New York could become the first state to ban cat declawing

June 7, 2019 by  
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On Tuesday, New York lawmakers voted to ban cat declawing. If New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the bill, cats may be packing their little suitcases and moving to the first state to protect their claws by law. “Cat declawing is a horrific, yet often practiced surgery that leads to a lifetime of pain and discomfort for thousands of cats,” Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan told NPR . “Today, though, every cat and kitten in New York state lands on its feet as we prepare to make New York the best state for cats to live in the United States.” When cats are declawed, the vet removes part of the cat’s toe bones as well as the claws. Usually the surgery is only performed on the front feet, but sometimes claws are removed from all four paws. Pet owners often order this painful surgery to protect their furniture, and many command declawing as a requirement if the cat wants to live indoors. Adverse effects from declawing include back and joint problems, personality changes and litter box issues due to painful paws. Once their claws are removed, cats are unable to defend themselves nor to climb trees to escape predators, so they must stay inside forever. If the bill becomes law, the declawing procedure will still be performed for medical issues including injuries or infections. While many people and most cats were jubilant at the NY news, the bill is not without controversy. The New York State Veterinary Medical Society opposed the bill, arguing that pet owners who are diabetic, hemophiliac, immune-compromised or on immune suppressing medication are at great medical risk from cat scratches. They might be forced to relinquish their cats if declawing becomes illegal. According to the American Humane Society, about 71 percent of cats that enter shelters are euthanized. However, many other vets supported the bill, which passed on June 4, the annual New York State Animal Advocacy Day . This annual event is described on its Facebook page as “a bi-partisan event to further protect our companion pets from cruelty.” People who care more about couches than cats might consider adopting a pet rock instead. Via NPR Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Flensshot

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New York could become the first state to ban cat declawing

Endangered Canadian Orca births first calf in three years

June 4, 2019 by  
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A small and endangered pod of orca whales primarily seen off the coast of British Columbia was seen with their first newborn calf since 2016. The calf has been called a “ray of hope” by whale researchers and conservationists and brings the total population up to just 76 whales. “Researchers at the Centre for Whale Research, have confirmed that the calf is a new addition, and based on its coloration and body condition was likely born sometime in the last one to three weeks…More field observations are needed to confirm the identity of the calf’s mother,” the research center said in a statement. Related: Russia to release hundreds of illegally captured orcas and belugas from ‘whale jail’ The whale was first observed and photographed by whale watchers on May 31, who noted its orange hue and fetal skin– evidence that it was born very recently. This subsection of endangered killer whales are unique to others of the same species because they primarily eat Chinook salmon instead of seals and mammals. The crash in salmon population in the Pacific Northwest contributed to a decline in whale population. Last year, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee released a plan to revive and protect salmon and whale populations. The newest calf belongs to the J-Pod, but there are two other pods of the endangered group– the L-pod and the K-pod. Just five months ago, the L-pod also successfully birthed a calf. “Southern resident killer whales , their population is small so any birth is huge,” a representative from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada told CBC News. Despite these recent celebrations, the survival rate for Orca calves is only 50 percent. The last successful Orca birth took place in 2016. However, last year after the death of the calf, the mother continued to carry the body for a heart wrenching 7 days, a story which received considerable media attention and drew sympathy for the vulnerable population. Via The Guardian Image via skeeze

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Proposed $1 billion underwater pipeline will send fracked gas to NYC

