Uravu’s zero-electricity Aqua Panels produce gallons of water from thin air

April 4, 2018 by  
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Uravu , a startup based in Hyderabad, India, has created a device that can produce water from an unlikely source–the air itself. The company’s affordable, electricity-free Aqua Panels use solar thermal energy to convert vapor into usable water – and they should be available to the public within two years. “There’s no need of any electricity or moving parts,” Uravu co-founder Swapnil Shrivastav told Quartz India . “It is just a passive device that you can leave on your rooftop and it will generate water. The process starts at night, and by evening next day you’ll have water.” Uravu is named after a Malayalam word that sometimes refers to freshwater springs and can be translated as “source.” While the technology behind Uravu’s system is not new, it did have some problems. “You need high humidity and energy consumption (involved) is high,” said Shrivastav, referring to the outdated technology. “There are a lot of moving parts. What we wanted to do was have a simple modular device.” The company found inspiration in the fact that the atmosphere is constantly holding various amounts of moisture. “So that got us thinking why this resource isn’t being utilised,” said Shrivastav. “[Water vapor] also doesn’t limit itself to desalination which happens only in the coast. Or rainfall which doesn’t happen everywhere.” Related: Giant curtain built in Peru to study climate change in the cloud forests To produce drinking water , users will have to supplement their device with an attachable mineral cartridge. The current prototype generates approximately 50 liters (13.20 gallons) daily, though the team hopes to someday develop a machine capable of producing 2,000 liters (528.34 gallons) per day. “Initially we’ll be working with governments and strategic partners, and we want to reach places where there is water scarcity , such as parts of Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, and rural areas,” explained Shrivastav. “We will be trying to start with a household device and aim at community-level projects.” + Uravu Via Quartz India Images via Depositphotos and Uravu

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Uravu’s zero-electricity Aqua Panels produce gallons of water from thin air

Turtle hatchlings spotted on Mumbai beach for the first time in nearly 20 years

March 30, 2018 by  
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Plastic and trash used to pile five feet high in some spots on Versova Beach in Mumbai , India, but in 2015, local lawyer Afroz Shah launched what the United Nations described as the “world’s largest beach cleanup project” — and people recently spotted Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings there. The Independent and The Guardian said it’s the first time turtle hatchlings have been glimpsed on the beach in years. Week 127 . Fantastic news for Mumbai . We got back Olive Ridley Sea Turtle after 20 years. Historic moment Nested and Hatched at our beach. We facilitate their journey to ocean. Constant cleaning helps marine species. Marine conservation centre needed at @versovabeach pic.twitter.com/j79xCKamNh — Afroz Shah (@AfrozShah1) March 22, 2018 Around 80 to 90 turtle hatchlings recently crawled towards the sea at Versova, guarded by volunteers who The Guardian said slept in the sand to protect the baby turtles from birds of prey or dogs. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies Olive Ridley turtles as vulnerable , and they may not have been born at this Mumbai beach for almost two decades. Related: Tiny treadmills for turtle hatchlings help scientists evaluate their stamina Scientist Sumedha Korgaonkar, who’s finishing a PhD on Olive Ridley turtles, told The Guardian it is possible small amounts of the animals nested on the beach in the past; she can’t be sure because “regular patrolling for turtle nests is not done in Mumbai.” However, she added, “Beach cleanups definitely have a positive effect on nesting turtles.” Yes yes .. We did it .. Thank you Afroz . Here is the journey . lovely Mumbaikars . we did . Urban cities getting our olive Ridley turtle back . pic.twitter.com/vg4ZJe5cTk — Clean Up Versova (@versovabeach) March 22, 2018 Shah has been leading volunteers to clean up the 5,000 tons of trash at Versova for more than two years. Around 55,000 people reside near the beach, and Shah started by offering to clean up communal toilets and picking up waste on his own. He told The Guardian, “For the first six to eight weeks, nobody joined. Then two men approached me and said, very politely, ‘Please sir, can we wear your gloves?’ Both of them just came and joined me. That’s when I knew it was going to be a success.” Shah’s effort flourished into a national movement; everyone from slum dwellers to politicians to school children to celebrities has joined in. UN Environment head Erik Solheim said in a 2017 press release , “What Afroz Shah has achieved on Versova beach is nothing short of remarkable. These 100 weeks of hard work and determination by Afroz and countless volunteers goes way beyond dealing with a local crisis. This has inspired what is becoming a nationwide and global movement to turn the tide on plastic and waste.” Via The Independent , The Guardian , and UN Environment Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Turtle hatchlings spotted on Mumbai beach for the first time in nearly 20 years

