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

3 Green Goals Worth Setting in 2018

January 5, 2018 by  
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The start of a new year is traditionally the time … The post 3 Green Goals Worth Setting in 2018 appeared first on Earth911.com.

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3 Green Goals Worth Setting in 2018

Substantial swaths of globe face desertification without climate action – new study

January 2, 2018 by  
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Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could reduce desertification of substantial swaths of Earth, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change . The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016 is theoretically designed to ensure temperatures reach “well below 2 degrees Celsius” — but the United States, a leading contributor to climate change , rescinded its participation last June under President Donald Trump. “Our research predicts that aridification would emerge over about 20-30 percent of the world’s land surface by the time the global mean temperature change reaches 2ºC,” Manoj Joshi, lead researcher from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, told The Washington Examiner . “But two-thirds of the affected regions could avoid significant aridification if warming is limited to 1.5ºC.” More than 20 percent of the world’s population would be affected by extreme drought without action, according to the report; Central America, Southeast Asia, Southern Europe, Southern Africa and Southern Australia would be hardest hit. The UN’s Green Climate Fund was established to ensure developed countries that spew the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere contribute funds to help less developed countries, which are likely to suffer the most, adapt to and mitigate the effects of a warming world. Related: Stephen Hawking says Trump decision to leave Paris accord could induce irreversible climate change Before the Trump administration announced the US would stop making contributions to the fund, the country had committed to a contribution of less than $10 per person, according to the New York Times . Considering how much the US contributes to climate change, that sum pales in comparison to Sweden’s $59 per capita. But for Donald Trump, $10 per person was too steep a price to pay to slow down what leading scientists like Stephen Hawking warn is one of the gravest dangers humanity has ever faced. Here’s Trump in a recent tweet showing a cringeworthy lack of understanding of climate science: In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2017 Beyond being just plain wrong, Trump’s scientific illiteracy is dangerous; not only does he promote industries that send even more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, he encourages his base to adopt the kind of wrong-thinking that could derail the kind of climate action that could have life-saving results. “The world has already warmed by 1ºC. But by reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere in order to keep global warming under 1.5ºC or 2ºC could reduce the likelihood of significant aridification emerging in many parts of the world,” said Su-Jong Jeong from China’s Southern University of Science and Technology, and a participant in the study. Drought is nothing to scoff at. It could lead to water and food scarcity, disease and war, among countless other consequences. It behooves all of us to arrest its deadly advance. + Nature Climate Change Images via DepositPhotos – Kalahari Desert , Desert Dune

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Substantial swaths of globe face desertification without climate action – new study

Revolutionary Tesla Semi Truck arrives with a whopping 500 mile driving range

November 17, 2017 by  
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It’s here: the semi truck that we’ve all been waiting for.  Tesla just unveiled its new electric 500-mile-range Semi Truck, which could revolutionize the transportation world. Semi trailer trucks move goods all over the country, and without them we’d never get our stuff as fast as we do now, but they come with one big disadvantage – emissions. Today’s trucks are powered by dirty diesel engines that emit a large portion of the harmful pollutants in our air, but that could soon change. Not only does the Tesla Semi have a driving range of 500 miles, but it can also reach 60 mph in five seconds without a trailer, which is a fraction of the time that it takes for a comparable diesel truck . With an 80,000 pound load, Tesla estimates that the truck will reach 60 mph in 20 seconds, which normally takes a diesel truck about a minute. The Tesla Semi requires no shifting or clutching for smooth acceleration and deceleration, and its regenerative braking recovers 98% of kinetic energy to the battery, giving it a basically infinite brake life. Even with a 500 mile driving range, drivers will need to find a place to recharge their Tesla Semi, so Tesla has announced new Megachargers that will add about 400 miles in 30 minutes. Inside the Tesla Semi’s cabin is designed specifically around the driver, with full standing room inside, and a centered driver position for better visibility. The driver also has two touchscreen displays positioned symmetrically on both sides that provide access to navigation, blind spot monitoring and electronic data logging. The Tesla Semi can also travel in a convoy, where one or several Semi trucks will be able to autonomously follow a lead Semi, making it even easier for the driver to travel long distances. Related: Cummins beats Tesla with a fully-electric semi truck The truck is also much safer than traditional semi trucks. According to Elon Musk, jackknifing is impossible thanks to independent motors on each will that can adjust torque as needed, and the roll risk is greatly reduced. It can even function of two of the motors fail for some reason. They are also more reliable, because Tesla guarantees them for a million miles, and the brake pads don’t need replacing. There is also no transmission to worry about. Best of all, according to Musk, is his favorite feature: thermonuclear explosion-proof glass. Tesla changed the auto industry when it debuted the Model S, but can it do the same thing with its Semi Truck? When the Model S debuted, Tesla didn’t really have any big rivals, but the Tesla Semi Truck already has a growing list of competitors, including Bosch, Cummins , and Daimler. There are even a few start ups that are trying to get into the segment. At the event, Musk also revealed that Tesla is releasing an updated Roadster. It will be the fastest production car ever made and will have a top speed of 250 miles per hour with a range of 620 miles. You can reserve the Tesla Semi for $5,000 and production is expected to start in 2019. Images @Tesla + Tesla

