Land degradation could displace 50 to 700 million people by 2050

March 27, 2018 by  
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Land decay is undermining the well-being of two-fifths of all the people on Earth, or around 3.2 billion people , according to an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) three-year assessment, penned by over 100 experts hailing from 45 countries. It’s the first comprehensive land health assessment, according to Agence France Presse (AFP) — and assessment co-chair Robert Scholes of South Africa said land degradation is “pushing the planet towards a sixth mass extinction .” Human activity is driving dangerous land degradation — specifically quick expansion and unsustainable management of crop and grazing lands, according to IPBES. They said land decay has hit critical levels, impacting food security , water purification, and energy. The impacts of land degradation can be glimpsed in loss of biodiversity , declining animal populations, deforestation , and loss of soil health, to name a few. The assessment also says land degradation contributes to climate change . Related: Substantial swaths of globe face desertification without climate action — new study Grazing and crop lands sprawl across one third of the planet’s land surface, with under 25 percent of that surface escaping significant impacts of human activity, according to IPBES, although scientists estimate that figure will plunge to under 10 percent by 2050. As the population grows, there will be an even higher demand for food and biofuels , and researchers think pesticide and fertilizer use could double by 2050. Scholes said around four billion people will reside in drylands in a little over 30 years, and by then land degradation and climate change could force “50 to 700 million people to migrate.” Social instability could be a consequence of decreasing land productivity; “particularly in dryland areas, where years with extremely low rainfall have been associated with an increase of up to 45 percent in violent conflict.” The researchers pointed to an array of options for land restoration; for example, planting native species , developing green infrastructure like parks , or river channel restoration in urban locations. IPBES’s statement said humanity can attempt to avoid agricultural expansion into native habitats by increasing yields on farmlands that already exist and by shifting toward eating habits that don’t degrade land to the same extent, such as  plant-based diets. IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson said, “Of the many valuable messages in the report, this ranks among the most important: implementing the right actions to combat land degradation can transform the lives of millions of people across the planet, but this will become more difficult and more costly the longer we take to act.” + Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Via Agence France Presse Images via Depositphotos (1 , 2 )

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Land degradation could displace 50 to 700 million people by 2050

Can Land-Based Fish Farms Promote Food Security?

February 28, 2018 by  
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With a global population of 7.6 billion people, there is … The post Can Land-Based Fish Farms Promote Food Security? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Can Land-Based Fish Farms Promote Food Security?

Making Solar Sweeter: Pollinator-Friendly Arrays

October 2, 2017 by  
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Introduced at VERGE 2015, and highlighted recently in training by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, the practice of using the land under and around U.S. solar arrays to benefit pollinators is on the cusp of becoming a standard practice — as it is in Europe. Benefitting pollinators at scale, and producing “Solar Honey,” are new ways to increase support for large-scale solar.

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Making Solar Sweeter: Pollinator-Friendly Arrays

Moving Energy Equity from the Margins to the Mainstream

October 2, 2017 by  
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Community leaders from around the U.S. share solutions that are promoting balanced growth and shared prosperity for low-wealth people and communities of color in their respective work across energy, transportation, land-use and economic inclusion.

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Moving Energy Equity from the Margins to the Mainstream

