7 global megatrends that could beat climate change

November 15, 2017 by  
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Is it too late for us to avert disastrous impacts of global warming ? Maybe not, thanks to megatrends changing the way humans live on a global scale. The Guardian’s environment editor Damian Carrington laid out trends that could turn the tide: renewable energy , electric cars , plant-based meat , energy efficiency , batteries , coal dying, and planting new forests . It’s clear we haven’t yet won the battle – but there could be reason for hope. Even as our world is warming, we haven’t yet lost the fight against climate change . Christiana Figueres, former United Nations climate chief and Mission 2020 convener, told The Guardian humanity still faces serious challenges as the climate turning point is just three years away. She said, “But the fact is we are seeing progress that is growing exponentially, and that is what gives me the most reason for hope.” Related: Here’s some climate hope: global CO2 emissions stayed static last year The seven megatrends outlined by Carrington suggest we could win humanity’s most complex global struggle. First? The development of lab-grown or plant-based meat products. Cows are responsible for emitting methane , a powerful greenhouse gas that traps heat on Earth. And people’s appetite for meat is increasing. But investors from Bill Gates to the Chinese government are starting to back tasty, environmentally friendly alternatives. Then there’s renewable energy: production costs have plummeted and installations have soared. According to The Guardian, renewables comprised two-thirds of new power last year. On the other hand, coal’s grip on the world is slipping: production could have peaked back in 2013. The International Renewable Energy Agency expects a large battery storage increase, as batteries are connected to smart and efficient grids . Meanwhile, if current growth rates keep going, by 2030 80 percent of new cars will be electric, according to The Guardian, which would reduce carbon emissions. Home energy efficiency is also making progress. In the European Union, for example, since 2000, efficiency in houses, industry, and transportation has improved by around 20 percent. The creation of new forests is another megatrend “not yet pointing in the right direction,” according to The Guardian, as deforestation continues apace. But tree-planting in South Korea, China, and India has already scrubbed over 12 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Bloomberg New Energy Finance founder Michael Liebreich told The Guardian, “We are not going to get through this without damage. But we can avoid the worst.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos

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73 million trees to be planted in largest reforestation project ever

October 31, 2017 by  
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Conservation International aims to plant 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon as part of the largest ever undertaking of its kind. In what is being called the “arc of deforestation” in the Brazilian states of Amazonas, Acre, Pará, and Rondônia, as well as throughout the Xingu watershed, trees will be planted as part of a project that, in the short-term, aims to restore 70,000 acres of tropical forest. “If the world is to hit the 1.2°C or 2°C [degrees of warming] target that we all agreed to in Paris, then protecting tropical forests in particular has to be a big part of that,” said M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, in an interview with Fast Company . “It’s not just the trees that matter, but what kind of trees ,” said Sanjayan. “If you’re really thinking about getting carbon dioxide out of atmosphere, then tropical forests are the ones that end up mattering the most.” Ceasing deforestation would allow for the absorption of 37 percent of the world’s annual carbon emissions yet scientists worry that 20 percent of the Amazon may be deforested in the next two decades, in addition to the 20 percent that was deforested in the past 40 years. To combat this rapid pace of destruction, Conservation International is utilizing new, efficient planting techniques that could be applied worldwide. “This is not a stunt,” said Sanjayan. “It is a carefully controlled experiment to literally figure out how to do tropical restoration at scale, so that people can replicate it and we can drive the costs down dramatically.” Related: Hurricane Maria ravaged the only tropical rainforest in the United States The planting method used in the project is known as muvuca , which is a Portuguese word to describe many people in a small place. In  muvuca, hundreds of native tree seeds of various species are spread over every inch of deforested land. Natural selection then allows the most suited to survive and thrive. A 2014 study from the Food and Agriculture Organization and Biodiversity International found that more than 90 percent of native tree species planted using the  muvuca method germinate and are well suited to survive drought conditions for up to six months. “With plant-by-plant reforestation techniques, you get a typical density of about 160 plants per hectare,” said Rodrigo Medeiros, Conservation International’s vice president of the Brazil program and project lead, according to Fast Company . “With muvuca, the initial outcome is 2,500 species per hectare. And after 10 years, you can reach 5,000 trees per hectare. It’s much more diverse, much more dense, and less expensive than traditional techniques.” Via Fast Company Images via Depositphotos (1)

