Almost All U.S. National Parks Have Polluted Air

May 9, 2019 by  
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Sure, we know that cities can be congested and polluted, but at least we have the national parks to escape to when we want to breathe in some fresh air, right? Wrong. According to a new report released by the National Park Conservation Association, 96 percent of all parks experience significant air pollution problems. The bipartisan nonprofit organization published a report, “Polluted Parks: How America is Failing to Protect our National Parks, People and Planet from Air Pollution” that analyzed air quality in 417 parks. Their findings assess the impact on nature, hazy skies, unhealthy air and climate change . Related: Plastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air “The poor air quality in our national parks is both disturbing and unacceptable. Nearly every single one of our more than 400 national parks is plagued by air pollution. If we don’t take immediate action to combat this, the results will be devastating and irreversible,” said President of the National Park Conservation Association Theresa Pierno. Although most national parks are located in areas of so-called pristine wilderness, air travels widely and freely. The Grand Canyon, for example, is down-wind from a coal-fired power plant, a mine and multiple industrial pollution sources that reach the park from both Mexico and California. The report is also filled with many alarming findings, including: 85 percent of national parks have air that is unhealthy to breathe at times 89 percent of national parks have haze pollution 88 percent of national parks have soil and water affected by air pollution 80 percent of all national parks will be directly impacted by climate change, with 100 percent indirectly impacted “America’s national parks are some of the most beloved places on earth and provide once in a lifetime experiences, but the iconic wildlife and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources that make these places so special are being seriously threatened by climate change and other effects of air pollution ,” said Stephanie Kodish, the Clean Air Program director for the National Parks Conservation Association. 330 million people visit America’s national parks every year, and most are in search of fresh air. The solution to ensuring our national park air remains fresh and clean is the same strategy for protecting clean air everywhere: reduce fossil fuel emissions and switch to clean energy sources. Air quality experts had reported positive results of the Clean Air Act, however, the current administration has rolled back on environmental regulations and invested in the fossil fuel industry. Via  Tree Hugger Image via PELSOP

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Almost All U.S. National Parks Have Polluted Air

Cooling breezes blow straight through a low-energy brick house in Indonesia

May 9, 2019 by  
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In the city of Depok in West Java, Jakarta-based architectural firm DELUTION architect has completed the Flick House, a two-story home with a brick facade and a contemporary design that stands out from its more conventional neighbors. Created to follow sustainable and low-energy principles, the house features cooling microclimates and is optimized for natural ventilation . Daylight is also maximized in the house to reduce reliance on artificial lighting while a second “skin” facade helps buffer unwanted solar gain. When the clients approached DELUTION architect with the commission, they asked for a large home that would feel “humble and warm.” In response, the architects suggested a brick facade, which they said can create a welcoming atmosphere no matter the size. The warm and inviting character is carried through to the light-filled interior, which features an open layout conducive to large family gatherings. Energy efficiency was also a major design objective for the architects. To keep the spacious, 3,326-square-foot house naturally cool, the architects added four gardens — Main Garden, Private Garden, Floating Garden and Innercourt — and a fish pond to create cooling microclimates . The cooled air from the gardens is swept into the rooms through the sliding doors and windows that promote airflow throughout. Perforations in the brick facade also allow for natural ventilation while blocking unwanted solar gain. Related: Rammed earth addition brings light and energy savings to a Melbourne home “Besides applying the green architecture concept, Flick House also has quite unique architectural and interior details,” the architects added. “Some parts of the walls even seem to be floating. On the first floor, bathrooms are hidden behind the mirrored closet, and on the second floor, the bathroom has a semi-outdoor concept so that if the curtain is opened it can be seen from the outside.” + DELUTION architect Photography by Fernando Gomulya via DELUTION architect

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Cooling breezes blow straight through a low-energy brick house in Indonesia

