Indigenous Amazon communities use tech to protect the forest

August 12, 2020 by  
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Indigenous communities in Brazil leverage technology to protect the Amazon and its resources. For a long time, Indigenous communities have protected the forest from illegal loggers and poachers. As aerial images show, the lush areas protected by Indigenous groups sharply contrast the struggling surrounding regions. The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe, located in a remote area of the Amazon, specifically makes strong efforts to protect the forest. The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe’s work is not isolated. Hundreds of Indigenous communities across South America help conserve nature. South America serves as home to about 40% of the world’s vegetation. Indigenous groups offer surveillance to areas of forests targeted for developments, farming, mining or logging. As Bitaté Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, coordinator of the Association of the Indigenous People Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, said in an interview, “When they kill a jaguar it is the same as they will do with indigenous people in the future. Killing the jaguar, they also kill us like deforestation , mining, intoxication. It gives me deep sadness to receive the news that a jaguar has been killed. We don’t kill the jaguar. When we see the jaguar in his habitat it is a beautiful thing to see, we just admire the presence.” The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau and other local groups now use drones to survey the forests. Such technology makes it possible for the villagers to monitor large areas of the forest and navigate tough terrain. Communities in Brazil, Peru and Ecuador are quickly adopting this technology for similar purposes. The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe first came into contact with the outside world in the 1990s. Since then, the tribe has integrated technology into its forest management practices. Today, one of the nine Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe villages has wifi connection, while four other villages have electricity. The  WWF UK  in association with WWF Brazil and  Kaninde Association of Ethno-Environmental Protection  funded the drones used by the tribes. Kaninde, a Brazilian NGO, works with Indigenous communities to integrating technology into forest conservation efforts. Via Independent Image via Pexels

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Earth911 Podcast: Forest Founders’ Ford Seeman On Building a Sustainable Business and Life

August 10, 2020 by  
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Earth911.com talks with Ford Seeman, founder of Forest Founders, a … The post Earth911 Podcast: Forest Founders’ Ford Seeman On Building a Sustainable Business and Life appeared first on Earth 911.

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This rammed earth passive house in Japan is shaped like a shell

July 16, 2020 by  
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This small, shell-shaped villa — made using local wood, rammed earth and traditional techniques — is located in the forest of Nagano Prefecture in the center of Japan. Known as the Shell House, the project request came from a client who wanted a contemporary and unique home that could blend into the surrounding forest with minimal environmental impact. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-13-889×592.jpg" alt="small, round wood home with wood door" class="wp-image-2275164" To blend the Shell House into the surrounding environment as organically as possible, the designers chose a rounded, shell-inspired shape and constructed the structure using locally sourced natural materials . Local, FSC-certified wood and earth went most into most of the building, with additional sustainable elements including hand-built construction and the elimination of petrochemical materials. Related: Hawk Nest House combines rammed earth and local stone <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-2-889×592.jpg" alt="round wood home in a forest" class="wp-image-2275175" <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-7-889×592.jpg" alt="wood kitchen island facing a wall of glass" class="wp-image-2275170" The entire structure was built per passive house principles to Japanese standards. The home satisfies the environmental assessment’s primary energy consumption requirements, and then some, with 11% less energy consumption than the country’s standard. Windows and doors are made of aluminum and resin composite with double- and triple-paned glass. The outside roof is made of asphalt, and the fireplace inside is also made of rammed earth. The earthen walls are combined with 180 millimeter wool insulation to complete the energy-efficient package. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-11-889×592.jpg" alt="fireplace built into a rammed earth wall" class="wp-image-2275166" <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-9-889×592.jpg" alt="loft with wood ceiling beams above a kitchen with wooden island and cabinets" class="wp-image-2275168" Interior rooms are finished with local earth and wood as well as the rammed earth wall that makes up the curved surface of the exterior. The southeast wooden fittings are designed to become integrated with the forest through the deck, which is also made of sustainably sourced wood . According to the architects, the seven beams connected to the rammed earth wall are inspired by the cycle of human life and the universe, with the two inscribed circles representing the correspondence of them. Ideally, once the villa has reached the end of its life, the materials can be returned back to the earth. + Tono Mirai Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Tono Mirai Architects <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-10-889×592.jpg" alt="kitchen opening up to wooden outdoor deck" class="wp-image-2275167"

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This rammed earth passive house in Japan is shaped like a shell

