Trumps July 4th celebration cost our National Parks millions

July 5, 2019 by  
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The Independence Day festivities hosted by the White House yesterday cost the National Park Service an estimated $2.5 million dollars, money that is typically earmarked for park maintenance and rehabilitation. The rainy celebration, which included military jet fly overs, tank displays and the largest firework display in D.C. history, is the most expensive July 4th celebration any president has hosted. What Trump promoted via Twitter as the “show of a lifetime” was loosely inspired by his trip to France during Bastille Day. After the proposed budget for a similar celebration last year reached $92 million, Trump had to scale back his plan. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment The president also made a speech yesterday, a first in 32 years. For the past three decades, presidents have elected to not speak at the Independence Day celebrations out of respect for unity and patriotism and an attempt to not politicize the holiday. “Today, we come together as one nation with this very special salute to America. We celebrate our history, our people and the heroes who proudly defend our flag — the brave men and women of the United States military,” Trump said during his speech. Despite his message of unity, tickets for the highly anticipated events were given out as gifts to high-rolling donors to the Republican National Committee. “This is a breach of trust with the public,” said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. “The public pays parks fees to fix national parks and for educational programs, not the president’s parades.” The national parks are reportedly $12 billion dollars behind in their maintenance needs, and this event is another major setback. While the event cost the country’s parks $2.5 million, the Trump administration refused to reveal exactly how much the antics cost taxpayers in total. Before the celebration, Trump tweeted , “The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats.” Via EcoWatch Image via Joyce N. Boghosian / The White House

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Trumps July 4th celebration cost our National Parks millions

MADs ethereal Yiwu Grand Theater will float on Zhejiang waters

July 5, 2019 by  
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Beijing-based architectural firm MAD Architects has won a competition for Zhejiang’s Yiwu Grand Theater with a proposal that’s stunning, sculptural and site-specific. Inspired by the Chinese junks that once sailed on the city’s Dongyang River, the Yiwu Grand Theater mimics the form of a glass-walled boat floating on the river while its subtle curves echo the Jiangnan-style eaves found in the region’s ancient vernacular architecture. Its facade of layered glass sails will be semitransparent to reduce overall energy consumption through passive solar means. As the world’s largest wholesale commodities market, Yiwu has built its reputation on commerce, not culture. In a bid to elevate its soft power, the city hosted an international competition to design the Yiwu Grand Theater, a hub of arts and culture to be located on the south bank of the Dongyang River. The building will include a 1,600-seat grand theater, a 1,200-seat medium theater and a 2,000-person-capacity international conference center. The project will also offer new and easily accessible public green space with an amphitheater and large open plaza that extends into the water on its southern edge. “The ‘Yiwu Grand Theater’ has been designed as a monument for the city that will serve to connect inhabitants to the waterfront from a new perspective,” the architects explained. “In its completion, it will stand as a world-class venue that will attract visitors from around the globe, putting Yiwu on the map as a cultural destination. The transparency and lightness of the glass express the texture of thin, silky fabric, creating a dynamic rhythm that makes them appear as if they are blowing in the wind. They act as a protective canopy around the building, resonating with the river, elegantly floating above the water’s surface, setting a romantic atmosphere.” Related: MAD Architects unveils an “organic” skyscraper piercing Manhattan’s skyline In addition to giving the Yiwu Grand Theater a sense of lightness in spite of its size, the semi-transparent glass curtain wall also helps to reduce heating and cooling costs while letting in ample amounts of natural light. In winter, the glass creates a solar greenhouse effect but can be opened up in summer to promote natural ventilation . The Yiwu Grand Theater is expected to begin construction in 2020. + MAD Architects Images via MAD Architects

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MADs ethereal Yiwu Grand Theater will float on Zhejiang waters

