Ireland will plant 440 million trees in 20 years

September 4, 2019 by  
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Ireland is about to get a whole lot greener. The 84,431-square-kilometer country is determined to fight climate change by planting 440 million trees by 2040; 70 percent will be conifers and the remainder broad-leaf. The initiative is part of Ireland’s larger goal to become carbon-neutral by 2050. Ireland has the lowest forest cover of all European countries — about 11 percent compared to an average of more than 30 percent. Some say planting additional trees could be the answer, while others aren’t completely sold. Related: Scientists confirm tree planting is our best solution to climate change In June, the Irish government said it was going to start planting more trees in its fight against climate change and to reduce carbon emissions, but it never said how many trees it would plant. Now, the government has come up with a specific number. “The target for new forestation is approximately 22 million trees per year,” a spokesperson for the Department of Communications Climate Action and Environment said . “Over the next 20 years, the target is to plant 440 million.” In order to make the tree planting initiative work, Ireland needs farmers to plant more trees on their properties. The problem is that this is not a popular idea among farmers . The government hopes to try to change these opinions by offering local meetings to garner support for reforestation. Other people in Ireland are also against planting more trees. For instance, Pádraic Fogarty of the Irish Wildlife Trust is not on board. “People are not good at planting trees, and trees do not like being planted. They prefer to plant themselves,” Fogarty told The Irish Independent . Rather than handing out around 94 million euros ($103 million) in forestry grants, the government should pay farmers to plant nothing and let their properties regrow on their own, Fogarty suggested. An earlier study explained that planting more than 500 billion trees was the “most effective” solution to combating climate change. Those opposed to the tree planting initiative say reforestation will not reduce greenhouse gases enough, and other ideas should be implemented. Planting trees is not a foreign concept when trying to address the climate crisis, as other countries have grabbed their shovels and dug in. For example, Ethiopia and Scotland have been successful in their efforts to plant more trees for reforestation and fight global warming . Via EcoWatch , The Irish Times and The Irish Independent Image via KML

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Ireland will plant 440 million trees in 20 years

Great Barrier Reef outlook decreases from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’

September 3, 2019 by  
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Conditions at one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, is declining, and coral bleaching caused by climate change is to blame. The world’s largest coral reef, where 400 types of coral as well as about 10 percent of the world’s fish live, has gone from “poor” to “very poor.” The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) that manages the reef released a five-year study of the reef and stated, “Significant global action to address climate change is critical to slowing the deterioration of the reef’s ecosystem and heritage values and supporting recovery.” Related: University of Queensland wants to drop “bommies” on the Great Barrier Reef Located off the northeastern Australian coast , the reef is a major tourist attraction, bringing in around AU$5-6 billion (about $3.3-4 billion USD) yearly to the country’s economy. But if things don’t improve, the reef might not be around to enjoy for much longer. While coral bleaching and climate change are the main concerns, the report suggested the 1,400-mile reef has “multiple, cumulative and increasing” problems including run-off from agriculture , coastal land clearing and crown-of-thorns starfish that eat the coral. Another possible factor hindering the reef’s growth could be the increased use of coal mining in Australia. Statistics show that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been on an upward climb for four years and counting. As reported by Deutsche Welle , a 2012 study said that since 1985, the Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral cover. Five years later, the journal Nature said 91 percent had been bleached at least once in the last 20 years. Those concerned by the GBRMPA report have gone as far as asking UNESCO to quash the reef’s standing as a World Heritage site, which could humiliate the Australian government. In early 2019, the government did say it would spend AU$380 million to try and reproduce stronger coral. + Great Barrier Reef Via EcoWatch and Deutsche Welle Image via Robert Linsdell

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Great Barrier Reef outlook decreases from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’

Zaha Hadid Architects undulating riverside promenade doubles as a flood barrier in Hamburg

