Pape Bird Observation Tower is a glorious marriage of a birds nest and a jewel box

December 11, 2017 by  
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This charming bird observation tower looks like a mix between a bird’s nest and a jewel box. Berta Risueño Muzás and Manuel Pareja Abascal designed the structure to provide visitors of Latvia ’s Pape Nature Park with protection from the elements while also blending perfectly into its natural surroundings so as not to disrupt the local wildlife. The project, selected as the winner of the  Pape Bird Observation Tower Competition , combines timber and rope to achieve a sense of protection and privacy. The use of rope as a sustainable and economical material that is easy to transport, simplifies the fabrication of the structure. The tower can be completely assembled off-site, it is easy to maintain and replace. Related: Rammed-earth walls clad an observation tower to blend into a Belgian nature reserve Different-sized aluminum frames are placed in the shell, creating openings that connect the interior of the tower with the surrounding landscape. A light timber frame envelops the tower with a double function– it strengthens the structure and frames the façade. + Pape Bird Observation Tower Competition

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Pape Bird Observation Tower is a glorious marriage of a birds nest and a jewel box

Google Street View captures the migration of millions of crabs on Christmas Island

December 11, 2017 by  
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Google Street View Trekker is traveling to Christmas Island this week to capture the migration of millions of red crabs . In what naturalist David Attenborough has described as one of nature’s “most astonishing and wonderful sights,” huge numbers of the iconic, endemic red crabs annually travel from their inland forest homes to the ocean, where the crabs breed and lay their eggs. The red crabs have already begun their march to the sea and the peak number of crabs on the beaches is expected on December 13, 2017. Dr. Alasdair Grigg of Parks Australia is working with Google and wielding a Street View Trekker 360 camera to capture images from the event, which should be available in early 2018. The red crabs of Christmas Island, an Australian territory near the Indonesian island of Java, spend most of the year burrowed in the damp forest floor to preserve body moisture and protect themselves from the harsh equatorial sun. When conditions are right, 40 to 50 million crabs emerge from their dens to march towards the ocean. Parks Australia has set up walls and fencing to help protect and guide the crabs as they maneuver around manmade obstructions, such as roads. Related: Google maps the solar system for armchair space travelers Although few are able to actually travel to Christmas Island to observe the phenomenon, people around the world will be able to witness the migration thanks to Google and Dr. Alistair Grigg of Parks Australia. “Christmas Island is not on the radar of most travelers,” said Grigg in a statement. “We hope people can get a taste of the magnificent nature and the red crab migration through the eyes of the Google Trekker. We also hope they are inspired to appreciate the world-class conservation values of the Island.” This documentation of natural phenomenon follows similar efforts by Google, including virtual tours of all of South Africa’s national parks . Via Mashable Images via Google

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Google Street View captures the migration of millions of crabs on Christmas Island

Weathered steel and reclaimed materials blend a modern home into the woods

December 11, 2017 by  
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Raleigh-based Tonic Design completed a creative new home that plays with the contrasts between the old and new in their use of reclaimed and contemporary materials. Tucked into the forests of Durham, the Piedmont Retreat is a 3,800-square-foot single-family home that embraces the outdoors in its use of weathered materials and large cantilevered windows. Reclaimed materials , like the oak flooring and factory lights, help soften the modern steel and glass construction. Located on a corner of a cul-de-sac in Durham, Piedmont Retreat is a two-story home commissioned by clients who wanted a low-maintenance home with a direct visual connection to their beautiful wooded site. In response, the architects wrapped the street-facing side of the home in vertical strips of Corten steel that will continue to weather over time and blend the home into the surroundings. Abundant glazing was installed in the back of the home to frame views of the forest. The home’s upper level is split into two halves, one for the communal spaces and the other for the bedrooms. This division of space is realized as two separate volumes set slightly apart and linked via light-filled walkways. A protected exterior courtyard sits between the two parts. Related: Stunning Lake Michigan home is built from dying ash reclaimed onsite “While the steel provides an exterior barrier, of sorts, between the family and the street, interior spaces are open and fluid, shifting perspectives throughout the house as the inhabitants move from the “public” volume of living, dining, and kitchen areas to the private volume of bedrooms and baths, all on one floor,” wrote the architects. + Tonic Design Images by Tzu Chen Photography