U.S. produces more waste and recycles less than other developed countries

July 5, 2019 by  
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Compared to the rest of the world, the waste and recycling stats in the U.S. just can’t compete. Although the U.S. is just 4 percent of the world’s total population, the country produces 12 percent of the total solid waste of 2.1 billion tons per year. When researchers from the global risk firm Verisk Maplecroft compared the numbers, they found that the U.S. lags behind other developed nations in terms of its capacity to handle and recycle waste. The average American generates 1,700 pounds of trash every year, including 234 pounds of plastic waste. That’s three times more than what the Chinese produce and seven times more than Ethiopians. But the problem isn’t just waste generation — what happens to all the waste is where the U.S. is embarrassingly behind the times. Related: Even the most remote islands are victims of plastic pollution “Where the U.S. is doing badly is the relationship between what it generates and its capacity to recycle,” said study author Niall Smith. “And relative to it’s high income peers, that’s where it is performing poorly.” On average, the U.S. is able to recycle 35 percent of all solid waste produced. Germany, in the lead for recycling efficiency, is able to recycle 68 percent of all waste. According to the researchers, the U.S. lacks the proper infrastructure to sustainably handle the waste and process the recycling and needs to find new places to send its plastic waste, with China refusing to accept more and the Philippines sending waste ships back at its shores. Much of the plastic in the U.S. is still burned in incinerators rather than recycled. While increased recycling and recycling infrastructure is paramount, Smith argues that there is already enough plastic in the world to cause a massive crisis for human and ecological health and that recycling is not enough. “There’s too much focus on recycling being the kind of silver bullet solution, which it is not,” Smith said. Instead, Americans need to focus on transforming into a zero-waste culture. Via BBC and The Guardian Image via Pexels

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U.S. produces more waste and recycles less than other developed countries

Yes, climate marches are working

July 5, 2019 by  
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If you’re on social media or watch the news, you probably noticed that protest marches have increased in incidence and popularity in this era of Trump. The President’s political and personal actions have sent the opposition out on the streets, including mass protests for issues from women’s rights to climate change and everything in between. Up until recently, social scientists believed aggressive protests alienate activists from potential supporters, but the massive popularity of recent climate marches have turned this idea on its head. The popularity of the People’s Climate March (2017) and Youth Climate Strike (2019) spurred participation from all walks of life and changed the stereotypical face of an activist to be– well, anyone. This critical shift may render marches one of the most powerful political tools. Trump’s election was a “blessing for the climate movement.” His anti-environment policies, like closing national parks and slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, have galvanized the opposition and united groups that don’t agree on much except that Trump is terrible for the environment. Related: Climate change will push 120 million into poverty Climate fanatics have become likeable A new study from Penn State University examined public opinion before and after the March for Science and the Peoples’ Climate March, both in 2017, and found that unlike previous marches, these helped boost likability and support. So, what is different about climate activists? All of the nearly 600 people interviewed heard about the marches through the media, but did not attend. The results of the survey indicated that across political affiliation, participants reported that the activists were “less arrogant, less whiny and less eccentric” than other activists. Clearly, activists have a negative connotation in the minds of the American public, but something about these climate marchers was slightly different. Activists get a bad rep A widely cited study on activism from 2013 concluded that depending on the tactics, certain acts of civil disobedience lose supporters. For example, acts viewed aggressive, militant or wasteful (think: throwing red paint on a fur coat) mostly earn activists scorn— but not support. These feelings of scorn reduce peoples’ willingness “to adopt the behaviors that these activities promoted,” the research team from the University of Toronto reported . “If you were a bystander in 2017, if you were looking at the march, you’d see people of faith, labor unions, people of color and frontline communities,” the director of the People’s Climate Movement, Paul Getsos said about the March. “It wasn’t your typical kind of activist march; it counters the narrative that no one cares about climate change. If we were just mobilizing the usual activist base, I know for a fact it wouldn’t have had the same impact.” What is the point of marches? In general, the goal of a march is to inspire people to support the cause and to get government to act. In her article “ To have impact, the People’s Climate March needs to reach beyond activists ,” Jill Hopkes argued the goal of marches needed to be to gain attention and support from people who did not already support the cause. Garnering this far-reaching impact is incredibly important and it’s where marches can get it right or get it wrong. Surprisingly, survey respondents of the University of Tornoto study, who identify as conservative, reported an increase in what researchers call “collective efficacy.” This means an increase in their belief that together, we can solve the climate crisis . Climate marches, because of their palatability and sheer numbers, may make a difference in terms of gaining supporters across the aisle, but will that lead to action? In an op-ed for Grist, Director of Climate Justice for the Center for Popular Democracy, Aura Vasquez, argued that this intentionality to reach not only across aisles but across cultures is critical. “It’s about sending a message of unity that crosses color lines and income scales. It’s about demonstrating the diversity of the climate movement, the diversity that gives us our strength,” wrote Vasquez. Related: Polls show climate change is a determining issue for 2020 elections The Climate Movement started at Standing Rock Aura Vasquez also makes sure to give credit where credit is due, citing: “Standing Rock is when the movement truly bloomed, bringing together thousands of people from every corner of the country to block a pipeline that threatens ancient water sources and blatantly disregards treaties with sovereign First Nation.” As the protests at Standing Rock bubbled and grew into something larger than just a small sect of activists, the indigenous-led movement began to make “a powerful argument that wove together environmental, racial and economic justice, water protectors were able to attract both die-hard climate activists and allies brand-new to the cause,” said Vasquez. From there, the momentum for the climate and science marches grew. Suddenly, with over 300 marches throughout the country, the climate movement became something that everyone could get involved with, even those who weren’t militant (or privileged) enough to skip out on work and fly to North Dakota to protest a pipeline. Inclusive tactics will reach non-believers Researchers and critics of general marches have suggestions for how the activists can be more inclusive and effective, including more carefully selecting who is the face of the protest and what messages they use in order to avoid the “whiny, arrogant and eccentric” stereotype. Seasoned environmentalists may have thought people would join their fight when the science came out over 30 years ago that fossil fuels were altering the climate. But the truth is that emissions have gotten drastically worse. It’s clear, then, that facts from scientists might convince some, but they aren’t enough to sway the public. Climate Outreach suggests that the visuals used by both the media and the activists themselves also have a role to play in their reputation and supporters they attract. According to the climate communication advisors, visuals that show the negative impacts of climate change alongside positive solutions help people understand the gravity of the crisis. Climate Outreach also encourages “careful use” of protest imagery, since many people still do not identify with activism. However, to the extent that protest images show diversity and unification– rather than aggression– this new research indicates these images may be the turning point toward finally achieving political action, together. Via Grist Images via Mark Dixon, NiklasPntk , filmbetrachterin

