World’s rarest marine mammal could face extinction under Trump administration

March 26, 2018 by  
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Under 30 vaquita porpoises live in the wild — but Donald Trump’s administration may be violating federal laws that could protect the animals, according to a lawsuit recently filed by conservation groups and reported on by Mother Jones . Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) staff attorney Giulia Good Stefani said in a statement  that the lawsuit “might be the vaquita’s last chance.” Will vaquitas vanish forever? Environmental groups are concerned they might, and the NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity , and Animal Welfare Institute are calling out Trump’s administration for failing to protect what the World Wildlife Fund calls the world’s rarest  marine mammal . The 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act  requires the Secretary of the Treasury to “ban the importation of commercial fish or products from fish which have been caught with commercial fishing technology which results in the incidental kill or incidental serious injury of ocean mammals in excess of United States standards.” The vaquita can drown in gill nets, which are used to catch seafood , but the Trump administration has not banned seafood harvested with these nets in the Gulf of California, the sole habitat of the vaquita. Related: Trump administration ‘declares war’ on West Coast turtles, dolphins, and whales Gill nets kill around 50 percent of the vaquita population every single year — and, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, the creatures might even go extinct next year if fishing practices aren’t changed. Mexico  also hasn’t permanently banned all gill nets in the Gulf of California, though scientists have recommended they do so. And Animal Welfare Institute’s marine animal program director, Susan Millward, said the United States is “a leading importer of fish products caught in the upper Gulf of California.” The groups that filed the suit are calling for an immediate US ban on seafood imports that come from the upper Gulf and Mexican shrimp, hoping such a move would pressure Mexico to completely ban gil lnets in the vaquita’s habitat. Millward said, “The U.S. seafood market should not be contributing to the extinction of a species.” + Center for Biological Diversity Via Mother Jones Images via Wikimedia Commons and NOAA Restoration Center, Chris Doley

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World’s rarest marine mammal could face extinction under Trump administration

Boris Johnson proposes 22-mile bridge to connect UK and France

January 19, 2018 by  
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Could a 22-mile bridge crossing the English Channel help boost transport between the United Kingdom and France after Brexit ? Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson thinks so – he proposed the infrastructure project and spoke about a second link with France’s president Emmanuel Macron . Johnson reportedly said to Macron that it’s ridiculous that two of the largest economies in the world are joined by only one railway line. The publication said Macron “is understood to have responded positively.” Johnson tweeted a picture of the two of them flashing a thumbs-up after what he described as great meetings. En marche ! Great meetings with French counterparts today pic.twitter.com/D73B1rSkd3 — Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 18, 2018 Related: New bridge linking Japan and Russia could enable 8400-mile rail trip from London to Tokyo But some people put the brakes on the idea . The United Kingdom Chamber of Shipping, which represents over 180 maritime industry bodies, tweeted there would be challenges with such an undertaking. CEO Guy Platten told The Guardian the Dover Strait – at the English Channel’s narrowest part – “is the world’s busiest shipping lane” and that the largest ships going through the strait can be around 70 meters, or nearly 230 feet, tall. Others pointed out that such a bridge would be incredibly expensive. Building a huge concrete structure in the middle of the world’s busiest shipping lane might come with some challenges. https://t.co/jYD5O8B19W — UK Shipping (@ukshipping) January 18, 2018 Reuters reported France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 radio, “All ideas merit consideration, even the most far-fetched ones … Let’s finish things that are already under way before thinking of new ones.” And a spokesperson for prime minister Theresa May said there were “no specific plans” regarding a Channel bridge: “What was agreed yesterday, and I think that’s what the foreign secretary tweeted about as well, is a panel of experts who will look at major projects together including infrastructure.” But according to The Guardian, some engineers said the Channel bridge idea might not be so far-fetched; architect Alan Dunlop pointed to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, which is around 34 miles long. Bridge designer Ian Firth told BBC Radio 4’s Today program the project would be entirely feasible, and that before construction of the Channel tunnel there were bridge options being considered. Firth said, “There are bridges of a similar, if not quite the same, scale elsewhere…It would be a huge undertaking, but it would be absolutely possible, and shipping impact issues could be dealt with.” Via The Guardian (1, 2) and Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Boris Johnson proposes 22-mile bridge to connect UK and France

