Court allows Trump’s border wall to violate several conservation acts

February 15, 2019 by  
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Donald Trump is moving forward with the construction of his controversial border wall, even if it means sidestepping important environmental laws. A federal judge ruled in favor of Trump’s wall construction along California’s southern border, a project that is expected to violate several conservation acts. The federal court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the power to wave environmental laws in the construction of the border wall, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act. The majority opinion argued that the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 gives the DHS power to ignore certain laws when it comes to border security. Related: 10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration “Because the projects are statutorily authorized and DHS has waived the environmental laws California and the environmental groups seek to enforce, we affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to DHS,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown said. According to EcoWatch , environmentalists and conservation groups attempted to stop the construction of the border wall in 2017. Building the prototypes for the structure has already violated at least 37 regulations in San Diego County. Once construction begins, environmentalists predict that more than 90 endangered species could be harmed by the time the wall is complete. California is not the only state facing an environmental crisis. Texas is also getting ready to start construction of its border wall , and conservation groups are worried about how the wall will affect one of the most successful butterfly sanctuaries in the country: the National Butterfly Center . A 5-mile portion of the wall will cut through the heart of the property, which has environmentalists worried about how it will affect the 200 variations of butterflies that call the sanctuary home. This includes the monarch, black swallowtail and the Mexican bluewing. Conservation groups are currently attempting to stall construction of the wall in Texas as they scramble to figure out a solution. The Trump administration has hailed the new court decision as a major victory in its effort to secure the border. The White House has not, however, addressed how building the border wall will break dozens of environmental laws and potentially harm endangered species. Via EcoWatch Image via Melissa McMasters

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Court allows Trump’s border wall to violate several conservation acts

The world is close to annihilation according to the iconic Doomsday Clock

January 31, 2019 by  
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The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board has announced that the iconic Doomsday Clock is remaining at two minutes to midnight because of the dangers of climate change and the lack of progress on nuclear risks. Midnight on Doomsday is a symbolic point of annihilation and has reached the familiar point it was once in at the peak of the Cold War in 1953. The Science and Security Board made the decision to keep the clock in its current standing with the Board of Sponsors — which includes 14 Nobel Laureates — and have dubbed the situation as “the new abnormal.” In addition to climate change and nuclear risks, another factor in the decision was “the increased use of information warfare.” “It is still two minutes to midnight. Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention. These major threats — nuclear weapons and climate change  — were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in extraordinary danger,” read the 2019 Doomsday Clock statement. The statement went on to say that this “new abnormal” is unsustainable and extremely dangerous, but nonetheless, the power to improve the severity of the situation remains in the hands of world leaders. The clock can move away from catastrophe if leaders act under pressure from engaged citizens. Related: Is the Green New Deal the all-inclusive climate plan we need? Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , says that they are describing a frightening reality and the clock is the closest it has ever been to an apocalypse and should be recognized as a stark warning by all leaders and citizens of the world. The 2019 Doomsday Clock statement emphasized #RewindtheDoomsdayClock and recommended multiple action steps be taken. They included U.S. and Russian leaders resolving their differences over the INF treaty, adopting measures to prevent peacetime military incidents on the NATO borders and American citizens demanding climate action from their government . Other recommendations were for countries around the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to reach the temperature goal of the Paris climate agreement and for the Trump administration to revisit their decision to exit the plan for limiting Iran’s nuclear program. Via Bulletin.org Image via Shutterstock

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The world is close to annihilation according to the iconic Doomsday Clock

