Trump’s border wall threatens Texas plants and wildlife

March 30, 2018 by  
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If it is ever built, Trump’s US-Mexico border wall would pose a threat to vulnerable wildlife and plants, as well as to the growing ecotourism industry in the border regions of Texas . Norma Fowler and Tim Keitt, scientists at the University of Texas at Austin, have published a letter that outlines the potential ecological damage from such a major project. Currently, Texas has walls along approximately 100 miles of its border with Mexico. “Up to now, the wall has either gone through cities or deserts,” said Fowler . “This is the Rio Grande we’re talking about here. It’s totally different.” The proposed wall is set to cut through hundreds of miles of protected federal land, including much of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. “We have high biodiversity because of the river and because Texas extends so far south,” explained Fowler. “I and other Texas biologists are very concerned about the impact this will have on our rich natural heritage.” Fowler and Keitt conducted a scientific literature review of 14 other publications to support the concerns outlined in the letter. The authors express particular interest in the protection of the threatened Tamaulipan thornscrub ecosystem , which once covered much of South Texas. Related: Leaked memo shows that EPA staffers were told to downplay the reliability of climate science The wall could also divide breeding populations of vulnerable animals, such as the ocelot. With only 120 left in the Lone Star State, ocelots could suffer from decreased reproduction and eventually disappear completely from Texas. “Even small segments of new wall on federal lands will devastate habitats and local recreation and ecotourism,” said Keitt. The authors suggested alternatives if the United States does ultimately go forward in its efforts to strengthen the border. According to Keitt and Fowler, “Negative impacts could be lessened by limiting the extent of physical barriers and associated roads, designing barriers to permit animal passage and substituting less biologically harmful methods, such as electronic sensors, for physical barriers.” Via Phys.org Images via  Alejandro Santillana/University of Texas at Austin Insects Unlocked Project and  Andrew Morffew

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"Have to have see-through," says Trump of border wall

March 14, 2018 by  
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President Donald Trump stopped in Otay Mesa during his trip to California to inspect eight prototypes of the potential border wall . His feedback? “You have to have see-through,” Trump told reporters, according to CBS Los Angeles . “You have to know what’s on the other side of the wall. You could be two feet away from a criminal cartel and you don’t even know they’re there.” If we don’t have a wall system, we’re not going to have a country. Congress must fund the BORDER WALL & prohibit grants to sanctuary jurisdictions that threaten the security of our country & the people of our country. We must enforce our laws & protect our people! #BuildTheWall pic.twitter.com/NGqNueukvj — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018 Trump examined 30-foot border wall prototypes during his first trip to California since he won the election. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported he preferred a combination of a see-through wall topped with steel or rounded concrete to make it harder for climbers to scale. Archinect said there were solid, opaque options as well as four other materials, non-concrete prototypes Trump appeared to favor. Related: Artists are turning the U.S.-Mexico border fence into the world’s longest peace-themed mural The president said, “If you don’t have a wall system, we’re not going to have a country. There’s a lot of problems in Mexico , they have the cartels. We’re fighting the cartels, we’re fighting them hard.” Trump also addressed criticism about the border wall from California’s governor, Jerry Brown , saying he thinks the governor “has done a very poor job running California” and “the place is totally out of control.” “You have sanctuary cities where you have criminals living in the sanctuary cities,” he said. Brown responded on Twitter , saying bridges are better than walls. ? Thanks for the shout-out, @realDonaldTrump . But bridges are still better than walls. And California remains the 6th largest economy in the world and the most prosperous state in America. #Facts — Jerry Brown (@JerryBrownGov) March 13, 2018 The San Diego Union-Tribune said hordes of both supporters and critics gathered throughout San Diego, and people were largely peaceful, but for shouting insults at the other side, and a Mexican flag was torn and almost burned. CBS Los Angeles said people peacefully protested Trump’s visit, chanting, “No ban! No wall!” Via CBS Los Angeles , The San Diego Union-Tribune , and Archinect Image via U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Flickr

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"Have to have see-through," says Trump of border wall

The science behind Tyson’s meaty new sustainability agenda

February 26, 2018 by  
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The company’s first CSO, on the job for less than a year, is moving quickly to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and food waste.

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Big data helps scientists watch ocean plastic gyres form

February 26, 2018 by  
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Researchers tracked hundreds of buoys deployed in the Gulf of Mexico. The findings may help scientists pinpoint areas for plastic or oil-spill cleanup.

