Millions of insect species will go extinct before we even discover them

December 14, 2017 by  
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Only 200 years ago did humans begin to systematically categorize the species, and within that relatively small stretch, we’ve recorded about 2 million species of plants, animals, fungi. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. By some estimates, we still have another 2 million to uncover, and by others, there are upwards of 100 million left to be classified. However, with deforestation, sprawl, and, above all, climate change putting the planet in jeopardy, scientists believe millions of species will die off before we will even encounter them. And the implications of this are far-reaching. For several decades, scientists have warned that we are headed into, or may even be experiencing, the sixth mass extinction . As The Guardian notes , there have been five other instances like this in the past, including the end-Cretaceous extinction, which led to the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. However, to know for certain if we’re amidst doom and gloom, scientists need to determine the rate at which species are disappearing, and when human activity is factored in, how by how much this rate increases. Related: Plummeting insect population signals potential “ecological Armageddon” Previous studies have deemed humans to indeed be major drivers, possibly causing animal species to go extinct “up to 100 times” faster because of human activity, as one  team of American and Mexican scientists  found. However, Terry Erwin, a world-renowned tropical entomologist, says that the data that has historically been used in these studies is wholly incomplete and “biased towards a very small portion of biodiversity.” Rather, if scientists want an accurate picture of existing conditions, they need to look beyond vertebrates to invertebrates like worms, snails, spiders, octopuses, and most importantly insects, which account for about 70 percent of the Earth’s living creatures. Indeed, only one in 200 of all known species is a mammal. With that said, to determine the true rate of extinction of species on Earth, you need to determine the scale of the insect kingdom—and this is the biggest challenge. While the scope of the insect population is still being explored, The Guardian does cite a “breakthrough” that’s offered some insight into what we’re dealing with. In 1982, Erwin headed to a rainforest in Panama with the goal of determining how many species of insect lived on average across one acre of forest. He chose one tree, which he draped in sheeting and used blasts of insecticide to fog the bugs out. Over several hours, as the insects evacuated the tree onto the sheeting, Erwin was able to collect 1,200 species of bugs, of which he later determined more than 100 of which were exclusive to that one tree. From those findings, he averaged that there are about 41,000 different species per hectare of rainforest, and in turn 30 million species worldwide. The estimates, however, he now deems conservative and suspects the number could actually be between 80 and 200 million, but adds that tens of thousands of them are probably disappearing annually without us even knowing. Of no surprise, climate change is being pinned as the fundamental driver of the great insect die off. Scientists have even noticed drops in the virgin forests of Ecuador and places where insecticides aren’t being used and humans have not cut down a single tree. As the Guardian writes, based on data collected, Erwin and his collaborators have found that the Amazon rainforest has been slowly dying out over the last 35 years. “[If the forest goes out] everything that lives in it will be affected,” he told the site. The disappearance of insect life on Earth would surely mean the end of all life on Earth. Insects are responsible for the planet’s course of evolution from flowering plants to food chains and are key to keeping those systems functioning. As EO Wilson, a celebrated Harvard entomologist, and inventor of sociobiology, tells The Guardian, humanity would last all of a few months without insects and other land-based arthropods. “After that, most of the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals would go, along with the flowering plants. The planet would become an immense compost heap, covered in shoals of carcasses and dead trees that refused to rot. Briefly, fungi would bloom in untold numbers. Then, they too would die off. The Earth would revert to what it was like in the Silurian period, 440m years ago, when life was just beginning to colonise the soil – a spongy, silent place, filled with mosses and liverworts, waiting for the first shrimp brave enough to try its luck on land.” Via The Guardian Images via MaxPixel and Wiki Commons

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Millions of insect species will go extinct before we even discover them

Alaskan city’s temperatures spiked so significantly NOAA algorithms thought they were wrong

