Trump allows commercial fishing in Atlantic national monument

June 9, 2020 by  
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The Trump administration announced on Friday that the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which encompasses over 5,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, will open to commercial fishing. The announcement came after the president attended a round-table discussion with commercial fishers from Maine who were concerned about the economic tolls of COVID-19 in their industry. Ocean experts are cautioning that the decision will cause comprehensive harm to the environment in the long run, especially as the proclamation will allow fishing within the monument without changing its size or boundaries. Brad Sewell, senior director of Oceans for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement that such a significant change to a monument must be done by Congress. Sewell cited that the Antiquities Act gives the president the power to protect specific natural areas, not the other way around. The 5,000-square-mile ocean monument is home to sea turtles, endangered whales, unique species of cold water coral reefs , four extinct underwater volcanoes and deep sea canyons teeming with marine life. Related: Sea turtles thrive on empty beaches during COVID-19 lockdowns The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument has been open to sport fishing but closed to commercial fishing (with the exception of the red crab and lobster) since its creation in 2016 by President Obama. Any continuing fisheries were given a 7-year transition period to end their operations in the area by 2023. The Seamounts monument has been no stranger to controversy, even before Trump’s recent decision. A year after its designation, five commercial fishing groups sued the Obama administration because they felt the president had created the monument illegally. Now, Trump’s announcement raises the question of the limits of presidential powers regarding changing the rules of national monuments altogether. National Geographic’s Pristine Seas founder Enric Sala told National Geographic that these types of national monuments are established to preserve the country’s natural and historical sites. “We need pristine areas set aside so that we can see nature as it was before we overexploited it, and understand the true impact of fishing,” Sala said. “If commercial fishing were allowed in a monument, it would become just a name on a map, and no different than any other place in the ocean.” Via National Geographic Image via NOAA

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Stay-at-home orders increase demand for eco-friendly interiors

June 9, 2020 by  
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Lockdowns have forced many to stay home. With all that time inside, you can’t help but pay close attention to the interior details of your home. Many have turned to home improvement projects to make productive use of their time. The novel coronavirus has likewise forced many to become more health-conscious. It’s no surprise then that a joint study, administered by Harris Poll for eco-friendly manufacturer ECOS Paints , found 69% of those surveyed “have taken or plan to take action to make their home environment healthier as a result of COVID-19.” How can we make homes healthier and more eco-friendly? For one, 45% of those surveyed are cleaning the house more often. That’s followed closely by 43% who plan to “use eco-friendly paint, change air filters, add air purifiers, and/or add more plants to their home” to avoid harmful VOCs. Next, 17% are shifting toward natural or chemical-free household products, while 12% will cease using harsh chemicals as cleaners altogether. Another 10% are going to add a humidifier to their homes. Related: Scandinavian company Tikkurila debuts new paint collection to protect endangered species What are VOCs? The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines them as substances that emit gases that have adverse health effects. Their toxic fumes, for instance, can cause headaches, dizziness, respiratory irritation, visual impairments or more severe bodily reactions.  VOCs can be found in paints, varnishes, cleaners, disinfectants, air fresheners, pesticides and even hobby supplies. The use of eco-friendly paints and cleaning substances makes for a healthier home environment. So the pivot toward environmentally conscious products during the pandemic, as folks devote more time to home improvements, has piqued the interest of ECOS Paints.  “Having been in the home decor category for over 30 years, we believe this change in consumer behavior will significantly alter the industry,” said Julian Crawford, CEO OF ECOS. “Paint definitely impacts indoor air quality. ECOS Paints were originally created decades ago as a solution for individuals with chemical sensitivities, including children and babies who cannot tolerate strong odors and harsh chemicals. Today, ECOS has become a favorite among a broader market of consumers who care about creating healthier, wellness-focused living environments in their homes.” + ECOS Paints Image via Arek Socha

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Stay-at-home orders increase demand for eco-friendly interiors

