New York delivers huge blow to the fossil fuel industry

December 22, 2017 by  
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New York just sent a big message to the fossil fuel industry . The state is freezing all fossil fuel investments – and they are divesting almost $400 billion in pension funds from the industry, according to Grist . In a statement , Governor Andrew Cuomo said the New York Common Fund has nearly $1 billion invested just in ExxonMobil – but described such investments as increasingly risky “as both New York State and the world back away from the use of fossil fuel as a primary energy source.” Cuomo and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced the divestment decision in separate proposals this week. They could divest billions from fossil fuel companies with the aim of de-carbonizing pension funds. It’s a big move – New York’s Common Fund is the third biggest in America and manages retirement assets for over one million New Yorkers. Related: The World Bank will stop funding oil and gas projects after 2019 Cuomo said in the statement, “New York has made incredible strides in securing a clean energy future for this state with our nation-leading clean energy standard, offshore wind development, and aggressive investment in the clean tech economy, yet the Common Fund remains heavily invested in the energy economy of the past. Moving the Common Fund away from fossil fuel investments will protect the retirement savings of New Yorkers.” This year, the Common Fund had holdings in over 50 oil and gas companies that have been listed among the top 100 most carbon-intensive on Earth, according to Cuomo’s statement. Neither proposal has yet given an end date for 100 percent divestment. Stringer said his office would bring a proposal to New York City pension fund trustees in coming weeks. Cuomo said he’d partner with New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to launch an advisory committee to design a de-carbonization road map. Via Grist , Governor Andrew Cuomo , and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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New York delivers huge blow to the fossil fuel industry

Whimsically windswept cabin-like kiosks are designed to soothe urban stress

December 22, 2017 by  
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A trio of tilted cabin-like kiosks is inviting visitors to escape the stresses of urban life in Mount Royal Park, the most frequented park in Montreal. Atelier Urban Face designed the three minimalist kiosks in the image of a hamlet to encourage congregation. Each building’s dramatically tilted shape is a playful expression of wind strength. Atelier Urban Face sought to create an artistic refuge that would complement the landscape. “They are not only respectful of the mountain, they participate, by their architecture in the poetry of the place,” says a description of the kiosks . “It’s an architectural achievement that does not alter the intrinsic qualities of the mountain, and has quality construction with undeniable potential for durability.” Related: Modern charred timber house juts out of Quebec’s forest landscape Set in a clearing, the steel-framed kiosks are tilted at varying degrees as if blown over by different gusts of wind. The first kiosk, tilted ten degrees, can accommodate up to 30 people. The second, inclined at 20 degrees, houses service equipment and a first-aid station. The final kiosk is the most dramatically tilted at 30 degrees and serves as the ticket office with additional storage space. The buildings’ simple gabled forms, glazed end walls , and dark zinc cladding help blend them into the environment. + Atelier Urban Face Images by Fany Ducharme and Sylvie Perrault

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Whimsically windswept cabin-like kiosks are designed to soothe urban stress

Enchanting Christmas tree nursery is made from 16,000 recycled drink cartons

December 22, 2017 by  
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A glowing Christmas wonderland has popped up in Hong Kong with an inspiring environmental story. Local studio AaaM Architects transformed 16,000 recycled drink cartons into a festive Christmas tree nursery aimed at raising environmental awareness and promoting recycling. Named ‘Jungle All the Way’, the collection of 36 festive trees was created with the help of over 1,600 primary school students and is located in the courtyard of a revitalized heritage building. The 16,000 recycled drink cartons were collected by local primary schools over the past few years. With the help of the students, AaaM Architects flattened and refolded the cartons and, after combining them with plastic and aluminum, used them to create three-dimensional Christmas trees . Eight different “species” of trees of varying heights were made. Public visitors are also encouraged to participate and add their own recycled products to the installation. “The reality and necessity for public participation in order to bring true changes and awareness laid the root for the concept of a nursery forest, where it was spatialized for social interactions and engaging experience to take place,” wrote the architects. “[We] rethought the temporary installations not as a decorative end product, but as a catalytic instrument in both material and ideological terms among the waste recycling process and its education to achieve true sustainability .” Related: Top 10 crazy christmas trees made from bottles, bikes, shopping carts and more! The 36 trees are laid out into the shape of a giant Christmas tree visible from above. An experiential path leads visitors through the forest and is punctuated by key messages, benches, and public engagement areas. The trees are lit from within for a glowing effect. All materials will go back into the recycling process after the exhibition ends. + AaaM Architects

