Subway commuters are exposed to dangerous amounts of air pollution

February 12, 2021 by  
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Millions of commuters who use underground subway systems in the U.S. are exposed to dangerous rates of air pollution , according to a recent study. The study, which sampled air quality in 71 underground stations across the U.S., has revealed air pollution during the morning and evening rush is nothing short of disastrous. The cities that are most affected include New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C. The researchers focused on measuring the level of PM2.5 within these underground transit systems. The recommended safe level of PM2.5 in the air is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. In the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) system, the researchers recorded 251 micrograms per cubic meter. The Washington, D.C. system was another highly contaminated train service, recording 145 micrograms per cubic meter. Related: Air pollution caused by fossil fuels kills millions The worst-case scenario was recorded at Christopher Street station in Manhattan. The station helps connect New York and New Jersey with its rapid trains. But, unfortunately, at a rate of 1,499 micrograms per cubic meter, the station’s pollution was found to be 77 times that of the air outside. According to Terry Gordon, professor at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, the amount of pollution in New York is the most alarming. “It was the worst pollution ever measured in a subway station, higher than some of the worst days in Beijing or Delhi,” Gordon said of Christopher Street station. “New Yorkers, in particular, should be concerned about the toxins they are inhaling.” The study’s researchers said that a person commuting daily on these systems is exposed to a higher risk of certain health conditions. They noted that a daily commuter at Christopher Street has a 10% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. After analyzing the collected samples, researchers realized that the particles contain iron and organic carbon . The carbon is mainly produced from the breakdown of fossil fuels and is linked to respiratory conditions when inhaled. “This is an important contribution, especially to our understanding of the disproportionate burden of air pollution faced by low-income communities and communities of color,” said Gretchen Goldman, research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “As the scientific community works to better understand exposure and potential health effects of air pollution in the urban environment, I hope local decision makers use this valuable work to inform the best ways to address the known racial and socioeconomic inequities in air pollution exposure in U.S. cities.” Via The Guardian Image via Wes Hicks

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Hoefling House achieves near net-zero status

February 4, 2021 by  
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Located on a main street in Boulder, Colorado , Hoefling House flaunts craftsmanship while disguising a nearly net-zero existence. While appearing massive to the street-side visitor, the home includes meticulous attention to detail that compresses a lot into 3,100 square feet. Built in collaboration between Rodwin Architecture and Skycastle Construction, the project’s goal was to compose a “clean, bold, and original modern design.” Furthermore, the client requested the highest levels of sustainability. The house earned a LEED Platinum certification and a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) of 14 (scale of 0 to 150), ranking exceedingly high for  energy efficiency  and green construction. Hoefling House delivers this without sacrificing aesthetics or function.  Related: A lakeside, prefab home in Quebec aims for LEED Gold Rodwin and Skycastle obtained these accolades (along with the clients’ praise) by using a combination of  passive solar design , a 10kWh solar PV array tucked onto the roof, a ground source heat pump and boiler, radiant flooring with high thermal mass, foam insulation, Energy Star “tuned” windows, all LED lights, Energy Star appliances, EPA Watersense plumbing fixtures, and a heat recovery ventilator. To ensure the team met marks along the way, a LEED Manager and engineers consulted on the project.  The welcoming and functional exterior uses board-form concrete, stucco and clear Douglas fir, creating a “distinctly Colorado” style. Meanwhile, warm modernism defines the home’s  interior design . To achieve this vibe, co-project managers and designers Jocelyn Parlapiano and Cecelia Daniels served up a thoughtful color and material palette and all finishes. Design elements range from radiant heated Travertine tiles to the antique bureau in the entrance. Other features include a live roof garden located on a second-floor balcony and an acoustically tuned concert room inside. Nature was a central element for both the interior and exterior design plans. At Parlapiano’s suggestion, the team decided to take advantage of passive  solar energy  by rotating the structure. This allowed the windows to face south, not only providing sunlight in the winter but roofline protection in the summer. This orientation also allows the clients to take in “southwestern views of the Flatirons, sky, and several towering specimen Ponderosa Pines on the property, along with plenty of natural light.” Features throughout blur the line between indoor and outdoor spaces, making use of massive windows and sliding doors that open up to create a massive open-air lounge area. The surrounding area is equally equipped for outdoor living with a built-in BBQ grill, integrated planters, gas fire pit, dining table, raised-bed veggie garden  and fruit tree orchard.  Embracing the elements of sustainability, innovation and function, Hoefling House is, as the architects state, “as smart and efficient as it is modern and chic.” + Rodwin Architecture a nd Skycastle Construction Via Modern Architecture + Design Society Images via Modern Architecture + Design Society 