March 20, 2019 by  
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There is a war brewing over the development of a new underwater pipeline in New York City. The proposed project would send fracked gas to the city, a move environmentalists claim would greatly contribute to global warming . An Oklahoma company called Williams has proposed an ambitious plan to construct a 23-mile pipeline from Pennsylvania to New York . The project, which will cost around $1 billion, will connect with an existing pipeline underneath New Jersey, carrying gas all the way to Queens. Related: UN predicts dire future for planet unless people change their ways NOW Supporters of the plan say it will help New Yorkers use gas instead of oil for energy, but several environmental groups argue that the project is a step backwards in the battle against carbon emissions. In fact, environmentalists are urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto the pipeline development altogether. “This pipeline would incentivize reliance on gas, which is way more carbon-intensive than renewables,” Robert Wood, who works with the environmental group, 350Brooklyn, explained. “It would be a nightmare happening, not in a rural area, but right here in New York City.” Advocacy groups believe New York City is already on the right path in becoming more energy efficient as it has already gotten rid of the most carbon-heavy oils used for heating. Environmentalists argue that New York City will witness a decrease in energy use as a result of current efforts to improve efficiency standards. Over the past decade, the city has removed old boilers, invested in heat pumps, and increased energy efficiency in buildings. Opponents of the billion-dollar pipeline also worry that the project could harm marine life in New York City’s harbor, including the humpback whale, which have started to resurface in the area. Environmentalists are concerned that the construction will introduce toxins to the water that will be detrimental to the habitat. Fortunately, Cuomo has a history of supporting eco-friendly initiatives in New York. Since becoming the governor, Cuomo has blocked fracking in the state and vowed to decrease carbon emissions by 80 percent over the next three decades. It is unclear where Cuomo stands on the new underwater pipeline, but environmentalists are hopeful he will side with them. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock 

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Can Florida save its prized Everglades from climate change destruction?

March 19, 2019 by  
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Half of all Floridians will live underwater by the end of the century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s predictions . In her disheartening article in The Guardian , researcher and author of Rising, Elizabeth Grant instructs Floridians to flip a coin – tails and your home is headed under the sea. Overpopulation, unsustainable development and sea level rise also threaten to destroy Florida’s famous Everglades, but the newly elected Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, is an unexpected champion of its restoration. The Everglades are an expansive wetland preserve in Southern Florida that originally spanned millions of acres. Since European settlers arrived, the wetlands were rapidly drained and filled to make way for farms, roads and housing. Now, 1.5 million acres remain protected in the Everglades National Park, which is home to incredible biodiversity, such as “mangrove forests and cypress swamps, alligators, orchids, storks and ibises, as well as threatened species such as the Florida panther,” according to  The Guardian Related: Meet Squid: Key West’s solar-powered boat for dolphin tours Florida’s history of wetland destruction Changes to the landscape, including draining, paving and building, as well as carving out agricultural lands, have damaged the wetland’s sensitive ecology. The amount of water flowing into the wetland had already been cut in half by the 1960’s and is currently a third of what it used to be. Fresh water from Lake Okeechobee, its main source, has largely been rerouted to irrigate farms and re-enter the wetlands full of agricultural chemicals. Steve Davis, senior ecologist from the Everglades Foundation explained to The Guardian , “We only get about a third of the water in the eastern Florida Bay that we received historically. A national park, a world heritage site, an international biosphere reserve, and we’re starving it of fresh water.” These changes in water circulation not only introduce synthetic nutrients that kill wildlife and produce toxic algae blooms, but an overall decrease in water, exacerbated by drought and sea level rise, also changes the water salinity. In 2015, a decline in rainfall caused the water to be twice as salty as the ocean, leading to rapid die-off of its expansive sea grass, which caused a domino-effect die-off of the hundreds of species that live and breed in sea grass beds. Recent changes to a fragile ecosystem In 2017, Category 4 Hurricane Irma tore through and uprooted the mangroves – an ecosystem typically celebrated for its fortitude and ability to protect infrastructure during storms. Without mangrove roots and sea grass beds to stabilize the sediment, what used to be a mecca for birdwatching, fishing and buggy tours is now what The Guardian’s Oliver Milman calls a “mud pit.” “The water used to be so clear you could see the seagrass move back and forth. Now you can’t see the bottom. The dead water sort of moves around the bay and you think ‘I’ve just gotta get out of here,’” a seasoned fisherman lamented to Milman . Related: Can the Cayman Islands save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? An unexpected green champion – for some In January 2019, Florida elected a new governor: Ron DeSantis, a self-proclaimed “conservative warrior” and Trump bestie . In just two months in office, DeSantis released a progressive $250-billion plan to restore the Everglades and invest in water quality remediation infrastructure. Though DeSantis’s predecessor, Rick Scott, set the bar pretty low in terms of green policy (he reportedly banned the phrase “climate change” ), environmentalists are generally hopeful about DeSantis’s commitment. “Our water and natural resources are the foundation of our economy and our way of life in Florida,” Governor DeSantis said in a news release . “The protection of water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state.” The four-year plan, “Achieving More Now for Florida’s Environment ,” designates $625 million per year to address water pollution, restore ecosystems and raise the Tamiami Trail, a highway that traverses the Everglades and cuts off water circulation. Annual Budget Breakdown: $360 million for Everglades restoration, such as creating a reservoir and raising the highway to allow water to flow beneath it $175 million for targeted water quality remediation infrastructure, monitoring and treatment $50 million to restore natural springs $40 million to develop alternate water supplies and reduce water drawn from Everglade sources Many Democrats, however, believe the proposed budget is still too modest and needs to be reassessed. In 2000, a similar “Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan” passed Congress with ambitions to redirect freshwater and reduce sea water incursion. In the nearly 20 years since the bill passed, the crisis of sea level rise had become far more serious. The Guardian reports that the sea level is now three inches above the 1993 average and future levels are a “moving target.” A more comprehensive restoration plan, conservationists argue , would need to consider the worst-case predictions. Still, the new plan provides one billion dollars more than the budget from previous years, which is a welcomed, albeit insufficient, increase in much needed investment. “This is not a partisan issue,” DeSantis said in a news release . “This is something that Floridians from all walks of life and political persuasions think needs to be done. I look forward to working with the Legislature on bringing this into fruition and getting the job done for the people of this state.” Via The Guardian Images via Shutterstock 

