Tag Archives: greenstuff

These new Dutch bikes truly suck.

Bike-sharing programs are big right now. Designed for quick trips with convenience in mind, bike-sharing is a fun and affordable way to get around. A Dutch designer has devised a bike kitted up with air infiltration equipment that can eat smog and spit out clean air, helping to protect the lungs of individual riders. Now he‘s looking for an army of cyclists to power them. 

Daan Roosegaarde, an inventor from the Netherlands and the designer behind the ethereal “glowing trees” project (read more about that here) and “glowing bike paths” (link here) is back at it with a new initiative that aims to not only beautify our environment, but actually clean it.

For years, his company, Studio Roosegaarde, has been incubating the Smog Free Project, a series of urban innovations that reduce airborne particulants and provide an inspirational peek into a clean future. Roosegaarde kicked off the project after he visited Beijing and saw the impacts of air pollution. “Some days I couldn’t see the other side of the street,” he told MotherBoard. Successful prototypes launched in China, Poland and the Netherlands include the Smog Free Tower and the Smog Free Ring, which provide a local solution of clean air in public spaces.

The Smog Free Bicycle is the latest addition to the portfolio, developed under an exclusive partnership with Ofo, the leading Chinese bike-sharing program Ofo which operates more than 2.2 million bikes in 43 cities. The bike draws its inspiration from the Smog Free workshop held in Beijing in 2017 which featured artist Matt Hope and Professor Yang from Tsinghua University. That event aimed to design solutions to mitigate air pollution problems in Beijing.The first prototypes launch this year. 

Tapping into smog free tech, the custom bike inhales polluted air, cleans it, and releases it locally to the cyclist who would otherwise be sucking in toxic air as she/he pedaled through a dirty city environment. It is intended to become a medium for smog free cities, generating clean air to celebrate the bicycle and making thousands of them to create an impact on the larger urban scale.

“The project is about the dream of clean air, clean water and clean energy,” he said. The de-smogging process will be powered by a combination of pedaling and a small solar panel. The result is a clean, healthy breeze blowing into cyclists’ faces. If such a program was adopted on a huge scale, the bike-mounted smog scrubbers might even have a marginal impact on improving a city’s overall air quality.

Roosegaarde said he wants to focus on China first, where the bike is supported by the Chinese Central Government as part of its war on smog, but that doesn’t mean he’s not planning out the company’s next steps. His next stop is India.

“In the process, the smog particles are compressed and they clutter together so they can’t disconnect, and once they’ve connected on a negatively charged surface they’re not fine dust anymore [because they’ve clumped together to form a larger mass], and every month or two you clean the surface,” he said.

Roosegaarde said that there has to be some sort of incentive to get people to return the bikes, because China has a problem with bike thieves. Other aspects not yet defined include price points and timelines for release.

The World Health Organization rates China as the worst country in the world for outside air pollution. More than a million of its people died prematurely in 2012 due to fumes pumped out by factories, cars, and other sources. And, according to Wikipedia, as of December 2016 roughly 1000 cities worldwide have a bike-sharing programIn New York City alone, Citi Bike – the largest such program in America – offers 12,000 bikes at 750 stations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. The potential to make a significant positive impact is enormous, especially when factoring in the reduction of gas-fueled vehicles as bicycles replace them. 

Studio Roosegaarde wouldn’t say whether its biking system is intended to attack smog on the city-wide scale, as it’s still a nascent idea. Right now, it seems like the technology is intended to help protect the lungs of individual riders.

Experiencing the Polar Vortex first hand

Effects of the earth’s Polar Vortex polar air masses have been attributed to causing extremely cold weather patterns causing sub-freezing temperatures in U.S. cities like New York City, Chicago, and even as far south as northern Florida. The unusual cold weather phenomenon has also been said to have caused deep freeze conditions in the Middle East; including a 2013  shocking snowfall in Cairo for the first time in 100 years.