December 13, 2017 by  
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Every month the NOAA puts together a climate report , documenting changes in average temperatures across the country. While the agency found in November that much of the U.S. had seen an “above average” or “much above average” climb—it was actually the seventh warmest November on record—nowhere was this upswing more apparent than in Barrow, Alaska, where temperatures jumped so remarkably that the NOAA’s algorithms deemed the collected data to be flawed and omitted it. As shared in the  NOAA’s report , “In early December 2017, due to a sharp, but real, increase in temperature during the 21st century at Barrow (Utqia?vik), NCEI’s quality assurance algorithms retroactively rejected the station’s monthly temperatures dating to late summer 2016.” Related: Video of starving polar bear ‘rips your heart out of your chest’ Indeed, temperatures had jumped so significantly this year that the NOAA’s system believed the data collected was a mistake. As the Denver Post writes, “this kind of quality-control algorithm is only good in ‘average’ situations with no outliers.” Deke Arndt, the chief of NOAA’s Climate Monitoring Branch, described the flub as “an ironic exclamation point to swift regional climate change in and near the Arctic.” As reported by NOAA, Barrow, which is the United States’ northernmost city, experienced its warmest November on record with a temperature of 17.2°F, 16.4°F above the 1981-2010 normal, and 1.9°F warmer than the previous record in 1950. The rise has been a result of melting sea ice, which has historically served to reflect sunlight and kept temperatures stable. “The current observed rate of sea ice decline and warming temperatures are higher than at any other time in the last 1,500 years, and likely longer than that,” the NOAA report said. Moreover, the region has seen large swaths of permafrost turn to mud (permafrost contains huge amounts of frozen greenhouse gases) and the spread of non-native plants common to warmer climates across the tundra. The Arctic region overall had its second-warmest year, just after 2016. And the above hasn’t caused you to sit up in alarm, the NOAA’s more exhaustive  Arctic Report Card , a peer-reviewed document that includes the work of 85 scientists across 12 countries, was given the title: “ Arctic shows no sign of returning to [the] reliably frozen region of recent past decades.” In other words, say hello to the “new normal.” Via Denver Post Image via Wiki Commons graphs and maps via NOAA

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Alaskan city’s temperatures spiked so significantly NOAA algorithms thought they were wrong

MIT’s winning solar-powered dome tree habitats for Mars mimic earthly forests

November 28, 2017 by  
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If humans start constructing cities on Mars , we have an opportunity to build sustainably from the start. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team designed an environmentally friendly city for the red planet that mimics a forest , with solar-powered dome tree habitats connected with roots, or tunnels. Their vision, called Redwood Forest, recently won first place in the Mars City Design competition’s architecture category. As many as 50 people can reside in each one of Redwood Forest’s domes, which offer open space with plants and water – harvested from Mars’ northern plains – atop roots with access to private spaces and other domes. The roots also protect colonizers from cosmic radiation, extreme thermal changes, or micrometeorite impacts. Related: Stefano Boeri Architects envisions a Vertical Forest City on Mars The 10,000-person city will “physically and functionally mimic a forest,” according to MIT postdoctoral researcher and team co-lead Valentina Sumini, and will draw on local resources like ice, regolith, and water . MIT doctoral student George Lordos said, “Every tree habitat in Redwood Forest will collect energy from the sun and use it to process and transport the water throughout the tree, and every tree is designed as a water-rich environment. Water fills the soft cells inside the dome providing protection from radiation, helps manage heat loads, and supplies hydroponic farms for growing fish and greens.” Solar panels will generate energy to split stored water to produce oxygen and rocket fuel, Lordos said. Solar power will also help charge hydrogen fuel cells , “necessary to power long-range vehicles as well as provide backup energy storage in case of dust storms.” These ideas wouldn’t only work on the red planet. The MIT team says many of their design features could be applied to Earth. Underground multi-level networks could ease traffic above by offering an alternative route for electric cars. Hydroponic gardens underneath cities could cultivate fresh produce with lower transportation and land costs. And their tree habitat design, MIT said, “could create living and working spaces in harsh environments, such as high latitudes, deserts, and the sea floor.” + Mars City Design Via MIT News Images via Valentina Sumini/MIT

