Standing Rock protesters evicted by police at gunpoint

February 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Green

Yesterday police in riot gear evicted Standing Rock protesters after an evacuation deadline passed. Though the majority of demonstrators left the Oceti Sakowin camp before the February 22nd deadline, about 50 Dakota Access Pipeline protesters remained. Most of these passive resistors – including veterans and tribal elders – were arrested at gunpoint by officers clad in full riot gear. The raid was livestreamed on Facebook over the course of 4 hours throughout the day. The initial evacuation was ordered on the pretext of protecting demonstrators from seasonal floods, which could potentially affect the area. While this is certainly a legitimate concern, the fact that over 200 police officers were sent to clear the area, armed with rifles and military-style equipment, makes it clear that the protesters’ safety isn’t Governor Doug Burgam’s main priority. Related: Judge throws out request to halt Dakota Access Pipeline construction Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told ABC News in a statement, “I am very happy to say that we finally introduced rule of law in the Oceti camp. I am hopeful that this announcement brings us closer to finality in what has been an incredibly challenging time for our citizens and law enforcement professionals. Having dealt with riots, violence, trespassing and property crimes, the people of Morton County are looking forward to getting back to their normal lives.” For many of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe members, there is no “normal life” to get back to. Now that the pipeline construction is slated to go forward , they live in fear that a catastrophic oil spill could put their community’s access to clean water at peril. The “violence, trespassing, and property crimes” they’ve been subject to at the hands of police in the past year include being attacked by security dogs , blasted with water cannons at hypothermia-inducing temperatures, and having land they claim was granted to them as part of a 1851 treaty given away to oil companies by the federal government. Related: Trump claims he received no calls about the Keystone and Dakota pipelines Though the protests are Standing Rock have been ended by force, the movement to force banks to stop supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline continues. Oakland , Los Angeles , and New York City are just a few of the local governments urged to divest from the pipeline. Seattle has already voted to end all financial support of the project by moving $3 billion of the city’s funds from Wells Fargo. Via ABC News Images via Kelly Hayes , Unicorn Riot , Jamil Dakwar , Standing Rock Rising

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Standing Rock protesters evicted by police at gunpoint

See how banana trees are recycled into vegan leather wallets in Micronesia

February 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Forget plastic and leather, your next wallet could be made from a more ethical and eco-friendly alternative—banana fiber. Kosrae, Micronesia-based startup Green Banana Paper tapped into banana tree waste, upcycling the unlikely material into stylish and sturdy vegan leather wallets. Green Banana Paper launched a Kickstarter to bring these eco friendly wallets to the global market and help improve the lives of local farmers. Bananas may be easy to eat, but the trees they grow on need a surprising amount of work. There are approximately 200,000 banana trees spread across the island and after harvesting, local farmers must cut down the plant every year to promote fruit production. The mass amounts of banana fiber waste are typically left on the ground to biodegrade, but Green Banana Paper saw an entrepreneurial opportunity with environmental and social benefits. Founded by New England native Matt Simpson, the social enterprise produces strong and water-resistant wallets with designs inspired by the coconut palms, ocean life, and people of Micronesia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSM_TYaT5Kg Related: Thai Building Facade Handmade From Natural Banana Fiber “Green Banana Paper wallets are not only ecofriendly; they are helping to provide a living wage to Kosraean families,” says the company. “Matt hopes to continue to scale up production, and get even more people on the island involved in this truly community-oriented business.” Green Banana Paper has launched a Kickstarter to raise funds for hiring more people and improving the quality of their products. Supporters of the project can also receive their own banana fiber wallet, which can be shipped around the world. + Green Banana Paper Kickstarter

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See how banana trees are recycled into vegan leather wallets in Micronesia