The most recent bout of Polar Vortex induced weather brought near zero temperatures to many parts of the USA, literally ringing in the new year 2018 with 11 degree F temperatures in New York City’s Times Square. Freezing and sub-freezing temperatures were felt as far south as Texas and northern Florida. Spending time in New York City during the recent holiday season presented an opportunity to experience this phenomenon first hand; including a sudden mega snow storm that dumped between 8 and 12 inches of snow in Manhattan and

other parts of the city,  closing down the city’s major airports for several days.

Comimg from a much warmer Mediterranean climate, trying to walk anywhere in temperatures averaging between 11 and 15 degrees Farenheit (-12 – 9 Celsius) made even short distances seem like climbing the north face of K-2 mountain in the Himalayas. Weather advisories on local TV channels constantly warned against undue exposure to the extreme cold, especially facial exposure. A short three block walk to a local food store or other location seemed like something out of an extreme sport endurance trial. Needless to say, local taxi drivers were kept quite busy taking people around; even for distances that might have been easily accomplished on foot in warmer weather.

Fortunately, these bouts of sub-freezing cold only last a week or so; returning to more ‘normal’ seasonal weather of temperatures reaching the high 30’s to low 40’s F ( O – 4 degrees C). This spout of intense cold and snowy weather prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to comment about global warming: “Global warming? How can there be global warming with such cold weather?”

His scientific advisors did not appear to inform him that it’s now common scientific knowledge that global warming is being attributed as one of the main causes of the Polar Vortex phenomenon. Climatologists are also saying that the ongoing Arctic ice melt is literally rocking world weather.

Conditions like Polar Vortex caused polar air dips are only one example of abnormal climate change conditions being tied to global warming. More intense tropical storms like hurricanes and typhoons, severe drought in many locations, especially the Middle East, are now also being attributed to over consumption of fossil fuels and destruction of natural habitats by the earth’s nearly 7 billion human inhabitants. The way it looks now, the overall situation may only get worse; much worse.

Read more on Polar Vortex and climate change:

Arctic ice melt is rocking world weather

Will the Polar Vortex “dip” freeze the Middle East

Snow shocks Cairo for first time in 100 years

Five Bucks an Acre for Iconic National Monument Lands


Five Bucks an Acre for Iconic National Monument Lands

Trump removed national monument protections in Utah, and today the land is up for grabs by anyone with four stakes and no conscience.

By Heidi McIntosh | February 2, 2018

Hard-rock miners can now stake a claim in the lands President Trump carved out from Bears Ears National Monument, including Valley of the Gods, seen here.

Hard-rock miners can now stake a claim in the lands President Trump carved out from Bears Ears National Monument, including Valley of the Gods, seen here.

Bob Wick / BLM

Amid the soaring sandstone canyons of Bears Ears National Monument are 13,000-year-old cultural artifacts … and uranium. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument harbors copper, uranium, zirconium and other minerals.

Nonetheless, this time last year, over a million acres of Bears Ears were shielded under the national monument protections that Native American tribes and conservationists had worked tirelessly to secure. For 21 years, the Grand Staircase has been protected. 

A visitor looks at pictographs in Bears Ears' Grand Gulch

A visitor looks at pictographs in Bears Ears’ Grand Gulch
Steven Gabriel Gnam

That ended on December 4, 2017.  Acting on ill-informed recommendations from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and a rushed public comment period (which nonetheless resulted in near unanimous support for the monuments), President Trump revoked national monument status from 85 percent of Bears Ears and nearly 50 percent of Grand Staircase, replacing them with small, fragmented, and inadequate substitutes.  The decision to axe the monuments included a countdown clock which runs out today. Now, anybody with four wooden pickets and no conscience can stake a claim on the land, dig a hard-rock mine, pay no royalties, and walk away at will if their imagined “Gold Rush” turns out to be a pipe dream.   All at the expense of our national heritage in one of the most scenic and historic corners of the West.

The law authorizing this kind of public lands giveaway is the General Mining Act of 1872, which Congress passed to spur westward expansion across the American frontier. It awards surface as well as mineral rights to anyone who stakes a claim and finds certain “hard rock” minerals—uranium, gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc, among others—on the land (it does not cover oil and coal, which are subject to a different statutory scheme). The law cries out for reform, although powerful mining companies and their allies in Congress have blocked any meaningful changes.