National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

April 19, 2019 by  
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Take advantage of the warmer weather by visiting any number of the hundreds of national parks across the country on April 20 for absolutely free. The National Parks Service is celebrating National Park Week by offering free entry into all of the 418 parks spread throughout the United States. If you have never been to a national park or if it has been a while since your last visit, you may be surprised to learn about all the fun and excitement that awaits you. Here is a quick guide on some of the most popular national parks in the country and how you can spend your time in the great outdoors. Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park is the oldest and one of the most famous parks in the U.S. The park is known for its abundant wildlife , hot springs and exploding geysers. Given its enormous size, there are plenty of things to do at Yellowstone for children and adults alike. Related: An adventurer just journeyed into America’s largest national park — here’s what he found Located mostly in Wyoming, the park boasts 12 campgrounds with tent and RV access, plus 300 isolated campsites. There are nearly 1,000 miles of hiking trails that offer plenty of photo opportunities. You can also bike at the park and enjoy some kayaking on one if its many lakes. If you plan on bringing your family along for the ride, the park offers specialized programs for children as well as horseback riding. Yosemite Established in 1890, Yosemite National Park  attracts many visitors for its beautiful waterfalls. But the 1,200-square-mile park also features vast meadows, large sequoias and a grand wilderness section. While sightseeing is the main attraction, there are plenty of things to keep your entire family busy. Common activities at California’s Yosemite National Park include biking, wildlife watching, camping , fishing, horseback riding and water activities. Before booking your trip to Yosemite, check with the park for any closures due to inclement weather. Glacier Point Road, for example, is often closed until May because of excess snowfall. Great Smoky Mountains The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park in the country. According to DK , the Smoky Mountains record more than double the number of tourists every year than any other location. While this is a popular destination, there are ways to avoid the large crowds. Skip out on the popular scenic highway and opt for one of the many side trails. The ancient mountain range features one of Earth’s most widespread deciduous forests and boasts a wide diversity of life. This includes a large selection of wildflowers and black bears . When it comes to activities, visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, wildlife watching, fishing and scenic driving. Acadia If you are looking for a good coastal drive, then Acadia National Park is right up your alley. Acadia National Park is the only one of its kind in Maine and features some dramatic views of the Atlantic coastline. You can also hike some trails on Cadillac Mountain, kayak in the ocean or partake in some amazing whale watching from just outside of Bar Harbor. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials A good strategy to see most of Acadia is to navigate the Park Loop Road, either by bike or motor vehicle. The 27-mile road has an array of different viewing points. One of the more popular stops is Otter Cliff, which overlooks a 110-foot drop. The park, of course, also features plenty of other things to do, such as camping, climbing, geocaching, fishing , swimming and bird watching. Tips for visiting a national park Once you decide to visit a park , it is always a good idea to call or stop by the visitor center and check in. Park rangers are valuable sources of information and can tell you what type of activities are available during the time of your visit. They can also tell you if there are any construction projects going on or special events that might make navigating through the park difficult. Speaking of the visitor center, it contains everything you need to know about the park, including typical rates and interesting places to visit. You can also find guided tours, which are a great way to get introduced to the history of the park and learn why it is significant to the region. Free admittance on April 20 In honor of National Park Week, the National Parks Service is offering free admittance to all parks in the United States on April 20. That day coincides with National Junior Ranger Day, which is geared toward children, making the free offer perfect for families. According to Matador Network , there are other themes throughout the rest of week, including Military and Veterans Recognition Day,  Earth Day , Transportation Tuesday, Wild Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, Friendship Friday, Bark Ranger Day and Park Rx Day. You can learn more about National Park Week, plus find important information about a national park near you, by visiting Find Your Park and the  National Parks website . Images via Ian D. Keating , Mobilus in Mobili , Jeff Gunn , Thomas , Eric Vaughn , Badlands National Park and Grand Canyon National Park

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National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

