China is spending over $500 billion to expand high-speed rail

January 2, 2017 by  
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China is planning some serious upgrades to its public transportation system in the next few years. By 2020, the country hopes to have increased its high-speed railway coverage by 18,650 miles. The project will cost an estimated 3.5 trillion yuan, or about $503 billion USD. Not only will the population be more mobile, but the rails will significantly cut down on carbon emissions and air pollution. Adding on 18,650 miles to a railway system is a humongous feat and difficult to comprehend. The expansion would be roughly the equivalent of driving from New York City to Los Angeles six and a half times. It will also connect 80 percent of the country’s biggest cities and leave room for further rural expansion. Related: Chinese firm aiming for world record with 373 mph maglev train Much of the existing and future high-speed rails are located in coastal and eastern regions of China. Yet, access to the west and poorer regions of the country are being considered for future investments, despite the fact that they will not be as profitable. “We believe these railway lines will break even over time as the flow of people and goods experience fast growth,” said Yang Yudong, administrator of the National Railway Administration. As a global observer, one of the most appealing aspects of the project is how much air pollution will be slashed by connecting a bustling population to efficient public transit. China has been battling smog for decades, and taking vehicles off the streets could be the piece of the puzzle needed to make lasting improvements. Via Clean Technica Images via Wikipedia , Wikimedia

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China is spending over $500 billion to expand high-speed rail

Bowl-shaped roofs harvest rainwater and promote natural cooling in arid environments

January 2, 2017 by  
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Water scarcity is felt unequally throughout the world with some regions worse off than others. Iran-based BMDesign Studios addressed their home country’s arid climates with an architectural solution to water shortages called Concave Roof, a double-roof system designed to collect and store rainwater, and promote natural cooling. The Concave Roof was engineered for arid environments, where rainwater collection can be tricky due to higher than average evaporation rates and low annual precipitation. The double-roof system, which includes a domed roof beneath a bowl-shaped catchment area, is designed to “help [make] even the smallest quantities of rain [flow down] the roof and eventually coalesce into bigger drops, just right for harvesting before they evaporate,” said the architects to ArchDaily . Stacking a concave roof atop a convex roof promotes natural cooling through shade and wind movement between the two roofs. Related: Rammed earth house blends traditional materials with modern techniques in Vietnam’s last frontier The bowl-shaped catchment area is steeply sloped to move raindrops towards a central collection point, where the rain is funneled into reservoirs . The reservoirs are placed between building walls to help regulate indoor temperatures. With this system, the architects estimate that 28 cubic meters of water could be harvested with just 923 square meters of a concave roof surface. BMDesign Studios’ vision also goes beyond the double-roof system and includes a massing design where the buildings and courtyards are sunken to promote natural cooling. The buildings would be organized around atriums to promote circulation and community. + BMDesign Studios Via ArchDaily Images via BMDesign Studios

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Bowl-shaped roofs harvest rainwater and promote natural cooling in arid environments

Michigan just made it illegal for cities to ban plastic bags

January 2, 2017 by  
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Michigan just passed a new law that prohibits local governments from banning, regulating, or taxing the use of plastic bags and other containers. That’s right: it’s a statewide ban on banning plastic bags . The law was likely aimed at shutting down a local ordinance in Ann Arbor’s Washtenaw County, which would have instituted a 10 cent fee on grocery store bags. Plastic bag bans, of course, are intended to help keep pollution out of the environment. The flimsy plastic bags used in many grocery stores are not biodegradable and tend to find their way into waterways and the ocean, where they break down into smaller pieces that poison fish, seabirds, and marine animals. Even worse, they can take hundreds of years to break down in the environment – or even longer in a landfill . Related: Morocco just officially banned plastic bags Given the environmental impact, what possible reason could Michigan have for shutting down plastic bag bans within the state? In a word: money. Businesses complain that bans or taxes on bags are simply too high a burden for their everyday operations. Michigan isn’t the only state to have taken this approach, either: Idaho, Arizona, and Missouri have all enacted similar laws in recent years. Hopefully, as plastic bag bans become more common, it will become clear that industry claims about the cost and complexity of implementing the bans simply aren’t true. So far in the US, plastic bags have already been banned throughout California and in cities including Portland, Seattle, Austin, and Chicago. If these major cities and the country’s largest state can adapt to paper and reusable bags, surely Michigan could do so as well. Via The Washington Post Images via Randy Wick and Eric

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Michigan just made it illegal for cities to ban plastic bags

Native American tribe is fighting against the Pilgrim Pipeline in New Jersey

January 2, 2017 by  
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As oil and gas companies race to plan more pipelines to criss-cross America, conservationists are similarly ramping up their efforts to resist the environmentally destructive projects, and one such controversy in New Jersey is heating up quickly . The planned Pilgrim Pipeline would carry crude oil back and forth along the 178 miles from Albany, New York, to New Jersey’s Linden Harbor. The pipeline’s proposed route cuts through forests and a drinking water reservoir, prompting members of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation to organize a resistance camp, similar to the months-long backlash against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota. While that struggle has been long and difficult, the Ramapough Lunaape in New Jersey will face a different and perhaps even more challenging fight against corporate interests, for a number of reasons. As is often the case with resistance efforts led by indigenous people , the Ramapough Lunaape must first defend their right to protest. Last week, the New Jersey town of Mahwah issued summonses against the protesters for setting up a camp and erecting protest signs without permits, even though the activity is all taking place on tribal land. One of the key obstacles for the Ramapough Lunaape is that their nation is not recognized by the federal government, so they are not protected in the same way. The Ramapough Lunaape Nation is instead only recognized at the state level in New Jersey and New York. It doesn’t take an expert to understand how this issue will complicate their fight against the proposed pipeline . Related: US Army blocks Dakota Access Pipeline in major victory for protesters The tribe has made numerous attempts to gain federal recognition, but those efforts have all failed. One such bid, in 1993, was struck down after Donald Trump (yep, that guy) campaigned against the nation’s recognition in order to eliminate the possibility of competition for his casino in Atlantic City. The tribe hasn’t given up, though, and an ongoing petition is still active to collect signature in support of adding the Ramapough Lunaape Nation to the list of federal recognized tribes. The Pilgrim Pipeline has been in planning for more than two years, and local communities along its proposed route have been protesting the whole time. The planned route would loosely follow the New York State Thruway and I-287 and then through North Jersey’s environmentally sensitive Highlands. Protesters are worried about the pipeline’s proximity to the Highlands reservoirs, which provide water to 5 million New Jersey residents. Much like other pipeline projects across the country, the developers Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings have pledged to go “full steam ahead” despite the environmental and public health concerns. Via Grist Images via Northjersey Pipeline Walkers and  Pilgrim Pipeline

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Native American tribe is fighting against the Pilgrim Pipeline in New Jersey

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