A business prescription for reducing toxic chemical use

October 18, 2017 by  
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Here’s how companies big and small in Massachusetts are demonstrating the financial case for greener chemicals.

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A business prescription for reducing toxic chemical use

Scientists warn CO2 from warming soils could lead to uncontrollable temperature rise

October 6, 2017 by  
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There’s a lot scientists don’t know about how global warming could impact Earth’s natural systems. Now, a 26-year-study of soil in Massachusetts’ Harvard Forest provides new insight. Researchers discovered warming soils are releasing more carbon than once thought, with the potential to lead to a tipping point , kicking off an uncontrollable increase in temperature . The scientists started the Harvard Forest experiments back in 1991. They scrutinized plots of soil, heating some to five degrees Celsius higher than normal levels with underground cables. Microbes played a role in the greater production of carbon. In the first 10 years, the scientists saw a spike in the carbon the heated plots released, and then there was a seven-year period when the release lessened – scientists think soil microbes were adjusting to the warmer conditions. But then the release of carbon increased again. The past three years has seen carbon release slow again, with researchers thinking microbes might be reorganizing. Related: Tipping points accelerated climate change in the last Ice Age, new research shows The heated plots lost around 17 percent of the carbon stored in the soil’s top 60 centimeters. Study lead author Jerry Melillo, of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, said in a statement , “Each year, mostly from fossil fuel burning, we are releasing about 10 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere …The world’s soils contain about 3,500 billion tons of carbon. If a significant amount of that is added to the atmosphere, due to microbial activity in warmer soils, that will accelerate the global warming process. And once this self-reinforcing feedback begins, there is no easy way to turn it off.” Daniel Meltcalfe of Lund University, who was not a part of the study, told The Guardian if the findings hold across other terrestrial ecosystems, a larger amount of soil carbon might be vulnerable to decomposition than we thought. The journal Science published the study today. Scientists from institutions in Massachusetts and New Hampshire contributed to the research. Via The Guardian Images via Daniel Spiess on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Scientists warn CO2 from warming soils could lead to uncontrollable temperature rise

Researchers engineer new antibody able to fight 99% of HIV strains

September 26, 2017 by  
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Researchers have made what the International Aids Society called an “exciting breakthrough” in the fight against HIV/AIDS . Pharmaceutical company Sanofi and the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) together engineered an antibody that can tackle 99 percent of HIV strains. The antibody has prevented infection in primates . The new antibody can interact with three crucial parts of the HIV virus. And it targets more strains than naturally occurring antibodies, the best of which attack 90 percent of strains. Researchers ran experiments on 24 monkeys. They gave one antibody to eight monkeys, a different one to another eight, and the final eight they gave the new antibody. Five days later they exposed the monkeys to strains of SHIV, a monkey form of HIV. None of those given the new antibody developed an infection. Related: 44-year-old British man could be the first to receive HIV cure The antibody is called a tri-specific antibody because it’s a combination of three broadly neutralizing antibodies. NIH described it as a three-in-one antibody. Broadly neutralizing antibodies tackle “something fundamental to HIV” according to the BBC. Sanofi Chief Scientific Officer Gary Nabel said tri-specific antibodies “can block multiple targets with a single agent.” He told the BBC, “They are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that’s been discovered.” International Aids Society president Linda-Gail Bekker told the BBC, “These super-engineered antibodies seem to go beyond the natural and could have more applications than we have imagined to date. It’s early days yet, and as a scientist I look forward to seeing the first trials get off the ground in 2018. As a doctor in Africa , I feel the urgency to confirm these findings in humans as soon as possible.” The journal Science published the study last week. Scientists from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and The Scripps Research Institute also collaborated on the research. Human trials are slated to begin next year. Via the BBC and the National Institutes of Health Images via NIAID on Flickr and Sanofi

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Researchers engineer new antibody able to fight 99% of HIV strains

Nearly 10,000 plants grow on NYCs largest public indoor green wall

September 26, 2017 by  
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A tropical oasis has blossomed inside Manhattan’s concrete jungle. Greenery NYC recently unveiled the city’s largest public living green wall in Korean beauty brand Innisfree’s flagship store in Union Square earlier this month. Lush, textured, and evergreen, the beautiful 1,820-square-foot wall grows nearly 10,000 plants with eleven different tropical varieties that can be enjoyed year-round. Korean beauty brand Innisfree prides itself on its use of natural materials and is no stranger to the use of green walls in their shops. The living wall at this new Union Square location, however, is at a much larger scale than the company typically handles. Measuring 76 feet in length and 24 feet in height, this lush living wall of plants fills up an entire wall and is equipped with a custom-designed irrigation system that minimizes water use and maintenance. Related: The world’s tallest vertical garden lives and breathes in Sydney “Construction is already a difficult process with many moving parts, but when you factor in almost 10,000 living organisms that each need individual care to stay alive during the build out, it almost feels like you’re trying to juggle while walking a tight rope,” said Adam Besheer, Director of Operations at Greenery NYC. “Seeing the finished product is an incredible reward though—we’re excited to work with a company that shares our values, and for the chance to once again introduce the enormous beauty of natural plant life in the city.” Greenery NYC, which creates plant-filled multi-sensory sanctuaries in the city, has also created similar lush green walls and projects for high-profile clients such as Etsy , The Brooklyn Nets, and TED Talks. + Greenery NYC

