in a statement, “Traveling from place to place, week after week, using temporary collapsible cages and pens, circuses simply cannot provide for the needs of the animals. Through ADI’s undercover investigations we have shown the violence and abuse that is used to force these animals to obey and perform tricks. We applaud Italy and urge countries like the UK and the US to follow this example and end this cruelty.” It’s not yet clear how Italy’s phase-out will play out; ADI said within a year, Italy will outline how the law will be implemented through a ministerial decree. It’s not yet known how long circuses will have to phase animals out of their shows. ZME Science highlighted some of the issues with animals performing in circuses, pointing to an investigation from researchers at Wageningen University. They found 71 percent of observed animals were experiencing medical issues, and 33 percent of lions and tigers didn’t have access to an outdoor enclosure. They said circus lions spent 98 percent of their time inside on average. Elephants spent 17 hours a day shackled on average, and tigers – though scared of fire – were often forced to jump through flaming hoops. Ireland also stood up for animal rights recently , with a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses that will take effect on January 1, 2018. Via Animal Defenders International ( 1 , 2 , 3 ) Images via Wikimedia Commons and ~Pawsitive~Candie_N on Flickr

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Former coal miners receive training for renewable energy jobs

October 3, 2017 by  
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Over half of the United States’ electricity came from coal in 2000. That figure has plummeted to around one third in 2016, and thousands of coal workers have lost their jobs . But former fossil fuel workers have skills that could translate well to jobs like installing solar panels or working on wind turbines . Other programs teaching former miners computer coding and beekeeping are also aiding the transition away from fossil fuels to a greener future. Coal miners once found roles in West Virginia and Wyoming , and now alternative energy training programs in those states offer new hope. For example, there’s Solar Holler in West Virginia, whose goal, according to their website, is to revitalize Appalachian communities with solar power . They’re working with Coalfield Development to train people to become solar panel installers. Coalfield Development is also rehabilitating buildings and starting an agriculture program, including transforming an old mine area into a solar-powered fish farm, according to The New York Times. Related: The wind turbine manufacturer putting unemployed coal miners to work Or there’s Goldwind Americas , a wind turbine manufacturer offering a training program for coal miners that started earlier this year in Wyoming . The miners could help construct a massive wind farm , and the company will employ up to 200 workers to maintain the farm after it’s built. Appalachian Headwaters is another organization providing an alternative for former coal miners. They’re turning an old camp into an apiary, with the goal of helping coal workers and veterans get a start in the honey business. Next year, they’ll give around 150 hives to 35 workers either for free or with a no- or low-interest loan. Solar Holler founder Dan Conant said diversification is important in the area – the solar program so far only trains 10 workers a year. There are challenges in the transition to a clean energy future, but for now, programs like the ones above offer new training and roles for unemployed miners. Via The New York Times and Axios Images via Bureau of Land Management on Flickr and Coalfield Development Corporation Facebook

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German company steps in to help Puerto Rico with microgrid installations

October 3, 2017 by  
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As Puerto Rico assesses the full extent of hurricane damage and continues its long, challenging road to recovery, energy companies from around the world, such as Sonnen GmbH of Germany, are stepping in to assist. Sonnen is planning to install energy-storage systems known as microgrids at fifteen or more emergency relief centers in the American island territory. “Our smart energy storage system is uniquely positioned to serve as a critical resource during the emergency in Puerto Rico,” said Blake Richetta, the head of Sonnen’s U.S. unit. Sonnen’s systems were first delivered last week, with more arriving weekly as ports reopen. Pura Energia, a Puerto Rican solar installer, is working in collaboration with Sonnen to deliver the necessary systems and restore local power. The total knockout of Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure, which could remain inoperable for months, has made microgrids (often paired with solar panels to restore power to essential buildings), particularly vital as Puerto Ricans struggle to secure basic needs. As Sonnen installs its microgrids on emergency relief centers, it expects local consumers to seek out their own microgrid systems. Profits from these sales will be donated to build additional microgrids throughout Puerto Rico. Related: Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico Since 2016, Sonnen has installed over 20 storage systems, the most recent of which have been produced at its new factory in Atlanta . The first microgrids on Puerto Rico are expected to begin operation next month. In its support for the American Commonwealth, the company is clear in its broader mission to change the world. “It is our duty to stand firmly with the people of Puerto Rico and do everything possible to help start the rebuilding process,” said Sonnen CEO Christoph Ostermann. “There is a clear connection between our mission to support humanity during a climate disaster and our mission to fight climate change .” Via Bloomberg Images via Pew Charitable Trusts and Sonnen

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Shipping-container development designed for Los Angeles’ homeless population