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Weathered steel and reclaimed materials blend a modern home into the woods

Lookout Loop bird observatory in Latvia doubles as a temporary shelter

November 23, 2017 by  
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Ulf Mejergren Architects just unveiled plans for a beautiful bird observatory in Latvia that doubles as a temporary shelter. The Lookout Loop has a sinuous, sculptural form that allows visitors to enjoy expansive views of the wetlands and rest before continuing on one of the paths through Pape Nature Park. The observatory rises from the ground like a dock, with three pairs of curved stair sections joining in a loop, leaving a void in the center. The stairs gets wider closer to the top and the upper landing serves as an observation deck on each pair of stairs. Covered spaces for shelter are located on both sides of the entrance. Related: X-Studio’s Lightweave Palm Observatory is Made Entirely From Palm Leaves The entire structure is made of rot-resistant Siberian larch heartwood. Small gaps between the planks were left in order to allow the wood to dry properly. This also creates a nice visual effect– light filters through the gaps and create the impression of permeability. The main structure is composed of poles interlocked with a treated wood truss-system. + Ulf Mejergren Architects

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Lookout Loop bird observatory in Latvia doubles as a temporary shelter

Iconic Dutch dike renovation opens with energy-generating kites that can power 200 homes

November 21, 2017 by  
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The Netherlands’ legendary Afsluitdijk dike has been in use for 85 years but it needed a renovation — so the Dutch government turned to designer Daan Roosegaarde for help. Studio Roosegaarde recently unveiled their Icoon Afsluitdijk project featuring three eye-catching designs: Gates of Light, Windvogel, and Glowing Nature, with elements from clean power -generating kites to live bioluminescent algae . Studio Roosegaarde launched three striking designs at the Afsluitdijk. Icoon Afsluitdijk is intended to bolster the causeway’s iconic value, with the installations bringing light to the area after sunset. Related: Daan Roosegaarde unveils mind-expanding 295-foot SPACE installation in Eindhoven Gates of Light includes restored 1932 floodgates fitted with prisms that reflect light from vehicle headlights. If there are no cars by the Gates of Light – which the studio described as an example of a “futuristic and energy neutral landscape” – the structures don’t light up. Studio Roosegaarde said they were inspired to utilize retroreflection based on how butterfly wings reflect light. Windvogel could offer enough power for 200 households. The smart kites’ lines move back and forth in the wind to generate energy , much like a dynamo on a bicycle, according to Studio Roosegaarde. Glowing Nature is an exhibit in the dike’s historic bunkers featuring living algae. The bioluminescent microorganisms only light up when touched under optimal conditions and care. They could offer inspiration for light or energy solutions for the future, according to the studio. Roosegaarde said in a statement, “The Afsluitdijk represents a part of Dutch daring and innovation. We live with water, we fight with water, and we endeavor a new harmony…By adding a subtle layer of light and interaction, we enhance the beauty of the dike and form new links between man and landscape, darkness and light, poetry and practice.” Gates of Light will become a permanent part of the dike. Glowing Nature and Windvogel can be glimpsed until January 21, 2018. + Studio Roosegaarde Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

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Iconic Dutch dike renovation opens with energy-generating kites that can power 200 homes

Scientists warn of more severe earthquakes in 2018 as Earth’s rotation slows

November 21, 2017 by  
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You wouldn’t have felt it, but sometimes the Earth’s rotation slows down. Sure, the fluctuations are minute – maybe a millisecond here or there. But two geophysicists think there could be more destructive quakes next year because of the phenomenon. There is a silver lining: such small changes also might help us forecast earthquakes. Scientists have charted minuscule changes in the length of a day on our planet for decades. Sometimes we gain a millisecond, sometimes we lose one. But it turns out these tiny changes could impact us in a big way. They could be involved in the release of large amounts of underground energy . Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana and Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado, Boulder presented the idea in a research letter published by Geophysical Research Letters in late summer and at The Geological Society of America’s annual meeting last month. Related: Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes Slowdowns in Earth’s rotation have corresponded with global increases of magnitude seven or greater earthquakes during the last century, according to the researchers: Bilham said, “The Earth offers us a five-years heads-up on future earthquakes.” In slowdown periods, Earth often sees two to five more large earthquakes than usual – but these arrive after the slowdown begins. Earth’s magnetic field develops a temporary ripple as day length fluctuates over decades, according to Science Magazine . Both effects could be caused by small changes in molten iron’s flow in the outer core , researchers think. Earth spins 460 meters per second at the equator, according to Science Magazine, and “given this high velocity, it’s not absurd to think that a slight mismatch in speed between the solid crust and mantle and the liquid core could translate into a force somehow nudging quakes into synchrony.” Bendick said the connection may seem crazy. But other researchers are intrigued – and geologist James Dolan of the University of Southern California said we should know if they’re on to something in five years. Based on the research, Earth should see five more major earthquakes than average starting in 2018 and we may have a new tool for earthquake forecasting. Via Science Magazine and The Guardian Images via Lorenzo Bollettini on Unsplash and Depositphotos

