Planting wildflower strips across crop fields could slash pesticide use

February 2, 2018 by  
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Could wildflowers help us cut our use of pesticides ? The Guardian reported that colorful strips of the flowers have been planted through 15 large arable fields in England – instead of just around them – as part of a Center for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) trial. The wildflowers could boost natural pest predators, potentially helping us reduce our reliance on environmentally damaging pesticides. Concern has mounted over how pesticides are harming our environment , even as we struggle to feed all 7.4 billion humans on the planet. Scientists in the UK are seeking sustainable ways to grow food, and wildflowers could help. The flower strips on 15 farms were planted last fall, where researchers will monitor them over the next five years. Related: How one Bay Area couple plans to save the bees by planting one billion wildflowers Stripes of wildflowers across farm fields could cut pesticide spraying https://t.co/L2l1tQJxdm by me @CEHScienceNews pic.twitter.com/kV4KavIjN5 — Damian Carrington (@dpcarrington) January 31, 2018 The Guardian pointed to research showing that use of wildflower margins to boost bugs like hoverflies, ground beetles, and parasitic wasps has cut pest numbers and even increased yields. But in the past, wildflowers were largely planted around fields instead of through them, making it harder for natural predators to get to the middle of large fields. GPS -guided harvesters now allow for crops to be reaped precisely, avoiding wildflower strips. Initial tests revealed planting stripes around 100 meters, or around 328 feet, apart, allowed predators to attack pests like aphids throughout a field. In the field trials, strips are around 20-feet-wide, and take up two percent of the total field area, The Guardian reports. Oxeye daisy, wild carrot, common knapweed, and red clover are among the flowers planted. Scientists will be watching to see if drawing insects into the middle of fields “does more harm than good.” CEH scientist Richard Pywell told The Guardian the ideal is that natural predators keep pests in check over the years so farmers would never have to spray pesticides. The Guardian said similar tests are happening in Switzerland, with flowers like dill, cornflowers, poppy, coriander, and buckwheat. Via The Guardian Images via Henry Be on Unsplash and Wikimedia Commons

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Planting wildflower strips across crop fields could slash pesticide use

London to combat plastic waste with network of bottle refill points and fountains

January 24, 2018 by  
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London is taking a swing at plastic waste with moves that offer alternatives to plastic water bottles . Instead of buying another container that could end up in a landfill or the ocean , people in the city could use a drinking fountain or refill reusable bottles under a new scheme. The Guardian reports London aims to install 20 new drinking fountains and launch a bottle refill initiative. The Guardian said mayor Sadiq Khan hopes to tackle the plastic problem with a three-year, £750,000 (around $1,048,395) initiative slated to go before the budget committee of the London Assembly later this week. The drinking fountains and refill effort are part of the initiative, as is a move to stop offering plastic utensils, cups, and bottles at City Hall. Related: The world’s population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute The 20 drinking fountains will be put in place beginning this summer; locations haven’t yet been confirmed but deputy mayor for the environment Shirely Rodrigues told The Guardian that potential sites include bustling shopping areas like Oxford Street or Transport for London’s tube stations. More drinking fountains are also under consideration. The Guardian recently published an investigation revealing disparities in the provision of fountains in the city’s boroughs – some areas, like Barnet and Sutton, reportedly don’t have any at all. Under the bottle refill initiative, set to commence in five areas (yet to be announced) in February and March, businesses would make tap water available to the public. They will be able to locate places providing free tap water via window signs or an app. If the effort is successful, it could launch in the rest of London this summer. One movement working with the mayor is the Zoological Society of London-led #OneLess campaign . They will be supplying fountains and will scrutinize whether or not the moves do reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment. According to #OneLess, “Londoners are among the highest users of bottled water in the UK. The average London adult buys 3.37 plastic water bottles every week – that’s 175 every year per person, and over a billion per year on a city level. Sadly, many of these end up in the River Thames and flow out to the ocean.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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London to combat plastic waste with network of bottle refill points and fountains

