Italy bans the use of animals in circuses

November 13, 2017 by  
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Animal rights activists are winning victories as more countries prohibit animals in circus acts. This month the Italian Parliament adopted legislation to phase out animals in traveling shows and circuses, according to Animal Defenders International (ADI). It’s a big move, as there are an estimated 100 circuses with 2,000 animals in Italy . Italy became the 41st country to pass measures prohibiting animals in circuses. ADI said on their Facebook page that Italy’s Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini promoted the legislation to phase out animals in circuses. Related: America’s largest animal circus closes after 146 years ADI president Jan Creamer said in a statement, “Traveling from place to place, week after week, using temporary collapsible cages and pens, circuses simply cannot provide for the needs of the animals. Through ADI’s undercover investigations we have shown the violence and abuse that is used to force these animals to obey and perform tricks. We applaud Italy and urge countries like the UK and the US to follow this example and end this cruelty.” It’s not yet clear how Italy’s phase-out will play out; ADI said within a year, Italy will outline how the law will be implemented through a ministerial decree. It’s not yet known how long circuses will have to phase animals out of their shows. ZME Science highlighted some of the issues with animals performing in circuses, pointing to an investigation from researchers at Wageningen University. They found 71 percent of observed animals were experiencing medical issues, and 33 percent of lions and tigers didn’t have access to an outdoor enclosure. They said circus lions spent 98 percent of their time inside on average. Elephants spent 17 hours a day shackled on average, and tigers – though scared of fire – were often forced to jump through flaming hoops. Ireland also stood up for animal rights recently , with a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses that will take effect on January 1, 2018. Via Animal Defenders International ( 1 , 2 , 3 ) Images via Wikimedia Commons and ~Pawsitive~Candie_N on Flickr

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Italy bans the use of animals in circuses

Italy seeks to phase out coal power plants by 2025

October 25, 2017 by  
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Nation by nation, Europe is going green. The latest country to prove its commitment to sustainable solutions is Italy . On Tuesday, the Italian Industry Minister announced that by 2025, the country plans to phase out coal power plants. Additionally, the country plans to meet 27 percent of “gross overall energy consumption” with renewable sources by the year 2030. During a parliamentary hearing, Minister Carlo Calenda asked the national grid company to identify the infrastructure needed to make the transition. Shortly after, the country’s biggest utility, Enel, said it will not invest in new coal-fired power plants. Unlike other countries in Europe, Italy’s renewable sector is constantly growing. In 2015, for instance, renewable energy sources generated just under 38 percent of the country’s electricity. Hydro-electrical plants remain the biggest contributor (15.5 percent), and solar and wind sources have reached nearly 13 percent, according to ZME Science. The country has no nuclear plants, as they were banned through a referendum in 1987 . Related: Supervolcano in Italy is “becoming more dangerous” as magma builds beneath the surface Chris Littlecott, who heads a fossil fuel transition program at think tank E3G , applauded the development. “Italy’s positive commitment to phase out coal by 2025 demonstrates real international leadership as it completes its year holding the G7 Presidency,” he said in a statement. “Italy now joins its G7 peers in Canada, France, and the UK in taking action to phase out coal power generation over the next decade. Together, they can lead a growing coalition of countries and regions that are now acting on coal,” he said. Though this development is commendable, nothing has been confirmed just yet. The strategy should receive governmental and parliamentary approval at the beginning of November. If it passes, the measure will also speed up the introduction of vehicles powered by alternative fuels , and it will raise the number of EV charging stations to 19,000 by 2020. Via ZME Science Images via Public Domain Pictures, Pixabay

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Italy seeks to phase out coal power plants by 2025

Supervolcano in Italy is "becoming more dangerous" as magma builds beneath the surface

