Why Hawaii’s carbon neutrality pledge matters

June 13, 2018 by  
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From the standpoint of reducing emissions, the declaration might seem symbolic. But other states are watching and learning from the island state’s policies.

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Why Hawaii’s carbon neutrality pledge matters

Vatican Citys first-ever pavilion debuts at the Venice Architecture Biennale

June 1, 2018 by  
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The Vatican Chapels Pavilion of the Holy See opened to fanfare last week, marking Vatican City’s debut at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale. Curated by Professor Francesco Dal Co, the temporary installation consists of 10 chapel-inspired pavilions, each designed by a different renowned design practice from around the world. Perhaps the most anticipated of them all is the pavilion by Foster + Partners , which takes the form of an open-air chapel built with a tensegrity structure. Spread out across the picturesque San Giorgio Maggiore Island, the Vatican Chapels Pavilion of the Holy See is set in a contemplative wooded environment. Foster + Partners’ chapel is located between two mature trees on one end of the island and connects to the lagoon beyond. The chapel comprises a tensegrity structure made up of three upright crosses that support a larch latticework membrane connected with steel cables and masts. Italian furniture company Tecno built the installation. “The project started with the selection of the site,” explained Norman Foster, founder of Foster + Partners. “On a visit to San Giorgio Maggiore, close to Palladio’s magnificent church and the Teatro Verde, I found a green space with two mature trees beautifully framing the view of the lagoon. It was like a small oasis in the big garden, perfect for contemplation. Our aim was to create a small space diffused with dappled shade and removed from the normality of passers-by, focused instead on the water and sky beyond – a sanctuary.” Related: Foster+Partners unveil design for first-ever Vatican Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale The larch membrane allows dappled light to pass through the chapel’s interior. The tensegrity structure was also engineered to withstand wind loads. Jasmine vines are planted around the structure and will grow overtop it in time to soften its contours and add an extra sensory element. The pavilion will remain open to the public until November 25, 2018. + Foster + Partners Images by Nigel Young/Foster + Partners

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Vatican Citys first-ever pavilion debuts at the Venice Architecture Biennale

This amazing underwater hotel room lets you sleep while surrounded by marine life

April 19, 2018 by  
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Putting a positive new spin on the expression “sleeping with the fishes,” a new hotel suite at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island in the Maldives lets guests sleep underwater. The first-of-its-kind hotel suite – called the Muraka – is a two-level residence that has an underwater living and sleeping area. Guests can experience being surrounded by the beautiful ocean waters and get a firsthand glimpse of the marine wildlife. However if the thought of sharks floating around you while you sleep doesn’t give you a heart attack, the price tag might: the Muraka starts at $50,000 a night. The undersea villas – which are expected to open in November 2018 – will be the first of their kind in the world. While other hotels have underwater suites , the Muraka (which means “coral” in Dhivehi, the local language in the Maldives) will be the first one to be set in real ocean waters instead of man-made aquariums. The luxury suite spans two floors, with the upper floor floating on the waters and the ground floor submerged more than 16 feet below the ocean surface. Related: Underwater Hotel Gets Green Light to be Constructed in the Maldives The suite was designed by the same team behind the resort’s underwater restaurant, Ithaa . Crown Company director Ahmed Saleem and engineer Mike Murphy thought of everything on their latest hotel venture , including open air decks on either side of the suite to offer a chance to enjoy both the sunrise and the sunset. The dual-level suite can sleep up to nine guests and includes a gym, butler’s quarters, and a bar. There are two bedrooms and large living areas on the top floor, and a large bathtub in the master bedroom faces the ocean. On the lower level, guests can marvel at the surrounding ocean world from their undersea bedroom , living area and bathroom. “Driven by our inspiration to deliver innovative and transformative experiences to our global travelers, the world’s first undersea residence encourages guests to explore the Maldives from an entirely new perspective below the surface of the sea,” said Saleem in a press statement. + Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Via Architectural Digest Images via Conrad Maldives Rangali Island  

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This amazing underwater hotel room lets you sleep while surrounded by marine life

