Energy company ditches plan to install a possible tar sands oil facility in New York

May 24, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Environmentalists celebrated a victory in New York state after an energy company tossed out a 5-year-old plan to install a facility that could have handled Canadian tar sands oil. The plan had clear environmental risks and posed a threat to area residents. After resistance from environmental groups and the public,  Global Companies  decided to abandon the plan. Erin Doran, senior attorney at Riverkeeper , an environmental organization devoted to protecting the Hudson River , said in a statement , “The proposal threatened the health of neighboring communities and would have placed the Hudson River at a greater risk for a disastrous oil spill .” Massachusetts-based Global Companies had requested boilers capable of handling heavy crude at the Port of Albany back in 2013 — Times Union pointed out the company did not indicate the facility would be used for tar sands oil, although it could have — and a legal battle ensued. Company spokesperson Liz Fuller told the Times Union, “We are withdrawing that request and plan to resubmit a renewal application with modifications later this year. The changes to the permit will include a reduction in the amount of crude oil handled through the terminal and will not include a system for the heating of crude oil.” Related: Extreme fossil fuel financing has surged to $115BN under Trump Doran said this is the second major victory in 2018 for Hudson River protection, “…coming after the defeat of industry’s request for new anchorage grounds to facilitate the transport of more crude oil.” She said since 2014, together with other partners, Riverkeeper had been battling the plan in court. She called on New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to approach Global Companies’ next submission “as a new application and to ensure that the operations at this facility finally undergo a comprehensive environmental review.” According to the Times Union, Global Companies sued that department back in 2015 for failing to issue a permit for the boilers, and DEC won an appeals court ruling earlier this year upholding its decision that the energy company’s permit application lacked sufficient information. This week, DEC said it was pleased that Global Companies withdrew its plan. Earthjustice lawyer Chris Amato described this development as “a huge victory for the families that live, work, and go to school in Albany’s South End…Global’s proposal would have spewed more toxic pollution into the air, endangering the health of South End residents, including hundreds of children who live and attend [Giffen Elementary] school in the shadow of the Global facility. This has been, and continues to be, a fight for environmental justice .” + Riverkeeper Via the Times Union Images via Bill Morrow and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Energy company ditches plan to install a possible tar sands oil facility in New York

Can vertical farming feed the world and change the agriculture industry?

