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Posts Tagged ‘ecology’

I know I’m a broken record talking about what one determined person can accomplish, but I want share another example.

At ecoRI News, Sonya Gurwitt writes about a retired Massachusetts harbormaster who made up his mind to put an end to what was polluting a cove near his home.

Horace Field, says Gurwitt, “has lived only meters from Brandt Island Cove for nearly two decades. The water’s edge is connected to Field’s backyard by a short, grassy path. …

“Field wanders through the grasses along the shoreline, untangling the occasional piece of plastic or bit of Styrofoam from vegetation. … Field pinches a a small piece of dirty Styrofoam between his fingers, examining it. This, he said, is a small reminder of the pollution that used to cover the salt marsh — Styrofoam everywhere. …

“It was during his tenure as harbormaster that he noticed more and more pieces of Styrofoam cropping up on his property and along the rest of the Mattapoisett shoreline, from small beads to large chunks.

“The source of the pollution was no mystery — Field knew that the Leisure Shores Marina used uncovered Styrofoam blocks to keep its docks afloat. These were beginning to break down, allowing pieces of foam to float away. …

“In 2005, Field wrote a letter to the Board of Selectmen. He didn’t receive a response or even an acknowledgement of its receipt. Undeterred, Field kept at it — attending town meetings and talking to various committees and boards. …

“It wasn’t until early 2013, after Field retired from the position of harbormaster, that he began to make progress. Fed up with the lack of response from the town and other government agencies, Field contacted the Buzzards Bay Coalition (BBC), a nonprofit ‘dedicated to the restoration, protection, and sustainable use and enjoyment’ of Buzzards Bay and its watershed.

“Field said the BBC took action immediately, sending a team to examine the problem. …

“With the help of the Harvard Law School’s Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, [Korrin Petersen, senior attorney for the coalition] began to research which laws the pollution might violate. Petersen said they discovered that the saltwater marsh is a protected resource under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act. This meant that the Styrofoam debris altering the salt marsh was a violation of that law. …

“Field said the process taught him some important lessons.

Be persistent, and be honest. Have a cause that is bulletproof, and don’t let up on it until you get satisfactory results.

More here.

Photo: Joanna Detz/ecoRI News photos
Horace Field took it upon himself to get Brandt Island Cove in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, cleaned up.

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A “funky, eco-friendly” shop in Providence, Small Point Café, serves wooden cutlery that can be recycled. The only problem is that if you do takeout and want to use the recycling bin at work, wood is not accepted.

Here’s an idea that could solve the problem of takeout-cutlery waste once and for all: utensils you can eat.

Brittany Levine Beckman writes at Mashable, “Tired of seeing mountains of plastic cutlery polluting India’s landfills, Narayana Peesapaty had an idea: What if you could eat your disposable spoon rather than toss it?

“Peesapaty, a researcher and agriculture consultant from Hyderabad, India, developed an edible spoon made of millet, rice and wheat flours, in 2010. Now, after selling 1.5 million spoons for his company Bakeys, he wants to reach even more eaters. Peesapaty knows that means he has to cut the cost of his products to compete with cheaper plastic counterparts. …

“Bakeys plans to use its successful Kickstarter campaign to improve production and expand the product line. Its ‘edible lunch spoon,’ which can last 20 minutes in hot liquid, comes in a variety of flavors: sugar, ginger-cinnamon, ginger-garlic, cumin, celery, black pepper, mint-ginger and carrot-beetroot. The spoons have a shelf life of two to three years.

” ‘You can eat it up. If you don’t want to eat it, you can throw it. It decomposes within four to five days,’ Peesapaty said in a promotional video that has been shared millions of times since posting on March 16. …

” ‘Plastic is very cheap, true. But I can make it as cheap,’ Peesapaty remarks confidently. ‘I can with volumes, and once I get the volumes, I [can go to] the farmers directly and start procuring raw material directly from the farmers, in which case my spoons will be as cheap as the plastic spoons.’ ”

More. Learn how to get a supply of your own.

Photo: Mashable
Edible cutlery is already reducing plastic waste and benefiting the environment.

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Video: PBS NewsHour

Not long ago, Julia Griffin of PBS NewsHour interviewed an artist who has turned plastic trash into sculptures with a message.