New Zealand just eradicated 200,000 mice from a single island

March 23, 2018 by  
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New Zealand just eradicated 200,000 mice from a single island in an extermination unlike anything we’ve seen before. Invasive species can wreak havoc on the environment, and as much as we hate to hear about the mass killing of any animals, sometimes it’s the only way to rescue a struggling ecosystem. In New Zealand, invasive predators like rats, mice, and possums have overrun islands and local bird species, invertebrates and plants have been destroyed. Entirely eradicating mice on Antipodes Island will give native species a chance to thrive, and it could provide a roadmap to help other countries deal with their own invasions. ? New Zealand is home to more species of seabird than anywhere else on Earth, with 21 species using the Antipodes as a breeding ground. Hoards of mice overwhelmed the chicks and eggs on the island, and they threatened to kill entire species of invertebrates, which has a huge impact on the ecosystem. Mice have already wiped out two types of insects on the island. Related: New Zealand plans to power its grid with 100% renewable energy by 2035 Over the past 5 years, New Zealand used an aerial baiting program to spread rat poison every 15 to 30 feet on every part of the island. “This is achieved through precision GPS delivery from helicopters, which minimizes any toxin entering the marine environment, and has very few side effects on other animals because the poison is most strongly acting on land mammals, which aren’t normally found on islands,” said Dr. James Russell from the University of Auckland to Earther . The island ecosystem is already recovering, with birds who competed with mice for insects making a comeback. The project could help Gough Island, where seabirds are being driven to extinction by mice, eradicate its own mouse problem. “Nearly half of our world’s most threatened species are found on islands, with invasive species as a primary threat,” Sally Esposito with Island Conservation told Earther . + Million Dollar Mouse Project Via Earther Images via Department of Conservation New Zealand

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New Zealand just eradicated 200,000 mice from a single island

The ground under a West Texas oil patch is moving ‘at alarming rates’

March 23, 2018 by  
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Local residents, infrastructure, and oil and gas pipelines could be at risk from the ground heaving and sinking in West Texas after years of fossil fuel production, according to a new study from Southern Methodist University (SMU) scientists. In an SMU statement , research scientist Jin-Woo Kim said, “This region of Texas has been punctured like a pin cushion with oil wells and injection wells since the 1940s and our findings associate that activity with ground movement.” Two large sinkholes around Wink, Texas, may just be the start, according to Kim and SMU professor and geophysicist Zhong Lu. Scientific Reports published their research online earlier this month: Kim and Lu drew on radar satellite images revealing significant ground movement in an area of 4,000 square miles. One spot saw movement of up to 40 inches in two and a half years. Lu said the ground movement isn’t normal. Related: Massive sinkhole opens up in the middle of a Brazilian farming town Imagery and oil well production data from the Railroad Commission of Texas helped the researchers connect the ground movement to oil activity. Pressurized fluid injection into what SMU described as “geologically unstable rock formations” in the area is one of those activities; the scientists discovered ground movement corresponded with “nearby sequences of wastewater injection rates and volume and CO2 injection in nearby wells.” And, outside the 4,000 square mile area, more dangers may lurk. Kim said, “We’re fairly certain that when we look further, and we are, that we’ll find there’s ground movement even beyond that.” SMU said the region is vulnerable to human endeavors because of its geology , including shale formations and water-soluble salt and limestone formations. Lu said, “These hazards represent a danger to residents, roads, railroads, levees, dams, and oil and gas pipelines, as well as potential pollution of ground water . Proactive, continuous detailed monitoring from space is critical to secure the safety of people and property.” + Southern Methodist University + Science Reports Images via Nicolas Henderson on Flickr and Zhong Lu, Jin-Woo Kim, SMU

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The ground under a West Texas oil patch is moving ‘at alarming rates’

