Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet

August 3, 2018 by  
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Approximately 94% of the 111 species and subspecies of lemur are under threat of extinction in their native country of Madagascar – the only place they exist outside of captivity. Of the remaining lemur groups, only six do not face high risk of extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species . This retrogression was revealed by the Primate Specialist Group , a conservation organization that has been analyzing current threats to the survival of lemur populations and their habitats. Chair of the Primate Specialist Group and Chief Conservation Officer of  Global Wildlife Conservation  Russ Mittermeier indicated that the “very high extinction risk to Madagascar’s unique lemurs” would compound, generating “grave threats to Madagascar’s biodiversity as a whole.” Loss of habitat poses the single greatest threat the lemurs now face in the wild. Developments in illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture, as well as mining activities and charcoal production, are ultimately determining the fate of these endangered animals. Related: Conservationists sound the alarm to address ‘America’s wildlife crisis’ Lemurs also face threats from pet trading hobbyists or hunters who wish to turn them into food. Once a delicacy, lemur’s presence on menus has become more and more mainstream in Madagascar, according to Professor Christoph Schweitzer of the Bristol Zoological Society . In an interview with BBC News , Schwitzer commented, “More and more, we are seeing unsustainable levels of lemur poaching. We see commercial hunting as well – probably for local restaurants. And this is a new phenomenon for Madagascar – we didn’t see it at this scale 15 years ago” Although many would bow their heads at the unfortunate fate of the lemurs, Schwitzer is an optimist. People “need to shout about these problems and get the message out there” he remarked. “When we published the lemur action plan and the media picked up on it, suddenly we had people call offering to help – to donate money or other resources. That can really make a difference,” he remarked. The “lemur action plan” has already had an effect, protecting habitats that contain the densest numbers of lemur species while helping Madagascar boost its ecotourism in the hopes of tackling poverty. By helping the local people economically, the groups involved in the plan are deterring hunting and other activities destructive to the tropical forests that provide the lemurs with their natural habitat. + Global Wildlife Conservation + IUCN Via BBC News

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Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet

Egypt set to open its first solar farm – and it’s the largest in the world

August 2, 2018 by  
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Egypt has long relied on environmentally taxing fossil fuels. Over 90% of electricity is generated from oil and natural gas, and the country subsidizes fossil fuels , making them a cheap option for its 96 million citizens. However, Egypt’s government plans to change courses and put itself on the clean energy map with the inauguration of the world’s largest solar park. Dubbed the  Benban complex , it is under construction in Egypt’s Western Desert and set to open next year. Located 400 miles south of Cairo, the $2.8-billion project will single-handedly revolutionize energy supply for the nation, and none too soon. The World Health Organization recently named Cairo the second most polluted large city on the planet. The Egyptian government, in response, aims to nearly halve its natural gas consumption and provide at least 42% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by the year 2025. Investment in Egypt’s  clean energy  market has increased by 500% since the announcement. Related: The largest solar farm apiary in the US opens this week The country’s prospects look good, says Benjamin Attia, solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie , an energy research and consultancy firm based in the United States. “I can’t think of another example where so many big players have come together to fill the gap,” he stated, referring to the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in supporting the Benban complex. The IMF has backed a reform program that aims to rescue the country’s economy, and scaling back fossil fuels is one part of it. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi has unequivocally encouraged the country’s environmental push, inaugurating other big electricity projects, including the creation of wind power farms in the Red Sea’s Gulf of Suez. Several nations have aided with the initiative, including the United States, which is helping to train hundreds of employees in wind and solar energy at local technical schools in Egypt. The Benban complex’s 30 solar plants will be operated by 4,000 workers and generate as much as 1.8 gigawatts of electricity, which will in turn provide energy to hundreds of thousands of residences and business operations. + Benban Complex + WHO Via The LA Times

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Egypt set to open its first solar farm – and it’s the largest in the world

UK bag tariff halves plastic bag marine litter, reduces sales of plastic bags by 86%