Earth School offers kids interesting science lessons online

June 3, 2020 by  
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Kids stuck at home due to coronavirus have another opportunity for quality online learning. Earth School, a collaboration between TED-Ed (TED’s youth and education initiative) and the United Nations’ Environment Programme, is releasing 30 short videos to teach children about connections between nature and many aspects of society. The videos started dropping on Earth Day , April 22. Since then, the collaborators have released one video daily. The last video will be posted on June 5, World Environment Day. The videos will remain online and can be viewed consecutively or randomly. Related: Take a virtual dive with NOAA More than 30 organizations helped create the videos. The World Wildlife Fund, National Geographic and BBC contributed high-quality video footage, articles and digital interactive resources. The 30 video lessons fall into six categories: The Nature of Our Stuff, The Nature of Society, The Nature of Nature, The Nature of Change, The Nature of Individual Action and The Nature of Collective Action. The producers designed them to appeal to science-curious kids with topics like the lifecycle of a T-shirt, whether we should eat bugs, where does water come from and tracking grizzly bears from space. A press release stated the program’s three goals: to help kids and parents sort through a myriad of options to find a solid, reliable science source; to keep kids interested in nature even while they’re stuck inside; and to ease the load of harried parents who suddenly find themselves in charge of their kids’ education 24/7. Watching these videos will help children understand their roles as future stewards of our troubled planet. The last two weeks of instruction offer concrete ways kids can improve the world individually and collectively. As the press release explains, “We aim to inspire the awe and wonder of nature in Earth School students and help them finish the program with a firm grasp of how deeply intertwined we are with the planet.” + Earth School Image via Lukas

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Orcas threatened by highly contagious respiratory virus, CeMV

June 1, 2020 by  
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Marine mammal conservationists warn of a contagious respiratory pathogen, cetacean morbillivirus (CeMV), that could potentially harm already  endangered  orca populations. Like the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that is causing the current COVID-19 pandemic, CeMV similarly has high transmission and mortality rates. With orcas being highly social animals, an outbreak could threaten entire pod populations, in turn drastically affecting the ecosystem, since  orcas  are apex predators. According to  National Geographic , more than a million cetaceans ( whales , dolphins and porpoises) are eliminated each year through “bycatch [species caught unintentionally by fishermen], intentional killing, ship strikes, seismic surveys done for oil exploration, and naval sonar.” Oil spills are another risk, as are municipal and industrial waste polluting their marine environment. Chemicals accumulating in marine food chains are thereby ingested, leading to high toxicity levels that suppress cetacean immune systems. Related:  Federal agencies propose designated marine habitat to help protect Pacific humpback whales Worryingly,  Emerging Microbes & Infections  journal affirms CeMV as the pathogen posing the greatest risk of triggering widespread disease in cetacean populations worldwide. What’s worse, CeMV is highly contagious, capable of spreading between cetacean populations of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Cases of CeMV first appeared in cetaceans during the 1980s. So far,  Science Direct  acknowledges at least six distinct strains of CeMV — porpoise morbillivirus (PMV),  dolphin  morbillivirus (DMV), pilot whale morbillivirus (PWMV) and beaked whale morbillivirus (BWMV).  Interestingly,  Viruses  journal states that CeMV is part of a virus family — the morbilliviruses — which includes the measles virus in humans and primates, the rinderpest virus in cattle, the peste des petits ruminants virus in goats and sheep, the canine distemper virus in dogs and the phocine distemper virus in seals and walruses.  Meanwhile,  NOAA Fisheries  estimates that of 50,000 orcas worldwide, about 2,500 reside “in the eastern North Pacific Ocean…[with] Southern Residents in the eastern North Pacific… listed as endangered in 2005.” This pocket of orcas has garnered media attention for their dwindling numbers as their primary food source, chinook salmon, is depleted. Human-induced noise also interferes with echolocation, threatening the orcas’ normal behavior. Additionally, lingering polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), despite being banned for decades, persist in the  oceans , contaminating the food chain. As  The Guardian  revealed, “PCB concentrations found in killer whales can be 100 times safe levels and severely damage reproductive organs, cause cancer and damage the immune system.” Immuno-compromised orcas are left susceptible to pathogens like CeMV. Researchers ran simulations to see what would happen should the highly infectious CeMV enter a pod population. Models indicated 90% of the population would succumb. Biologist Michael Weiss of San Juan Island’s Center for Whale Research explained in a  Biological Conservation  journal study, “The social structure of this population offers only limited protection from disease outbreaks.” While immunization against measles in humans and canine distemper in pets has been successful, vaccines against CeMV for whales might not be deployed practically — unlike the morbillivirus vaccine program under development for endangered seals. A more viable solution may be to enhance the  conservation  of chinook salmon to minimize the chances of orca hunger and boost their immune systems. + KUOW and NPR Images via Pixabay

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Take a virtual dive with NOAA