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73 million trees to be planted in largest reforestation project ever

Climate change and volcanic eruptions could lead to years without summer

October 31, 2017 by  
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Scientists warn that if climate change continues at its current pace, oceans may lose their ability to reduce atmospheric effects from volcanic sulfur and aerosols as they have done in the past. This means that volcanic eruptions in the future may lead to “years without summer,” as occurred in 1815 after the April eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia . New research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the US both confirms that specific eruption’s role in altering the global climate and the role that future eruptions might play if the ocean’s temperature continues to be affected by melting sea ice and rising global temperatures. The researchers used data from Community Earth System Model’s (CESM) Last Millennium Ensemble Project, which provides simulations of Earth’s climate based on the geological record from 850 through 2005, to determine that the Mount Tambora eruption caused a notable cooling event on the global climate. Sulfur dioxide sent into the atmosphere became sulfate particles known as aerosols and reflected light away from the Earth. This resulted in a so-called “year without summer,” in which crops across North America and Europe suffered tremendous losses due to cold temperatures and blocked sunlight. Related: Two giant volcanic eruptions formed Yellowstone’s iconic caldera The oceans played an important role in returning the climate to relative normalcy through a process in which the colder water of the ocean sinks while warmer water rises to the surface, helping to warm the surrounding land and atmosphere . However, due to changing ocean temperatures resulting from climate change, if an eruption similar to Mount Tambora were to occur in 2085, the ocean would be less able to bring about climate stabilization. Study author Otto-Bliesner wrote, “The response of the climate system to the 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora gives us a perspective on potential surprises for the future, but with the twist that our climate system may respond much differently”. + Nature Communications Via Alphr Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Climate change and volcanic eruptions could lead to years without summer

The roots of forest bathing

September 29, 2017 by  
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Power suits, meet “Power Forests.” In Japan, Nissan and Mazda maintain agreements with a Forest Therapy Base.

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Brazilian federal judge blocks move to destroy huge swath of Amazon forest

September 4, 2017 by  
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Brazilian president Michel Temer recently attempted to open up a national reserve to mining companies, but a federal judge put a stop to that plan. The National Reserve of Copper and Associates, or Renca, is a 17,760-square-mile area of the Amazon forest that’s been protected since 1984, and Temer’s move was met with outcry from activists. But with the decision of judge Rolando Valcir Spanholo, the president’s bid won’t move forward – at least for now. Campaigners and activists criticized Temer’s recent endeavor to dissolve the national reserve; one opposition lawmaker said it was the “biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years.” Now a federal judge approved an injunction requested by public prosecutors. Spanholo says Temer went beyond his authority when he issued the decree to abolish the protected area. He said only the country’s Congress can dissolve Renca. Related: Colombian town turns down $35B gold mine – prefers a clean environment Renca is thought to possess gold, manganese, copper, nickel, tantalum, and iron ore – and The Guardian said the judge’s decision may only offer a temporary respite for the forest. The attorney general appealed the decision. But the injunction could help put pressure on Temer, who has been criticized more than once for prioritizing economic interests above the environment . Temer withdrew his original decree. He then re-issued it including clarification on safeguards for conservation areas and indigenous territory. But environmental activists said the decree would still open up 30 percent of the region to mining companies, and was simply a marketing ploy. The New York Times described Temer as an unpopular leader who has reduced protections for the environment and cut back on the budgets for agencies that fight illegal deforestation and implement environmental laws. He’s also slashed the budget of the agency that guards indigenous communities’ rights. Via The Guardian Images via Rafael Vianna Croffi on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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1-acre permaculture farm in Australia feeds 50 families