August 2, 2018 by  
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Following a 5p charge per bag, the sale of plastic bags in the U.K. has fallen by 86 percent, according to reports from the “big seven” supermarkets in the country. Scientists at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) have also found that approximately 50 percent of plastic bag marine litter has been eliminated from the Earth’s waters since the tax was put into effect. Statistics on individual consumption show a decline from 140 bags per person to 19 as a result of the bag fees — a total elimination of 300 million bags. The 5p (roughly 0.07 USD) tariff introduced in 2015 seems to be working in the favor of marine ecosystems, which receive nearly all of the plastic waste after human handling. “Every plastic bag not purchased is one which will not end up in our sea, damaging habitats or harming marine life,” said Thomas Maes, a marine litter scientist who has been working on the 25-year study at CEFAS . Government scientist-contributed data has estimated that in the next 10 years, nearly one million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals  will die each year as a result of consuming or getting caught in plastic litter. Realted: Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution “Since efforts from across Europe came into effect, including the U.K.’s 5p charge, we have observed a sharp decline in the percentage of plastic bags captured by fishing nets on our trawl surveys of the seafloor around the U.K. as compared to 2010,” Maes said. While the reduction in plastic bags found in the ocean was significant, the CEFAS study revealed that the dumping was only replaced by other plastic items and fishing debris, maintaining the amount of litter at an equilibrium, at least for now. Government projections report that levels in marine plastics will triple in the next 10 years, making efforts on every level that much more important. +CEFAS Via SkyNews ,  Sky Ocean Rescue  and  Mirpuri Foundation

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UK bag tariff halves plastic bag marine litter, reduces sales of plastic bags by 86%

Previously stable zones of Antarctica are now falling victim to climate change

August 1, 2018 by  
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Unlike its counterpart, West Antarctica, which has long been decimated by melting ice caps, East Antarctica used to be a safe zone – something scientists could depend on as a constant while they solved the more pressing destruction in the western part of the continent. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. According to  research unveiled last week in the journal  Geophysical Research Letters , despite the higher elevation and colder temperatures found in the eastern portion of the Antarctic continent, warm ocean currents and rising global temperatures are now destabilizing two of its glaciers. The research has chronicled the lives of two glaciers in the coldest region on Earth for the past 15 years. These glaciers shield the Eastern zone’s land ice, descending from the ice directly toward the sea. This creates a naturally formed dam that, if disturbed, would affect the ice that covers the rest of the region by subjecting it to the warming ocean waters. The melting of these two massive glaciers alone would raise sea levels more than 16 feet (five meters), undoubtedly compromising the rest of the territory. In an interview with Earther , Yara Mohajerani, lead expert in the study and PhD candidate at the University of California, explained, “The East Antarctic ice sheet contains much more ice and sea level potential than any other ice sheet by far, making it of crucial global significance.” Past research has shown the disappearance of similar glaciers in the East Antarctic region when carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have reached levels comparable to those found today as a result of human activities. Related: Scientists uncover giant canyons under the ice in Antarctica Scientists believe that, due to the circulation of warm ocean water under the two glaciers, they’ve been losing mass for quite some time. To help quantify the losses, NASA provided the researchers with its Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite, which measures small changes in gravity. GRACE collected data from 2002 to 2017, and the new study reveals that the glaciers are losing 18.5 gigatons of ice each year, or the equivalent of 7.4 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. While this is minuscule in comparison to losses in the rest of Antarctica, the location of these glaciers makes their survival central to the discussion of East Antarctica’s stability and, therefore, the state of the continent as a whole. + Geophysical Research Letters Via Earther

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About 90% of world’s largest king penguin colony has mysteriously disappeared