Conservationists rid Florida of invasive iguanas by smashing their heads

March 16, 2018 by  
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Invasive iguana populations have soared in Florida , and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched a $63,000 research project to figure out the best way to get rid of the lizards . But the Sun Sentinel and Gizmodo reported some people are taking issue with one method: that of smashing in the iguanas’ heads. Iguanas can impact native wildlife and plants and irritate homeowners, according to commission spokesperson Carli Segelson. Gizmodo said many residents of Florida consider the reptiles pests, akin to rats. A 15-person University of Florida team, whose work is part of the commission’s project, is tackling the problem with methods like a captive bolt gun or bashing the reptiles’ heads against solid objects, including a boat and truck they’re traveling in to track the creatures down, according to the Sun Sentinel. Wildlife biologist Jenny Ketterlin said their methods are compatible with Florida’s anti-cruelty laws, and that destroying the iguanas’ brains rapidly is the most humane method of killing them. The team has taken out 249 iguanas near a canal over three months, and have spurned other extermination techniques on the grounds they’re inefficient, not safe, unproven, or crueler. Related: It’s so cold that frozen iguanas are falling off trees in Florida Some people don’t like the sound of smashing in iguanas’ heads. The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy executive director Lori Marino described the method as appalling; veterinarian Susan Kelleher said it’s cruel and a kinder method of killing the iguanas would be sedating and euthanizing them. Gizmodo said this is a complicated situation. They spoke with iguana expert Joe Wasilewski who said he did cringe when he heard about iguana heads bashed in, but that this method is one of the better options we have. “In less than a second these lizards go from being cognizant to completely dead. Is that cruel?” he told Gizmodo. “Look, we kill millions upon millions of rats and cockroaches every year. The last thing I want to do is harm one. I’ve spent my whole career trying to improve their island habitats, but the sheer number of iguanas is exploding — it’s a situation that’s not getting better any time soon.” Via the Sun Sentinel and Gizmodo Images via Depositphotos and Skye am i/Wikimedia Commons

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Conservationists rid Florida of invasive iguanas by smashing their heads

What the ‘world’s loneliest tree’ tells us about humanity’s impact on Earth

February 21, 2018 by  
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Over 170 miles away from a single other tree , the ‘world’s loneliest tree’ rests on Campbell Island. New Zealand governor Lord Ranfurly planted the Sitka spruce on the island around 400 miles south of the country sometime in the early 20th century, and researchers now believe it holds clues about the Anthropocene Epoch . After completing a thorough analysis of the tree, researchers have set a potential start date for the geological age in which humans are the dominant influence on the environment . In a piece for The Conversation , Chris Turney and Jonathan Palmer of the University of New South Wales and Mark Maslin of University College London shared work revealing how the world’s loneliest tree might help us determine a potential start date for the Anthropocene. The wood of the tree recorded the radiocarbon generated by above-ground atomic bomb tests, and its layers reveal a peak in 1965, according to the scientists. Related: New report shows humans change climate 170 times quicker than natural forces The spike in radioactive elements generated from those thermonuclear bomb tests has been a contender for defining the Anthropocene’s beginning, according to the scientists, but until now most of the records have been collected in the Northern Hemisphere. They said, “To demonstrate a truly global human impact requires a signal from a remote, pristine location in the Southern Hemisphere that occurs at the same time as the north.” The world’s loneliest tree helped provide that signal. Detailed study of the tree’s year-by-year growth reveals a spike in radioactive elements between October and December 1965. The scientists said, “This spruce has demonstrated unequivocally that humans have left an impact on the planet, even in the most pristine of environments, that will be preserved in the geological record for tens of millennia and beyond.” In other words, according to this research, the Anthropocene officially began in 1965. The journal Scientific Reports published the research online this week; scientists at institutions in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany contributed. Via The Conversation Images via Turney, Chris S.M., et al./Scientific Reports

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300 artificial islands in Dubai, ‘The World,’ may get another chance

February 16, 2018 by  
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The World , an archipelago of 300 islands in Dubai , has sat largely vacant for around 10 years. But construction is underway once again. The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright reported , “After a decade in limbo, The World is back – with more ambitious plans than ever before.” The World was dreamed up in 2003, with Nakheel as the master developer, and 320 million cubic meters of sand and 25 million metric tons of rock were put into place, according to The Guardian. Workers laid the last rock in the breakwater in January 2008. The development sprawls across over 5,000 hectares and stands, in the words of Wainwright, as a “mind-boggling monument to the spectacular hubris of a moment in time when anything seemed possible.” Related: Dubai’s World of Islands is Sinking Into the Sea But construction is beginning again. Josef Kleindienst, of real estate company Kleindienst , talked to The Guardian about his plans for The Heart of Europe , saying he wants to make it snow there throughout the entire year. The Kleindienst website describes The Heart of Europe as “a first of its kind, breathtaking hospitality development, spanning six of the islands on The World in Dubai, with each island taking inspiration from some of Europe’s most captivating locations.” Swiss chalets, Austrian castles, and Russian palaces are among the plans. Kleindienst told The Guardian the development will be finished in time for Expo 2020 in Dubai. Other island owners seem to have been inspired by Kleindienst, according to The Guardian. Emirati developer Seven Tides aims to finish a 100-villa resort on one of the 10 islands they own in the South America portion by the end of this year. And actress Lindsay Lohan said she’s designing an island in The World. It remains to be seen whether or not the projects will ultimately come to life. Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 ) and The Heart of Europe