April 22, 2020 by  
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NOAA has released a series of virtual dives to keep stay-at-homers entertained,  educated  and interested in the undersea world even when everybody’s stuck on the couch. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration takes viewers deep into national marine sanctuaries, revealing sights non- divers have likely never seen. The creators used 360-degree images to show off  corals , sea creatures and the undersea habitat. You can virtually visit these sanctuaries on your personal computer or smartphone. For more fun, pair your device with virtual reality goggles or a headset. Sanctuaries available for VR visits include American Samoa, the Florida Keys, Flower Garden Banks off Galveston, Texas, Gray’s Reef in Georgia, Monterey Bay, the Olympic Coast in Washington state, Stellwagen Bank in  Maine and Thunder Bay in Michigan. Each sanctuary offers a handful of dives to choose from featuring different types of sea life. A sea lion-focused dive was filmed in California’s Channel Islands. The virtual dives feature something for a wide variety of interests. You can get up close to a huge barrel sponge at Flower Gardens, or watch marine invertebrates called tunicates duke it out with orange cup corals in a turf war for the rocky substrate of  Washington’s Tatoosh Island. Those more intrigued by human drama can check out the remains of the  Paul Palmer,  a coal schooner built in 1902 that now lies atop Stellwagen Bank. Maybe it shouldn’t have started that final voyage on Friday the 13th, 1913. These 360-degree photos allow visitors to view spots within sanctuaries from every angle, almost as if you were turning your head to see what’s over yonder. Divers with special cameras take the underwater photos, which are then edited together.  NOAA plans to add to the gallery as divers take more shots. This collaboration between NOAA and the  Ocean Agency , a nonprofit ad agency that focuses on the sea, will open underwater doors for parents suddenly thrust into the role of home school teachers. + NOAA Images via Pexels

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Pacific heat wave threatens coral reefs in Hawaii and other regions

September 25, 2019 by  
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Researchers predict a major marine heat wave in the Pacific Ocean could prove disastrous to the fragile coral reefs along Hawaii’s Papa Bay and similar coastlines. Warmer water conditions often trigger coral bleaching, a condition that leaves coral reefs susceptible to mortality. Coral reefs play a very significant environmental and ecological role. As a habitat, for instance, they support many species in the marine environment. Coral reefs likewise serve as a protective barrier, buffering shorelines against deleterious wave action, especially during typhoon season, to minimize coastal damage and to prevent erosion. Healthy reefs contribute to local economies, particularly through tourism as well as commercial and recreational fishing. Related: ‘The Blob’ returns — marine heatwave settles over Pacific Unfortunately, when water is too warm, coral become stressed. They consequently expel the algae , or zooxanthellae, that live in their tissues. In doing so, coral turn white, a condition known as bleaching. Prolonged loss of the algae eventually leads to the coral’s demise. When coral reefs are compromised, the loss cascades, often causing far-reaching ecosystem repercussions. Back in 2015, a prominent marine heat wave eliminated half of the Papa Bay coastline’s coral reefs that surround Hawaii’s Big Island. This year, marine scientists associated with NOAA similarly predict that another round of very warm water will occur in the region once again. “In 2015, we hit temperatures that we’ve never recorded ever in Hawaii ,” NOAA oceanographer Jamison Gove said. “What is really important — or alarming, probably more appropriately — about this event is that we’ve been tracking above where we were this time in 2015.” Earlier this September, NOAA researchers warned of the Blob’s return. The Blob — the moniker coined by Washington state climatologist Nick Bond during the 2015 heat wave — describes the vast expanse of unusually warm water that occurred in the Pacific Ocean from 2014 to 2016. It adversely impacted coral reefs, causing global bleaching and diminished coastal fisheries’ yields throughout the Pacific. To date, this year’s Blob is reportedly the second-largest marine heat wave ever recorded in the past 40 years, just behind the 2014 – 2016 Blob. As a result, forecasts anticipate an even warmer October, which could critically undermine the coral that are still recovering from the first Blob. “Temperatures have been warm for quite a long time,” Gove continued.  “It’s not just how hot it is — it’s how long those ocean temperatures stay warm.” While scientists are not yet able to pinpoint the exact causes for ocean temperatures warming, it is believed human-influenced climate change is a salient factor. Restoration efforts are in the works. Research suggests coral can be conditioned to withstand future onslaught of warmer water. Both scientists and coral hobbyists are on a mission to breed “super corals” resilient enough to avoid bleaching. It is hoped the introduction of these “super corals” into the environment will fortify reefs to better evolve amidst global warming conditions. Via Associated Press Images via Terri Stewart and NOAA