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The Glen House is a sustainable retreat in the mountains of New Hampshire

April 24, 2019 by  
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Hikers have long flocked to Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire . Back in 1852, the original Glen House hotel opened to serve visitors who wanted to ascend the Northeast’s highest peak without roughing it. Today, the fifth and newest iteration of Glen House blends history, mountainous beauty and 21st century sustainability initiatives. “Each new hotel took advantage of whatever the latest in building theory and technology had to offer,” said Howie Wemyss, general manager of the Mt. Washington Auto Road/Great Glen Outdoor Center, which owns the hotel. “In 1885 when the second Glen House was constructed, it had electric as well as gas lights, a telegraph and an elevator. The fourth Glen House, built in 1924, was winterized with insulation and central heat to take advantage of the growing winter sports of skiing, tobogganing and snowshoeing.” Related: 16th century building in Malta is now a charming eco hotel that reflects a long history Nowadays, the 68-room Glen House has progressed from the telegraph to new, cutting-edge technology and the aim to be as energy self-sufficient and carbon-neutral as possible. A geothermal system composed of 30 wells drilled 500-feet deep heats the Glen House in winter and cools it in the summer without the burning of fossil fuels. A hydro-generator provides for most of the electric needs of the Great Glen Lodge activities center, located across the street.  The same water system also irrigates the hotel’s flowers, shrubs, trees and grass and is used for snowmaking and fire safety. Other sustainability features include high-efficiency insulation, LED lighting throughout, Otis Gen2 models that regenerate energy as elevator cars descend and water fountains designed to fill reusable water bottles. The hotel’s outdoor lighting is dark-sky compliant, meaning fixtures point at the ground rather than up toward the sky. Glen House even provides wax paper bags in the bathroom to encourage guests to take home partially-used bars of soap. Visitors who want to climb the 6,288-foot Mt. Washington and then sleep in a bed instead of a tent can feel good about supporting Glen House. + Glen House Images via Glen House

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The Glen House is a sustainable retreat in the mountains of New Hampshire

Crucial animal protection laws for the sage grouse being eliminated by the White House

