Sustainable agriculture cleans up rivers in Cuba

February 7, 2020 by  
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New scientific findings reveal that Cuba’s rivers are in better health than the Mississippi River. The research was a joint effort between Cuba and the United States, marking the two countries’ first collaboration in more than 60 years. The work was part of a study on Cuba’s hydrology, focusing on the water quality of the island’s rivers. Despite centuries of cattle and sugarcane farming, research results reveal there hasn’t been much damage to Cuba’s rivers thanks to the country’s other sustainable agriculture methods. Compared to the Mississippi River, Cuba’s 25 rivers surveyed showed lower nutrient concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen pollution. This is likely attributed to Cuba’s shift toward sustainable agriculture , particularly the country’s shunning of imported synthetic chemicals. Related: Dutch company collects plastic pollution from rivers to make parks and products “A lot of stories about the value of Cuba’s shift to conservation agriculture have been based on fuzzy, feel-good evidence,” explained geologist and researcher Paul Bierman. “This study provides hard data that a crucial part of this story is true.” By contrast, the U.S. has more widespread dependence on chemical fertilizers . Hence, dead zones occur where the Mississippi River mouth opens into the Gulf of Mexico, adversely affecting the region’s marine ecosystems with dangerous bacterial and algal blooms caused by elevated nitrogen levels. Another interesting finding is that even though more than 80% of the Cuban river samples had E. coli bacteria, the source was found to be from fecal material by cattle and horses grazing along the riverbanks. The research team believes that this is partly attributed to “Cuba’s intensive use of horses and other draft animals for transportation and farm work.” The researchers concluded that the island country has been committed to promoting more sustainable agriculture to improve both its soil and water. The efforts have led to promising results. The American team was comprised of University of Vermont geologist Paul Bierman and Oberlin College geoscientist Amanda Schmidt. The Cuban team was led by Rita Hernández, representing the Cienfuegos Center for Environmental Studies, an ecological research group. Their joint research, supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, was recently published in the GSA Today journal of the Geological Society of America. “This research can help the people of Cuba,” Hernández said, “and may give a good example to other people in the Caribbean and all over the world.” + The Geological Society of America Via Phys.org Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Sustainable agriculture cleans up rivers in Cuba

New app could save Puget Sound whales from boat strikes

October 4, 2019 by  
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Boat strikes are a major cause of injury and death for whales. This week, Washington State Ferries implemented a whale report alert system ( WRAS ) app that notifies ferry captains of the whereabouts of orcas and other cetaceans in Puget Sound to help prevent collisions. The app, created by Ocean Wise Research in Vancouver , British Columbia, is only for use by commercial maritime operations, including ships, ferries and tugboats. But the app relies on members of the public reporting real-time whale sightings. Once a trusted observer spots a whale, dolphin or porpoise, they submit the siting to the app. The siting is verified, then the app alerts commercial mariners on the water within 10 miles of the siting. Staff at the ops center can also receive an alert and communicate it to nearby vessels. Related: 14 apps to help you live a more sustainable lifestyle Armed with this information, ferry captains will be able to make better decisions about their courses and speed to avoid collisions with marine animals. Mariners can leave feedback in the app, reporting any mitigation actions they took. “Because we operate our 22 ferries on Puget Sound and manage 20 terminals on its shores, we have an obligation to ensure WSF is doing everything we can to protect our environment, including marine life,” said Amy Scarton, assistant secretary for Washington State Ferries . WSF is the country’s largest ferry system, transporting nearly 25 million passengers every year. The ferries run between Anacortes, the San Juan Islands, Port Townsend and other Washington towns. According to NOAA Fisheries , blue, fin, humpback and gray whales are the West Coast’s whale species that are most vulnerable to ship strikes, because shipping traffic is heavy between Los Angeles /Long Beach and Seattle. Whales migrate along the West Coast and often use the coastal area for feeding. In May, a juvenile humpback whale breached three minutes into a ferry run from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. The ferry struck — and presumably killed — the whale. Developers of the WRAS app hope that the alert system can help avoid similar tragedies in the future. + Washington State Ferries Image via C. Emmons / NOAA Fisheries / Oregon State University

