International Women’s Day Spotlight: Meet the 8 women leading the change for a better world

March 8, 2019 by  
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International Women’s Day is just one of the 365 days per year that it is important to recognize and celebrate the contributions and advancements female leaders have bestowed onto the environment, society and culture from around the world. While there are thousands of women who are fighting to help conserve and preserve our planet, below we highlight eight brave women from across the globe who are making headlines for their innovative impact in the environmental, conservation and sustainability fields. Melina Laboucan Massimo Indigenous Rights & Clean Energy Campaigner (Canada) Massimo , a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation, grew up in a small community where the only jobs were in the oil and gas industry. Following a devastating oil spill that contaminated the water and land that her community depended on for generations, Massimo was inspired to take action. She is a Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace, journalist, film producer and an indigenous rights activist. She advocates for a equitable transition to clean and renewable energy sources that prioritize local jobs, ownership and environmental protection. Related: Women are essential to climate resilience in the Caribbean — here’s why Vandana Shiva Food Sovereignty Advocate (India) Shiva is an eco-activist and agroecologist who focuses on sustainable agriculture , local food systems and the working conditions of farm workers in India. She is a vocal opponent of genetically modified organisms and her work has helped preserve and prioritize indigenous seed diversity and traditional knowledge. Forbes named Shiva one of the Seven Most Powerful Women on the Globe. Christiana Figueres U.N. Leader and Climate Optimist (Costa Rica) Christiana Figueres was the driving force behind the monumental Paris Agreement of 2015, in which 195 nations signed on to legally-binding, time-bound commitments to reduce carbon emissions and limit global warming . After serving as the Executive Secretary for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2016, Figueres turned her attention to speaking, writing and advising major companies on climate sustainability. Figueres also leads Mission 2020 and Global Optimism, organizations focused on making the world’s ambitious climate visions into a reality. She recently won the prestigious US$1 million Dan David Prize for her work in combating climate change. Paula Kahumbu Elephant Conservationist (Kenya) Kahumbu is the Executive Director of WildlifeDirect in Kenya and leader of a muti-year campaign to both raise awareness about elephant poaching and pass conservation legislation. Her local and international efforts to stem poaching from all angles have won her numerous awards, including the Whitley Award and the National Geographic Howard Buffet Award for conservation leadership in Africa. Basima Abdulrahman Green Re-Building Pioneer (Iraq) Abdulrahman is the Founder and CEO of Iraq’s first green design and construction consulting company. Her goal is to help her war-torn country build back in a way that is “sustainable, inclusive and economically productive through making buildings and infrastructures healthy, environmentally responsible, and resource-efficient.” Abdulrahman was the co-chair of the World Economic Forum in Davos, in January 2019. Related: Permaculture feeds and empowers refugees in Uganda Amy Jadesimi Sustainable Business Leader (Nigeria) Jadesimi is the CEO of a 100 percent Nigerian-owned Industrial Free Zone in Lagos. She is a trained medical doctor, entrepreneur and advocate for sustainable business as the only viable business model for progress. In 2018 she spoke at the U.N. about “the potential for private sector to take a lead in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.“ Jadesimi is confident that market growth in Africa, guided by the Sustainable Development Goals, is essential to provide jobs and improve environmental and social problems at the scale needed for a successful and sustainable future. Greta Thunberg Teen Climate Crusader (Sweden) In 2018, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish Parliament for three weeks, demanding national leaders radically prioritize climate change . Since then, her example has launched a ripple-effect of youth protests in over 270 cities around the world. Faced with living out the impacts of climate change, young people are taking the lead to speak out for stronger commitment and follow-through from world leaders. The New Yorker called Greta a “voice of unaccommodating clarity.” Heba Al Farra Women in the Environment Sector Connector (Palestine) Al Farra was recognized as a UN Young Champion of the Earth  for her organization, Women in Energy & Environment at MENA Region (WEE), which is building a professional network for Middle Eastern and North African women working in environmental fields. WEE connects women with resources and a supportive community. An environmental engineer, Al Farra left Palestine for Kuwait when the violence in Gaza disrupted her studies and is dedicated to linking women from her home country with the skills they need to succeed professionally. Images via David Suzuki Foundation , Frank Schwichtenberg , UNclimatechange,   Pop Tech , World Economic Forum , Danish Maritime Days , UNEP , bones64 , Molly Adams , Shutterstock

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International Women’s Day Spotlight: Meet the 8 women leading the change for a better world