May 18, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

Year after year, cities expand and pristine natural habitats are turned into farms and pastures to support the world’s growing population . But despite our encroachment into the environment, we still struggle to feed everyone. Vertical farms could offer a solution by producing higher crop yields year-round in less space than conventional agriculture. What is vertical farming? With land for crops and pastures growing scarce — plus the threat of pesticides and herbicides taking a toll on our health and the environment — people are exploring new ways to grow food, such as urban agriculture. In general, this is the process of growing food within city limits – whether on rooftops, in backyards or on balconies. The goal is to provide families with fresh, healthy food that isn’t laced with chemicals — and when you grow your own crops, you can control these elements. Vertical farming is a type of urban agriculture – but vertical farms are often constructed indoors in extremely controlled environments. Crops are grown on shelves that extend upward instead of outward, and the environment is carefully monitored, so crops grow year-round. In addition to growing crops, some vertical farmers have developed ways to grow fish in a self-sustaining system. Water from the plants is recycled into fish tanks, and the waste from the fish becomes fertilizer for the plants. Then, both the plants and fish can be harvested for food. The benefits of vertical farming The benefits of vertical farming are numerous. Farmers can control the crops’ environment in vertical farms, so the plants aren’t subjected to nasty weather conditions or droughts . Humidity, nutrients and water are administered to growing plants to achieve optimum growing conditions. Because of the controlled environment, crops can be harvested more than once a year, resulting in higher yields than traditional farming. Related: The GCC’s first commercial vertical farm launches in Dubai Vertical farms are more sustainable than conventional farms because they use less water (which is often recycled through the system), they take up less space and they use less fossil fuels because they don’t rely on heavy machinery such as tractors and harvesters. Technology helps vertical farmers get the best output from the farm. Tailored lamps help plants get more light exposure, which encourages them to grow faster than crops that rely on the sun. Vertical farms also provide greater protection from insects, thus decreasing the need for harmful chemical products. Downsides to vertical farming While vertical farms can help with local hunger issues and sustainability, there are some barriers that may keep them from gaining worldwide traction. The cost of setting up a vertical farm can be prohibitive. Conservative estimates put the initial start-up cost at around $110,000 , but there are estimates upward of millions of dollars. Finding an abandoned warehouse or building in an urban setting for a reasonable price might be difficult. Since vertical farms rely on electricity for growing lamps and strict environmental controls, the location has to have reliable power — not just any old abandoned building will do. Vertical farms also depend heavily on technology, which can be costly. Keeping the lights on and the environmental controls running will impact energy use — and your budget. Related: The “most technologically-sophisticated commercial indoor farm in the world” will grow 30X more produce Not every crop that is grown traditionally can be raised successfully in a vertical farm. Leafy greens and herbs do the best in an indoor environment, while staple crops like wheat and potatoes are difficult to grow indoors, as are some fruits and vegetables. The crops that can be harvested from a vertical garden are limited. Growing food to feed the hungry is a noble gesture, but it also has to be profitable, especially when the initial cost to set up a vertical farm is so high. If there isn’t a market in your area, it’s a waste of time to grow large amounts of food that you won’t be able to sell. The verdict Despite the downsides, the positives are plentiful. In addition to embracing sustainability and helping combat hunger , vertical farms can also encourage support for local economies. These farms can create jobs, turn a profit and provide a healthy source of food for locals. As technology continues to advance, new approaches will improve the efficiency and productivity of vertical farms. If nothing else, the idea sparks the conversation about changing the agricultural industry and gives us a place to start for finding better, more sustainable ways to grow food. Images via Depositphotos , Aqua Mechanical and Mike Chino for Inhabitat

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Can vertical farming feed the world and change the agriculture industry?

One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact

May 18, 2018 by  
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Bad news for wildlife: 2.3 million square miles of protected areas around the world face human pressure from activities like road building, urbanization, or grazing, according to a new study . Lead author Kendall Jones, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland , said in a statement , “We found major road infrastructure such as highways, industrial agriculture, and even entire cities occurring inside the boundaries of places supposed to be set aside for nature conservation .” Millions of square miles “have this level of human influence that is harmful to the species they are trying to protect,” University of Queensland professor James Watson told the BBC . “It is not passive, it’s not agnostic; it is harmful and that is quite shocking.” Scientists at the University of Queensland, University of Northern British Columbia , and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) teamed up for the study, described as a reality check, that was recently published in the journal Science . Related: Chile creates five new national parks from 10 million acres of land in historic act Watson said that governments claim the areas are protected “when in reality they aren’t.” Even though more land has been protected in the last few decades, the lack of real protection is a major reason for  biodiversity ‘s continued, catastrophic decline. There was a ray of hope in the study’s findings: protected areas that have strict biodiversity conservation objectives in place tend to experience less human pressure. WCS listed the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia, the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve in Ecuador, and the Madidi National Park in Bolivia as examples. Watson said, “We know protected areas work — when well-funded, well-managed and well placed, they are extremely effective in halting the threats that cause biodiversity loss and ensure species return from the brink of extinction . There are also many protected areas that are still in good condition and protect the last strongholds of endangered species worldwide. The challenge is to improve the management of those protected areas that are most valuable for nature conservation to ensure they safeguard it.” + Wildlife Conservation Society + University of Queensland + Science Via the BBC Image via Depositphotos

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One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact

Bering Sea ice is "at record low levels for this time of year"

