German coal mine set to become "giant battery" for storing renewable energy

March 21, 2017 by  
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A German coal mine is about to become a massive battery for storing electricity from renewable energy sources. The Prosper-Haniel hard coal mine in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia that provided coal power to German industry since it opened in 1974 will soon be turned into a 200-megawatt pumped-storage hydroelectric reservoir. When completed, the nearly 2,000-foot-deep mine that is set to close in 2018 will essentially act as a giant battery that can store enough power for 400,000 homes. That’s a huge backup that’s much needed in one of the most progressive solar nations in the world. This “giant battery” stores energy by continually pumping water between two chambers, an upper and a lower connected via pipes with turbines. During periods of high electricity demand, power is produced by releasing the stored water from the upper chamber through the turbines and into the lower chamber. When demand decreases, pumps refill the upper chamber using the cheaper electricity available from the grid. Plants such as this tend to have a huge efficiency of about 80 percent, while also balancing the load in a larger power system. Related: Groundbreaking technology affordably captures C02 from fossil fuel plants As Bloomberg notes, creating this energy storage facility is a win, win for Germany—as it not only provides a much-needed place to store all that power it’s now producing through renewable energy initiatives , but it will also give a boost to the local economy in nearby Bottrop by providing jobs for many of the miners who would otherwise be out of work when the coal mine is shuttered next year. Via Bloomberg Images via Goseteufel , Wikimedia Commons and University of Duisburg-Essen

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German coal mine set to become "giant battery" for storing renewable energy

EPA official accused of killing investigation into Monsanto weedkiller

March 21, 2017 by  
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An EPA official who was in charge of evaluating the cancer risk of Monsanto’s popular Roundup weedkiller has been accused of conspiring with the company to “kill” the study. Jess Rowland, the former manager of the agency’s pesticide division, is rapidly becoming an important figure in the more than 20 lawsuits that have piled up accusing the company of burying evidence that its herbicide can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, has come under fire in recent years for its potential links to cancer. After the World Health Organization declared glyphosate likely to be a carcinogen , a number of people who’ve been exposed to the weedkiller have stepped up and attempted to sue the company. As public pressure has grown, activists have begun calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency to ban the herbicide altogether. The agency, however, has been slow to act despite the public pressure that’s been steadily building – and a recent court case may have revealed exactly why. Last week, Federal Judge Vince Chhabria released a number of court documents detailing Monsanto’s internal communications and the company’s correspondence with the EPA. Related: Activists call on the EPA to ban glyphosate The records reveal that not only did Rowland go out of his way to try to bury research into the cancer-causing potential of glyphosate , but that Monsanto’s own employees had ghostwritten several papers on Roundup’s safety. These are the same reports, later attributed to various academic researchers, which the EPA used to declare Roundup safe for public use. While it’s possible the EPA wasn’t aware of Monsanto’s collaboration on the original studies, it does call into question the accuracy of the agency’s assessment. Monsanto is, naturally, denying the allegations, and claiming that the company’s internal communications have been taken out of context. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how else statements like “we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and [the scientists] would just edit & sign their names so to speak” could be construed to mean anything else. The company has testified in court that this is merely a reference to minor edits made to the paper, rather than ghostwriting. If it’s true that academics publishing research on glyphosate’s safety are in bed with the company, and that EPA officials like Rowland are working off this biased data, the agency’s decision should be revisited as soon as possible. The WHO isn’t the only organization that’s found evidence of this herbicide’s risks – the International Journal of Cancer and the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine have both recently published research on the link between pesticide exposures and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well. Roundup has already been banned in several countries following the burst of recent studies, and the US would be wise to follow suit. Via Bloomberg Markets Images via   Chafer Machinery ,   Mike Mozart

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EPA official accused of killing investigation into Monsanto weedkiller