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300 artificial islands in Dubai, ‘The World,’ may get another chance

Sinking island nation of Tuvalu is actually growing

February 9, 2018 by  
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The Pacific island nation of Tuvalu has long been considered at great risk to sinking beneath the rising sea levels of climate change. However, scientists at the University of Auckland have learned that it is actually increasing in size, with the island’s total land area having grown 2.9 percent between 1971 and 2014. “We tend to think of Pacific atolls as static landforms that will simply be inundated as sea levels rise , but there is growing evidence these islands are geologically dynamic and are constantly changing,” study co-author Paul Kench told Phys.org . “The study findings may seem counter-intuitive, given that (the) sea level has been rising in the region over the past half century, but the dominant mode of change over that time on Tuvalu has been expansion, not erosion.” Researchers used aerial photography and satellite imagery to study the geographical changes on Tuvalu’s nine atolls and 101 reef islands. They found that eight atolls and nearly three-fourths of the reef islands grew during the period studied, all while sea level at Tuvalu rose twice as quickly as the global average. Wave patterns and sediment deposits brought by storm activity seemed to have counteracted any “sinking” effects due to sea level rise. Related: 14 Pacific island nations considering world’s first ban on fossil fuels While climate change remains an existential threat to island nations like Tuvalu, this study could prompt a rethinking of how sea level rise will actually manifest in light of compounding factors that resulted in Tuvalu’s growth. “On the basis of this research we project a markedly different trajectory for Tuvalu’s islands over the next century than is commonly envisaged,” said Kench . “While we recognize that habitability rests on a number of factors, loss of land is unlikely to be a factor in forcing depopulation of Tuvalu.” The study authors recognize the need to make drastic changes while acknowledging that there is still time to adapt. “Embracing such new adaptation pathways will present considerable national scale challenges to planning, development goals and land tenure systems,” the authors said . “However, as the data on island change shows there is time (decades) to confront these challenges.” Via Phys.org Images via  Tomoaki INABA/Flickr (1)

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Sinking island nation of Tuvalu is actually growing

This amazing green office is covered with native plants that were rescued on-site

February 9, 2018 by  
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Ho Khue Architects has created a beautiful office space in Da Nang infused with lush native greenery . The Vietnam-based firm constructed the Modern Village Office on an old lot that was covered in native plants. Inspired by the plants’ resilience, the architects transplanted the greenery inside the building to create a soothing office that evokes the spirit of a family village. The architects built the concrete office space on an urban lot that contained some old structures, white pampas grass, and native plants like bamboo shrubs. The architects took the natural state of the lot into consideration and decided to infuse the existing vegetation into the office’s design. The banana trees, yellow bushes and native plants were carefully transplanted on the first floor, where they help create a soothing and welcoming entryway. Some of the plants were also harvested to be used in the ground floor’s water feature. Related: Translucent Ho Chi Minh City office tower infused with greenery helps combat urban pollution More native plants were transplanted on the building’s rooftop, creating a beautiful garden for employees to enjoy. The dense grass and other plants that cover the roof help cool the interior floors underneath. The greenery continues throughout the interior spaces, with long hanging vines and plants in virtually every corner. The 350-square-meter space is bright and airy thanks to the white brick walls and minimal furnishings found inside. The interior is naturally lit by an abundance of windows, and open terraces provide quiet areas for meetings or lounging. Decorative slats on the southwest facade block out the heat and provide natural ventilation. According to the architects, the green office building was designed to give modern workers a healthy environment that provides a relaxing atmosphere: “Working in this modern office evokes feelings reminiscent of childhood and a time when life was simpler. The air flow is fresh from the sea leading to comfortable temperature without being cold. Today’s younger generation may have had little or no time in the countryside. This office has brought the spirit and the heart of the rural areas to the workplace.” + Ho Khue Architects Via Archdaily Photography via Hiroyuki Oki

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This amazing green office is covered with native plants that were rescued on-site

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