May 18, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Arctic sea ice is low, with the Bering Sea’s ice extent “the lowest recorded since at least 1979,” according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). This reflects a larger overall trend: in April, Arctic sea ice covered an area 378,400 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average. According to Alaska-based meteorologist Rick Thoman, Bering Sea ice extent “is five percent of normal” for the middle of May, and “there is almost nothing left except for near shore ice in protected areas.” The worrisome part of all this? There are still four months to go in the Arctic’s melt season. NSIDC provided information on Arctic sea ice extent in April of this year, and said 2016 and 2018 essentially tied “for lowest April sea ice extent on record.” Barents Sea and Bering Sea ice extent was below average, as it was during the 2017 to 2018 winter. According to Earther , the Bering Sea has been something of a ground zero for crazy ice, with sea ice disappearing when it was supposed to be growing in February, rebounding slightly in March, and then plummeting in April. Bering Sea ice extent is 5% of normal for mid-May and there is almost nothing left except for near shore ice in protected areas. Chukchi Sea ice extent also at record low, with open water now north of 71N. #akwx #Arctic @Climatologist49 @ZLabe @lisashefguy @amy_holman pic.twitter.com/Ur7UmoptgL — Rick Thoman (@AlaskaWx) May 17, 2018 Related: Extreme Arctic warmth deeply concerning, scientists say Warm oceans have played a role in the dive of Bering Sea ice levels; University of Alaska Fairbanks climate researcher Brian Brettschneider told Earther that “Bering Sea SSTs [sea surface temperatures] have been at record or near record levels for months now. This represents a strong positive feedback. Warm waters are hard to freeze, which then allows for more solar absorption.” And Bering Sea ice typically protects Chukchi Sea ice. When Bering Sea ice disappeared in February, open water seeped into the Chukchi Sea — an event that has probably only happened in one other winter on record. + National Snow and Ice Data Center Via Earther Images via Depositphotos and the National Snow and Ice Data Center

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Bering Sea ice is "at record low levels for this time of year"

The all-natural ‘Wellness Kitchen’ includes a beautiful living herb wall

May 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Kitchens are often the heart of any home, and now an innovative company is giving our beloved cooking space a healthy and sustainable makeover. Interior design company  Finch London recently unveiled its beautiful bespoke rose-colored “Wellness Kitchen” that’s built with various chemical-free and eco-friendly materials  and features a stunning herb wall. The London-based company’s Wellness Kitchen — which recently took home the grand prize at the Grand Designs Live event for its spectacular design — offers a glimpse into the future of eco-friendly kitchen design . The space includes a number of wellness features such as incandescent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) light bulbs, a doTerra essential oil diffuser, a steam oven, an alkaline water purifier and much more. The countertops are made of Jesmonite, a water-based material that, unlike cast concrete, does not release volatile organic compounds . Related: Artisan Moss ‘plant paintings’ are maintenance-free alternatives to living walls The flooring is made from natural cork  harvested through an environmentally-friendly process. Resistant to dust and toxic absorption, cork is an ideal choice for people who suffer from allergies. It’s also antimicrobial and water-resistant, which helps to combat mold. A major feature of the kitchen is its verdant living herb wall installed on the kitchen island. In addition to various air-purifying plants found hanging throughout the space, the indoor herb garden allows homeowners to grow their own herbs and spices organically. + Finch London Via Household Beautiful Images via Finch London

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The all-natural ‘Wellness Kitchen’ includes a beautiful living herb wall