How orange peels helped barren land in Costa Rica spring back to life

August 23, 2017 by  
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There’s more to oranges than juice! Back in the 1990’s, two ecologists suggested orange juice manufacturer Del Oro donate some of their land near a national park in Costa Rica ; in exchange, they’d be able to deposit agricultural waste for free on degraded land inside the park. Del Oro agreed and dumped 1,000 truckloads of orange pulp and peels on the land. Today, that area is a thriving forest . A Princeton University -led team of researchers journeyed to the forest to discover just how much that food trash transformed the forest – and how other businesses might do the same. Del Oro donated land to Área de Conservación Guanacaste at the suggestion of husband and wife ecologist team Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, who’d worked as advisors at the park. The company unloaded around 12,000 metric tons of orange waste for biodegradation until rival company TicoFruit sued, saying Del Oro had defiled the park. TicoFruit won and the land went largely overlooked for over a decade. Related: 16-year-old South African girl invents drought-fighting super material from orange peels Years later, environmental researchers decided to evaluate the site. They discovered a lush forest that had a 176 percent increase in aboveground biomass – what Princeton described as the trees’ wood – in the seven acres they studied. They also found a difference between areas where orange peels hadn’t been dumped and where they had – according to Princeton, the latter showed richer soil, greater tree-species richness, and more closure in the forest canopy. The researchers think regenerating forests with agricultural waste could help us sequester carbon . Princeton graduate student Timothy Treuer said in a statement, “This is one of the only instances I’ve ever heard of where you can have cost-negative carbon sequestration. It’s not just a win-win between the company and the local park – it’s a win for everyone.” Princeton University ecologist David Wilcove thinks more businesses could help the environment in similar ways. He said while companies do generate environmental problems, “…an awful lot of those problems can be alleviated if the private sector and the environmental community work together. I’m confident we’ll find many more opportunities to use the leftovers from industrial food production to bring back tropical forests. That’s recycling at its best.” University of Pennsylvania , Beloit College , and University of Minnesota scientists joined the Princeton researchers to write a study published by the journal Restoration Ecology this week. Via Princeton Environmental Institute Images via Pixabay and Princeton University

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How orange peels helped barren land in Costa Rica spring back to life

NASA considers puncturing Yellowstone supervolcano to save life on Earth

August 23, 2017 by  
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A new study from NASA’s Jet Propulsion unit has determined that the threat of a supervolcanic eruption to life on Earth may be more pressing than any interstellar collisions. An eruption of a supervolcano, like that found in Yellowstone National Park in the United States, could trigger a collapse of the global agricultural and economic systems and result in the deaths of potentially millions of people. Although NASA scientists can’t predict when such an event would occur, they have already begun preparing a preventative measure: drilling into the magma chamber of a supervolcano to cool it down. Although the potential consequences of a supervolcano eruption would be devastating, earthlings should rest easy knowing that the chance of such an eruption taking place this year is roughly 1-in-730,000. Even then, there is a chance that it could be nothing more than a little lava flow. Nonetheless, NASA scientists are preparing to deal with the problem before it happens. Related: World’s most active volcano harbors a tiny off-grid home—and you can stay overnight Magma eruptions occur only when it is thoroughly melted by intense heat; cooling magma down by 35 percent would prevent a supervolcano from erupting. To do this, the scientists envision using a drill to puncture above the chamber, where hydrothermal fluids are pushed to the surface. Adding water in this highly pressurized environment would be sufficient to cool the magma. To avoid fracturing the surrounding rock and potentially setting off an eruption, NASA scientists suggest drilling into the supervolcano from below. It is estimated that such a plan would cost around $3.5 billion, although governments would be encouraged to think of this as an investment : Excess heat could be captured and transformed into clean energy . Via IFLScience Lead image via Pixabay , others via Laineema/Flickr  and Peter Hartree/Flickr

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NASA considers puncturing Yellowstone supervolcano to save life on Earth

True North Detroit is an affordable live-work community made from prefab Quonset huts

August 23, 2017 by  
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A number of grassroots initiatives and organizations are revitalizing Detroit as a testing ground for urban innovation. Edwin Chan and his Los Angeles–based design practice EC3 recognized the potential of the city’s underutilized community spaces and recently completed True North Detroit , a half-acre live-work community made from lightweight prefabricated Quonset huts. This small complex of nine vaulted buildings offers affordable housing for Detroit’s growing creative population. Located in the Core City neighborhood, about two and a half miles northwest of downtown, the community breathes new life into an area that consists mostly of vacant lots. Related: America’s first urban ‘agrihood’ feeds 2,000 households for free “The majority of Detroit’s housing stock is either out of date or completely dilapidated,” Edwin Chan said. “Rather than being determined by ‘market demands,’ True North’s design is an inclusive and aspirational vision to create a new typology of affordable housing and to promote alternative, creative lifestyles in one of the world’s most iconic cities.” Related: These tiny houses help minimum wage workers become homeowners in Detroit The architects modified the original shape of the Quonset huts to create more elongated, higher spaces ideal for a variety of activities. The center island houses the kitchens, bathrooms, and utilities. This space is built from durable polycarbonate , while the rest of the structure has a more transparent envelope that allows natural light into the interior. Affordable materials and building methods were used in the construction of the apartments, which range from 475 to 1,600 square feet. + Edwin Chan + True North Detroit Via Archpaper

