‘Great American Desert’ threatens to swallow eight US states as massive aquifer dries up

November 27, 2017 by  
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The Ogallala aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground bodies of water upon which many ecosystems and communities in the American West depend, is in rapid decline due to over-exploitation of its resources. According to the Denver Post , farmers in eight American states (Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming and South Dakota) are putting a particular strain on the aquifer by overdrawing water from beneath the soil they cultivate in a $35 billion dollar per year industry. If allowed to continue, this could threaten both the livelihood of farmers and the ecosystems of the West, which could be replaced by a ‘Great American Desert.’ Because of the region’s intensive farming practices , agricultural wells are extracting water from the Ogallala aquifer significantly faster than it is being replenished. This trend appears to have accelerated in recent years. Federal data indicates that the aquifer contracted twice as fast in the past six years as it had in the previous sixty, with a significant impact on everyday water use in the West. “Now I never know, from one minute to the next, when I turn on a faucet or hydrant, whether there will be water or not,” said Lois Scott, who lives on a family farm in Cope, Colorado , in an interview with the Denver Post . “The aquifer is being depleted. This will truly become the Great American Desert.” Related: Dead Sea salt reveals drought on a scale never recorded – and it could happen again As a result of the exploitation of the Ogallala, at least 358 miles of rivers and streams have dried up within a 200-square-mile area in Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. If trends continued, an additional 177 miles of rivers and streams are expected to dry out by 2060. “We have almost completely changed the species of fish that can survive in those streams, compared with what was there historically,” said Keith Gido, author of a recent scientific report on the aquifer’s depletion, in an interview with the Denver Post . “We’re not living in as sustainable a fashion as we need to be. Much of the damage has been done.” The over-exploitation of the Ogallala aquifer and the plight of the American West is sadly not unique to the region. “It is happening all over the world in places such as Pakistan . It causes conflicts,” said Gido. “As human populations grow, the demand for water is going to be greater. Conflicts are going to increase—unless we become more efficient in using the water we have.” Via EcoWatch and the Denver Post Images via Depositphotos  and USGS/Flickr

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‘Great American Desert’ threatens to swallow eight US states as massive aquifer dries up

Affordable new device uses solar energy to produce hydrogen and electricity

November 27, 2017 by  
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Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have advanced the field of hydrogen power by creating a hybrid device that uses solar energy to produce hydrogen and electricity in a cost-effective manner. “People need fuel to run their vehicles and electricity to run their devices,” said Richard Kaner, lead author of the study and a UCLA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “Now you can make both fuel and electricity with a single device.” The new invention is a significant step forward in the quest to harness the power of hydrogen as a fuel source, particularly in transportation. “Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles: It is the cleanest fuel known, it’s cheap and it puts no pollutants into the air — just water ,” said Kaner, “and this could dramatically lower the cost of hydrogen cars.” In addition to positive and negative electrodes typically found in battery systems, the UCLA device includes an electrode with the ability to either store electrical energy or use it as a catalyst for water electrolysis, the process by which hydrogen and oxygen atoms are split from a water compound. To increase the device’s efficiency, the researcher team maximized the surface area upon which water makes contact. This additional surface area then allows greater production of hydrogen as well as increased energy storage. Related: New nanomaterial pulls hydrogen from seawater to power fuel cells Although commercial production of hydrogen has often proven to be costly and carbon intensive , the usage of ever-cheaper and clean solar power could change the game. The materials used in the UCLA device to create hydrogen, such as nickel, iron, and cobalt, are also significantly cheaper and more abundant than precious metals like platinum typically used in the process. Finally, the device, powered by the sun, is designed to be accessible even in isolated areas, thus increasing the viability of hydrogen as a fuel source for vehicles on long trips. Although the current model can be held in the palm of one’s hand, the principles behind the device may be applied at a greater scale. Via New Atlas / UCLA Images via Reed Hutchinson/UCLA

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Affordable new device uses solar energy to produce hydrogen and electricity