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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021

January 25, 2021 by  
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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021 Ben Ratner Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:00 This year, financial institutions must make a significant leap forward on climate — from pledges to progress. Even amidst a global pandemic, 2020 proved climate finance and a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are more than passing fads, with net-zero financed emissions commitments from Morgan Stanley , JP Morgan  and a group of 30 international asset managers —  Net Zero Asset Management Initiative   — with $9 trillion in assets under management. At the start of 2021, leading investors openly recognize that climate change presents a massive systemic risk and a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. But for the vast majority of firms, the real work of implementing climate and ESG integration is ahead. With increasing public, government and shareholder attention on climate, here are three ways sustainable finance leaders will emerge in 2021. 1. Integrate climate into core business A 2050 net-zero vision may be an inspiration, but it is not a plan. To realize its ambitions, Wall Street must integrate climate into its core business, evolving its approach to capital allocation and changing its relationships with carbon-intensive industries. Asset owners will demand no less of asset managers. This transition will require a far sharper focus on short-term, sector-specific benchmarks tied to decarbonization pathways — starting with the high-impact industries that matter most for solving the climate crisis.  For example, in the oil and gas sector, investors can assess progress and pace toward net-zero by monitoring companies’ methane emissions, flaring intensity, capital expenditures, lobbying and governance. Concentrating on five key metrics over a five-year period will allow investors to distinguish climate leaders from laggards. As with other core financial issues, monitoring metrics is just the start. To advance their climate commitments, investors should pair metrics with accountability. For asset managers, corporate climate performance should strongly inform investment stewardship, proxy voting and fund construction. For banks, climate benchmarks should influence loan eligibility, interest rates and debt covenants. Wall Street knows how to set quantitative targets and factor corporate performance and risk into financial decisions — now climate must become part of the new business as usual. 2. Align proxy voting with climate goals Advancing sustainable investing in 2021 will also necessitate a shift in proxy voting among the world’s largest asset managers. Last year, BlackRock and Vanguard voted against the vast majority of climate-related shareholder proposals filed with S&P 500 companies. BlackRock opposed 10 of 12 resolutions endorsed by the Climate Action 100+ , a coalition it joined last January, and later signaled an intention to support more climate votes in future years. There’s a better way. Both PIMCO and Legal and General Investment Management supported 100 percent of climate-related proposals filed with S&P 500 firms during last year’s proxy season, sending a powerful message to CEOs about the materiality of climate risk. As asset managers around the world unveil new ESG products and brand themselves as sustainability pioneers, proxy voting will become the litmus test for climate authenticity in finance for 2021.   3. Support regulations and policies required to decarbonize While the finance community has traditionally taken a hands-off approach to public policy advocacy, industry norms are changing . Investors understand that scaling the climate finance market depends on Paris-aligned government action, and some have proven willing to engage on issues ranging from carbon pricing to methane standards . With the incoming Biden administration prioritizing climate, investors should double down on climate-friendly advocacy , supporting both financial regulations and regulations of carbon-intensive sectors consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario. As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has emphasized, updated regulation of the financial system is needed to help monitor and manage economy-wide climate risks. As linchpins of capital markets, banks and asset managers have a crucial role to play in pushing federal agencies to safeguard the economy from climate-related shocks. For example, supporting rigorous mandatory climate risk disclosure from the SEC and appropriate ESG rulemaking from the Department of Labor can help investors build Paris-aligned portfolios. However, investor-led policy advocacy cannot end with financial regulation. As the Global Financial Markets Association noted , reaching net-zero by 2050 involves both financial regulation and environmental regulation of carbon-intensive sectors. The right mix of emission standards and incentives can slash pollution, drive technological innovation and improve the economics of low carbon investments. Given the rise of passive index investing, supporting government action in carbon-intensive sectors is essential, as leading financial firms favor continued investment over sector level divestment. In particular, policies and regulations to cut methane emissions and flaring, to accelerate vehicle electrification and to clean up the electric grid should be top priorities in 2021. Contributors Gabe Malek Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin Investing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Ambitious partnerships on climate action are taking root and bearing fruit

