Ancient microbes survive inside massive cave crystals for 50,000 years

February 20, 2017 by  
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Scientists have found strange, ancient microbes in Mexico’s Naica crystal caves that could be around 50,000 years old. Although the caves are so hot they’ve been described as hell – while also being so magical they’ve been described as Fairyland – the microbes have survived for thousands of years trapped in crystals . A biologist who studied the microbes referred to them as super life. Scientists discovered 40 different microbe strains and some viruses in the caves. The microbes are so bizarre that even their closest relatives are genetically 10 percent different, which is about as far away as mushrooms and humans, according to NASA Astrobiology Institute director Penelope Boston, who recently presented the research. The dormant microbes survived on minerals like manganese and iron. Related: Researchers discover that architecture has an impact on which microbes thrive around you The Naica caves are a great example of an extreme environment. Found by miners only around 100 years ago, the caves were isolated from the rest of the world for centuries until a mining company commenced drilling. According to Phys.org, some of the caves are as colossal as cathedrals , and are covered in crystals. But the magnificent caves are so sweltering the researchers could work for just about 20 minutes before retreating to a cool room around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. They wore inexpensive space suits and kept ice packs on their bodies. The find doesn’t claim the prize for oldest extreme life – years ago scientists wrote about living microbes trapped in salt and ice that may be around half a million years old. But Boston told the BBC the microbes her team found are extraordinary because “they are not very closely related to anything in the known genetic databases” and scientists can add the recently found microbes “to this atlas of possibilities that we can apply to different planetary settings.” The findings draw on nine years of research, but have not yet been published in a journal. Boston aims to run more genetic tests on the microbes, but did present the find at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston, Massachusetts late last week. Via the BBC and Phys.org Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Ancient microbes survive inside massive cave crystals for 50,000 years

Mexico City is sinking – and it’s going to cause some real problems

February 20, 2017 by  
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Mexico City , a scant mile and a half above sea level, is sinking. It’s a turn of events that shouldn’t surprise anyone with a rudimentary grasp of history. Established by the Aztecs in 1325, the city formerly known as Tenochtitlán occupies what was once a plexus of interconnected lakes that were first drained by the Spaniards, then paved over with concrete and steel by modern engineers. As a result, Mexico City has to dig deep—literally—to obtain fresh water for its 21 million residents. But the drilling weakens the brittle clay beds that serve as the city’s foundation, according to the New York Times , hastening the collapse even further. For Mexico City, climate change isn’t a game of partisan ping-pong. Per the Times : More heat and drought mean more evaporation and yet more demand for water, adding pressure to tap distant reservoirs at staggering costs or further drain underground aquifers and hasten the city’s collapse. In the immense neighborhood of Iztapalapa — where nearly two million people live, many of them unable to count on water from their taps — a teenager was swallowed up where a crack in the brittle ground split open a street. Sidewalks resemble broken china, and 15 elementary schools have crumbled or caved in. Related: Xomali House in Mexico City makes clever use of a tiny 115 square foot lot Rising temperatures and the increased incidence of droughts and floods could send millions of Mexicans fleeing north and “heightening already extreme political tensions over immigration.” At the same time, Mexico City is facing a water crisis that prevents nearly 20 percent of its residents from getting water from their faucets each day. People have had to resort to hiring trucks to deliver drinking water, sometimes at prices 10 times higher than what richer neighborhoods with more reliable plumbing have to pay. “Climate change is expected to have two effects,” Ramón Aguirre Díaz, director of the Water System of Mexico City, told the Times . “We expect heavier, more intense rains, which means more floods, but also more and longer droughts.” If rain stops filling the reservoirs, “there is no way we can provide enough trucks of water to deal with that scenario,” he added. Mexico City could still rally some long-term solutions, but like most places, the city is roiled by political infighting. “There has to be a consensus—of scientists, politicians, engineers and society—when it comes to pollution, water, climate,” said Claudia Sheinbaum, a former environment minister. “We have the resources, but lack the political will.” Via New York Times

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Mexico City is sinking – and it’s going to cause some real problems