Inflatable spiky pinecone-shaped roofs top this forest resort in Latvia

March 21, 2017 by  
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Spiky ETFE roofs  top this airy forest resort and spa in the historic region of Kurzeme, Latvia. 3GATTI Architecture Studio and OFL Architecture teamed up to design the Pinecones Resort using sustainable construction techniques and prefabrication , resulting in a fairytale-like woodland setting in harmony with its natural surroundings. The resort comprises cone-shaped units with inflatable roofs made from 100 percent recyclable ETFE that has a minimal carbon footprint . Lightweight and flexible, this material offers the possibility of creating dynamic building forms. The roofs will be inflated by a recyclable SPF sprayed eco foam with superior insulation and structural qualities. The laminated lightweight frames, made from locally-sourced wood, support the roof membrane and allows it to withstand snow loads. Related: Labyrinthine resort in Bangladesh lets nature take over The resort will focus on providing Blue Clay treatments based on organic and naturally abundant material. Different programs will be distributed across the site, with wooden bridges connecting the units housing winter tubs, saunas, therapy rooms and dining areas. In addition to the aforementioned sustainable features, the resort will also include a water filtration system, geothermal loops, and solar window technologies. + 3GATTI  + OFL Architecture Via Archdaily

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Inflatable spiky pinecone-shaped roofs top this forest resort in Latvia

Swiss resident begins peddling jars of Alps mountain air starting at $97

March 5, 2017 by  
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Got an extra $97 lying around? With that money you can now purchase a jar of fresh mountain air from Switzerland . Resident John Green has started collecting air from the Alps and peddling it online, saying “the air in the mountains is like champagne [so] I decided I had better start selling it.” Born in London, Green says he’s resided in Switzerland for 20 years. He’s now decided to sell that fresh Swiss air from his website MountainAirFromSwitzerland.com , in three sizes. A pint costs $97, a quart $167, and a 3/4 gallon jar will run you $247. He includes a certificate of authenticity with each purchase, and captures the air in what he describes as a secret location. “Let’s just say it’s collected by a babbling mountain stream, fed by melt water from a famous glacier , near a very famous mountain,” says the website. Related: Australian entrepreneurs are selling canned fresh air to polluted China But anyone brave enough to shell out that money will also get GPS coordinates, according to the website, so they can pinpoint the location of their air on a map. Green suggests owners put the jar in the freezer first for the full effect should the owner decide to open the jar. On the website he says, “I seriously feel almost reborn every time I go to the Alps and breath the fresh air; there’s definitely something magic in that air. So get your little bit of magic right here, right now!” Green even says he’s donating 25 percent of profits to World Vision . He told The Local, a Swedish publication, “I know it’s a bit crazy but it’s a fun idea and it helps give some money to a charity that I think is deserving.” As for the price, he said he wants to make the business sustainable and must consider the costs of shipping the air worldwide. “And also don’t forget, it’s Swiss air! Everything in Switzerland is expensive.” When asked if anyone had been willing to purchase the air, he said, “It’s starting slowly, let’s put it like that!” + Mountain Air from Switzerland Via The Local Images via Wikimedia Commons and Mountain Air from Switzerland

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Swiss resident begins peddling jars of Alps mountain air starting at $97

3 Reasons to Avoid Mass-Manufactured Chocolate

February 24, 2017 by  
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When you find a chocolate brand you like, it’s hard to try something new, especially when it costs more than you’re used to paying. You might browse the candy aisle at your local grocery store and wonder if those fancy $8 bars are worth the price….

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3 Reasons to Avoid Mass-Manufactured Chocolate