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New app could save Puget Sound whales from boat strikes

Climate change is a public health issue amounting to billions in medical costs

September 20, 2019 by  
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The environment shapes our society. Hence, as climate change worsens, so do healthcare costs. Both the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) jointly warn that because of these serious healthcare and medical costs, climate change is essentially a public health crisis . The NRDC-UCSF study is unprecedented. In previous surveys, healthcare costs had not been included in valuations of climate change damages. But with the NRDC-UCSF findings, links can now be established correlating health data with climate change. Prior governmental analyses only scrutinized costs related to property, agriculture and infrastructure losses. They neglected to consider costs related to mortality, hospitalization (emergency visits, outpatient medical care, prescribed medications) and lost wages. Related: Doctor’s orders — 2 hours in nature boosts mental health, study says Now, with NRDC’s new model, the research team quantified how climate change bears down on Americans’ health by examining the associated health costs. The study findings show that, over the course of 10 climate-sensitive events from the year 2012, Americans endured more than $10 billion in healthcare costs. As climate change exacerbates, costs will continue to rise. “Climate change represents a major public health emergency, but its destructive and expensive toll on Americans’ health has largely been absent from the climate policy debate,” stated Dr. Vijay Limaye, lead author and NRDC scientist. “Our research shows that health-related costs added at least another 26 percent to the national price tag for 2012 severe weather-related damages.” The research team exhorts that unchecked climate-related events will economically burden communities, especially unprepared ones. In particular, 10 harmful environmental issues — including allergenic pollen, extreme weather , harmful algal blooms, heat waves, hurricanes, infectious diseases from ticks and mosquitoes, ozone smog pollution, river flooding and wildfires —  merit public health attention. “This continuing untold human suffering and staggering cost is another reason we must take assertive action to curb climate change now,” Dr. Limaye warned. “Cutting greenhouse gas pollution and expanding clean energy , while also investing in preparedness and climate adaptation, is the prescription for a safer, healthier future.” NRDC recommends that investment in preparedness could save billions of dollars in future health costs and thus help to save lives. The research team likewise urges more comprehensive cost analyses to inform policy making, improved tracking of climate change-related outcomes as they relate to health issues, strategic community planning for climate adaptation (e.g. health advisories, early warning systems, better disease surveillance, even community redesign to better handle floods, hurricanes and wildfires) and nationwide efforts to reduce climate change triggers like pollution. NRDC also advises that taking steps now to counteract extreme climate change events would cost up to five times less than paying for event-related health consequences. Study co-author and NRDC senior scientist Kim Knowlton confirmed this. “Our research signals that all told, there could be tens to hundreds of billions of dollars in health costs already from recent climate-related exposures nationwide,” Knowlton said. “It’s clear that failing to address climate change, and soon, will cost us a fortune, including irreversible damage to our health.” + NRDC + GeoHealth Image via Robyn Wright

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Climate change is a public health issue amounting to billions in medical costs

Technology uses banana leaves as a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastic

September 20, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution negatively impacts the health of our planet. Waste management has led to an irreversible environmental crisis that is felt by wildlife, especially in the oceans. One organization, called Banana Leaf Technology, is helping to address the stark reality by proposing banana leaves as a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastic . Using 100 percent organic banana leaves as raw material, the novel, eco-friendly preservation technology transforms the cellular structure by enhancing its properties so that the leaves remain green for an entire year without any chemicals. Plus, their shelf lifespan is extended to up to three years. Related: Bananatex launches a sustainable material revolution at Milan Design Week After the preservation process, the enhanced leaves have increased load-bearing capabilities, resistance to extreme temperatures, durability, elasticity and flexibility. Banana Leaf Technology’s website additionally states that the processed leaves are more pathogen-resistant with antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. How does it do this? The technology fortifies the banana leaves’ cell walls and prevents pathogenic agents from degrading the processed biomaterial’s cells. Currently, Banana Leaf Technology offers 30 products that utilize its preservation methods. These products include plates, cups, cones, boxes, writing paper and envelopes. Because the patented Banana Leaf Technology is customizable, other products are expected to be developed in the future, such as natural packaging alternatives. Banana Leaf Technology products provide several advantages. Besides curtailing the destructive damages to wildlife and landfills, using preserved banana leaf products decreases the risks of plastic leaching byproducts and toxins into food and beverages, making them a far healthier cookware, dinnerware and food storage alternative to plastic. Moreover, after their primary use, they can, in turn, serve as animal fodder or garden fertilizer to make soil more arable. First formulated in 2010 by Tenith Adithyaa, a precocious 11-year-old who was working in his homemade laboratory, the now-patented Banana Leaf Technology has since received seven international awards. The company’s mission, according to its website, is “to solve the global climate crisis without compromising the economy.” Adithyaa’s vision is to make Banana Leaf Technology “available to all human beings, regardless of their geographical and economical boundaries.” Interestingly, the company’s current business model is to “sell the tech license worldwide to any company” that shares in Adithyaa’s vision. The website elaborates further, stipulating that “any commercial or non-commercial company can purchase the license to this technology by technology transfer. The license will be granted for lifetime to operate worldwide.” + Banana Leaf Technology Images via Banana Leaf Technology and Pkraemer

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Technology uses banana leaves as a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastic

High levels of plastic byproducts discovered in children, study finds

September 18, 2019 by  
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A “human biomonitoring” study, jointly conducted by the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute, is sounding the clarion warning that plastic pollution is present — and not just in our oceans, estuaries and the fish we eat. Rather alarmingly, the study found toxic levels of plastic byproducts in 97 percent of the blood and urine samples gathered from 2,500 children tested. The children in the research study ranged from 3 to 17 years of age. Of the 15 plastics under scrutiny, researchers detected 11 in the children’s test samples. Presence of these plastic byproducts in the children’s bodies increases their risk of hormonal dysfunction. That’s because plastics , at the micro level, can mimic the action of particular hormones, thus confusing the human endocrine system. The disruption, in turn, can manifest as obesity, metabolic disease, cancers, reproductive disorders, behavioral aberrations or developmental delays. Related: How to teach children about climate change What’s disquieting is that exposure to these plastic substances can arise from the most mundane things — storage containers, DVD cases, receipts, package linings, PVC piping, imitation leather, treated furniture, carpeting, even toys and medical devices. Plastics and microplastics surround us; consequently, we cannot avoid being exposed. One of the scientific authors, Marike Kolossa-Gehring, stated, “Our study clearly shows that plastic ingredients, which are rising in production, are showing up more and more in the body.” The study also revealed that the most susceptible subjects were younger children and children from poorer families. Both at-risk groups registered more plastic residue than their counterparts. Similarly, the study addressed the issue of replacements, citing that substances classified as perilous to humans should not be replaced by similar chemicals. After all, the substitutes might be just as toxic and detrimental. Hence, replacing with similar chemicals does not mitigate the chances of being exposed to harm. Researchers expressed uneasiness about the high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the young subjects. The apprehension surfaces from the fact that PFOA is extremely persistent, bioaccumulative and rather toxic. PFOA is typically used in the process for making Teflon, which explains why it is usually found coating non-stick cookware and waterproof clothing. PFOA is a threat because it is toxic to both the reproductive system and the liver. The European Union is expected to ban PFOA in 2020. The scientists concluded that more research is needed to discover the pathways that plastics take to enter the human body. A solution is likewise needed to minimize the risks of children accumulating plastic byproducts at unsafe levels. Via Spiegel Online and TreeHugger Image via Ruben Rubio

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High levels of plastic byproducts discovered in children, study finds