January 25, 2021 by  
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Ambitious partnerships on climate action are taking root and bearing fruit Dominic Waughray Mon, 01/25/2021 – 00:30 Buried beneath the dour daily headlines on COVID-19 infections, lockdowns and travel bans, the latest science about our planet released during 2020 makes for tough reading. Despite the reductions in air travel and the global economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, climate change sadly has not slowed down this past year. We have only until 2030 to  get things on track  for a net-zero and nature-positive economy — this should sharpen our minds for action. Unfortunately, as the economic effects of COVID-19 cause government debts to rise sharply, there is now much less public money available for activities like climate protection or ecosystem restoration — this should sharpen our appetite for innovation. How then to make the shift to a net-zero, nature-positive economy within the decade? If there is good news, it is this: The pandemic has shown that when our backs are against the wall, incredible things are possible. The partnerships catalyzed between governments, scientists and the private sector to produce a suite of new vaccines within 12 months are a remarkable testament to our ability to innovate at scale, fast, when we feel we must. The state of the planet 2020 was, along with 2016, the joint hottest year  on record ever — closing out the warmest decade on record ever. Global average temperatures are now about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This is getting uncomfortably close to the 1.5 degrees C cap on average warming that governments pledged to aim for when they signed the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to avoid dangerous climate change. What  scientists observed during 2020  should worry us all. In the Arctic,  temperatures  are rising at twice the global rate.  Floods  affected more than 10 million people across China, India, Nepal, Japan and Bangladesh, and there were a record 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic, with a record 12 making landfall. Unprecedented wildfires raged across  Australia  and California, with the Australia fires releasing about three-quarters of the CO2 that the country’s industry emitted in 2018-19. The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Less visibly,  more than 80 percent of the ocean in 2020 suffered marine heatwaves , providing more energy for tropical storms, as well as impacting sea life and spoiling fish harvests for the billions of people who rely on the ocean for their food and jobs. In June 2020, the United Nations warned of an impending global food crisis, the worst seen for over 50 years, noting the ” perfect storm ” playing out between these environmental changes and the impact of COVID-19, especially for poorer countries. It is no surprise then that the World Economic Forum  Global Risks Report 2021  identifies climate action failure, extreme weather and biodiversity loss, alongside infectious diseases, as the top global risks for the next decade in terms of impact and likelihood. As with COVID-19, perhaps so with climate? The climate and nature crises are now an urgent mainstream issue for many voters, especially among Generation Z. Many  institutional investors  are also seeing the risks and are shifting their money accordingly. Given these voter and investor pressures, an unprecedented level of collaboration and innovation is required among leading “real economy” players from industry, technology and finance, to work together and with government and civil society and make big things happen, fast. Promisingly, for several years, especially since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, an ecosystem of ambitious partnerships for action on climate and nature has been taking root and growing, often with the help of the World Economic Forum. We are now able to start reaping the early rewards of this harvest. For example, the  Mission Possible Partnership  gets leading heavy-industry companies, banks and governments to create investment-grade “net-zero” sector strategies in seven key areas of the global economy — aviation, shipping, trucks, chemicals, steel aluminum and cement. More than 200 companies and organizations are so far involved. This effort has the potential to tackle 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The  Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP)  gets leading consumer goods companies, waste specialists and banks to work with governments to create investment-grade plans for tackling plastic waste pollution, and then trigger the finance and projects to make it happen. Launched in 2018 with the Canadian and UK Governments, GPAP is now helping countries across ASEAN and West Africa to tackle ocean plastic waste. GPAP in Indonesia is helping the government deliver its  national target  to reduce ocean plastic waste in Indonesia 70 percent by 2025 and to be plastic waste-free by 2040. 1T.org (trillion trees)  is a partnership platform that gets leading governments, businesses, technology companies, scientists and civil society groups to work together on initiatives that will conserve, restore and grow a trillion trees by 2030. Such “nature-based solutions” like 1t.org , undertaken alongside the decarbonization of energy and industry systems, can help provide up to  one-third of the climate solution  required by 2030 to keep on track with the Paris Climate Agreement. The  1t.org United States Chapter  was launched in August 2020; so far more than 26 U.S. companies, nonprofits and governments have pledged to conserve, restore and grow more than 1 billion trees across the contiguous U.S. by 2030, and committed to supporting actions such as mapping technology and carbon finance worth billions of dollars. In October 2020 the  One Trillion Trees Interagency Council  was established to be responsible for coordinating federal government support of 1T.org in the US and internationally. These and many other examples of public-private partnerships and alliances are helping to accelerate large scale, practical action for a net-zero, nature positive economy by 2030. They connect together states, cities, provinces, civil society groups, businesses, investors, innovators and technologists. They are also connecting business leaders, technology and finance within key industrial sectors and across global supply chains, as companies work with and learn from each other. And they are spurring leadership groups such as the  Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders  to engage with politicians and decision-makers, to further raise ambition and give business confidence to governments about the pathway ahead. Leaders in this CEO group already have net-zero commitments linked to companies with at least 1.5Gt of global emissions as disclosed in 2019. In an age where transparency and authenticity are key, these partnerships and alliances work to deliver their results in line with the latest science, with the companies involved increasingly adopting disclosure and measurement systems like science-based targets and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) metrics, such as the common  framework being developed by the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council . Coming together for impact The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Imagine if we could bring many more companies, investors and governments together into these and other “high ambition” coalitions, underpinned by the science-based targets we must meet by 2030, and designed to drive the net-zero, nature-based transition we must create: this would bring to life a real economy that works for people and nature alike and for the long term. Indeed, one of our recent  Nature Action Agenda reports , identified that such a nature positive transition could generate 395 million new jobs by 2030. That is the kind of “real economy” win-win we sorely need in our COVID recovery plan. Inspired by the incredible public-private sprints on vaccine collaboration for COVID-19 and mandated by the universally accepted United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 17 on revitalizing global partnerships for sustainable development, we must ensure that such large-scale, public-private collaboration for ambitious climate, nature and food security outcomes become mainstream during 2021. These are the partnership vehicles that can bring together industry, investors and civil society to speed and scale impact, drawing on wide networks of innovation, expertise and resources from across the real economy, at a time when public funds are scarce. To spur these efforts, official climate and biodiversity events should more deeply involve government, industry, investors, civil society leaders and other key stakeholders, and be structured as annual “accelerators” focused on scaling the system change innovation, financing, job creation and partnerships required to ensure we are on track to achieve our 2030 goals. Encouragingly, the official climate COP 26 hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November seems to be leaning in this direction. Pull Quote The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Topics Climate Change Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How the Sunrise Movement is changing the climate activism game

