Plastic rain is contaminating protected habitats

June 24, 2020 by  
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The term “pristine” environment is no longer applicable even to the most remote locations on Earth. Recent research has established that plastic rain is now pouring in the most protected areas in the western U.S. The research, which was published in the journal Science , reveals that 11 protected areas in the western U.S. receive rain that is contaminated with plastic microparticles. Over a period of 14 months, the researchers collected rainwater samples across 11 areas that are known to have the most pristine environments. The rainwater in these protected areas was found to be highly contaminated with plastic particles. The researchers revealed that the 11 protected areas receive over 1,000 metric tons of microplastic each year. Related: Record high amount of microplastic found on seafloors Research director and environmental scientist Janice Brahney of Utah University said, “We just did that for the area of protected areas in the West, which is only 6 percent of the total U.S. area.” Brahney’s comments indicate that plastic rain might be a much bigger problem in areas that are not protected. This research confirms a situation that is already spreading around the world. In recent years, several studies have found increasing amounts of microplastics in rainwater, especially in protected habitats, like the French Pyrenees and the Arctic . When microplastics mix with rain, they freely flow into rivers and oceans. Consequently, they affect the natural environment and the lifespan of many species. Scientists are now saying that plastic rain is a much more complex problem than acid rain. In the past few decades, the increase in the amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere resulted in acid rain in many parts of the world. Thankfully, efforts to control the emission of these gases have reduced acid rain significantly. Unfortunately, the microplastic problem is not one that can be solved overnight. We do not have a proper mechanism to trap the microplastics in the atmosphere. Even stopping the production of plastic today will only be half of the solution. To worsen the situation, the world still produces and uses plastics in large amounts. A Consultancy McKinsey publication reports that plastic waste is expected to rise from 260 million tons in 2020 to about 460 million tons in 2030. Although the research on plastic rain was only conducted in a handful of locations, it shows the gravity of the situation. If action is not taken to control the production and use of plastics, we are looking at a future where both water and air will be full of microplastics. + Science Via Wired Image via Dennis Kleine

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Plastic rain is contaminating protected habitats

Snhetta completes stunning Norwegian cabins for glacier hikers

June 24, 2020 by  
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The breathtaking landscape of Luster in the western part of Norway has recently been joined by Tungestølen, a cluster of timber hiking cabins with cozy interiors and panoramic glacier views. Designed by international design firm Snøhetta for Luster Turlag, a local branch of the Norwegian National Trekking Association, the pentagonal and oblique cabins were built to replace the original Tungestølen Tourist Cabin that had been destroyed by a cyclone in 2011. The new structures are engineered for extreme wind resistance and feature sturdy glulam frames, cross-laminated timber sheeting and ore pine cladding. Perched on a small plateau overlooking the spectacular Jostedalen glacier, Tungestølen is designed to accommodate up to 50 visitors across nine cabins , each of which features a unique, beak-like shape to slow down the strong winds that sweep upward from the valley floor. The sharply pitched roofs give the buildings a playful feel and create dynamic interiors with angular and panoramic windows of varying sizes. Timber lines the light-filled interiors to create a cozy and warm atmosphere.  Related: Elevated, green-roofed cabin minimizes impact on mountain in Norway Because Tungestølen was designed with group hikers in mind, the development is centered on a main cabin that serves as a social hub and meeting spot with its spacious lounge anchored by a large, stone-clad fireplace and panoramic windows that take advantage of the building’s tall ceilings. Built-in benches and furnishings help maximize interior space, which is primarily built of unpainted timber. A restrained color palette that complements the minimalist interiors takes cues from the muted tones of nature and range from charcoal grays to mossy greens. The eight other cabins on site will be used for dormitories and include a single private unit that can accommodate 30 visitors. One of the cabins is based on the original model for the Fuglemyrhytta cabin, another hiking cabin designed by Snøhetta in Oslo that has become a huge hit among hikers since its opening in 2018. Tungestølen was officially inaugurated by Queen Sonja of Norway; the cabins open to the public in June for the hiking season, which spans summer to fall. + Snøhetta Images via Snøhetta

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Snhetta completes stunning Norwegian cabins for glacier hikers