Florida coral reefs plagued with mysterious disease

May 16, 2018 by  
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With coral reefs under threat worldwide, researchers in Florida are racing to understand and treat a mysterious disease that threatens to decimate the third-largest coral reef on Earth. Over the past four years, the as-yet unidentified, potentially bacterial disease has already had a significant impact on Florida’s coral species, half of which are fatally vulnerable to the disease. “When they’re affected by this, the tissue sloughs off the skeleton,” Erinn Muller, science director at Mote Marine Lab’s Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration in the Florida Keys, explained to NPR . “And we see that once a coral is infected, it usually kills the entire coral, sometimes within weeks. And it doesn’t seem to stop.” After being hired by the State of Florida to study the health of coral reefs near Miami , scientist William Precht first observed the disease moving from coral to coral, with particularly devastating effects on star and brain coral. “This is essentially equivalent to a local extinction , an ecological extirpation of these species locally,” Precht told NPR . “And when you go out and swim on the reefs of Miami-Dade County today, it would be a very rare chance encounter that you’d see some of these three or four species.” Related: Scientists made a liquid ‘umbrella’ to protect coral reefs from sun damage Researchers at Mote Marine Lab are hard at work to determine how to protect coral from the mysterious disease . “Anything from… looking at chlorine-laced epoxy as an antiseptic, and even looking at how antibiotics interact with the disease,” Muller said. “Because if it is bacterial, then antibiotics would be a way to stop it.” Mote Marine Lab is also serving as a nursery for baby coral, which are released into the wild when they are ready. At this moment, the reefs under siege will need all the help they can get. “We’re really at a critical juncture right now, where we have corals left on the reef,” said Muller. “Before we lose more corals, now is the time to start making a change.” Via NPR Images via  NOAA National Ocean Service   (1)

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Florida coral reefs plagued with mysterious disease

2018 hurricane season may be worse than last year

May 16, 2018 by  
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Hurricanes Harvey , Irma  and Maria devastated communities in the southern U.S. and Puerto Rico in 2017, and together resulted in around $265 billion in damage. Will the U.S. and Caribbean face more brutal storms this year? Forecasts of 2018’s looming hurricane season predict it could be more active than average — and you can start preparing for it now. North Carolina State University  researchers report that 14 to 18 named tropical storms and hurricanes could form in the Atlantic basin in 2018. In comparison, the average for named storms from 1950 to 2017 was 11. The researchers said of 14 to 18 storms, seven to 11 could become hurricanes, in contrast to the average of six. Three to five storms could turn into major hurricanes. Researchers at Colorado State University anticipate similar numbers.  They forecasted 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. Related: How to Prepare Your Home and Family for a Hurricane or Superstorm According to The Guardian and a study led by  Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that was  published earlier this month , Atlantic storms are intensifying quicker than they did 30 years ago. Colorado State researchers said there is a “slightly above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall” in the Caribbean and the coastline of the continental U.S. The U.S. might not see the same levels of destruction this year, but people should still be prepared. “As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” Colorado State researchers said. “They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.” Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. You can start preparing right now — Inhabitat created a guide for getting your home and family ready for hurricanes and  superstorms . + North Carolina State University + Colorado State University Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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2018 hurricane season may be worse than last year

London considers car-free days to fight air pollution

May 16, 2018 by  
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London officials met at City Hall this week to discuss the best way to move forward with a ban on cars in certain areas of the city on specific days of the year. If the initial trials are successful, the city will consider “more ambitious plans” for 2019. These moves are a response to the public health threat of air pollution, which prematurely kills thousands of people each year. London City Hall is reportedly planning to inaugurate car-free days unique to each borough of the city and will build upon the previous car-free days set for special events. This policy is one of several intended to improve public health by reducing air pollution in London. A spokesperson for the mayor told the Guardian,  “Tackling toxic emissions from the most polluting vehicles is a core part of the hard-hitting measures the mayor has introduced to help clean up London’s air, from delivering the Toxicity-Charge (T-Charge) in central London, to the early introduction of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, and transforming the bus fleet.” Related: UPS declares the “beginning of the end” for combustion engines by making its London fleet entirely electric The city is taking action in the wake of a joint inquiry by four committees in Parliament, which described air pollution as a “national health emergency” that causes the premature death of 40,000 people every year in the United Kingdom . The committees’ report highlights the inadequacy of the British government’s clean air policy plan, which has already been rejected by the high court three times. To compensate for the lack of a national movement against pollution, cities such as London are taking action. A spokesperson said, “[London Mayor Sadiq Khan] is determined to do everything in his power to protect the health of Londoners and prioritise walking, cycling and public transport and reduce Londoners’ dependency on polluting cars.” Via The Guardian Images via  Pedro Szekely/Flickr and  Martin Hesketh/Flickr