January 21, 2021 by  
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Climate change has remained a central topic internationally for some time. Although a few non-believers still dismiss the idea, science has repeatedly shown the damaging effects of human activity on the  environment . The Sunrise Movement represents a growing force that encourages all citizens to work towards better balance for the planet at an individual, governmental or corporate level.  It’s a grassroots movement with feet on the ground across the nation. Members attend organized events, talk with people on the street and even spread their message door to door. The group’s ongoing efforts lead to a continued increase in numbers, which has helped publicize their mission to advocate for the environment. This membership allows the Sunrise Movement to make a statement in large groups, which proves especially powerful since one of the group’s guiding principles is to remain non-violent at all times. Related: Kids are hungry for books about eco-activists, in what publishers call ‘the Greta effect’ The Sunrise Movement is unique in several ways, the main one being that most members are under the age of 30. Youth, passion and concerns for their futures as citizens of the planet drive the group of teens and young adults. Members unite to educate citizens, but also take activism to a political level by encouraging the election of leaders willing to work towards the health and well-being of the planet and its citizens. They regularly organize campaigns for candidates who support the cause and demonstrations against representatives who don’t. Most recently, members contacted over 6.5 million voters to drive the largest youth turnout in history. Additionally, the Sunrise Movement presented president-elect Joe Biden with a comprehensive climate mandate that includes specific candidate recommendations for cabinet picks. Members also outlined the installation of a new executive called The Office of Climate Mobilization to focus on reversing climate change as a national project. Although the Sunrise Movement originally endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential election, the group shifted behind president-elect Biden after his primary win. The organization also targets fossil fuel executives to draw attention to and eliminate their influence on policy. Members refuse to step away due to pressure or fear of retribution. Instead, they make their voices heard in one-on-one scenarios as well as at very public events. For example, in February 2020, middle and high school students demonstrated in the U.S. Capitol Building. Twenty of them, one as young as 13, were arrested during the event. Those not arrested stood, arms linked or holding signs, peacefully addressing lawmakers who have failed to implement action to heal climate change. Specifically, that group at the capitol and the movement as a whole are focused on implementing The Green New Deal , a set of principles aimed at reversing climate change, eliminating poverty and creating sustainable jobs for working Americans. Although the group applies direct pressure at the governmental level, an equally-important mission is to encourage the masses to push through legislation in alignment with The Green New Deal at a local, city, county and state level. Although some members aren’t even old enough to vote, their message shines through conversations within classrooms, churches and communities across the country. Tapping into the youthful members’ energy and focus offers a unique opportunity to empower the voices people often disregard. The movement provides youths with a chance to share their ideas and speak out for policies critical to their futures. By coming together as a larger unit, they not only create a bigger vision and louder voice but also create a tidal wave of energy that continues to gather momentum. Members proudly display this energy via banners that read, “Our Time to Rise.” Their mission is focused, and they are determined to rattle the doors of every politician failing to take action. Although peaceful, the Sunrise Movement refuses to be ignored. As stated on the Sunrise Movement website, “Our generation is done asking nicely.” Even with members in every state and Puerto Rico, it’s sometimes difficult to be heard. This difficulty motivated the group to adopt a tactic from the past century, inspired by the Wide Awakes, a pro-abolition mass youth movement in the 1860s. The group began gathering at the doors of politicians and shouting, chanting, and singing to wake them up both physically and to the reality of the world’s climate crisis . Since there is no formal membership, the Sunrise Movement’s number of activists is estimated at around 80,000 who have participated in some way, from making phone calls to sending mailings. Around 15,000 members are estimated to have attended events in person. Not a bad beginning to an army that only began forming three years ago. Perhaps more powerful than the number of members is the strength of the mindset. The Sunrise Movement is wholly dedicated to the mission of forcing open the eyes of politicians who refuse to see the same future they see for themselves. Where some young adults their age look forward to a decade of career building, the Sunrise Movement sees a closing window of opportunity. As the deadline set by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlines, 2030 represents the point of no return for the world to drastically lower emissions or suffer the effects of a climate catastrophe. + Sunrise Movement  Via Vox and Teen Vogue   Images via Hailey Asquin, Nelson Klein, Evan McEldowney, Ken Schles, Kell Schneider, Rachael Warriner and Josh Yoder

