Mexico-sized algae bloom in the Arabian Sea connected to climate change

March 21, 2017 by  
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Talk of climate change probably evokes images of rising sea levels or hotter temperatures, but what about algae blooms ? Scientists have made a direct connection between an algae bloom in the Arabian Sea, which has blown up to the size of Mexico, and climate change. The massive bloom has been captured from satellites . 30 years ago, algae in the Gulf of Oman could barely be seen. Now, twice a year, microscopic organisms of the species Noctiluca scintillans turns the gulf green as it sprawls throughout the Arabian Sea towards India. Scientists say conditions produced by climate change are allowing the algae to thrive. Columbia University researchers have even traced the algae blooms to ice melting in the Himalayas. Related: Florida declares state of emergency due to gigantic algae bloom Satellite technology has also allowed researchers to connect algae with greater levels of water and air pollution . NASA ocean carbon and biology projects manager Paula Bontempi told the Associated Press satellite images of the algae are beautiful, like a Van Gogh painting, but in person the algae is smelly and ugly. She said, “We know that our Earth is changing. It may be in a direction we might not like.” The phenomenon threatens local ecosystems ; algae has been known to paralyze fish . The United Nations’ science agency says in rare cases algal toxins have killed humans. Oman faces unique threats from the algae bloom. There, algae can clog pipes at desalination plants providing as much as 90 percent of fresh water for the country. Fisheries in the country could also be harmed by the algae bloom; in 2008 an eruption of a different type of algae beached 50 tons of fish, which were starving for oxygen and rotted along the coast of Oman. Saleh al-Mashari, the captain of a researcher vessel, said this algae bloom has already caused damage. He told the Associated Press, “The fish are migrating. They can’t get enough air here.” Ahmad al-Alawi, a marine ecologist, said blooms are getting larger and lasting for longer periods of time. He said the blooms displace zooplankton, which are the base of the local food chain . Via Phys.org Images via Tristan Schmurr on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Mexico-sized algae bloom in the Arabian Sea connected to climate change

Boston public schools phase in new map to decolonize curriculum

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

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Boston public schools phase in new map to decolonize curriculum

Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano

March 20, 2017 by  
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Have you ever seen an active volcano up close? Most of us haven’t had the opportunity, but now thanks to Google Street View , you can glimpse the fiery depths of one the world’s largest boiling lava lakes. Two explorers repelled down into the Marum crater on the island on Ambrym in Vanuatu , a country of islands around 1000 miles away from Australia, to collect images of the lava lake for Google (and all of us). Forget the relatively tame imagery of city streets. Google went to new extremes to collect dramatic images of Ambrym, from volcanic beaches to a volcano itself. Explorers Geoff Mackley and Chris Horsley helped out by repelling around 1,312 feet down into the Marum crater to gather 360-degree imagery of the massive lava lake, which is about as big as two football fields, according to Google. Mackley said, “You only realize how insignificant humans are when you’re standing next to a giant lake of fiery boiling rock .” Related: Sheep enlisted to bring ‘Google Street View’ to remote Faroe Islands After repelling into the crater, Horsley said, “I hope that by putting this place on the map people will realize what a beautiful world we live in.” Over 7,000 people live on Ambrym. Chief Moses of Endu, a local village, welcomed Google in to share the incredible beauty of the area. Locals have been rebuilding after Cyclone Pam hit a few years past, and are ready to greet travelers again. According to Google, Chief Moses feels welcoming visitors to the region will help the island recover, help set up a sustainable economy, and preserve the island’s culture . Along with the volcano, Google Street View offers images of his village, a primary school, and a craft workshop on the island. Can’t hop on the next plane to trek to Vanuatu? You can also check out a jungle on Ambrym, more images of the Marum crater, and villagers harvesting coconuts on Google Street View. Via Google Images via screenshot ( 1 , 2 )

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Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano

Indonesian president gives forest management back to indigenous communities

February 23, 2017 by  
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After decades of conflict over the power to oversee Indonesia’s forests, President Joko Widodo gave management rights back to nine indigenous communities. According to the World Agroforestry Centre, millions of indigenous people cared for forests sustainably for centuries until the Dutch colonial government declared state ownership, and this moment marks an important milestone in the acknowledgement of indigenous rights . For years, indigenous communities have fought for recognition as their rights have been contested by the government – even after independence in 1945, according to the World Agroforestry Centre. There are thousands of distinct ethnic groups across the islands of Indonesia, and Widodo recently took what the center described as a highly symbolic step in formally granting forest management titles to the nine indigenous communities. In a speech on the occasion, Widodo said, “Recognition also means an appreciation of Indonesia’s original values and its identity as a nation.” Related: Indonesian president announces plan to halt palm oil industry expansion Widodo cited the Kajang people, one of the nine communities, in his speech as an example from which others could benefit. An earlier national government altered the Kajang’s forests’ management status from indigenous to “production forests with limited uses” so the government could control them and parcel some land out for rubber plantations. But the Kajang developed “a set of local regulations that affirm, recognize, and protect based on traditional management,” according to Andi Adriardi, a member of a non-governmental organization that helped the Kajang regain rights. They coordinated with the local government and organizations to reclaim the title. Adriardi said the government recognized their case as a “good lesson that approaches perfection” for a well-managed forest. Kajang leader Andi Buyung Saputra, pictured above with Widodo, said in his acceptance speech, “Our traditional wisdom has played an important role in managing and preserving our forests. This has contributed to keeping our Earth greener and reducing the negative impacts of climate change .” Via World Agroforestry Centre Images via World Agroforestry Centre and Wikimedia Commons

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Indonesian president gives forest management back to indigenous communities

Patagonia launches campaign to protect Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument

February 23, 2017 by  
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The battle for Bears Ears National Monument is far from over. Weeks after Patagonia spurned the Outdoor Retailer Show trade show in Salt Lake City to protest Utah governor Gary Herbert’s quest to roll back nascent protections for the twin sandstone formations, the outdoor-apparel company has launched a campaign to inundate the gubernatorial office with calls demanding otherwise. Utahns are more than familiar with this song and dance: Locals, lawmakers, and environmentalists have long knocked heads over how the Bears Ears area, and its untapped reserves of gas and shale , should be developed. The 1.35 million-acre expanse of arches, buttes, and canyons, which several Native American tribes regard as sacred, isn’t the only public land under attack from Utah’s top politician. On February 17, Herbert signed a resolution urging President Donald Trump to narrow the boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the south. “In passing two resolutions asking the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument and reduce the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument, Governor Herbert and Utah’s state delegation have unleashed an all-out assault on the state’s protected public lands,” Patagonia wrote on a website powered by Phone2Action , which provides web and voice tools to help advocacy groups connect their supporters with elected officials. “This land grab would open wilderness and recreation areas to oil and gas development and could eliminate access to the diverse landscape that makes Utah unique.” Related: Patagonia boycotts huge Outdoor Retailer show to protest Utah Republicans The outdoor-recreation industry plays a major role in Utah’s economy, supporting some 122,000 jobs and bringing in $12 billion a year in consumer spending, according to Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia. For Patagonia, at least, boycotting the Outdoor Retail trade show was just a start. “Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah,” Marcario said. “And we are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation.” + Patagonia Via Outside Photos by Bureau of Land Management

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Patagonia launches campaign to protect Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument

China is building the world’s first migratory Bird Airport

February 17, 2017 by  
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Modern architecture has often been accused of encroaching on wildlife habitats – but McGregor Coxall just unveiled a new project that’s literally for the birds. The world’s first migratory “Bird Airport” is designed to convert a landfill in Lingang, China into a wetland bird sanctuary Every year, more than 50 million birds journey from the Antarctic along the East Asian-Australian Flyway (EAAF), but the route is increasingly threatened to due to coastal urbanization. Today, 1 in 5 globally endangered waterbirds fly this route as their population rapidly decreases. Related: 1.5 billion birds disappear from North America’s skies To address the problem, the Port of Tianjin called on international designers to create a wetland sanctuary for migrating birds. McGregor Coxall’s Bird Airport includes 60 hectares of wetland park, where birds will be able to stop, refuel, and breed on their way through the flyway. Renewable energy will be used to irrigate the wetlands with recycled waste water and harvested rain. Adrian McGregor, CEO and lead designer of McGregor Coxall explains the inspiration behind the project, “The earth’s bird flyways are a wonder of the natural world. The proposed Bird Airport will be a globally significant sanctuary for endangered migratory bird species whilst providing new green lungs for the city of Tianjin.” The city of Tianjin will enjoy many benefits from the new green infrastructure . The proposal calls for plenty of park space – including walking and cycling paths along a 7 km network of recreational urban forest trails. Construction on the bird airport is slated to begin late 2017, and the project will be completed in 2018. + McGregor Coxall