Bro Ole Scheeren completes art museum near Beijings Forbidden City

January 24, 2018 by  
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Büro Ole Scheeren recently completed Guardian Art Center, a contemporary art museum heralded as the “world’s first ever custom-built auction house.” Located close to Beijing’s historic Forbidden City, this hybrid cultural institution offers mixed-use programming from galleries and conservation facilities to a hotel, restaurants, events spaces, and even integrated public transport infrastructure. Designed to respect Beijing’s traditional urban fabric, Guardian Art Center comprises a series of nested gray basalt stone volumes at its base that echo the scale and materiality of the nearby hutong courtyard houses. The stone volumes are perforated with a varying circular pattern that lets in natural light and glows at night. A “floating glass ring” rests atop the stone base and is clad in a brick-patterned glass facade. “The Guardian Art Center is a lot more than just a museum ,” says Ole Scheeren, principal of Büro Ole Scheeren. “It’s not a hermetic institution, but rather an acknowledgement of the hybrid state of contemporary culture. It is a Chinese puzzle of interlocking cultural spaces and public functions that fuse art and culture with events and lifestyle.” Scheeren adds that the materials share symbolic value with the brick referring to the common people and adjacent hutongs, while the glass references the contemporary city. Related: Ole Scheeren unveils designs for a stunning “sky forest” in Vietnam The building occupies prime location at the intersection of Wangfujing, Beijing’s most famous shopping street, and Wusi Davie, and also sits opposite the National Art Museum of China. Given the site’s historical significance as the place where China’s New Cultural Movement originated, the designs for Guardian Art Center took two decades before passing approval by the Beijing planning bureau and preservation commission. In addition to its ties to both modern and historic design, the large structure can adapt to multiple uses thanks to moveable partitions and ceiling systems that allow for different interior configurations. + Büro Ole Scheeren Images by Buro OS and Iwan Baan

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Bro Ole Scheeren completes art museum near Beijings Forbidden City

Iceland supermarket commits to eliminating plastic within five years

January 17, 2018 by  
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Iceland Foods has committed to removing all plastic from its brand-name products within the next five years and replacing it with recyclable materials such as pulp and paper. The UK-based supermarket chain is the first major retailer in the country to commit to a complete elimination of plastic. “The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival,” Iceland managing director Richard Walker told the Guardian . “The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change.” Iceland acknowledges that it is now practical to make the switch to plastic-free products, thanks to technological advancements in alternative packaging . “There really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment,” said Walker. The supermarket chain has already removed plastic straws from its stores and products and will soon switch to paper-based food trays. Related: Britain’s first zero-waste store is packaging-free and only sells ethical goods The move by Iceland has been praised by environmental activists like John Sauven, executive director for Greenpeace UK , who acknowledged the “bold pledge” while pressing “other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge,” according to the Guardian . “Iceland’s commitment to go plastic-free by 2023 shows that powerful retailers can take decisive action to provide what their customers want, without the environment paying for it,” added Samantha Harding of the Campaign to Protect Rural England . Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has committed to eliminating all avoidable public waste within the next 25 years. May has also supported anti-plastic policies such as the expansion of a plastic bag tax, encouraging supermarkets to add plastic-free aisles, and funding research and development of plastic alternatives and support for developing countries as they seek to shift to away from plastic and its pollution . Via the Guardian Images via Iceland Foods

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Geothermal-powered Halifax home uses automation for energy savings