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Scientists warn of more severe earthquakes in 2018 as Earth’s rotation slows

Hundreds of sea turtles found dead near El Salvador

November 9, 2017 by  
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Why did hundreds of sea turtles perish near El Salvador ? The country’s ministry of environment and natural resources found 300-400 dead turtles in Jiquilisco Bay, so they took samples to try and determine why the animals died. National Geographic floated fishing and algal blooms as two reasons for the sea turtle die-offs. Around 300 to 400 sea turtles died near El Salvador, according to MARN . Locals began seeing the turtles the end of October; MARN announced the die-off on Twitter in early November. Several turtle species reside in the area, but so far it looks like ridleys have been the species most hit. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies ridleys as vulnerable. Related: Unusually high number of humpback whale deaths prompts NOAA inquiry A red tide , or harmful algal bloom, led to turtle deaths in El Salvador in 2006 and 2013. Turtles can die after ingesting the blooms. But it’s not yet clear if a red tide caused these deaths. On November 3, MARN said they collected samples from seawater and the turtles’ tissues, and also took blood samples from a living turtle. The fishing industry has been to blame for turtle deaths in the past during shrimp trawling, as turtles can get caught in the nets. But a month-long moratorium began October 17, so the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative ‘s Mike Liles said fishing probably didn’t cause the 300 to 400 turtles to perish. Liles did say the practice is still dangerous for the creatures. This recent event is one of the biggest turtle die-offs El Salvador has experienced. Liles said large-scale die-offs could just get more common as industrial agriculture runoff worsens red tides. Conservation Ecology Lab ecologist Alexander Gaos agreed and said more conservation programs are needed. Via National Geographic Images via MARN El Salvador on Twitter ( 1 , 2 )

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You can now explore all 19 of South Africa’s National Parks on Google Maps

November 3, 2017 by  
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Have you ever wanted to walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela , track cheetahs on foot , or stroll with elephants — and other exotic creatures — in South Africa ? Well, here’s your chance. Thanks to the efforts of over 200 volunteers, now you can use Google Maps to explore 19 National Parks, 17 nature reserves, and many other sites of natural, cultural and historical significance in South Africa. More than 200 nature-loving South Africans volunteered to map out parts of the country they call home. Many of the helpers were rangers and guides with SANParks , CapeNature and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife . Others were just good Samaritans, tech enthusiasts and avid hikers who want to make a difference. Over the span of twelve months, the volunteers trekked over 50,000km to establish 232 points of interest. Said Magdalena Filak, Program Manager for Google, “The hundreds of volunteers who helped along the way proved to be truly passionate about showing the best of South Africa through their participation in the loan program.” The Google Street View Camera Loan program encourages anyone to borrow the 360-degree camera technology to help the planet . Reportedly, this is the first time Google has partnered with a third-party for the program. Drive South Africa played a big role in coordinating the volunteers . Andre Van Kets, an outdoor enthusiast and the founder of the Cape Town -based company, explained the technology: “The Trekker camera is a 22kg custom-made backpack fitted with 15 cameras pointing in all directions. The on-board technology plots the camera’s exact location on the trail. While recording, the camera takes a 360-degree photo every two-seconds. It’s basically the off-road equivalent of Google’s Street View cars.” Kets added that he saw “potential in this technology to showcase South Africa to travellers around the globe” when he applied. Related: Thousands of plastic bottles transformed into an inspiring tower of hope in South Africa In addition to mapping over two hundred points of interest, volunteers mapped eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Users can also see Mapungubwe Hill , which is home to an ancient African civilization, the Richtersveld that is known for its incredible moonscapes, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park , South Africa’s oldest UNESCO site which serves as a critical habitat for many species . The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Dennis Wood of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife said, “As the proud conservation authority for KwaZulu-Natal, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are excited to be partnered with Google’ new initiative in exposing our trails on this global platform that we believe will engage our prospective guests to “Take time to Discover” our province’s rich natural beauty and conservation wildlife heritage.” + Google Street View Loan Program Images via Google Maps