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London considers car-free days to fight air pollution

New Ebola outbreak strikes the Democratic Republic of the Congo

May 9, 2018 by  
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The deadly virus Ebola has returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A new outbreak of Ebola stuck the northwest town of Bikoro with 21 suspected cases of the virus. Out of five samples sent to the DRC’s National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) , only two were positive for Ebola. In 1976, the first case of Ebola was documented in the DRC, and there has been nine outbreaks of the virus since then. The unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 infected 28,000, killed 11,000 and shocked the world. However, the virus ‘s latest reemergence in the DRC is no reason to panic. Previous outbreaks in the DRC have been contained thanks in part to the country’s vast, largely inaccessible land area, which inhibits travel and trade between towns. The DRC’s last Ebola outbreak occurred in the village of Likati in 2017, however the virus was contained within forty-two days. Related: Ebola mutated to become even deadlier during recent outbreak Led by Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, the first scientist to document Ebola, the INRB is experienced in responding to Ebola outbreaks. “We’re advanced in public health ,” an epidemiologist at the INRB told the Atlantic . “If you compare us with Europe or the U.S., eh, but here in Africa, we are high. We have experience.” Early monitoring and reporting is key to success. “We have a surveillance system that works,” Kinshasa School of Public Health leader Emile Okitolonda said. “Here, nurses know that if they see a suspected case, they report it.” The INRB will also receive expert assistance from the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières in responding to Ebola. The primary challenge in the DRC is a lack of resources – a problem that may be exacerbated by President Trump ‘s recent request to cut $252 million in funding for international Ebola relief. Congress must decide within 45 days whether to act on Trump’s request. If they do nothing, as they are wont to do, the funding will remain in place. + INRB Via The Atlantic Images via Wikimedia Commons and Depositphotos

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New Ebola outbreak strikes the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Climate change could reverse all reductions in child mortality over the last 25 years

May 8, 2018 by  
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Kids could be especially vulnerable to climate change -related health risks, and a new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) article once again sounds the alarm. The authors say climate change “threatens to reverse the gains in global child health and the reductions in global child mortality made over the past 25 years.” While the impacts of climate change could be felt by all humans, the authors say they’ll be disproportionally felt by poor people and children . 88 percent of diseases attributable to climate change appear in kids under five, according to the World Health Organization. The new paper delves into studies about how climate change could impact children’s health and calls for better preparation. CNN cited paper co-author and Memorial University pediatrics chairman Kevin Chan as saying weather events tied to climate change that have impacted kids’ health include Hurricanes Harvey or Irma . Pathogens like the Zika virus or extreme heat could also put children’s health at risk. Related: AAP warns of the impact of global warming on children’s health Chan told CNN he, along with the paper’s other author Rebecca Pass Philipsborn of the Emory University School of Medicine , aimed to reveal “there’s very little research and evidence around children. A lot of the research is very, very broad and tends to look more at adult populations. I don’t think they factor in the specific impacts on children themselves, and I think more research is needed in that arena.” Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health executive director Mona Sarfaty, who wasn’t involved in this new AAP article, told CNN, “The danger to children is real and is already witnessed by physicians in the US…They are more vulnerable to the heat-related increases in air pollution that come from fossil fuel exhaust, because their lungs are still developing. Outdoor play also makes them more prey to insect vectors carrying dangerous infections.” Chan told CNN, “We really need more efforts into addressing climate change to protect our children.” + American Academy of Pediatrics Via CNN Images via Pixabay and Eoghan Rice/Trócaire via Trocaire on Flickr

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Climate change could reverse all reductions in child mortality over the last 25 years

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