September 19, 2017 by  
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Like the super volcano in Yellowstone National Park , experts have been preparing for the eruption of the Campi Flegrei volcano near the Bay of Naples, in Italy for some time. Now, a new study published in Scientific Reports has renewed fear that it could erupt very soon. Reportedly, the area has been “restless” since minor eruptions began in the 1950s, and now experts have pinpointed magma building up beneath the surface. The eight-mile-wide circular formation, known as a caldera, last erupted in 1538. Researchers with the University of Aberdeen, the INGV Osservatorio Vesuviano, the RISSC lab of the University of Naples and the University of Texas at Austin used seismological techniques to determine when the volcano may erupt again. After scores of tests, they learned that there is a hot zone under the Italian city of Pozzuoli that extends into the sea . While the implications of this finding are not completely understood, it is suspected that the low amount of seismic activity in the area since the 1980s may mean pressure is building within the caldera, making it more dangerous. Related: World’s most active volcano harbors a tiny off-grid home—and you can stay overnight Said Researcher  Luca De Siena  of the University of Aberdeen, “During the last 30 years the behavior of the volcano has changed, with everything becoming hotter due to fluids permeating the entire caldera.” De Siena’s main concern is that the entire region around Naples would be impacted by its eruption. This is because the underground network of chambers that feed magma into the volcano extend more than 100 square kilometers outside of suburban areas in Naples . “Whatever produced the activity under Pozzuoli in the 1980s has migrated somewhere else, so the danger doesn’t just lie in the same spot, it could now be much nearer to Naples which is more densely populated,” De Siena said. “This means that the risk from the caldera is no longer just in the center, but has migrated. Indeed, you can now characterize Campi Flegrei as being like a boiling pot of soup beneath the surface,” De Siena added. “What this means in terms of the scale of any future eruption we cannot say, but there is no doubt that the volcano is becoming more dangerous.” Volcanic area #CampiFlegrei around Naples Italy. Not just Mount Vesuvius. https://t.co/5H00AD6Jz6 pic.twitter.com/6B2xuQpDPa — Blynne Olivieri (@BlynneO) September 13, 2017 Co-author Dr. Christopher Kilburn , director of the University College London Hazard Center , is certain an eruption is imminent. He said, “By studying how the ground is cracking and moving at Campi Flegrei, we think it may be approaching a critical stage where further unrest will increase the possibility of an eruption, and it’s imperative that the authorities are prepared for this.” Researchers say citizens should make emergency preparations in case the Campi Flegrei volcano erupts again. + Scientific Reports Via Phys  Images via Pixabay  and Deposit Photos

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Supervolcano in Italy is "becoming more dangerous" as magma builds beneath the surface

Could France-sized ocean garbage patch become 196th nation?

September 19, 2017 by  
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Plastic trash is polluting our oceans , and now there’s a garbage patch near Hawaii that is about as large as the entire country of France. The charity Plastic Oceans Foundation and publication LADbible want to have the patch acknowledged as a country called Trash Isles . Why? Two main reasons: to raise awareness of the pollution problem, and to get the area cleaned up. LADbible and Plastic Oceans want to set up the world’s 196th nation: Trash Isles, currently a giant garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean . They’re working to raise awareness, but they also submitted a Declaration of Independence to the United Nations (UN) on World Oceans Day back in June. They’re now collecting signatures of ‘citizens’ on Change.org to submit a petition to UN Secretary General António Guterres. Related: A garbage patch bigger than Texas was just discovered in the Pacific Ocean Trash Isles actually could meet country criteria. LADbible says under Article 1 of the 1993 Montevido Convention on the rights and duties of States, a country must define a territory, form a government, have a permanent population – they say that one’s open for interpretation – and be able to interact with other states. Quartz said they can roughly draw borders around the garbage patch and it wouldn’t be hard to create a government and organizations for interacting. Trash Isles can already count former United States vice president Al Gore as their first citizen, and over 107,750 people have signed the Change.org petition. What’s the point of all this effort, besides awareness of an environmental issue? If accepted as a country and UN member, Trash Isles will be protected under the UN’s Environmental Charters. LADbible pointed to a specific line which reads, “All members shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect, and restore the health and integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem .” They interpret that to mean the world’s countries will have to work to clean up Trash Isles. LADbible said people can help out by signing the Change.org petition to become a Trash Isles citizen, or by donating to Plastic Oceans . Trash Isles already has an official flag, currency, and passports created with recycled materials . LADbible Group Head of Marketing Stephen Mai said, “We are just getting started. There may well be a national anthem, general elections, and even a national football team.” + Trash Isles + Plastic Oceans Foundation Via LADbible ( 1 , 2 ) and Quartz Images via LADbible and Mario Kerkstra ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 )

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Could France-sized ocean garbage patch become 196th nation?