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Enchanting Christmas tree nursery is made from 16,000 recycled drink cartons

Scientists protest Congress’s plan to open vital Arctic wildlife refuge to oil exploration

November 10, 2017 by  
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An Alaska senator recently introduced legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. 37 Arctic wildlife scientists, including several former officials from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Geological Survey, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, responded the next day with a letter . They oppose oil and gas exploration and development, stsating “such activity would be incompatible with the purposes for which the refuge was established, including ‘to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity.’” Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican of Alaska and chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released the legislation Wednesday. On Thursday, the 37 scientists sent the letter to Murkowski and Maria Cantwell, Ranking Member of the committee and Democrat from Washington. Related: Obama shuts the door on Arctic and Atlantic drilling for next five years Murkowski’s legislation targeted the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the scientists said in their letter, “Decades of biological study and scientific research within the Arctic Refuge have confirmed that the coastal plain specifically is vital to the biological diversity of the entire refuge.” They said polar bears, several migratory bird species, wolves, wolverines, Arctic grayling, caribou, Dolly Varden char, muskoxen, and grizzly bears all live in the coastal plain, which they said “contains the greatest wildlife diversity of any protected area above the Arctic Circle.” Polar bears are among the animals that stand to lose if drilling moves forward in this part of the Arctic. The scientists said three fourths of the coastal plain “is designated as critical habitat for polar bears, which are highly vulnerable to disturbance due to oil and gas activities.” Cantwell told Reuters she’d oppose the legislation. Murkowski’s spokesperson did not comment. Audubon , which made a copy of the letter available online , is calling on people to reach out to their representatives in Congress and ask them to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from development. Via Reuters , The Washington Post , and Audubon Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons , lead image via DepositPhotos

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Scientists protest Congress’s plan to open vital Arctic wildlife refuge to oil exploration

United Kingdom joins Europe in banning bee-killing pesticides

November 10, 2017 by  
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The United Kingdom is joining Europe on a key environmental issue by supporting a total ban on neonicotinoids, pesticides that have decimated bee populations across the world. According to British environment secretary Michael Gove, the United Kingdom has reversed its previous opposition to such a ban after new research has shown that neonicotinoids cause significant damage to bee colonies. Gove was also moved to adopt this new policy position after reading reports of 75% declines in insect populations in Germany . “The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood,” said Gove, according to The Guardian . “I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.” Although neonicotenoids are the world’s most used insecticide, their use on flowering crops was banned by the European Union in 2013. The United Kingdom nonetheless opposed the ban, though the times have changed. As the EU moves towards a total ban on neonictenoids outside of greenhouses, the United Kingdom’s change in its policy position adds momentum to the European reform effort. Related: “Bee-friendly” plants sold in the UK are coated in harmful pesticides “As is always the case, a deteriorating environment is ultimately bad economic news as well,” said Gove, citing figures that pollinators boost the profitability of UK crops by £400m-£680m each year. Gove also pointed out that, in the face of declining pollinator populations, British gala apple growers are forced to spend £5.7m per year to compensate for the loss of the natural ecological services provided by pollinators. Environmental and science groups are applauding Gove’s decision. “We warmly welcome the UK’s change of position,” said Matt Shardlow, of the insect conservation group Buglife, according to The Guardian . “Brexit will give the UK more control over the health of our ecosystems and it is essential in doing so that we apply the highest standards of care.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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United Kingdom joins Europe in banning bee-killing pesticides

