Climate change pushes US weather to extremes

February 18, 2021 by  
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Terrible hurricanes in the summer and temperatures now plunging to the lowest they’ve been in decades in much of the U.S. — is all this bad weather just bad luck? Not according to climate scientists, who say this deadly weather is one more sign of climate change . Oklahoma City saw a temperature this week of -14°F, the coldest it’s been since 1899, before Oklahoma was even a state. In Texas, Dallas dropped to -2°F, while southerly Houston and San Antonio got down to 13°F and 12­°F, respectively. In New Orleans, if COVID-19 hadn’t already ruined Mardi Gras, ice would have. Many cities across the U.S. have or are expected to hit record low temperatures this week. Related: Spiders are becoming aggressive thanks to climate change Then, there were power outages galore — more than 4.2 million people without power in Texas alone on Tuesday morning — to make deadly storms even more lethal. In this topsy-turvy world, Texans would be more comfortable right now in Iceland. “There are waves in the jet stream and because of climate change and the warmer air in the Arctic and the largely ice-free Arctic sea, those waves are able to go far south,” said Chris Gloninger, a meteorologist with NBC10 Boston. “So places like Alaska or Iceland, which today is in the low 40s, is warmer than places like Texas, Louisiana or Oklahoma. That’s why we’re seeing these extremes.” Texas is especially vulnerable to the current storms because its main electric grid is separate from the rest of the country. Texas is better known for A/C than for heaters, and this week’s need for cranking up the heat broke the grid, plunging vulnerable Texans into cold and darkness. At least 20 people in the state have died from these conditions. Are we convinced yet? Extreme weather sure is making it harder for climate change deniers to win their arguments, according to Michael E. Mann, author of The New Climate War, as reported by NBCLX . “We really are so close to seeing the action that we need to confront the climate crisis,” Mann said. “But there are still obstacles that have been thrown in our path by the same institutions that were denying climate change years ago. There’s no way to deny it now because people can see it playing out in real time in the form of unprecedented, devastating weather events.” You can find more information on where to donate money or resources to those experiencing these life-threatening cold conditions here and here . Via NBCLX and CNN Image via NOAA ( 1 , 2 )

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Trumps name found scraped into a manatees back

January 13, 2021 by  
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Manatees resemble half-ton potatoes, but researchers can tell them apart. According to Patrick Rose, aquatic biologist and executive director for Save the Manatee Club, most adult manatees have unique scars from accidents like boat strikes. But one manatee stands out more than the rest. This week, viral videos showed a West Indian manatee with “Trump” scraped into its back. The maimed manatee was spotted in Florida’s Homosassa River last Sunday. In 2019, Inhabitat reported on illegal interactions between manatees and humans in this same river. Related: Effects of COVID-19 lead to increased deaths of Florida manatees While scraping the presidential surname into a layer of algae will probably not injure a manatee — unless the perpetrator scrapes too hard and the sea cow becomes infected — it is still harassment. Under U.S. law, anyone guilty of harassing a manatee faces a $50,000 fine and up to a year in prison. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is leading an investigation into the defiled manatee. The Center for Biological Diversity is adding $5,000 as a reward for intel leading to a conviction of the responsible party. “It’s a little hard to see the extent of damage from the video,” said Ruth Carmichael, marine biologist at Dauphin Island Sea Lab. “It is harassment, regardless. If the scrape penetrates the skin, then it likely caused some pain and stress. The animals have nerves and sensory hairs in the skin. Additionally, open wounds could become infected.” Florida has an estimated 6,300 manatees, a big increase from a 1991 estimate of 1,267. But the gentle giants are susceptible to terrible fates due to human activity. At least 10 were drowned or crushed last year by locks and floodgates, in addition to the usual boat strikes. In 2017, the IUCN upgraded manatees from endangered to vulnerable. But it’s especially cruel that a creature that has faced the threat of extinction should have to bear the surname of a man who has spent the last four years weakening protections of endangered species . Do you have information on who scraped “Trump” onto the manatee? Call the wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477 or email FWS_TIPS@FWS.GOV . Via BBC , HuffPost and Save the Manatee Club Image via NOAA

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ASOS launches first circular fashion collection