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An autism-friendly hospital emphasizes nature for resiliency and healing

January 13, 2021 by  
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Charleston, South Carolina has raised the bar for inclusive healthcare design with the opening of the new Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion. Designed by Perkins and Will in collaboration with associate architect McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture, the new, 625,000-square-foot facility aims to be one of the country’s most autism-friendly hospitals with its welcoming design that emphasizes access to natural light, a warm materials palette and an abundance of greenery indoors and out. The building also prioritizes resiliency by placing all patient care areas above the designated flood elevation and integrating flood-proof panels, an absorbent native planting plan and a series of flood walls into its design.  Using feedback from parents with children who are on the autism spectrum, the architects crafted calming interiors that take into account the full-sensory experience — from the removal of automatic flushers and hand dryers in bathrooms to the minimization of visual clutter — as a means of avoiding potential triggers. The biophilic design also taps into the healing power of nature by creating connections between the indoors and out wherever possible. Fresh air, natural light, indoor greenery and nature-inspired artwork by local artists create a joyful indoor atmosphere. Related: Biophilic campus provides a safe haven for children with autism The rich culture and history of Charleston also inspired the interior design, from the two-story main lobby with recycled cypress paneling that takes cues from historic Charleston’s Courtyard Garden to a large-scale, stained glass artwork that evokes Angel Oak, an approximately 400-year-old Southern Live Oak. Timber-lined patient bedrooms mimic local beach houses and come with simple furnishings and customizable features to encourage children to decorate their own spaces. The 10-story, 250-bed facility is set back from the street to make room for an “urban green space” in a nod to Charleston’s famous civic gardens. Defined by a low seat wall that can help mitigate low-level flooding events, the landscape is planted with native species for low maintenance. Outdoor terraces on the seventh and eighth floors also connect the hospital with the outdoors.  + Perkins and Will Photography by James Steinkamp and Halkin Mason via Perkins and Will