NASA discovers 7 Earth-sized planets outside our solar system

February 22, 2017 by  
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In a press conference today, NASA scientists revealed an extraordinary new discovery – the first known system of seven rocky, Earth-sized planets orbiting a single star. Three out of the seven planets are situated at the perfect distance from the sun to potentially harbor liquid water , making them habitable for life as we know it. This is the largest number of habitable-zone planets ever found around a single star outside our own solar system . It’s important to note that simply because these planets could potentially hold liquid water doesn’t mean that they do – but the likelihood is higher given their location. The planets are orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1, located about 40 light years (or 235 trillion miles) from Earth in the Aquarius constellation. The system is named after the TRAPPIST ( The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope ), located in an observatory in Chile. In May 2016, TRAPPIST researchers announced they’d discovered three planets in the system. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was able to confirm those exoplanets’ existence and that of four additional planets. The results of NASA’s study have been published in the journal Nature today. Related: Astronomers just discovered an alien planet with three suns that shouldn’t exist What’s especially interesting about the TRAPPIST-1 system is how different its habitable zone is from that of systems like our own. Because the star is much cooler than our sun, planets much closer to the sun than Earth could potentially have liquid water. In fact, all seven of TRAPPIST-1’s planets are closer to the star than Mercury is to our own sun, and each of the planets are so close to one another they would appear in one another’s skies the same way the moon appears in ours. NASA scientists also speculate the planets may be tidally locked , so that the same side of the planet is always facing the star, casting one half of the planet in permanent daylight and the other in perpetual night. This could cause weather patterns unlike anything we’ve ever seen before on Earth, and extreme differences in temperature from one side to the other. The Spitzer telescope was able to detect the presence of the planets by observing the infrared wavelengths emitted by the star over a period of 500 hours. Each time a planet crossed in front of the star, the telescope could detect changes in the star’s brightness. NASA also followed up with a study using the Hubble Space Telescope to determine whether the planets were rocky, or likely had a “puffy” atmosphere like those of our own system’s gas giants. There’s still much about these planets we simply do not know, but studies will continue to help NASA learn more about them. Right now, the Kepler space telescope is also recording observations about the system, which will reveal more properties about the exoplanets in March. NASA’s new James Webb Telescope will also be pointed toward TRAPPIST-1 after its launch in 2018, and will analyze the planets’ temperature, surface pressure, and atmospheric makeup – all key factors that will reveal whether these worlds can actually sustain life. Via NASA Images via NASA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnKFaAS30X8

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NASA discovers 7 Earth-sized planets outside our solar system

New map reveals the world’s most toxic countries

February 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Just about every country in the world grapples with pollution , no matter how rich or poor they are. But you may not be aware of just how toxic your locale is. The Eco Experts from the United Kingdom recently cross-referenced data to rank the countries of the world by toxicity on a new map , and some of the results may surprise you. To create their map, The Eco Experts scrutinized data for 135 countries on carbon emissions , air pollution levels, and energy consumption, along with how much the countries draw on renewable energy . They also considered how many people have died from poor air quality . Bringing together all the individual rankings, The Eco Experts determined which countries are most damaging the environment and risking public health . Related: New Google Timelapse shows how humans have destroyed Earth over 32 years They ranked Saudi Arabia as the world’s most toxic country, with the highest recorded air pollution levels. Other oil-rich countries like Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates topped the list as well. The United States ranked 66, doing better than countries like Canada, China, or Russia but worse than India and the United Kingdom. One surprise was that Nordic countries like Iceland and Norway guzzle more energy than others. Meanwhile, the top five least toxic countries are all located in Africa . The world’s least toxic country is Kenya , followed by Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Cameroon. In a press release, Jon Whiting of The Eco Experts said, “This research is a way of naming and shaming the worst offenders around the world. Their lack of action against emissions not only puts their populations at risk of deadly pollution-related diseases but also threatens the future of our planet. These threats are not distant concerns for future generations; their effects are being felt now and lives are already being lost. This research highlights the need for every country to act fast and put more investment into renewable energy alternatives.” + The Eco Experts Images courtesy of The Eco Experts

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New map reveals the world’s most toxic countries

California introduces its own 100% renewable energy bill

February 22, 2017 by  
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Massachusetts recently introduced a bill to derive 100 percent of the state’s energy from renewables , and now California is following suit. A new bill introduced by state Senate leader Kevin de León would require the state to obtain 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045. Under de León’s bill, SB 584 , California would need to reach 50 percent renewable energy use by 2025, five years earlier than the state’s current target of 2030, and cease using fossil fuels completely by 2045. Related: Massachusetts lawmakers sponsor 100% renewable energy bill In 2016, the state obtained 27 percent of electricity via wind , solar, and other clean sources, and California’s deserts offer potential spaces for more renewable energy plants. The solar industry has created 100,000 jobs in California. Experts say the state could reach the 100 percent goal since costs for solar and wind power are falling – in many areas of the state solar is already the cheapest option, according to The Desert Sun. Some people wondered if de León’s bill as a reaction to Donald Trump’s energy policies. Large-scale Solar Association president Jim Woodruff, who worked with de León on the legislation, told The Desert Sun, “Whether it’s a direct response to what’s happening in Washington, I don’t know, but it’s certainly an indication that California will continue to lead in this area. It’s the sixth-largest economy in the world. I think by putting these goals out, it’s making a pretty powerful statement, not only in the U.S., but globally, that if we set out the goals and put the resources to it, those goals can be achieved.” The Desert Sun said it’s not yet clear if de León will move forward with the bill; as he filed it right before the state’s deadline to file bills on Friday, it could act as a placeholder until legislation more detailed can be written. Massachusetts recently introduced a similar bill , but it’s slightly more ambitious than California’s. Under the 100 Percent Renewable Energy Act , Massachusetts would transition to obtaining all their electricity from renewable energy by 2035, and would grant sectors like heating and transportation a 2050 deadline. The California bill gives its state’s electricity sector an extra ten years to reach that 100 percent target. Via The Desert Sun Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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California introduces its own 100% renewable energy bill

