Gulf of Mexicos dead zone in 2017 could be the largest on record

June 27, 2017 by  
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When humans abuse the environment and dump nitrate-and phosphorous-heavy pollutants into rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea, oxygen-deprived “dead zones” form. This is exactly what has occurred in the Gulf of Mexico and is leading to the formation of the world’s largest algae bloom on record. Roughly the size of Connecticut, the substantial “dead zone” should be a wake-up call for consumers to change their habits — hopefully before it is too late. Algae blooms , such as the one disrupting the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico , upset the balance of the food chains in the region. With too many algae in the same area, an abnormal amount dies then sink to the seafloor, where the bacteria that break them down use substantial amounts of oxygen. This results in a huge drawdown of oceanic oxygen and ultimately results in a mass die-off of larger marine life. The occurrence is known as “hypoxia,” and it’s the reason the Gulf of Mexico is in the state it is. According to new research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the algae bloom in the Gulf of Mexico is becoming progressively worse. In fact, it is now roughly the size of the state of Connecticut. Based on the agrochemical and wastewater runoff expected in the coming months, NOAA now predicts the dead zone will expand to encompass an area the size of New Jersey. To clarify, that is a 47 percent increase in just one year — and that’s a conservative estimate. Related: Mexico-sized algae bloom in the Arabian Sea connected to climate change According to The Washington Post , other researchers in Louisiana predict that the dead zone will actually increase to the size of Hawaii. If that happens, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico will become the largest ever recorded. As IFLScience reports, these are only predictions at this present time. However, there is cause for concern, as scientists who set off on patrol boats to measure the size of the dead zone have been scarily accurate with their estimates. Whether the numbers are perfectly accurate or not, the persistent issue of pollution cannot be ignored. If humans fail to remedy their habits, continuing to live with little regard for the environment, environmental phenomenon worse than the present algae bloom in the Gulf of Mexico will result. Via IFLScience Images via SEOS Project , Wikimedia

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Gulf of Mexicos dead zone in 2017 could be the largest on record

Giant animal faces take over Mexico Citys forest for environmental awareness

May 26, 2017 by  
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Thousands of visitors to a Mexico City park were treated to an eerie sight in the treetops last weekend. Giant ghostly animals heads peered down from the canopy, fixing their intense gaze on the public in an environmental video installation for Marvin Festival 2017 . Designed by studio Maizz Visual , the ephemeral intervention, called Animal Watching, was created to raise awareness about the destruction of ecosystems and animal species. According to the WWF , almost half of the world’s wild animals have disappeared due to habitat destruction since 1975. In a bid to raise awareness about animal habitat loss , Maizz Visual transformed the forest into a canvas for art. The team, which has created similar interventions in the past, used a video projector of 15,000 lumens and tele zoom optics to project 3D animations of animals onto the canopy. The animals’ giant 3D images appear startlingly lifelike with their animated movements and the depth experience of 3D created through the mix of light and tree leaves. A total of eight different animal faces appeared and disappeared in a continuous seven-minute loop put on between the evening hours of 8:30 and 11. Related: Pre-Hispanic Corn Gods Protest Genetically Modified Maize in Mexico City “The animals had intense eyes that watched and followed the public passing by,” wrote the designers. “Animal Watching positively surprised thousands of viewers while, at least, for a brief moment, made the public thinking about animals with respect and admiration.” + Maizz Visual Images by Revista Marvin

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Zaha Hadid Architects designs ecological residential complex for Mexicos Riviera Maya