Three visions unveiled for the future of La Brea Tar Pits

September 3, 2019 by  
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The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) has unveiled three preliminary masterplan concepts for the world-famous La Brea Tar Pits — the only consistently active and urban Ice Age excavation site in the world. Copenhagen-based Dorte Mandrup , New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro and New York-based WEISS/MANFREDI were selected as the finalist teams in the NHMLAC-hosted “ideas incubator” in June 2019 and have presented their visions at the museum at the La Brea Tar Pits for public viewing through September 15. All three designs emphasize improving community access to the 12-acre site in addition to the creation of sustainable infrastructure and careful site preservation. Because NHMLAC is in a public/private partnership with the County of Los Angeles , all masterplan visions will emphasize the integration of the county-owned, 23-acre Hancock Park with the 12-acre La Brea Tar Pits site. Although the integration of green space with the museum collections is integral to all three proposals, each campus vision is distinct. Dorte Mandrup suggests interweaving the park, the tar pits and a lush landscape of prehistoric plants and trees as well as a Pleistocene solar pixel mural to emphasize the world’s most recent period of repeated glaciations. Related: $87M wildlife bridge in California will be a haven for mountain lions On the other hand, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s “light touch” focuses more on museum activities and will feature a publicly accessible dig site supported by a mobile “digital rig” that can anticipate current and future digs in the park, a new light-filled lobby and an “Archive Block” that allows visitors to peer inside the Research Lab. WEISS/MANFREDI’s proposal is centered on the design of a triple mobius pedestrian pathway to connect the La Brea Tar Pits with Hancock Park, which will be surrounded by enhanced amenities. The three proposals are currently on view at the La Brea Tar Pits museum through September 15 as well as on its website . The public is encouraged to provide feedback onsite or online. In addition to public feedback, NHMLAC will consider input from a jury that it has assembled to help the selection of the one firm that will lead the masterplanning effort. + La Brea Tar Pits Images via Dorte Mandrup, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and WEISS/MANFREDI

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Three visions unveiled for the future of La Brea Tar Pits

Three visions unveiled for the future of La Brea Tar Pits

September 3, 2019 by  
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The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) has unveiled three preliminary masterplan concepts for the world-famous La Brea Tar Pits — the only consistently active and urban Ice Age excavation site in the world. Copenhagen-based Dorte Mandrup , New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro and New York-based WEISS/MANFREDI were selected as the finalist teams in the NHMLAC-hosted “ideas incubator” in June 2019 and have presented their visions at the museum at the La Brea Tar Pits for public viewing through September 15. All three designs emphasize improving community access to the 12-acre site in addition to the creation of sustainable infrastructure and careful site preservation. Because NHMLAC is in a public/private partnership with the County of Los Angeles , all masterplan visions will emphasize the integration of the county-owned, 23-acre Hancock Park with the 12-acre La Brea Tar Pits site. Although the integration of green space with the museum collections is integral to all three proposals, each campus vision is distinct. Dorte Mandrup suggests interweaving the park, the tar pits and a lush landscape of prehistoric plants and trees as well as a Pleistocene solar pixel mural to emphasize the world’s most recent period of repeated glaciations. Related: $87M wildlife bridge in California will be a haven for mountain lions On the other hand, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s “light touch” focuses more on museum activities and will feature a publicly accessible dig site supported by a mobile “digital rig” that can anticipate current and future digs in the park, a new light-filled lobby and an “Archive Block” that allows visitors to peer inside the Research Lab. WEISS/MANFREDI’s proposal is centered on the design of a triple mobius pedestrian pathway to connect the La Brea Tar Pits with Hancock Park, which will be surrounded by enhanced amenities. The three proposals are currently on view at the La Brea Tar Pits museum through September 15 as well as on its website . The public is encouraged to provide feedback onsite or online. In addition to public feedback, NHMLAC will consider input from a jury that it has assembled to help the selection of the one firm that will lead the masterplanning effort. + La Brea Tar Pits Images via Dorte Mandrup, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and WEISS/MANFREDI

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Three visions unveiled for the future of La Brea Tar Pits