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2 gorillas at the San Diego Zoo test positive for COVID-19

January 13, 2021 by  
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Two gorillas have tested positive for COVID-19 for the first time since the pandemic started. The gorillas showed symptoms, including coughing, at the San Diego Zoo last week. The staff took tests, which came back positive early this week. “Despite all our efforts and dedication from our team members to protect the wildlife in our care, our gorilla troop has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2,” said Lisa Peterson, executive director of the zoo. Related: WWF releases report on avoiding the next zoonotic disease pandemic Zoo officials indicated that the animals might have contracted the disease from an asymptomatic member of the staff. Specialists look at this incident as proof that the biggest risk in the transmission of the virus is proximity to the infected party. “The fact that we are just seeing the first evidence of ape exposure now after months of transmission potential for captive and wild apes underscores the importance of proximity, as opposed to contaminated surfaces, as the primary source of infection,” said Thomas R. Gillespie, a disease ecologist and conservation biologist at Emory University. Throughout the pandemic, there have been concerns about the possibility of humans infecting animals and vice versa. There have been some reports of humans passing the virus to pets such as dogs and cats, but there has been no conclusive report to ascertain the risk that animals face. The most severe cases were reported in Europe, where millions of minks on fur farms were culled . In another incident, a tiger at Bronx Zoo in New York City tested positive for the disease in April 2020. Later the same year, four tigers and three lions also tested positive for COVID-19. The news of the San Diego Zoo gorillas contracting the virus is already causing concerns among conservationists. The biggest risk lies in Africa , where the only remaining populations of wild gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees are found. Given that gorillas and other great apes share approximately 95% of the human genome, they are likely to suffer similar effects of the virus as humans. “Confirmation that gorillas are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 does give us more information about how the pandemic may affect these species in native habitats where they come into contact with humans and human materials,” the zoo said in a statement. “By working with health officials, conservationists, and scientists to document this case, we will be expanding our knowledge about this potential challenge so that we can develop steps to protect gorillas in the forests of Africa.” + San Diego Zoo Via Mongabay Image via San Diego Zoo

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Trumps name found scraped into a manatees back

January 13, 2021 by  
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Manatees resemble half-ton potatoes, but researchers can tell them apart. According to Patrick Rose, aquatic biologist and executive director for Save the Manatee Club, most adult manatees have unique scars from accidents like boat strikes. But one manatee stands out more than the rest. This week, viral videos showed a West Indian manatee with “Trump” scraped into its back. The maimed manatee was spotted in Florida’s Homosassa River last Sunday. In 2019, Inhabitat reported on illegal interactions between manatees and humans in this same river. Related: Effects of COVID-19 lead to increased deaths of Florida manatees While scraping the presidential surname into a layer of algae will probably not injure a manatee — unless the perpetrator scrapes too hard and the sea cow becomes infected — it is still harassment. Under U.S. law, anyone guilty of harassing a manatee faces a $50,000 fine and up to a year in prison. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is leading an investigation into the defiled manatee. The Center for Biological Diversity is adding $5,000 as a reward for intel leading to a conviction of the responsible party. “It’s a little hard to see the extent of damage from the video,” said Ruth Carmichael, marine biologist at Dauphin Island Sea Lab. “It is harassment, regardless. If the scrape penetrates the skin, then it likely caused some pain and stress. The animals have nerves and sensory hairs in the skin. Additionally, open wounds could become infected.” Florida has an estimated 6,300 manatees, a big increase from a 1991 estimate of 1,267. But the gentle giants are susceptible to terrible fates due to human activity. At least 10 were drowned or crushed last year by locks and floodgates, in addition to the usual boat strikes. In 2017, the IUCN upgraded manatees from endangered to vulnerable. But it’s especially cruel that a creature that has faced the threat of extinction should have to bear the surname of a man who has spent the last four years weakening protections of endangered species . Do you have information on who scraped “Trump” onto the manatee? Call the wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477 or email FWS_TIPS@FWS.GOV . Via BBC , HuffPost and Save the Manatee Club Image via NOAA