“JULIA GRIFFIN: Octavia the octopus, Priscilla the parrot fish, and Flash the marlin, all sculptures now on display at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and all made of trash pulled from the Pacific Ocean. …

“Angela Haseltine Pozzi is the lead artist and executive director of Washed Ashore, a nonprofit seeking to educate the public on the plastics polluting the word’s oceans.

“ANGELA HASELTINE POZZI: We create sculptures that can teach people about the problem. And, as an artist, it is a real challenge to use everything that comes up off the beach.

“JULIA GRIFFIN: In six years, Haseltine Pozzi and her team of volunteers have created 66 sculptures from more than 38,000 pounds of debris collected from a stretch of Oregon’s coastline.

“The countless bottle caps, flip-flops and beach toys are just a fraction of the more than 315 billion pounds of plastic estimated to be in the world’s oceans.

“Such plastics not only pose entanglement threats to Marine animals, but are often mistaken for food. …

“JULIA GRIFFIN: As scientists debate how to clean the water, Haseltine Pozzi hopes her sculptures will inspire visitors to curb pollution in the first place.”

The exhibit can be seen at the zoo until September 16, 2016. More at PBS here. Check out the Smithsonian’s site, too.

Photo: Smithsonian

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When homes are destroyed in disaster zones, the Mobile Factory can turn the rubble into Lego-like building blocks to create new housing. They snap together without mortar.

Stella Dawson of the Thomson Reuters Foundation writes, “In Amsterdam a mobile factory, the size of two shipping containers, ingests rubble at one end, liquifies it into cement, and spurts out Lego-shaped building blocks.

“Call it rubble for the people, converting the deadly debris from disasters into homes and hospitals, cheaply and quickly.

“It’s the brainchild of Gerard Steijn, a 71-year-old sustainable development consultant turned social entrepreneur, who leads the Netherlands-based project to recycle the rubble from natural disasters and wars.

“He plans to create ecologically sound and safe housing by producing 750 building blocks a day from the debris, enough for one home at a cost of less than $20,000 each.

” ‘In disasters, you have piles and piles of rubble, and the rubble is waste. If you are rich, you buy more bricks and rebuild your home,’ Steijn said in a telephone interview.

‘But what happens if you are poor? In disasters it is the poorest people who live in the weakest houses and they loose their homes first. I thought, what if you recycled the rubble to build back better homes for poor people?’

“His rubble-busting Mobile Factory has fired the imagination of a landowner in Haiti and a civil engineer at the University of Delft. They have joined forces to test Steijn’s idea and build the first rubble community in Port au Prince next year. …

“Unskilled people can build the homes with the blocks, which meet demanding Dutch construction standards to ensure they will last for many years. [Hennes de Ridder, an engineering professor at the University of Delft,] expects further stress tests he planned for Peru in a few months will show the homes can withstand temblors of at least 6 on the Richter scale.” Read more here.

Photo: The Mobile Factory
Model homes built from cement rubble are on display at an industrial park in Amsterdam. The brightly painted homes are designed for disaster zones, using technology that creates Lego-style building blocks from cement rubble.

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On my walk this morning I saw an official-looking sign on a fence in a residential neighborhood. The sign read “Certified Wildlife Habitat.”

I had to look it up when I got home. The website of the National Wildlife Federation says, “Wildlife needs our help. … You can invite wildlife back to your own yard and neighborhood by planting a simple garden that provides habitat. …

“Providing a sustainable habitat for wildlife begins with your plants. That’s why we call it  a wildlife habitat ‘garden.’ When you plant the native plant species that wildlife depend on, you create habitat and begin to restore your local environment. Adding water sources, nesting boxes and other habitat features enhances the habitat value of your garden to wildlife. By choosing natural gardening practices, you make your yard a safe place for wildlife. …

“Here is what your wildlife garden should include:

“Food: Native plants provide nectar, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, foliage, pollen and insects eaten by an exciting variety of wildlife. Feeders can supplement natural food sources.

“Water: All animals need water to survive and some need it for bathing or breeding as well.

“Cover: Wildlife needs places to find shelter from bad weather and places to hide from predators or stalk prey.

“Places to Raise Young: Wildlife needs resources to reproduce and keep their species going. Some species have totally different habitat needs in their juvenile phase than they do as adults.

“Sustainable Practices: How you manage your garden can have an effect on the health of the soil, air, water and habitat for native wildlife as well as the human community.