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MIT’s winning solar-powered dome tree habitats for Mars mimic earthly forests

‘Trump Forest’ plants trees to offset president’s climate ignorance

August 15, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump is notorious for his ignorance on climate change . So instead of sitting by while his administration harms the planet, a British climate scientist, American PhD candidate, and French and Kiwi sustainable hat company founder decided to take action. They started Trump Forest to encourage people to plant trees , and have seen a huge response: so far hundreds of people around the world have pledged 130,999 trees . “Where ignorance grows trees” is the tagline of the Trump Forest project. Dan Price, Jeff Willis, and Adrien Taylor initiated the project in March of this year in New Zealand with a contribution of 1,000 native trees from Taylor’s company Offcut (which plants a tree for every cap sold). From there, hundreds of people in places as far-flung as Malawi, Japan, and the United States pledged to plant trees too. Related: Meet the teen planting 150 trees for every person on Earth Trump Forest isn’t after money, according to their website. Instead, they hope people will pay for and plant trees where they live in the name of America’s president, or donate to charity Eden Reforestation Projects . Taylor told the BBC of Trump, “Only a small percentage of the world voted him in, but we all have to deal with the consequences of his climate ignorance.” The organizers told the BBC they would need to plant a forest as big as Kentucky to offset Trump’s policies. They also estimated they’d need to offset 650 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2025 to make up for the actions of America’s commander-in-chief – that’s over 100 billion new trees. They think it’s feasible. Wouldn’t a forest named after Trump just bolster his already large ego? The organizers say people have complained about that, but they’d prefer if the president got on board. Taylor told the BBC, “We kind of want him to love the forest; this is his forest after all. We would love it if he tweeted about it.” Price said, “All we’re trying to do is pick up the slack he created and do the work for him.” If you want to get involved, you can check out the project here . + Trump Forest Via BBC Images via Pixabay and Ozark Drones on Unsplash

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Configurable wooden shelter hangs from the treetops

July 21, 2017 by  
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Need a quiet space to get away from it all? French architecture firm,  Les Etablissements Tourneux has created a multi-use wooden shelter that hangs from the tree tops. Although compact in size, the Sequoia Shelter is incredibly flexible thanks to multiple wooden planks with hinges, which allow the structure to be configured in a variety of shapes without causing harm to the tree or its branches. The shelter is made out of individual panels of spruce that can be configured in different shapes. It’s also possible to create various awnings and terraces within the design. The narrow apex at the top and flexible configuration were strategic to creating a hanging treehouse that causes little to no damage to trees and branches. Aesthetically, the natural spruce planks give the treehouse a light, airy feel. Related: Kengo Kuma envisions shapeshifting nomadic shelters woven from hundreds of identical wooden pieces The structure is incredibly easy to put together, making it a practical solution for off-grid living , an additional guest room, or just for plain, old fun. A flat base means it can be set on the ground and easily transported. Recently, the shelter was used as a music studio and lecture space for the Embranchements Festival in Nancy, France. + Les Etablissements Tourneux Via NotCot Images via Les Etablissements Tourneux

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Configurable wooden shelter hangs from the treetops