Norway wants to give Finland a mountaintop for its birthday

January 26, 2017 by  
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What do you give the country that has everything? The peak of a 4,500-foot mountain, naturally. As U.S. President Donald Trump continues to spew protectionist invective about walls both literal and figurative, the good people of Norway want to ring in Finland’s 100th anniversary of independence from Russia by giving it the top of Mount Halti, a feat of topography that would require the country to nudge its border 130 feet up the mountainside. Bjørn Geirr Harsson, a retired Norwegian geophysicist, arrived at the idea during gravity survey back in 1972. “I saw that the highest point in Finland was on a hillside and for Norway on a mountain, so I wrote a letter to the foreign ministry and proposed that a gift from the Norwegian people to Finland should be a mountaintop,” he said in Battle for Birthday Mountain , a new film about the proposed gift, and the legal and political debates it has generated in its wake. “All over the world you find countries that fight or make war to enlarge their countries, but in this case Norway is willing to give away a small part without anyone asking for anything return,” Geirr Harsson said. “It is a gift from the heart of the Norwegians to Finland so we don’t expect anything back; we just want to give them something really nice when they celebrate 100 years as a free nation.” Despite the idea’s widespread popularity—a Facebook group about the unusual present has rallied more than 17,000 likes—proponents of the idea face an uphill climb, so to speak. Norway’s constitution, as Prime Minister Erna Solberg notes in the film, stipulates that the country should remain “indivisible and inalienable,” meaning it can’t go around parceling out parts of its territory. “This creative proposal has received a very positive response from the public,” she said in October. “I welcome this and I see a clear sign that Norway and Finland have a close relationship,” adding that “the alteration of borders between countries causes too many judicial problems that could affect, for example, the Constitution.” Related: Norwegian Mountaineering Centre mimics a dramatic snow-covered mountain “We will think of another worthy gift to celebrate the occasion of [the] Finland centenary,” Solberg added. Despite the rejection, Geirr Harsson is not giving up, and neither are his supporters. “While we witness the rising tumult along international borders – from Ukraine and Russia, to the South China Sea, to Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico – the idea behind Birthday Mountain is a rare international gesture worth admiring,” David Freid, the film’s director, told The Local . “On the surface, this is a cute film about a very unique kind of gift between nations. But at its heart is something real and relevant.” Via the Independent

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Norway wants to give Finland a mountaintop for its birthday

Naturally-ventilated PM House remains cool even during Yucatan’s hottest months

January 18, 2017 by  
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The lush garden surrounding this sprawling residence in Yucatan, Mexico helps the house remain cool and ventilated in even the hottest, most humid weather. The single-story PM House designed by FGO Arquitectura provides easy access to all areas, which are connected by a network of ramps , steps and movable partitions. Each space within the house has its own identity and unique views of the garden without sacrificing privacy. The design, inspired by the region’s dense forests, is broken up into smaller volumes organized along three axes connecting the living quarters, located near the swimming pool , with guest rooms and private bedrooms. Strategic positioning of open spaces ensures natural ventilation, another strategy working to keep the house cool despite outdoor temperatures, without undue electricity use. Overall, the architects’ use of low-maintenance materials and vegetation has resulted in a comforting, tranquil environment that we’re quite envious of. + FGO Arquitectura Via Archdaily Photos by Gloria Medina

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Naturally-ventilated PM House remains cool even during Yucatan’s hottest months

Breath-taking courtyard hidden inside recently renovated colonial home in Merida

January 12, 2017 by  
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Secluded behind a quiet turquoise wall in the historic center of Merida is the recently renovated Casa Remate. Local design firm AS Arquitectura began work on the home years ago, slowly transforming the once-decaying building into a sophisticated minimalist design centered around a breath-taking courtyard. Considering that the building is located in a historic part of Merida, the architects had to work with the existing structure. Working within those building restrictions , the design called for focusing on creating a soothing interior space that leads to the heart of the home: the central courtyard. Related: Subtle hacienda renovation in Mexico marries contemporary and vernacular design Like many traditional colonial constructions in Mexico, the living quarters revolve around a central patio, which, in return, brings in optimal natural light and ventilation to the home. Taking into account the historic character of the project, the design team chose to convert this central space into a welcoming, open-air living area, respectfully reconfigured to “maintain the sense of serenity, silence, intimacy and surprise that has characterized the colonial homes of our city.” The renovation process also called for adding a new wing to the design, which now houses the kitchen, bathroom and extra bedroom. The master bedroom and a studio are on the top floor, reached by the large exterior staircase. On the very top of the building is also a large rooftop terrace , which serves as a private refuge with incredible views of the historic center. For building materials , the architects once again went with tradition, choosing a polished white cement for the exterior stairs and terraces, which contrasts nicely with the textured exterior walls. This polished cement was also used in the kitchen, bathroom and even some furniture to bring a cohesive feel to interior and exterior space. + AS Arquitectura Via Platforma Arquitectura Photographs by Rolando Córdoba

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Breath-taking courtyard hidden inside recently renovated colonial home in Merida

Trump breaks campaign pledge by asking Congress for money to build Mexico border wall