Climate change, deforestation lead to younger, shorter trees

June 4, 2020 by  
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Recently published research in  Science  magazine warns that older, taller  trees  are quickly becoming a thing of the past, consequently leaving forests in disarray. Forest dynamics being disrupted like this spells trouble for ecosystem equilibrium and  biodiversity .  While natural disturbances —  flooding , landslides, insect infestations, fungi, vine overgrowth, disease, wildfire and even wind damage — negatively impact  forests , they do not compare with the magnitude of harm humans have precipitated. Consider how over-harvesting trees for more land use has altered forest landscapes. The felling of numerous tree stands has severely dwindled the carbon sinks required to fix excess atmospheric carbon resultant from human-induced  greenhouse gas emissions .  Related:  What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations? Without the necessary  carbon  storage from forest trees, global temperatures will continue to rise and intensify consequent climate change damage.  Climate change  exacerbates conditions through insect and pathogen outbreaks that further compromise tree health and development. In fact,  research  has shown that annual “carbon storage lost to insects” equals “the amount of carbon emitted by 5 million vehicles.” This illustrates how substantial tree decline due to insects can be.  Why are biologists worried about the adversely shifting forest dynamics? As the  U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)  explained, “Wood harvests alone have had a huge impact on the shift of global forests towards younger ages or towards non-forest land, reducing the amount of forests, and old-growth forests, globally. Where forests are re-established on harvested land, the trees are smaller and  biomass  is reduced.”  Conservationists  subsequently admonish that continuing with business as usual will only worsen the conditions that increase tree mortality rates and the accompanying biodiversity crisis. As  NPR  reported, “Researchers found that the world lost roughly one-third of its old growth forest between 1900 and 2015. In North America and Europe , where more data was available, they found that tree mortality has doubled in the past 40 years.” It is believed these worrying trends will persist unless changes are made and new protection policies enacted.  Research team lead, Nate McDowell of PNNL, realized there was a major problem as he studied how global temperature rise affected tree growth and the changes occurring within a forest. Satellite imagery and modeling data unveiled a comprehensive view of the state of global forests and their shifts from older, taller trees to younger, shorter ones. The overall picture is of extensive loss. “I would recommend that people try to visit places with big trees now, while they can, with their kids,” McDowell advised. “Because there’s some significant threat, that might not be possible sometime in the future.” McDowell’s research ties in closely with last summer’s study from  National Science Review , which showcased how exposure to both rising temperatures and extreme temperature ranges have decreased  vegetation  growth throughout the northern hemisphere. The finding upended previous beliefs that  global warming  would increase vegetation photosynthesis and extend the photosynthetic growing season. Instead, global warming was seen to increase the chances of  drought  and wildfire, which reduced water availability and therefore distressed forest vegetation. + Science Via NPR and PNNL

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12 good things that happened for the environment in 2019