Amazon deforestation increased by 34% in 2019

June 12, 2020 by  
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Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has continued to be a thorn in the side of efforts to curb global warming . According to data released by Brazil’s space research agency INPE, 10,129 square kilometers of the rainforest were cleared between August 2018 and July 2019. Initially, INPE had reported that the deforested area in the same period was 9,762 square kilometers. In a recent report by the Brazilian government, adjustments have been made and the actual size of deforested land has now been revealed to be 29% greater than originally reported and 34% more than the same time frame the year prior. These figures pose a serious threat to the rainforest , given that the rate of deforestation has increased by 34% from the previous year. Even though Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro claims to be focused on saving the largest rainforest in the world, the figures show otherwise. In just one year, forest area equal to the size of Lebanon has been cleared. Related: Climate change, deforestation lead to younger, shorter trees Although there have been efforts to control deforestation in the Amazon, the Brazilian government keeps failing to meet its targets. The new figures that were reported on Tuesday, June 8, 2020 now present the highest level of deforestation since 2008. The newly revised data by INPE should serve as a wake-up call to the Brazilian government and all parties that are working to control deforestation. The Amazon covers about 60% of Brazil and is the largest rainforest on Earth; protecting the Amazon is important not only to Brazil but to the entire world. Environmental advocates and activists are now blaming the Brazilian president for allowing loggers and ranchers to grab forested land. Although he claims to have implemented measures to control logging, Bolsonaro has encouraged Brazilians to erect developments on protected areas of the Amazon. According to monthly data released by INPE, deforestation has continued to worsen in 2020 even during COVID-19 . INPE data shows that deforestation has increased by 55% between January and April compared to a similar period in 2019. Via Reuters Image via ESA

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Amazon deforestation increased by 34% in 2019

Pela offers biodegradable phone cases and other zero-waste products

June 12, 2020 by  
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Cell phones have become ubiquitous in the world, with the average phone being replaced every 1.5 to 2 years. Along the way, the plastic cases used to protect our expensive investment quickly become outdated and end up in landfills, where they sit for hundreds to thousands of years. This process leaves an unimaginable amount of garbage behind for generations to come. So Jeremy Lang decided to do something about this plastic waste by creating Pela phone cases, which offer protection for every major model of phone and completely biodegrade into the soil at the end of their lifecycle. Pela’s 100% compostable phone cases and other sustainable products are part of a larger goal to remove 1 billion pounds of plastic from the waste stream by using renewable resources and other waste materials in production. In the case of Pela’s phone cases, a byproduct of flax harvest creates the strong yet biodegradable material used in manufacturing.  Related: Tokyo’s Olympic medals will be made from recycled phones With an expansive collection of colorful or clear cell phone cases that offer a variety of etched designs, Pela has moved onto other endeavors with the same goal of eliminating plastic from the production stream. Other products include AirPods cases, a zero-waste liquid screen protector, radiation reduction inserts, sunglasses and a guidebook on how to cultivate a positive outlook in life, called Pela’s Guide to Positivity. Most recently, Pela acquired a fellow Canadian company in a partnership that includes a plastic-free personal care collection. Habitat Botanicals develops soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and even deodorants that are zero-waste and plastic-free. “Pela is proud to welcome Habitat, our new sister company, to our waste-free family,” said Matt Bertulli, CEO of Pela. “Like any family dynamic, there are different practices and products, but one thing that ties us together is our goal to reduce global plastic waste.” Pela is also committed to giving back to causes that support the planet. As a Certified B Corporation, Climate Neutral Certified business and member of 1% For The Planet, Pela supports several nonprofits in their efforts to clean up the oceans and coastlines . By using technology to produce materials without plastic while also working to remove plastic from the waterways, Pela is taking a two-sided approach to the problem. Even with the efforts to create bio-based materials for its products, Pela felt that it could do more to ensure plastic is properly disposed of, so the company implemented a program called Pela 360. This initiative allows customers to mail back their old phone cases from other brands when they purchase a Pela case, so Pela can ensure proper recycling . The program is one more way Pela hopes to help bring plastic waste to an end. + Pela Images via Pela

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Largest nature reserve in Niger threatened by oil development

August 5, 2019 by  
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One of the largest nature reserves on continental Africa may soon be destroyed by the China National Petroleum Corporation in the name of oil exploration and economic development. Just seven years after its establishment, and only months after finally becoming operationally managed, Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve could be reduced in size by half. The Niger government announced plans to remove over 17,000 square miles from what was originally a 38,600-square-mile park. The park is known for containing part of the Sahara desert and low mountain ranges. The specific area of the park that will be converted into oil operations is the most important section in terms of threatened biodiversity. It is home to the critically endangered addax (a type of antelope) and the dama gazelle. There are only an estimated 100 addax remaining, but they continue to be hunted for their meat. Now, the oil development project could shrink their habitat and decimate the addax’s main source of water. The China National Petroleum Corporation is one of the largest oil companies in the world. In exchange for a much-needed $5 billion investment in Niger, the Chinese have exploration rights and permission to build a pipeline that carries 20,000 barrels of oil out of the country every day. Paradoxically, China will be hosting the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020, yet government officials and oil executives seem unbothered by this localized biodiversity issue in the Sahara. The government has proposed to add land to the park along a different border. According to Sébastien Pinchon, a member of the nonprofit that manages the park on behalf of the Niger government, that new area “has little ecological value.” Via Mongabay Image via Shankar S.