August 22, 2019 by  
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Zaha Hadid Architects has raised both the cultural cachet and the storm surge barriers in the German city of Hamburg with their recently completed upgrade to the Elbe River promenade and flood barrier at Niederhafen. Designed with an undulating shape that mimics the ebb and flow of tides, the revamped promenade reconnects the river to the surrounding urban fabric and boosts the popular riverside walkway appeal with a modern redesign large enough to accommodate a wide variety of groups, from pedestrians and joggers to street performers and food vendors.  Built in the 1960s, the Elbe River flood barrier was created following a devastating series of storm surge floods in 1962 that claimed 315 lives and destroyed the homes of 60,000 residents. In 2006, when the city of Hamburg discovered that the Niederhafen’s existing flood barrier was in need of significant reinforcement and should be raised to protect against threats of flooding, the government hosted a competition and selected Zaha Hadid Architects to lead the redesign. Nearly a decade after the competition, the architecture firm has now completed all stages of construction. Although the flood barrier primarily serves as a mode of defense, it has also become an iconic public space for the city, where locals and tourists alike gather to enjoy the riverside walkway. A minimum width of ten meters along the promenade ensures enough space for a diversity of activities, while dedicated cycle lanes at street level run the length of the flood protection barrier. Related: Zaha Hadid Architects break ground on an eco-sensitive multimodal bridge in Taiwan Split into two sections, the river promenade features a “larger scale” zone on the west side that overlooks views of shipping activity on the river, while the east side offers a more intimate atmosphere with access down to the water’s edge. Pedestrian areas of the promenade are clad in a dark, anthracite-colored granite that pop against the light gray granite used for the staircases and amphitheaters that punctuate the walkway and frame views of the river and city. + Zaha Hadid Architects Images © Piet Niemann

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Zaha Hadid Architects undulating riverside promenade doubles as a flood barrier in Hamburg

Indian cafe offers food for trash, then turns the waste into roads

July 29, 2019 by  
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The city of Ambikapur in India’s Chhattisgarh state is launching a “garbage cafe” where anyone can eat healthy meals in exchange for collecting trash. The cafe will be centrally located in the city’s busiest bus terminal and is owned by the Municipal Corporation. Although such cafes exist in other cities around the world, the plastic trash collected for Ambikapur’s cafe is unique, because it will go directly into asphalt to pave the city’s roads. The practice of melting plastic and incorporating it into paving materials is not new in India. In fact, the government mandated that all urban areas utilize plastic waste in their roads in 2015, but most have yet to follow orders. The city of Ambikapur has one such road so far, and there are an estimated 100,000 kilometers of plastic roads throughout India . The innovative chemical process is led by professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan, but it has also been replicated and modified by engineers around the world, including the plastic-producing giant Dow Chemical . “At the end of the day, plastic is a great product. It lasts for long, which is a problem if it’s a waste product, but not a problem if we want it to last,” said engineer Toby McCartney, whose company produces recycled plastic pellets that are mixed into roads. According to McCartney, plastic roads last three times longer than conventional roads and need less maintenance. They are more resistant to flooding and less likely to get potholes. McCartney also promises his prototype does not break down into microplastics or enter ecosystems. With an initial budget of just about $7,000 USD, the cafe is a triple-win for the government’s goals to address food insecurity , clean up the roads and improve infrastructure. Via Vice Image via Rajesh Balouria

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Indian cafe offers food for trash, then turns the waste into roads

EPA lifts ban on pesticide proven to be toxic to honeybees

July 17, 2019 by  
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has re-approved a pesticide for use throughout the country despite its known toxicity to honeybee populations. The chemical , sulfoxaflor, is produced by DowDupont, a major chemical company that contributed $1 million to President Trump’s campaign. Sulfoxaflor was originally approved for use by the EPA in 2013, but the approval was adamantly opposed and challenged by beekeepers and environmentalists. In 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to discontinue the chemical’s approval since DowDupont could not provide enough evidence proving their product is not harmful to bee populations. Despite this ruling, the government continued to offer “emergency approvals” of its use and now has officially re-approved its use on over 190 million acres of crops. Their product is now approved for use on corn, strawberries, citrus, pumpkins, pineapples and soybeans. Related: Native bees are going extinct without much buzz Although the EPA’s own studies provide evidence that the substance is “highly toxic to honeybees at all life stages” and similarly toxic to native bee populations, the EPA announced it was thrilled to lift the ban on such a highly effective agricultural product. “Scientists have long said pesticides like sulfoxaflor are the cause of the unprecedented colony collapse. Letting sulfoxaflor back on the market is dangerous for our food system, economy and environment, ” says a legal representative from Earthjustice. Both honey bees and native bees have seen a rapid decline in their numbers over the past few decades. This winter, beekeepers reportedly lost over 35 percent of their colonies. Since 1947, the population of honeybees has dropped from 6 million to under 2.4 million. “The Trump EPA’s reckless approval of this bee-killing pesticide across 200 million acres of crops like strawberries and watermelon without any public process is a terrible blow to imperiled pollinators,” says the director of the Center for Biological Diversity. Via Huff Post Image via Johann Piber