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One of the last remaining communities still farming like the Aztecs

February 16, 2018 by  
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The village of San Gregorio Atlapulco is one of the only remaining communities that farms in the Aztec agricultural tradition. Located in Mexico City ’s Xochimilco municipality, San Gregorio Atlapulco is home to vast fields known as  chinampas , small islands which are connected by canals used for irrigation and transportation. Farmers cruise on boats through canals between fields to plant, cultivate, and harvest. Tenochtitlan, the Aztec island capital located in the middle of the Lake of Texcoco, was once fed by an integrated, complex system of chinampas. Though the Lake of Texcoco was drained and Tenochtitlan became Mexico City, echoes of Mexico ‘s agricultural past still exist, though they remain under threat. The region’s altitude, consistent sunlight, and abundant water makes for an ideal all-year growing environment. “We basically keep the fields producing all year. How [much we] harvest depends on what crops we put in,” José Alfredo Camacho, a farmer from San Gregorio, told CityLab . “Spinach will take a month and half, radishes one month. It depends on the crop rotation we decide on.” Chinampas are created with help from the huejote tree . “The huejote is the only tree which can resist this much moisture,” Gustavo Camacho told CityLab . “The roots keep the banks of the canals firm. To make a chinampa you first have to make an enclosure of branches and plant willow trees in the water. Then you fill the enclosure with mud and water lilies.” Related: Tired of red tape, indigenous leaders are creating their own climate fund While chinampas are fertile and bountiful, they are not especially profitable. “Nobody makes chinampas anymore,” said Camacho. As the ground beneath Mexico City has warped under the exploitation of underlying aquifers , low-laying chinampas have flooded while highland chinampas have dried out. Though the situation is not hopeless, change would require compromise. “We could solve the subsistence problem ourselves without asking anything of the government by making a system of cascading dikes like the rice paddies of China , but that would require a communal effort which is difficult to organize,” said Camacho. “Such a system of would cut some people off from their fields, which is why they disagree. But if things continue like this the chinampa economy will have disappeared completely in 20 years.” Via CityLab Images via  Serge Saint/Flickr (1) (2)

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Gorgeous timber home in the UK blends local vernacular with sustainable design

February 16, 2018 by  
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The Chalfont Home is gorgeous timber residence located adjacent to the Rye Nature Reserve in East Sussex – one of Britain’s most cherished conservation sites. Built by local firm RX Architects , the family house seamlessly blends into its unique natural setting while leaving as little carbon footprint as possible. The structure was built with numerous sustainable features – including highly-insulated timber cladding and solar thermal panels. The rugged landscape of the nature reserve presented quite few challenges for the project. As the sea receded over the centuries, shingle deposits created a delicate, unstable topography. A small bungalow and a few sheds were previously located on-site, but were all in severe disrepair. Instead of renovating the existing buildings, the architects decided to build a contemporary timber structure that would fit in organically with the natural surroundings. Related: Cozy timber home embraces the Australian bush with a split form The architects decided to clad the home in vertical larch boarding , both externally and internally. The exterior cladding will gradually take on a silver patina over the years. The wooden cladding continues throughout the interior, enhanced by the natural stone flooring. The light-colored walls and floors provide a neutral canvas for the sophisticated interior design. The home takes advantage of numerous energy-efficient features . An air-source heat pump works with solar thermal panels to provide the home’s hot water and heating needs. Additionally, all of the windows and doors are either triple- or double-glazed, further insulating the home and conserving energy while letting in an abundance of natural light. The home is also equipped with a number of wide windows that perfectly frame stunning views of the reserve. All these sustainable features are wrapped in a beautiful, contemporary package that pays homage to the various local heritage structures in the area. The timber home looks out of the reserve to the Mary Standford Lifeboat building, built in 1882. This structure was a pioneering project at its time and is a beloved architectural icon for the area today. To echo the historic building’s presence, the Chalfont home was created in the vernacular shape of the building, devoid of traditional gutters or eaves to emphasize the home’s simple volume. + RX Architects Photography by Ashley Gendek

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Microplastic pollution poses particular threat to filter-feeding rays, sharks and whales