Trump’s border wall threatens Texas plants and wildlife

March 30, 2018 by  
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If it is ever built, Trump’s US-Mexico border wall would pose a threat to vulnerable wildlife and plants, as well as to the growing ecotourism industry in the border regions of Texas . Norma Fowler and Tim Keitt, scientists at the University of Texas at Austin, have published a letter that outlines the potential ecological damage from such a major project. Currently, Texas has walls along approximately 100 miles of its border with Mexico. “Up to now, the wall has either gone through cities or deserts,” said Fowler . “This is the Rio Grande we’re talking about here. It’s totally different.” The proposed wall is set to cut through hundreds of miles of protected federal land, including much of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. “We have high biodiversity because of the river and because Texas extends so far south,” explained Fowler. “I and other Texas biologists are very concerned about the impact this will have on our rich natural heritage.” Fowler and Keitt conducted a scientific literature review of 14 other publications to support the concerns outlined in the letter. The authors express particular interest in the protection of the threatened Tamaulipan thornscrub ecosystem , which once covered much of South Texas. Related: Leaked memo shows that EPA staffers were told to downplay the reliability of climate science The wall could also divide breeding populations of vulnerable animals, such as the ocelot. With only 120 left in the Lone Star State, ocelots could suffer from decreased reproduction and eventually disappear completely from Texas. “Even small segments of new wall on federal lands will devastate habitats and local recreation and ecotourism,” said Keitt. The authors suggested alternatives if the United States does ultimately go forward in its efforts to strengthen the border. According to Keitt and Fowler, “Negative impacts could be lessened by limiting the extent of physical barriers and associated roads, designing barriers to permit animal passage and substituting less biologically harmful methods, such as electronic sensors, for physical barriers.” Via Phys.org Images via  Alejandro Santillana/University of Texas at Austin Insects Unlocked Project and  Andrew Morffew

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Trump’s border wall threatens Texas plants and wildlife

Climate change is threatening the garment industry

March 27, 2018 by  
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Extreme weather in India is harming worker health and posing risks to women’s rights.

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Climate change is threatening the garment industry

Meet the company that singlehandedly halved one country’s CO2 emissions

March 27, 2018 by  
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Something is right in the state of Denmark.

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Meet the company that singlehandedly halved one country’s CO2 emissions

Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals

March 6, 2018 by  
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The East Kolkata Wetlands in India processes almost 198 million gallons of wastewater and sewage produced by the region’s population everyday, relying on nothing but nature. What was once a mix of lowland salt marshes and silted rivers is now a sprawling complex of man-made wetlands framed by green space. With the help of local farmers and fishers, the wetlands are maintained in good health to organically clean sewage using sunlight, oxygen, and beneficial microbes. This process, known as bio-remediation, cleans wastewater within three weeks, a remarkably quick turnaround that highlights the great power of natural solutions. Wastewater from the city is directed into small inlets, each one controlled by a local fishery cooperative. The cooperative then separates the dense polluted water from clearer surface water, which flows into the large wetland while the wastewater decomposes and becomes fish food through organic processes. This water is then used to raise fish in ponds known as bheries or grow crops on the banks of the wetlands. In addition to its wastewater and agriculture services, the East Kolkata Wetlands also act as a flood control system, absorbing excess water from the nearby city. Related: Dakshineswar Skywalk could greatly improve pedestrian safety in Kolkata Former city sanitation engineer Dhrubajyoti Ghosh has served as the Wetland’s guardian for several decades. After realizing the enormous value of the wetland’s environmental services, he defined the formal limits of the area and successfully protected it from real estate developers. Today, Ghosh recognizes the challenges and opportunities facing the wetlands and others like it. “I am still learning how this delicate ecosystem works, how to further refine it, and why some places are better suited than others,” he told The Better India . “I am happy to give any advice or help absolutely free, this is the best system of its kind in the world and could be helping millions of people. If I have failed in one thing it is this; not enough people know about it or are benefiting from it.” Via The Better India Images via East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority and  The Better India

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Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals

Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals

March 6, 2018 by  
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The East Kolkata Wetlands in India processes almost 198 million gallons of wastewater and sewage produced by the region’s population everyday, relying on nothing but nature. What was once a mix of lowland salt marshes and silted rivers is now a sprawling complex of man-made wetlands framed by green space. With the help of local farmers and fishers, the wetlands are maintained in good health to organically clean sewage using sunlight, oxygen, and beneficial microbes. This process, known as bio-remediation, cleans wastewater within three weeks, a remarkably quick turnaround that highlights the great power of natural solutions. Wastewater from the city is directed into small inlets, each one controlled by a local fishery cooperative. The cooperative then separates the dense polluted water from clearer surface water, which flows into the large wetland while the wastewater decomposes and becomes fish food through organic processes. This water is then used to raise fish in ponds known as bheries or grow crops on the banks of the wetlands. In addition to its wastewater and agriculture services, the East Kolkata Wetlands also act as a flood control system, absorbing excess water from the nearby city. Related: Dakshineswar Skywalk could greatly improve pedestrian safety in Kolkata Former city sanitation engineer Dhrubajyoti Ghosh has served as the Wetland’s guardian for several decades. After realizing the enormous value of the wetland’s environmental services, he defined the formal limits of the area and successfully protected it from real estate developers. Today, Ghosh recognizes the challenges and opportunities facing the wetlands and others like it. “I am still learning how this delicate ecosystem works, how to further refine it, and why some places are better suited than others,” he told The Better India . “I am happy to give any advice or help absolutely free, this is the best system of its kind in the world and could be helping millions of people. If I have failed in one thing it is this; not enough people know about it or are benefiting from it.” Via The Better India Images via East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority and  The Better India

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Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals

How Indian companies use carbon pricing as a planning tool

December 21, 2017 by  
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Last month, at the fourth annual Climate Business Forum, hosted in New Delhi by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, there was a buzz in the air about business opportunities in clean solutions, as Indian government ministers, leading companies and investors presented their plans to scale up solar, green buildings and distributed energy storage using disruptive business models and innovative financing.

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INTERVIEW: How one man is fighting to save the world’s last living root bridges