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China is building the world’s first migratory Bird Airport

Climate change is draining the oceans of oxygen

February 16, 2017 by  
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A new study in the journal Nature has found that the amount of dissolved oxygen in the ocean is declining worldwide – and it’s a direct result of climate change. The paper was authored by researchers from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, and found that the oceans of the world have lost more than two percent of their oxygen content between 1960 and 2010. However, the losses were not spread evenly across the globe – the Arctic Ocean, in particular, has suffered the sharpest decline. Why? Global warming . The major reason is that warm liquid holds onto dissolved gas less easily, but there are other factors at play as well. Ocean stratification is becoming a major issue – normally, oxygen enters the water at the surface and mixes down, but because warm water is less dense and doesn’t sink as rapidly, the oxygen-rich water closest to the surface simply floats instead. None of this is news to climate scientists. In fact, climate models have predicted this effect might happen for years. However, this is the first study to look at millions of ocean measurements and combine them into a single analysis, proving the effect is actually happening. Related: Ocean dead zone near African coast shows lowest oxygen levels ever recorded The oceans already naturally contain “oxygen minimum zones” which can’t support much marine life, usually occupying the middle depths of the ocean. Scientists fear this shift in oxygen levels may expand those areas, and potentially create “ dead zones ” in shallow areas, effectively reducing the habitat available for marine organisms. Worse yet, the situation may end up creating a feedback loop that could actually worsen climate change. These oceanic “dead zones” tend to be areas where microorganisms that produce greenhouse gasses like nitrous oxide thrive. The study is just one more piece of evidence showing that we need to take strong action to curb climate change immediately. Via The Washington Post Images via Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons

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Congressman makes statement with ‘Keep the EPA Great’ hat

February 8, 2017 by  
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Democratic Congressman Don Beyer’s Northern Virginia district is home to thousands of federal workers who make the daily commute across the Potomac River to their jobs in Washington — and many of them are EPA employees working to ensure clean air, clean water and a livable climate for their fellow Americans. On Tuesday, Beyer stood up for the agency, which is under attack from President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress who want to abolish it . During a hearing, Beyer used his speaking time to run down the agency’s accomplishments in protecting the environment and human health, before donning a red cap similar to the Trump campaign’s “Make America Great Again” hats — except Beyer’s said “Keep the EPA Great.” https://www.facebook.com/RepDonBeyer/videos/1870037156576073/ The House Science Committee is chaired by climate change denier Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who used the first hearing after Trump’s inauguration to bash the EPA with baseless accusations of politicization and questionable science. Beyer refuted Smith’s assertions, reminding the committee that the EPA was responsible for banning the pesticide DDT, reducing acid rain, mandating lead-free gasoline, regulating toxic chemicals and establishing a national commitment to protect the nation’s air and water. Related: Florida Republican introduces bill that would abolish the EPA Many EPA employees are on edge after Trump nominated anti-EPA crusader Scott Pruitt to head the agency and chose professional climate science denier Myron Ebell to lead the EPA transition team. In a recent interview, Ebell said that Trump would seek significant reductions to the EPA’s 15,000 staff and $8 billion annual budget. Ebell explained that the aim was to cut the agency down to a Nixon-era level of 5,000 employees. “This Committee should be leading the charge to protect the planet and our environment for future generations,” said Beyer. “Instead it attacks the credibility of scientists, casts doubt on accepted science, and makes life difficult for the people trying to solve urgent crises. The Science Committee’s contribution now is like that of the Emperor Nero, fiddling while Rome burned down around him. This is irresponsible and dangerous. It is not leadership and it will not make the EPA, or America, great.” Via Gizmodo Image via Twitter