September 4, 2017 by  
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This family in Australia completely shifted the way they source their food – with remarkable success. When wife Nici suffered an illness, the Coopers decided to start growing their own produce at home in Newcastle, and now their one-acre Limestone Permaculture Farm supplies dozens of families with fresh food . They also offer permaculture education and internships, sharing what they’ve learned with the greater community . The Coopers have been farming at Limestone Permaculture Farm for close to a decade. They grow organic produce , and raise sheep, goats, and chickens. They also keep bees and build with recycled materials , and The farm is powered by energy from wood, water, and the sun – pretty much every greenie’s dream come true. TreeHugger said co-owner Brett suggested they can feed 50 families from the one-acre farm . Related: Man leaves rat race to grow dream permaculture farm – and it’s flourishing after 3 years Swales, a chicken tractor, and self-seeding edible ground cover are among the permaculture techniques the Coopers employ at Limestone Permaculture Farm. Brett discovered permaculture over a decade ago. He told the Newcastle Herald , “I was a builder and had done architectural drafting. When I found permaculture, it was less about one form and more about following nature’s design . It blew my mind.” The Coopers offer farm tours, workshops, internships, and a permaculture design certificate at their New South Wales farm. They still have jobs and only work the farm part-time, but are hoping to transition to permaculture farming full-time. “We feel there has been an awakening across our beautiful country, self-reliance is on the rise again; urban and rural homesteading has people taking their food and energy supply back into their own hands,” the Coopers say on their website. “With each passing day we are transitioning to a more wholesome life, creating a more fulfilling and positive future, not just for ourselves but also for our family, friends, and community.” + Limestone Permaculture Farm Via Happen Films and TreeHugger Images via Limestone Permaculture Farm Facebook

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China is fighting desertification with a Great Green Wall of trees

August 31, 2017 by  
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In a major geoengineering effort to fight back against ever-encroaching desert, China is planting trees to create a “Great Green Wall” that may halt erosion, capture carbon, and provide economic benefits to the People’s Republic. By 2050, the nation of nearly 1.5 billion people aims to plant 88 million acres of woodland in an area that stretches 3,000 miles long and up to 900 miles wide. If successful, China’s reforestation project could serve as a guide for the countries of the 250 million people worldwide threatened by desertification . The vast arid land of China, which includes the historic Gobi Desert, encompasses up to 27 percent of the country’s land, and that number is growing. By 2006, nearly 1,000 square miles, an increase of 400 square miles since the 1950s, of usable land was being consumed by the desert . Desertification in China causes dust and sandstorms that contribute to poor health outcomes, the crippling of transportation routes, and economic losses, which are estimated to be in the billions of dollars every year. Related: The Great Green Wall of Africa could fight desertification and poverty The results of the project, which began in 1978, have been mixed. On the one hand, the project has provided financial stability to many previously impoverished communities located in the prospective Great Green Wall region. Government investment in infrastructure surrounding the project has also aided regional development. The Chinese government claims that the project has already yielded a decrease in sandstorms, stabilized acres of desert, and even increased precipitation . Others are more skeptical. “When it’s profitable, people tell lies,” said Cao Shixiong, a professor at Minzu University of China.  “I thought it was a very good way to combat desertification,” said Cao. However, in light of some estimates that up to 86 percent of the trees planted as part of the project have died, Cao changed his mind. “I realized it’s because of policy. We were choosing the wrong place to plant trees.” Researchers are also concerned that importing ill-suited trees into the fragile ecosystem may yield disastrous consequences in the future. “For the past 1,000 years, only shrubs and grass have grown in those areas. Why would they think planting trees would be successful?” said Sun Qingwei, a former Chinese Academy of Sciences desert researcher who now works for the National Geographic Society. “It’s not sustainable. Investing money in trees that are not supposed to be there is kind of crazy.” Time will tell if the Great Green Wall is as enduring as its stone-and-brick namesake. Via Mother Jones Lead image via Deposit photos , others via People’s Daily Online , Vaiz Ha/Flickr , and Christopher Michel/Flickr

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How orange peels helped barren land in Costa Rica spring back to life