Groundbreaking technology affordably captures CO2 from fossil fuel plants

February 22, 2017 by  
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What if fossil fuels could be burned without pouring emissions into the air? Many people consider that idea to be wishful thinking, but chemical engineer Rodney Allam doesn’t. He’s been working on carbon capture technology on and off since the 1970’s, and with the help of venture capital incubator 8 Rivers , recently put the finishing touches on the Allam Cycle , an electric-generation system that captures all the carbon dioxide (CO2) made from burning fossil fuels. Allam investigated bolt-on methods during his decades of searching for a way to capture CO2 from fossil fuel plants, but found those methods too expensive. He aimed to make carbon capture affordable, but gave up in the 1990’s. Then 8 Rivers came along in 2009 with a plan to make use of Recovery Act money from the federal government. When Allam returned to the issue, he was at last able to develop the Allam Cycle. Related: Breakthrough technology turns coal plant CO2 into baking powder The Allam Cycle doesn’t utilize steam to create electricity . Instead, CO2 under pressure and in a supercritical state spins the turbines powering the generators. Combustion adds CO2 to keep the process going, and any excess is sent into a pipeline. NetPower , 8 Rivers’ portfolio company constructing the first Allam Cycle plant, describes the technology as truly clean, saying plants that utilize the Allam Cycle are able to “inherently eliminate all air emissions.” That means no particulate matter, mercury, nitrogen oxides, or sulfur oxides either. Plus, Allam’s technology can generate electricity at the same six cents per kilowatt-hour as other gas-fired turbines. NetPower is working with Exelon and Toshiba on the first plant. According to Forbes, such a full-size plant costs around $300 million to construct and can generate 300 megawatts yearly. Once the plant is built, it will take a few months before NetPower can show the cycle is stable. Allam told Forbes they might know for sure in a year. The first plant will run on natural gas ; 8 Rivers says on their website they are also developing a coal -based system. Via Forbes Images via Wikimedia Commons and eutrophication&hypoxia on Flickr

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Groundbreaking technology affordably captures CO2 from fossil fuel plants

Uber rolls out autonomous cars in Arizona

February 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Just shy of two months after Uber’s autonomous cars were banned in California, the company is rolling out its second round of experimental autonomous vehicles on the roadways of Arizona. Uber’s most-recent experiment is happening on the streets of Tempe Arizona, where locals have the option to ride in one of the company’s self-driving Volvo XC90s – along with two Uber engineers in the front seats for safety purposes. Uber’s operation on the streets of San Francisco lasted only a week due to a dispute over regulations, but the company could benefit from less restrictive regulations in the Grand Canyon State. Uber and California went their separate ways because the state’s DMV threatened legal action for the improper licensing of test vehicles. When Uber refused to apply for the necessary permits, the state just up and revoked their license. It didn’t take the company long to hit the road in Arizona, where Governor Doug Ducey put out a big welcome mat for them in the form of an executive order. Signed in August, 2015, the order directed several government agencies to “undertake any necessary steps to support the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles on public roads in the state. According to The Verge , he also “empowered” universities to launch pilot programs for self-driving cars. Related: Uber launches self-driving cars in Pittsburgh After nearly a year of rumors that the company was planning to experiment with autonomous cars, Uber confirmed suspicions when it announced and began testing the vehicles on the streets of Pittsburgh in September 2016. Pricing for the Arizona pilot project remains the same as UberX service in other cities, and the Volvos can carry up to three passengers along with the “safety drivers.” Riders will have the option to cancel their request if they feel nervous when a self-driving car shows up, allowing them to opt for a human-piloted vehicle instead. Via The Verge and Engadget Images via Uber, Dilu , Wikimedia Commons and Foo Conner , Flickr Creative Commons

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Uber rolls out autonomous cars in Arizona

German architecture students and refugees build a beautiful timber community center

February 22, 2017 by  
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Architecture students from Germany’s University of Kaiserslautern teamed up with 25 refugees to build a timber community center for a refugee camp in Mannheim, Germany. Completed as part of the “Building Together—Learning Together” program, the 550-square-meter structure breathes new life into the bare-bones surroundings with a beautiful new gathering space. The design/build project prioritized ecological and cost-effective design without compromising construction quality. The timber community center was created in response to the desolate conditions of the Mannheim refugee camp located on the former American Spinelli Barracks. To aid in the refugee crisis , 18 architecture students teamed up with 25 refugees to design the new building, from concept to final build. The students lived at the refugee camp and worked intensively for six weeks from mid-August to the end of October to realize the project and help teach their new coworkers basic building skills and German. Related: Self-shaping shelters that could revolutionize emergency housing The community center is made almost entirely of lightweight untreated timber , with the larger components prefabricated in a hangar of the former military facility and later assembled onsite. The main walls are clad in Douglas fir while the latticework walls are used as structural support, allowing for natural ventilation and light while also creating a beautiful dappled play of light and shadow. The center wraps around a small garden courtyard as well as a large outdoor events space. Built-in seating is arranged around this area, shielded from the elements by a two-meter-wall canopy and partitions. The center also includes a pair of storerooms that can be adapted for different uses in the future. + Atelier U20 Via ArchDaily Images © Yannick Wegner