The majority of the National Park Service board just resigned

January 17, 2018 by  
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The majority of the 12-person National Park System Advisory Board (NPSAB) resigned this week because President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke was unwilling to meet with them, according to NPR . Democrat Tony Knowles, former governor of Alaska, said in a resignation letter “…from all of the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside.” The National Park Service (NPS) advisory board was first authorized in 1935, and today more than three-quarters of its members have left their seats. In the January 15 letter Knowles said that he will remain dedicated to the success of America’s national parks, but “For the last year we have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership between the NPSAB and the DOI [Department of the Interior] as prescribed by law. We understand the complexity of transition but our requests to engage have been ignored and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new Department team are clearly not part of its agenda.” Related: Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking two more national monuments Nine board members signed that letter, and all of their terms were set to expire in May. Today a tenth member – whose term doesn’t expire until 2021 – resigned as well. Project Concern International CEO Carolyn Hessler Radelet submitted a similar letter to Zinke. According to The Washington Post , this move means the federal government lacks a functioning body to “designate national historic or natural landmarks.” The publication said it also shows how federal advisory bodies have been marginalized in Trump’s administration . Zinke suspended outside committees back in May of last year for his staff to review their work. Interior spokesperson Heather Swift said boards restarted in an email to The Washington Post earlier this month, but didn’t provide other details. The two people remaining on the board at this time are University of Maryland professor Rita Colwell and Harvard University professor Linda Blimes, who told The Washington Post she didn’t resign as she’s currently conducting research funded by the National Park Foundation and wants to finish. Their terms are up in May. Via NPR and The Washington Post (1 , 2 , 3) Images by Casey Horner on Unsplash , Gage Skidmore on Flickr and NPS

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The majority of the National Park Service board just resigned

Qatar unveils first-ever FIFA World Cup stadium to be built from shipping containers

November 28, 2017 by  
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Abandoned stadiums and crumbling arenas are often left in the wake of events like the World Cup and the Olympics. In a bid for more sustainable construction, Qatar has unveiled plans for the world’s first fully modular stadium ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Designed by Fenwick Iribarren , Schlaich Bergermann Partner and Hilson Moran , the 40,000-seat arena, known as the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, would be mainly built of shipping containers to allow for disassembly and reconstruction. The plans for the cargotecture stadium —the latest in Qatar’s total of eight proposed host venues for the FIFA World Cup —was revealed this week Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the organization tasked with delivering the infrastructure for the 2022 event. Unlike the World Cup stadiums before it, the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium will be built of modular building blocks presumably constructed in a factory with amenities, such as removable seats, concession stands, and bathrooms, ahead of on-site assembly. The modular approach results in less waste and a reduced carbon footprint, and may earn the stadium a four-star Global Sustainability Assessment System certification. Related: Arup and RFA Fenwick Iribarren Architects unveil plans for the new Qatar Foundation Stadium “This venue offers the perfect legacy, capable of being reassembled in a new location in its entirety or built into numerous small sports and cultural venues,” said SC Secretary General H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi. Qatar’s new World Cup stadium is expected to be completed in 2020 and will be located on a 450,000-square-meter waterfront site nearby a Doha port. + Fenwick Iribarren Architects Via The Architect’s Newspaper and FIFA

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Qatar unveils first-ever FIFA World Cup stadium to be built from shipping containers