National Parks are being trashed during the government shutdown

January 4, 2019 by  
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As the government shutdown continues, many National Parks are suffering from a lack of staff as well as a complete disregard for the rules by visitors. According to multiple reports, some parks — like Yosemite National Park in California — are being overwhelmed by trash, vandalism, human waste and destructive off-roading. “It’s a free-for-all,” said Yosemite worker Dakota Snider, who added that the heartbreaking situation is the worst he has seen in his four years living there. The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that people had seen some visitors at Yosemite dumping bags of trash from their cars, and the park closed two campgrounds and a redwood grove because of issues with human waste and a lack of staffing. Related: Air pollution levels in national parks rival those of major US cities “With restrooms closed, some visitors are opting to deposit their waste in natural areas adjacent to high traffic areas, which creates a health hazard for other visitors,” said National Parks Service spokesman Andrew Munoz. At the beginning of the shutdown, the Trump administration kept most of the National Parks open with skeleton staffs on site to make sure visitors followed the rules, like no littering and no hunting. But because there was no one to collect admission fees, the number of visitors has surged, and the skeleton crews can’t handle the park traffic. Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park has locked its restrooms and trash bins because of human waste issues, wildlife concerns and public health, according to a notice on the park website. In addition to the human waste problem, the weather has also been an issue in some locations. Arches and Canyonlands in Utah have closed because there is no money to plow the snow. The state of Utah was paying to staff all five of its National Parks , but as the new year started, it decided to staff only Zion. At Joshua Tree in Southern California , local residents and businesses are volunteering to help keep the restrooms functioning by cleaning them and hauling out trash, and private park tour companies are doing similar work in Yellowstone. In New York , the state is funding both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to make sure they continue to operate during the shutdown. Via Huffington Post and LA Times Images via Joshua Tree National Park ( 1 , 2 )

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National Parks are being trashed during the government shutdown

Judge stops bear hunt and returns Yellowstone grizzlies to the endangered list

September 27, 2018 by  
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The hunt for grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park is officially over. This week, a judge ordered that all grizzly bears living in or near the park to be put back on the list of endangered species. The ruling stops the attempts of wildlife officials to issue licenses for those want to hunt the bears, which have been protected from hunting for the past four decades. According to The Guardian , the population of grizzly bears has increased in the last 30 years from around 135 to more than 700 today. While the numbers are improving, grizzlies are only present in four locations in the Rocky Mountains. This has raised concerns about the recovery of grizzlies, as the populations are still isolated from each other. This is one reason why Judge Dana Christensen, who put in a lot of research on the case, decided to put the bears back on the endangered list. As Judge Christensen explained, true recovery means expanding grizzly populations to regions outside of the Rocky Mountains. Related: Montana judge to rule on first grizzly bear hunt in 40 years While environmental groups and activists praised the ruling, wildlife officials were disappointed by the turn of events. Officials in Wyoming recently put in motion plans for a bear hunt later this year. Up to 22 individuals were granted licenses to hunt grizzlies when the season opened. Luckily, citizens and conservationists launched a massive campaign — including the Shoot’em with a Camera, Not A Gun initiative  — to stop the sport hunting of these beautiful creatures. The fight to keep grizzly bears on the endangered list is sadly not over. Experts believe that state officials will attempt to repeal the ruling at a higher court. The pro-hunting organization Safari Club International is also expected to make a push toward making grizzly hunts legal once again. We can only hope that Judge Christensen’s ruling stands the test of time, allowing grizzlies to make a true recovery in the wild. Via The Guardian Image via Neal Herbert / Yellowstone National Park

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Judge stops bear hunt and returns Yellowstone grizzlies to the endangered list