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California waters could open soon to offshore wind farms

October 24, 2018 by  
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With 3,427 miles of coastline , one would think establishing wind farms in California would be a cinch. As it turns out, the depth of the waters has kept the idea of offshore wind in this area at bay. Energy companies have been eagerly awaiting the curtain fall from government regulators that was finally announced on Friday by the U.S. Department of the Interior. While turbine installation will prove to be a challenge because of unique terrain demands, offshore wind turbines could help California’s plans to reach 100 percent green energy by 2045. If all goes as planned, the wind farms could be operating within the next six years. “We are early in the process here,” explained California Energy Commission member Karen Douglas. “Offshore wind has potential to help with our renewable energy goals.” California’s first ever offshore wind auction, allowing energy companies to lease waters in certain areas of the Pacific Ocean, was announced alongside two other wind farm initiatives already underway in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. So what’s slowing down California’s state officials and utility companies? “They would be in much deeper water than anything that has been built in the world so far,” Douglas said. Because the ocean’s depths are substantial — even close to shore — California’s coastline is not ideal for offshore wind farms . Related: World’s most powerful wind turbine installed off the coast of Scotland Regardless, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management ( BOEM ) followed up on the announcement with a “call for information and nominations” from energy companies looking to develop the offshore technology. Submissions will be accepted over a 100-day period that will close on Jan. 27, 2019. The state’s new wind farms will be concentrated within proposed areas off of Central and Northern California. In total, the 658 full and partial blocks on the Outer Continental Shelf that are offered for commercial wind energy leasing cover an area of 1,073 square miles (687,823 acres). The announcement is good news for Gov. Jerry Brown and his office of environmental reformers. In September, the governor signed a bill that mandated California’s energy reliance be supplied solely through renewable sources by 2045. The addition of offshore wind turbines could propel this shift to happen much faster than expected, as the state is now able to look beyond land-based wind farms and solar panels to meet demand. Via The New York Times , NOAA and BOEM Image via Lars Plougmann

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California waters could open soon to offshore wind farms