January 9, 2017 by  
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In a direct contradiction to his campaign promise, President-Elect Donald Trump recently said that he will ask congress for funds to build a wall across the U.S. – Mexico border. The move breaks with Trump’s repeated campaign promise that he would make Mexico pay for the wall by October 2017. Meanwhile, Mexico’s leaders have maintained they will, under no circumstances, pay for the wall. CNN reports that Trump’s transition team signaled on Friday to congressional Republican leaders that he would prefer to pay for the border wall through the appropriations process. Under attack for the reneging, Trump took to Twitter on Friday morning and said he wants to use congressional appropriations to speed the building process along. “The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!” Trump tweeted Friday, according to CNN . Chris Collins, a New York Republican and congressional liaison for Trump’s transition team says Trump has all the cards he needs in his hand to win negotiations with Mexico and get the fronted Congress money back. “When you understand that Mexico’s economy is dependent upon US consumers, Donald Trump has all the cards he needs to play,” Collins told CNN.”On the trade negotiation side, I don’t think it’s that difficult for Donald Trump to convince Mexico that it’s in their best interest to reimburse us for building the wall.” Related: Mexican designers envision Trump’s border wall in “all its gorgeous perversity.” Trump’s team says it has the authority it needs to build the wall via a G.W. Bush-era 2016 law, but they currently don’t have the money to build it. So they want the money to fund the project tacked on to the bill that allows them to build it. Via CNN Images via Wikipedia and Gage Skidmore

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Trump breaks campaign pledge by asking Congress for money to build Mexico border wall

IUCN warns giraffes are in the process of a ‘silent extinction’

December 8, 2016 by  
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Giraffe populations have plummeted so drastically in the past 30 years, they are now considered vulnerable to extinction. In 1985, 151,702 to 163,452 of the magnificent creatures graced the earth, but in 2015 those numbers dropped to just 97,562, a 36 to 40 percent decline , according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The group has called on governments assembling in Cancun, Mexico at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference to take action now before we lose giraffes forever. IUCN updated the status of giraffes on their red list , an authoritative catalog of animals from Least Concern to Vulnerable. Illegal hunting, civil wars, and habitat loss due to deforestation and farming have all played a part in their altered status. Related: Scientists just discovered there are four separate species of giraffes If you were unaware giraffe populations were plunging, you’re not alone – IUCN’s Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group Co-Chair Julian Fennessy told The Guardian giraffes are in the process of a “silent extinction,” and many conservationists didn’t even know about giraffes’ plight. ICUN Director-General Inger Andersen said there are over 85,000 species on the red list, with over 24,000 at risk of extinction, but some species are not on the list because they haven’t yet been studied. Andersen fears before they can even be described, they too will be facing extinction. She said, “This red list update shows that the scale of the global extinction crisis may be even greater than we thought. Governments gathered at the UN biodiversity summit have the immense responsibility to step up their efforts to protect our planet’s biodiversity – not just for its own sake but for human imperatives such as food security and sustainable development.” + International Union for the Conservation of Nature Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Daniel Ramirez on Flickr

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IUCN warns giraffes are in the process of a ‘silent extinction’

Trump admits humans have "some connectivity" to climate change

November 23, 2016 by  
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On Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump seemed to soften his stance on climate change . As we’ve reported before, he’s called it a hoax invented by the Chinese , and pledged to renege on the US’s commitments under the Paris climate agreement . Yet when asked by a New York Times reporter about his stance this week, he hedged on whether human activity could be connected to climate change, saying, “I think right now … well, I think there is some connectivity. There is some, something. It depends on how much.” Trump went on to say that he would be keeping an “open mind” about the Paris accord , seeming to completely contradict his campaign promises to withdraw from the treaty. He emphasized his belief that the agreement would render US companies noncompetitive and referenced the 2009 “Climategate” email scandal in an attempt to discredit the science behind global warming. (While some of the emails involved certainly didn’t show individual scientists in the best light, it’s worth noting that fact-checking organizations have found the claim that these emails prove manmade global warming to be a hoax are unfounded .) This isn’t the first campaign statement he’s attempted to walk back since the election. During the Times interview, he also seemed to lose his enthusiasm for prosecuting Hillary Clinton for her private email server. He even dialed back his support of torture tactics like waterboarding in the fight against ISIS, along with his proposal to completely scrap the Affordable Care Act. And while Trump himself hasn’t abandoned the idea of building a massive border wall with Mexico, Congressional Republicans are beginning to question whether it would really be a practical national security measure. Related: China to Trump: Climate change is not a hoax While the fact that he seems to be moderating his more extreme promises could be seen by some as a promising sign, the fact that his policies are shifting so quickly isn’t likely to make progressives feel relaxed or secure any time soon. After all, this is a politician who has been recorded blatantly lying throughout his campaign . Who’s to say any of these supposed changes of heart are actually true? Via the Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Trump admits humans have "some connectivity" to climate change