So, while the administration says that Zinke “adamantly opposes the wholesale sale or transfer of public lands,” their actions prove otherwise. Revoking the monument protections and opening the land to hard-rock mining enables just that “wholesale sale” to happen—with little oversight from the Bureau of Land Management.

Starting today, if someone staking a claim on these sacred and scenic lands finds valuable mineral deposits in their claim, they can purchase the lands to the tune of $2.50 to $5.00 an acre. That’s not a typo. Five bucks an acre for some of our most iconic public lands.

In effect, it’s not really a sell-off of treasured public lands—it could be a give-away. We’ll have to wait and see if anyone takes advantage of Trump and Zinke’s invitation to pillage our public lands.

BearsEarMining 03 (PDF)

BearsEarMining 03 (Text)

We know that uranium miners covet Bears Ears. Last May, Energy Fuels Resources sent Zinke a letter warning of a “chilling effect” of the Bears Ears National Monument designation on uranium mining, and asked that that the Interior Department “reduce the size of BENM.” 

Communities in Southern Utah know what unfettered uranium mining can do. The Navajo Nation adjacent to Bears Ears has long fought the impacts of uranium development. More than 500 uranium mines have been abandoned on or near their lands; only one has been cleaned up. Most are Superfund sites awaiting the estimated $4 billion to $6 billion required to restore the landscape.

Half Life: America’s Last Uranium Mill from Grand Canyon Trust on Vimeo.

Earthjustice, representing a coalition of conservation groups, has taken the President to court to challenge his unprecedented attack on national monuments.  Much is at stake, including critically important historic, cultural and scientific riches. A coalition of five Native American tribes has filed a similar lawsuit, as have Patagonia Works and others.  We’re also fighting 3 bills moving through Congress to ratify Trump’s illegal executive order and gut the Antiquities Act, putting all national monuments at risk.

If the court upholds Trump’s actions, critically important parts of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase will be open to mining and other development that could destroy their historic, natural and scientific treasures forever.

The White Mesa uranium mill is located in Blanding, Utah

The White Mesa uranium mill is located in Blanding, Utah, just outside of Bears Ears.
Photo Courtesy of Energy Fuels, Inc.

Further, the precedent such a decision would set could threaten other national monuments, creating a quick path for vested interests to excavate our public lands for resources, yielding corporate profits at the expense of public values.

The opening of sensitive landscapes in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante to mining demonstrates just how vulnerable our heritage and the proud legacy of public lands protections in America really are.

A decision on our coalition’s lawsuits could come soon. Meanwhile, Earthjustice stands ready to continue the fight to protect our public lands.

Hikers explore Grand Gulch, Utah, on Nov. 7, 2017

Hikers explore Grand Gulch, Utah, on Nov. 7, 2017.
Steven Gabriel Gnam

Violating the Sacred: GMO Chestnuts for the Holidays?

Unbalance nature and nature will produce its own balance or die.

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…” We don’t even have to provide the score for you to hear this song clearly in your head. “The Christmas Song” written in 1945 by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé is a classic. However, by that…

Tribe Fought for Coal Ash Safeguards, Then Pruitt Came Along

Tribe Fought for Coal Ash Safeguards, Then Pruitt Came Along

By Keith Rushing | Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Reid Gardner coal plant

The Reid Gardner coal plant stood about 300 yards from the Moapa River Indian Reservation in Nevada.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

For the Paiute Indians who call the Moapa River Reservation home, living next to a coal-fired power plant meant dealing with toxic coal ash. The dust covered their homes, seeped into their bodies and, they believed, made them sick.

The tribe fought the plant and its pollution, and worked to bring clean energy jobs instead to their land near Las Vegas. In the process, they helped secure from the Environmental Protection Agency the first-ever federal regulations on coal ash. Just two years later, however, the new coal ash rule, referred to by the EPA as the coal combustion residuals rule, faces a serious threat.

The byproduct of burning coal to generate power, coal ash contains some of the deadliest industrial toxics known to man—mercury, arsenic, lead and chromium, which are associated with cancer, heart disease, strokes and brain damage in children. Seventy percent of this waste is dumped in low-income communities. Coal ash has been responsible for at least 200 cases of contaminated water.