Elementary teacher installs a dreamy tiny cabin on his pickup truck

October 24, 2018 by  
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Cabin builder and second-grade teacher  Jacob Witzling has spent much of his 35 years either living in or building fairytale-like tiny cabins made out of reclaimed wood . But now the ambitious builder is taking his creative cabin-making craft on the road in the form of an itsy-bitsy cabin installed on the bed of a pickup truck. Today, Witzling and his partner, Sara Underwood, are roaming from one amazing destination to another in their amazing Truck Cabin. Since he was young, Witzling has always been inspired by fairytales, forts and ewoks. In fact, as a teenager, he moved out of his parents’ house into an old cabin in the woods. He would go home to eat and wash his clothes, but he would always head back to his tiny cabin tucked deep into the wooded forest. It’s this love of nature that continues to drive his passion for constructing dreamy woodland dwellings. Related: These enchanting, off-grid cabins are handcrafted from salvaged materials After years of building enchanting, off-grid cabins in remote forestscapes, the crafty duo decided to take their love of tiny living on the road. This Truck Cabin is a tiny structure built onto the bed of Witzling’s pickup truck. Clad in reclaimed wood, the home on wheels has just enough space for the couple to relax when they are not busy exploring new and exciting destinations. The cabin features an elongated volume with an asymmetrical roof. The front cantilevers over the cab of the truck, adding extra space for a tiny sleeping loft inside. Below the loft, the living space is comprised of a bench with comfy pillows and a compact but functional kitchen. Various windows, also made out of salvaged wood, flood the interior space with natural light and provide natural ventilation. The Truck Cabin is surely one of the most innovative tiny cabins we’ve ever seen, but the traveling couple have even bigger plans. Jacob and Sara are planning to open a “cabin land” in the Pacific Northwest where they will build a series of tiny cabins with views of the mountains. Guests to the cabin community will be able to rent out the cabins individually or for large group events. + Jacob Witzling Via Dwell Photography by Sara Underwood and Jacob Witzling

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California implements plastic straw ban at dine-in restaurants

September 25, 2018 by  
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A monumental week of reforms forged by California lawmakers saw no sign of slowing down as groundbreaking legislation was brought into effect by Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday. The statesman, who has chastised the overuse of single-use plastics on several occasions, signed a bill banning restaurants from distributing plastic straws with their customers’ beverages. While diners will still be given a straw if they specifically ask for one, the plastic straw ban could make leaps in curtailing unnecessary pollution and raising public awareness about the environmental impact of disposable straws. California politicians such as Governor Brown agree with many supporters that the ban is unfortunately limited and easily circumvented. “It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it,” Brown noted in his signing address . “And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative.” Related: Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is best for the future? Beginning January 1, dine-in restaurants will no longer be handing out plastic straws with meals; however, the largest distributors, including fast food chains, delis, coffee shops and any other take-out locales, will be able to disregard the rule completely. Despite the free pass to these types of restaurants, the governor believes that in due time, Californians will likely choose to nix plastic straws on their own, regardless of legal mandates. Plastic was invented back in the 19th century and, as Governor Brown explained, “has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences.” The politician has been mobilizing efforts to reduce and eliminate plastic consumption vehemently throughout his tenure. “One thing is clear,” he wrote. “We must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products.” Plastic straws appeared in the early 1960s. By the 1970s, they had almost entirely replaced paper straws, the original variety of sipper. According to the California Coast Commission, plastic straws are seeded sixth in the rank of most common forms of litter found on beaches, and they threaten more than 500 aquatic species. Among these, 23 endangered forms of wildlife exist in the San Francisco Bay, where plastic pollution fed through urban storm drains are placing the animals at an even higher risk of perishing.  “Plastics, in all forms — straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc. — are choking our planet,” Brown wrote. The California straw ban follows in the footsteps of previous legislature banning plastic bags in 2016. The state is the first in the nation to enact limitations on disposable straws. City-level restrictions are already in effect for San Francisco, Alameda, Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, Carmel, San Luis, Obispo and Davis. Via San Francisco Chronicle Image via Joshua Sorenson

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MVRDV introduces a psychedelic blend of art and architecture in Paradise City