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Pacific heat wave threatens coral reefs in Hawaii and other regions

Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

September 25, 2019 by  
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Multinational auto manufacturer Honda Motor Company, headquartered in Tokyo, recently made the largest renewable clean energy purchase by any car maker. The electricity will be utilized to offset emissions from its United States factories, thus enabling Honda to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent in its North American manufacturing plants. With widespread public debate and mounting regulatory pressures, automakers have no choice but to shift their business models to address the carbon dioxide reduction challenge. It is no wonder then that a growing number of automobile companies are turning to renewables, like wind and solar, to achieve sustainable returns. Related: Beautiful, solar-powered EV charging stations promise to charge a vehicle in 15 minutes According to Honda, it currently obtains about 21 percent of its North American operations’ power from low- or zero-emission power sources.  But it hopes to improve upon that, thanks to clinching the car industry’s largest renewable energy purchase. Honda’s new clean energy deal involves the purchase of wind power from an Oklahoma wind farm as well as sourcing energy from a Texas solar farm. Projections show that, with this clean energy purchase, Honda can annually offset 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equal to “100,000 U.S. households’ worth of CO2-emissions from household energy usage,” as described in Honda’s press release. Honda revealed, “Two Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) will secure 320 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power totaling over 1 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable electricity annually.” How do VPPAs operate? Honda explained that VPPAs are “a way for Honda to purchase renewable energy in locations where it is unable to purchase renewables from the local electric utility.” The automaker buys “electricity from a renewable energy supplier, but the clean energy does not go directly to Honda’s facilities; instead, it is sold into the electricity grid where the clean power is generated.” In effect, Honda’s ‘virtual purchase’ of that “renewable energy adds more clean energy into the nation’s grid,” which decreases fossil fuel dependency and any accompanying carbon dioxide emissions. Honda’s VPPA purchase essentially “de-carbonizes” the electricity grid. Analysts say VPPAs are becoming an ever-popular means for large corporations seeking to meet carbon dioxide emission reduction goals.  Tech giants, like Google and Microsoft, for instance, have historically purchased VPPAs as well. Business industry pundits forecast an uptick of VPPA procurements in the next couple of years as renewable energy policy intensifies. Aligned with its revitalized green mission, Honda’s long-term plans go far beyond clean energy purchases, as it continues its commitment to sustainability. The company similarly announced plans to electrify two-thirds of its manufactured vehicular fleet so that they are charged via renewable energy by 2030. + Honda Motor Company Image via Honda Motor Company

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Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

September 25, 2019 by  
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Multinational auto manufacturer Honda Motor Company, headquartered in Tokyo, recently made the largest renewable clean energy purchase by any car maker. The electricity will be utilized to offset emissions from its United States factories, thus enabling Honda to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent in its North American manufacturing plants. With widespread public debate and mounting regulatory pressures, automakers have no choice but to shift their business models to address the carbon dioxide reduction challenge. It is no wonder then that a growing number of automobile companies are turning to renewables, like wind and solar, to achieve sustainable returns. Related: Beautiful, solar-powered EV charging stations promise to charge a vehicle in 15 minutes According to Honda, it currently obtains about 21 percent of its North American operations’ power from low- or zero-emission power sources.  But it hopes to improve upon that, thanks to clinching the car industry’s largest renewable energy purchase. Honda’s new clean energy deal involves the purchase of wind power from an Oklahoma wind farm as well as sourcing energy from a Texas solar farm. Projections show that, with this clean energy purchase, Honda can annually offset 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equal to “100,000 U.S. households’ worth of CO2-emissions from household energy usage,” as described in Honda’s press release. Honda revealed, “Two Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) will secure 320 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power totaling over 1 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable electricity annually.” How do VPPAs operate? Honda explained that VPPAs are “a way for Honda to purchase renewable energy in locations where it is unable to purchase renewables from the local electric utility.” The automaker buys “electricity from a renewable energy supplier, but the clean energy does not go directly to Honda’s facilities; instead, it is sold into the electricity grid where the clean power is generated.” In effect, Honda’s ‘virtual purchase’ of that “renewable energy adds more clean energy into the nation’s grid,” which decreases fossil fuel dependency and any accompanying carbon dioxide emissions. Honda’s VPPA purchase essentially “de-carbonizes” the electricity grid. Analysts say VPPAs are becoming an ever-popular means for large corporations seeking to meet carbon dioxide emission reduction goals.  Tech giants, like Google and Microsoft, for instance, have historically purchased VPPAs as well. Business industry pundits forecast an uptick of VPPA procurements in the next couple of years as renewable energy policy intensifies. Aligned with its revitalized green mission, Honda’s long-term plans go far beyond clean energy purchases, as it continues its commitment to sustainability. The company similarly announced plans to electrify two-thirds of its manufactured vehicular fleet so that they are charged via renewable energy by 2030. + Honda Motor Company Image via Honda Motor Company