December 26, 2019 by  
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For folks who read — and write — about sustainability, dire projections are revealed every day. Between rainforest fires and ocean pollution, much of the news is grim. However, 2019 also brought good news. In the spirit of optimism as we start a new year, let’s hope our species can build on this year’s gains in 2020. Here are a few high points from 2019. Banana leaves as packaging If you’ve ever had the good fortune to visit a southern Indian restaurant in Asia, you may have been served dinner on a banana leaf instead of a plate. Now, that idea has found its way into some Thai supermarkets. Forbes reported on Rimping supermarket in Chiangmai, Thailand that wraps its produce in banana leaves and secures them with a piece of bamboo . Way to cut down on plastic packaging! Robots rejuvenating reefs As we learned in the classic yet highly disturbing film  2001,  not all  robots are trustworthy. However,  Tech Crunch informed us about Larvalbot, a new underwater robot that is reseeding old corals with new polyps. A bot-controlling team at Queensland University of Technology is finding that robots can do this much faster than humans — and lack that pesky need to breathe. Good news for the American barrier reef Meanwhile, in Florida, researchers at Tampa’s Florida Aquarium  worked on “Project Coral” in partnership with London’s  Horniman Museum and Gardens . They announced their first successful attempt at Atlantic coral reproduction in a lab setting. The objective: to create large  coral egg deposits in a laboratory and ultimately repopulate the Florida Reef Tract. Inhabitat reported about how this could have important implications for saving barrier reefs. Help for the rainforests One Green Planet held out some hope for the tropical land being devastated by  palm oil plantations. A collaboration between the Peruvian government, the National Wildlife Federation, conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo and the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers’ Association (JUNPALMA) led to an agreement to only produce sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil by 2021. Peru will join the ranks of South American countries fighting palm oil deforestation, the second after Colombia. Cactus plastic developed in Mexico Research professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz and other scientists at the University of Valle de Atemajac in Zapopan, Mexico used prickly pear juice to craft a new biodegradable plastic. This cactus plastic begins breaking down in a month when placed in soil and only a few days in water. Unlike traditional plastics, no crude oil is required, according to Forbes . Things are looking up for whales Humpback whales have made a comeback off the South American coast, USA Today reported. After nearing extinction in the 1950s, numbers have surged from a low of 440 South Atlantic humpbacks to more than 25,000. The rise in population coincides with the end of whaling in the 1970s. North American whales got a new app this year. Inhabitat reported on Washington State Ferries implementing a whale report alert system. This new app notifies ferry captains of the whereabouts of orcas and other cetaceans in Puget Sound to help prevent boat strikes. Baby girls and tree planting In the Indian village of Piplantri, families plant 111 trees every time a baby girl is born. Since 2006, this village has been fighting stigma against the double X chromosome, leading to more than 350,000 trees planted so far. The number 111 is said to bring success in Indian culture, according to this YouTube video about Piplantri. Renewable energy growth The International Renewable Energy Agency released a study showing that renewable energy capacity continued to grow globally. Solar and wind energy accounted for 84 percent of recent growth, according to Bioenergy International . Brazilian street dogs and cats get comfy and stylish beds Young artist Amarildo Silva realized he could do something about two problems in his Brazilian city Campina Grande: stray animals and too much trash. He began making colorful beds out of  upcycled tires for both pets and strays. The 23-year-old has been able to leave his supermarket job and make a living as an artist while having a positive and far-reaching effect on his city. The stray  dogs themselves inspired Silva’s breakthrough idea. He noticed that at night, they liked to bed down in discarded tires. So Silva began to collect old tires from landfills, streets and parking lots. After he cleans and cuts them down to size, he decorates the tires with paw prints, bones and hearts, according to Bored Panda . Dogs and cats sleep better, and people see art, not the eyesores of discarded tires. Video game entrepreneur saves North Carolina forests Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games, has amassed billions with games like Fortnite, Unreal Tournament  and  Gears of War.  Fortunately for the world, he’s putting the money to excellent use. Over the last decade, he’s spent millions on  forest preservation in his home state of North Carolina, according to  The Gamer . This video game developer likes his land undeveloped. South Korean food recycling soars Since 2005, when the South Korean government prohibited people from sending food to landfills, the amount of recycled food waste has soared to 95 percent. This is amazing, considering less than two percent was recycled in 1995. Seoul residents are now required to discard their food waste in special biodegradable bags, which cost families an average of six dollars per month. Money paid for bags covers more than half the cost of collecting and processing this waste, according to Huffington Post . Will artificial islands draw wildlife back to Netherlands? After a dyke collapsed in the Markermeer, an enormous, 270-mile Dutch lake, water became too cloudy with sediment to sustain fish, plants and birds. Now a Dutch NGO called Natuurmonumenten is building five artificial islands out of silt at a cost of €60 million, mostly from public donation, according to The Daily Mail . They hope that this faux archipelago will draw wildlife back to the lake. And so do we. Here’s hoping for more good news in 2020.

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Millions of acres of Alaskan rainforest may be opened for business