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Largest nature reserve in Niger threatened by oil development

One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact

May 18, 2018 by  
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Bad news for wildlife: 2.3 million square miles of protected areas around the world face human pressure from activities like road building, urbanization, or grazing, according to a new study . Lead author Kendall Jones, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland , said in a statement , “We found major road infrastructure such as highways, industrial agriculture, and even entire cities occurring inside the boundaries of places supposed to be set aside for nature conservation .” Millions of square miles “have this level of human influence that is harmful to the species they are trying to protect,” University of Queensland professor James Watson told the BBC . “It is not passive, it’s not agnostic; it is harmful and that is quite shocking.” Scientists at the University of Queensland, University of Northern British Columbia , and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) teamed up for the study, described as a reality check, that was recently published in the journal Science . Related: Chile creates five new national parks from 10 million acres of land in historic act Watson said that governments claim the areas are protected “when in reality they aren’t.” Even though more land has been protected in the last few decades, the lack of real protection is a major reason for  biodiversity ‘s continued, catastrophic decline. There was a ray of hope in the study’s findings: protected areas that have strict biodiversity conservation objectives in place tend to experience less human pressure. WCS listed the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia, the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve in Ecuador, and the Madidi National Park in Bolivia as examples. Watson said, “We know protected areas work — when well-funded, well-managed and well placed, they are extremely effective in halting the threats that cause biodiversity loss and ensure species return from the brink of extinction . There are also many protected areas that are still in good condition and protect the last strongholds of endangered species worldwide. The challenge is to improve the management of those protected areas that are most valuable for nature conservation to ensure they safeguard it.” + Wildlife Conservation Society + University of Queensland + Science Via the BBC Image via Depositphotos

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One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact

Bering Sea ice is "at record low levels for this time of year"

May 18, 2018 by  
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Arctic sea ice is low, with the Bering Sea’s ice extent “the lowest recorded since at least 1979,” according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). This reflects a larger overall trend: in April, Arctic sea ice covered an area 378,400 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average. According to Alaska-based meteorologist Rick Thoman, Bering Sea ice extent “is five percent of normal” for the middle of May, and “there is almost nothing left except for near shore ice in protected areas.” The worrisome part of all this? There are still four months to go in the Arctic’s melt season. NSIDC provided information on Arctic sea ice extent in April of this year, and said 2016 and 2018 essentially tied “for lowest April sea ice extent on record.” Barents Sea and Bering Sea ice extent was below average, as it was during the 2017 to 2018 winter. According to Earther , the Bering Sea has been something of a ground zero for crazy ice, with sea ice disappearing when it was supposed to be growing in February, rebounding slightly in March, and then plummeting in April. Bering Sea ice extent is 5% of normal for mid-May and there is almost nothing left except for near shore ice in protected areas. Chukchi Sea ice extent also at record low, with open water now north of 71N. #akwx #Arctic @Climatologist49 @ZLabe @lisashefguy @amy_holman pic.twitter.com/Ur7UmoptgL — Rick Thoman (@AlaskaWx) May 17, 2018 Related: Extreme Arctic warmth deeply concerning, scientists say Warm oceans have played a role in the dive of Bering Sea ice levels; University of Alaska Fairbanks climate researcher Brian Brettschneider told Earther that “Bering Sea SSTs [sea surface temperatures] have been at record or near record levels for months now. This represents a strong positive feedback. Warm waters are hard to freeze, which then allows for more solar absorption.” And Bering Sea ice typically protects Chukchi Sea ice. When Bering Sea ice disappeared in February, open water seeped into the Chukchi Sea — an event that has probably only happened in one other winter on record. + National Snow and Ice Data Center Via Earther Images via Depositphotos and the National Snow and Ice Data Center

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Bering Sea ice is "at record low levels for this time of year"

UK invites fracking companies to drill under national parks lands

February 13, 2015 by  
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Enjoy Britain’s national parks while you can, because they may soon be forever changed by shale gas exploration. UK lawmakers have amended earlier legislation to allow for fracking in protected areas, so long as the surface drilling takes places just outside the border of those areas. Fracking companies will be permitted to drill down and then horizontally into protected areas, as if in attempt to fool environmental activists into thinking it doesn’t count. Read the rest of UK invites fracking companies to drill under national parks lands Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: fracking in natural areas , fracking in nional parks , fracking protections , protecting nature from fracking , UK , UK amendment fracking , UK fracking , UK laws , united kingdom

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Community-Managed Forests Preserve More Trees Than Government Protected Areas, Study Says

September 2, 2011 by  
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Circling back on an issue TreeHugger wrote about in 2009, with a new study backing up the idea that community-managed forests preserve them better than government-run protected areas. A new study done by the Center for International Forestry Research , published in Forest Ecology and Management looked at 40 protected areas and 33 community-managed forests in 16 nations. The community forests only lost 0.24%… Read the full story on TreeHugger

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Community-Managed Forests Preserve More Trees Than Government Protected Areas, Study Says

The Everglades Added to UNESCO Endangered Sites List

August 2, 2010 by  
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Everglades National Park was listed as a UNESCO endangered place due to its continued aquatic degradation. Sarah and Jason /Flickr In contrast to the controversial decision to remove “World Heritage in Danger” status from Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands , UNESCO has announced a list of natural sites that will now receive the designation. Topping the list are two protected areas in the United States: Everglades National Park and

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The Everglades Added to UNESCO Endangered Sites List

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