5 ways to throw a zero-waste Super Bowl party

January 31, 2019 by  
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Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest party days of the year. For many people, that means a house full of friends and family as well as pizza boxes, chip bags, beer cans and football decorations. However, it is possible to have an epic Super Bowl party without a ton of waste . It just takes a little bit of planning to go green, and the planet will thank you for your zero-waste celebration. Tell your guests There is no need to keep your guests in the dark about your goal of having a zero-waste Super Bowl party. When you send out your e-vites, make it clear you are going green, and encourage guests to do their part by carpooling and bringing their own cups and reusable containers for leftovers. Related: How to start the journey to zero-waste living You can also ask some of your guests to bring a dish they made at home. You might be surprised how many people are willing to do their part. DIY decor Instead of using plastic decorations, you can make your own with fabric. At your local craft store, you should be able to find fabric in team colors, and you might be able to find some with team logos. Use the fabric to make table cloths, napkins and banners. When the game is over, you can use the DIY decorations as cleaning cloths. Also, you can light up the room with strings of LED lights that you can easily find in team colors. If you are really crafty, you can make decorations with newspaper clippings about the game. Carefully plan the menu The food is the biggest source of waste at a Super Bowl party, so if you are going green, this is the part that takes major planning. Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest days of the year for pizza delivery and beer drinking, and both of those things can produce a ton of trash. So ditch the pizza delivery and beer cans, and instead, make your own pizzas and finger foods and order a keg. Related: 6 tasty vegetarian Super Bowl snacks that will fool carnivores Homemade pizza and finger foods (sliders, chips and dip, deli meats and cheeses, chicken wings, cookies, brownies) will remove the need for plastic utensils. Buying your ingredients at local farmer’s markets will also reduce your environmental footprint. A keg will remove the mountain of beer cans and bottles in your trash can. Just remember to use glassware or mason jars instead of plastic cups, or have your guests bring their own. If you have guests that aren’t beer drinkers, you could opt for a root beer keg or large containers of non-alcoholic drinks that you can find at big box stores like Costco. If you can’t imagine a Super Bowl party without pizza delivery, you need to compost those greasy cardboard boxes instead of throwing them in the trash or recycling . When it comes to the dishes, ditch the disposable plates and instead opt for reusable, stainless steel camping trays or recyclable dishes. Or use your real, everyday dishes. Serve your food in large, reusable containers so you can easily store leftovers and make clean up a lot easier. Another fun idea for the party is to provide reusable glass straws in team colors. Label trash, recycling and compost areas Use different containers for your trash, compostables  and recyclables and clearly label them, so your guests know exactly where everything goes. A large pot is a great option to collect food waste, reusable dishes can go in the sink, paper goes into the compost or recycling piles and any cloth materials will need to be laundered. Enjoy yourself Throwing a zero-waste Super Bowl party is a great goal, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. It is possible that some of your guests aren’t familiar with the concept of zero-waste, so be patient and answer their questions. Explaining what you are trying to do is a great way to spread the message. You are planting a seed among your friends and family. Even if your Super Bowl party isn’t completely free of waste, reducing the waste is a great first step. Related: The Super Bowl of DIY beer Last year, the Super Bowl itself aimed for a zero-waste event called Rush2Recycle . Even though it wasn’t perfect, it was a gigantic step in the right direction. The program successfully recovered 91 percent of the trash, with 63 tons of game day waste being recycled or donated for reuse and composting. Relax and have fun. Don’t worry about perfection. Taking these steps toward reducing your Super Bowl party waste is reason enough to celebrate and have a good time. Via ECOlunchbox Images via Manuel Hoster and Shutterstock

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10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration

January 2, 2019 by  
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The Endangered Species Coalition has released a report titled  Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration , which outlines the possible impact of the current administration’s anti-wildlife policy stances. The report highlighted the 10 species that are in the most danger because of proposed new regulations as well as the specific changes that put these animals at risk. California Condor The California Condor has a 10-foot wingspan, making it one of the largest land birds in North America. These birds can reach altitudes of 15,000 feet and speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They are a critically endangered species, with fewer than 500 left, after flying in the skies of the western U.S. and Mexico for thousands of years. Most California Condors die in the wild from lead poisoning, and when the population shrank to less than 30 back in 1982, survivors were captured and put in breeding facilities. By 2017, more than 290 were flying free in the wild, with another 173 in the breeding program. However, on his first day in office, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke rolled back legislation from the Obama administration that banned the use of lead ammunition in critical condor habitat. This could be a catastrophic action that might lead to the end of the California Condor. Leatherback and Loggerhead Sea Turtles Both of these sea turtles can swim for thousands of miles, and they help maintain balance in their ocean habitat while providing essential nutrients to the beaches where they nest. Both types are protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but they are also vulnerable to human activity. Each year, thousands are snared in fishing nets and die, and climate change is hitting their homes hard. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world The Trump Administration’s proposed new regulations give leeway when it comes to how a habitat is or isn’t protected. If those regulations do kick in, the Fish and Wildlife Service can ignore protections in that habitat altogether, and the leatherbacks and loggerheads could lose their fragile beach nesting grounds entirely. Red Wolf Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild back in 1980. But after a successful experimental breeding program, they were reintroduced in North Carolina in 1987. The red wolf is on the edge of extinction again, with fewer than 30 left in the wild. The only place in the world that you can find red wolves is in a five-county area in North Carolina. Under proposed regulations from the Trump Administration, the delisting of the red wolf could be justified, even though scientists are still investigating their genetics. This would be a fatal blow to the species. Hellbender This ancient salamander is slimy and mud-brown or speckled gray, like a river rock. It has flappy skinfolds on the entire length of its body, lidless eyes that keep it from seeing much of anything and chubby toes for clinging to the river bottom. It also has a superb sense of smell. Hellbenders live solitary lives under a single boulder, and they never relocate. They do not pose any threat to humans and are a vital indicator of water quality, because they thrive in clean streams but deteriorate when their habitat does. Because the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations include economic analysis in their listing decisions, it could mean the end for the hellbender. The economics of mining, logging and fossil fuel extraction could cloud a listing for this species, and those businesses could also damage the hellbender’s habitat beyond repair. Giraffe The world’s tallest animal with 6-foot-long legs and a 6-foot-long neck, the giraffe is a highly social animal that roams in groups called towers. Their patterned coats are unique, just like fingerprints, and the animal is emblematic of Africa’s savanna. Hunting and habitat encroachment have reduced the population by 30 percent in the last three decades, and the animal appears to have gone extinct in seven countries. The two biggest threats are a growing trade in giraffe parts and trophy hunting; however, this animal is not protected internationally or by the Endangered Species Act. Related: Trump administration wants to allow “extreme and cruel” hunting methods in Alaska To make matters worse, Zinke created an International Wildlife Conservation Council full of NRA members that is promoting and expanding international trophy hunting. President Trump has not responded to a request to add the giraffe to the Endangered Species list. At this point, fewer than 100,000 are left. Humboldt Marten Related to