Shigeru Ban designs 20,000 homes for severely overcrowded refugee camp in Kenya

July 21, 2017 by  
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World-renowned architect, Shigeru Ban , is taking his talents to those who need it most. Working in collaboration with UN-Habitat, the UN agency that focuses on sustainable development , the 2014 Pritzker Prize recipient designed a prototype for some 20,000 new homes for refugees in Kenya’s Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement . True to form, Ban promotes the use of locally-sourced, sustainable materials in the shelter design. The Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement is currently home to almost 37,000 refugees, 17,000 of whom arrived in the first half of 2017 alone. This continuous influx of inhabitants is expected to increase over the next few months, putting the settlement, which has a capacity of 45,000, in a severely precarious situation. Related: 10 groundbreaking designs by Shigeru Ban that changed our ideas about architecture Ban is well-known for his dedication to humanitarian construction, having built various refugee and crisis shelters around the world, namely Rwanda, Italy, and Nepal. Ban is also known for his work with sustainable and locally-sourced materials, a trait that will be essential in the Kenyan camp. On a recent trip to the settlement, Ban highlighted the importance of using local construction techniques and sustainable materials , “The key thing will be to design and construct shelter where no or little technical supervision is required, and use materials that are locally available and eco-friendly. It’s important that the houses can be easily maintained by inhabitants.” The plan calls for Ban’s shelter design to be used initially as a prototype for 20 shelters. After a test period, the design, if successful, will be used to replace some of the camp’s deteriorating structures. + Shigeru Ban Via Archdaily Images via UNHCR

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Aspiring Jedis can pilot the Millennium Falcon at Disney’s upcoming ‘Star Wars’ hotel

July 21, 2017 by  
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Aspiring Jedis will now be able to practice their light saber moves at the upcoming Star Wars -themed hotel in Disney’s Orlando and Anaheim park locations. According to CNN , the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge experience will be set on a remote trading port on the edge of space. Visitors will be able to interact with a host of familiar characters, dress up in proper Star Wars attire, and even pilot the beloved Millennium Falcon, “shooting blasters or preparing for hyperspace” along the way. Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, revealed a few details of the new attraction at the recent Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, “To say we are excited for the Star Wars-themed lands to open in 2019 is an understatement,” Chapek said, “All along, we have said this will be game-changing, and through the model we can begin to see how truly epic these immersive new worlds will be.” Related: Disney’s ‘World of Pandora’ Avatar park opens with floating mountains and glowing forests Reportedly, the new park experience will be set on a remote planet in the Outer Rim where the First Order and Resistance forces are battling for control. The immersive experience will let visitors become active participants in the otherworldly atmosphere as well taking time to pilot the Millennium Falcon . On set will also be some familiar faces such as BB-8, Chewbacca, members of the First Order, and more. “You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. “It is 100% immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits,” adds Chapek. Along with the multiple interactive experiences, all of the shopkeepers and staff in the park will be dressed up as Star Wars-themed creatures and aliens to ensure that the atmosphere is as authentic as possible. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is slated to open first in Orlando and then in Anaheim in 2019. + Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Via CNN Images via Disney Parks

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Aspiring Jedis can pilot the Millennium Falcon at Disney’s upcoming ‘Star Wars’ hotel

Montreal supermarket is Canada’s first to grow produce on its own rooftop garden

July 21, 2017 by  
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When the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent began pushing for green roofs , a supermarket wondered if it could do regulations one better. Fast-forward a few years and IGA Extra Famille Duchemin now claims to be the first grocery store in Canada to sell produce grown on its own roof. High above its LEED Gold-certified retail space, IGA’s 25,000-foot garden features more than 30 different varieties of certified-organic produce, including tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, kale, eggplant, and basil. Speaking to the Ottawa Citizen , co-owner Richard Duchemin said he decided to perceive Saint-Laurent’s requirement not as a burden but an opportunity. Related: New York City unveils massive green-roofed film and fashion hub in Brooklyn Not only does a green roof help regulate the temperature of the building below it, saving energy, but it also feeds into consumer demand for food with a smaller carbon footprint. “People are very interested in buying local,” he said. “There’s nothing more local than this.” The garden, which is irrigated using water reclaimed from the store’s dehumidification system, has also become a mini-Eden for birds, bees, and other embattled urban fauna. Duchemin compares IGA’s produce-laden roof to those “little boxes where [supermarkets] grow herbs,” but on a grander scale. “We pushed it further because we know we’re able to sell what we produce here,” he added. Related: Green roofs cool co-working shipping container office in Brazil If proven successful, GA Extra Famille Duchemin could even kick-start a trend across Canada. Pierre St-Laurent, executive vice-president for Quebec at Sobeys , which owns the IGA chain, is said to be following the store’s progress with great interest. Photos via Facebook Via Ottawa Citizen