December 19, 2017 by  
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If you travel through the forests of Meghalaya, Northern India, you may come across something extraordinary: bridges made from the living branches and roots of rubber trees . These often century-old structures have been tended and shaped to create sturdy natural crossings over rivers and gorges. Patrick Rogers is passionate about this type of botanical architecture and has made it his mission to preserve and document the knowledge about how to construct them. Read on to find out more about Patrick and his noble endeavor. What piqued your interest in botanical architecture? As long as I can remember, I’ve always had a strong interest in historical architecture. I love old forts, palaces, and ruins. Then, after traveling to Northeast India to study abroad for University in 2009, I became fascinated with the tribal cultures of that region. The root bridges seemed like a sort of intersection of these two interests. But, frankly, before I visited the Khasi Hills, in the Indian state of Meghalaya, I had no idea that botanical architecture even existed. It really was something that I stumbled on to. The Khasi Hills are the sort of place where, each time you visit, the more you learn and the more interesting the place becomes. I ended up traveling again and again to Meghalaya, trekking from village to village in various remote corners of the state, at first more to find out about the culture than anything more specific. But each time I did so, I kept getting new, tantalizing little scraps of information about living root bridges. With each new bit of information, my interest in the subject grew. Slowly it became clear that, rather than there only being a few living root bridges, there were dozens, if not hundreds, and that these were part of a widespread, centuries-old, cultural practice. So, for me, botanical architecture was kind of like a story that just kept getting bigger and bigger. How did you feel the first time you saw a living root bridge? The first time I visited a living root bridge was in 2011 and it was under rather terrible circumstances. I was visiting the area with my brother, and we were staying in a hotel. The day before, one of the other guests at the hotel had gone to visit Nongriat (the village the root bridge is in), and had died in a flash flood – the region’s monsoon seasons are some of the most intense rain events in the world. When my brother and I went to Nongriat, the whole village was organized into search parties, combing a nearby river to try and find the woman’s body…it was a truly weird time to be in the village. Certainly, it underscored just how dangerous the area can be. Visiting Nongriat’s living root bridge, my brother and I were certainly impressed by its beauty, though what we had been told was that Meghalaya’s living architecture was confined only to this one area. That didn’t ring true at the time and it seemed to me that there had to be more, but it was a bad time to be in the village. It was, in part, wanting to visit under better circumstances that led me to return and travel in the area in much more depth later on. Related: One man’s race to save India’s last remaining living root bridges Why do you want to preserve these bridges, and pass on the knowledge of how to build them? What drives you to save this type of knowledge? What the bridges represent, at least to me, is something very special. They are both an incredible chapter in the history of the world’s built heritage – entirely worthy of preservation purely from a cultural conservation standpoint – and yet they are also something which I think can, down the line, inspire an entirely new and completely sustainable way of thinking about architecture. They are an ancient way of solving a very basic problem. They seem to have been around for hundreds of years, yet the principals used to create them could be applied to, and developed in, the modern world. In a time when so much cultural heritage is disappearing, and when sustainability is more important than ever, the fact that a tribal community in the remote hills of Northeast India has successfully grown and used dozens (if not hundreds… it’s hard to be sure!) of self-sustaining, living, botanical structures, just seems important to me. But, having spent many months in the jungles of the region, I’ve found that the bridges are under threat and that a large number have disappeared in only the past few years. This is a rather disappointing fact. I wish it weren’t the case, but the sad truth seems to be that the practice is well on its way out in many places. Yet, when I began this project, there was virtually no trace of information pertaining to the threats the root bridges faced. Simply pointing out that the bridges are under threat and publicly making some of that information available is a major goal of my project. Also, I think it’s worth saying that the bridges are just astoundingly beautiful. The world is a more interesting place with them in it. Is there much interest in these bridges from the public sphere? Or is there a struggle to ignite other people’s interest? I think when people view a picture of a living root bridge, just hear about them, or even travel to a place where root bridges can be easily seen, they find them interesting. Certainly, people rarely deny that they’re beautiful or unusual. It’s easy to take a lovely picture of one. But going into detail about the wider phenomenon – explaining about them in depth and mentioning the threats that they face – is rather difficult. I think this is mostly because the overwhelming majority of the bridges are incredibly obscure. It’s kind of hard to call for the conservation of a thing which almost nobody knows anything about. Right now, while there is a little bit of information about the bridges online. This is really quite inadequate. For example, just typing the term “Living Root Bridges” into Google, and you’ll find that 15 out of the 20 top image results are of the same two bridges (the Nongriat Double Decker and a root bridge in the village of Riwai). I would venture that roughly the same ratio continues when it comes to the overall body of information easily available about the bridges. That means that while there are a great many living bridges, and a great many of them are threatened, there’s virtually no easily accessible information about them. This makes trying to explain in depth about the phenomenon difficult. Still, interest in the bridges is growing, if slowly. I think it just needs to become common knowledge that there is much more to the story of botanical architecture than the few living bridges that have already become famous. Related: One man’s race to save India’s last remaining living root bridges You mentioned that many of these bridges have been torn down in favor of modern, metal bridges, even though the latter are of poorer quality and stability than their botanical predecessors. Do people there actually prefer the metal bridges? Or would they like to see more root architecture? As weird as it sounds, many of the villagers in the areas where root bridges were once grown simply didn’t know what they had was anything unusual. One question that I am often asked when trekking in the hills is: “Don’t you have living root bridges in your country?” While this attitude seems to be slowly changing, the fact is that many root bridges were torn down because nobody realized that they were something special. I think the locals mostly viewed the bridges as just pieces of infrastructure. They thought they were useful, but not especially interesting. Kind of like how someone from North America would regard a well-paved highway. One of the main reasons root bridges have been replaced is because when one is damaged or fails due to environmental factors it’s simply quicker to replace it with a steel bridge. This takes weeks or days, rather than the years it takes to develop a living root bridge. Whereas living root bridges get stronger over time – and cost literally nothing – conventional bridges grow weaker over time, are expensive, and often require outside investment. So, as far as I can tell (and it’s hard not to generalize here), the locals mostly view the bridges from a practical perspective. Frequently, environmental changes in the areas where root bridges are found – such as de-forestation, road building, landslides, etc. – have destroyed the bridges, and the locals have simply had no choice about what to do. If they want to keep working in their fields, they have to replace them with steel bridges. It is possible to make practical arguments for preserving botanical architecture and creating new examples. For instance, they can attract tourists and become a source of revenue. While tourism has its good points and its bad points, at present, this is what drives the conservation of the bridges in the few pockets where they are being actively preserved. Also, the fact that living bridges are much cheaper in the long-term is something the villagers take into account. I think that in most areas where living root bridges are found the locals would want to maintain them, and to create new ones, though they need a practical incentive to do so. You mentioned that these bridges are grown from Ficus elastica trees: do you know whether there are any other species that can be used in a similar fashion? While I think it’s certainly true that the Ficus elastica plant is uniquely suited to forming botanical architecture, I don’t see any reason why living structures couldn’t be made from other plants. The F icus elastica is only one of several kinds of Strangler Fig. Ficus benghalensis trees exist in tropical regions all over the world (even in Florida), and have similar properties. There seem to be several places in the world where the idea of growing living root bridges have (in all likelihood) developed in isolation, namely in the Indian state of Nagaland, and in two places in Indonesia. I think that probably means that if you have a tree with lots of relatively quickly growing aerial roots, you could probably use it for living architecture. I think it’s important to point out that the basic principles used by the Khasis to make root bridges are really very simple and straightforward: You take young, pliable, aerial roots, pull them across a gap, and then wind them together until they’ve grown enough that you can stand on them. It would not be difficult to get similar results with other kinds of plants. Do you have any long-term goals with regard to botanical architecture? For instance, are you hoping to rekindle the practice throughout Northeast India? Or put the techniques you’ve learned into practice elsewhere in the world? My personal long-term goal is simply to collect and make publicly accessible as much information as I can on the subject. In the end, other people have to come along, use the information, and expand upon it. The gathering and presenting the information is only a first step. It’s hard to say if rekindling the practice is possible, given that conditions in Northeast India have changed drastically in the last few generations. They were made in a world that is very different from the one of today. Still, the locals are not averse to creating hybrid structures that use both steel-wire and ficus elastica roots. It may be possible to develop methods of generating root bridges employing structures that are immediately useable as scaffolds. In this way it would be possible to bypass the problem of how long it takes for a root bridge to become functional. From a pure cultural conservation standpoint, one thing that I do hope is that certain examples will be set aside for long-term protection. The idea of a UNESCO designated Living Root Bridge heritage site seems like a very good idea to me. I would recommend the area around the town of Pynursla, including the villages of Rangthylliang and Mawkyrnot, for a start. But, in the long term, I think that the bridges can serve as a source of inspiration for other sustainable design endeavors the world over – though the exact form that inspiration will take is hard to predict. The basic idea of the bridges could be replicated in all sorts of contexts, from low-cost rural infrastructure development in South America to indoor art installations in Sweden. If you are interested in learning more about root bridges, Patrick has a book out with Westland India publishers called The Green Unknown , which is about the process of tracking down the living root bridges and traveling in the Khasi Hills. For those of you who share Patrick’s love of these bridges, the book is available on Amazon . + Living Root Bridges Photos by Patrick Rogers