Plastic-degrading fungus found in Pakistan trash dump

September 15, 2017 by  
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We’re filling up the world with plastic , and the material takes up to a millennium to break down in landfills . A group of scientists sought a solution to our plastic problem in nature – and they actually found one: a plastic-devouring soil fungus . Our current solutions for dealing with plastic aren’t working well. Not all of the material is recycled , and it’s polluting landfills and oceans . Sehroon Khan of the World Agroforestry Center said in a statement, “We wanted to identify solutions with already existed in nature, but finding microorganisms which can do the job isn’t easy.” Related: Plastic-eating caterpillar could revolutionize waste treatment Khan, lead author on a study published this year in Environmental Pollution , said they took samples from a dump in Islamabad, Pakistan “to see if anything was feeding on the plastic in the same way that other organisms feed on dead plant or animal matter.” Turns out, there was such an organism: the fungus Aspergillus tubingensis . Laboratory trials revealed the fungus can grow on the surface of plastic, where it secretes enzymes that break chemical bonds between polymers. The researchers even found A. tubingensis utilizes the strength of its mycelia to help break plastic apart. And the fungus does the job rapidly: the scientists said in weeks A. tubingensis can break down plastics that would otherwise linger in an environment for years. Factors like temperature and pH level may impact how well the fungus can degrade plastic, but the researchers say if we could pin down optimal conditions, perhaps we could deploy the fungus in waste treatment plants, for example. Khan said his team plans to determine those factors as their next goal. Khan is also affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Science, and eight other researchers from institutions in China and Pakistan contributed to the study. Via Agroforestry World Images via Alan Levine on Flickr and courtesy of Sehroon Khan

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Plastic-degrading fungus found in Pakistan trash dump

Rise of just 0.5 degrees C in India has already resulted in deadly heat

June 9, 2017 by  
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As the world works to keep temperature increase from climate change below 2 degrees Celsius , a smaller increase than that has already led to deadly heat in India . A new study reveals an average temperature increase of just 0.5 degrees Celsius means the country is two and a half times more likely to be hit with a deadly heat wave than it was 50 years ago. Between 1960 and 2009, average temperatures in India increased by 0.5 degrees Celsius, which is under one degree Fahrenheit. The probability of a large heat-related mortality event – where more than 100 people perish – skyrocketed by 146 percent, according to the new study. Researchers also found the amount of heat wave days increased by 25 percent in much of the country. Between 1985 and 2009 part of south and west India saw 50 percent more heat wave events, or extreme heat that lingers for more than three or four days, compared to the 25 years prior. Related: India shatters records with temperature of 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit Climatologist Omid Mazdiyasni of the University of California, Irvine and lead author on a study from 11 researchers in the United States and India said, “It’s getting hotter, and of course more heat waves are going to kill more people. We knew there was going to be an impact, but we didn’t expect it to be this big.” This is bad news for a region already grappling with heat. Neighboring Pakistan experienced the hottest ever temperature recorded in May in the world with a temperature of 53.5 degrees Celsius, or 128.3 degrees Fahrenheit, in the city of Turbat on May 28. And in New Delhi , temperatures have spiked higher than 44 degrees Celsius, or 111 degrees Fahrenheit, in the last couple of weeks. Study co-author Amir AghaKouchak, another UC Irvine climatologist, said, “The general public may think that a one or two degree temperature rise is not that significant, but our results show that even small changes can result in more heat waves and more death.” The journal Science published the study this week. Via Phys.org Images via Abhishek Singh Bailoo on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Death toll climbs after powerful 7.5 earthquake rocks Afghanistan and Pakistan

October 26, 2015 by  
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A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck in the northern Afghanistan early Monday, sending powerful tremors into Pakistan and India. Seismologists report the epicenter of the quake was located deep in the Hindu Kush mountains. Sustained tremors were felt in the capital cities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, forcing workers to evacuate office buildings and fill the streets as they trembled. At the time of this report, the death toll has climbed to 100 but many more victims are anticipated as recovery efforts continue. Read the rest of Death toll climbs after powerful 7.5 earthquake rocks Afghanistan and Pakistan