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EPA lifts ban on pesticide proven to be toxic to honeybees

Endangered rhino population up 1000% in Tanzania following poaching crackdown

July 15, 2019 by  
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The president of Tanzania reported that since his election, the population of endangered rhinos has increased by 1000 percent. Following years of out-of-control poaching, President John Magufuli fulfilled his promise to crack down on wildlife trafficking and went so far as to use his own government security task force to arrest poachers. The president’s office stated that in 2015, there were only 15 surviving rhinos left in the country. Within the first year as head of state, Magufuli had arrested major Chinese smugglers and sentenced them to 15 to 20 years in prison each. According to government reports, the arrests set a strong example to poaching gangs that regardless of status within the Chinese elite class, Magufuli meant business. Related: Ivory Queen sentenced to 15 years for illegal ivory smuggling In addition to cracking down on poachers , the government has supported a park ranger program to collar and track elephants, which enables them to monitor and protect the species better. Four years later, the current rhino population is estimated to be about 167. Similarly, the elephant population is estimated to have risen 50 percent due to legal efforts against endangered wildlife crimes. “As a result of the work of a special taskforce launched in 2016 to fight wildlife poaching, elephant populations have increased from 43,330 to 60,000 presently,” an official from the Tanzanian government said. Foreign conservationists are skeptical about the president’s claims, arguing that the majority of rhino newcomers are imported and the increase is not thanks to effective breeding or protection measures. CITES also shows that Tanzania had 133 rhinos four years ago, not 15 as the government has stated. “This sounds like very good news, but we should view these figures with caution until there’s verification — there’s no way that has occurred through breeding and protection alone,” said Mark Jones, the policy lead at Born Free Foundation, a wildlife charity . According to environmentalists, the breeding and gestation period is too long for the population to have grown through natural biological processes in just four years. “They mature late, have long gestation periods and don’t produce many young,” Jones said. “Both species take a long time biologically to reproduce.” Via The Independent Image via René Mayorga

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Endangered rhino population up 1000% in Tanzania following poaching crackdown

Bamboo Luum Temple preaches sustainable development in Tulum

July 15, 2019 by  
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Unchecked development in the rapidly growing Mexican beach town of Tulum is threatening to destroy the region’s environment. In hopes of inspiring more sustainable growth, local architectural firm CO-LAB Design Office created Luum Temple, an eco-friendly bamboo structure for a new conservation-minded residential development called Luum Zama. Located in a conserved area of native jungle in Tulum, the bamboo community structure features five catenary arches, the shapes of which were informed by parametric modeling. Inspired by the concrete curves of legendary Spanish and Mexican architect Felix Candela, CO-LAB Design Office crafted a five-sided catenary structure that uses bamboo sustainably grown in the neighboring Chiapas state. Flat sections of bamboo were bent on site, cold molded on the ground, then screwed and strapped together to create the arched beams. For structural stability, the architects wove the beams together with a structural triangular pattern along with two continuous layers of tightly woven bamboo lattice. Local zacate (straw thatch) was used as roofing to protect the structure from rain and heat gain. Related: Beautiful bamboo pavilion in Bali translates the flexibility of yoga into architecture “Luum Temple is a show case for sustainable development, it combines innovative design and engineering with artisanal building and organic sustainable materials,” explain the architects. “The arched vaults support each other, co-existing in structural dependency, serving as a reminder to the community of our interdependence and the accomplishments we can achieve when we work together.” The Luum Temple will be used to host “healing programs” such as yoga , meditation workshops, and community gatherings. CO-LAB Design Office also designed the master plan for the Luum Zama residential development. Unlike developers in Tulum that clear cut existing jungle to maximize sellable land, Luum Zama has set aside half of its 8-hectare are for conservation of existing vegetation while also adding a reforestation program with endemic plants from the region. The architects hope that the project will help raise awareness for the urgency of conservation and regulation of construction in Tulum. + CO-LAB Design Office Images by CO-LAB Design Office, Cesar Bejar, and Pakal Egger Tonatiuh Egger