February 6, 2018 by  
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Microplastics pose a huge threat to aquatic life, particularly large filter feeders such as whale sharks, manta rays, and baleen whales . A new study by an international team of researchers led by the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) and Murdoch University identifies risks faced by these marine giants from an insidious form of plastic pollution known as microplastics. Filter feeders are at particular risk because of their constant sifting through ocean water to capture their micro-plankton prey. These large creatures play an important role in oceanic ecosystems and huge problems in the food chain could arise if they were to become threatened or even extinct due to escalating threats. While much remains unknown about the specific impacts of ingesting microplastics, evidence suggests that plastic ingestion, whether directly or through eating animals that have consumed plastics, can lead to toxicity in fish and birds. The effects on large, filter feeders is even less understood, a knowledge gap that the study authors urgently sought to address. “Understanding the effects of microplastic pollution on filter-feeding megafauna is imperative because nearly half of the mobulid rays, two-thirds of filter-feeding sharks , and over one quarter of baleen whales are listed by the IUCN as globally threatened species and prioritized for conservation,” wrote the study authors . Related: Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste Incorporating a review of data from related research, the new study identifies microplastic “hotspots,” such as the Gulf of Mexico, the Bay of Bengal, the Coral Triangle, and the Mediterranean Sea , as areas where filter feeders gather in high numbers likely due to plentiful food sources. This unfortunate confluence of plankton and plastic pollution has led to filter feeders consuming significant amounts of microplastics, with fin whales estimated to consume up to 2,000 plastic particles per day. While a greater understanding of the problem is helpful, this new research also emphasizes the sorely needed action needed to prevent further harm from plastic pollution to ocean life, large and small. Via IFLScience Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Microplastic pollution poses particular threat to filter-feeding rays, sharks and whales

Tired of the red tape, indigenous leaders are creating their own climate fund

January 29, 2018 by  
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Local communities wrestling with the impacts of climate change on food security have also struggled to get funds to deal with those impacts. The United Nations created the Green Climate Fund in 2010 – but it can be very difficult for countries and communities to be accredited and access money, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation . So some indigenous leaders in Mexico and Central America are taking matters into their own hands. Indigenous leader of the Bribri community Leví Sucre said his family used to grow beans at their home in Costa Rica. But he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “That’s impossible now. When growing beans, there’s a period where they can’t receive water (and need dry conditions). Now, unexpected cold fronts and rains are spoiling them.” But he said getting money from international climate funds is “an almost impossible task.” Related: Indonesian president gives forest management back to indigenous communities Sucre and other leaders are putting together a Mesoamerican Territorial Fund through regional organization Mesoamerican Alliance of People and Forests , with the goal of offering easy, fast financing to indigenous communities for climate change mitigation and adaption projects. The leaders hope the fund might get international support. While the Central American Bank for Economic Integration would be the ones holding the money, according to Reuters, indigenous people would manage the fund without much input from outsiders. Communities would propose their own projects for financing. Sucre hopes by the middle of this year they could apply for international funds. The fund would largely go to projects working to protect food security, drawing on traditional knowledge. Sucre said, “We’re not dismissing the use of technology because we know that it must be complementary. But we want to incentivize the use of technologies that don’t erase our culture.” Money could help communities change how they farm as weather grows more unstable. A 2008 United Nations report cited by Reuters said: “indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, owing to their dependence upon, and close relationship with the environment and its resources.” Via the Thomson Reuters Foundation Images via Depositphotos ( 1 ,  2 , 3 )

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Tired of the red tape, indigenous leaders are creating their own climate fund

Catastrophic weather shakes up the reinsurance market

January 23, 2018 by  
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Events in Australia, Mexico, the Caribbean and the U.S., including three hurricanes, caused catastrophe losses over $100 billion for the third year on record.

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Tiny homes made of concrete pipes could be the next big thing in micro housing

January 10, 2018 by  
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The micro-housing trend has really taken off over the last decade, and a new age of tiny urban homes is now upon us. Created by James Law Cybertecture , the Opod Tube House is made from a repurposed concrete pipe and designed as an affordable home for young people who struggle with housing costs in the world’s major cities. Unveiled recently in Hong Kong, the tiny tube houses are created out of repurposed concrete water pipes that measure a little over eight feet in diameter. The tubes are designed to accommodate one or two people and come with approximately 1000 square feet of living space. The interiors are equipped with the standard amenities, including a living room with a bench that converts into a bed, a mini-fridge, a bathroom, a shower and plenty of storage space for clothes and personal items. Related: Totally Tubular TubeHotel In Mexico Offers Up Accommodations In Recycled Concrete Pipes According to the architect behind the design, James Law, the inspiration behind the tiny tube homes is practical, both for young people looking for homes as well as city governments trying to provide affordable options. Although the structures are far from being lightweight at 22 tons apiece, they require little in terms of installation and can be easily secured to one another, which reduces installation costs. The tubes are easily stacked and can be installed in any small unused spaces commonly found in cities. The architect envisions entire tube communities installed in alleyways, under bridges, etc. Law explained in an interview with Curbed , that the concept is feasible for any urban environment , “Sometimes there’s some land left over between buildings which are rather narrow so it’s not easy to build a new building. We could put some OPods in there and utilize that land.” + Opod Tube Housing + James Law Cybertecture Via Apartment Therapy Images via Opod Tube Housing Facebook

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