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Global warming makes 2018 the 4th hottest year ever

February 13, 2019 by  
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U.S. officials have confirmed that 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA just revealed that temperatures were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the worldwide average, which includes temperatures between 1951 and 1980. Temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest of any year since 1880. That places 2018 slightly behind the top three average temperatures on record: 2016, 2017 and 2015, respectively. According to The Guardian , the rise in temperatures affects more than just the heat index. Global warming also raises sea levels and spawns increasingly extreme weather patterns. In 2018, for example, the U.S. witnessed two of the worst hurricanes on record, while wildfires devastated California. Elsewhere around the globe, India experienced massive flooding, while a disastrous typhoon hit the Philippines. Greece and Sweden also suffered deadly wildfires , and the Arctic had one of the warmest years ever. In fact, scientists warn that the Arctic is experiencing double the warming rate of any other region on Earth. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 “2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” NASA’s Gavin Schmidt explained. “The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding , heatwaves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change.” With global warming not showing any signs of slowing down, scientists believe hotter temperatures are the new norm. This year has already begun with El Niño in the forecast, which means it could be even hotter than last year. Unless carbon emissions are drastically cut within the next decade, it is possible that we see another record setting year between now and 2023. Even if governments around the world exceed expectations in cutting  carbon emissions, slowing global warming will be difficult. Even more disturbing is the fact that we have seen 18 of the 19 hottest years since 2001. For reference, children who are now graduating from high school have only experienced record-setting temperatures. Last year was the fourth hottest year on record, but it may turn out to be a mild one for future generations. Via The Guardian Image via Pixel2013

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Global warming makes 2018 the 4th hottest year ever

California waters could open soon to offshore wind farms

October 24, 2018 by  
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With 3,427 miles of coastline , one would think establishing wind farms in California would be a cinch. As it turns out, the depth of the waters has kept the idea of offshore wind in this area at bay. Energy companies have been eagerly awaiting the curtain fall from government regulators that was finally announced on Friday by the U.S. Department of the Interior. While turbine installation will prove to be a challenge because of unique terrain demands, offshore wind turbines could help California’s plans to reach 100 percent green energy by 2045. If all goes as planned, the wind farms could be operating within the next six years. “We are early in the process here,” explained California Energy Commission member Karen Douglas. “Offshore wind has potential to help with our renewable energy goals.” California’s first ever offshore wind auction, allowing energy companies to lease waters in certain areas of the Pacific Ocean, was announced alongside two other wind farm initiatives already underway in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. So what’s slowing down California’s state officials and utility companies? “They would be in much deeper water than anything that has been built in the world so far,” Douglas said. Because the ocean’s depths are substantial — even close to shore — California’s coastline is not ideal for offshore wind farms . Related: World’s most powerful wind turbine installed off the coast of Scotland Regardless, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management ( BOEM ) followed up on the announcement with a “call for information and nominations” from energy companies looking to develop the offshore technology. Submissions will be accepted over a 100-day period that will close on Jan. 27, 2019. The state’s new wind farms will be concentrated within proposed areas off of Central and Northern California. In total, the 658 full and partial blocks on the Outer Continental Shelf that are offered for commercial wind energy leasing cover an area of 1,073 square miles (687,823 acres). The announcement is good news for Gov. Jerry Brown and his office of environmental reformers. In September, the governor signed a bill that mandated California’s energy reliance be supplied solely through renewable sources by 2045. The addition of offshore wind turbines could propel this shift to happen much faster than expected, as the state is now able to look beyond land-based wind farms and solar panels to meet demand. Via The New York Times , NOAA and BOEM Image via Lars Plougmann

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California waters could open soon to offshore wind farms

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