August 29, 2019 by  
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As Amazon wildfires blaze, the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest faces a wholly different threat: corporate exploitation. President Donald Trump wants to open Alaska’s 16.7 million acre Tongass National Forest for logging, energy and mining projects. The Tongass is the country’s largest national forest, encompassing much of the southeast Alaskan panhandle, including the capital city of Juneau. Environmentalists have long fought business interests in the Alaskan forest. In the 1990s, the Clinton administration passed the “roadless rule,” barring commercial logging and prohibiting roads from being built without Forest Service approval. Obama’s administration saw the finalization of a plan to eliminate logging old-growth in the Tongass by 2016. Related: Bureau of Land Management moves forward with the sale of sacred land But many Alaskans don’t appreciate government intervention in their state. Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the state’s entire congressional delegation want Trump to reverse the roadless rule. They see it as a barrier to business and a threat to southeast Alaska’s economy. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski told the Washington Post , “The timber industry has declined precipitously, and it is astonishing that the few remaining mills in our nation’s largest national forest have to constantly worry about running out of supply.” Environmentalists point out that the Tongass’ old-growth trees provide critical habitat for Sitka black-tailed deer, black bear and the Northern Goshawk, which is a bird of prey. Chris Wood, president of Trout Unlimited, is worried about Alaska ’s wild salmon, which spawn in the Tongass. The salmon, rivers and trees have a symbiotic relationship. If the trees go, the $986 million salmon industry could also be threatened. Wood said that Forest Service officials have “realized the golden goose is the salmon, not the trees.” Not all of Alaska’s business owners are there to exploit resources. The adventure tourism sector relies on intact forests. Dan Blanchard’s company, UnCruise Adventures, takes 7,000 guests on small-ship Alaskan wilderness cruises annually. He’s seen dramatic improvements in the forest since the 1980s and doesn’t want that to be reversed. “The demand for wilderness and uncut areas have just dramatically increased,” Blanchard told the Washington Post . “Our view here is, there are very few places in the world that are wild. Here we have one, in southeast Alaska, and it’s being put at risk.” Via Washington Post Image via Bob Familiar

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A rustic wood cabin from the ’70s is remodeled into a charming getaway

August 20, 2019 by  
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The original cabin, dubbed chAlet, was built onto a patch of land in Donovaly, Slovenia in the 1970s. Since its construction, the wood cabin had fallen into near disrepair. The shutters were misshapen and splintered, the bottom had been damaged by the elements and the paint was faded and peeling. Rather than completely tearing down the structure, Y100 Ateliér decided to focus on the property’s sustainable features and improve upon them to create an updated, yet rustic, cabin that continues to embody the charm of the original structure. The chAlet cabin remodel was completed between 2018 and 2019, with the updated design by lead architect Jana Stofan Stykova and designer Pavol Stofan of Y100 Ateliér. Why the capital “A” inside chAlet? The project leaders wanted to emphasize the classic A-frame shape that is so iconic for these types of wooden houses and cottages. Related: Escape to the Bavarian Alps in a charming A-frame that produces surplus energy The age-old question of whether it is more environmentally friendly to remodel versus completely rebuild has always been a subject of debate in the design world, but it is generally considered better for the environment to remodel because of the reduced need for resources and energy. Some properties are obviously too run-down or unsafe in order to justify renovation , but luckily that was not the case for this unique cabin. The designers wanted the cabin to blend into the natural scenery without a need to compete with the forest, instead adding to its beauty. The original chalet was the optimal size for its recreational and accommodation needs, so the structure was not expanded in any way. Rather, the challenge was in providing an appropriately comfortable atmosphere for the small interior while improving the aesthetic qualities of the exterior. A first floor bedroom was removed to give the occupants better views from the living room. Benches and beds throughout were modified to include room for extra storage, and the bathroom now comes with a recessed bathtub with views of the treetops through a skylight . On the second-level terrace, you’ll find a private playground complete with a sandpit, slide and small climbing wall as well as a quiet area for relaxing and enjoying the forest views. The basement, bearing elements, interior staircase and roofing were all preserved during the reconstruction, maintaining a rustic charm to the updated chalet. + Y100 Ateliér Via ArchDaily Photography by Miro Pochyba and Pavol Stofan via Y100 Ateliér

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MASK Architects design a sustainable pavilion nestled in a German forest