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True North Detroit is an affordable live-work community made from prefab Quonset huts

People are using recycled laptop batteries to power their homes

August 23, 2017 by  
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Why spend thousands of dollars on a Tesla Powerwall when you could build your own – for a fraction of the cost? This is a question many alternative energy enthusiasts have asked, and it is ultimately what has led hundreds of people to develop their own versions using recycled laptop batteries. Now that plans for DIY Powerwalls are being shared for free online, several people have created rigs capable of storing far more energy than the Tesla version. On Facebook , YouTube and in forums , people are learning how to safely create their own DIY versions that cost much less than a Tesla Powerwall. One of the most popular powerwall builders is Jehu Garcia . He told Vice, “It’s the future. It’s clean, simple, efficient and powerful.” Joe Williams , another DIY powerwall enthusiast, added ”The end result is being able to rely on something I not only built myself but understand the ins and outs of to power some or all of my electricity in my home. That is inspiring.” There are several DIY versions capable of storing more energy than Tesla’s Powerwall. On the French forum  Diypowerwalls.com , user Glubux said his powerwall can store 28 kWh of energy. “I run all the house with it, in fact I even bought an electric oven and induction cooking plate to use the extra energy during summer,” they said. Australian YouTuber Peter Matthews claims he has created a gigantic battery that can store 40 kWh of energy. Reportedly, it harvests power from over 40 solar panels on Matthews’ roof and stores nearly enough power for his home’s electricity needs. “The only things I don’t run are the big air conditioners and the water heating system,” he said. The alternative energy aficionado created DIYpowerwalls as well as the most popular powerwall Facebook group . Related: Mercedes takes on the Tesla Powerwall with a new battery for buildings Most of the powerwall hobbyists recommend using 18650 lithium-ion batteries for their projects. The batteries are usually encased in a colorful plastic and can be found inside electronics, such as laptops. If sourced online or from a computer store, the batteries will cost more than $5 a piece. If obtained second-hand, from old Dell, HP, Lenovo and LG laptops, it’s possible to save hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars on the project. Of course, one might meet challenges collecting the batteries , as tech companies frown upon their creative repurposing. A positive effect of the DIY powerwall trend is that it reduces waste . According to Carl E. Smith, the CEO and president of  Call2Recycle , approximately 95 percent of consumer batteries which are sold in the US are not recycled and are ultimately thrown away. ”Virtually all batteries can be recycled into valuable secondary products which is the biggest reason why they should not be landfilled and should be recycled instead,” he said. Though it can be time-consuming to source the used batteries, it’s a worthwhile investment according to DIY powerwall enthusiasts. And, if one carefully follows instructions when building their own version (such as those that follow), the risk of burning down one’s house is minimized. Ultimately, there is a risk associated with creating your own energy storage device, but the trend can’t be ignored as it grows in popularity. Via Motherboard Vice Images via  Daniel Römer ,  Jehu Garcia ,  Glubux

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People are using recycled laptop batteries to power their homes

Getting community buy-in on renewables

August 15, 2017 by  
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“When the green movement started, you didn’t have to talk to communities,” said Connie Lau, CEO and president of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI). But today, they are active participants as Hawaii transitions to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. Surprisingly, some islands first rejected the idea of wind farms on their land; this means people need to buy into the transition and all the changes and considerations that come with it.

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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

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