the mink, the Humboldt marten is the size of a kitten. It is a stealthy hunter that lives deep in the forests of Northern California and Southern Oregon. This animal is so secretive, there is only a handful of photos in existence, and they were taken by remote-sensing cameras. At one time, the species was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1996. But only four separated populations remain, and humans have put them at risk by trapping them for their fur and logging in their rainforest habitat. Fewer than 400 are left, but it is not on the endangered species list and receives no federal protection. The Trump Administration finally proposed to list the Humboldt marten under the ESA but only to classify it as threatened. Under the new proposed regulations, a species classified as threatened no longer receives the same protections as those classified as endangered. There is also a special rule that exempts logging operations, which means the Humboldt marten population could vanish entirely. Rusty Patched Bumble Bee This species was the first bee in the continental U.S. to be listed under the ESA. That was a challenge all its own, because the paperwork was delayed on President Trump’s first day in office when his administration put a hold on the protections just before the bee was supposed to be listed. It finally made the list in 2017, but the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations prioritize the protection of habitat currently occupied by the species. This is a problem, because the rusty patched bumble bee has vanished from nearly 90 percent of their historic range due to disease, habitat degradation and use of pesticides . The bee needs that historic habitat to recover. If there are no safeguards for the habitat these bees once called home, it could have deadly consequences. West Indian Manatee This fully-aquatic, plant-eating mammal has some interesting relatives. At one end there is the elephant, and at the other, there is the hyrax. Manatees weigh around a thousand pounds and can live up to 60 years old. They have no natural enemies … except for humans. Manatees get hacked by propellers, smashed in watercraft collisions, drowned in canal locks and tortured and killed when they eat fish hooks, litter and lines. The biggest threat to the manatee is habitat loss thanks to red tides, algae blooms and pollution . But this didn’t stop the Trump Administration from downlisting the West Indian Manatee from endangered to threatened. The new rules also ignore impacts to habitat unless those impacts occur across the entire habitat and affect the whole species. With the manatees having such a scattered population, their habitat won’t get necessary protections. San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat This little rodent has specialized fur-lined face pouches that allow them to cache seeds in their cheeks until their face almost bursts. The San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat is about four inches long, and its tail is longer than its body. Their survival depends on natural cycles of wet and dry, and they never have to take a drink. They get all of their moisture from food, which comes from plants that mature at the perfect time and produce seeds at the right rate. Green vegetation stimulates their reproduction, but it has to be in moderation. There is a fragile wet/dry balance that human activities have messed up with mining, dam building and residential and commercial development. The new regulations from the Trump Administration would require less consultation between agencies, which means they can ignore the impact of what they do to their surroundings. Something as simple as a new road can mess up the rat’s wet and dry life, leading to extinction. Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo This bird loves where the water meets the woods, and they often avoid detection even when they are out hunting caterpillars and other prey. One researcher once watched a Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo for an entire hour waiting for him to budge, but he didn’t. In addition to hiding in plain sight, this bird is disappearing altogether. There are only about 2,000 left, and the species was listed under the ESA in 2014. But the bird needs habitat protections. It is now being reviewed for delisting, and the new regulations from the Trump Administration could kill the recovery plan. This could end up being a fast-track to extinction . + Endangered Species Coalition Images via U.S. Department of State , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ), Red Wolf Recovery Program , Brian Gratwicke , Charles J. Sharp , Nbonzey and Mark Linnell / U.S. Forest Service