July 19, 2019 by  
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Turkish architect Öznur P?nar Çer’s firm MASK Architects has designed a sustainably minded pavilion proposed for Waldspielpark Heinrich Kraft Park, the largest forest game park in Frankfurt, Germany. Created with a leaf-shaped structure, the building is designed to blend into the forest with its natural materials palette that mainly comprises locally sourced timber. Dubbed Leaf and Bean Co Pavilion, the building will house a coffee shop, a semi-open library, recreational areas and an events space. Shaped like an ovate leaf, the Leaf and Bean Co Pavilion will span an area of more than 2,000 square feet across two floors. The pavilion’s ground floor will be semi open and house exhibition space, while the upper level will include the coffee shop with the service areas placed inside a circular core at the heart of the building. Optimization of views of the surrounding forest informed the decisions for placing the programming. In addition to providing structural support, locally sourced timber will be used to give the pavilion a sculptural appeal. The architects propose crisscrossing long timber blocks around the building exterior for a nest-like appearance that evokes branches in a forest. Large amounts of glazing wrap around the building to create an immersive experience in nature. The roof of the pavilion directly above the coffee service areas will be planted with trees and greenery visible from the coffee shop below. Related: A modern reusable pavilion is sustainably designed to pop-up almost anywhere “We carried out a design in which people can provide unforgettable experience without disturbing the mathematics and physics of nature,” Öznur P?nar Çer said in a press statement. “This pavilion can be adapted to any kind of forest area, the development offers visitors an escape from the city with the celebration of fresh and organic dining. A hub educating and reestablishing gastronomy’s historic and appropriate connection with nature. Guests may enjoy the leisure and programmed resting on the terrace level while connected with the natural forest. By wandering in the forest, visitors not only discover co-creation programs but also meet with the people involved with the project and explore their creative process.” + MASK Architects Images via MASK Architects

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Zara pledges 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025

July 19, 2019 by  
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This week, major fashion brand Zara announced a pledge to use 100 percent sustainable fabrics by 2025. The company also upped the ante for large-scale sustainable fashion by promising to use 80 percent renewable energy for its headquarters, factories and stores by the same deadline. “We need to be a force for change, not only in the company but in the whole sector,” said Pablo Isla, CEO of Inditex, the corporation that owns Zara. “We are the ones establishing these targets; the strength and impulse for change is coming from the commercial team, the people who are working with our suppliers, the people working with fabrics.” Related: H&M releases sustainable fashion line from fruit and algae Inditex is the third-largest apparel company in the world and promises that its other brands, including Massimo Dutti, will follow Zara’s example. Zara is by far the corporation’s largest brand, pulling in 70 percent of its sales, which totaled $29 billion USD last year. A major component of the sustainability plan involves increasing the offerings and sales from Zara’s eco-conscious line, Join Life. Zara also partners with the Red Cross to donate leftover stock and has an ongoing project with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to innovate new ways to recycle fabrics. The announcements come after increased pressure from consumers worldwide who seek sustainable fashion choices and critique the waste generated by the fast fashion industry. Zara claims it is not “ fast fashion ,” even though a documentary recently revealed that factory workers are judged by a woman holding a stopwatch and that the time between spotting a trend and having it hit Zara stores is only 2 to 4 weeks . Most fashion brands, by comparison, take 40 weeks. Critics and experts of the fashion industry noted that the new sustainability plan does not address concerns about the conditions for factory workers, despite recent controversies when disgruntled workers stitched S.O.S. notes into Zara clothing. + Zara Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Zara pledges 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025

This off-grid retreat in Ohio was inspired by a treehouse

April 15, 2019 by  
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With features like a natural ventilation system to cool the home and rainwater collection to supply plumbing, The Hut is completely eco-friendly in addition to being off-grid . There is no access to main electricity or water, so the minimalist structure relies exclusively on solar power. Rather than constructing on top of the building site as most projects do, the architects built the home to harmonize with its surrounding environment. While the sustainable and eco-conscious design is worth commendation alone, The Hut was also born from a unique emotional place as well. Architect Greg Dutton of Midland Architecture wanted to build a quiet retreat in his family’s forested property on their Ohio cattle farm, within an area filled with happy childhood memories of hiking and exploration. The land, which he and his family have owned and operated for 40 years, holds a nostalgic value that helps connect the home with the building site. Related: Eco-friendly “treehouse” in French pine forest boasts surprisingly chic interiors Designed to appear as a treehouse , The Hut is elevated within the trees overlooking a lake through the use of concrete pillars at the edge of a small cliff. The position takes full advantage of exposure from the southern sun, helping to keep the home powered by solar energy. The floor-to-ceiling windows behind the wood-burning stove add to the lofted-in-the-trees effect. Though the natural cedar that tops the roof initially sticks out, with time and weather, the color will blend in perfectly with the surrounding forest. Inside, the floors are made of white pine and the wall/ceiling paneling of yellow pine, an homage to the Scandinavian and Danish architecture style that inspires a cozy atmosphere . The interior utilizes mostly organic light brown and white colors, with touches of black to add natural accents. There is a simple living space that connects to a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area. The architect drew inspiration from the rustic and straightforward designs he grew up with in his farming background. + Midland Architecture Via Dezeen Photography by Lexi Ribar via Midland Architecture

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