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Bamboo Luum Temple preaches sustainable development in Tulum

Eco toilets empower women and save nature in Colombia

June 28, 2019 by  
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Jenifer Colpas spends her days installing toilets, but her work has won her accolades as a Global Changemaker, Young Champion of the Earth and most recently as a winner of the United Nation’s Lead 2030 Challenge. For Colpas, her unique waterless toilet design is more than just a bathroom — its an unlikely hero and an opportunity to empower women, protect watersheds and finally flush widespread sanitation-related illness down the drain for good. In 2015, Jenifer Colpas launched her social enterprise, Tierra Grata , with some friends. They were determined to address the poverty that had first shocked them on a trip to India and then emboldened them when they realized it was pervasive back home in Colombia , too. “I was truly outraged by the fact that people lived without the most basic things, like access to electricity, a proper toilet and safe drinking water,” Colpas recalled . Related: Evaporative off-grid toilets don’t need plumbing, water or electricity Tierra Grata, which loosely means “pleasant earth” in Spanish, not only provides low-cost ecological toilet facilities for rural communities in Colombia, it also uses the toilet installation as an entry point to open dialogue, provide skills training and empower women. The perfect toilet Tierra Grata’s solution, the baño grata , is a simple structure that can be installed with local labor at minimal cost. The ecological toilet does not use any water at all, which saves approximately 270,000 liters per year when compared to a conventional toilet. “Instead of water, a mixture of lime, sawdust and ashes is used, placed each time a stool is made; that mixture of organic materials neutralizes all the odors, while it is converting the organic matter into fertilizer,” Colpas explained. In many rural communities, residents do not have access to any bathroom facilities and therefore must use makeshift bathrooms that are at risk of contaminating the soil or local watershed. The baño grata eliminates this risk, protects watersheds and even uses the waste to produce fertilizer for plants. Some of the bathroom structures also contain a separate shower and changing space, which specifically provides women with privacy that can be especially important during menstruation, pregnancy or post-partum. The link between women and water Tierra Grata’s business model is more than just the installation of an ecological toilet. Instead, its team targets households and communities either headed by or with a larger number of women and girls. Once selected, the team trains females in toilet maintenance and sanitation practices, providing skills that ensure the facilities are sustainably managed. In Colombia and throughout the world, the lack of access to a private or accessible toilet can deter women from participating actively in society — preventing them from attending meetings and trainings that would otherwise support their roles as leaders and decision-makers. If a woman knows there is nowhere to use the bathroom for miles around, she is more likely to skip out on an activity, and the community misses out on her contribution. Related: Women are essential to climate resilience in the Caribbean — here’s why “Access to water and sanitation is a basic human right, fundamental to the realization of all other human rights. Unfortunately, a lack of adequate access, either in terms of quantity or quality of water, often impacts women and children disproportionately,” said Lis Mullin Bernhardt from U.N. Environment. “In most regions of the world, women are responsible for helping their families get access to these life-giving services, so it is essential that their unique views and challenges are part of the decision-making processes and solutions. Tierra Grata is a great step in this direction.” Around the world, millions lack water and sanitation In rural Colombia, approximately 30 percent of people do not have an adequate system for the proper separation and disposal of sewage . Throughout the world, the situation is even more dire. Approximately 844 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Moreover, 2.3 billion people lack access to what is considered basic sanitation amenities: simple toilets, hand washing facilities and soap. Of these more than 2 billion people, 70 percent live in rural areas. In many cultures, women and children are responsible for collecting water for their families, cooking and washing clothes. These time-consuming tasks often prohibit their full participation in school and other activities. When rural schools do not have adequate toilet facilities for teenage girls, many skip out on important lessons during their menstruation cycle and fall behind their male peers. Despite technological advances and innovative entrepreneurs like Colpas, the percentage of the world population without basic sanitation actually expanded in the last two decades, from 59 percent in 2000 to 68 percent in 2015. For many, the problem is not a question of comfort and privacy but life and death. Improper sanitation leads to the spread of disease and the contamination of drinking water sources. For example, lack of proper water and sanitation facilities can accelerate the spread of diarrhea and pneumonia, two of the top causes of death among children under 5 years of age. “Water and sanitation issues sit at the intersection of environmental and social concerns,” Colpas said. “Lacking water and sanitation solutions contribute to disease, stagnation and the pollution of natural waterways.” Hope for the future Tierra Grata’s unique model not only addresses the immediate need for a facility but recognizes and addresses interrelated concerns — including gender inequality and environmental protection — which ensures more long-lasting success. Creativity and dedication from people like Colpas are promising signs of a more hopeful and equitable future. “There is not a single environmental problem today that cannot be solved through innovation ,” Erik Solheim, executive director of U.N. Environment, said. “Therefore, it is essential that we do everything in our power to empower and motivate young entrepreneurs. When we take advantage of that creativity, we can discover new ways of thinking and new possibilities for a sustainable future in our land.” + Tierra Grata Via U.N. Environment Images via Tierra Grata