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Revolutionary Tesla Semi Truck arrives with a whopping 500 mile driving range

Italy bans the use of animals in circuses

November 13, 2017 by  
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Animal rights activists are winning victories as more countries prohibit animals in circus acts. This month the Italian Parliament adopted legislation to phase out animals in traveling shows and circuses, according to Animal Defenders International (ADI). It’s a big move, as there are an estimated 100 circuses with 2,000 animals in Italy . Italy became the 41st country to pass measures prohibiting animals in circuses. ADI said on their Facebook page that Italy’s Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini promoted the legislation to phase out animals in circuses. Related: America’s largest animal circus closes after 146 years ADI president Jan Creamer said in a statement, “Traveling from place to place, week after week, using temporary collapsible cages and pens, circuses simply cannot provide for the needs of the animals. Through ADI’s undercover investigations we have shown the violence and abuse that is used to force these animals to obey and perform tricks. We applaud Italy and urge countries like the UK and the US to follow this example and end this cruelty.” It’s not yet clear how Italy’s phase-out will play out; ADI said within a year, Italy will outline how the law will be implemented through a ministerial decree. It’s not yet known how long circuses will have to phase animals out of their shows. ZME Science highlighted some of the issues with animals performing in circuses, pointing to an investigation from researchers at Wageningen University. They found 71 percent of observed animals were experiencing medical issues, and 33 percent of lions and tigers didn’t have access to an outdoor enclosure. They said circus lions spent 98 percent of their time inside on average. Elephants spent 17 hours a day shackled on average, and tigers – though scared of fire – were often forced to jump through flaming hoops. Ireland also stood up for animal rights recently , with a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses that will take effect on January 1, 2018. Via Animal Defenders International ( 1 , 2 , 3 ) Images via Wikimedia Commons and ~Pawsitive~Candie_N on Flickr

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Beech Architects convert 125-year-old windmill into a modern guesthouse

September 26, 2017 by  
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Beech Architects converted a 125-year-old windmill in Suffolk, England, into a modern guest house for rent. Complete with a metal-clad observation pod on top, the new guesthouse is well insulated and features custom-made furniture that fits its constraining circular layout. The 60-foot high windmill was built in 1891 and had a role in agricultural production at the time. However, the building had been disused for decades–until Beech Architects restored it. The owners, a surveyor and his wife who live in the house next door, plan to rent out the new guesthouse for extra income. Related: This windmill converted into a beach house is the perfect waterfront getaway “The biggest design challenge was the reinstatement of the cap or ‘pod’, which was not intended as a faithful historic reconstruction, but rather as contemporary and innovative interpretation that would also serve as the principal living and viewing platform ,” Beech Architects told Dezeen. Related: Rothschild Foundation Moves Into Beautifully Renovated Windmill Hill Dairy Farm The architects added insulation panels to the exterior walls and topped the entire structure with a wooden observation pod. The flexible timber rib system, manufactured by MetsaWood , is covered by 200 panels of zinc. This particular element of the conversion is why some locals complained that the structure doesn’t fit into its surroundings and looks “alien”. Nevertheless, the conversion project has recently received a RIBA award nomination. + Beech Architects Via Treehugger

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Beech Architects convert 125-year-old windmill into a modern guesthouse

Wolves return to Rome’s periphery for the first time in 100 years

September 26, 2017 by  
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The wolf , an animal that has served as a symbol of Rome since ancient times, has returned to the historic Italian city for the first time in a century. The alpha predators were recently sighted in a nature preserve at Castel di Guido, only a short distance from Leonardo DiVinci international airport and the perimeter highway encircling the capital of Italy. Scientists estimate that there are at least four wolves, two cubs and two adults, that reside in the area. According to Roman mythology, Romulus, Rome’s founder, and his brother Remus were suckled by a female wolf in a cave after being abandoned on the Tiber River. This episode is represented throughout Roman iconography, including the seal for Rome’s soccer club, AS Roma. The return of this iconic species to Rome is welcomed by the locals. “We’re very pleased that they are back,” said Alessia De Lorenzis, a professor whose work involves tracking and documenting the wolf pack. Related: American Coywolf is a fascinating hybrid species with supercharged adaptation Wolves were originally hunted in Europe and North America, nearly to extinction, in part due to their predation of livestock animals. The modern wolves of Rome seem to pose little threat to livestock as an analysis of their feces has demonstrated that they rely almost entirely on a diet of wild boar, a plentiful animal in the region. In Italy, the killing of wolves was promoted until the 1970s, a time when the Italian wolf population had fallen to about 100 animals. Wolves received protected status in 1971 and the population has since recovered to about 1,500-2,000 individuals, with a particularly robust population in the mountainous region on the border of France . Via The Telegraph Images via  the Italian League for Bird Protection

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MIT engineers devise algorithm to identify warning signs of extreme weather events