Bureau of Land Management moves forward with the sale of sacred land

February 6, 2019 by  
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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is moving forward with the sale of land in the vicinity of New Mexico’s Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The land, which is considered sacred ground by Native Americans in the area, was approved amid heavy criticism from environmentalists and tribal leaders. The land is being purchased to pursue the development of oil and gas, with around 50 parcels of land up for grabs. One of the biggest issues surrounding the sale is that it was approved while the government was partially shutdown , which resulted in limited access of information. Related: Damage to Joshua Tree during the government shutdown could take centuries to repair According to AP News , critics claim that government officials failed to properly inform everyone on the sale of the property. They also asked if the BLM had enough staff members on hand to properly analyze the land and sale requests. In fact, Senator Tom Udall issued a scathing report on the land sale and called out the BLM for not being transparent throughout the process. “It’s a mistake that while critical public services were shuttered for 35 days during the government shutdown, BLM still moved forward with this opaque process,” Udall shared. Critics of the sacred land sale also wondered if the BLM will open a protest period, which is usually standard in these types of transactions. Fortunately, the agency has opted to delay the sale to give tribal leaders and environmentalists a few weeks to protest. The BLM is officially accepting protests beginning on February 11. The land sale is expected to go through at the end of March. If the protests are successful, a portion of the land that is up for sale will be withdrawn. Supporters are hoping that land within 10 miles around Chaco will be deemed off limits. This area, which would serve as a buffer zone, would help protect features that are sacred to local tribes, including kivas and stone structures. Chaco is currently inaccessible by paved roads. Local tribes hope to preserve the remoteness of the area, which has served as a religious and economic center for centuries. The BLM has not issued any comments about the land sale. Via AP News Image via Zenhaus

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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

Canada set to purchase Kinder Morgan pipeline for $4.5 billion

May 30, 2018 by  
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The Canadian government is planning to buy the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from major energy corporation Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion in an effort to secure its construction. The controversial project, which would triple the current capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline and run from the tar sands of Alberta to the Pacific Coast, is a major priority for Ottawa . The pipeline has suffered delays due to opposition from indigenous communities and environmental groups. Alberta and British Columbia have also been at odds over the potential environmental risks of the project. With the Canadian government’s financial and political support, the project is more likely to move forward. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project would vastly increase Canada’s ability to export oil to Asia. Canada possesses the world’s third largest oil reserves, but 99 percent of its oil exports are sold in the U.S.  While the government’s takeover of the project has reassured its backers that it will be built, with construction starting in August, it also raises the stakes for Ottawa. “It’s a chess move that allows the project to proceed and positions it as a national interest,” infrastructure expert Matti Siemiatycki told the Guardian . “[But] it’s also highly risky because now the government bears the risk.” The government intervention to save the project is based on the idea that investing in oil today will pay off in the future, something that is far from certain. “The pipeline expansion presumes there’s going to be a high demand for oil going forward for decades — but there’s significant risk that that may not prevail because of changing technologies and changing demand,” explained Siemiatycki. Related: The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought Meanwhile, environmental and indigenous groups continue their opposition. “The cost that they did not calculate in their $4.5 billion purchase is that Indigenous frontlines will stop this pipeline,” Tsleil-Waututh member and Coast Salish Watch House spokesperson Will George said in a statement. “The Watch House will continue to stand in the way of pipeline development, and I will continue to meet the responsibility passed on to me by my ancestors to protect the water and land.” In a statement, Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema asserted that “Trudeau is gambling billions of Canadian taxpayer dollars on an oil project that will never be built — a project that Kinder Morgan itself has indicated is ‘untenable’ and that faces more than a dozen lawsuits, crumbling economics and a growing resistance movement that is spreading around the world.” Even with government support, it remains to be seen whether the project will ultimately be completed. Via the Guardian Images via Bureau of Land Management Alaska (1, 2) and William Chen

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France completely bans fracking and oil extraction

December 21, 2017 by  
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The French Parliament recently passed into law a complete ban on the extraction of oil and gas within any of France’s territories. Beginning in 2040, fracking, oil drilling, and other extraction methods will be banned across France . Meanwhile, no new permits to extract fossil fuel in France will be given. Although this law highlights France’s commitment to take action against climate change, it is primarily a symbolic gesture. France imports 99 percent of the oil and gas that it consumes, extracting only a negligible amount from its territory. To put this in perspective, France extracts about 815,000 tons of oil per year, the same amount extracted every few hours in Saudi Arabia . While France’s recent law may not have a large direct impact on greenhouse gas emissions , French lawmakers hope that the move will inspire other European nations to make similar commitments, with Socialist lawmaker Delphine Batho telling the Guardian that she hoped the ban would be “contagious.” Left-wing members of parliament abstained from the vote to ban, while the right-wing Republicans party voted no. The law’s impact will be most felt in French Guyana, France’s South American territory where oil companies had sought to drill. Related: France is the world’s most sustainable food country French President Emmanuel Macron has sought to position France as a global leader on climate change. As the United States has retreated on the world stage, France has stepped forward. Macron has gone so far as to offer grants to climate scientists from American institutions to do research under a government that recognizes the reality of climate change. Internally, France is taking action. Gas and petrol vehicles are to be banned in France by 2040, and the government is working to shift the energy economy away from fossil fuels and nuclear power, and towards clean renewable energy. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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US to lift restrictions on making viruses deadlier and stronger