Montana judge to rule on first grizzly bear hunt in 40 years

August 29, 2018 by  
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This week, a U.S. judge will hear the arguments presented by Native American tribes and animal activists for the protection of recently demoted Yellowstone-area grizzly bears from the endangered list. The removal of the grizzlies’ protection status has caused states such as Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to launch trophy hunting expeditions in and around Yellowstone National Park for the first time in over 40 years. All in all, 700 American bears are at risk of staring down the barrel since their elimination from the U.S. List of Endangered and Threatened Species in 2017 under the Trump administration. While some states hailed the decision, along with hunters and ranchers who worried about bears preying on their livestock, Native Americans and conservation groups took matters into their own hands, filing lawsuits with the U.S. courts. “We feel all our beliefs, medicines, ceremonies and ancestral ways of life are being disrespected … because a few people want to kill grizzlies … to mount their heads on walls or make rugs for their floors,” explained Crawford White, part of the Northern Arapaho Elders Society, a Wyoming tribe that is supporting the suit for what it feels is a violation of religious freedom. Related: Movement to save grizzly bears from hunters scores a victory Constituents arguing for the hunt said that they met with tribal leaders before allowing up to 22 grizzly bears to be killed in the scheduled hunt, according to Renny MacKay, spokesperson for the Game and Fish Department . They maintain their stance that grizzly populations have exceeded targets for recovery measures and risk over-pouring into the surrounding area. More than 7,000 people have applied to the lottery system, which is accepting 22 individuals into the hunt, one person for every bear to be killed. Some applicants include individuals in the conservation group “Shoot ‘Em with a Camera, Not a Gun,” which has scored at least one of the 22 licenses. The hunt is set to begin September 1 in Wyoming and Idaho, and groups are impatiently awaiting the trial’s commencement to find out whether or not the state of Montana will join as well. Related: Jane Goodall and conservationists move to obtain bear hunting licences in Wyoming The hearing is set for Thursday, and opponents will meet in the U.S. District Court of Montana. The judge presiding over the case will make the final decision whether to restore protective status to the Yellowstone grizzlies or give them up to the hunt. Via Reuters Image via Yellowstone National Park

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Montana judge to rule on first grizzly bear hunt in 40 years

Locals protest tourism development in Komodo dragon sanctuary

August 22, 2018 by  
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Recently announced tourism infrastructure plans for Indonesia’s Komodo National Park has ignited a string of protests from locals and activists. The park is part of the Pacific Coral Triangle and spans over 29 pristine islands that have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The area is supposedly protected from development under Indonesian law, which is why residents of the administrative region of the park, known as the West Manggarai district, are in uproar over the plans. In 2014 and 2015, developers PT Komodo Wildlife Ecotourism (KWE) and PT Segara Komodo Lestari (SKL) obtained licenses to build accommodations, a sightseeing facility and a restaurant on the three main islands of the Komodo reserve. The islands, Padar, Rinca and Komodo, are the largest of the 29 that encompass the national park , and the latter two are exclusively dedicated to the Komodo dragon. This awe-inspiring reptile is the world’s largest lizard, but it is also listed as threatened on the IUCN’s Red List . Related: Conservationists rid Florida of invasive iguanas by smashing their heads “The local government, together with the national government and tourism businesses, must maintain Komodo National Park as a conservation zone to ensure tourism that’s environmentally friendly and free from exploitation and commercialization,” said Rafael Todowela, head of the West Manggarai Community Forum to Save Tourism. “Conservation is to protect the Komodo dragons, not investors.” Responding to the uproar, Wiratno, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s director general,  insisted the eco-tourism plans would leave a minimal footprint on the islands. The plans include environmentally friendly building materials that are sourced locally, such as bamboo, as well as solar panels and zero-waste management systems. He said that the developers would be using far less land — around 10 percent of the 600 hectares (1,482 acres) — than they were allocated. Only locals would be employed at the facilities, which would use 5 percent of profits to boost smaller businesses in the area. Wiratno said the locals have no issue with the development plans. But residents, such as Alimudin of Komodo Village, are calling foul. “The locals are banned from doing any development work in any part of the national park for the sake of conservation,” Alimudin said. He also emphasized the residents’ interest in ensuring the protection of the Komodo dragon and its rightful habitat. Agrarian researcher Eko Cahyono said, “The tourism policy is a form of ‘green grabbing’: grabbing the locals’ land under the guise of conservation and environmental protection.” Via Mongabay Images via Christopher Harriot and Laika AC

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Locals protest tourism development in Komodo dragon sanctuary