Biggest grid operator in US attacks Perry’s proposal to prop up coal

October 24, 2017 by  
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Energy Secretary Rick Perry is attempting to keep coal alive under the guise of grid resiliency , but the largest grid operator in the United States called on regulators to scrap the plan. PJM Interconnection CEO Andrew Ott called Perry’s pricing proposal unworkable and discriminatory, and even said it’s inconsistent with federal law. Multiple other grid operators have also called for its rejection. Perry has urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to alter how wholesale power markets price electricity – so some nuclear and coal generators can recover costs, according to Bloomberg. Perry’s plan would attempt to reward power plants able to store 90 days of fuel supplies onsite. Ott told reporters, “I don’t know how this proposal could be implemented without a detrimental impact on the market.” Related: Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites Ott said it seems the rule targets PJM – between 2011 and 2016, they retired over 19 gigawatts of coal-fired power, according to Bloomberg. But “the PJM market is more diverse and reliable today than we’ve seen,” Ott said. PJM serves over 65 million people in over a dozen states in the Midwest to Mid-Atlantic. Bloomberg said hundreds of energy companies commented on the proposal, with firms like ExxonMobil , Anadarko Petroleum , and Devon Energy pointing to the low cost and reliability of natural gas . The Solar Energy Industries Association said nuclear and coal plants aren’t invulnerable to outages. FirstEnergy supported Perry’s plan because they said the grid will be at risk if nuclear and coal plants are retired. They operate several coal plants in the PJM market. Grid operators like the New York Independent System Operator , the Midcontinent Independent System Operator , and ISO New England called for FERC to toss out Perry’s plan as part of a coalition that also included organizations the proposal wouldn’t impact, such as the California Independent System Operator , the Electric Reliability Council of Texas , and the Southwest Power Pool . Via Bloomberg Images via Pixabay and U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr

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Singapore is banning all new private vehicles from its roads

October 24, 2017 by  
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The government of Singapore , one of the densest countries in the world, has announced that the number of private cars on its roads will be frozen next year, even as the number of vehicles used for public transit are expected to increase. The rate of growth for all passenger cars and motorcycles will be decreased from the current 0.25 percent per year to effectively zero percent starting in February 2018. In going forward with this move, Singapore, one of the wealthiest countries in Asia , is building on its past successes related to its vehicle growth caps, such as its prevention of monstrous traffic jams that plague other cities in the region. Singapore is already one of the most expensive places to purchase a personal vehicle in part because of a requirement that vehicle owners acquire a “certificate of entitlement,” which is valid for only 10 years and has an average price tag of US$37,000. Even a relatively standard sedan can cost up to four times as much as it would cost in the United States . For this reason, there are only around 600,000 private cars in Singapore, which has a population of over 5.5 million people. Related: Green-roofed desalination plant is world’s first to treat both fresh and saltwater In making the growth cap announcement, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) stated that more than 12 percent of Singapore’s land area (only 277.6 square miles) is already taken up by roads and there is very little room left for the expansion of private vehicle ownership. To compensate for the decrease in private vehicles on the road, the Singapore government will invest Sg$28 billion over the next five years to develop and improve its public transit system . This includes Singapore’s metro rail, which, like many rapid rail systems in major cities , has been suffering from significant delays. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation donates $20M to support environmental causes

September 20, 2017 by  
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The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) just announced their biggest portfolio of environmental grants ever given. LDF is giving $20 million to organizations working for conservation , climate solutions, and indigenous rights , to name a few. DiCaprio made the announcement yesterday during the Yale Climate Conference hosted by John Kerry , former Secretary of State. LDF CEO Terry Tamminen said, “With a lack of political leadership, and continued evidence that climate change is growing worse with record-breaking heat waves and storms , we believe we need to do as much as we can now, before it is too late.” LDF will give over 100 organizations grants across six categories: wildlife and land conservation; marine life and ocean conservation; indigenous rights; climate change; innovation, technology , and media; and LDF’s California program, targeted to help local communities transition to sustainable infrastructure, energy , and food . Related: Leonardo DiCaprio launches a new fund to save the lions In his speech at yesterday’s conference, DiCaprio called for people to get involved in tackling climate change. He said people can do three simple things: first, vote in the midterm elections next year for candidates who believe climate change is one of the most important issues the United States must address. Second, buy from environmentally friendly companies, and boycott those funding climate deniers or offering products that hurt the environment. Third, support charities and non-governmental organizations working for climate solutions. DiCaprio said, “I still believe that the United States has the potential to lead the world on this issue. We can only hope that the President begins to see it too…Time is up. The current events are a global wake-up call that must be heard all the way from you, to the private sector, to Washington, D.C. It is too late for any of us to be too timid or too ignorant or too silent. We must all take action together now.” + Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Via the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Images via screenshot

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Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation donates $20M to support environmental causes

Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson says Trump is wrong about climate change