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German architecture students and refugees build a beautiful timber community center

How Sweden plans to heat homes with internet searches

February 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Emails and Instagram photos don’t come without a carbon footprint : they’re stored in data centers which continually battle excess heat and suck up electricity to cool servers. But Stockholm, Sweden recently came up with a rather ingenious use for all that waste heat : what if it could warm homes instead? Most data centers aren’t very environmentally friendly. According to one estimate, they consume roughly the same amount of power as the airline industry, and the amount of electricity used in the centers could triple during the upcoming decade. But data center heat could help cities transition away from fossil fuels in a major way. Just one 10-megawatt data center can provide enough heat for 20,000 apartments. Related: Why Microsoft is dropping data centers on the ocean floor Stockholm started an initiative, Stockholm Data Parks , for their vision of “a data center industry where no heat is wasted.” Under the initiative, renewable energy will power data centers, and heat produced will be sold to district heating company Fortum Värme , which has been looking to biomass or waste heat to provide heating instead of fossil fuels. The presence of a district heating system sets Stockholm up to utilize data center heat on a large scale. Stockholm’s district heating system has already begun working with small data centers, and Stockholm Data Parks said on their website they will bring together, prepare, and offer “all necessary infrastructure elements at attractive greenfield and brownfield sites suited for data center activity.” Power grid operator Ellevio and dark fiber provider Stokab are participating in the initiative along with Fortum Värme. Some data centers do operate on renewable energy, but if their excess heat could go to a district heating system, Stockholm’s data centers could even become carbon positive. A 10-megawatt center could lower emissions by 8,000 metric tons. Since Stockholm’s goal is to go fossil fuel free by 2040, the Stockholm Data Parks vision could push the country closer to that target. + Stockholm Data Parks Via Fast Company’s Co.Exist Images via Pexels and Stockholm Data Parks

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How Sweden plans to heat homes with internet searches

Uranium from seawater could provide an "endless" supply of nuclear energy

February 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

No discussion of a post-carbon future can be complete without raising the specter of nuclear power. Although it’s a contentious subject, any concerns about large-scale adoption have been largely rendered moot by the fact that the world’s uranium deposits are finite—and dwindling. Stanford researchers are convinced, however, that the solution may lie in seawater, which contains trace amounts of the radioactive metal. “Concentrations are tiny, on the order of a single grain of salt dissolved in a liter of water,” said Yi Cui, a materials scientist who co-authored a paper on the subject in the journal Nature Energy . “But the oceans are so vast that if we can extract these trace amounts cost effectively, the supply would be endless.” Wind and solar power are gaining traction, but some experts say that they’re still too intermittent to be truly reliable in the long term. “We need nuclear power as a bridge toward a post-fossil-fuel future,” said Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former U.S. secretary of energy who championed seawater extraction research before he left the Department of Energy for Stanford. A co-author of the paper, he noted that nuclear power currently accounts for 20 percent of U.S. electricity and 13 percent worldwide. A practical way of extracting uranium from seawater, he added, could go a long way to bolstering the energy security of countries that rely on nuclear power but lack uranium reserves of their own. “Seawater extraction gives countries that don’t have land-based uranium the security that comes from knowing they’ll have the raw material to meet their energy needs,” he said. Related: Uranium extracted from the oceans could power cities for thousands of years Although many have attempted to harness the oceans’ uranium before, previous efforts have failed to yield sufficient quantities in a fiscally meaningful way. Till now, anyway. Uranium doesn’t bob freely on the waves, of course. In seawater, the element combines chemically with oxygen to form positively charged ions called uranyl. Building on years of prior research, the Stanford team refined a technique that involves dipping plastic fibers containing a uranyl-attracting compound called amidoxime in seawater. When the strands become saturated with the ions, the plastic is chemically treated to free the uranyl, which can be refined for use in reactors – much like you would do with ore. By tinkering with different variables, the researchers were able to create a fiber that captured nine times as much uranyl as previous attempts without becoming saturated. Sending electrical pulses down the fiber collected even more uranyl ions. “We have a lot of work to do still but these are big steps toward practicality,” Cui said. + Stanford University Via Engadget Top photo by apasciuto

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Uranium from seawater could provide an "endless" supply of nuclear energy

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