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You can now explore all 19 of South Africa’s National Parks on Google Maps

UNEP chief: Polluters should pay for environmental destruction, not taxpayers

September 21, 2017 by  
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Companies often profit from environmental destruction , leaving taxpayers to pick up the cleanup bill. That shouldn’t be the case, according to Erik Solheim, executive director for the United Nations Environment Program . At a conference at Columbia University earlier this week, he said, “The profit of destroying nature or polluting the planet is nearly always privatized, while the costs of polluting the planet or the cost of destroying ecosystems is nearly always socialized. This cannot continue.” Solheim said we can turn around Earth’s environmental fortunes if businesses, citizens, and politicians work for a shared goal – with the biggest polluters paying for damage. He said, “Anyone who pollutes, anyone who destroys nature must pay for the cost of that destruction or that pollution.” Related: The oil industry knew about dangerous climate change in the 1960s Two scientists made a similar point in a recent opinion piece for The Guardian, saying big oil companies should pay for climate change . The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Director of Science and Policy Peter Frumhoff and University of Oxford professor of geosystem science Myles Allen pointed to July lawsuits against ExxonMobil, BP, and Chevron, saying they should pay for damages coastal communities face from rising sea levels . They, together with other researchers, published a peer-reviewed study quantifying sea level rise and rising temperatures coming from emissions from fossil fuel companies. Solheim also said businesses must play a role by creating new technologies to address needs. He pointed to China as an example, highlighting the work of bike-sharing firm Mobike, which boasts over a million shareable bicycles in the Beijing area. Meanwhile, China is also working on transportation with a high-speed rail network and urban metro systems. He also pointed to India , where addressing environmental issues has been good for the country. Solar power has created jobs, simultaneous boosting the economy and helping the planet. Solheim said, “Change is happening. Economic-wise, we are on the right track, but we need to speed up because the challenge is so big.” Via Thomson Reuters Foundation and EcoWatch Images via Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon/Army National Guard and Steve Snodgrass on Flickr

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Bio-inspired wind turbines with flexible blades 35% more efficient

June 8, 2017 by  
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Wind energy already yields four percent of Earth’s power, but five researchers at French institutions recently drew inspiration from nature to make wind turbines even better. Inspired by creatures like dragonflies, they found flexible blades on wind turbines make the machines much more efficient. Wind turbines today work best under optimal wind speeds, but the new bio-inspired design could offer a way around that fact, making wind power even more accessible. Wind speeds impact the functioning of a wind turbine. If the wind is too slow, the turbine won’t turn and generate energy; if the wind is too fast it could damage the turbine. Wind also must hit the turbines at the correct pitch angle to apply the correct amount of torque to the generator, according to Science. The new research from scientists at Sorbonne University and École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers-ParisTech fixes these issues with flexible blades much like insect wings. Related: Revolutionary flapping wind turbine mimics hummingbirds to produce clean energy The researchers constructed prototypes with regular hard turbine blades, slightly flexible turbine blades, and very flexible turbine blades. The last design turned out to be too floppy, but the slightly flexible blades outperformed the rigid ones, offering as much as 35 percent more power . They also continued to work in lower wind conditions and weren’t as susceptible to damage in high winds. The journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A published the research online in February. But the scientists’ work isn’t yet done: they now need to search for the right material that’s “flexible, but not too flexible,” according to lead author Vincent Cognet, to scale up the findings. Engineer Asfaw Beyene of San Diego State University, who was not part of this study, told Science, “The fluid mechanics and the physics make absolute sense. There’s no reason why we cannot make morphing blades that will adapt to wind conditions.” Via Science and Tech Xplore Images via Joi Ito on Flickr and Pexels

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