Indonesian president gives forest management back to indigenous communities

February 23, 2017 by  
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After decades of conflict over the power to oversee Indonesia’s forests, President Joko Widodo gave management rights back to nine indigenous communities. According to the World Agroforestry Centre, millions of indigenous people cared for forests sustainably for centuries until the Dutch colonial government declared state ownership, and this moment marks an important milestone in the acknowledgement of indigenous rights . For years, indigenous communities have fought for recognition as their rights have been contested by the government – even after independence in 1945, according to the World Agroforestry Centre. There are thousands of distinct ethnic groups across the islands of Indonesia, and Widodo recently took what the center described as a highly symbolic step in formally granting forest management titles to the nine indigenous communities. In a speech on the occasion, Widodo said, “Recognition also means an appreciation of Indonesia’s original values and its identity as a nation.” Related: Indonesian president announces plan to halt palm oil industry expansion Widodo cited the Kajang people, one of the nine communities, in his speech as an example from which others could benefit. An earlier national government altered the Kajang’s forests’ management status from indigenous to “production forests with limited uses” so the government could control them and parcel some land out for rubber plantations. But the Kajang developed “a set of local regulations that affirm, recognize, and protect based on traditional management,” according to Andi Adriardi, a member of a non-governmental organization that helped the Kajang regain rights. They coordinated with the local government and organizations to reclaim the title. Adriardi said the government recognized their case as a “good lesson that approaches perfection” for a well-managed forest. Kajang leader Andi Buyung Saputra, pictured above with Widodo, said in his acceptance speech, “Our traditional wisdom has played an important role in managing and preserving our forests. This has contributed to keeping our Earth greener and reducing the negative impacts of climate change .” Via World Agroforestry Centre Images via World Agroforestry Centre and Wikimedia Commons

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Indonesian president gives forest management back to indigenous communities

Bees placed on the endangered species list for the very first time

October 4, 2016 by  
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We’ve been hearing about dangerous declines in bee populations for years – and the US has finally added bees to the endangered species list for the first time . The listing is limited to seven species of yellow-faced bee – the only native bees in the Hawaiian Islands. Because of the isolation these species experience living at sea, they’ve been especially vulnerable to environmental threats, such as human development, the loss of native plant species, wildfires, and feral pigs. The bees exist in a variety of habitats in Hawaii – their territory ranges from coastal environments to high-elevation shrub lands. The role they play in the local ecosystem is difficult to overstate: while other bees could pollinate Hawaii’s native plants, there are many that could potentially become extinct if these particular bee species disappear. This new designation is the result of nearly 10 years of research by the Xerces Society conservation group, state officials, and independent researchers. There has been no critical habitat attached to the listing, unfortunately, which limits the amount of protection the bees can receive. However, it does allow local authorities to implement recovery programs and access much-needed funding to protect the bees. And it does make it illegal to harm or kill the bees without a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service. Related: How Monsanto is Turning an Island Paradise Into a GMO Wasteland Along with the bees , three other Hawaiian animal species have been listed as endangered: the band-rumped storm-petrel, the orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly, and the anchialine pool shrimp. Also added were 39 species of native Hawaiian plants. Elsewhere in the US, the rusty-patched bumble bee is currently being considered for endangered species protections. Via The Daily Mail Images via Wikimedia Commons  

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Bees placed on the endangered species list for the very first time

Dreamy teepee-shaped huts cater to the elderly in a Japanese forest

September 19, 2016 by  
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JIKKA was commissioned by two women in their 60s, one a social worker and the other a cook. The cluster of five interconnected huts only occupy a space of 100 square meters, however, comprise a variety of facilities including housing, bathroom with a spiral bath, spacious kitchen, and restaurant that’s open daily and serves food made from locally sourced ingredients. The clients also prepare and deliver meals to the elderly in the local community. Related: Hiroshi Nakamura’s Nasu Tepee home features a cluster of timber-clad peaks mingling with the trees The teepee-shaped exteriors are clad in strips of light-colored timber and punctuated by large rounded windows and doors, but the interiors are mostly finished in cool concrete with supporting timber roof beams. Natural light is funneled into the interior through skylights and rounded openings. The kitchen and restaurant occupy the largest room at the heart of the interconnected buildings. The clients’ living quarters are located to the west, while the guest bedrooms that accommodate two are located to the east, along with a spiral-shaped pool designed for wheelchair accessibility . + Issei Suma Via Dezeen Images via Issei Suma , by Takumi Ota

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Dreamy teepee-shaped huts cater to the elderly in a Japanese forest