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10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration

How environmental policies changed in 2018 under Trump

December 28, 2018 by  
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There is no doubt that President Trump has significantly changed environmental policy since taking office that have caused a great deal of public outcry. The current administration’s decisions have affected everything from rolling back on policies enacted by former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to cutting funding for different environmental and scientific programs. With so much to keep up with, here is a rundown of the Trump Administration’s environmental action in 2018 and how it has impacted the planet. EPA loosens toxic air pollution regulations A Clinton-era policy known as “once in, always in” or OIAI was an effort to permanently reduce the hazardous air pollution from industrial sources. The law required major sources of pollution to retool their processes and reduce their emissions to lower levels set by industry peers. This was known as Maximum Achievable Control Technology, or MACT, standards. Industry lawyers have long argued that eliminating OIAI would give businesses a stronger incentive to reduce emissions , and in a brief legal memo, Trump’s EPA abruptly dropped OIAI at the beginning of 2018. NASA climate monitoring program cut Back in May, the Trump administration ended NASA’s carbon monitoring system (CMS), which was an effort to improve the monitoring of global carbon emissions. The program cost $10 million a year, but a March 2018 spending deal did not include funding for the program. CMS supported work was relevant to the Paris Agreement because it verified if other nations were meeting their pledges to reduce carbon emissions. But the Trump administration has rejected that agreement and is downsizing the NASA climate science program. Rollbacks proposed for Endangered Species Act rules This summer, the Trump administration proposed to make several key changes to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, including eliminating a rule that forbids referring to the economic impact of listing a threatened species. The changes would still allow for determinations to be based on biological considerations, and they also would give regulators more freedom, so they can avoid designating critical habitat for endangered species . Fuel economy rule change One of the signature climate change policies from President Obama was a plan to increase vehicle mileage standards for cars made during the next decade. However, the Trump administration is dismantling the plan, but not nixing it entirely. President Obama’s plan required light cars made after 2012 to average almost 54 miles per gallon by 2025, with hopes that the new efficiency standards would save billions of barrels of oil . However, President Trump has mileage targets of 34 miles per gallon because some automakers believe anything more than that would be too difficult to reach. Methane rules repealed Another rollback to Obama’s climate change policy, Trump’s EPA reduced the requirements on oil and gas companies to monitor the releases of methane from wells. Some in the industry had complained that the Obama rules were too much of a burden and a “record-keeping nightmare” that was impossible to execute. However, when the EPA announced this new rule, the attorneys general in California and New Mexico filed a lawsuit to challenge the change. EPA air pollution review panel disbanded The Particulate Matter Review Panel – made of scientists who are experts in the health dangers of soot – has advised the EPA over the years about safe levels of air pollution. However, they will no longer meet starting in 2019, but they didn’t reveal why. Conservation groups believe that eliminating the panel will make it easier to roll back pollution standards, but they had also complained that the panel wasn’t robust enough to protect public health. Ocean plastic cleanup bill In October, President Trump signed legislation to improve efforts to clean up plastic trash from the world’s oceans. He also called out nations like China and Japan for using the oceans as landfills and said that he will do everything he can during his Presidency to stop them. The law passed with bipartisan support, and it amended the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Act. It also funded the program through 2022. Arctic offshore drilling approved Earlier this year, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued Hilcorp a conditional use permit for its Liberty Project, and they will begin drilling from an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea. The federally controlled waters of the U.S. arctic have been cleared for oil and gas production wells after years of debate about the risks and rewards. Coal power plant rollback In 2015, the Obama Administration adopted a rule restricting carbon dioxide pollution from future power plants. The energy industry criticized the rule, saying the technology was unproven and the required equipment was extremely expensive. So, earlier this month, the Trump administration rolled back the climate rule by lifting some of the restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal power plants. The goal is to spur construction of new coal plants and to relieve America’s energy providers of excessive burdens. Via National Geographic Image via Sam Jotham Sutharson

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Nine more states join seismic blasting lawsuit against the Trump administration

December 27, 2018 by  
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  Several conservation groups and South Carolina coastal communities sued the Trump Administration earlier this month for allowing companies to conduct seismic blasting surveys in the Atlantic Ocean as a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. And now, a coalition of nine states has joined the lawsuit and added their clout to the claim. Last week, a coalition of attorneys general from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit because the seismic surveys will expose marine life to repeated sound blasters louder than 160 decibels, and that could lead to dangerous consequences. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, the leader of the coalition, says that the Trump Administration continues to make the interests of the fossil fuel industry a top priority over our natural resources . Therefore, attorneys general along the Atlantic Coast will continue to fight the efforts of Atlantic shore drilling. Diane Hoskins, the campaign director for Oceana— one of the nine groups suing the Trump Administration— applauded the AG coalition for standing up for their states. “Putting our oceans, marine life and coastal economies at risk for dirty and dangerous offshore drilling is wrong, and we are not backing down. Seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic defies law, science and common sense. They acted unlawfully, and we’re going to stop it. Oceana is pleased so many states are joining this critical fight,” said Hoskins. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world This lawsuit comes less than a month after the National Marine Fisheries Service issued five Incidental Harassment Authorizations that permit companies to use airgun blasting off the Atlantic coast. During the seismic blasting process, ships fire blasts of air to the bottom of the ocean every ten seconds for weeks or months at a time. They do this to map the contours of the ocean floor with the goal of finding oil and gas deposits. However, the loud, continuous noise can damage the hearing of marine life, or possibly disorient and kill the animals . It can also negatively impact commercial and recreational fishing by decreasing catch rates. And, because burning fossil fuels is causing rapid climate change, these conservation groups, along with these nine states, are trying to stop the federal government’s “flat-out wrong” decision to allow offshore drilling on the Atlantic coast. Via EcoWatch Images via wener22brigitte

