Arctic wildfires are emitting 35% more carbon compared to 2019

September 2, 2020 by  
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Wildfires are releasing more carbon emissions in the first eight months of 2020 than they did in all of 2019. According to a recent report by the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service , carbon emissions in the Arctic have surpassed last year’s emissions by 35%. The latest data shows that about 245 megatonnes of CO2 have been released in 2020 so far. This is a far higher figure than the entirety of last year, when 181 megatonnes of CO2 were released as a result of wildfires. The data further shows that the peak month for wildfires in 2020 was July, with over 600 wildfires reported in late July as compared to 400 wildfires in the same time frame last year. More devastating is the fact that similar periods from 2003 through 2018 experienced an average of 100 wildfires. Related: Arctic wildfires rage through Siberia The surge in wildfires is associated with climate change . In July alone, a heatwave saw temperatures rise to 30°C (86°F) in some parts of Siberia. However, there are no major differences between the temperatures experienced this year and last year. According to the researchers, the main difference has been the number of fires that occurred over this period. “In some respects [the data] has been similar to 2019 in terms of the dry and warm conditions in the Siberian Arctic,” said Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at Copernicus. “This year, the difference was a large cluster of fires that burned through July for many days leading to higher estimated emissions.” Arctic wildfires have grown into a serious concern in recent years. In June, the Aerial Forest Protection Service of Russia reported that in Siberia’s forests, over 3.4 million acres of land had burned. Unfortunately, most of these fires occurred in areas that cannot be accessed by firefighters. In 2019, the Arctic wildfires caused a huge cloud of smoke that could cover the entire EU landmass. These fires are also destroying well-known carbon sinks , peat bogs. As peat bogs burn, they release megatonnes of stored carbon into the atmosphere. + Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Arctic wildfires are emitting 35% more carbon compared to 2019

Former railway yard to receive a green transformation in St. Petersburg

August 3, 2020 by  
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Dutch architectural firms KCAP and Orange Architects have teamed up with A.Len Architectural Bureau to redesign St. Petersburg’s former Tovarno-Vitebskaya railway yard into a new mixed-use district with extensive greenery. Created as a continuation of Glorax Development’s Ligovsky City neighborhood development project, the new adaptive reuse proposal will combine historic structures with contemporary architecture to inject new life into the area while paying homage to the site’s history. A variety of green space will be incorporated into the masterplan, from linear parks and landscaped boulevards that follow the historic railway tracks to more intimate courtyards and walkways interspersed between the new buildings. Located in the southeastern part of St. Petersburg’s “gray belt”, the adaptive reuse proposal would transform a former railway yard on Ligovsky Prospekt into a predominately residential district for 8,600 people. The 30-hectare site would also include restaurants, cafes, leisure facilities, street retail, service companies, sports facilities, four kindergartens, one primary and one secondary school and both underground and surface parking lots.  Related: A forgotten railway takes on new life as a new cultural destination in France The architects have inventoried the existing architectural structures and plan to reuse many historic elements — such as small buildings, blue cranes, tracks and poles — into the long and linear public parks that will be developed along the main railway tracks from north to south. The project’s main entrance will be located on the primarily mixed-use northern end where the new “Borovaya” metro station will stand and serve as the new urban center for Ligovsky. In contrast, the southern part of the site will feature taller buildings, three of which will create a strong building edge nicknamed “The Trio.” “We want to create an active and landscaped environment where you can feel the history of the railway and live with the people around you,” said Patrick Meijers, partner at Orange Architects. “An area that simultaneously is smoothly connected to the city of St. Petersburg.” + KCAP + Orange Architects Images via Orange Architects

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Former railway yard to receive a green transformation in St. Petersburg