Compact OffGridBox provides clean drinking water and power where it’s needed most

August 18, 2017 by  
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An Italian company has developed a compact solution for communities that lack access to clean drinking water and electricity – the OffGridBox . Measuring 6x6x6 feet, the container cube features everything necessary to generate, convert and store solar energy , as well as collect, treat and distribute clean drinking water . But the system does have drawbacks – including a $15,000 price point that’s hard to justify in certain corners of the world. Read on to learn how the founders are trying to scale their innovative solution for maximum impact. According to Fast Company, “Founder and CEO Emiliano Cecchini has sold a few of the units, but he worries he’s not yet found the formula to take his invention to scale.” “We’re looking for the next system to scale,” Cecchini told FastCo. “The idea came three years ago and, yeah, we’re kind of struggling to make it bigger. Back in Italy, it’s not easy to find the right financing strategy, mentors, and accelerator programs.” Related: Desert Twins produce drinking water in the driest place on Earth It’s a pity, because OffGridBox has the capability to serve up to 1,500 people per unit, the company says, and that’s without any upgrades. The basic model comes equipped with 12 solar modules, an inverter and battery storage. This system provides enough power to charge 300 battery packs that can each charge three LED lights for four hours and two cell phones, according to FastCo. OffGridBox also has a built-in water filtration system that produces food-quality drinking water, and a built-in storage tank that holds up to 396 gallons. That’s potentially life-changing for communities that lack good infrastructure. The company is persevering with a new model that will charge end users a nominal fee to use the station. “The new model is pay-as-you-go micro-payments, local contractors, and local empowerment,” Cecchini told FastCo. A family of four will pay 12 US cents per day for water, and the battery packs are subsidized by the company. They’re testing this new tactic in Rwanda , where the company plans to install units in 18 villages. Eventually they hope to equip the boxes with Wi-Fi. Head over to FastCo for the full story . + OffGridBox

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Compact OffGridBox provides clean drinking water and power where it’s needed most

Stefano Boeri unveils Amatrice Food Village in town devastated by earthquake

August 2, 2017 by  
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Tourists used to flock in droves to the historic town of Amatrice for its famous pasta and scenery—until a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy in August 2016 and reduced it to rubble. One year later, the town finally has reason to rejoice. Stefano Boeri Architects recently completed the Amatrice Food Village, a new facility built entirely of innovative and low-cost timber construction, which marks a post-earthquake turning point as a new tourist attraction and job generator. Built in collaboration with Corriere della Sera and TgLa7, the Amatrice Food Village was completed with pro-earthquake victim funds through the “Un aiuto subito Terremoto Centro Italia 6.0” initiative. Architect Stefano Boeri designed the new Food Village as an innovative 100 percent timber project that was built in record time to help Amatrice bounce back from the earthquake as soon as possible. The Food Village is part of the “Amate Amatrice” project and was presented alongside the “AMA AMATRICE Rose Garden” that symbolizes the rebuilding process. The Amatrice Food Village is a major turning point in the reconstruction process and gives all restaurateurs the opportunity to return to their restaurants for the first time since the earthquake. The facility comprises one coffee bar and seven restaurants outfitted with large windows that overlook the Monti della Laga mountain range. The Food Village will draw tourists from around the world and give jobs to dozens of Amatrice families. Related: Why Italy’s devastating earthquakes could pile up in a ‘domino effect’ “For me, this is a very touching moment,” said Boeri. “I’m happy that the new area has been delivered after so much effort and a never-ending winter that seemed to want to block us in every way! With the struggles of everyone, we were successful in our undertaking and today everything will begin to work again. Amatrice will finally be able to go back to offering its citizens and visitors the area’s food and wine excellences. It is a small though big sign of revival in a place profoundly wounded in its soul and body, a place that all Italians hold dear to their hearts.” The Amatrice Food Village was officially inaugurated on Saturday, July 29, 2017. + Stefano Boeri Architects Images via Stefano Boeri Architects, pre-earthquake photo via Wikimedia