December 21, 2017 by  
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The United States National Institute of Health (NIH) announced on Tuesday that it will soon end a three-year moratorium on funding research projects that aim to make pathogens more powerful than they are naturally. The restrictions were put in place during the Obama Administration while the NIH created a more comprehensive system of risk-benefit analysis for the research. Now that such a system has been developed, the NIH is moving forward with its plans to develop more dangerous forms of deadly viruses . The goal is to study these lab-grown super-viruses to determine how these viruses might evolve in the real world, enabling experts and institutions to prepare antiviral medicines or other public health responses. Projects that engineer super viruses in the hopes of learning their weaknesses are called “gain-of-function” studies. Scientists seek to learn how a virus interacts with its hosts may change based on evolution . While research involving highly dangerous pathogens is strictly regulated, the potential cost from a mistake or malicious action could be devastating. Former CIA director John Brennan recently highlighted biological weapons, like a weaponized form of the ebola virus , as one of the most pressing existential threats facing the United States. Related: Scientists harness tobacco plants to produce polio vaccine Between 2003 and 2009, there were 395 reported incidents in which human error created a situation in which people were at risk of infection from these deadly viruses. Only seven infections resulted from these 395 events. Although this research is ostensibly to serve the public’s interest, some scientists question whether the risks are worth any potential reward. Gain-of-function studies have “done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemics, yet they risked creating an accidental pandemic , said Marc Lipsitch, epidemiologist at Harvard University, according to Nature . It would seem that the NIH did its due diligence in preparing a comprehensive policy concerning the research of deadly pathogens. Hopefully it is enough to keep these super viruses behind tightly closed doors. Via Motherboard Images via NIAID   (1)  

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Spend the night in this magical Hobbit House tucked into the Washington shire

December 21, 2017 by  
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Tiny house builder Kristie Wolfe has created an amazing hobbit home in Washington’s breathtaking Columbia River Gorge – and now you can experience hobbit life firsthand! Wolfe’s solar-powered hobbit house is now available to rent on Airbnb . No word on if Bilbo Baggins will be stopping by for tea. The 288 square foot home was built entirely from scratch on a 5.5 acre plot near Chelan, Washington. It comes with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living space with a beautiful stone fireplace at the heart of the design. The tiny cottage has a series of large, round windows that let in natural light and provide amazing views of the rolling green hills that extend out to the mountainside. Related: Washington Hobbit Hole is the first of three in an off-grid Shire The home’s interior is filled with rustic hobbit-inspired touches. In fact, Wolfe used all-natural products and techniques that one would assume hobbits implemented in their own homes. According to Wolfe, the corkwood floor alone took over 1,200 rounds and countless hours of cutting, gluing, and grouting. The hobbit home is completely off grid, thanks to solar panels and various sustainable touches. The home uses water from a nearby water tower and a greywater recycling system irrigates the grass on top of the home. A propane heater keeps the space warm and cozy. In case you’re worried about boredom, the many hobbit-themed amenities will keep you pleasantly occupied. Kirsten has filled the charming cottage with books of riddles, pastries wrapped up like lembas (a type of Elven bread), a hidden precious treasure, etc. Whittled furniture and accessories can be found throughout the charming home. Of course, once you step outside the home, there’s a whole world of nature at your doorstep, just on the other side of the fence made of woven sticks and branches. At the moment, the cottage offers the ultimate in solitude, but Kirsten already has plans to expand it: “I want to build a communal kitchen … that will look like an English-style pub,” Wolfe said. “People from all over can meet, or come stay with their friends and family, and break bread together like hobbits would.” + Airbnb Hobbit Hole + Tiny House on the Prairie Via Apartment Therapy Images via Airbnb

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Spend the night in this magical Hobbit House tucked into the Washington shire

Oil rig explodes in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain, injuring several near New Orleans