The coal ash rule marked a victory for the Paiute, for Earthjustice and for Americans living near some 1,400 coal ash dumps across the country. That is, until EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided in September to “reconsider” the rule at the behest of the coal industry.

The tribe’s fight against coal ash began in 2000. William Anderson, the tribe’s chairman at the time, recalls how members began to discuss what the coal ash in their community might be doing to their health.

Former Moapa Paiute Chairman William Anderson

Former Moapa Paiute Chairman William Anderson
Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

“We started asking ourselves: Who do we know who has breathing problems, thyroid problems and heart problems?” says Anderson. “All of us know someone at the reservation who had these issues.”

When Anderson was growing up, he says, asthma wasn’t an issue on the reservation. But when they began focusing on the possible link to coal ash, he realized that a majority of children seemed to have asthma or a breathing illness.

“We started a campaign with our [tribal] council and went to our people to fight for our own right to breathe clean air,” he says.

The tribe’s members started questioning state and federal agencies as well as NV Energy, which owned the nearby Reid Gardner coal plant, about the actual level of emissions. “Every time we started bringing awareness, no one would listen to what we were saying,” Anderson explains.

The minimal monitoring equipment that the company maintained didn’t reflect the true level of toxics that the tribe was able to document, Anderson says.

Part of the tribe’s campaign included working closely with the Sierra Club and Earthjustice and involved filing a lawsuit against NV Energy that charged the company with violating federal environmental laws requiring proper removal of toxic soil, sludge, coal dust and contaminated groundwater. NV Energy settled the lawsuit in 2015 for $4.3 million. The company closed the Reid Gardner plant earlier this year but still maintains coal ash waste there.

The film “An Ill Wind” tells the Paiute Indians’ story.
Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

The tribe also began soliciting proposals from companies to build a solar farm. And in 2012, the Paiute completed a deal to establish the largest solar farm on an Indian reservation, which resulted in nearly 1 million solar panels being built to provide power to Los Angeles.

The farm created 600 jobs, and now the tribe is working on a deal to expand it.

“I was so happy during that time,” he says, reflecting back. “With everything that was going on with our people, we could see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Anderson says tribal leaders tried to talk to NV Energy about producing renewable energy, but company officials weren’t interested.

“We showed them [NV Energy] that there’s an effective way to have a solution instead of destroying the environment, plants and animals and spoiling the water. And that’s renewable energy,” Anderson says.

As for the coal ash left behind, NV Energy is now required to place a cap on the dump near the Moapa River Reservation that would prevent the ash from becoming airborne. The company also must maintain a fugitive dust control plan for at least 30 years to keep toxics from seeping into groundwater, according to Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans, who was the lead attorney on the case.

In addition to helping the Paiute, the coal ash rule established disposal safeguards affecting the other dumps around the U.S. The 2015 rule includes safeguards to prevent fugitive dust, ensure the stability of coal ash dams, protect drinking water from toxic ash, and ensure detection and cleanup of toxic leaks from coal ash dumps.

Hundreds of contaminated sites and spills have been documented among the 1,400+ coal ash waste dumps across the country.

Hundreds of contaminated sites and spills have been documented among the 1,400+ coal ash waste dumps across the country. See map.

Evans says the coal ash rule, which Earthjustice had been trying to strengthen, remains in place as of now. But if Pruitt tries to delay compliance deadlines or weaken the rule, Earthjustice will consider legal action.

When the EPA announced its decision to reconsider the coal ash rule, Evans called it a “galling giveaway” to industrial polluters.

“The EPA is sending a crystal-clear message to families across the country: Our job is to protect wealthy polluters, not you and your children,” she said. “Americans will not stand idly by as the EPA puts their health and safety at risk—and neither will Earthjustice or our partners.”

Anderson says the move by Pruitt is one of a number of ups and downs the tribe has faced, and it will not deter their fight.

“Our native people have been here for thousands upon thousands of years,” he says. “There’s struggle but we still continue on. When this place was first colonized, we faced genocide. They thought they could wipe out Native people but we are still here. We still move forward every time.”

Learn more facts about coal ash here.