July 31, 2018 by  
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Recent satellite images and a new study show that only 200,000 of the two million king penguins who lived on the French island of Île aux Cochons in 1982 still remain. The drastic disappearance of these penguins is a puzzling occurrence that scientists are still trying to piece together, but they are looking at climate change as the likely culprit. The remote Île aux Cochons lies halfway between the tip of Africa and Antarctica and is home to the largest colony of king penguins in the world. Henri Weimerskirch, ecologist at the Centre for Biological Studies in Chize, France , first witnessed this colony in the early 1980s and plans to return to the island in early 2019 after three decades of satellite images revealed the population collapse. “It is completely unexpected, and particularly significant since this colony represented nearly one third of the king penguins in the world,” Weimerskirch said. Related: The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is still listing the conservation effort for these creatures under the “least concern” status despite the recent decline in numbers. As for what happened to hundreds of thousands of mated pairs of king penguins, there are several possibilities that Weimerskirch and his colleagues are juggling. The most likely causes are climate change and resulting El Niño weather events, competition for food and avian cholera. Scientists have not been able to examine the penguins for indications leading to a singular cause, but chances are that the factors are intermingled and aggravated by each other. Competition, which can be worsened by climate change, leads to a lack of food, resulting in struggles that are “amplified and can trigger an unprecedented rapid and drastic drop in numbers,” according to Weimerskirch. Another possible factor in the penguins’ decline could be an incident similar to the El Niño event that decimated the Emperor penguin population in Terre Adélie by 50 percent in the late 1970s. Meanwhile, avian cholera has impacted birds on nearby islands, and could be the problem on Île aux Cochons. The news is particularly daunting for the king penguins, because they only lay one egg at a time when nesting. The penguins carry the egg around on their feet, and the mates take turns every few weeks protecting and incubating the chick until it is hatched. This process takes over two months. Because the penguins do not nest year-round, and with food becoming scarcer and scarcer, a rapid rebound in population does not seem likely. + Antarctic Science Via The Guardian,   IUCN and Cool Antarctica Image via Liam Quinn

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About 90% of world’s largest king penguin colony has mysteriously disappeared

Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution

July 31, 2018 by  
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Dhruv Boruah, a former management consultant turned environmental hero is cleaning up the Thames River in London on a floating bicycle. The endeavor, named The Thames Project , is more about striking up conversations with passersby and raising awareness than it is about removing all of the plastic waste from the canals — an impossible feat for the one man show that is Boruah. The self-constructed rig, made up of a bamboo bicycle with yellow floats on either side, a rudder and a pedal-powered propeller in the front, has retrieved thousands of kilograms of plastic waste since beginning the project in 2017. “It’s a great conversation starter, and then I can tell them about my work, the plastic and how it all starts here in the canals,” he told CNN while on one of his “off-road cycling” missions. Related: A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal The 35-year-old philanthropist was impassioned by a yacht racing expedition from London to Rio de Janiero that left him thinking a lot about the dangers of plastic pollution . It was on this undertaking that Boruah had learned of the fortunate rescue of two turtles who were tangled in plastic in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. “Plastic is now in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat,” he explained. “You have to care because it’s about you, your health and the health of your children. Why are we destroying this planet for them?” Boruah’s bicycle nets are often filled with single-use plastic items such as styrofoam containers and water bottles. These get broken down into tiny microplastics over time that not only pollute the oceans, but also affect our air and food. When he is not striking up conversations with curious onlookers, Boruah is working with councils, businesses and communities to educate and encourage them to take action against plastic pollution. + The Thames Project Via CNN Images and video via Dhruv Boruah

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This gabled home wraps around an existing pine tree in Mexico

July 31, 2018 by  
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The magnificent pines of Mazamitla, Mexico are more than just scenic background for this single-family home—one of the trees has been integrated into the architectural design itself. Architects Alessandra Cireddu and Carlos M. Hernández of Barcelona-based design practice Espacio Multicultural (de) Arquitectura (EMA) crafted the ‘House Around a Tree,’ a single-story abode punctuated by a mature pine tree. The house further embraces the landscape with its use of natural materials and an outdoor, cantilevered terrace that opens up to northwest-facing views of the village below and forest and mountains beyond. Set on a steeply sloped site, the House Around a Tree matches its narrow and linear plot with its rectangular mass. Measuring over 65 feet in length and nearly 20 feet in width, the home has an introverted appearance at first glance—a thick, nearly 10-foot-tall wooden door marks the entrance and, along with the opaque stone side wall , insulates the home from outside street views. The home interior, however, is an entirely different story. Stepping past the entrance takes visitors into an airy void punctuated by the mature pine tree, while large glazing on the southwest side of the home brings sweeping landscape views into the living spaces and bedroom. Related: A cypress tree grows through this hillside home in Los Angeles “The gable roof evokes the geometry of the traditional houses of the region, which is trimmed by a void which contains the pine,” explain the architects. “The natural location of the pine divides the house into 2 areas: the first one on the east side where the main room with bathroom and dressing room is located and separated from the rest of the house; the second one on the west side where we find the public areas, two bedrooms and a wooden volume containing the wet areas (laundry, half bath and full bathroom) that breaks with the constant linearity of the project both inside and outside.” + EMA Images by Patricia Hernandez Fotografia

