NASA is returning to the Moon – but they don’t know how

January 9, 2018 by  
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NASA is returning to the Moon . President Donald Trump signed a directive in December to “refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery” using the Moon as something of a first step before a mission to Mars . But not everyone is pleased with the idea – and the space agency doesn’t know how they’ll go back. How will NASA return to the Moon? When will they go? How much will it cost? These are questions that are as of yet unanswered. The Washington Post spoke with acting administrator Robert Lightfoot, who said the agency would partner with other countries, but didn’t specify which ones. He also said the effort would be a public-private partnership, but didn’t name any companies. The Washington Post said he offered “no specifics about the architecture of a moon program;” he told them, “We have no idea yet.” Related: Trump signs directive to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars The president’s yearly budget request to Congress could bring more details to light, according to Lightfoot. As for now many specifics are open to speculation – and the agency still doesn’t have a permanent administrator, just another top science position still unfilled in Trump’s administration, according to The Washington Post. Trump nominated United States Representative Jim Bridenstine, a Republican of Oklahoma, in September, but Florida’s two senators Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson criticized the choice. Some people say the top position in NASA – which has received bipartisan support for years – shouldn’t be handed to a politician. Other people expressed frustration the agency’s direction has been changed once again – the third time in this century. Former astronaut Scott Kelly told The Washington Post, “We’re always asked to change directions every time we get a new president, and that just causes you to do negative work, work that doesn’t matter. I just hope someday we’ll have a president that will say, ‘You know what, we’ll just leave NASA on the course they are on, and see what NASA can achieve if we untie their hands.” Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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NASA is returning to the Moon – but they don’t know how

Trump to open the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic to oil drilling

January 5, 2018 by  
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The Trump Administration announced on Thursday that it will open nearly all United States coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. This order marks a significant break from bipartisan precedent, which placed at least some restrictions on where the fossil fuel industry could drill offshore. As part of this move, California ‘s waters will be open to drilling for the first time in decades – along with more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the East Coast. The move by the Trump Administration reverses an order implemented by the Obama Administration which blocked oil and gas drilling in 94 percent of the outer continental shelf, the American offshore territory between state coastal waters and the deep ocean . Such a reversal would mark a serious blow to former President Obama’s environmental legacy and could put coastal states at risk of an incident similar to that of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The expansion of oil and gas drilling has already met with bipartisan opposition. Republican Governor of Florida Rick Scott pushed back against the move, concerned on the effects that drilling might have on tourism. “I have asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” said Scott in a statement. “My top priority is to ensure that Florida ’s natural resources are protected.” Related: Scientists protest senator’s plan to open vital Arctic wildlife refuge to oil exploration Industry leaders have predictably applauded the move. “I think the default should be that all of our offshore areas should be available,” said Thomas J. Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, according to the New York Times . “These are our lands. They’re taxpayer-owned and they should be made available.” If all profits from such drilling were directly distributed to taxpayers, perhaps Pyle’s position would resonate. Instead, offshore oil drilling under the current system involves socialized risk, with citizens paying the price when something goes wrong, and privatized gain, with industry profiting off of the public’s natural resources . Finalizing Trump’s plan could take up to a year and a half, during which time the order will be challenged in the courts and Congress . Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the fossil fuel industry takes advantage of these new opportunities in light of oil’s recent slump which has only recently ended and the major infrastructure investment required. All the while, the prospect of a future Democratic president reversing Trump’s order looms. Via the New York Times Images via Depositphotos and The White House/Flickr

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Trump to open the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic to oil drilling