May 19, 2017 by  
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Mexico’s stunning Riviera Maya looks nothing short of paradise, but its beauty has also proven a burden on ecological preservation. With the Yucatan Peninsula’s booming tourism and environmental degradation in mind, Zaha Hadid Architects designed Alai, a residential complex in the Riviera Maya that embraces luxury but still maintains low environmental impact. Inspired by local Mayan culture and architecture, the nature-filled development will also contribute to restoration of native flora and fauna. Located on a site prepped by a previous owner for an unbuilt project, Alai will minimize its environmental impact by limiting the combined footprint of all its residential buildings to less than 7 percent of the site’s total area. The architects also plan to repair the previous owner’s damage to the site. Zaha Hadid Architects will collaborate with landscape architecture firm Gross Max and use replanting to repair the landscape, reverting the remainder of the site into a natural state that includes a woodland nature reserve and coastal wetland. To this end, the architects designed an onsite botanical nursery that serves as an attraction and tool for site restoration. Related: Sleep in sustainable luxury inside this eco-friendly jungle treehouse Alai’s luxury apartments as well as sport, leisure, and wellness amenities will be set on an elevated platform just above the canopy so as to not disturb local wildlife crossings. The apartments offer four different floor typologies, all of which enjoy ample amounts of natural light, natural ventilation , private balconies, and unobstructed views to the Caribbean Sea or Nichupté Lagoon. The sinuous and textured facade draws inspiration from local Mayan masonry and the rich natural environment. + Zaha Hadid Architects Via WAN Images by firms credited in titles

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8 gorgeous green hotels to add to your bucket list

May 11, 2017 by  
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Need an escape but don’t want to harm the environment in the process? There are hotels throughout the world centered around sustainability – from a seaside resort in Thailand that grows 100% of its produce to a self-sustaining vacation spot in Mexico. Featuring beautiful design and eco-friendly accommodations, these hotels allow you to satisfy your wanderlust in a conscious way. Hit the jump to check out the eight green hotels we’ve rounded up, and get your adventure started. Blue Lagoon hotel connects with Icelandic landscape When you think of Iceland , you probably think of the famous Blue Lagoon , colored via minerals in waste – but safe! – seawater from a nearby geothermal plant. But you may not know there’s a new resort, the Moss Hotel, under construction there, perched near the pools. The resort design is meant to connect seamlessly with the landscape. Visitors can explore lava corridors and waterfalls in a subterranean spa , and a new restaurant will feature seasonal and local ingredients. The 62-room hotel will open this fall. Related: Solar-powered cylindrical treehouse in Mexico is made with sustainable bamboo Thailand resort grows 100 percent of its produce Traveling to Thailand ? Look no further than The Tongsai Bay Hotel . The hotel was constructed with the environment in mind; not even one tree was cut down to make room for the family-owned resort. 66 species of birds and wildlife reside within the hotel’s 28 and a half acres. The resort also grows 100 percent of its produce , with food waste getting a second life as fertilizer. They practice radical reuse; a few examples include reusing old bathtubs as planters and old sheets as napkins. 121-year-old warehouse on Singapore River given new life as chic hotel An old Singapore warehouse – that once acted as an opium den – got a second chance as the classy Warehouse Hotel . The waterfront warehouse is 121 years old, but Zarch Collaboratives gave it new life with a design inspired by its industrial past in 37 rooms and a double-height lobby. The hotel kept some original elements of the warehouse like its peaked roofs and renovated others like the louvre windows. Self-sustaining Mexico resort incorporates permaculture principles Near Tulum, Mexico rests a self-sustaining, eco-luxe villa that’s the stuff of travel daydreams. The resort designed by Specht Architects is cooled in part by large cutouts in the walls and insulated with native plants adorning the roof. Solar-powered , the villa collects and filters rainwater for use. It even utilizes constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment. Not only does the hotel boast impressive sustainability but stunning bay views and gorgeous modern design as well. Switzerland visitors enjoy connection to nature in open-air hotel Brothers and artists Frank and Patrik Riklin took sleeping under the stars to a whole new level with their one-room, open-air hotel in Switzerland – with no walls or roof. Visitors to the second reincarnation of Null Stern (the first being a nuclear bunker turned luxury hotel) may not have access to a bathroom but do have a butler for the night who will bring breakfast in bed. The minimalist experience provides stunning views of the Swiss Alps . Sweden’s famed Treehotel welcomes Snøhetta-designed 7th room amidst the pines Treehotel , a collection of designer treehouses in Sweden , recently welcomed their 7th room designed by Snøhetta . The cabin is lifted over 30 feet above ground and immerses guests among the enveloping pine trees – Snøhetta said their goal was to bring nature and people closer together. Massive windows and skylights afford opportunities to gaze at the Northern Lights, and a pine tree print across the bottom of the cabin makes it appear invisible from underneath. Locally sourced, natural materials comprise spruce-clad Swedish hotel As you might guess, there’s more than one eco hotel in Sweden. Kjellgren Kaminsky Architecture designed Öijared Hotel with a similar aim of blending the buildings into surrounding nature . Locally sourced and natural materials were used in the hotel’s 34 prefabricated rooms. Natural wood materials inside add to the earthy aesthetic. Whimsical hotel in Romania built with sand and clay In Romania , a storybook hotel built of clay and sand, hearkens back to both ancient stories and ancient building techniques. The Castelul de Lut Valea Zanelor , designed by owners Razvan and Gabriela Vasile along with eco architect Ileana Mavrodin , includes 10 rooms and was constructed without drawing on any modern building techniques. Natural materials , shaped by local craftsmen, give the hotel a fairytale feel. Images via Blue Lagoon , Laura Mordas-Schenkein for Inhabitat, Warehouse Hotel , © Taggart Sorensen, Null Stern , © Johan Jansson, Kjellgren Kaminsky Architecture , and Castelul de Lut Valea Zanelor