1,021 MW solar plant will generate steam for Oman oilfield

November 7, 2017 by  
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  Solar thermal energy could create steam for operations at an Oman oilfield. GlassPoint Solar has finished the first block of what will be a 1,021 megawatt (MW) solar plant, Miraah , for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) – that will help them save around 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Miraah will be comprised of 36 blocks, or greenhouse -like structures housing solar arrays to protect them from harsh conditions like dust storms and strong winds, at the Amal West oilfield. According to GlassPoint , “The greenhouse enables major cost and performance advantages compared to exposed solar designs, from reducing overall material usage to automated washing operations.” The solar plant will concentrate sunlight with the help of large mirrors to boil oilfield water into steam. The plant recently delivered its first steam for the oilfield – and when finished will generate 6,000 tons of solar steam every single day. Related: GlassPoint is Using Solar Power to Draw Oil From the Earth The steam will be used for thermal enhanced oil recovery, where steam is injected into an oil reservoir, heating the oil, according to CleanTechnica . It’s then easier to pump the oil up to the surface. Natural gas often helps generate steam, but the Miraah solar plant will save around 5.6 trillion British thermal units of natural gas a year. Miraah will offer the same amount of carbon savings as if 63,000 cars left the roads. PDO Managing Director Raoul Restucci said in a statement, “Solar-powered oil production is a sustainable, long-term solution to meet the Sultanate’s future energy demand and utilize its natural resources most efficiently…Miraah is a real statement of intent from PDO as we begin the transition away from an exclusive focus on oil and gas to becoming a fully-fledged energy company with a greater focus on renewables .” + GlassPoint Solar Via CleanTechnica and GlassPoint Solar ( 1 , 2 ) Images via GlassPoint Solar

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1,021 MW solar plant will generate steam for Oman oilfield

Erin Brockovich helps Oklahoma Pawnee Nation take on fracking companies

July 11, 2017 by  
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Oklahoma has become an earthquake hotspot in recent years, and many are blaming companies that engage in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking . Last year, the state saw its largest earthquake ever recorded at a 5.8 magnitude, close to the town of Pawnee. The Pawnee Nation is suing over 25 oil and gas companies, with the help of famous consumer advocate Erin Brockovich . The amount of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or higher in Oklahoma was greater than in California for the first time in 2014. Many people blame the practice employed by oil and gas companies of injecting wastewater from fracking into the Earth. Related: Oklahoma earthquake activity up 4000%, locals sue oil and gas companies National Geographic explained the amount of earthquakes in Oklahoma spiked as did activity from fossil fuel companies. Once the state saw either none or a couple of magnitude 3 earthquakes every year. In 2009 that number escalated to 20. From there the situation only worsened: the state had 109 magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes in 2013, 579 in 2014, 903 in 2015, and 623 in 2016. That’s two or three of these quakes every day. Brockovich actually used to spend her summers in Oklahoma with her grandparents as a child. She told National Geographic, “The only thing I’d worry about growing up there was tornadoes. Now I’d be afraid not of a tornado, but an earthquake? That’s just bizarre.” She said it’s hard “to go back to Oklahoma, to see how on edge [the Pawnee people] are. The question they keep asking is, ‘When will it end?’ The Pawnee Nation is suing Eagle Road Oil LLC, Cummings Oil Company, and 25 other companies for damage to reservation property and historical buildings, with the help of Weitz & Luxenberg along with Brockovich. They say the companies were knowingly causing the earthquakes and their actions “constitute wanton or reckless disregard for public or private safety .” Via EcoWatch and National Geographic Images via Sarah Nichols on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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ExxonMobil exhorts White House to keep Paris agreement