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Eco toilets empower women and save nature in Colombia

Pacific nation Vanuatu is the first to ban disposable diapers

June 25, 2019 by  
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The mothers of Vanuatu will shoulder the Pacific island nation’s dream of a pristine future with the recent announcement of a ban on disposable diapers. Despite backlash by parents in the country of about 250,000 people, the government announced that a ban will roll out by the end of the year. Vanuatu is believed to be the first country in the world to prohibit disposable diapers and has one of the strictest bans on single-use plastics , including plates, cups, drink stirrers, egg cartons, plastic flowers and food containers. Related: New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers Although the government admits it was a difficult decision that will disproportionately impact mothers, ministers argue that they had no choice. The low-lying islands of Vanuatu are already drowning in plastic pollution and the rising sea levels. “Vanuatu is safeguarding its future,” said Mike Masauvakalo, Minister of Foreign Affairs. “Eventually, plastics find their way into the water and the food chain and at the end of the day, the people of Vanuatu end up consuming [them].” A study by the Commonwealth Litter Program indicated that compostable waste and disposable diapers constituted nearly 75 percent of all plastic waste in the country. So, in addition to composting programs, a ban on diapers was an obvious target. “It is a long road ahead,” Masauvakalo said. “But knowing my country, we will work it out. Vanuatu is very vocal about the climate emergency. It is visible, we are living it. It is affecting our food supply and our fish populations.” Thomas Maes from the Commonwealth Litter Programme said , “Although Pacific islands produce a fraction of the waste of other countries, bad waste management practices may be contributing to the problem of microplastics in the oceans.” Meanwhile, in the U.K., the outcry was so vocal after a government official mentioned banning disposable diapers that he was forced to retract his mere suggestion. Via The Guardian and RNZ Image via Shutterstock

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Pacific nation Vanuatu is the first to ban disposable diapers

Koalas declared "functionally extinct"

May 16, 2019 by  
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The Australian Koala Foundation declared koalas officially “functionally extinct,” a term which means that though there are still about 80,000 koalas, they are either unlikely to reproduce another generation, prone to inbreeding due to low numbers or may no longer play a significant role in their ecosystem. The iconic Australian animal is on a fast track to extinction and has suffered from deforestation , disease, climate change-driven drought and a massive slaughter for fur in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Australian government listed the species as “vulnerable” in 2012 when there was thought to be between 100,000 and 500,000 koalas. Since the declaration, the government has done very little to develop or implement a protection and recovery plan. Related: 1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report With an estimated population that could even be as low as 43,000, koalas are very likely to inbreed and become even more susceptible to disease. At these small population numbers, the marsupial has very little impact on its ecosystem, the eucalyptus forest. Koalas were once critical to the nutrient cycling of the forest, with their feces an important source of fertilizer. Large koalas can consume up to 1 kilogram of eucalyptus leaves per night. Logging and urban development has encroached into what was once an abundant forest ecosystem, leading many to believe that the government needs to declare and expand protected areas of the forests. The Australia Koala Foundation has proposed a Koala Protection Act that focuses on conserving the forest as the primary strategy for protecting koalas. “The koala is one of Australia’s most recognizable symbols, but its survival hangs in the balance,” the  San Diego Zoo said  in a statement. “Formerly thought to be common and widespread, koalas are now vulnerable to extinction across much of its northern range.” According to fossil records, Koalas are native to Australia and have been there for at least 30 million years . Via EcoWatch Image by Mathias Appel

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