Trump team claims funding climate change is "a waste of your money"

March 17, 2017 by  
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Predictions that the environment wouldn’t fare well under Donald Trump are already coming true. His budget proposal aims to slash Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding by 31 percent, tossing out climate change programs because as White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said, those are “a waste of your money.” Perhaps Trump’s America First budget proposal shouldn’t come as a surprise: it’s highly militaristic and hard on the arts, the sick, the poor, foreign aid, and of course climate change. Under the Trump budget, pollution cleanup efforts and energy efficiency measures would be shoved to the side. Related: Trump to purge climate change from federal government Over 50 EPA programs could be lost under the Trump budget, including large-scale cleanup efforts for the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes and assistance for Alaskan villages hurting because of climate change. States would be left to pick up the pieces. And so much for Trump’s blustering about jobs – around one in five EPA workers would lose theirs under the so-called America First budget. Mulvaney hearkened back to campaign trail language when he said, “This comes back to the president’s business person view of government , which is if you took over this as a CEO, and you look at this on a spreadsheet and go, ‘Why do we have all of these facilities, why do we have seven when we can do the same job with three, won’t that save money,’ and the answer is yes…You can’t drain the swamp and leave all the people in it. So, I guess the first place that comes to mind will be the Environmental Protection Agency.” He also doubled down on Trump’s view of climate change. “We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mulvaney said. “We consider that to be a waste of your money.” Ultimately Trump’s budget is simply a recommendation; Congress will write and pass a budget. It remains to be seen if they’ll gut the EPA as much as Trump wishes. Via The Guardian Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Eric Vance/USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency on Flickr

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Trump team claims funding climate change is "a waste of your money"

New Zealand river world’s first to obtain legal staus as a person

March 16, 2017 by  
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A river in New Zealand now has legal status similar to a human being, marking a historic victory for indigenous people. For over 100 years, the Whanganui Iwi have fought over the rights of the Whanganui River, the country’s longest navigable river . Now the New Zealand Parliament has recently passed the Te Awa Tupua Bill , or Whanganui River Claims Settlement Bill, acknowledging past wrongs and declaring the river “an indivisible and living whole.” The Whanganui River can now be represented through two human representatives, one appointed by the New Zealand government and the other by the Whanganui Iwi. Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson told Newshub, “I know some people will say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality, but it’s no stranger than family trusts, or companies, or incorporated societies.” A $56 million financial redress payment is also part of the significant legislation. Related: Indonesian president gives forest management back to indigenous communities It’s been a long battle for the Whanganui Iwi. According to the bill, “Since 1873, Whanganui Iwi have sought recognition of their authority over the River, including by pursuing one of New Zealand’s longest-running court cases.” Whanganui Iwi spokesperson Gerrard Albert said the people have challenged the government’s impact on the river’s health since the mid-1850’s, and sought recognition of their rights over the river. In a statement he said, “We have always believed that the Whanganui River is an indivisible and living whole – Te Awa Tupua – which includes all its physical and spiritual elements from the mountains of the central North Island to the sea.” A government website adds, “The tribes of Whanganui take their name, their spirit, and their strength from the great river…The people say, ‘Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au’ (I am the river. The river is me).” Over 200 Whanganui Iwi descendants were present in Parliament as the bill passed, and sang songs after the third and final bill reading. Via EcoWatch Images via Alex Indigo on Flickr and eyeintim on Flickr

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New Zealand river world’s first to obtain legal staus as a person

Trump orders review of Obama-era fuel economy standards

March 16, 2017 by  
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In another move aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, President Donald Trump on Wednesday told car executives and auto workers gathered near Detroit that he would order a review of the fuel economy standards for cars and trucks that were put in place by the Obama Administration in 2012. The rules would have raised average fleetwide fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — well above the current 35.5 mpg requirement that has been credited with decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that climate scientists say are the primary drivers of global warming. Trump spoke at a former WWII bomber factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan that is being repurposed to test autonomous vehicles. The president said that he would “ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs, your factories,” adding that the White House is “setting up a task force in every federal agency to identify and remove any regulation that undermines American auto production.” Related: US vehicle emissions hit record low as fuel economy climbs to record high While Trump talked of ending the “assault” on the US auto industry, it is unclear exactly what he is referring to. Despite carmakers complaining about the EPA’s fuel economy standards, a recent report from the regulatory agency found that Detroit was actually outperforming the GHG emission standards while at the same time selling a record number of new cars and trucks. Last year automakers sold a record 17.55 million vehicles  in the US — the seventh straight year of rising sales. Also, Trump didn’t mention that Obama has been credited with helping to save the domestic auto industry. A bipartisan congressional oversight panel concluded that the government intervention resulted in the industry becoming more efficient, allowing automakers “to become more flexible and better able to meet changing consumer demands, while still remaining profitable.” Via The Christian Science Monitor Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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Trump orders review of Obama-era fuel economy standards