January 17, 2018 by  
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Omar Gandhi Architect completed a handsome luxury home in Halifax that’s both modern in appearance and in its use of energy-efficient technologies. Located in the south end of Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Syncline House is a two-story residence with a mezzanine set atop a rocky foundation that inspired the home’s name. Energy efficiency was a major feature of the new-build, from the ample natural lighting and triple-glazed windows to the use of geothermal and solar energy. Set atop a concrete base, Syncline House comprises two interconnected volumes connected via a light-filled atrium and clad in textured Fibre-C panels, a type of lightweight white fiber-cement panel that boasts fire resistance and long-term durability. The taller of the two volumes houses the communal areas like the open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen on the main floor and a media room and gym on the ground floor. The second volume contains a master ensuite, office, and dressing room on the main floor and a garage on the ground floor. A guest bedroom is placed on the mezzanine level. Related: Artists’ Wooden Cabin Climbs Up a Hillside in Nova Scotia Full-height triple-glazed windows frame stunning views of Point Pleasant Park next door and the ocean waters of the North-West Arm beyond. The homeowners can also enjoy the view from west-facing walkout decks that extend from the living room and from the master bedroom. The airy and light-filled interior features wide white oak flooring, whitewashed walls, and floor-to-ceiling header-less doors. Rooftop solar panels and geothermal heat pumps power the home that uses automated blinds and recessed windows on the southwest facade for passive cooling. + Omar Gandhi Architect Via ArchDaily Images via Omar Gandhi Architect

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Geothermal-powered Halifax home uses automation for energy savings

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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7 global megatrends that could beat climate change

New Zealand considering special visas for climate refugees

October 31, 2017 by  
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Impacts of climate change , like rising sea levels , will likely soon force people to abandon their land . Now the new government of New Zealand is considering action. They’re thinking about creating an experimental visa category for people prompted to leave their homes because of climate change. People living on some Pacific islands could be displaced because of sea level rise, and New Zealand might help out. Climate change minister James Shaw recently told Radio New Zealand there could be an “experimental humanitarian visa category” for people from the Pacific, saying, “It is a piece of work that we intend to do in partnership with the Pacific islands.” Related: Five Pacific Ocean islands have already disappeared because of climate change Some people have already applied to be refugees in New Zealand because of climate change – and have been turned away. Radio New Zealand reported , just days before Shaw’s announcement, the cases of two families from the island nation of Tuvalu who had applied to be New Zealand’s first climate refugees , only to be rejected. The tribunal said they didn’t risk persecution due to race, nationality, religion, or membership in a religious or political group under the 1951 refugee convention, according to The Guardian . Alberto Costi, international environmental law expert at Victoria University of Wellington , told The Guardian, “The conditions are pretty strict and really apply to persecution. These people who arrive here hoping to seek asylum on environmental grounds are bound to be sent back to their home countries.” And the Tuvalu families aren’t the only people who have been turned away. Ioane Teitiota of Kiribati applied to be the world’s first climate change refugee in 2014. New Zealand’s supreme court dismissed Teitiota’s case, and he was deported. Costi expressed interest in Shaw’s idea but told The Guardian there would need to be clear guidelines – one issue would be how to legally determine whether or not a climate change refugee was able to still reside in their home country. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Judge throws out request to halt Dakota Access Pipeline construction

February 14, 2017 by  
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a The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux just suffered a major defeat at the hands of a federal judge — the tribes’ request to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline was rejected Monday afternoon. The tribe’s lawyers filed the motion arguing that Lake Oahe, which the pipeline would cross, contains sacred water which would be desecrated by the pipeline. This argument was dismissed by Energy Transfer Partners , saying that the company had “the utmost respect for the religious beliefs and traditions” of the tribe and that their efforts did not threaten the traditions of the community. The protesters, who fear the consequences of an oil spill near their main source of water, say they aren’t surprised by the ruling. In a report from the Guardian , many reaffirmed their commitment to the cause, with some stating they would continue to occupy the protest camps near the pipeline’s construction sites. Related: Army approves Dakota Access Pipeline route – and construction could begin immediately Religious beliefs and traditions weren’t only issues at stake in this ruling. The pipeline, which was originally halted by the Obama administration in December, was supposed to undergo a lengthy environmental review process before permits would be issued for the company to begin drilling. Instead, Donald Trump used his first weeks in office to throw out the review and simply push the approval process through. Though many indigenous protesters dispersed during the winter to avoid brutal storms, they are beginning to return as the weather improves. They are vowing to continue to fight the pipeline, both on the ground and in court. Via The Guardian Images via Tony Webster and Lars Plougmann