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This gabled home wraps around an existing pine tree in Mexico

Hunters issued permits to import lion trophies to United States

July 27, 2018 by  
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A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has revealed that the U.S. government has issued over three dozen permits allowing trophy parts hunted from lions to be brought back into the United States from Africa. Despite the permits’ issue, lions remain on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to their threatened survival status in the wild. Friends of Animals obtained the documents and released them through The Huffington Post , which reported the animal rights violation on Thursday. The memorandum , released by the United States Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service on March 1, 2018, removes trophy import bans dating as far back as 1995. “If African wildlife is to survive the next few decades in their homelands, these elephants, lions and other animals—coveted by hunters for their strength and beauty—must be worth more alive than dead. That means safeguarding habitat along with photographic safaris and ecotourism must outpace blood-drenched trophy hunting expeditions,” declared Priscilla Feral, President of Friends of Animals, in a press release. Related: The Trump Administration decides to allow the import of elephant trophies after all New rules by the Fish and Wildlife Service require the filing of a FOIA request to see the details of government-issued permits that are determined on an individual basis – information that used to be publicly available . In this case, the majority of the permit recipients are Republican donors or are part of Safari Club International, a hunting advocacy group. While big game hunters argue that their activities help conservation efforts and local economies, animal rights supporters say that killing big game animals only further endangers their already at-risk populations. + Friends of Animals Via EcoWatch and The New York Times

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Only 13% of Earth’s oceans remain untouched by humans for now

July 27, 2018 by  
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Only 13 percent of the planet’s oceans are unaffected by human activities, such as fishing and pollution, according to a recent study from the Wildlife Conservation Society . The study , published in Current Biology and executed in tandem with the University of Queensland, has completed the first systematic analysis of the Earth’s oceans and revealed that the only intact portions of global waters could be found in protected parts of the remote Pacific Ocean and around the poles. But even those waters have their tides turning toward becoming unsafe territories for marine wildlife . The research comes after studies in January and February revealed dead zones of marine wildlife quadrupled since the 1950s, and industrial fishing areas now cover half of the world’s oceans. “We were astonished by just how little marine wilderness remains,” Kendall Jones, lead researcher on the project, told NPR . “The ocean is immense, covering over 70 percent of our planet, but we’ve managed to significantly impact almost all of this vast ecosystem.” The cause of this human impression is due to enormous fishing fleets, global shipping and pollution run-offs from land. Add all of this to the distress caused by climate change , and it’s no surprise we’ve arrived at this point. Still, only 5 percent of the remaining wilderness found in the ocean resides in marine protection areas. Related: Astounding responsive map shows shark interactions with commercial fishers “Beyond just valuing nature for nature’s sake, having these large intact seascapes that function in a way that they always have done is really important for the Earth,” Jones said. “They maintain the ecological processes that are how the climate and Earth system function — [without them], you can start seeing big knock-on effects with drastic and unforeseen consequences.” In response to mounting pressure by scientists to create a protection status for the high seas, the UN Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) has planned negotiations to create a treaty in September 2018. The debate will center around cutting fishing subsidies valued at more than $4 billion by governments worldwide. According to Jones, fishing “would actually be unprofitable if it weren’t for big subsidies.” He continued by noting that “the vast majority of marine wilderness could be lost at any time, as improvements in technology allow us to fish deeper and ship farther than ever before.” + Wildlife Conservation Society + Current Biology Via  The Guardian Images via Nelly Lendvai and Rey Perezoso

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Only 13% of Earth’s oceans remain untouched by humans for now