March 19, 2019 by  
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The White House is eliminating crucial animal protection laws for the sage grouse. The protections, originally put in place by President Barack Obama , are being rolled back to open millions of acres of land for gas and oil development. Conservationists warn the move could land the sage grouse back on the endangered species list. The Donald Trump administration’s new plan targets 8.7 million acres of Sagebrush Focal Areas, an important habitat for the sage grouse and hundreds of other wildlife. Since 2015, oil and gas companies have been unable to set up shop in these areas, which has boosted grouse populations. Related: Trump administration wants to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list Steve Holmer, vice president of the American Bird Conservancy, revealed that stripping away these protections has already cut down grouse populations in the Dakotas and Washington State. “These changes will put the grouse back on a path toward needing an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing,” ABC President, Mike Parr, shared. “That’s exactly the outcome that the 2015 cooperative plans had sought to prevent.” Trump first proposed the plan back in December with the goal of opening the door for more gas and oil development on public land. Trump is justifying his new initiative by calling for a new age of “ energy dominance” in America, and his Interior Department head, David Bernhardt, is helping make it happen. Bernhardt is also looking to revise the Endangered Species Act, which was put in place back in 1973. Bernhard, who used to be an oil lobbyist, wants regulators to consider the economic effects of placing wildlife on the endangered list. This would ultimately make it easier to justify developing in endangered habitats that were previously off limits. With Trump’s new plan threatening sage grouse populations across the country, conservationists are doing their best to protect the beloved bird. This includes studying population numbers and learning how gas and oil development affects those statistics moving forward. Conservationists are also looking to put the sage grouse on the endangered species list, something that has not been possible because of the previous animal protection laws. Via New York Times Image via Shutterstock

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Crucial animal protection laws for the sage grouse being eliminated by the White House

Walmart’s tiny home on wheels is embarking on a tour around the country

February 8, 2019 by  
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While Walmart may not be exactly synonymous with sophisticated home design now, that could all change if Allswell has anything to do with it. Walmart-owned Allswell is a bedding and mattress company that is using a stunning tiny home, designed by the creative team from Modern Tiny Living , to showcase its quality mattresses. Setting off across the country on February 8, the gorgeous tiny home on wheels will make its way from NYC to Seattle, stopping at various sleep-deprived cities along the way. The tiny home was custom-made by the experienced tiny home builders from Modern Tiny Living. At just 200 square feet, the home is quite compact. However, working closely with the Allswell team, the company was able to deliver truly stunning results that will not only be the perfect vessel to showcase the ultra-comfy, sleep-inducing merchandise but also to feature the best of tiny home design . Related: This gorgeous tiny home is perfect for entertaining guests A black and white facade with a quaint gabled roof over the front door gives the design a traditional yet modern appearance. On the interior, all-white shiplap runs up to the high cathedral ceiling. The two thick wooden beams that cross the ceiling, along with the hard wood flooring, contrast nicely with the white walls. The interior design throughout the home is bright and airy, with a neutral color pallet that is broken up by a gorgeous blue kitchen. The combination of bright blue cabinets with a large, white farm sink and shiny countertops adds a contemporary touch to the design. Adjacent to the kitchen space is the Allswell tiny home’s principle feature: a large mattress. The mattress is front and center in the bedroom, easily found thanks to the fun glass-paneled garage door. On the other side of the home is another mattress that pulls double-duty as a day bed. The home is outfitted with plenty of storage as well. Kicking off its  tiny home tour in a city that ironically never sleeps, Allswell is currently in Union Square as it prepares for its cross-country trek. The team plans to stop in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and will end in Seattle. + Allswell + Modern Tiny Living Via Forbes Images via Allswell

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Walmart’s tiny home on wheels is embarking on a tour around the country

Fast food industry under pressure to decrease its global footprint stat

February 8, 2019 by  
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Fast food is one of the most popular conveniences of modern society, but it comes at a huge risk to the environment. Amid growing concerns of agriculture and water risks, a group of global investors are putting pressure on the fast food industry to come up with a sustainable model to lower their footprint on the environment. The investors, who manage a combined $6.5 trillion, issued letters to six of the largest fast food chains in the United States. The letters asked the companies to explain their plan to reduce risks associated with meat and dairy products by the spring of 2019. The companies targeted include McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Chipotle Mexican Grills, Yum! Brands (Pizza Hut and KFC) and Wendy’s Co. There are over 80 investors who signed on to the initiative, which is also backed by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). The ICCR has a long track record of talking with fast food chains about environmental issues, such as water hazards and deforestation. Related: Prosecco production is destroying soil in some Italian vineyards “Every day around 84 million adults consume fast food in the U.S. alone, but the inconvenient truth of convenience food is that the environmental impacts of the sector’s meat and dairy products have hit unsustainable levels,” said Jeremy Coller, the head of Coller Capital, in a statement. One of the biggest issues with fast food restaurants is their dependency on agriculture, specifically the beef industry . With fast food continuing to rise in popularity, the demand for more beef has reached unsustainable levels. Not to mention, the severe impact the dairy industry has on the environment. To help combat the situation, the new initiative hopes to work with companies to reduce water waste and deforestation, as well as improve conditions in animal agriculture all across the board. Working together, companies in the fast food industry can improve the environment and help cut down on greenhouse gas emissions . It is unclear how the fast food companies have reacted to the letter. If they choose not to act and better the environment, experts predict the agricultural industry — which includes dairy and meat production — will account for around 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions within the next 30 years. Via Ceres Image via Shutterstock