October 3, 2017 by  
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A Los Angeles neighborhood will soon be home to a new shipping container development created for individuals transitioning out of homelessness. Designed by KTGY Architecture + Planning , the Hope on Alvarado project will repurpose several, locally-sourced shipping containers as the building’s main construction material, hopefully creating an urban design model for affordable housing in densely-packed cities around the globe. Slated for a .44-acre site at 166 Alvarado Street in L.A.’s Westlake Neighborhood, the proposed design will offer 84 units made up of studio and one bedroom apartments for tenants that are in the process of getting off the streets. Multiple shipping containers , which will be sourced locally in Los Angeles, will be stacked together to create a single, four-story building centered around a courtyard. The strategic layout is geared to providing new residents with privacy and security, as well as fostering a strong sense of community. Related: London’s Marston Court transforms shipping containers into emergency housing for the homeless The individual apartments will be created by modifying the containers into units of 400-480 square feet. Doors and portions of the containers’ metal skin will be removed to be replaced with floor-to-ceiling windows, along with various interior fixtures and finishes. The development will also house the tenant support-services office on the street-level. Parking will be provided as well as ample bike-storage. Although still in the development stage, the Hope on Alvarado project will hopefully be the first in a series of Hope developments in the Los Angeles area. Both the architects and the developer, Aedis Real Estate Group , plan to continue building more shipping container developments in other cities in an attempt to create a model for sustainable, affordable housing options . + KTGY Architecture + Planning Images via KTGY Architecture + Planning

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European parliament bans Monsanto from entering

September 29, 2017 by  
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Monsanto recently refused to be present at a hearing in which the European parliament planned to dig into allegations the agrochemical company unduly influenced studies into glyphosate’s safety, according to The Guardian. The European parliament wasn’t too happy with that – and just banned Monsanto from entering parliament. The agriculture and environment committees of the European parliament had set up a hearing for October 11, at which academics, campaigners, and regulators were to be present – but Monsanto decided not to come. The hearing is expected to go over allegations the company influenced regulatory studies into the safety of a key ingredient in their best-selling product RoundUp . Angry, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) subsequently banned Monsanto lobbyists . The Guardian reports this is the first instance of MEPs utilizing new rules to withdraw access for businesses that disregard summons to hearings or inquiries. Related: California adds Monsanto’s glyphosate to list of chemicals known to cause cancer The leaders of major parliamentary blocks supported the ban in a vote, according to a spokesperson for European parliament president Antonio Tajani, who also said, “One has to assume it is effective immediately,” even as officials need to work through a formal process. Under the ban, Monsanto officials will not be able to go to committee meetings, meet MEPs, or use digital resources in Strasbourg or Brussles on parliament premises, according to The Guardian. Green Party president Philippe Lamberts said, “Those who ignore the rules of democracy also lose their rights as a lobbyist in the European parliament. U.S. corporations must also accept the democratic control function of the parliament. Monsanto cannot escape this.” The vote comes before a decision on whether or not to re-license glyphosate later this year. Philip Miller, Monsanto vice president, said in a letter to MEPs, “We have observed with increasing alarm the politicization of the EU procedure on the renewal of glyphosate, a procedure which should be scientific but which in many respects has been hijacked by populism.” One expert World Health Organization panel has linked glyphosate to cancer , while another said it was safe for public use. According to The Guardian, Monsanto spends around €300,000 to €400,000 – or around $354,690 to $472,920 – on lobbying in Brussels. Via The Guardian Images via Die Grünen Kärnten on Flickr and BUND Bundesverband on Flickr

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UNEP chief: Polluters should pay for environmental destruction, not taxpayers

September 21, 2017 by  
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Companies often profit from environmental destruction , leaving taxpayers to pick up the cleanup bill. That shouldn’t be the case, according to Erik Solheim, executive director for the United Nations Environment Program . At a conference at Columbia University earlier this week, he said, “The profit of destroying nature or polluting the planet is nearly always privatized, while the costs of polluting the planet or the cost of destroying ecosystems is nearly always socialized. This cannot continue.” Solheim said we can turn around Earth’s environmental fortunes if businesses, citizens, and politicians work for a shared goal – with the biggest polluters paying for damage. He said, “Anyone who pollutes, anyone who destroys nature must pay for the cost of that destruction or that pollution.” Related: The oil industry knew about dangerous climate change in the 1960s Two scientists made a similar point in a recent opinion piece for The Guardian, saying big oil companies should pay for climate change . The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Director of Science and Policy Peter Frumhoff and University of Oxford professor of geosystem science Myles Allen pointed to July lawsuits against ExxonMobil, BP, and Chevron, saying they should pay for damages coastal communities face from rising sea levels . They, together with other researchers, published a peer-reviewed study quantifying sea level rise and rising temperatures coming from emissions from fossil fuel companies. Solheim also said businesses must play a role by creating new technologies to address needs. He pointed to China as an example, highlighting the work of bike-sharing firm Mobike, which boasts over a million shareable bicycles in the Beijing area. Meanwhile, China is also working on transportation with a high-speed rail network and urban metro systems. He also pointed to India , where addressing environmental issues has been good for the country. Solar power has created jobs, simultaneous boosting the economy and helping the planet. Solheim said, “Change is happening. Economic-wise, we are on the right track, but we need to speed up because the challenge is so big.” Via Thomson Reuters Foundation and EcoWatch Images via Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon/Army National Guard and Steve Snodgrass on Flickr

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