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Stefano Boeri unveils Amatrice Food Village in town devastated by earthquake

One of Africa’s biggest cities could run out of water by September

July 25, 2017 by  
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Kenya’s capital city, Nairboi , is dangerously low on water . The city, home to around 3.4 million people, has been rationing water since January 1, but it may not be enough. 60 percent of residents already don’t have reliable water – and the city could run dry by September. Nairobi’s water issues stem back in part to two low rainy seasons. The October to December 2016 rains amounted to only 10.5 inches of water, compared with the 27.5 inches or so expected. The March to May 2017 rains were late, arriving at last in May, but only poured down around 17.3 inches when around 39 inches were expected. Related: 70% of Bolivian residents lack sufficient water amid worst drought in 25 years “Nairobi used to be a swamp but is no longer behaving like one. Our underground rivers have dried up,” engineer Lucy Njambi Macharia of the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company said. The city’s water company now distributes just around 105,668,821 gallons of water a day – when the city needs around 92,460,218 gallons more than that. Experts aren’t without ideas on how to solve the problem. Rainwater harvesting on buildings, “deliberate efforts to cause groundwater recharge,” and pumping treated wastewater back into the ground are among potential solutions. But experts say the most crucial solution is to care for the land. Soil and water conservation from farmers are pieces of the puzzle – and the city could provide incentives so farmers work against erosion . There are already organizations tackling the dilemma. Nairobi Water Fund’s water fund manager Fred Kihara told The Guardian, “Working with 15,000 farmers, we’ve increased water to Nairobi by 27,000 cubic meters a day. Most is terracing, sediment trapping, 200,000 trees a season. The deal is you can keep the soil on your land with this good quality Napier grass that we supply you.” Deputy director general of the World Agroforestry Center Ravi Prabhu seems hopeful. He told The Guardian, “There is growing political will, and investments have started to flow. What is required is social capital from watershed to water user, and this situation could be turned around.” Meanwhile, the Vatican today shut down 100 historic water foundations in solidarity with Rome, according to The Guardian , which also faces crippling water shortages. Rationing in Italy’s capital has left many residents without water for up to eight hours a day. It’s a growing trend that affects all of us – we must be proactive. Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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One of Africa’s biggest cities could run out of water by September

LeapHome unveils sustainable, super-efficient Frame prefab

June 12, 2017 by  
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LEAPfactory , the Italy -based company known for building gorgeous prefabricated structures in extreme locations , just unveiled their very first LeapHome . Frame is a two-story, 1,400 square foot house built with minimal impact on the environment . The home’s design is super energy efficient , so it can easily go off-grid . LEAPfactory was inspired by the idea of living in harmony with nature to create Frame. The home can be customized and configured according to a buyer’s desires and budget, and includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a study area, a kitchen, dining area, an outdoor terrace, and a double height living room. Forest Stewardship Council certified wood , metal sheet cladding, and finishes made with ecological materials comprise the home that includes prefabricated components. Related: LEAPfactory unveils prefab snowboard school at the foot of Mont Blanc The outdoor shell of the home was designed with energy efficiency in mind, so the home doesn’t consume as much power as others do. Solar energy powers the home, which heats water with a solar thermal system. LED lighting and radiant technology electric systems recycle heat in Frame. According to the company’s website , “The structure is designed to maximize air circulation and distribute heat and humidity.” LEAPfactory says the home could potentially be set up in off-grid configurations – sewage can be independently managed thanks to a biological liquid waste treatment system and other sanitation systems. Panoramic openings in the home also serve to connect an inhabitant with nature. Large sliding glass doors, a bay window , a skylight, and a vertical ribbon window can all be part of the design . LEAPfactory co-founders Stefano Testa and Luca Gentilcore said in a statement, “Living immersed in nature represents one of the most important choices to embrace a new style of life. We like to think that we can combine the comforts of a modern home with the profound freedom and the pioneering spirit of a life in perfect harmony with the environment that surrounds us.” LEAPfactory’s process allows them to go from a design to a fully furnished and functioning house “within weeks” according to their website . + LEAPfactory + LeapHome Images courtesy of LEAPfactory