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This urban tree cleans as much polluted air as an entire forest

June 26, 2017 by  
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Air pollution might be invisible, but it results in 7 million premature deaths each year. Fortunately, there’s a solution – the CityTree is a high-tech green wall that scrubs the air of harmful particulates – and it has as much air-purifying power as 275 urban trees. As you might have guessed, the CityTree isn’t really a tree . Instead, it’s a moss culture. Zhengliang Wu, co-founder of Green City Solutions said: “Moss cultures have a much larger leaf surface area than any other plant. That means we can capture more pollutants .” The CityTree is under 4 meters tall, approximately 3 meters wide and 2.19 meters deep. Two versions are available – one with or without a bench – and a display is included for information or advertising. Due to the huge surface area of moss installed, each tree can remove dust, nitrogen dioxide and ozone gases from the air. Additionally, the installations are fully autonomous, as solar panels provide electricity and collected rainwater is filtered into a reservoir where it is pumped into the soil. Related: Air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death worldwide The invention also has WiFi sensors which measure the soil humidity, temperature and water quality. “We also have pollution sensors inside the installation, which help monitor the local air quality and tell us how efficient the tree is.” said Wu. Every day, a CityTree can absorb around 250 grams of particulate matter. Over the length of an entire year, the invention can remove 240 metric tons of C02. Green City Solutions seeks to one day install CityTrees in major cities around the world – but they presently faces bureaucratic challenges. Said Wu, “We were installing them (the CityTrees) in Modena, Italy, and everything was planned and arranged, but now the city is hesitant about the places we can install because of security reasons.” Regardless, the company will persist and already has plans to introduce the invention to India , where air pollution has reached dangerous levels in certain locations. So far, 20 CityTrees have been successfully installed in major cities around the world – including Oslo, Paris, Brussels and Hong Kong. Costing about $25,000 each, they are a big investment – but one deemed to be worthwhile as they clean the air of harmful contaminants. + Green City Solutions Via CNN Images via Green City Solutions

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This urban tree cleans as much polluted air as an entire forest

Giant sequoia skyscrapers designed to keep rotted trees standing

May 5, 2017 by  
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Modernization has harmed giant sequoias: not only have they been cut down in groves, but climate change has diminished their lifespan. Four designers in South Korea want to help preserve the trees’ legacy with a skyscraper called Tribute: The Monument of Giant , that could be tucked inside hollowed-out trunks, helping to keep trees with rotted heartwood from crashing down. The skyscraper would allow a visitor to feel small inside the vastness of a giant sequoia, while also offering education about the natural wonders. Ko Jinhyeuk, Cheong Changwon, Cho Kyuhyung, and Choi Sunwoong believe in the past, human desires and development clashed with the natural world. They said nature’s response is the natural disasters that wreak havoc throughout the world. They pointed to deforestation as both a cause of such disasters and “one of the worst crimes on nature .” Earning an honorable mention in the 2017 eVolo Skyscraper Competition , they offered up an answer. Their skyscraper is enveloped inside a dying tree in a bid to help keep it standing. Related: Incredible farming skyscraper could fight poverty and feed the world Although giant sequoias can be over 300 feet tall, with diameters between 20 and 26 feet, their roots often aren’t deep, so when their heartwood – what the designers described as a structural backbone – starts to rot, the weight of the trees can cause them to topple over. A skyscraper nestled inside could prevent this ending. “This project attempts to show a new architectural approach to human coexistence with nature,” the architects said in their design statement. They said their skyscraper, inside the empty void of a giant sequoia, wouldn’t hinder the breathtaking beauty of the tree. The building would then become “active as an artificial organ to replace the trunks rotten away.” Platforms inside the tree would offer opportunities for laboratories, exhibitions, education, and photo opportunities on observation decks. A lattice-like cage would comprise an outer casing that appears to blend in with the tree. Via eVolo and Dezeen Images via eVolo

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