Antique farm equipment reborn as delicate works of art

March 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Green, Recycle

These stunning nature-inspired sculptures are so beautiful you might not notice at first glance what they’re carved from—old farm equipment. Self-taught artist Dan Rawlings recycles these discarded tools into canvases and sculptures . By giving these forgotten tools new life, he hopes to remind others to appreciate the value of our existing possessions and the environment rather than succumb to the never-ending excesses of commercialism. Based in Gloucestershire, UK, Rawlings is drawn to the fun challenge of working with old found objects that still have sentimental value even if they’re damaged beyond use. Using a variety of tools including a handheld plasma torch, welders , and scalpels, the artist reshapes and carves intricate nature-inspired scenes. He writes: “I try to create images that remind people of the moments when everything seems possible and free; times when climbing a tree, or sitting admiring the way its branches twist and curl means nothing, but means everything.” Related: Artist Nikki Ella Whitlock recycles wine bottle fragments into ethereal mosaics Although Rawlings works with many different materials, he’s most well known for metal carvings . His manipulation of metals can be seen in his reworking of old saws to the walls of vans. + Dan Rawlings

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Antique farm equipment reborn as delicate works of art

The Biomimicry Manual: What can the honeybee teach a designer?

March 16, 2017 by  
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What exactly is biomimicry ? I think of it as a way of unlocking a whole world of super-powers for humanity. It is literally the next stage of human evolution. Leonardo DaVinci himself said, “Those who are inspired by a model other than Nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain.” Maybe we’ve been studying the wrong master, trying to make a living on this planet in ways that will ultimately deplete us all. That’s certainly the case with humans and honeybees . Yes, humans love honey, and the busy hum of bees in the garden is a sound that gives us peace on a warm day. But we have much more to learn from them. Find out the lessons they have to teach in today’s entry of The Biomimicry Manual ! Great designers know that people feel good when they are surrounded by plants and other living things. Gardens are good for the soul. That’s ‘biophilia.’ Nature makes us happy. We love using ‘organic’ raw materials, like honey and beeswax, because they are useful and renewable, pleasing and non-toxic. They won’t sit in a landfill for the next thousand years like yesterday’s plastic. The Earth will recycle them. That’s ‘bio-utilization,’ using nature because it’s just good stuff. Our herds of goats and sheep, the crop varieties we’ve grown and selected for millennia because they taste the way we want, and even the family dog are ‘bio-assistants.’ They help us make and do the things we need. Honeybees, for instance, are not ‘wild animals,’ but domestic helpers. We have shaped their evolution to suit ourselves. Biomimicry is a little different. It only “uses” life’s ideas. It’s when you have a problem, and you ask, “how other living creatures solving it?” Instead of harvesting that creature or its by-products, you copy the idea itself and make it anew, make it human. Every plant and animal , fungus, and bacteria has a whole genome worth of time-tested, sustainable ideas to inspire us. That’s a lot of superpowers. Myself, I like bioinspiration of all kinds. John Todd ‘s ‘ Living Machines ‘, for instance, do a little of everything: biophilia, bio-utilization, bio-assistance, and biomimicry. He uses a pleasing array of living plants and bacteria (both domestic and wild) to imitate the way a natural wetland ecosystems works, filtering and treating sewage in the process. Believe it or not, a bee has to eat eight pounds of honey to make a single pound of wax to safely store her honey and larvae in. It’s an expensive proposition, and it has to be done efficiently. The ancient Greeks understood that modular hexagonal honeycomb makes the most storage possible with the least amount of material. Architects and designers are tapping this for all sorts of applications. Panelite , in New York, offers hexagonal ClearShade insulating glass. It passively regulates heat, while still letting in lots of light. The Sinosteel skyscraper in Tianjin, China uses honeycomb windows the same way. Our honeybee has other brilliant design ideas as well. For instance, her 300 degree field of vision literally gives her eyes in the back of her head. Nissan Motors is working on a laser range finder inspired by these curved, compound eyes, which will detect and avert potential collisions. German researchers are designing a honeybee-inspired wide-angle lens for aerial drones, while other researchers are using their navigation tricks to optimize GPS and tracking systems. We know that it’s physically impossible for bumblebees to fly. And yet they do, with incredible efficiency and maneuverability. So what are we missing? We aren’t completely sure, but one thing they have is the ability to zip and unzip their two-part wings for flight and landing. What if our airplanes could do that? Wouldn’t that save space on aircraft carriers and in busy airports? And when we say something is “the bees’ knees,” it’s even better than we thought. Insect joints contain ‘resilin,’ a springy protein. Turns out to be the most efficient elastic known, dramatically better than natural or synthetic rubber. With it, bees can flap their wings a thousand times a minute, and fleas can jump one hundred times their body length. An Australian government research group has mimicked this “near-perfect” rubber, creating 98% bounce back. That’s practically a perpetual-motion machine! These examples are taken from Jay Harman’s new book, The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and how Nature is Inspiring Innovation . There are so many good ideas in nature, it boggles the mind, And that’s just the bees! There is literally an infinite world of time-tested, sustainable ideas to learn from. And if we get “buzz-y” studying them, we can unlock a whole new set of super-powers to take us into the future. + The Biomimicry Manual  An evolutionary biologist, writer, sustainability expert, and passionate biomimicry professional in the  Biomimicry 3.8 BPro certification program , Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker blogs at  BioInspired Ink  and serves as Content Developer for the  California Association of Museums ‘ Green Museums Initiative. She is working on a book about organizational transformation inspired by nature.