8 ways to help the water protectors at the Standing Rock Reservation

November 23, 2016 by  
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As the world watches the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and the horrific police attacks that have injured hundreds of people , you may be wondering what you can do to help. Despite President Obama calling for a halt to construction to the DAPL pipeline in September to explore a new route, the company behind the 1,172-mile-long underground pipeline is forging ahead with construction anyway – in defiance of the president’s orders . Meanwhile hundreds of activists fighting for clean water have faced violent resistance and brutal attacks by local police , including police attacks this past weekend with rubber bullets, freezing water and tear gas that left 26 people hospitalized and hundreds injured . If you want to support the water protectors but are feeling helpless, know that you CAN make a difference from your home through phone calls, donations, and social media . You can even close accounts at banks financing the pipeline or go to North Dakota to stand with the protesters . Here are eight ways to help the Standing Rock activists. Support the protesters financially on GoFundMe and FundRazr So far people have donated over $1.5 million on Sacred Stone Camp’s GoFundMe campaign , but with winter coming they still need donations. Campaign organizer Howaste Wakiya says money will go towards necessities like food and blankets, means of power generation like solar panels , and winter gear like wood stoves and teepee liners. As protesters are arrested, the activists also need help with legal defense; you can contribute at FundRazr . If you’d like to donate a physical item Sacred Stone Camp has a list of supplies they need on their website and an Amazon wishlist . Related: Dakota Access Pipeline protesters raise over $1 million on GoFundMe Sign 21 different petitions at Change.org You can make your voice heard on the issue through numerous petitions online. Change.org has a ” Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline ” movement page with 21 different petitions. There you can sign the Rezpect Our Water petition started by Standing Rock youth or petitions targeted towards the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and President Obama . Call President Obama, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple Let the president know how you feel about the Dakota Access Pipeline. You can call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or at (202) 456-1414. You can send an email here or send a letter to The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20500. You can call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at (202) 761-0011, fill out a contact form on their website, or write to Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 441 G Street NW, Washington, DC, 20314. You can also reach out to North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at (701) 328-2200 or via his website’s contact form . You can write to him at Office of Governor, State of North Dakota, 600 East Boulevard Avenue, Bismarck, ND, 58505. Call or email Energy Transfer Partners executives Tell Energy Transfer Partners executives to stop building the pipeline . TheFreeThoughtProject.com provided contact information for three Energy Transfer executives . You can call Executive Vice President Lee Hanse at (210) 403-6455 or email him at Lee.Hanse@energytransfer.com. You can call Vice President Glenn Emery at (210) 403-6762 or email him at Glenn.Emery@energytransfer.com. Both men can be written to at 800 E Sontera Boulevard #400, San Antonio, Texas 78258. You can also call Lead Analyst Michael (Cliff) Waters at (713) 989-2404 or email him at Michael.Waters@energytransfer.com. You can write to him at 1300 Main Street, Houston, Texas, 77002. Join a local peaceful protest You can search Facebook events under #NoDAPL to find an event near you, or organize your own peaceful protest at ActionNetwork.org . Peacefully protest or close accounts at banks financing the pipeline Multiple large banks are financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, including Citibank, Wells Fargo, and the Bank of America. According to Food & Water Watch Senior Researcher Hugh MacMillan who spoke to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! , there are numerous banks from around the world involved. Find out if your bank is funding the pipeline in Democracy Now!’s interview or in this article by Yes! Magazine . If you bank with an institution financing the pipeline, you could consider closing your account, peacefully protesting at bank locations, or contacting bank executives. Create a #NoDAPL Solidarity video to share on social media If you can’t travel to North Dakota yourself, you can show solidarity on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. On the Sacred Stone Camp’s Solidarity with Standing Rock Tumblr page, you can upload a video or picture with the hashtag #NoDAPL showing your support. A Tumblr account is not necessary to post to the page. Raise money creatively, such as through a bake sale What if you want to donate but don’t have much extra money to spare? The author’s friend held a bake sale and garage sale at her home in California and raised nearly $400 for Sacred Stone Camp’s GoFundMe. You just might have a few items lying around you don’t need anymore and could sell or donate; or if you’re crafty or love to bake you might be able to make items to sell to raise money. Share your ideas and the ways you’ve either raised money or supported the movement on social media with Inhabitat on Facebook , Twitter , and in the comments section of this post. + Standing Rock Sioux Tribe + Sacred Stone Camp Images via Fibonacci Blue on Flickr ( 1 , 2 , 3 ), Sacred Stone Camp GoFundMe , screenshot , Lars Plougmann on Flickr , Carl Wycoff on Flickr , Sacred Stone Camp Facebook , and Wikimedia Commons

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8 ways to help the water protectors at the Standing Rock Reservation

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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