September 25, 2018 by  
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Dutch design firm MVRDV recently completed its latest project: The Imprint, an art-entertainment complex near Seoul’s Incheon Airport that toes the line between art and architecture. Completed as part of the city’s Paradise City complex, The Imprint features strikingly sculptural facades painted white and gold that can be easily recognized from the sky as passengers land at Incheon Airport. The eye-catching visuals of the windowless exteriors are echoed in the interiors, which were installed with mirrored ceilings and glass media floors for a psychedelic effect. MVRDV’s The Imprint complex includes a nightclub in the building marked by a golden entrance spot as well as an indoor theme park in the other building. Both structures featured dramatic lifted entrances designed in such a way to mimic the look of draped fabric. Despite the facades’ malleable appearance, glass-fiber reinforced concrete panels were used to construct the exteriors, and the 3,869 panels are unique and individually produced from the architects’ 3D modeling files. The panels were painted white to highlight the relief in the design. “Two months ago most of the cladding was done and the client said, ‘this is an art piece,’” said Winy Maas, principle and co-founder of MVRDV. “What is interesting about that is that they are looking for that momentum — that entertainment can become art or that the building can become artistic in that way. What, then, is the difference between architecture and  art ? The project plays with that and I think that abstraction is part of it, but it has to surprise, seduce and it has to calm down.” Related: MVRDV will transform the Tirana Pyramid, a former communist monument, into an education center Connected with a shared central courtyard , the two buildings were heavily influenced by the site context. Features from the neighboring buildings, such as window and door shapes, were replicated in the relief as if they were imprinted on, while the massing and height of the new construction also respond to the existing architecture. + MVRDV Images © Ossip van Duivenbode

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State of emergency in effect as Hurricane Lane barrels toward Hawaiian coastline

August 23, 2018 by  
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Hurricane Lane is swiftly moving along its course toward Hawaii, where a hurricane warning is in effect for Maui and the Big Island. A hurricane watch has also been issued for Kauai and Oahu. According to the National Weather Service , the storm has now been downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to make contact with the state later today. Related: After three months, Kilauea eruptions might be over The NWS reported that “the center of Lane will track dangerously close to the Hawaiian Islands from Thursday through Saturday.” In addition, the organization noted that, “regardless of the exact track of the storm center, life-threatening impacts are likely over some areas as this strong hurricane makes its closest approach.” Despite the storm’s demotion from a Category 5 to a Category 4, many locals are comparing Hurricane Lane to the devastating Hurricane Iniki, which hit Hawaii in 1992. Governor David Ige signed an emergency proclamation on Tuesday in case Hawaii needs relief for “disaster damages, losses and suffering.” In a news release from the Governor’s office , Ige said, “Hurricane Lane is not a well-behaved hurricane. I’ve not seen such dramatic changes in the forecast track as I’ve seen with this storm. I urge our residents and visitors to take this threat seriously and prepare for a significant impact.” Related: The Eye of the Storm dome home can withstand hurricanes — and it’s officially on the market Residents have already “rushed to stores to stock up on bottled water, ramen, toilet paper and other supplies,” according to an Associated Press report. With maximum sustained winds of 155 mph and rainfall accumulations of between 10-15 inches, the storm is expected to cause flash-flooding and landslides in Hawaii. In addition, the NWS has reported the possibility of “large and potentially damaging surf.” As the hurricane continues to approach the Hawaiian coastline, many residents are hoping Lane will show a little more mercy than 1992’s Iniki, which killed six people and caused $1.8 billion worth of damage. Numerous government buildings have closed as the state’s residents prepare for the storm. Via NPR Image via Shutterstock

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State of emergency in effect as Hurricane Lane barrels toward Hawaiian coastline

EPA may attempt to eliminate California’s emissions independence

July 24, 2018 by  
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The U.S. Transportation Department and the EPA are expected to announce a proposal this Thursday to revoke California’s ability to set its own emissions standards . The proposal, revealed by an anonymous source, suggests that the organizations plan to freeze national emission requirements at 2020 levels until 2026. If this plan were to go into effect, experts estimate that national oil consumption after 2020 would increase by half a million barrels of oil per day. Additionally, the proposal would come into conflict with the Clean Air Act waiver that allows California to set its own regulations on emission levels. The levels of environmental damage from the potential increase in oil consumption have yet to be estimated. This news also comes after a January proposal by Governor Jerry Brown to raise the bar on a previous state goal of having five million electric vehicles available by 2030. California representative Jimmy Gomez added that “vehicle emissions standards are a big part of our environmental identity.” Related: The number of electric vehicles on the streets could triple in two years The EPA and the Transportation Department plan to hold public commentary and hearing sessions before finalizing the decision. Other states are also expected to join the conversation as dozens have adopted the same or similar policies on zero-emission vehicles. The organizations will entertain comments on whether U.S. regulators plan to offer credits for autonomous vehicles and air condition improvements as well. + Reuters Images via Shutterstock

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