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It’s raining tequila from a cloud in Berlin

March 31, 2017 by  
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Berlin winters see a lot of rain, but this is the first time it’s rained tequila. The Mexico Tourist Board wanted to lure Germans to Mexico by combining one of the things they hate most: rain , with one of the things they love best: tequila. The result is a puffy cloud of happiness that rains tequila any time it rains outside. The Mexico Tourist Board teamed up with Lapiz USA to create a cloud that rains tequila. Lapiz took ultrasonic humidifiers to turn tequila into a mist, which they shot into the air to create a tequila-based cloud. Once that mist condensed, it created droplets of tequila that you can actually collect and drink. It’s an ingenious way to turn the winter blahs in Germany into a party. Related: San Diego brewery unveils beer made from 100% recycled wastewater Unfortunately, tequila clouds won’t be filling the skies anytime soon. The exhibit is being featured in an art space in Berlin called Urban Spree, but if you can’t make it there, you can still grab a glass of tequila next time it rains and dream. Via The Daily Mail Images via Lapiz USA

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2,000-year-old pre-Aztec ancient palace complex found in Mexico

March 29, 2017 by  
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There’s so much we don’t know about ancient civilizations , but the discovery of a 30,031-square-foot palace complex in Mexico may yield some hints. Two American Museum of Natural History anthropologists recently reported the impressive palace built at a time before the Aztecs. They say the El Palenque palace complex is the oldest known in the Oaxaca Valley. The colossal palace compound, announced by Elsa M. Redmond and Charles Spencer in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America article recently published online , backs up a picture slowly emerging of ancient civilizations in Mexico. Before the Aztecs, organized states developed in Mesoamerica – but Spencer and Redmond said determining the oldest states is a major anthropology research problem. Royal palaces in particular help signify a state. Related: Archaeologists just discovered an ancient unknown city in Greece According to Phys.org, most researchers in this field think the ancient civilization in Oaxaca was one of the earliest states to exist in Mesoamerica, and Redmond and Spencer believe their discovery supports that theory. The anthropologists dated the palace complex between 300 and 100 BC, making it somewhere around 2,100 to 2,300 years old. They think it could be one of the Oaxaca Valley’s oldest multi-functional palaces. The two say the complex is well preserved, and is similar to Mesoamerican palaces historically documented. The ruler and his family had living quarters there, but the complex also included a dining area, business offices, place for sacrifices, and a staircase. Its massive size indicates the ruler could employ a lot of manpower. The palace also offers a few insights into ancient architecture : the researchers said construction techniques used by the builders hint the complex was designed beforehand and then built in one organized, large-scale undertaking. There’s a cistern for gathering rainwater in the residential area, and a drain carved into stone to deliver fresh water and get rid of waste. Via Phys.org Images via Elsa M. Redmond and Charles Spencer

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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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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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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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