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France is the first country to ban all 5 pesticides linked to bee deaths

February 8, 2019 by  
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In a decisive move, France has become the first country to ban all five of the top pesticides blamed for bee die-off around the world. The phenomenon dubbed “colony collapse disorder” has seen bees dying in record numbers, and scientists are pointing fingers as neonicotinoid pesticides as the primary suspect. The EU led the charge by banning three of the pesticides: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. However, France took it one step further by also banning thiacloprid and acetamiprid in all farming activities, including greenhouses. Related: Bee hive vandalism in Iowa kills tens of thousands of honeybees The neonicotinoids ( with a similar structure to nicotine ) were introduced in the 1990s and work by attacking the central nervous system of the insects. With the same chemical being dusted on plants that bees target, they also ingest it. Researchers report that neonicotinoids are responsible for a lower sperm count in bees, cutting reproduction rates. Other reports have shown how the chemicals interfere with memory and homing skills, resulting in bees flying away and not returning to the hive. The latest research suggests bees may find the toxic chemicals addictive, keeping them returning for more. The scientific link between pesticides and the declining health of bee populations has many concerned about the future of our food products. Plants, flowers and trees won’t grow without the pollination that bees provide, which means food won’t grow, either. Some farmers are reporting near total losses to their bee populations, which has a dire effect on the workings of the farm. While environmentalists and bee keepers are saluting the decision to ban these pesticides , some farmers are feeling disheartened by their ability to compete in the food production market without chemicals to protect them against invasive bugs and harmful insects. The farmers feel there is not enough evidence to support such a dramatic move. The elimination of these pesticides begs the question of what will replace them and what potential issues could arise from those solutions. In contrast to the landmark move by France, President Trump repealed an Obama-era policy that had banned the use of these pesticides near national wildlife refuges, once again allowing farmers to use them in otherwise protected regions with limited oversight. Via The Telegraph Image via Anna Reiff

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France is the first country to ban all 5 pesticides linked to bee deaths

Amazon’s Christmas trees are hurting the environment

November 29, 2018 by  
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Earlier this year, Amazon announced it would be selling and shipping fresh, full-size Christmas trees this holiday season. But there is an environmental issue with the e-behemoth’s new plan — the shipping process will leave a giant carbon footprint. Back in September, Amazon said that it would be shipping 7-foot-tall live Douglas firs, Fraser Firs and Norfolk Island pines to customers’ front doorsteps, a process that is extremely eco-unfriendly. Char Miller, professor of environmental analysis and history at Pomona College said that Amazon’s new Christmas-Tree-in-a-Box program will bring some unwelcome surprises because of the fossil fuels required to get the tree from farm to front door. The long-haul trucking will result in a major carbon footprint, plus there could be more waste in landfills because of the box and packing materials required for a tree of this size. On the positive side, Amazon will most likely get the trees quickly from farm to home, and that means they could last longer. The company said that it will ship the trees within 10 days of cutting them down — maybe even sooner — and the trees will have no trouble surviving the trip. Amazon started selling the trees this month, with some qualifying for Prime free shipping, making the deal more enticing. Customers can also pre-order their trees and select their desired delivery dates. According to the Associated Press , last year the company only sold trees shorter than 3 feet, but it did have some other merchants selling bigger ones on its platform. Amazon decided to jump into the market itself, because the full-size trees are popular with customers. The Amazon holiday preview book revealed that the 7-foot Fraser fir option will come from North Carolina and costs $115. It also offers $50 wreaths and $25 red-leafed plants with a decorative candy cane. While the deals might be intriguing, don’t forget the impact of shipping and packaging this program has on the planet — plus, what better way to celebrate the season of giving than by supporting your local pick-your-own farms? Via AP and TreeHugger Images via Annie Spratt and Kieran White

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