Animal rights groups work to "Open Cages" of animals on fur farms

December 24, 2019 by  
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The fashion industry has recently experienced a rise in fur bans , thanks to successful pressure by animal rights advocacy groups and heightened consumer awareness. But these fur-free policies also need to extend beyond the haute couture sector to change the agriculture industry as well. This is where the work of organizations like Tušti Narvai and Open Cages come into play. In 2014, Tušti Narvai, which translates from Lithuanian as Empty Cages, was founded in Vilnius. Its English branch, Open Cages, was then established in the U.K. four years later. As their names symbolize, both sister nonprofit organizations strive to “change the world for animals” by strengthening the protection of farmed animals , improving animal welfare and preventing their suffering. In fact, one of the key projects by Tušti Narvai and Open Cages is to end fur farms. The groups do so by mobilizing the public through education and legal change. Related: Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s to be fur-free by 2021 But who are Tušti Narvai and Open Cages? These organizations are members of Anima International (AI) , a coalition of European animal protection advocacy groups that “envisions a world where animals are not treated as products.” Both sister organizations have been conducting several campaigns to better the situation of farm animals by minimizing animal cruelty and demanding compelling change. These campaigns include the improvement of chicken welfare, the elimination of cages in industrial farming, the ban on foie gras and fur bans. Learn more about these campaigns here . The fur ban has been gaining traction within the fashion industry , in many ways due to the ongoing and very visible anti-fur movement by various animal rights groups. Tušti Narvai and Open Cages have jointly added to that momentum. In Great Britain alone, Open Cages has implemented the #FurFreeBritain campaign, together with the Humane Society International (U.K.). It is projected that the ban on fur will adversely alter the supply chain, therefore reducing incidences of unnecessary animal torture and mortality that stem from cramped living spaces, malnourishment, neglect and even brutality. For instance, Open Cages shared an exposé on a fox that was recently saved from a fur farm. “Now he lives happily in a sanctuary and is an ambassador of this cruel industry,” says the Open Cages website. Scientific American and the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF) have stated that the majority of the fur industry’s pelts are now sourced from farm-raised animals, specifically mink, fox, chinchilla, lynx, muskrat and coyotes. Moreover, most of the remaining fur farms in the world can be found in Europe. These facts are what motivate the work of Tušti Narvai and Open Cages. From now until December 31, for every 10 euros in donations to the fur ban initiative, an anonymous sponsor will match them by $100. The campaign efforts are all to help in the fight against fur farms. In the words of Tušti Narvai, “Together, we can change the fate of animals kept on farms.” + Tušti Narvai + Open Cages Image via Clem Onojeghuo

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Animal rights groups work to "Open Cages" of animals on fur farms

