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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Italy bans the use of animals in circuses

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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Former coal miners receive training for renewable energy jobs

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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German company steps in to help Puerto Rico with microgrid installations

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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Shipping-container development designed for Los Angeles’ homeless population

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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Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites

August 25, 2017 by  
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The Donald Trump administration seems to be plugging its ears against the mention of any health risks of residing near coal mines. His Department of the Interior (DOI) recently shut down a study on potential health impacts for such people in Central Appalachia, reportedly citing a changing budget. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign representative Bill Price told The Washington Post, “It’s infuriating that Trump would halt this study…that people in Appalachia have been demanding for years.” The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine were conducting a study on health risks for people living near surface coal mining sites when they were told to stop by the DOI as the agency reviewed projects needing more than $100,000. The National Academies was still allowed to hold scheduled meetings in Kentucky earlier this week. But they’ve been told to cease all other work on the project. Related: Montana judge stops massive coal mine expansion, citing climate impact Central Appalachia coal mining sometimes employs mountaintop removal , a practice scientists say is particularly destructive . Price told The Washington Post, “Everyone knows there are major health risks living near mountaintop removal coal mining sites, but communities living with daily health threats were counting on finally getting the full story from the professionals at the National Academies of Science.” The National Mining Association seemed to stand behind the Trump administration’s move, pointing to an analysis from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences examining multiple reports which said the studies usually didn’t account for lifestyle and extraneous health effects. The association also pointed to a United States Energy Information Administration analysis saying mountaintop mining only comprises under one percent of coal production and a study of health impacts may be unnecessary. The National Academies said they believe the study is important and they stand ready to continue the work, hoping they’ll be allowed to continue. But they don’t know the end date of the DOI’s review. Via The Washington Post Lead image via Pixabay , others via iLoveMountains.org on Flickr and Pixabay

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Undergrad student leads scientists to discover nearly 100 unknown volcanoes – in Antarctica

August 14, 2017 by  
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There’s a new contender for the continent with Earth’s biggest volcanic region: Antarctica . Researchers found 91 previously unknown, massive volcanoes , ranging in height from around 328 to 12,631 feet. A University of Edinburgh third-year undergraduate student tipped the researchers off to the incredible discovery. Third-year student Max Van Wyk de Vries had the idea to analyze radar mapping data of the continent, and proposed a study to the university. Scientists were then able to verify there are indeed many volcanoes, concentrated in a region called the West Antarctic Rift System, and concealed by West Antarctica’s ice sheet. They say the newly discovered volcanic region is quite similar to East Africa’s volcanic ridge, which currently holds the title for the region with the world’s densest concentration of volcanoes. Related: Colossal landforms discovered under Antarctic ice sheet are 5X bigger than any on Earth Scientists drew on ice-penetrating radar measurements, satellite records, and geological information from aerial surveys to confirm Van Wyk de Vries’ concept. Van Wyk de Vries said in a statement, “Antarctica remains among the least studied areas of the globe, and as a young scientist I was excited to learn about something new and not well understood. After examining data on West Antarctica , I began discovering traces of volcanism. Naturally, I looked into it further, which led to this discovery of almost 100 volcanoes under the ice sheet .” Researchers say the discovery could help them better understand how Antarctica has changed during the varying climates of history, and how volcanoes influence ice sheet fluctuations. They have not determined if the volcanoes are active or not, but the awareness of their presence could help scientists researching seismic monitoring in Antarctica. The research has been published in the Geological Society Special Publications series. Via the University of Edinburgh Images via Cassie Matias on Unsplash and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr

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Undergrad student leads scientists to discover nearly 100 unknown volcanoes – in Antarctica

Nebraska landowners fight Keystone XL pipeline with solar panels right in its path

July 12, 2017 by  
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Many Nebraska landowners are opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline slashing through their land. So they’re fighting the proposed oil pipeline with a clean, renewable tactic: solar panels . Activists have launched the Solar XL campaign to install solar on land Nebraska locals refuse to sell – directly in the path of the pipeline. The Solar XL campaign is intended to raise money for solar installations to power ranches and farms in Nebraska. Landowner Bob Allpress is one of those people hoping for a solar array. He said, “The need for the KXL pipeline product is non-existent in the United States. The monetary benefit to the peoples of Nebraska will be gone in seven years, while the risks to our state are for the life of this pipeline. The installation of wind and solar production in Nebraska will provide many good Nebraska jobs and provide years of cheap electricity for everyone in our great state.” Related: The Keystone XL pipeline would only create 35 full-time, permanent jobs Keystone XL could threaten multiple Nebraska sites like the Ponca Trail of Tears, the Ogallala Aquifer, and the Sandhills. Bold Nebraska , 350.org , Indigenous Environmental Network , CREDO , and Oil Change International are backing the campaign, and hope to install the first solar array at Jim and Chris Carlson’s farm. The Carlsons have refused to sell their land even though TransCanada , the company behind Keystone XL, has offered them $307,000. Family-owned company North Star Solar Bears would install the panels, which will be connected to the grid . According to the campaign, “If Keystone XL is approved, TransCanada would have to tear down clean and locally-produced energy to make way for its dirty and foreign tar sands.” If you’d like to donate to the Solar XL campaign, you can do so here . Each nine-panel installation costs $15,500, including labor and connection to the grid. Donations go to Bold Nebraska. + Solar XL Via Curbed Images via Mary Anne Andrei/Bold Nebraska ( 1 , 2 ) and 350.org on Flickr

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Nebraska landowners fight Keystone XL pipeline with solar panels right in its path

Erin Brockovich helps Oklahoma Pawnee Nation take on fracking companies

July 11, 2017 by  
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Oklahoma has become an earthquake hotspot in recent years, and many are blaming companies that engage in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking . Last year, the state saw its largest earthquake ever recorded at a 5.8 magnitude, close to the town of Pawnee. The Pawnee Nation is suing over 25 oil and gas companies, with the help of famous consumer advocate Erin Brockovich . The amount of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or higher in Oklahoma was greater than in California for the first time in 2014. Many people blame the practice employed by oil and gas companies of injecting wastewater from fracking into the Earth. Related: Oklahoma earthquake activity up 4000%, locals sue oil and gas companies National Geographic explained the amount of earthquakes in Oklahoma spiked as did activity from fossil fuel companies. Once the state saw either none or a couple of magnitude 3 earthquakes every year. In 2009 that number escalated to 20. From there the situation only worsened: the state had 109 magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes in 2013, 579 in 2014, 903 in 2015, and 623 in 2016. That’s two or three of these quakes every day. Brockovich actually used to spend her summers in Oklahoma with her grandparents as a child. She told National Geographic, “The only thing I’d worry about growing up there was tornadoes. Now I’d be afraid not of a tornado, but an earthquake? That’s just bizarre.” She said it’s hard “to go back to Oklahoma, to see how on edge [the Pawnee people] are. The question they keep asking is, ‘When will it end?’ The Pawnee Nation is suing Eagle Road Oil LLC, Cummings Oil Company, and 25 other companies for damage to reservation property and historical buildings, with the help of Weitz & Luxenberg along with Brockovich. They say the companies were knowingly causing the earthquakes and their actions “constitute wanton or reckless disregard for public or private safety .” Via EcoWatch and National Geographic Images via Sarah Nichols on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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