School-in-a-Box brings the gift of learning to children in Papua New Guinea

July 27, 2018 by  
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Americans often take education for granted. Whether their children attend public or private schools, the opportunity to learn is always there, from kindergarten through high school and often beyond. Meanwhile, many children around the world can only dream of this priceless endowment. Sydney architect Stephen Collier noticed this problem and wanted to take action – so, along with various international non-profit groups, he developed School-in-a-Box, which has helped make the dream of education a reality for many children in Papua New Guinea . In the Beginning Four years ago, Collier read Drusilla Modjeska’s novel The Mountain , which tells the story of how established cultures based on clans struggle to embrace contemporary mores in post-independence PNG. Since Collier was born in PNG, he had a personal interest in the material, and he contacted Modjeska, a stranger at the time. She asked him to join her on an excursion to Tufi , where she revealed she had an indefinable project in dire need of an architect. Collier was soon en route; he and Modjeska flew into the tropical coastal fjords of the province of Morobe in a tiny Dash8 plane. Multiple Challenges Modjeska is the co-founder of Sustain Educate Art Melanesia (SEAM), an organization that works to improve literacy in the six villages of Morobe. In the more remote areas of PNG, adult literacy is often as low as 15 percent; even though parents want their kids to be educated, they don’t want to sacrifice their customary connection to the farmland that sustains everyone in the villages. In addition, the villages are each very difficult to reach, with many sitting along single-file ridges above the coast, creating a long and treacherous journey for children. Even though the PNG government funds remote schools, each of which typically supports between 100-150 students of various ages with two teachers, these schools have a minimal number of books (no reference or literary texts, only workbooks) and hardly ever have electricity. Paper is hard to come by, fresh water is rare, and there are no pencils, crayons, pens or other writing materials. Students can’t read to each other, and the schools have nothing written by locals. The Box is Born Collier and Modjeska started brainstorming as soon as their plane touched down and a solid concept for School-in-a-Box began to grow. Early on, it was clear the box had to include water and solar electricity resources and storage systems. The box had to be light enough to easily transport from village to village, large enough to be functional, and tough enough to last and protect its cargo. Related: Hand-Built Library on Wheels Helps Retired Teacher Spread the Love of Reading The boxes, made from polycarbonate , are the same as those used by the US Army to transport armaments. The tents, poles, solar panels, and other materials conform to the box’s dimensions. The stretchable roof covers around 485 square feet and its translucent fabric is easily wound into a miniscule size for storage. The Treasure Inside Modjeska’s and Collier’s goals for the School-in-a-Box were multifaceted. They wanted the contents of the box to focus not just on childhood education, but also on creative writing and drawing for adult literacy classes, sharing and recording local stories to encourage imaginative investigation instead of pattern/repetitive learning, and making education more accessible to girls. After intensive idea sharing, they decided that each lockable, waterproof School-in-a-Box would include: two marine-grade plywood cabinets a 20 x 26-foot stretch tent with cables, poles, cables, stakes and ties two flexible solar panels batteries and an electrical board two laptop computers an A3 printer, guillotine and laminator books, paper, pencils, crayons, paints and brushes a 1,320-gallon water storage tank a simple water filter that can function without electricity or chemicals How It Works When the assembly is complete, cooling breezes flow freely underneath the structure. The roof is flexible enough to adjust to weather conditions and the sides are adjustable to stave off high winds. Collier created a hefty fabric gutter along one side to accumulate rainwater for storage in a pillow tank. To protect the gutter from direct sunlight, he made it concealable under a raised platform. The local community contributes some of the materials and helps in the platform construction. When closed, the cabinets form a box, although they open up and extend out in five directions. A teacher can conduct a class on one side, private study can take place on another, and the other sides serve as storage compartments. Looking Forward Mundango Abroad, The Readings Foundation, Planet Wheeler Foundation, Victorian Womens’ Trust, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and numerous other charitable organizations support the project, which has been going strong since its inception in 2014. Stephen Collier Architects, which won The Australian Institute of Architects Small Project Architecture prize in 2018 for this project, is investigating how to deliver more boxes to PNG in the future. A new fund to make that happen and take donations has been set up. If you would like to donate or assist in other ways, please email  info@collierarchitects.com  with SCHOOL-IN-A-BOX in the subject line. + Stephen Collier Architects Images courtesy of Stephen Collier Architects

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School-in-a-Box brings the gift of learning to children in Papua New Guinea

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