Check out this handmade wood cabin in North Carolina

August 3, 2020 by  
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This 400-square-foot cabin, nicknamed The Nook, can be found in the charming, forested area of Swannanoa, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville. The project was a labor of love by owner and professional photographer Mike Belleme, who built the cabin himself along with a rotating crew of local community craftspeople. Even better, he used locally sourced materials in the construction, milling some of the wood himself from fallen trees on the property. The spacious cabin’s 18-foot ceilings help provide plenty of opportunity for natural light. This is only magnified by its large windows and open design, which was executed by local firm Shelter Design Studio. With a special breakfast alcove, a tea loft and dedicated lofts for entertainment and sleeping, it is easy to see how The Nook got its name. In an effort to take the cabin’s simple form and enhance it with as many distinct zones (or “nooks”) as possible, the Asheville-based studio has achieved a unique and thoughtful space with lots of room for lounging and storage. Related: Work from home in this minimalist, modular 15-sided cabin A network of talented local artisans and craftspeople including woodworkers, weavers and metalworkers were involved in the building process, so the result is both custom and high-quality. A selection of the materials used in the furnishings was foraged by the owner himself, such as a handmade ladder made from found ash wood . Locally sourced cypress wood makes up the exterior siding, and the entryway is made of reclaimed oak treated with the Japanese wood charring technique of shou sugi ban. There is a modern kitchen, bathroom and a set of sliding glass doors that open to an outdoor back porch. To add a touch of whimsy, an indoor swing is installed in front of one of the massive windows. The Nook is available to rent now through Airbnb . + Shelter Design Studio Images via Mike Belleme

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Check out this handmade wood cabin in North Carolina

Arctic wildfires rage through Siberia

July 28, 2020 by  
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The earth’s poles have made the news a lot this summer, and not for good reasons. Now, another awful update has hit, with  Arctic wildfires burning out of control. “We’ve had exceptional and prolonged heat for months now and this has fueled devastating Arctic fires,” said Clare Nullis, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) spokesperson, at a  press conference in Geneva . “And at the same time we’re seeing rapidly decreasing  sea coverage along the Arctic coast.” Related: Siberia hits record 100 degrees Scientists use satellite images to gauge the extent of the wildfires. However, fire’s dynamic nature can make it hard for authorities to track the exact number of fires burning at once. On Wednesday, data indicated “188 probable points of fire.” The worst fire blazed in Russia’s Sakha Republic and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, in the far northeast reaches of Siberia . “We’re seeing, you know, dramatic satellite images, which show the extent of the burns surface,” said Nullis. “The fire front of the northern-most currently active Arctic wildfire is less than eight kilometres from the Arctic ocean – this should not be happening.” Pollutants found in wildfire smoke include nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, solid aerosol particles and volatile organic compounds. The WMO said that Arctic wildfires emitted the equivalent of 56 megatons of  carbon dioxide  this June, up from 53 megatons in June 2019. This year’s persistent heat is caused by what meteorologists call “blocking high pressure aloft.” A blocking high pressure system can linger over an area for a prolonged time, forcing other  weather  systems to go around it. High pressure aloft traps heat by compressing air downward and preventing cooler air from pushing through and bringing the region some relief. “In general, the Arctic is heating more than twice the global average,” said Nullis. “It’s having a big impact on local populations and  ecosystems , but we always say that what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic, it does affect our weather in different parts of the world where hundreds of millions of people live.” Via AP News and Huffpost Image via Pixabay

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This DIY algae kit is an easy science experiment for kids

July 28, 2020 by  
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BioBombola is a DIY algae kit specially designed to teach kids how to grow their own domestic garden of spirulina – a sustainable source of plant-based proteins. The project is the brainchild of ecoLogicStudio’s Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, who wanted to create a fun and educational way to keep their children occupied during the shutdown in London. In addition to cultivating the nutritious blue-green algae, the kit also helps to absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide as two young trees and provides the home with the same amount of oxygen as seven common indoor plants. Perhaps best of all, BioBombola allows children and adults alike to interact with nature from the comfort of their own homes. Related: Eos Bioreactor uses AI and algae to combat climate change The two researchers got the idea after creating an algae-growing and air pollution data collection project with their children, who were already participating in a home-school program. After their experiment has finished, the idea for the mini algae harvesting kit was born. Each kit comes with a nutrients bag, a 15-liter starting batch of living photosynthetic spirulina cells, an air piping system, a pump to keep the medium afloat, a customized photobioreactor and a 1-meter-tall, lab-grade glass container. Not only does the bubbling of the small air pump keep the precious algae constantly stirred and oxygenated, it also creates a soft, calming sound similar to a fish tank. The fresh, cultivated spirulina can be harvested several times a week and collects up to 7 grams of product per day (the daily recommended supplement intake for a family of four, according to the inventors) to be used in food and drinks. The harvesting process is simple and suitable for children, as well. While it is recommended to install the kit in a sunny spot or near a grow lamp, the photobioreactor can adapt to almost any environment. + EcoLogicStudio Photography by NAARO via EcoLogicStudio