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Death toll climbs after powerful 7.5 earthquake rocks Afghanistan and Pakistan

Rug Your City wants to capture the spirit of modern cities in handmade textiles

August 19, 2015 by  
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Design firm Floorplan has launched Rug Your City , a Kickstarter project that wants to create handmade rugs inspired by modern cities. Inspired by classic Persian and Turkish storytelling rugs, Rug Your City seeks $12,000 to prototype a New York-inspired pilot collection that will include five pieces designed by two graphic designers, an architectural firm, an environmental consultant and a Brooklyn-based artist team. The designs will either be hand-woven (flat-weave) or hand-knotted (plush) and take four to nine months to produce. The handmade rugs would be created by skilled artisans from Indian, Pakistan, and/or Turkey. + Rug Your City Kickstarter The article above was submitted to us by an Inhabitat reader. Want to see your story on Inhabitat ? Send us a tip by following this link . Remember to follow our instructions carefully to boost your chances of being chosen for publishing!

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Pakistan province to plant 1 billion trees to revive plundered forests

May 7, 2015 by  
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Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwai government has announced plans to plant 1 billion trees to revive the province’s once glorious coniferous forests. Since the September 11 attacks in the United States, illegal loggers and Taliban have plundered the forests, so that only stumps remained of the region’s Pindrow fir, Morinda spruce, deodar, blue pine and chir pine trees. In 2012, The Guardian reported the administrative district Swat was a major target, and the Taliban “mercilessly stripped” Swat of its trees to sustain their military operations. Now, aware of the twin threat of climate change and land erosion, the provincial government will pump $150 million into a monumental tree-planting effort, Al Jazeera reports . Local nurseries expect the plan will boost their business as well. Elsewhere in the region, according to Treehugger , other plans are underway to plant 2 billion trees in neighboring India, while Ethiopia has also been hard at work replanting after deforestation. Via  Treehugger Image via Shutterstock Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: conservation , environmental news , forestry , government , illegal logging , Khyber Pakhtunkwa province , News , Pakistan , planting trees , The Taliban

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300 naked logs surround the Nordic forest history museum in Sweden

May 7, 2015 by  
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Read the rest of 300 naked logs surround the Nordic forest history museum in Sweden Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Andreas Lyckefors , Bornstein Lyckefors Architects , Forest Finns , forest museum , slash and burn agriculture , Sweden , Torsby Finnskog Center

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300 naked logs surround the Nordic forest history museum in Sweden

Pakistan Quake Kills at Least 270, Causes 100-Foot-Wide Island to Emerge from the Sea

September 25, 2013 by  
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Video Still via YouTube A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck a rural area of southern Pakistan yesterday in a disaster that has claimed over 270 lives, left dozens injured and many more homeless. As the province of Baluchistan comes to terms with the horrific events, one unusual feature of the earthquake is garnering a lot of attention: as the quake rocked the region, it carried enough force to cause a new island to emerge from the Arabian Sea . Read the rest of Pakistan Quake Kills at Least 270, Causes 100-Foot-Wide Island to Emerge from the Sea Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Arabian Sea , Awaran , Baluchistan , earthquake , home collapse , mud homes , Mud Volcado , natural disaster , New Island , Pakistan , rural infrastructure , tremblor        

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Pakistan Quake Kills at Least 270, Causes 100-Foot-Wide Island to Emerge from the Sea

California to Extend Electric Vehicle Tax Credits to 2024

September 25, 2013 by  
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California’s lawmakers have approved legislation that would extend the state’s tax credits for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles until 2024. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would extend the state’s $2,500 tax credit that is passed on to buyers. Through the end of 2012, California has already handed out a total $24.8 million in rebates. Read the rest of California to Extend Electric Vehicle Tax Credits to 2024 Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: California , california tax credits , electric vehicle , fuel cell vehicle , green car , Honda , hydrogen fuel cells , hydrogen power , plug-in hybrid , tax credits , Toyota        

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California to Extend Electric Vehicle Tax Credits to 2024

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