BP revisits clean energy commitment with $200 million solar investment

December 18, 2017 by  
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Oil giant BP has invested $200 million to acquire partial ownership of a solar power developer. BP’s investment in British-based Lightsource is a return to form for a company that once prided itself on progressive commitments to clean energy. Prior to the devastating 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill , the company had invested billions in renewable energy, spoke openly and frequently about the dangers of climate change, and even went so far as to rebrand as “Beyond Petroleum.” After a lull in clean energy action, BP is once again responding to pressure from investors and governments, particularly in Europe, to make the switch from fossil fuels. BP and other oil giants are expanding their renewable energy portfolios not simply because it is good publicity and politics, but also because it is profitable. “The European majors feel under pressure to diversify, to get exposure to different technologies so they are not left out,” said Valentina Kretzschmar, an analyst at energy consultants Wood Mackenzie, according to the New York Times . “It is what a lot of their peer group is doing.” Wood Mackenzie estimates that capital investments in renewable energy offer returns between seven and 10 percent. Related: BP and Shell prepare for catastrophic climate change Under political and financial pressure in the wake of the 2010 oil spill, for which BP has paid $64 billion in damages and fines, BP has primarily focused on reinforcing its oil and gas operations in recent years. Despite returning to its earlier focus on renewable energy, it has learned from its mistakes. Previously, the company had invested in solar panel production, which has since been overpowered by countries like China . Its move to acquire partial ownership of Lightsource demonstrates BP’s embrace of a different kind of company, one that focuses on the installation and operation of solar systems rather than their production. “They need a renewable business to develop over time as part of energy transiting, but were lacking the ability to make solar profitable,” said Oswald Clint, an analyst at Bernstein Research, according to the New York Times . “Lightsource might be the solution.” Via The New York Times Images via Depositphotos (1)

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BP revisits clean energy commitment with $200 million solar investment

Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking two more national monuments

December 6, 2017 by  
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United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended that two more national monuments in the West be reduced in size. The recommendation to shrink Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon and California and Gold Butte in Nevada comes shortly after the Trump Administration’s decision to remove millions of acres from two national monuments in Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Zinke also stated that President Trump should change the boundaries of two oceanic monuments, Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine in the Pacific Ocean. Rolling back Obama Administration policies and achievements, including the establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument, is apparently a high priority for the Trump Administration. However, these expansive plans have already been met with fierce opposition and legal challenges, casting doubt on when, if ever, these reductions will occur. In a recent call with reporters, Zinke announced his policy recommendations. The Secretary also pushed back against a claim made by outdoor retailer Patagonia that Trump “stole” the land set aside for the national monuments , saying that Patagonia’s message was “nefarious, false and a lie.” “You mean Patagonia made in China ?,” said Zinke. “This is an example of a special interest. I think it is shameful and appalling that they would blatantly lie in order to get money in their coffers.” Related: Patagonia is suing the Trump Administration over Bears Ears: “The President Stole Your Land” Bears Ears , one of the monuments set to be shrunk, was established by President Barack Obama with the support of five American Indian tribes for whom the site has spiritual significance. The tribes are now mounting a legal challenge to what conservation groups have called the largest elimination of protected land in American history. If President Trump accepts Zinke’s recommendations and also attempts to shrink Gold Butte and Cascade-Siskiyou, he will have added a new front in a legal war that will likely drag on for years, perhaps into a new administration. Via The Guardian Images via Bureau of Land Management and Chris Nichols

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Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking two more national monuments

Antony Gibbon’s Ventt House is a minimalist retreat embedded into the rocky landscape

December 6, 2017 by  
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UK-based architect Antony Gibbon just unveiled his latest nature-inspired design , the Ventt House. Designed to integrate into the rocky coastal landscape, the minimalist black-roofed home is surrounded by glazed walls that offer stunning views of the surroundings. The Ventt house is a minimalist retreat for those wanting to disconnect from the world. Designed to be embedded into the landscape, the contemporary volume cuts into the rugged cliffside , mimicking its rocky surroundings. An exaggerated chimney soars dramatically out of the home’s base, creating a modern take on a lighthouse beacon. Related: Antony Gibbon’s Helix House is a twisting tiny home that towers amidst the treetops Clad in dark geometric panels with an exterior wall of glass , the focus is entirely on the home’s beautiful environment. On the interior, minimal furnishings were used to create a clutterless living space. Further fusing the home into the outdoors is the marble flooring, which runs continuously from the interior to the exterior where it forms a large deck that surrounds the home, eventually jutting out over the cliffside. + Antony Gibbon Designs + Antony Gibbon on Instagram

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Antony Gibbon’s Ventt House is a minimalist retreat embedded into the rocky landscape