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Nine more states join seismic blasting lawsuit against the Trump administration

Patagonia donates its $10 million in tax cuts to save the planet

December 4, 2018 by  
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Last year, President Trump said that his tax bill would be an incredible Christmas gift for millions of hard-working Americans, but it also resulted in billions of dollars of tax savings for businesses — especially those in the oil and gas industry. But one outdoor retailer has opted to donate its tax savings to the planet instead of putting it back into the business. Patagonia announced last week that it would be giving away the $10 million the company made as a result of the Republican tax cut. “Based on last year’s irresponsible tax cut, Patagonia will owe less in taxes this year — $10 million less, in fact. Instead of putting the money back into our business, we’re responding by putting $10 million back into the planet,” CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a LinkedIn blog post . “Our home planet needs it more than we do.” Related: Patagonia strikes back at Trump over public lands policies Marcario also wrote that taxes protect the most vulnerable in our society as well as our public lands and other resources. In spite of this, President Trump still initiated a corporate tax cut that threatens those services at the expense of the planet. In addition to cutting taxes for individuals and businesses, the bill also lifted a 40-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Patagonia will donate the money from its tax cut to various conservation organizations. The money will also go toward the regenerative organic agriculture movement, which, according to the company, could help slow or reverse the climate crisis. Marcario cited the recent National Climate Assessment Report, compiled by 13 different federal agencies and 300 scientists. The report found that climate change is impacting people all over the globe and will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars. She wrote that far too many people have suffered from the consequences of global warming, and the political response has been “woefully inadequate.” Patagonia has been a long-time champion of grassroots environmental efforts, and the company has also been vocal in its criticisms of the Trump administration. + Patagonia Via EcoWatch Images via Yukiko Matsuoka and Monica Volpin  

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Patagonia donates its $10 million in tax cuts to save the planet

Striking home in Greece uses bioclimatic features to be energy-efficient year-round

December 4, 2018 by  
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Tucked into a sloping hillside looking out over the Aegean Sea, the TRIF House designed by Sergey Fedotov boasts a gorgeous, contemporary design with massive floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the breathtaking sea views. In addition to its striking aesthetic, the private residence also includes a number of passive features that insulate the home and reduce energy use throughout the year. Located in Porto Heli, Greece, the massive home, which spans over 3,800 square feet, sits on a naturally sloped landscape spotted with olive trees. To appreciate the gorgeous sea views, the front facade is a series of frameless, floor-to-ceiling windows that can slide open and shut at just the push of a button. The glazed exterior not only creates a seamless connection between indoors and out but also allows for natural sunlight to illuminate the interior. Related: A modern, energy-efficient home is built around a beloved madrone tree Alternatively, the home’s north facade was embedded into the natural slope of the hillside. Burying part of the house into the landscape was another passive feature that helps provide the structure with a strong thermal envelope. The main floor houses a kitchen, dining and living room, all of which open up to an expansive veranda with a swimming pool. The top floor, which is enclosed in a large white rectangular volume that cantilevers just slightly over the ground floor, is home to the master bedroom and two guest rooms, all of which enjoy stunning panoramic views. The interior boasts a minimalist design with custom-made furniture. Surrounding the home, the landscape was left in a natural state. Large olive trees and shrubs dot the sloping hillside, which has various walking paths that wind through the home’s beautiful surroundings. + Sergey Fedotov Via Archdaily Photography by Pygmalion Karatzas via Sergey Fedotov