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This DIY algae kit is an easy science experiment for kids

Climate change could lead to dramatic decline in narwhals

May 6, 2020 by  
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Climate change is affecting everybody, even narwhals. These mysterious “unicorns of the sea” may decline by 25% by the end of this century, according to a new study . Narwhals are a type of Arctic-dwelling whale found only in the cold waters of Greenland, Canada, Norway and Russia. Their population currently numbers about 200,000. In winter, most narwhals spend up to 5 months beneath the sea ice. They are recognizable by a single long, spiral tusk, which is actually an enlarged tooth. Related: Arctic shipping routes could threaten “unicorns of the sea” Researchers from Denmark, Canada, Norway, Germany and the U.K. studied tissue samples from 121 narwhals, mostly collected between 1982 and 2012. Some were killed by Inuit hunters in Greenland and Canada. Other samples came from archaeological remains from digs in Russia and northern Europe. Researchers were even able to collect tiny samples from a throne chair featuring narwhal tusks in Denmark. “They had special access to be able to drill little tiny bits of tusk from that throne,” said Steven Ferguson, an Arctic marine mammal research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and one of the study’s authors. These samples helped them learn more about narwhal DNA. Through a combination of DNA information and habitat modeling, the researchers investigated the impact of previous climate shifts on narwhal distribution and estimated what the future might hold for these creatures. Scientists confirmed that the world has three narwhal populations. Most live in two different groups off Canada’s northeastern coasts. The third population of about 10,000 lives off Greenland’s east coast, extending as far as Russia. The researchers were surprised to find that narwhals show the lowest genetic diversity in any marine mammal studied. They weren’t sure why this is. As sea ice melts because of global warming , the narwhals’ habitats will shrink, and the animals will probably move northward. But as they are crowded into a smaller habitat, they’ll become more vulnerable to human encroachment, competition for food, new diseases and orca predation. Unlike other polar mammals, narwhals are only found in very limited locales. “They really seem to have this Atlantic Ocean habitat,” Ferguson said. “So there’s an open question as to what might happen as we continue to lose sea ice.” + Royal Society Publishing Via Forbes and The Narwhal

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Climate change could lead to dramatic decline in narwhals

Half-buried home in Brazil is crafted from rammed earth

May 6, 2020 by  
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On a windswept hill a three-hour drive from São Paulo, Brazilian architecture firm Arquipélago Arquitetos has completed the House in Cunha, a low-lying, contemporary home that is primarily built of locally sourced rammed earth. To protect the building from the cold, prevailing winds, the architects partly buried the structure into the earth and repurposed the excavated soil as construction material for the building walls. The thick, earthen walls and the building’s sunken position also provide the benefit of thermal mass to help maintain comfortable and stable interior temperatures year-round. The design for House in Cunha takes inspiration from the surrounding landscape and the region’s traditional culture for ceramic crafts. Set atop a hill, the building is oriented for optimal views of the Mantiqueira Mountains, while its low-lying profile and rammed earth construction help blend it into the landscape. Related: Inspiring rammed earth hospital brings affordable care to rural Nepal The main walls of the home were constructed of rammed earth via a building technique that allows for easy assembly and disassembly. “All the characteristics of hardness, thermal inertia, color, brightness and tactile quality are factors due to the physical and chemical characteristics of that specific soil,” the architects noted. In addition to rammed earth construction, architects also used a local pottery technique to create straw-colored bricks for the remaining walls. Despite its use of traditional materials and construction techniques, the House in Cunha features a minimalist and contemporary design. The main living areas face north to take advantage of winter sunlight and open up to an L-shaped outdoor deck sheltered by deep roof overhangs. Large windows bring panoramic views and ample natural light indoors, while a mix of timber surfaces and brightly colored furnishings help create a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. The home also includes three bedrooms and two baths; the bedrooms face the northwest and also open up to the outdoor deck. + Arquipélago Arquitetos Photography by Federico Cairoli via Arquipélago Arquitetos