A breakup in the Arctic’s strongest sea ice is recorded for the first time ever

August 22, 2018 by  
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The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic zone north of Greenland is splitting in a never-before-seen event. The waters found there are so cold, they have been frozen for as long as records exist — even during summer months. For the second time this year, the frozen waters cracked open to reveal the sea beneath them in an event that scientists are calling “scary.” The ice found in the Arctic area north of Greenland is usually compact and unbreakable as a result of the Transpolar Drift Stream, which pushes ice from Siberia across the Arctic Sea, where it packs up on the coastline. The breaking sea ice is a result of a climate-change-driven heatwave that caused abnormal spikes in temperatures both this month and in February 2018. Related: Previously stable zones of Antarctica are now falling victim to climate change This phenomenon has never been recorded before and is said to be caused by warm winds striking the ice pileup on the Arctic coastline. “The ice there has nowhere else to go, so it piles up,” said Walt Meier from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center . “On average, it’s over four meters thick and can be piled up into ridges 20 meters thick or more. This thick, compacted ice is generally not easily moved around.” However, 2018 is seeing the lowest ever recorded sea ice volume since 1979, according to satellite data. “Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile.” Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute said. “Open water off the north coast of Greenland is unusual. This area has often been called ‘the last ice area’ as it has been suggested that the last perennial sea ice in the Arctic will occur here.” Related: Migratory barnacle geese threatened by rapidly rising Arctic temperatures The event is proving worrisome for climate scientists who explain that the longer the patches of water remain open, the easier it will be for the sea ice to be pushed away from the coast and melt. “The thinning is reaching even the coldest part of the Arctic with the thickest ice,” Meier said. “So it’s a pretty dramatic indication of the transformation of the Arctic sea ice and Arctic climate.” Via The Guardian Image via U.S. Geological Survey

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A breakup in the Arctic’s strongest sea ice is recorded for the first time ever

The world’s tallest active geyser in Yellowstone keeps erupting – and scientists don’t know why

April 30, 2018 by  
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Something strange is happening at the tallest geyser in the world in  Yellowstone  park  – and scientists can’t explain it. Steamboat Geyser can shoot up to 300 feet in the air when it erupts, which isn’t often, but over the past six weeks, the geyser has erupted three times. Even though scientists may be baffled as to why the geyser has suddenly become so active, don’t panic. They don’t believe it is an indication that Yellowstone’s supervolcano is getting ready to erupt. ? The last time Steamboat Geyser was this active was in 2003. Normally, it can go a year or more between eruptions. The park is still covered in deep snow, but a brave visitor reported seeing the geyser erupt on Friday around 6:30 am. This is the third time it has erupted since March 15. Before that, it’s last major eruption was in 2014. Related: Scientists just learned what makes Yellowstone’s supervolcano tick Scientists say that there is no reason to think that this activity is an indication that the supervolcano that Yellowstone sits on is getting ready to blow. “There is nothing to indicate that any sort of volcanic eruption is imminent,” said Michael Poland, lead scientist at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory . It could just be the “randomness” of geysers, he added. What would be concerning is if the hydrothermal systems in Yellowstone started drying up. That could indicate that the magma boiling in the volcanoes core was making its way to the surface. Via Reuters Images via Wikimedia and Deposit Photos

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The world’s tallest active geyser in Yellowstone keeps erupting – and scientists don’t know why

This all-weather bicycle highway could fulfill the dreams of bike commuters everywhere

April 30, 2018 by  
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Architect Richard Moreta just unveiled the MINILOOP, an enclosed cycleway that could be a dream come true for bicycle commuters. Envisioned as the “ideal zero-emission transportation system,” the MINILOOP is designed to harness renewable energy and supply excess power to the local city grid. Geared to satisfy even the most fair-weather cyclists, the cycleway would be enclosed in a weather-resistant elevated pipeline and it’s designed to cater to bicycles and e-bikes . Inspired by the Hyperloop , the MINILOOP is designed for easy, world-wide reproduction and it can be modified to suit different climates – from an open-air design for temperate climates to a more insulated design for places with extreme weather. “MINILOOP helps create less traffic and pollution simultaneously; by both taking more conventional motor vehicles off the road and giving more vertical space to grow plants to further filter the air,” the architects wrote. “It also minimizes traffic and cycling incidents, creating safer environments for families and commuters.” Related: Shanghai flying car tower to clean the air with a 50,000-plant vertical forest The designers also included an optional additional circuit for small electric vehicles as part of their vision for moving cities toward a lower carbon footprint . To encourage surrounding communities to adopt greener transportation options, each MINILOOP would also be equipped with electric bicycle and vehicle charging stations, as well as electric bicycle rentals. + Richard’s Architecture + Design

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This all-weather bicycle highway could fulfill the dreams of bike commuters everywhere

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