How zip lining impacts tree health, according to experts

December 24, 2019 by  
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Outdoorsy people have long enjoyed hiking on remote trails or rafting on rivers. But aerial views have been harder to come by, until the recent popularization of zip lines. Although varieties of zip lines have existed for hundreds of years, they have become widespread in recent years. It’s a popular outdoor activity, but how does it impact trees? Zip lines originated 2,000 years ago in mountainous areas of China , India and Japan, where people first used them to transport supplies from one place to another and to traverse dangerous areas. Later, European mountaineers navigated between high points with zip lines. In the 1970s, wildlife biologists built zip lines in the Costa Rican rainforests to cause minimal environmental disturbance during their studies. These Costa Rican ziplines soon caught the attention of tourists, and entrepreneurs latched onto the idea, opening recreational zip lines in Costa Rica and then other parts of the world. Related: Inside the Mohicans — an Ohio treehouse empire The United States’ first recreational zipline, the Haleakala Skyline Tour in Maui , launched in 2002. Fewer than 20 years later, commercial zip lines operate in at least 72 countries on six continents, with more than 400 zip courses in the U.S. alone. Obviously, zip lining is popular with people. But what effect does it have on trees and forests? Inhabitat spoke with four zip-line experts to get their views on the subject. Designing a zip course When planning a zip course, designers look at topography, using hills, valleys and water features to their advantage. “People like to zip line because it makes them feel like they’re flying,” said Jon Johnson, owner and builder of Zipline Utah in Deer Creek State Park. “So, if you think about a bird flying through the air, you don’t want to fly over a parking lot. That’s no fun. You want to find some piece of ground that has unique features and aspects to it.” In Ohio, Larry Gerstner, co-owner of Hocking Hills Canopy Tours , had some advantages when he designed their second zip course. “I’m a civil engineer by trade,” he said. “When we had our first course built, it was built by Bonsai, which is maybe the leading [zip course] builder in the country. I worked with them when they built it and picked up a lot of information to go with my engineering background.” Since Gerstner already owned the property, he was familiar with its features when he designed the second course. “It’s more taking the terrain and the trees and using them to the best advantage. You need to start out high and end up low. We don’t have enough fall to do the whole thing. So all of our courses have a walk in the middle where you gain some elevation, so that you double-use the elevation.” Gerstner took advantage of the unusual Hocking Hills topography to end one zip line inside a shallow cave and cross a river several times. Attaching cables to trees The biggest danger to trees comes from attaching cables and bolts to them in order to hold up platforms. According to a report by the engineering firm Robson Forensic , “Drilling any hole into a tree creates a wound that makes the tree more susceptible to infection and decay.” So trees need to be chosen carefully. They should be healthy , sizable and of a species that can compartmentalize damage and limit the spread of decay around a wound. “We need to protect them as much as we can, and we do love our trees,” Gerstner said. Hocking Hills Canopy Tours hired an arborist to evaluate its trees and pick the best candidates for platforms. Gerstner explained that when attaching platforms to trees, they stack bolts on top of each other so that the cambrium, or growth tissue of the tree, is only disturbed in one spot. “You’re only taking a little bit of the tree that you’re using out of commission for a brief period. It does grow back around that.” Other attachments to the tree use oak blocks to minimize damage. “We cut oak blocks and put them around the tree, and put our cable through the oak blocks so that it never touches the tree and the tree can grow.” Putting a cable all the way around a tree would kill it. “We also ‘guy’ the trees, so that where we have the force of a zip line on the tree, we’ll have a guy that goes the opposite direction that holds that force, so there’s nothing really pulling on the tree,” Gerstner said. “The tree has to be able to move back and forth some, but we limit that moving back and forth to keep it strong.” Ongoing tree health Once a course is in use, staff and arborists frequently inspect trees to ensure health. Adventures on the Gorge in West Virginia operates Tree Tops Canopy Tours, a 10-zip course with five sky bridges that wind through an ancient hemlock forest. According to Roger Wilson, CEO, its Bonsai-constructed course uses the block-and-cable system. “As trees grow, the blocks and cables can be readjusted with minimal impact on these ancient trees.” In Trinidad, ZIP-ITT Adventure Tours operates a course including an 800-foot line with a stunning view of Macqueripe Bay. “We would like to think that we have enhanced many of the trees in our area as we continue to look after them, including regular spraying for termites,” said Matthew Devaux, ZIP-ITT’s director. Gerstner watches his Ohio forest closely for sick or dead trees. “So it’s not quite a natural thing. We take better care of it. It’s a managed forest.” In Utah, the way local wildlife interacts with zip lines has surprised Johnson. Unlike canopy courses that are built in trees, Johnson’s platforms are all on constructed towers. “We get a lot of hawks and a lot of bald eagles,” Johnson said. “We’ll see them swoop down and catch a fish in the lake. We’ll find half-eaten fish on our towers. They use our towers as perches.” Getting in touch with forests Zip lines are more than just an adventure. They can be a powerful way for people to connect with forests. “We would like to think we have brought an awareness to the green environment and that feeling of being one with nature as you zip around our course,” Devaux said. “Moving into Macqueripe 6.5 years ago, we brought such an awareness to our staff, who now understand the effects of littering and the impact it has on the environment. They are now like ambassadors for the area, which is a great achievement for ZIP-ITT. The team has embraced keeping the forest clean and educating those who come about the area and the flora and fauna we enjoy because of it.” Many zip guides make sure to slip some education into the adventures. Gerstner said that most of the Hocking Hills guides are ecology majors who talk about tree characteristics during the tour. “We get a lot of people from the city, and they’ve never been in the forest,” Gerstner said. “They get a bird’s eye view of being up in the trees. Most people never get that in their life.” Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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How zip lining impacts tree health, according to experts

Social media: the new capital markets activism

December 10, 2019 by  
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Increasingly, consumers and social media users are voicing their concerns — and companies are listening.

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Social media: the new capital markets activism

Looking at climate from the social angle

November 27, 2019 by  
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An NFL fullback, teen activists, a National Geographic photographer and others provide provocative talks about critical equity-climate connections.

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Looking at climate from the social angle

Is 3D printing part of the future for meat alternatives?

November 27, 2019 by  
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A new report shows how some companies and academic research labs are applying extrusion, 3D printing and cellular agriculture to produce meat alternatives.

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Is 3D printing part of the future for meat alternatives?

Fight or switch? How the low-carbon transition is disrupting fossil fuel politics

November 27, 2019 by  
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Global fossil fuel and overall energy consumption are still rising. But the new focus on them shows that the end is near.

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Fight or switch? How the low-carbon transition is disrupting fossil fuel politics

What ‘the kids’ need from the professional world on climate action

October 30, 2019 by  
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Five lessons from young activists at VERGE 19.