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Half-buried home in Brazil is crafted from rammed earth

Tackling sustainability in sporting events

February 19, 2020 by  
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At the recent Super Bowl, the NFL focused on sustainability more than in past years with its Ocean to Everglades (O2E) initiative throughout South Florida. Efforts included education on invasive species, beach cleanups, food recovery and recycling initiatives. These conservation efforts are part of a larger trend internationally to shrink the carbon footprints of major sporting events. “Sports is one of the few avenues which can unite people of all different races, creeds and social status,” Matt Jozwiak said in an interview with Inhabitat. Jozwiak was a chef at swanky New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park before founding Rethink Food NYC . His organization feeds 2,000 New Yorkers a day by repurposing leftovers from restaurants and food companies in the tri-state area. Jozwiak is a big proponent of more sustainable sporting events. “The industry literally has the power to make drastic sustainability changes. When a sporting team comes out in favor of a cause, people listen.” He acknowledges there may be growing pains when adopting unfamiliar behaviors. “But eventually, fans will go along with the new changes.” Sporting events step up to sustainability Fans traveling to one European Cup match can generate almost 5,600 tons of carbon dioxide, according to the World Economic Forum. But now, many sports are taking a closer look at how to be more responsible. Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games are a leading example of organizers prioritizing sustainability in their planning. For example, builders will use locally sourced wood to construct the athletes’ village, and hydrogen fuel cells will power the event vehicles. Organizers plan to generate solar power onsite and recycle 99 percent of everything used during the event. With the exception of drinking water, they’ll use recycled rainwater for all Olympic water needs. Paris is hoping to be even more sustainable during its turn to host the 2024 Olympic Games. Related: Tokyo’s Olympic medals will be made from recycled phones Some European cities have given their football (soccer to Americans) stadiums an eco-makeover by installing seats made from recycled plastic. In Amsterdam, fans bought the old seats as souvenirs. The stadium in Pontedera, Italy boasts seats made using plastic from local waste. Meanwhile, in England, the Forest Green Rovers have won the title of world’s greenest football club by powering its grounds with solar, recycling water and serving an entirely vegan menu to players and fans. At the 2019 Helsinki International Horse Show, 135 tons of horse manure powered the electricity. A company called Fortum HorsePower enlists 4,300 Finnish horses to generate energy for electrical grids. Stadium food waste Jozwiak takes a special interest in food wasted inside stadiums. He’s found that stadiums are among the hardest places from which to rescue food, because they tend to only have games periodically and throw the food away afterward. Much of that food quickly spoils or gets soggy and unappetizing, like hamburger buns and pretzels. Stadiums should rely on freezers more, Jozwiak said. “Instead of purchasing food all the time, bulk purchase and immediately freezing can cut down a lot on the waste for sporting arenas. Proper refrigeration strategies can expand the lifecycle of food and reduce food waste.”  He also recommended a fire sale strategy for avoiding waste. “Implement a plan where spectators can purchase the remaining food to take home,” he advised. “A lot of food ends up in landfills . So if sporting arenas can provide the options for the fans to either buy or provide for free the remaining food, it would cut down on waste drastically.” One by one, stadium directors of operations need to craft individual action plans to become more sustainable, Joswiak suggested. In addition to avoiding food waste, he recommended conserving water and offering healthier food options with more vegetables and less meat . Stadiums should only contract with vendors who can manage recycling. New buildings should work to be LEED-certified. Joswiak suggested hosting a climate-related event for fans to explain and support all of these green changes. If fans could be convinced to bring their own reusable utensils, that would be great, too. Eco-travel to sporting events Of course, while the football match or the golf tournament is the main event, fans and players still have to travel to the game and may require overnight housing. According to Solar Impulse, 5 million people converged on Russia in 2018 to watch the FIFA World Cup. Their travel and accommodations generated about 85% of greenhouse gas emissions from this event, totaling about 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Related: Green-roofed Copenhagen sports center is open to the public 24/7 Some major governing bodies in sports are embracing carbon offset projects around the world to atone for their contribution to emissions. FIFA managed to offset 1.1 million tons of carbon emissions since the 2014 World Cup . The governing body for European football is promising to offset fan-generated emissions for the EURO 2020 competition. It has also collaborated with the 12 host cities to offer free public transportation to fans with tickets on the days of the matches. This should cut down on emissions and road congestion. Via World Economic Forum and Solar Impulse Images via Shutterstock