September 28, 2020 by  
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This fall, online retailer ASOS is launching its first collection of circular fashions . A collaboration with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion , the 29 women’s, men’s and unisex styles aim to prove that eco-friendly clothing can also be chic. Circular design refers to a constant recycling loop, with no materials ending up in the landfill. Instead of waste, ASOS aims to create an endless series of new fashions. According to ASOS, each style from the autumn collection meets at least two of these three goals: designing out waste and pollution; keeping products and materials in use; and regenerating natural systems. Related: The Redress Design Award is making sustainable fashion an industry standard To create the new Fall 2020 collection, ASOS designers put together a set of goals. First was to attain a zero-waste collection, or at least to minimize waste. When possible, they chose materials that were already at least partially recycled, yet still durable. The designers also aimed for versatility, so that each garment could be styled in multiple ways. The collection also makes use of upcycling , or turning something old into something new. Using one recyclable material for the entire product, called a mono-material approach, means that at the end of each garment’s life, it will be easier to recycle. The fashions were also created with eventual ease of disassembly in mind. Some of the new collection’s items include oversized dresses, pants, blouses, shoes and denim. Black, white and lavender are some of the line’s recurring colors. The new line is a direct response to ASOS’ promise at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2018 to train its designers in circular design by 2020. In the last two years, ASOS has started a training program in conjunction with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, which is part of London College of Fashion, to educate all ASOS designers on sustainable fashion principles. + ASOS Image via ASOS

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The durable Solo New York backpack can accompany all of your adventures

September 28, 2020 by  
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Back in July, Inhabitat introduced readers to the Solo New York brand, a sustainable fashion company making bags out of recycled plastic water bottles. Since then, we have had the opportunity to use the popular Re:vive Mini Backpack ourselves, testing it out on more than a few outdoor adventures. With the environmental tolls of fast fashion becoming more and more apparent, sustainability has certainly become a buzzword in the textile and fashion industries. Solo New York’s recycled fabric production starts with discarded plastic bottles. Through an environmentally friendly process, the plastic bottles are finely shredded and re-spun into durable and lightweight recycled PET polyester yarn. According to Solo New York, this recycled material reduces energy use by 50%, water use by 20% and air pollution by 60%. Related: Each purchase of this bag made from recycled plastic helps plant trees The Re:vive Mini Backpack is just the right size for a day trip. We took one on a hike down to McClures Beach in Point Reyes, California in the height of summer. Despite its seemingly small size, it easily held a small beach towel, a large water bottle, keys, wallet, sunglasses and a tube of sunscreen with room to spare. The short fabric key clip built into the top of the bag helped keep us from digging around in the bottom for keys (always a plus), and the bag itself was so lightweight that it was easy to forget it was even on. When a sandwich mishap produced a small stain on the outside of the backpack , a simple dose of spot-cleaning made it good as new — a great characteristic if you plan on using the backpack in your everyday life. Another feature we noticed was the versatility of the design; the heathered gray material on the outside and the subtle black camo on the inside are just as appropriate for a big city subway or the office as they are for exploring a national park. Apart from aiding our fight against plastic pollution, this backpack also proved itself as a great conversation starter. Once people found out that it was made from recycled plastic bottles , most couldn’t believe that the fabric could be so soft and similar to other popular textiles like cotton or polyester. The sturdiness of the plastic fiber is apparent in its durability as well, so it is easy to tell that the bags are designed to last a long time. The mini backpack measures 14″ x 9″ x 4″ and weighs only 0.57 pounds. Priced at $24.99, it is affordable, too. Along with the aforementioned key clip, there are also adjustable shoulder straps and a front zippered pocket to hold more quick-grab items like cellphones and wallets. According to the company, the first run of the Re:cycled Collection was responsible for recycling more than 90,000 plastic bottles, and the line is still continuing to expand with new bags. As of September 2020, the collection features four backpack versions priced from $24.99 to $64.99, a laptop sleeve, two carry-on-size luggage pieces, a briefcase, a tote and a duffel. Solo New York was founded by John Ax, who arrived to the U.S. in 1940 with his family. They only had $100 and the clothes on their backs. As a skilled craftsman, he began rounding up leather pieces and scraps that were destined for the trash from local tanneries to turn into sellable goods. His small company, which eventually became known as the United States Luggage Company, thrived for decades before rebranding as Solo New York. Today, the company has already set solid, transparent goals to become even more sustainable in the future. The goal is to eliminate plastic from all packaging by the end of 2020. Hang tags are already printed on 100% recycled and biodegradable material with a recycled cotton string and a completely biodegradable clasp. The Solo New York headquarters on Long Island takes advantage of New York’s average of 224 sunny days per year with 1,400 rooftop solar panels (producing enough energy to power 87 homes). Plus, the company has a zero-tolerance plastic water bottle policy for its employees, instead offering filtered smart fountains and water dispensers throughout its locations. Solo New York has also partnered with the United States National Forest Foundation, pledging to help aid in reforestation by planting one tree per every bag purchased from the Re:cycled collection. Customers also have the option of taking the “Green Pledge” and promising to say no to plastic bottles for the following 30 days. For every pledge signed, Solo NY will plant a second tree. Overall, we think any of the bags from this sustainable collection would be a great gift option for the Earth-lover in your life, especially for the upcoming holiday season. Even for someone who hasn’t found their stride in sustainability quite yet, the gift of a Re:cycled Collection bag or backpack is sure to be pretty eye-opening as to how far recycling can really go. Even better, if more people pivot to eco-friendly bags, that means we can help cut down on the number of plastic items being manufactured and distributed globally, leading to fewer toxic chemicals released into the atmosphere, less resources spent and less waste produced overall. + Solo New York Images via Katherine Gallagher / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Solo New York. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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World gets F on Aichi biodiversity report card