Friendly dolphin befriends children in the Baltic Sea

September 15, 2016 by  
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A dolphin described as ” friendly ” and ” lonely ” appears to be engaging swimmers in the Baltic Sea close to Kiel, Germany . The dolphin’s behavior has led many to think it wants to play with children swimming in the sea. While it’s not yet known exactly where the dolphin came from, researchers think it could have been washed into the inlet during 2014 winter storms. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=33&v=3UZl4l9UycE https://twitter.com/TheLocalGermany/status/775619334676815872 According to The Guardian, “hundreds of children” have now splashed around with the dolphin, who has allowed the children to hug it and even seems to pull them through the water on rides. It has also been seen nudging children, as if asking them to play, according to onlookers. Related: This friendly fish has visited a Japanese diver for 25 years Marine scientist Boris Culik told German publication Kieler Nachrichten ( translated by The Local Germany ), “It’s not normal that a dolphin trusts humans so much. But one does find dolphins who seek human company. Perhaps he is just lonely.” https://twitter.com/karlaline/status/775658005325045761 While many have swum out in the sea to touch the dolphin, the local police say too many people at once could overwhelm the dolphin. Culik said human hands carry germs the dolphin may not be able to handle. The dolphin has also been swimming through locks, and police are asking people to not swim too close to the locks. The Waterways and Shipping Office’s Mathias Visser told The Guardian the dolphin has been “merrily making its way in and out of the sluice” and “gives the impression that it’s in a good way.” The Institute for Baltic Sea Research told The Guardian the dolphin likely arrived in the inlet when storms swept water from the North Sea into the Baltic Sea. Via The Guardian Image via Reinhard Link on Flickr

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Friendly dolphin befriends children in the Baltic Sea

North Dakota state of emergency turns peaceful pipeline protest into a hostile military affair

September 14, 2016 by  
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Environmentalists and civil rights activists across the country celebrated September 9, 2016 when the Obama administration overrode a federal judge to halt the controversial $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline . The reprieve came just days after security workers used trained dogs to attack peaceful protesters , leaving several wounded and bloody. A key aspect of the story has escaped much of the media coverage, though: Governor Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency nearly two weeks earlier and activated 100 National Guard troops on September 8, one day prior to the decision, effectively turning a peaceful protest into a hostile, military affair. The shutdown is being celebrated as a victory in the saga of the North Dakota pipeline protest , which has pitted native Americans against corporate interests for weeks. The pipeline was planned to carry oil from just north of land owned by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota to Illinois, where it would hook up to an existing pipeline and route crude directly to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast. The protest brought members of 200 or so tribes together in an unprecedented show of solidarity, and the movement was peaceful until the security firm working on behalf of the oil company began attacking protesters with trained dogs on September 3. Related: US government temporarily blocked North Dakota Access Pipeline By then, law enforcement were already working under an emergency declaration. Dalrymple issued the declaration on August 19, citing public safety as the motivation to tap into as much as $1 million in additional funding for local law enforcement agencies over the course of several weeks. The protest site did see an increase in uniformed officers, but police were nowhere to be found when the oil company’s private security firm used trained dogs to viciously attack protesters on September 3. In fact, the local police refused to acknowledge that security dogs had injured anyone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuZcx2zEo4k The concern now has shifted, as the fight’s primary objective is no longer to defend the environment but rather to protect civil rights on the most basic level, including the freedom to peaceably assemble and protest. The freedom of the press has also been drawn into question, as North Dakota authorities issued an arrest warrant for Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman , the independent reporter who interviewed protesters on the front lines more than a week ago and captured dog attacks on video. She now faces charges for criminal trespassing, a Class B misdemeanor, as authorities say she crossed onto private property while covering the event. One protester has also been charged, in a double-whammy attack against the free press and freedom of speech from individual citizens. Learn more about the Dakota Access Pipeline in our guide here . Via ACLU and Reuters Images via Fibonacci Blue/Flickr and  Carl Wycoff/Flickr

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