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Japan relaunches its whaling industry

July 2, 2019 by  
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Japan has officially relaunched its commercial whaling industry, sending the first vessels out to sea this month for the first time in 30 years. Animal rights and marine conservation defenders have condemned the relaunch of the whaling industry as a loss for whales and marine ecosystems, but the Japanese argue that it is a traditional part of their culture and that it will not negatively impact whale populations. The first vessel returned with a 26-foot-long minke whale, but the ships will also hunt Baird’s beaked, sei and Brydes whales. In total, the Japanese Fishing Agency will allow 227 whales to be slaughtered and sold legally to restaurants and markets. Related: Russia to release hundreds of illegally captured orcas and belugas from ‘whale jail’ According to Reuters, whales make up 0.1 percent of the total meat consumption in Japan , and the industry supports only about 300 jobs. Though it is seemingly insignificant as food stock, it does hold cultural importance for many Japanese who grew up eating whale. “It’s part of Japan’s food culture,” Sachiko Sakai, a taxi driver in Kushiro, Japan, told Reuters . “The world opposes killing whales, but you can say the same thing about many of the animals bred on land and killed for food.” Much of the momentum for the relaunch has been initiated by the prime minster, who received considerable election support from constituents from a whaling city. In 1986, Japan announced that it would allow whaling for scientific research, purportedly to quantify the populations and the impact of whaling. Many conservationists believed that commercial whaling continued under the guise of scientific exploration. Nicola Beynon of Humane Society International said, “The word ‘research’ may have been removed from the side of the factory ship, finally ending Japan’s charade of harpooning whales under the guise of science , but these magnificent creatures will still be slaughtered for no legitimate reason.” Via Reuters Image via Rob Oo

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Japan relaunches its whaling industry

This summer sneaker is completely biodegradable

July 2, 2019 by  
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Earlier this month, Native Shoes showed its true sustainability colors with the unveiling of 100 percent biodegradable, plant-based shoes that are completely free of animal products, not to mention stylish and perfect for wearing all summer long. The natural-tone sneaker is a culmination of plant materials including a midsole composed of 90 percent cork and 10 percent sisal backing. The outsole material is produced from natural lactae hevea through a 50-stage process that takes up to two weeks to complete. An organic linen sockliner with kenaf originating in Africa and corn felt make up the insole. Rather than the toxic glues that hold together most shoes, the Plant Shoe is held together with olive oil-soaked jute thread and natural, latex-based glue. For the main upper, the material is formed from otherwise discarded pineapple husks along with eucalyptus and organic cotton fibers. The laces are 100 percent organic cotton as well. Related: SAOLA offers sustainable sneakers sourced from algae and recycled plastic This plant-based and biodegradable design is in sharp, and much-needed, contrast to typical sneakers made from petroleum-based products, plastic , leather and other chemical-laden fabrics. Americans alone dump more than 300 million shoes into landfills every year, almost none of which will break down in a timely manner. Aimed at a completely sustainable model for shoe manufacturing, use and disposal, now and in the future, the Plant Shoe can be commercially composted at the end of its lifecycle. “The Plant Shoe was inspired by Native Shoes’ mission to become 100 percent lifecycle managed by 2023,” said Michael Belgue, creative director of Native Shoes. “The next step beyond our current recycling initiative was to create something that wouldn’t need to be reused or recycled but instead generates zero waste . Something that was born from the earth and could go back into it.” Although each component was scrutinized for the most sustainable options, the sneaker was designed to be stylish yet classic enough to outlast short-term trends. Unisex by design, Plant Shoes can be ordered directly from the company online or found at a brick and mortar location. They retail for $200 and are available in sizes 8-13 for men and 5-10 for women. Founded in 2009, Native Shoes is a footwear company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada with the goal of producing shoes that are light on you and the environment. Taking charge in the fight against post-consumer shoe waste, “Live Lightly” is the company motto and the Plant Shoe is here to prove Native Shoes’ dedication to that mindset. + Native Shoes Images via Native Shoes

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