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Greenpeace releases first images of newly-discovered Amazon reef

February 6, 2017 by  
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  Feast your eyes on some of the first images ever made of a unique coral reef near Brazil that turned a lot of heads in the scientific community –  due to its diversity of new species – when it was first discovered in 2016. Sadly, these photos may be some of the last, as oil drilling nearby may damage the reef if it goes ahead. According to The Guardian , the first images of the reef were recently released by Greenpeace, after being taken off the coast of Brazil at a depth of 220 meters by the Greenpeace ship Esperanza. Discovered in in 2016, these are the first images of the 600 mile-long reef that scientists expect will reveal various new species as it is explored further. Spanning the mouth of the Amazon river , from French Guiana to Maranhao State in Brazil, scientists have already found more than 60 species of fish, spiny lobsters and stars in the reef. “This reef system is important for many reasons, including the fact that it has unique characteristics regarding use and availability of light,” Nils Asp, a researcher at the Federal University of Pará in Belém, Brazil, told The Guardian . “It has a huge potential for new species, and it is also important for the economic well-being of fishing communities along the Amazonian coastal zone.” But oil exploration is happening in the area and companies, including Total, BP and Petrobras could start drilling at any point, if they get permission from the Brazilian government. Greenpeace, unsurprisingly, is opposed to the drilling and plans to protect the reef. Related: Ancient city constructed on a coral reef remains the only one of its kind “We must defend the reef and the entire region at the mouth of the Amazon river basin from the corporate greed that puts profits ahead of the environment,” Greenpeace campaigner, Thiago Almeida told The Guardian . Via The Guardian Images via Greenpeace  

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Greenpeace releases first images of newly-discovered Amazon reef

Artists build treehouse ‘Visitor Center’ at Mexican border

February 6, 2017 by  
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Putting a sardonic, yet poignant twist to typical welcoming centers seen in national parks, Japanese artist collective, Chim?Pom has created a “U.S.A Visitor’s Center” on the Tijuana border. The treehouse shack is perched high in a tree overlooking the border wall that separates Tijuana from San Diego, California. The “Visitors Center” is a rickety wooden structure that sits precariously among the feeble tree limbs located on a family home in Colonia Libertad area. The desolate Mexican neighborhood has seen countless amounts of Mexican migrants pass through on their way to cross the border. The artist collective, (formed in Tokyo in 2005) met the owners, whose self-built house sits adjacent to the treehouse, while visiting Mexico last year. Related: Apartments made out of re-used materials pop-up in protest of the housing crisis in Munich The Japanese team installed the protest art installation last July as a metaphor of the “unreachable USA”. One of the artists in the collective, Ellie, was previously denied entry into the country when working with a Japanese TV crew. In an interview with Hyperallergic, Chim?Pom explained the inspiration behind the project, “National parks like the Grand Canyon have visitor centers to learn about places that you cannot enter. In Tijuana, there are many people who cannot enter the US. So for people like them and Ellie, this is a USA Visitor Center to think about what America is.” In clear view of the treehouse, the artists also placed a white cross on the American side of the border. With a little help from the community, Chim?Pom scaled the border wall to place the cross there as a symbolic gesture to liberty. Next to the cross, the artists dug a circular hole paying tribute to a previous installation. Both of the installations, “Libertad” and “The Ground” represent a place of “in-betweenness and uncertainty”, a state many immigrants can relate to these days under Donald Trump’s immigration ban . Both of the US-based installations will most likely be removed soon by authorities, but the Visitor’s Center is on private land, hopefully ensuring a little longevity. “Since it’s a center to view ‘Libertad’ and ‘The Grounds,’ it’s essentially like an art gallery, but once those two works are removed it won’t have that function,” Chim?Pom said. “But you’ll still be able to look over the US, and if a new wall is built, you would be able to see the construction.” + Chim?Pom Via Hyperallergic Photography via Chim?Pom and MUJIN-TO Production. Lead photo by Osamu Matsuda.

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