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The Biomimicry Manual: What can the honeybee teach a designer?

Cactus Park in Taiwan draws architectural inspiration from prickly succulents

March 15, 2017 by  
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Cacti may not excite a lot of people, but in Taiwan the plant is so highly respected the island community of Penghu built the Qingwan Cactus Park to celebrate its existence. The beautiful complex was created by converting an old military complex into various greenhouses that store a staggering variety of cacti in all shapes and sizes. To protect the site and the plants for the strong winds associated with monsoon season, the project implemented a number of resilient features around the park. Located in the Qingwan district of Penghu’s Fongguei Peninsula, the site’s old military structures were built during the Japanese Colonial Era. Abandoned for years, the site became covered with cactuses and white popinac. Cacti thrive on the island’s dry, windy climate because they are resistant to drought, strong winds and high salinity in the soil. To protect the beloved cactus population , the locals decided to give the existing buildings a thorough facelift in order to create a protected area for the plants to thrive. Related: Cactus Gum Can Purify Water Cheaply and Effectively At the heart of the complex is the teak and glass dome shaped like a cactus that “glows” at night. This main building, along with the other refurbished structures, was constructed to make as little impact on the surrounding basaltic landscape as possible. A teak wood frame and basaltic masonry walls support the dome’s large prismatic windows that provide ventilation and light on the interior. The complex consists of various greenhouses and an artists village, all surrounded by a “green belt” that connects the buildings and leads out to hiking and biking paths along the coastline. Although the cactus plant is known for its ability to thrive in dry climates, a rainwater conservation basin collects rainwater for irrigation and cleaning purposes. To protect the complex and the plants from the island’s strong winds, which carry salt that interferes with plant growth, numerous landscape architecture features were implemented in the complex.  Various windbreaking earth berms, inspired by the same design used by local farmers, form a protective barrier around the site. Although the park is geared to attract more ecotourism to the area, cacti are deeply respected by the locals, who express hope that visitors will enjoy a stroll around the greenhouses as well as spend time viewing the local wildlife. Additionally, visitors are encouraged to try their cactus-centric cuisine, especially the local favorite, cactus ice cream. + Qingwan Cactus Park + CCL Architects & Planners Via Archdaily Photography via Lin Fu Ming

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Cactus Park in Taiwan draws architectural inspiration from prickly succulents

Trump to purge climate change from federal government

March 15, 2017 by  
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Al Gore tried to convince President Donald Trump about the importance of acting on climate change. So did Leonardo DiCaprio . Elon Musk joined Trump’s tech council . German Chancelor Angela Merkel reportedly is going to bring up climate change at her White House meeting with the president. But it all appears to be in vain as the Trump Administration begins to purge the federal government of any association with global warming. The president is expected to sign an executive order possibly as soon as this week that would drop climate change from environmental reviews and rescind other Obama-era climate policies — dramatically reducing the role that climate change plays in government decision-making. The directive will also urge the US Environmental Protection Agency to dismantle the Clean Power Plan , which has yet to be implemented because of legal challenges from conservative states. Regulators will be directed to rescind Obama-era regulations limiting methane emissions — a potent greenhouse gas that escapes into the atmosphere from various points along the natural gas supply chain. Related: Trump tries to keep 21 kids’ climate change lawsuit from going to trial The order will also ask the government to reconsider using the “social cost of carbon” metric when considering new regulations. In what was described by The Daily Beast as the “most historic climate change decision” ever taken by the federal government, for the first time in US history the government put a price on carbon at $36 per ton. Conservatives, including Republican elder statesmen who wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal recently supporting a revenue neutral carbon tax, should be discouraged by the fact that Trump does not want the federal government to factor carbon pollution in the rule-making process. Trump is also determined to revive the dying coal industry that has been replaced by cheap natural gas and renewables such as solar and wind. The president is expected to lift the coal leasing moratorium the Obama Administration put in place January 2016. When he was running for president, Trump pledged to end what he described as a “war on coal” and put coal workers back to work. Last September, Trump said that he would “rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration.” Via Reuters Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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Trump to purge climate change from federal government