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Families turn old police station into sustainable co-housing

January 1, 2021 by  
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Belgian design firm  Polygoon Architectuur  and Jouri De Pelecijn Architect have brought to life the dream of four local families: a sustainable collaborative housing project that maintains sufficient privacy while providing shared functions. Dubbed Living Apart Together, the four-unit co-housing development is located within a former police station in  Antwerp . The adaptive reuse project emphasizes sustainable design by integrating energy-efficient systems, renewable materials and a green roof. Located within cycling distance of the city center, the Living Apart Together project features shared bicycle storage as well as  car-sharing . As a result, the area along the street side that was originally dedicated to paved parking spaces has now been transformed into a front garden with lush greenery for the benefit of both the inhabitants and the surrounding neighborhood.  The architecture studio converted the former Antwerp police station into four equal-sized family units that are segmented with an extra dividing wall that bisects the original middle bay. Since the environmentally friendly design was a construction goal from the very beginning, the architects took care to preserve the building’s internal arrangement as well as the  brickwork  architecture seen on the front facade. Though each dwelling is roughly the same size, each unit features a slightly different structure; the outer units, for example, include an extra extension on the first floor.  Related: Zaha Hadid Architects turn an old fire station into a sparkling port headquarters for Antwerp In addition to reusing existing materials, the architects crafted the co-housing project with a materials palette comprised mainly of renewable resources such as wood and cellulose. The multi-family residence also includes a  green roof  and rainwater harvesting systems, as well as solar water heaters to reduce the property’s environmental footprint. Garage boxes that were located in the original courtyard have also been demolished to create a spacious common garden viewable from the residents’ dining rooms, adding “a breath of fresh air in busy Deurne.” + Polygoon Architectuur Images © Frederik Beyens, Jessy van der Werff and Stijn Bollaert

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Artist Camille Walala envisions a carless Oxford Street for London

December 31, 2020 by  
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The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has been a lot of things, and one of them is an opportunity to delve into creative design. So when established artist and designer Camille Walala biked onto the typically bustling Oxford Street during the first lockdown in London, the creative juices started flowing. Seeing the empty street prompted Walala to imagine what the space could look like if it were permanently converted from a street to a pedestrian-only hub. Her trademark blocky and colorful architectural installments became a central element in the design, with bold elements that stand in steep contrast to the street’s current two-dimensional, monochromatic and car- polluting status. Related: Barcelona to transform Eixample streets into car-free zones Walala sees the project as an expression of love for a city she’s called home for 23 years — a city that has provided endless inspiration and opportunities throughout her career as an interior and street art designer. “I found myself with more and more opportunities to develop my practice and ideas — to play with pattern and colour at larger and larger scales,” Walala explained. “If I’d lived somewhere else, if I’d not been rooted in London’s creative scene, surrounded by the people I was, I don’t know if I’d even have become an artist.” The vision came during a bike ride with Walala’s partner, creative producer Julia Jomaa, and the event sparked an imaginative discussion about how the space could be used for public gathering along the lines of an agora in ancient Greece. The image for the space on Oxford Street, however, is not only functional but visually demanding with contrasting bright colors alongside black-and-white geometric patterns. A massive, centralized water fountain is surrounded by seemingly interlocking geometric blocks. It’s a little like a larger-than-life Lego installment. Striking planters curve throughout the area, providing seating and a space for interacting with nature. Although the design is an inspired vision of what the area could be, it’s also a potential realization of “a serious proposal for a new, more enriching urban landscape.” The discussion of creating a car-free capital isn’t a new one, but Walala’s dramatic and artistic spin may just be the inspiration the city needs to make the change toward a pedestrian-focused plaza for generations to come. After all, a pandemic is the perfect time to contemplate the future. “This project is my what-if portrait of the city of tomorrow, and my own projection of what the London I love might one day look like,” Walala said. + Camille Walala Via Dezeen Photography by Camille Walala with Omni Visual and Dunja Opalko

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Artist Camille Walala envisions a carless Oxford Street for London

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