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INTERVIEW: How one man is fighting to save the world’s last living root bridges

All of Toyota’s cars will be either hybrid or fully electric by 2025

December 19, 2017 by  
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Toyota has concentrated mainly on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and hybrid cars over electric ones. But the company made a big announcement in Tokyo this week: every Toyota and Lexus model will be available as fully electric or with an electric option in just around eight years. They’re shooting for sales of over 5.5 million electrified vehicles by around 2030. At a Tokyo press briefing, the company announced its plans for popularizing electric cars between 2020 and 2030. The company said in their press release they aim to accelerate development and launch of hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, battery electric, and fuel cell electric cars. This goal includes offering a hybrid or completely electric option for every single Toyota and Lexus model by around 2025. Related: Toyota and Mazda establish a new company for electric cars They’re aiming for sales of over one million zero-emissions vehicles (what they described as battery electric or fuel cell electric vehicles) by around 2030. Toyota plans to offer over 10 battery electric models worldwide in the early 2020s, launching in China before possibly entering markets in the United States, Japan, India, and the United Kingdom. They plan to continue growing their hybrid electric line-up due to the development of the hybrid system found in their current generation Prius . The company said they’ve been working on solid-state batteries , with the goal to commercialize their technology in the early 2020’s. They’ll also begin a feasibility study with Panasonic on a prismatic battery business. And Toyota will also work towards more EV infrastructure. In their statement, the company said, “This includes the creation of a system to help streamline battery reuse and recycling, as well as support of the promotion of plug-in vehicle charging stations and hydrogen refueling stations through active cooperation and collaboration with government authorities and partner companies.” Via Toyota and TechCrunch Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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All of Toyota’s cars will be either hybrid or fully electric by 2025

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