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Striking home in Greece uses bioclimatic features to be energy-efficient year-round

The National Butterfly Center is threatened by Trump’s border wall

November 2, 2018 by  
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The National Butterfly Center is a 100-acre wildlife preserve and botanical garden in South Texas. Not only is it the habitat of more than 100 different species of butterflies, but it is also home to several endangered plants and threatened animals. It happens to be located directly in the path of the Trump administration’s proposed border wall, and that means its future is in question. In September, Congress approved a federal spending bill that included $1.6 billion to fund the wall’s construction, and last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a waiver of 28 different laws that protect public lands, wildlife and the environment in order for construction. If the planned wall actually becomes a reality, it could cut the privately-owned center in two, leaving up to 70 percent of the preserve’s land between the wall and the Rio Grande. “It’s going to be a no-man’s land, Border Patrol’s enforcement zone,” Marianna Trevino Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, told NPR . “They will clear everything. So it’s not like all of this habitat is going to become Garden of Eden, undisturbed. It is going to be eliminated.” Related: Trump’s border wall threatens Texas plants and wildlife A group of scientists published a paper this summer outlining the proposed wall’s negative environmental impacts, and more than 2,700 scientists signed the paper to call on the Trump administration to rethink its border strategy. They would prefer the DHS follow existing environmental laws and avoid physical barriers. There are also multiple lawsuits pending against the Trump administration arguing that the DHS doesn’t have the authority to waive environmental laws to build the wall. But in the past, similar lawsuits in California and New Mexico have been unsuccessful. Wall construction could begin in February 2019. In the meantime, the butterfly preserve will continue to use its property as though the wall will not be built. “We have long-term plans for this place,” Trevino Wright said. “We’re not going to just pack up and abandon that.” + National Butterfly Center Via NPR Images via Alan Schmierer ( 1 , 2 )

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KOGAA creates an energy self-sufficient City Cell in response to climate change

November 2, 2018 by  
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Galvanized by the growing debate on climate change , Brno-based KOGAA Architectural Studio and NEXT Institute Research Platform have teamed up to create the City Cell Prototype (CCP), a pop-up installation that serves as a testing ground for ways cities can combat climate extremes. Completed this year, the temporary pavilion of nearly 300 square feet is presently located at Malinovsky Square in Brno, Czech Republic’s second-largest city. Built of timber and powered by solar energy, the City Cell Prototype is a multifunctional design that includes rainwater reuse, urban greenery, human shelter and educational opportunities. The City Cell Prototype is primarily constructed from pre-dried KVH timber, a material that has the added benefit of not requiring any additional protective coatings. Elevated off the ground on footings, the wooden structure is centered on a tree set inside a “biofilter.” To make the pavilion look inviting to the public, KOGAA inserted low-slung seating and made the all-timber envelope as transparent as possible using slatted wood screens and two entrances. In addition to the tree, planters have been installed on both ends of the structure, with one wall comprising rows of street-facing planters. Despite the pavilion’s minimalist appearance, the structure features multiple systems that work together to ensure energy self-sufficiency. The sloped roofs, which are made from a translucent material to let light through, are angled to channel rainwater into the centrally located biofilter, where the runoff is then filtered through settling and phyto-processes. Once filtered, the rainwater is stored in tanks and then pumped up to a drip irrigation system connected to the pavilion’s planters. The water pump is powered by solar energy harvested from photovoltaic panels mounted to the roof; solar power also provides electricity for the LED lighting system. Related: An experimental greenhouse pops up at a busy Copenhagen intersection “Together with the vertical greenery, the biofilter allows water retention and evaporation, allowing the surrounding microclimate to cool down,” the architects explained. “Its shape develops from the need to provide shading, collect water and the intent to create a spatial communication between the new object and the existing square, also achieved through the two-sided openness.” After the testing period, the CCP could be included in more permanent projects. + KOGAA Architectural Studio Images via Boys Play Nice

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