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What ‘the kids’ need from the professional world on climate action

A tour of Seattle Chocolate elicits a deep appreciation for cacao

October 23, 2019 by  
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In 1900 BCE, Mesoamericans used cacao beans to make a bitter, fermented drink. By 1400, Aztecs traded cacao as currency. Spaniards later thought to add sugar. Nowadays, we just go to the store when we want to buy chocolate, divorcing the exquisite substance from its historic origins. But a tour of the Seattle Chocolate factory helps visitors deepen their appreciation of one of the world’s favorite treats. This woman-owned, Rainforest Alliance-certified company has put decades of thought into how to make its treats both delicious and sustainable. A tasty tour Seattle Chocolate started in Seattle in 1991. But the Nisqually Earthquake of 2001 destroyed the original factory. One of Seattle Chocolate’s investors, entrepreneur Jean Thompson, took over as owner and CEO. The company found a new, 60,000-square-foot factory in Tukwila, a town just south of Seattle. Visitors go to this nondescript building for the tour. It is hard to believe that something so plain on the outside turns out more than 30,000 colorfully wrapped chocolate bars per day. Our tour starts in the chocolate classroom, where guide Chris Hardwick talks to us about the history of chocolate in general and Seattle Chocolate in particular. In class, we learn it takes three to five years to grow cacao. Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast produce 70 percent of cacao beans. Midges pollinate chocolate, answering that age-old question, what are midges good for? Related: Fueled by chocolate — Ghana’s newest biofuel Hardwick explained that Seattle Chocolate has two directions, the line with the original name, and Jcoco, more of a culinary experimental brand. “Seattle Chocolate is a fruit-forward, acidic chocolate,” he said in the assured language of a wine expert. Jcoco is more likely to include ingredients like edamame or cumin. Hardwick passes around jars of cacao beans and nibs, so we can smell the terroir of beans grown in different countries. Because every good factory tour requires a hairnet, we don blue netting before continuing on to the next part of the tour: the factory floor. As well as chocolate bars, Seattle Chocolate is known for its 20 truffle flavors in bright metallic wrapping. High on the catwalk, we look down at workers bent over enormous boxes of truffles, scooping armloads into smaller containers. It’s a chocolate-lover’s fantasy come to life. The tour ends with a chocolate tasting. We sit at placemats with six chunks of chocolate to compare. The regular tasting includes varieties of white, milk and dark chocolate. The vegan version offers several types of dark chocolate. Hardwick guides us through a more mindful tasting process, rather than a simple devouring. The experience changes how visitors interact with this sweet treat — it makes them more appreciative of it. Tours are offered year-round. But if you visit on certain days in October, you can experience an exciting bonus — a haunted factory . The company website explains, “A troublesome spirit has escaped and is creating havoc for the Seattle Chocolate Factory! Help repair the damage while gathering clues to speak with Ixcacao, the Goddess of Chocolate. With her help, you’ll brave the dark factory and cast the fell spirit out.” Hardwick assured me this family-friendly tour is fun, not gory. Sustainability measures Seattle Chocolate carefully addresses social responsibility throughout the entire chocolate life cycle. It uses Rainforest Alliance Certified cacao to ensure just labor practices and good environmental measures in the countries the cacao is grown. In the factory, workers compost 25,000 pounds of chocolate scraps annually. They use non-GMO ingredients in the bars and truffles. Wherever possible, Seattle Chocolate sources ingredients like fruits, spices, mint and honey from local partners. Packaging is especially problematic for environmentally conscious companies. Seattle Chocolate has recently developed cellulose truffle twist wraps made from sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees . This is significant, as it churns out 12.5 million truffles a year, wrapped in about 8,000 pounds of bright truffle twist wraps. By mid-2020, all truffle flavors will be wrapped in the new cellulose material. Customers can throw the truffle wraps into their home compost piles, where they should break down in six to eight weeks. Giving back While the ordinary chocolate fan might question the presence of edamame beans in a chocolate bar, the Jcoco line isn’t just for foodies. Thompson created the line in 2012 with an underlying goal of feeding hungry families. The company donates a fresh serving of food to those in need every time somebody buys a Jcoco bar. So far, Seattle Chocolate has donated nearly 4 million servings of food to food banks in Washington, California and New York. In addition to tours, Seattle Chocolate invites the public in for events like tastings of new seasonal chocolate flavors or classes on pairing beer with chocolate. It hosts the haunted chocolate factory in October, and a large holiday party in December. + Seattle Chocolate Images by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority

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A tour of Seattle Chocolate elicits a deep appreciation for cacao

How marketers and advertisers can prioritize climate change

September 23, 2019 by  
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Brands have the power to make an impact.

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How marketers and advertisers can prioritize climate change

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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