New Exxon CEO supports Paris climate deal, carbon tax

February 27, 2017 by  
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The world’s largest publicly traded oil company appears to be more concerned about climate change than the President of the United States . While Donald Trump works on rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations and wants to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, new ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Darren Woods recently said in a blog post that the Dallas-based energy company supports the Paris climate deal and a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Those positions are in line with his successor Rex Tillerson, who is currently serving in the Trump Administration as the nation’s 69th secretary of state. “At ExxonMobil, we’re encouraged that the pledges made at last year’s Paris Accord create an effective framework for all countries to address rising emissions; in fact, our company forecasts carbon reductions consistent with the results of the Paris accord commitments,” Woods wrote, citing increased natural gas replacing coal and greater energy efficiency as important tools in reducing CO2 emissions. Woods also mentioned the company’s research and development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and advanced biofuels such as algae, saying that the company has invested $7 billion in lower-emissions energy solutions. However, Woods did not mention renewables such as solar and wind as solutions to man-made global warming. Related: Trump to sign executive orders rolling back Obama’s climate protection policies A price on carbon is gaining appeal among some conservative circles. Recently a group of Republican elder statesmen called for a tax on carbon emissions to fight climate change. The proposal would substitute former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan with the carbon tax. In his blog post, Woods said that a national revenue-neutral carbon tax would increase energy efficiency, boost the economy and incentivize the market to move toward low-carbon energy solutions. “Governments can help advance the search for energy technologies by funding basic research and by enacting forward-looking policies,” Woods said. “A uniform price of carbon applied consistently across the economy is a sensible approach to emissions reduction.” Via Washington Examiner Images via Exxon and Wikimedia

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New Exxon CEO supports Paris climate deal, carbon tax

You can’t have lasting sustainability without social inclusion

February 24, 2017 by  
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The common refrain in these 5 segments: If a solution isn’t accessible for everyone, it isn’t viable over the long term.

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You can’t have lasting sustainability without social inclusion

California introduces its own 100% renewable energy bill

February 22, 2017 by  
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Massachusetts recently introduced a bill to derive 100 percent of the state’s energy from renewables , and now California is following suit. A new bill introduced by state Senate leader Kevin de León would require the state to obtain 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045. Under de León’s bill, SB 584 , California would need to reach 50 percent renewable energy use by 2025, five years earlier than the state’s current target of 2030, and cease using fossil fuels completely by 2045. Related: Massachusetts lawmakers sponsor 100% renewable energy bill In 2016, the state obtained 27 percent of electricity via wind , solar, and other clean sources, and California’s deserts offer potential spaces for more renewable energy plants. The solar industry has created 100,000 jobs in California. Experts say the state could reach the 100 percent goal since costs for solar and wind power are falling – in many areas of the state solar is already the cheapest option, according to The Desert Sun. Some people wondered if de León’s bill as a reaction to Donald Trump’s energy policies. Large-scale Solar Association president Jim Woodruff, who worked with de León on the legislation, told The Desert Sun, “Whether it’s a direct response to what’s happening in Washington, I don’t know, but it’s certainly an indication that California will continue to lead in this area. It’s the sixth-largest economy in the world. I think by putting these goals out, it’s making a pretty powerful statement, not only in the U.S., but globally, that if we set out the goals and put the resources to it, those goals can be achieved.” The Desert Sun said it’s not yet clear if de León will move forward with the bill; as he filed it right before the state’s deadline to file bills on Friday, it could act as a placeholder until legislation more detailed can be written. Massachusetts recently introduced a similar bill , but it’s slightly more ambitious than California’s. Under the 100 Percent Renewable Energy Act , Massachusetts would transition to obtaining all their electricity from renewable energy by 2035, and would grant sectors like heating and transportation a 2050 deadline. The California bill gives its state’s electricity sector an extra ten years to reach that 100 percent target. Via The Desert Sun Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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California introduces its own 100% renewable energy bill

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