September 18, 2020 by  
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In 2010, representatives from 194 countries met in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, and agreed on 20 biodiversity targets to reach in the next decade. Ten years later, the signatories have fallen far short. A new UN report details progress made on what are called the Aichi biodiversity targets. Overall, zero of the targets have been completely fulfilled. The 20 targets are further broken down into 60 elements. Of these, seven have been achieved. Thirty-eight show progress. As the U.S. in 2020 is faced with record-setting wildfires in the west and an unprecedented hurricane season in the southeast and the entire world reels from a pandemic and a year of heightened racial tension, the targets seem heartbreakingly idealistic. For example, “By 2020, ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being, are restored and safeguarded, taking into account the needs of women, Indigenous and local communities, and the poor and vulnerable.” If only. Nor have we managed “ By 2020, ecosystem resilience and the contribution of biodiversity to carbon stocks has been enhanced, through conservation and restoration, including restoration of at least 15 per cent of degraded ecosystems, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to combating desertification.” Related: Naturalis Biodiversity Center reopens with a sustainable, future-proof renovation Progress looks modest when faced with the 20 ambitious targets. Global deforestation rates have decreased by about one-third, but they remain high. Some regions have curbed overfishing, but overall things are worse for marine creatures. Perhaps our best accomplishment is saving 48 species from extinction. “Earth’s living systems as a whole are being compromised,” said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the UN’s head of biodiversity, as reported on Earth.org . “And the more humanity exploits nature in unsustainable ways and undermines its contributions to people, the more we undermine our own wellbeing, security and prosperity.” Members of the Convention on Biological Diversity are currently working on targets for the 2020s. This decade’s agenda has been delayed by COVID-19, but members expect to finalize goals in May 2021. One target under negotiation: a proposal to protect 30% of Earth. + Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 Via Earth.org Image via Wendy Cover/NOAA

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LEGO responds to kids’ worries about single-use plastics

September 18, 2020 by  
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Kids have spoken, and LEGO has listened. “We have received many letters from  children about the environment asking us to remove single-use plastic packaging,” Niels B. Christiansen, LEGO Group CEO, said in a statement. “We have been exploring alternatives for some time and the passion and ideas from children inspired us to begin to make the change.” The Danish toymaker announced Tuesday that it will replace the plastic bags inside boxed LEGO sets with recyclable paper bags. Over the next five years, the company expects to completely phase out the plastic bags. Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for children Of course, the bag issue is ironic considering LEGO turns about 90,000 metric tons of plastic per year into its iconic bricks. Though the company has tried finding alternative materials, so far nothing else is as durable. Currently, 2% of LEGO pieces — including LEGO trees and bushes — are made from  sugar  cane. The company is working to increase and improve plant-based “bio bricks” and to make all products from sustainable materials by 2030. For now, LEGO stresses that kids can use the plastic bricks forever — no need to put them in the world’s landfills. The bricks manufactured today fit those made 40 years ago. If you don’t have anybody to pass your collection on to, the LEGO Replay program helps customers donate used bricks to LEGO-deprived kids in the U.S. and  Canada . The company plans to expand Replay to other countries. LEGO also added  solar panels  to its factories as part of its goal of a carbon-neutral manufacturing process by 2022. The company has also improved waste handling and reduced water consumption. “We cannot lose sight of the fundamental challenges facing future generations,” said Christiansen. “It’s critical we take urgent action now to care for the planet and future generations. As a company who looks to children as our role models, we are inspired by the millions of kids who have called for more urgent action on  climate change . We believe they should have access to opportunities to develop the skills necessary to create a sustainable future. We will step up our efforts to use our resources, networks, expertise and platforms to make a positive difference.” + LEGO Via CNN Images via LEGO