August 23, 2017 by  
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There’s more to oranges than juice! Back in the 1990’s, two ecologists suggested orange juice manufacturer Del Oro donate some of their land near a national park in Costa Rica ; in exchange, they’d be able to deposit agricultural waste for free on degraded land inside the park. Del Oro agreed and dumped 1,000 truckloads of orange pulp and peels on the land. Today, that area is a thriving forest . A Princeton University -led team of researchers journeyed to the forest to discover just how much that food trash transformed the forest – and how other businesses might do the same. Del Oro donated land to Área de Conservación Guanacaste at the suggestion of husband and wife ecologist team Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, who’d worked as advisors at the park. The company unloaded around 12,000 metric tons of orange waste for biodegradation until rival company TicoFruit sued, saying Del Oro had defiled the park. TicoFruit won and the land went largely overlooked for over a decade. Related: 16-year-old South African girl invents drought-fighting super material from orange peels Years later, environmental researchers decided to evaluate the site. They discovered a lush forest that had a 176 percent increase in aboveground biomass – what Princeton described as the trees’ wood – in the seven acres they studied. They also found a difference between areas where orange peels hadn’t been dumped and where they had – according to Princeton, the latter showed richer soil, greater tree-species richness, and more closure in the forest canopy. The researchers think regenerating forests with agricultural waste could help us sequester carbon . Princeton graduate student Timothy Treuer said in a statement, “This is one of the only instances I’ve ever heard of where you can have cost-negative carbon sequestration. It’s not just a win-win between the company and the local park – it’s a win for everyone.” Princeton University ecologist David Wilcove thinks more businesses could help the environment in similar ways. He said while companies do generate environmental problems, “…an awful lot of those problems can be alleviated if the private sector and the environmental community work together. I’m confident we’ll find many more opportunities to use the leftovers from industrial food production to bring back tropical forests. That’s recycling at its best.” University of Pennsylvania , Beloit College , and University of Minnesota scientists joined the Princeton researchers to write a study published by the journal Restoration Ecology this week. Via Princeton Environmental Institute Images via Pixabay and Princeton University

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Climate change has doubled the size of forest fires in Western US

October 12, 2016 by  
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Over the past three decades, man-made climate change has doubled the total area burned by forest fires in the Western US. A new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the difference from 1985 to now is staggering. 30 years ago, just 2.9 million total acres burned, but in 2015 10.1 million acres were destroyed during fire season. The researchers pointed most of the blame on man-made climate change – which is responsible for warmer, drier weather which allows fires to thrive. However, there are also other factors at play – including natural climate shifts and changes in how humans are using the land. The amount of land burned by fires is only expected to increase over the coming years as global temperatures continue to rise. Related: How Climate Change Fuels Wildfires Explained in 90 Seconds In a disturbing statement, Columbia University researcher and study author Park Williams told Time , “No matter how hard we try, the fires are going to keep getting bigger, and the reason is really clear. “We should be getting ready for bigger fire years than those familiar to previous generations.” While the exact scope of the issue is startling, the general trend itself should come as no surprise: every year in recent memory has gone down as the hottest on record . In the years to come, we will likely have to adapt and find new ways to prevent and extinguish forest fires if we want to preserve our forests and protect nearby communities. Unfortunately, that could prove difficult given the fact that cataclysmic fires in recent years have drained the Forest Service’s budget in the hardest-hit states. Via Time and Slashdot Images via Ervins Strauhmanis and Coconino National Forest

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Trees form special bonds with "friends and family"

October 7, 2016 by  
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A new documentary , Intelligent Trees , shows a side of trees that most of us have never seen before. Created by German forester Peter Wohlleben and forest ecologist Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia, the film explores the network of roots and fungal threads beneath the forest floor. This network, they say, allows trees to communicate and bond with one another in groups of family and friends. https://vimeo.com/181082721 While conventional wisdom would have us believe that trees simply passively interact with each other, Wohlleben and Simard claim there is so much more going on beneath the surface. Trees of a given species, they explain, actively support one another . They form friendships, and parent trees nurture their children. We can see this in the way that one trees will grow in ways that avoid blocking other trees’ light, or the way they will send out chemical warnings to other trees when attacked by insects. In this way, Wohlleben claims, trees can be said to have emotions like fear and pain, and a “language” that allows them to communicate with one another. Related: Mother trees recognize kin and send them “messages of wisdom” Some may take issue with the way that this narrative anthropomorphizes plant life. Though it may be true they communicate with one another, it’s obviously very different from how humans (or even animals) interact. Wohlleben brushes these criticisms aside, however – in an interview with Treehugger, he explained , “I use a very human language. Scientific language removes all the emotion, and people don’t understand it anymore. When I say, ‘Trees suckle their children,’ everyone knows immediately what I mean.” Intelligent Trees can be streamed at Vimeo On Demand or purchased on DVD. + Intelligent Trees Via Treehugger Images via  Jon Bunting  and  Moyan Brenn

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