Three visions unveiled for the future of La Brea Tar Pits

September 3, 2019 by  
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The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) has unveiled three preliminary masterplan concepts for the world-famous La Brea Tar Pits — the only consistently active and urban Ice Age excavation site in the world. Copenhagen-based Dorte Mandrup , New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro and New York-based WEISS/MANFREDI were selected as the finalist teams in the NHMLAC-hosted “ideas incubator” in June 2019 and have presented their visions at the museum at the La Brea Tar Pits for public viewing through September 15. All three designs emphasize improving community access to the 12-acre site in addition to the creation of sustainable infrastructure and careful site preservation. Because NHMLAC is in a public/private partnership with the County of Los Angeles , all masterplan visions will emphasize the integration of the county-owned, 23-acre Hancock Park with the 12-acre La Brea Tar Pits site. Although the integration of green space with the museum collections is integral to all three proposals, each campus vision is distinct. Dorte Mandrup suggests interweaving the park, the tar pits and a lush landscape of prehistoric plants and trees as well as a Pleistocene solar pixel mural to emphasize the world’s most recent period of repeated glaciations. Related: $87M wildlife bridge in California will be a haven for mountain lions On the other hand, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s “light touch” focuses more on museum activities and will feature a publicly accessible dig site supported by a mobile “digital rig” that can anticipate current and future digs in the park, a new light-filled lobby and an “Archive Block” that allows visitors to peer inside the Research Lab. WEISS/MANFREDI’s proposal is centered on the design of a triple mobius pedestrian pathway to connect the La Brea Tar Pits with Hancock Park, which will be surrounded by enhanced amenities. The three proposals are currently on view at the La Brea Tar Pits museum through September 15 as well as on its website . The public is encouraged to provide feedback onsite or online. In addition to public feedback, NHMLAC will consider input from a jury that it has assembled to help the selection of the one firm that will lead the masterplanning effort. + La Brea Tar Pits Images via Dorte Mandrup, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and WEISS/MANFREDI

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Three visions unveiled for the future of La Brea Tar Pits

MVRDV designs a Dutch office building covered in potted plants

August 15, 2019 by  
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MVRDV has unveiled designs for the Green Villa, a striking mixed-use building draped in greenery for the Dutch village of Sint-Michielsgestel. Created in collaboration with Van Boven Architecten , the four-story Green Villa will be located on the town’s southern edge and will use a grid “rack” system to host a wide variety of potted plants, bushes and trees, including the likes of forsythia, jasmine, pine and birch. The project will be a landmark project for the village and will promote sustainability with improved biodiversity and carbon sequestration. Located on a corner lot next to the Dommel River, the 1,400-square-meter Green Villa will house a new ground-floor office space for real estate developer and client, Stein, as well as five apartments on the three floors above in addition to underground parking. The building shape relates to the existing urban fabric with its adoption of the mansard roof shape used on the neighboring buildings. A new architectural typology is also put forth with the use of a strikingly lush facade that will help the structure blend in with the nearby river, fields and trees. Related: MVRDV designs BREEAM excellent-seeking sustainable research lab for Amsterdam “This design is a continuation of our research into ‘facade-less’ buildings and radical greening,” explained Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV. “The idea from the nineties of city parks as an oasis in the city is too limited. We need a radical ‘green dip’: as will be shown soon in a book by The Why Factory with the same title, we should also cover roofs and high-rise facades with greenery. Plants and trees can help us to offset CO2 emissions , cool our cities and promote biodiversity.” The Green Villa will be defined by a square grid four bays wide and three bays deep, in which modules for bedrooms and living spaces will slot inside. The facade will be made up of a “rack” of shelves of varying depths to support a “three-dimensional arboretum,” and each plant will have its own nameplate with additional information. The plants will be watered year-round with a sensor-controlled irrigation system that uses recycled rainwater . Construction is scheduled to start in 2020. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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MVRDV designs a Dutch office building covered in potted plants

Celebrate the Sustainable Spinoffs from the Space Program

July 19, 2019 by  
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Fifty years ago (July 20, 1969), the Apollo 11 lunar … The post Celebrate the Sustainable Spinoffs from the Space Program appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Celebrate the Sustainable Spinoffs from the Space Program

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