October 16, 2017 by  
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An oil rig on Lake Pontchartrain exploded on Sunday night in Kenner, Louisiana , home of the Louis Armstrong International Airport and only a few miles from New Orleans . Authorities began receiving calls about the explosion around 7:18 PM on Sunday; although no official explanation has been offered, authorities on the scene believe the explosion was caused by flammable cleaning chemicals on the oil rig’s surface. At least seven people were injured in the blast and, according to initial reporting, one person is missing. Many of the injuries were serious and authorities expected more to be reported in the near future. Lake Pontchartrain is a brackish body of water that is about 12-14 feet deep, though some shipping channels are dredged deeper, and covers 630 square miles to the north of New Orleans. The exploding rig in the Lake is owned by Clovelly Oil Co., which uses the structure for transferring oil . It is possible that oil is still leaking into Lake Pontchartrain, though this will not affect local drinking water, which is sourced from the Mississippi River. Local residents report having their homes rattled when the explosion occurred. “My house actually shook,” said Andrew Love, who lives in the area. “At first I thought it was a sonic boom or something, I had no idea what was happening.” No damage to homes has yet been reported. Related: New NASA study reveals just how fast New Orleans is sinking George Branigan was sitting at home with his wife and stepdaughter when the explosion happened. “We heard something blow up and it sounded like it was in my backyard ,” Branigan said. After going outside to investigate, Branigan heard what sounded to him to be small pebbles, likely debris from the explosion, falling on his home. Branigan was still watching the flames from his porch several hours after the explosion. Via the New Orleans Advocate and San Francisco Gate Images via  City of Kenner Government

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Oil rig explodes in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain, injuring several near New Orleans

Dakota Access pipeline springs first oil leak – before completion

May 11, 2017 by  
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Before the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was even completed, it suffered its first leak. On April 6, the $3.8 billion project spilled 84 gallons of crude oil at a South Dakota pump station, enraging members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other activists who protested its development for nearly one year. The Guardian reports that the leak was quickly contained and cleaned. However, critics of the spill say that the environmental travesty could have been prevented had state officials listened to concerned members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and those who support them. The pipeline was in its final stages of preparing to transport oil when the leak occurred. Beginning in April of 2016, thousands of people gathered near Cannon Ball, ND, to protest the DAPL ’s development. The main concerns continue to be that its construction could contaminate the Missouri river and that a portion of land the DAPL runs through was promised to the Standing Rock Sioux in an 1851 treaty. Though the Obama administration halted the DAPL’s development in December of 2016, President Trump ordered it to resume shortly after his inauguration. Activists were forcibly removed from the protest grounds. Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said, “They keep telling everybody that it is state of the art, that leaks won’t happen, that nothing can go wrong. It’s always been false. They haven’t even turned the thing on and it’s shown to be false.” “It doesn’t give us any pleasure to say, ‘I told you so.’ But we have said from the beginning that it’s not a matter of if, but when. Pipelines leak and they spill. It’s just what happens,” she added. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has fought Energy Transfer Partners and the U.S. government in court, argues that the project requires a full environmental study to assess the risks. Because President Trump has financial ties to the oil company, however, it is unlikely such an assessment will be conducted. Standing Rock Sioux tribe chairman Dave Archambault II said the spill is just one more sign the courts should intervene. “Our lawsuit challenging this dangerous project is ongoing, and it’s more important than ever for the court to step in and halt additional accidents before they happen – not just for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and our resources but for the 17 million people whose drinking water is at risk,” he said in a statement. Related: Major oil spill 150 miles from DAPL protest validates Standing Rock concerns Neither the company nor the state have made a public announcement about the spill . According to Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota department of environment and natural resources, this is because the spill was relatively minor as it was caused by a mechanical failure at a surge pump. “It’s not uncommon to have a small release at a pump station,” said Walsh, adding that the company responded immediately and cleaned up the liquid petroleum. Via The Guardian

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This modern log home in Finland is heated by the earth

May 11, 2017 by  
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This may look like a traditional log home, but unlike other homes, it can withstand harsh winters and freezing temperatures down to -30°C (-22°F) without a huge impact on the environment. Finnish architecture firm Pluspuu Oy designed the Log Villa house in Finland as an energy efficient modern residence for cold climates that offers optimal living conditions thanks to a well-insulated envelope and the use of geothermal energy. The Log Villa sits near a beautiful lake in Central Finland and offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Thick laminated timber logs constitute the envelope and features three-layer glued pine as the outer layer. This allows the structure to withstand extremely low temperatures. Although the design references traditional log buildings of the region, the villa’s envelope has no overlaps or visible cross corners. Related: Four-Cornered Villa is an Off-Grid Minimalist Retreat in Finland Geothermal energy is the main source of heat, which is pumped out of a well drilled in the ground. During the summer, when temperatures can go up to 30°C, cool air is pumped from the ground into the building. Triple-glazed thermal glass and blown-in wood fiber insulation make the envelope airtight and contributes to the ecological construction approach. + Pluspuu Oy Via Archdaily Photos by Samuli Miettinen

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