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Nearly 10,000 plants grow on NYCs largest public indoor green wall

Lyme disease shot could offer 100% protection

July 24, 2017 by  
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Lyme disease is a growing issue in the United States. Since the 1990’s, the number of cases has more than doubled . Scientists at a laboratory associated with the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical School are working on an answer, and have made progress on a shot that could protect people against contracting the disease . Lyme disease, which is contracted after infected ticks transmit a bacterium to humans, is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is “ the most commonly reported vectorborne illness in the United States .” 14 states, most on the East Coast of the country, have reported 95 percent of confirmed cases. Every year 30,000 cases are reported to the CDC, and that number is only increasing. Related: GUIDE: Effective Non-Toxic Bug Repellents for You and Your Family The shot – which Western Mass News makes clear is not a vaccine – could be groundbreaking. Professor Mark Klempner said the scientists have isolated one antibody that could prevent Lyme disease from being transmitted to humans. The antibody could kill the bacteria in the tick’s gut when it bites so a person won’t get the disease. One injection could last from the spring through the fall. So far, the team has tested the antibody in mice . Klempner told Western Mass News, “We take ticks that carry the bacteria – many of them – six or seven, put them on a small rodent, and then give that mouse a little bit of that antibody. It’s been 100 percent effective in preventing many ticks from transmitting.” The method has been entirely effective in preventing mice from contracting the disease. Klempner said the discovery of the antibody came during research in which he was involved for a vaccine, now discontinued. With the new research, the team thus far has not seen any unfavorable side effects, but needs to do more testing. Undergoing Food and Drug Administration trials could take around two to three years. Via Western Mass News Images via Pixabay and U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr

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Lyme disease shot could offer 100% protection

Cypress home embedded in the landscape lets rainwater flow underneath

May 17, 2017 by  
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O’Neill Rose Architects designed a home for a nature loving couple that maximizes the experience of the outdoors. Located in the countryside of Sheffield, Massachusetts, the Undermountain home covers a spacious 3,000 square feet across a linear footprint. The elevated home also allows rainwater to flow underneath through a boulder-strewn rain garden and out to the meadow beyond. Built for a couple who wanted a home where they could age in place, Undermountain was conceived as a single-story building so that the occupants could live comfortably without fear of future mobility issues. To mitigate slope changes on site, the long and rectangular building is anchored into a hill on one side, while stone blocks support the other end above marshy wetland . A boulder-strewn rain garden occupies the gap between the stone blocks. Related: Beautiful Maine home uses passive solar principles to achieve near net-zero energy Inspired by the rural vernacular, Undermountain is clad in vertical strips of ebony-stained cypress and punctuated with large windows that frame key vistas. Rural inspiration and cypress can also be found in the interior, which is contemporary with clean lines and light-filled spaces. The addition of a screened porch allows enjoyment of the outdoors year-round. + O’Neill Rose Architects Via ArchDaily Images © Michael Moran

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California defies Trump with tough emissions rules

March 29, 2017 by  
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California is shaping up to be the thorn in President Donald Trump’s side that Texas was during former President Barack Obama’s time in the White House — mounting legal challenges to Trump’s attacks on environmental regulations and strengthening the state’s own environmental rules. The latest volley came Friday when the California Air Resources Board finalized its rules for vehicle emissions through the year 2025. The standards for the years 2022-2025 would slash tailpipe emissions a third, from about 36 miles per gallon today to 54 mpg in 2025. The fight with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt over fuel efficiency standards isn’t just about California. Currently, Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia have all adopted California’s greenhouse gas regulations. Related: California introduces its own 100% renewable energy bill The board also reaffirmed a rule requiring automakers to accelerate the adoption of zero emission and low emission vehicles in California — fully electric, fuel cell and plug-in hybrid. The rule calls for more than a million zero emissions vehicles on the road by 2025, a significant increase from the about 250,000 clean cars traversing the state today. A Bloomberg editorial backing California over Trump on car emissions, while acknowledging a better way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to impose a carbon tax or at least a higher gas tax, says that tougher fuel-economy standards are the way to go: “Unless he’s willing to fight for a smarter policy, Trump should do the country a favor and leave the existing rules alone.” Via Autoblog Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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California defies Trump with tough emissions rules