Astronomer maps massive hydrogen clouds zipping through space

December 6, 2017 by  
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In the halo of the Milky Way , there are mysterious gigantic clouds that zoom around at high speeds through space, and we may have finally unlocked a key that will help us understand them. Using telescopes, a scientist has created a detailed map of the clouds, revealing clumps, branches and filaments that have never been seen before. Astronomer Dr. Tobais Westmeier at the University of Western Australia node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research created a map that helps us understand these space phenomena. It revealed massive clouds of hydrogen: some are 80,000 light-years in diameter and have millions of times the mass of the sun. They move incredibly fast, between 43 and 56 miles per second. And they cover up to 13 percent of the sky. Related: Scientists find a massive black hole swirling in the Milky Way Scientists don’t know where these clouds originated, but some suggest that they could be leftover material from the formation of the galaxy, material falling into or out of our galaxy, or from interaction with nearby Large and Small Magellanic clouds. Dr. Westmeier has made the map available to anyone so that we can continue to learn more about these incredible formations. Via Science Alert

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Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister

December 5, 2017 by  
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Katrin Jakobsdottir, the 41-year-old chairwoman of the Left-Green Movement, has been elected Prime Minister of Iceland . One of the most well-liked politicians in Iceland, Jakobsdottir, a former education minister and avowed environmentalist, has pledged to set Iceland on the path to carbon neutrality by 2040. As Iceland’s fourth prime minister in only two years, Jakobsdottir will take office at a time when national politics have been tainted by public distrust and scandal. A democratic socialist, Jakobsdottir is viewed as a bridge-building leader that may lead the country towards positive, incremental change. “She is the party leader who can best unite voters from the left and right,” said Eva H. Onnudottir, a political scientist at the University of Iceland, according to the New York Times. “Because this coalition includes parties from the left to the right, their work will be more about managing the system instead of making ‘revolutionary’ changes.” Since forming its governing coalition, Jakobsdottir’s Left-Green party has already taken bold steps to assert its environmentalism . Rather than appointing a party member of parliament, the Left-Greens have picked Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson , environmental activist and CEO of Landvernd, the largest nature conservation and environmental NGO in Iceland, to serve as Minister of the Environment. The government’s new coalition is expected to continue the work to address climate change began under previous administrations. Related: Iceland’s “Thor” volcano power plant can generate 10X more energy than oil or gas wells While climate change has proven to be somewhat of a boost for Iceland’s tourism industry , which welcomed approximately 2.2 million visitors in 2017, the nation of just over 300,000 recognizes the importance of shifting to a clean energy economy and preparing for disruptive changes in the coming decades. Iceland’s climate change action plan involves shifting to clean energy in transportation by improving infrastructure for electric cars , planting more trees, and sourcing all energy for public institutions from renewable sources. Via The New York Times Images via Wikimedia and Depositphotos

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Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister

This Swedish electric car comes with 5 years of free electricity

December 5, 2017 by  
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Uniti is on a mission to create an intelligent, small electric car designed for easy urban transportation . And they just partnered with energy company E.ON to ensure the source of electricity is clean, offering Swedish customers five years of free solar energy for charging . Uniti is just a couple days away from their worldwide debut of the vehicle. Sustainability drives Uniti, and they wanted to go a step further than manufacturing an electric car, considering that vehicle’s source of electricity as well. Uniti says on their website they aim to consider “the entire value chain and the entire life cycle of the vehicle.” Their partnership with E.ON means E.ON customers who buy a Uniti car in Sweden get a sweet perk: five years of free power guaranteed to be sourced via solar energy. Related: Uniti Sweden unveils super high-tech tiny EV for urbanites Uniti’s Innovation Manager Tobias Ekman said in a statement, “This is also a new approach. We know that most of the charging, especially for these types of cars, will take place at home. These kinds of solution are therefore particularly sustainable.” Uniti’s electric car is comprised of a recyclable carbon fiber body, with an organic composite interior. The company has worked to digitize the driving experience in many ways, describing their vehicle as the smartphone car. Inside there’s a heads-up display with navigation and safety features, and human drivers interact with the car more like they would with their phones using digitized interaction points. Electronic steering is designed to make driving more fun while increasing safety. The company plans to sell the car somewhat like a smartphone might be sold as well: either directly online for delivery to a customer’s home, or in consumer electronics retail environments. The worldwide debut will be December 7 in Landskrona, Sweden, and Uniti will be live streaming here . They’ve already received almost 1,000 pre-orders, and are still taking orders on their website . They expect to deliver in 2019. + Uniti Images courtesy of Uniti