March 31, 2017 by  
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When a fossil fuel company under fire for covering up past knowledge of climate change exhorts the President of the United States to stay in the 2015 Paris agreement , something’s not quite right. ExxonMobil manager of environmental policy and planning Peter Trelenberg wrote a letter to the White House earlier this month reiterating ExxonMobil’s position on the deal. He made it clear ExxonMobil thinks President Donald Trump should not pull out of the historic, hard-fought agreement. On the campaign trail Trump promised to yank the United States out of the Paris agreement. But so far the White House hasn’t taken that step, even in a recent environmentally devastating executive order . Meanwhile Trump’s new Secretary of State, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson , has said in the past the president is wrong about climate change , and perhaps could have now persuaded Trump to stick with the deal. Related: Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson says Trump is wrong about climate change On March 22, Trelenberg wrote to G. David Banks, Special Assistant to the President for International Energy and Environment, thanking Banks for a recent inquiry on the oil and gas giant’s views regarding the agreement. Trelenberg said ExxonMobil welcomed the agreement both in December 2015, when it was announced at COP21 , and in November 2016 when it went into force. Don’t get too excited – Trelenberg didn’t write off fossil fuels altogether. He said, “We believe that the United States is well positioned to compete within the framework of the Paris Agreement, with abundant low-carbon resources such as natural gas , and innovative private industries, including the oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors.” Trelenberg said natural gas is the “cleanest-burning and least carbon-intensive fossil fuel” that has helped American attain 20-year lows in carbon dioxide emissions . He did point out ExxonMobil has invested $7 billion in lower emission fuels – such as biofuels made from algae – for around 15 years, and ended his letter with a final call to stay in the Paris agreement. The irony of the ExxonMobil letter prompted Senator Bernie Sanders to tweet : “It is pathetic that the largest oil company in the world understands more about climate change than the president of the United States.” Via The Independent Images via Roy Luck on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Colorado appeals court sides with teenagers fighting oil and gas industry

March 27, 2017 by  
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Teenagers fighting environmental destruction at the hands of the oil and gas industry in Colorado just celebrated a victory. Last week the Colorado Court of Appeals sided with teenage activist and Earth Guardians director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez , who filed suit, and reversed a lower court ruling so the state could have to prioritize environmental protection before the interests of the fossil fuel industry . Back in 2013 Martinez and other teenagers approached the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), a state organization that according to their website is charged with promoting responsible development of fossil fuel resources in Colorado “in a manner consistent with the protection of public health , safety, and welfare, including the environment and wildlife resources.” But apparently the kids didn’t think they were doing such a great job with that mission – and they weren’t alone. According to The Denver Post, COGCC officials for over 10 years have interpreted their mission to balance fossil fuel industry interests against public health. Since the commission’s formation, over 50,000 oil wells have been drilled. Related: 16-year-old activist demands US gov end fossil fuel use by 2026 The kids asked the organization to not issue any new drilling permits “unless the best available science demonstrates, and an independent third party organization confirms, that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife, and land resources, does not adversely impact human health, and does not contribute to climate change .” COGCC refused after holding a hearing. The teenagers appealed, with the support of over a dozen advocacy groups. But the Denver District Court backed the COGCC. So the teenagers appealed again, and last week a three-judge appeals court panel sided with the teenagers. The fight isn’t over. The COGCC doesn’t have to now implement the teenagers’ rule. Instead the ruling means the organization illegally rejected the rule, and the case returns to district court. Via Business Insider and The Denver Post Images via Xiuhtezcatl Martinez on Facebook and Teja Jonnalagadda on Facebook

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Colorado appeals court sides with teenagers fighting oil and gas industry

Circular home boasts 360-degree views so owners can watch their dogs

March 27, 2017 by  
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The biggest motivation behind this circular home’s 360-degree views isn’t the beautiful landscape—it’s the homeowners’ dogs. Dutch architecture firm 123DV designed 360 Villa, a contemporary dwelling in the Netherlands that shows how architecture can be inclusive of humans and animals. Commissioned by a couple who own a pair of beautiful Alaskan Malamutes, the custom home is wrapped in glazing to allow the couple to stay in constant contact with their dogs both in and outside the home. Surrounded by a sloped lawn, the 85-square-meter 360 Villa offers ample space for the homeowners’ two Alaskan Malamutes to play and release their high energy. To give the dogs space and the constant contact they need with their owners, 123DV designed the home with a circular plan and wrapped it in a “continuous window” to provide visual contact between the dogs and couple. The roof extends over the edge of the home to create a wraparound canopy that provides shelter from the rain and sun. Related: This house has a special staircase designed just for dogs To preserve privacy, the architects built up the land into a hill on the street-facing side of the villa so that the owners can see their dogs without needing a full-height window . Despite the small footprint, the 360 Villa feels spacious thanks to the large windows and the open floor plan. The open-plan kitchen, dining room, and living area take up around two-thirds of the interior and open to an outdoor deck. The bedroom and bathroom can be closed off from the living room by sliding doors. A large circular skylight in the middle of the home lets in additional natural light. + 123DV Via ArchDaily Images © Hannah Anthonysz

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