Boston public schools phase in new map to decolonize curriculum

March 21, 2017 by  
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The global map on which all your geographical knowledge is based probably wasn’t as accurate as you thought. For nearly 500 years, classrooms have referred to the Mercator projection, which exaggerated the size of continents in the northern hemisphere. But now Boston public schools are switching over to the Gall-Peters projection, which attempts to correct the sizes of countries and could have a dramatic impact on students’ worldview. The Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator devised the Mercator projection all the way back in 1569. Now hundreds of years later, Boston schools are implementing a replacement, and director of the Boston public schools history department Natacha Scott says they believe they are the first public school district in America to make the switch. Related: New map reveals the world’s most toxic countries The Mercator projection has informed our collective worldview for centuries, but Mercator made it seem as if North America and Europe were larger than South America and Africa , for example. He also moved the equator, which places Germany near the map’s middle instead of much further north. Arno Peters, a German historian, released his projection in 1974 – as it corresponds with work by James Gall, a 19th century Scottish cartographer; today it’s called the Peters or Gall-Peters projection. Now in Boston classrooms, teachers have put the Gall-Peters projection up next to the Mercator projection. Colin Rose, Assistant Superintendent of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps for the Boston Public Schools, told The Guardian, “This is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools…It’s important that students trust the material they are given in school but also question it. The Mercator projection is a symbolic representation that put Europe at the center of the world. And when you continue to show images of the places where people’s heritage is rooted that is not accurate, that has an effect on students.” But some people say the Gall-Peters projection is also distorted – stemming mainly from the fact that it’s difficult to place a three dimensional sphere shape on a two dimensional piece of paper. Sizes are correct in the Gall-Peters projection, but shapes are wrong: near the poles countries are stretched horizontally and near the equator they’re stretched vertically, according to Business Insider, which pointed to four alternatives , including the Winkel tripel projection which National Geographic adopted in 1998. Via The Guardian and Business Insider Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Boston public schools phase in new map to decolonize curriculum

Massachusetts lawmakers sponsor 100% renewable energy bill

February 15, 2017 by  
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Massachusetts could become the first state in America to be powered entirely by renewable energy . Lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would require an economy-wide transition to obtaining power via clean sources like wind and solar, and 53 state legislators from both the House and the Senate have shown support for the measure. The bill, SD. 1932 , also known as the 100 Percent Renewable Energy Act, would set targets of electricity generation via 100 percent renewables by 2035; other sectors like transportation and heating would have until 2050 to make the switch. Over a quarter of legislature members in Massachusetts have now cosponsored the bill, which has been promoted by environmental advocacy group Environment Massachusetts . The organization’s state director Ben Hellerstein said in a statement, “Now is the time for Massachusetts to go big on clean energy . Getting to 100 percent renewable energy is 100 percent possible – and it’s 100 percent necessary.” Related: San Diego to become largest U.S. city to run on 100% renewable energy State Senator Jamie Eldridge, one of three legislators who first filed the bill, pointed out that even if the Trump administration refuses to act on climate change , states can wage their own war. He said in a statement, “Massachusetts has been a leader on alternative energy policy for over a decade, and now with federal assaults on efforts to combat climate change, it will be up to individual states to protect the environmental and health interests of the public.” The bill would launch a Clean Energy Workforce Development Fund to provide employment in renewable technologies; part of the fund would go towards shifting fossil fuel workers into clean fuel jobs . SD. 1932 would also complement Massachusetts’ 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, which calls for the state to lower carbon emissions by 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050. The bill’s not law yet, but with so much support from Massachusetts lawmakers, a 100 percent clean energy commitment appears promising. Via Environment Massachusetts Images via Doc Searles on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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California voters pass Proposition 64 to legalize recreational marijuana

November 9, 2016 by  
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Yesterday, California voters passed Proposition 64, legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state. While law enforcement expressed displeasure, other people think the legalization could help shake up California’s criminal justice system in a positive way. California’s legalization move could also pave the way for other states to legalize the drug. Instead of treating marijuana possession and recreational use as a crime, California law will now regulate and tax marijuana as it does alcohol. Under Proposition 64, Californians can buy, possess, transport, and use as much as one ounce of cannabis . They can also cultivate as much as six cannabis plants. The measure applies to adults 21 and older. There will be a 15 percent tax on marijuana sales in retail stores, and California fiscal analysts think the criminal justice system in the state might save $100 million every year under the measure. Related: Legal Marijuana More Popular and Profitable than Smartphones in the U.S. California Police Chiefs Association President Ken Corney said his organization was disappointed the proposition passed and would look for “legislative solutions” to what they see as flaws in the measure like “lack of prosecutorial tools for driving under the influence of marijuana.” California legalized medical marijuana about 20 years ago, and the legalization of recreational marijuana could significantly change how many people are imprisoned in California. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons , 46.4 percent of federal inmates in the United States are in prison for drug offenses. Drug Policy Alliance State Director Lynne Lyman said in the past the prohibition of marijuana “disproportionally impacted communities of color.” California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom told the Los Angeles Times, “I think it’s the beginning of the end of the war on marijuana…I think it will have repercussions internationally, particularly in Mexico and Latin America. And there are a million people who tomorrow can begin the process of clearing their records.” Nevada and Massachusetts voters also legalized marijuana, and it appears Maine voters will too. Arizona voters rejected a measure to legalize marijuana. Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana voters passed medical marijuana measures. Via the Los Angeles Times Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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California voters pass Proposition 64 to legalize recreational marijuana

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