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This Swedish electric car comes with 5 years of free electricity

Critically endangered red wolf may be forced into extinction by GOP

December 1, 2017 by  
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There are only 45 to 60 red wolves left in the wild, concentrated in a small area of North Carolina — but for Republicans, that is simply too many. The  Canis rufus, which was declared endangered in 1982 and critically endangered in 1996, has seen only slight growth in its population over the last 30-plus years. As such, the wolves have been protected through a captive breeding and reintroduction program funded by the federal government. But now with Republicans controlling the Senate, a covert push is underway to eviscerate the protective agency and force these red wolves into extinction. As IFLS shares, the initiative is  buried in a Senate report , written as: “The Committee acknowledges the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s request that the [Fish and Wildlife] Service end the Red Wolf recovery program and declare the Red Wolf extinct.” The claim is that “landowners and other species” are being impacted by the wolves and that “the program has failed to meet population goals for the red wolf”—though, notably, absolutely no research or data was accompanied to back up the statements. If passed, the program would come to a close next year. Related: Red Wolves Critically Close to Extinction After Hunters Kill 10 Percent of Population “Senate Republicans are trying to hammer a final nail in the coffin of the struggling red wolf recovery program,” Perrin de Jong, a Center for Biological Diversity staff attorney, said in a  press release . “It is morally reprehensible for Senator Murkowski and her committee to push for the extinction of North Carolina’s most treasured wild predator. Instead of giving up on the red wolf, Congress should fund recovery efforts, something lawmakers have cynically blocked time and time again.” The handful of existing red wolves are the result of an aggressive reintroduction effort started in 1987 to bring them out of extinction. Even today, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reports they are “one of the world’s most endangered wild canids,” though they have made “good progress” in rebuilding the population, despite illegal poaching and interbreeding with coyotes. The goal has been to grow the number to 220 red wolves. Rather than disassembling the program, the Center for Biological Diversity is calling on pols to improve it: “The science demonstrates that red wolves are still recoverable. A 2014  report  by the nonpartisan Wildlife Management Institute concluded that recovery would require augmenting eastern North Carolina’s existing wild population of fewer than 45 red wolves with two additional wild populations and investing additional resources to build local support for red wolf recovery.” Both the subcommittee and the Interior Department will decide the fate of the wolves. Unfortunately, as the two are under the control of the GOP, a party that has little interest in environmental conservation, the future of the red wolf is bleak. Via  IFL Science Images via Center for Biological Diversity

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Critically endangered red wolf may be forced into extinction by GOP

ANNOUNCING: Inhabitat’s 2017 Green Holiday Gift Guide!

December 1, 2017 by  
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The holidays are almost here – and we’re thrilled to announce Inhabitat’s 2017 Green Holiday Gift Guide ! We’ve hunted high and low for the best eco-friendly gifts to help make your holiday shopping a little easier. This year, we’ve rounded up gifts that will thrill the guys and gals in your life, gifts that you can make , gifts that won’t break the bank , gifts that cost nothing but time and even gifts for the home and for your furry friends (and if you leave things until the last minute, we’ve got gifts for that , too). Grab your laptop, put on some tunes and get ready to win the holidays. GIFTS FOR GUYS > GIFTS FOR LADIES > GIFTS FOR KIDS > GIFTS FOR THE HOME > GADGETS GIFTS > GIFTS FOR THE GREEN THUMB > GIFTS FOR FURRY FRIENDS > GIFTS OF TIME > MAKE YOUR OWN GIFTS > GIFTS THAT GIVE BACK > HEIRLOOM GIFTS > LAST MINUTE GIFTS >

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ANNOUNCING: Inhabitat’s 2017 Green Holiday Gift Guide!

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