“Already have all these elements in your wildlife garden? Certify today!” And there’s a box to click on if you think you are ready.

Now I’m wondering if the chipmunk on our back steps today thinks our yard could qualify. It’s a small yard, so not much cover. And we’d need to provide water. Hmm.

More at the National Wildlife Federation, here.

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You haven’t heard the last word on tiny houses from this blog yet. Just check out Treehugger reporter Kimberley Mok’s amazing story about using a 3D printer to create a tiny house and SUV that can create, store, and share energy. Unreal but true.

“Designers from architecture firm SOM, University of Tennessee and researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are cleverly tackling the energy issue by using a concept they call ‘integrated energy.’

“Their innovative design features a 3D printed house, that comes with a 3D printed SUV, which each generate, store and share energy — boosting energy efficiency both ways, while benefiting from the reduced construction waste and quick turnaround that comes with additive manufacturing techniques. …

“The design of both home and car uses carbon-fiber-reinforced ABS plastic (admittedly not the greenest of materials). The home was printed in separate modules that are assembled together and reinforced with steel rods, and insulated with a modified, highly efficient atmosphere insulation panels, resulting in a surprisingly strong and insulated structure.

“Certainly the most intriguing thing about the design is the reciprocal energy relationship that the car has with the house. … The 3D printed SUV is a hybrid that uses both electricity and natural gas to power itself. It’s parked on an inductive charging pad that allows it to send or receive energy from the solar-powered house — thus significantly solving the electricity issue on cloudy days. If there’s no electricity at all from either solar panels or car, the house can still tap into the energy grid. …

“Thanks to the additive manufacturing process, the prototype took only one year to realize from start to finish.” Read more here.

Photo: ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

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One of the websites I check for cool stories is the one for Living on Earth, an excellent environmental news magazine from Public Radio International. In a recent episode, host Steve Curwood interviewed the author of a new book on the rare Asian “unicorn.”

“CURWOOD: Deep in the forests of southeast Asia lives a creature nicknamed the Asian Unicorn, and it’s nearly as rare as the mythical creature, as well. … And it is right at the edge of extinction. Writer William deBuys accompanied conservationists on an expedition to study the saola, and his book The Last Unicorn lays out the story and the challenges of saving a species so rare. …

“DEBUYS: The saola was discovered to Western science only in 1992. Local villagers in the habitat of the saola [such as Laos] have known it was there forever, but this new discovery was made when scientists saw a rack of horns on the wall of a hunter’s shack. And these horns are the most distinctive features of the saola. They’re long, almost straight, and beautifully tapered to a very sharp point, so that when the saola stands profile, the two horns in perspective merge into one, and it appears to have only one horn, it appears to be a unicorn. Perhaps only dozens to a few hundred still exist, and there are none in captivity. …

“CURWOOD: Tell us what it’s like there in the forest. What would you hear in the forest?

“DEBUYS: Oh, the music of the forest was constantly inspiring and entertaining. The birdcalls never ceased. We heard laughing thrushes, and we heard drongos and Indian cuckoos and all kinds of birds with really distinctive calls. There was a kind of chorus behind us all the time.

“But the most marvelous thing occurred at first light, almost every morning. We heard the calls of gibbons. Gibbons are small apes, beautiful, slender animals that swing through the trees, so gracefully, and their calls are ethereal. And they call, male to female and female to male, in mated couples, and you can think of it as almost a kind of love song that you hear echoing through the forest. …

“Our expedition basically had three purposes: one was to look for saola habitat and for saola in that habitat. A second was to evaluate the poaching pressure on the landscape. And a third was to conduct a kind of conservation diplomacy in the villages of the forest. …

“CURWOOD: How many saola did you see?

“DEBUYS: Well, we saw none. No Westerner has yet seen a saola in the wild, and the joke is that saola are so like unicorns, and everybody knows that in the Middle Ages, the only people who had an outside chance of seeing a unicorn had to be absolutely pure of heart. And Robichaud and I joke that if that applies also to saola, then we were disqualified from the get-go.” More here.

Note the thoughtful discussion at Living on Earth about the rights and sensitivities of native peoples where the conservation efforts are focused.

Photo: William Robichaud / Wildlife Conservation Society
The first adult saola to be observed outside of its habitat.

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