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Congressman makes statement with ‘Keep the EPA Great’ hat

Hundreds of ancient earthworks similar to Stonehenge found in the Amazon

February 7, 2017 by  
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For hundreds of years, the Amazon rainforest concealed over 450 massive, mysterious earthworks similar to those in Stonehenge . As a result of deforestation , researchers were able to catch a glimpse of the baffling geometrical geoglyphs in Brazil’s Acre state. The 2,000-year-old earthworks reveal a wealth of information we didn’t know before about how ancient people managed the rainforest . Many people used to think the Amazon rainforest ecosystem remained largely untouched by humans in the past, an idea challenged by the recent discovery of these huge earthworks. Led by Jennifer Watling of the University of São Paulo and the University of Exeter , a team reconstructed fire and vegetation history over 6,000 years near two of the geoglyphs, and found humans actually changed the bamboo forests heavily for millennia. They temporarily cleared areas to build the earthworks. Related: Archaeologists reveal fresh details about 4,500-year-old “New Stonehenge” As researchers didn’t find many artifacts around the earthworks, the sites probably weren’t villages, and their layout prompts researchers to think they weren’t used for defense. Instead, the ancient geoglyphs may have been utilized only once in a while for ritual gatherings. Watling cautions against excusing rampant deforestation based on this new information. Her team’s research shows while ancient people altered the rainforest, they did not employ long term, large-scale deforestation as happens today, or burn swaths of forest. Instead they employed ancient agroforestry practices and focused on economically valuable trees like palms to create what the University of Exeter describes as a prehistoric supermarket of products from the forest. Watling said, “Our evidence that Amazonian forests have been managed by indigenous peoples long before European Contact should not be cited as justification for the destructive, unsustainable land-use practiced today. It should instead serve to highlight the ingenuity of past subsistence regimes that did not lead to forest degradation, and the importance of indigenous knowledge for finding more sustainable land use alternatives.” Nine other researchers from institutions in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Canada joined Watling in the research; the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published their study online this month. Via Phys.org Images via Jenny Watling/Phys.org

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Hundreds of ancient earthworks similar to Stonehenge found in the Amazon

First Wattway solar road pilot in US pops up in rural Georgia

February 7, 2017 by  
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The first Wattway solar road pilot in America has popped up in rural west Georgia . The Ray C. Anderson Foundation , named for sustainable manufacturing pioneer Ray Anderson, is testing renewable technologies along an 18-mile stretch of road, and recently installed 538 square feet of Colas ‘ Wattway solar road system near the border between Georgia and Alabama. Part of Georgia’s Interstate 85 was named for Anderson, but as over five million tons of carbon dioxide are emitted yearly on that road portion alone, Anderson’s family felt placing his name there didn’t honor his legacy, and began to look into renewable technologies to clear the air – so to speak. Thus began The Ray , an 18-mile living laboratory for clean technologies, including not only the solar roads, but also a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station , and WheelRight , a system people can drive over to test their tire pressure, which could lead to improved fuel inefficiency. Related: France officially opens the world’s first solar panel road The first Wattway solar panel pilot is part of The Ray near a Georgia Visitor Information Center in West Point, Georgia. According to Wattway by Colas, the average expected output for the 538-square-meter pilot is anticipated to be 7,000 kilowatt-hours per year, which will help power the center. And these technologies are just the beginning. The foundation will also construct bioswales , or shallow drainage ditches filled with native Georgia plants to capture pollutants during rain. In a right-of-way space, they’ll build a one megawatt solar installation . They’re working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to bring such ideas to life along the 18-mile road stretch. Not only will several of their projects beautify the highway, but will generate clean energy and bring in money for investors. And other parts of the state have shown interest in building their own Wattway roads. The Ray executive director Allie Kelly dreams of a day when highways will “serve as a power grid for the future,” but she believes that day is coming sooner than we may think. She told Curbed, “We’re at a tipping point in transportation . In five to ten years, we won’t remember a time when we invested a dime in infrastructure spending for a road that only did one thing.” + The Ray + Wattway by Colas Via Curbed Images © Valerie Bennett and via The Ray

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