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LeapHome unveils sustainable, super-efficient Frame prefab

Study reveals where climate change is most likely to induce food violence

June 12, 2017 by  
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Much has been written about the affect rising temperatures will have on climate and sea levels, but global warming is expected to dish up a host of other catastrophes as well. According to a new study published in the Journal of Peace Research , the first ever to take into account climate change-induced weather patterns on violence and the strength of governments around the world, certain locations will be more susceptible to food violence than others. Take a closer look after the jump. The study was conducted by Bear Braumoeller, associate professor of political science at Ohio State University, and former doctoral students Benjamin Jones of the University of Mississippi and Eleonora Mattiacci of Amherst University. Together, they concluded that extreme weather, such as droughts and floods, could hurt agricultural production, which will likely lead to violence in affected regions or elsewhere by those who are desperate for food. “We’ve already started to see climate change as an issue that won’t just put the coasts under water, but as something that could cause food riots in some parts of the world,” Braumoeller said. The researchers used data recorded about the effects of food insecurity and state vulnerability on the occurrence of violent uprisings in Africa between the years 1991 to 2011. Measurements for food shocks and the vulnerability of countries were also taken into account. For food shocks related to climate change , the team analyzed rainfall, temperature and the international prices of food — including sudden spikes in prices. To determine which countries are most vulnerable, the researchers analyzed the country’s dependence on agricultural production, its imports, its wealth, and the strength of its political institutions. Related: Solar-Powered Floating Greenhouse is an Off-Grid Solution to Food Scarcity In the report, Braumoeller explained that the countries that imported food would be most affected by climate shocks as prices increase — even if they weren’t experiencing “significant weather impacts themselves.” “We found that the most vulnerable countries are those that have weak political institutions, are relatively poor and rely more on agriculture ,” said Braumoeller. “Less vulnerable countries can better handle the problems that droughts or food price fluctuations create.” This data is important because it provides insight as to how more developed countries, such as the United States , can respond to these challenges. It is “crucial” to break the links between food insecurity and violence, said Braumoeller, and countries can help accomplish this in a number of ways. A short-term solution is to provide food aid to offset shortages, whereas long-term efforts include strengthening government institutions and helping them invest in “green growth” policies aimed at improving the economy. Braumoeller said, ”Development aid is important now and it is likely to be even more important in the future as we look for ways to increase climate resilience.” + Journal of Peace Research Via Phys Images via Pixabay

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Study reveals where climate change is most likely to induce food violence

Zaha Hadid Architects completes first phase of Italys solar-powered high-speed rail hub

June 9, 2017 by  
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Italy is moving full steam ahead on the expansion of high-speed rail. The country recently celebrated inauguration for the first phase of the Napoli Afragola station, a solar-powered high-speed rail hub and major gateway to the south of Italy. Zaha Hadid Architects designed the eye-catching station, which doubles as a pedestrian bridge, and integrated energy-efficient systems such as solar panels and ground source heating and cooling. Located 12 kilometers north of Naples , the Napoli Afragola station will serve four high-speed intercity lines, three inter-regional lines, and a local commuter line. Once complete, the station will connect the 15 million residents of the surrounding southern communities with the national rail network to the north and Europe beyond. An estimated 32,700 passengers are expected to use the station daily once all lines are operational. Zaha Hadid Architects designed the Napoli Afragola station to double as a public bridge connecting communities on either side of the railway. “The design enlarges the public walkway over the eight railway tracks to such a degree that this walkway becomes the station’s main passenger concourse – a bridge housing all the services and facilities for departing, arriving and connecting passengers, with direct access to all platforms below,” write the architects. The elevated station also offers much-needed new public space for the area in addition to shops and other amenities. Related: Wind power now runs all electric passenger trains in the Netherlands Designed as “an extrusion of a trapezoid along a 450-meter curved path,” the sculptural station is constructed with a reinforced concrete base with 200 differently shaped steel ribs clad in Corian and a glazed roof. Natural light pours into the station through the glazed roof to minimize demands on artificial lighting. Integrated solar panels on the roof, natural ventilation, and ground source cooling and heating systems also reduce energy consumption. + Zaha Hadid Architects Images by Jacopo Spilimbergo

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