September 25, 2017 by  
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Extreme events – like a rogue wave, hurricane , or sudden extinction – often seem to strike with few hints beforehand. But what if we could predict these events before they even form? Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers came up with a framework, a computer algorithm , to spot patterns that come before such an event. According to MIT , their method may help anticipate “hotspots of instability affecting climate , aircraft performance, and ocean circulation.” It can be incredibly difficult to foresee extreme events, since many systems are complex, with many players or factors. The new MIT algorithm can be applied to a large range of systems to search for warning signs. In the past, researchers have tried to predict extreme events by solving mathematical models. But often scientists don’t fully understand the mechanisms shaping complex systems, which can lead to model errors. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: Countries where you are most likely to die from extreme climate events The new algorithm blends equations with available data . Sapsis said, “We are looking at the equations for possible states that have very high growth rates and become extreme events, but they are also consistent with data, telling us whether this state has any likelihood of occurring, or if it’s something so exotic that, yes, it will lead to an extreme event, but the probability of it occurring is basically zero.” MIT explained their algorithm acts as a sieve to catch precursors, or warning signs, that would be seen in the real world. To test their framework, they simulated a turbulent fluid flow and searched for precursors their framework predicted. Those precursors turned into extreme events, according to MIT, between 75 and 99 percent of the time. Sapsis said in a statement, “If you can predict where these things occur, maybe you can develop some control techniques to suppress them.” The journal Science Advances published the research late last week. Via MIT News and Inverse Images via Wikimedia Commons and Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

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MIT engineers devise algorithm to identify warning signs of extreme weather events

Gogoro revs up Smartscooter expansion with $300 million in new funding

September 19, 2017 by  
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Get ready Gogoro fans—the firm’s innovative electric scooters could soon be coming to a city near you. The Smartscooter maker just nabbed $300 million in new funding with an impressive list of international backers. Four new high-profile partners joining their current investors include Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management, Singapore-based Temasek, Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation, and French energy giant ENGIE. A sign of growing global support in electric vehicles, this successful round of funding will go towards Gogoro’s technology development and expansion. Launched in Taiwan in 2015, Gogoro Smartscooter quickly rose to fame and was followed by expansions in Berlin and Paris in the form of electric scooter sharing programs . The major innovation lies with how the electric vehicle is powered—instead of plugging the scooter in for charging, Smartscooter owners swap out batteries at charging stations installed throughout the city. Often described as the “Tesla of electric scooters,” the innovative Smartscooter boasts over 100 million kilometers ridden by customers, including those on their new and improved Smartscooter 2. Related: Gogoro launches Smartscooter 2 with better handling, brighter headlights, and extra storage “One of the greatest challenges of our time is transitioning our cities to a smarter and more sustainable energy and transportation infrastructure,” said Horace Luke, co- founder and CEO of Gogoro. “Gogoro provides a new approach for cities to embrace sustainable energy through a smart connected infrastructure and battery swapping system that has demonstrated success across Taiwan and Berlin. New investments from leaders like Temasek and Generation combined with investments from visionary corporations like ENGIE and Sumitomo Corporation are a strong validation of Gogoro’s business and market success.” “This is a great sign that this sustainable technology of swappable batteries is something feasible that investors with high profiles around the world see as a viable solution,” added Luke in a conversation with Inhabitat. “It shows electric is here to stay and that it’s inevitable that electric will be the dominant player in the future.” The $300 million raised will be used for further development of technology and product, such as the use of big data collected from battery swapping to optimize the network and save energy. Gogoro also has plans to expand beyond its current three cities although they haven’t yet revealed which megacity they have their eye on next. + Gogoro

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Surf artist battles massive tides to paint powerful mural in the Bay of Fundy

September 19, 2017 by  
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Sean Yoro  has a passion for creating art on precarious surfaces , but this time the intrepid street artist – who paints on a surfboard in the water – had to contend with 28-foot tide changes to create his latest piece. Yoro (known as Hula ) has just unveiled a mural of a woman that disappears underwater when the tide rises (about one foot every 15 minutes) in Canada’s Bay of Fundy. Most of Yoro’s work is usually done in undisclosed locations for legal reasons, but this time, the artist was invited by the team behind Discover Saint John to create the mural on Minas Basin, an inlet in the Bay of Fundy. The task was not easy, however, considering the area can have 28-foot tide changes in a single day. Related: Andreco paints climate change mural ahead of COP21 in Paris Needless to say, even though he didn’t have to skirt authorities this time around, it wasn’t easy painting the 30 by 45 feet mural. “It was really challenging to adapt to the tide changes, from the dangerous rip currents to the quick rate of rising and dropping water levels, averaging 1 foot every 15 minutes,” Yoro told CNN . “I had to use several calculated formulas to know the rate of the tides coming in or out every day, and use this information to know what speed I could paint for that tide change, which helped (me) pace myself in order to get the proper details finished in the figure.” Another major challenge was finding paint that would adhere to the concrete wall in such damp conditions. He was determined to use nontoxic paint for environmental reasons, but had to experiment with various types mixed with sealers to come up with a special formula that would dry quickly and withstand the water levels as he worked. Unfortunately, Yoro’s beautiful artwork is sure wash away. The mix of sun, saltwater, and algae will most likely eat away at the paint over time, but Yoro hopes his work will last at least two or three months. + Sean Yoro Via CNN

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