January 12, 2017 by  
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In a startling statement, Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson publicly disagreed with the President-elect’s position on climate change. While Trump has stated he wants to withdraw from the Paris agreement, and has characterized climate change as an anti-American “hoax,” Tillerson told Congress , “I think it’s important that the United States maintain its seat at the table on the conversations around how to address the threats of climate change, which do require a global response. No one country is going to solve this alone.” Tillerson’s position is an interesting one, considering that he’s the former CEO of ExxonMobil, a company that’s been accused of misleading the public on the existence of climate change since the 1960s . In fact, the company continues to fund climate-denial research to this day. Despite this, Tillerson insisted that he believes the “risk of climate change does exist” and that the consequences could be serious enough to “warrant action.” Related: Americans don’t trust climate change science because of fossil fuel industry’s disinformation While Tillerson has said Trump is aware of his views and he would be willing to advise the administration to take climate change seriously (perhaps with a bit more caution than environmentalists would like), it’s unclear if this could actually change Trump’s approach in any way. The administration’s other nominees have come out firmly against the very concept of climate change – including Rick Perry, Trump’s proposed head of the Department of Energy , and Scott Pruitt, the pick for head of the Environmental Protection Agency . Although Tillerson appears to grudgingly accept the reality of climate change, that’s no reason for the American public to let our guard down. The would-be Secretary of State did not address whether he believes climate change poses a threat to national security – an opinion held by the nation’s foremost military expert. He also refused to discuss ExxonMobil’s longstanding war against scientific research on the subject, and he would not give a firm answer on whether he would suspend US funding to the UN Green Climate Fund. There’s also the troubling matter of the former exec’s troubling ties to Vladimir Putin , which critics fear could compromise his ability to perform his duties effectively. Via Mother Jones Images via William Munoz and Wikimedia Commons

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Trumps pick for Secretary of the Interior is an environmental disaster

December 9, 2016 by  
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President-elect Donald Trump is expected to nominate Washington representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers as his Secretary of the Interior, a position that involves protecting federal land like the National Parks and conserving natural resources. Environmental groups have been quick to slam McMorris Rodgers for her environmental record – in the past, she’s voted to open public lands to drilling, mining, and logging, and in 2011 she co-sponsored a bill to sell off 3 million acres of public lands. And, like way too many members of Trump’s incoming administration, she’s a climate change skeptic. Looking at McMorris Rodgers’ voting record is a bit disturbing. The League of Conservation Voters gives her a lifetime environmental score of just 4%. Out of more than 250 votes on environmental bills, the group considers only 10 of her votes to be pro-environment. In the past, she’s voted to allow drilling in vulnerable parts of the Arctic. If she goes on to head the Department of the Interior , she would be in control of 500 million acres of public land, accounting for a massive 20% of the US landmass. The department manages energy development on federal lands, as well as our national parks , wildlife refuges, and outer continental shelf – all of which could be threatened by McMorris Rodgers’ pro-fossil-fuel agenda. Related: Donald Trump taps fossil fuel-funded climate denier to head EPA While the Trump administration has not yet revealed when her nomination will be announced, a member of the transition team has confirmed the President-elect’s choice to the media. House Republicans are reportedly already laying the groundwork to replace her as GOP Conference Chair. “Trump is throwing American leadership out the window–especially on climate change–by nominating U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers to be Secretary of the Interior. She will open our public lands and natural resources to Big Oil and Big Coal, and put our parks, wilderness and endangered species at risk. We cannot allow that to happen. We will dig in and fight harder than ever to ensure that Trump and Rep. McMorris Rodgers cannot advance their dangerous policies—and we must start by demanding the Senate defeat this nomination,” says Tom Steyer, President of NextGen Climate . Via USA Today Images via Wikimedia Commons

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Trumps pick for Secretary of the Interior is an environmental disaster

Squat your way to a free subway ride in Mexico City

October 22, 2015 by  
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A little daily exercise could earn strap-hangers a free ride in Mexico City. Since the beginning of 2015, the city’s Secretary of Health has boosted a campaign offering up free subway rides for riders willing to do a mini workout of ten squats. The health stations in subway and bus stops are a city wide effort to curb obesity in Mexico City , which is a rampant issue in both the city and the country. Read the rest of Squat your way to a free subway ride in Mexico City

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