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10 fun and fascinating facts about sharks

August 10, 2020 by  
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Sharks are the apex predators of the oceans, but they’re more than movie monsters and beach horror stories. There’s a lot that most people don’t know about sharks and plenty more that scientists are still learning about them. More than 500 species of sharks swim the ocean depths, making up a diverse and endlessly fascinating group of animals who have been hunting the waters for millions of years longer than humans have been walking around on Earth. We’re still learning Sharks are ancient creatures who inhabited the Earth at the same time as the dinosaurs . But that doesn’t mean we know everything there is to know about them. In fact, we’re still making discoveries. The megamouth shark was only discovered in 1976, and fewer than 100 of these rare sharks have ever been seen. It grows to an average of 16 feet , we think, and siphons plankton out of the water to feed. Even more recently was the discovery of the pocket shark, a 5-inch shark found in the Gulf of Mexico. It glows under the water to attract prey. Related: How your beauty routine might be killing sharks Their teeth are healthier than yours Shark teeth are totally resistant to cavities . The teeth of sharks are covered in fluoride, an enamel known as fluorapatite. This material is resistant to acid created by bacteria. Sharks also go through several sets of teeth in their lifetimes, shedding and growing new teeth periodically. An average shark mouth will see about 30,000 teeth in one lifetime. Shark teeth are much healthier than human teeth, which need constant care and maintenance. They can clone themselves Through a process that has been observed in many animals , sharks can clone themselves through parthenogenesis , a type of external fertilization. This has been seen in female sharks being kept in captivity. Sharks aren’t that dangerous Humans are a far greater danger to sharks than they are to us. Though it makes for a pretty good movie, there are fewer than 200 shark-human interactions globally every single year. Meanwhile, humans kill about 100 million sharks annually, mostly through hunting. Sharks have a variety of feeding habits. Many species of sharks are filter feeders that eat small marine life , such as clams, and many are bottom feeders who use suction to gather food. Only some species of sharks are hunters that attack seals, dolphins and other large sea creatures. They’re resilient Not only did sharks survive the extinction event that brought an end to the dinosaurs, but they’ve also survived five total mass extinction events on planet Earth. Sharks first appeared in the planet’s oceans over 400 million years ago. That makes them even older than trees. Sharks were swimming in the oceans before dinosaurs roamed the planet. They survived a mass extinction event that killed 75% of all living species on Earth , including many ocean-dwelling species. Then, they survived an event that killed 96% of all marine life on the planet. This is why sharks are often referred to as “living fossils.” The great white isn’t the biggest shark Movies have made the great white shark famous as a predator, but it’s not the biggest shark in the ocean. That honor goes to the whale shark, which grows up to 60 feet in length . Though it has the size, the whale shark doesn’t have the terrifying look that makes the great white shark so distinct. This giant of the water feeds on small fish , plankton and invertebrates. That means whale sharks don’t have those razor-sharp teeth and huge jaws that make the great white shark such a perfectly terrifying villain. By comparison, the great white shark grows up to 20 feet at most. They have a sixth sense Sharks have the same five senses as human beings — plus one more. Sharks have an organ in their snouts, ampullae of Lorenzini, that allows them to sense electrical fields in the water emitted by other fish and marine life. Lion vs. shark? In the battle of lion against shark, if such a battle was possible, sharks would win pretty easily. A lion bite is weaker than you might imagine, about 650 PSI (pound-force per square inch). A shark bite is much more powerful. In a single snap, a great white shark can produce up to 4,000 PSI. They don’t vocalize Despite what you may have seen in “Finding Nemo,” sharks definitely can’t talk, even to other fish. Sharks have no vocal cords; therefore, they make no vocal sounds whatsoever. Instead, they communicate through body language. A mega shark was once real “Jaws” isn’t just a movie, it’s reality. Well, kind of. There once was an enormous shark that swam the ocean depths. The megalodon inhabited the Earth’s oceans 20 million years ago , becoming extinct about 3.6 million years ago. This monster was the largest shark to ever swim the oceans and the largest fish the planet has ever known, up to three times the size of the longest great white shark. Sharks are truly fascinating creatures, and they have much more to fear from us than we do of them. They’ve managed to survive on a planet that’s known for being rocked by massive extinction events, living long enough to see the rise and the fall of the dinosaurs and the evolution of plant life on the planet. Now, they swim the same waters as human beings. The more you research about these hunters of the deep, the more you’ll find that learning about sharks is pretty fun. Via NOAA and WWF Images via NOAA ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 )

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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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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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