Treepedia Lets Cities See Where Trees are Needed

MIT tree

Treepedia is a new tool from MIT that uses Google street view to evaluate what the coverage of trees are in specific areas. It lets you know what your neighbourhood is like and doesn’t just bias cities with big inaccessible parks. This means that cities (and people!) can use this tool to find where trees are most badly needed from the perspective of a pedestrian. Trees are more than just pollution-fighters, they make cities prettier and friendlier.

“Street greenery is a really important part of the urban environment,” says Xiaojiang Li, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT who helped develop Treepedia’s Green View Index, a measure of the tree coverage in a city overall and in any area within the city that a user wants to examine.

Trees provide shade for pedestrians in the summer and help to lower urban temperatures, Mr. Li says. They also help prevent water runoff during heavy rain and clean the air.

The MIT team used the Google photos instead of satellite imagery to “really measure how much greenery people might see” as they move around a city’s streets, Mr. Li says. Treepedia’s Green View Index doesn’t take city parks into account for that same reason.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Get Water from Air by Using a Windtrap

desert and stars
In Frank Herbert’s book Dune the inhabitants of a desert planet collect water using giant “windtraps,” now we can do the same on earth. Researchers at MIT have built a prototype, which can be easily scaled up, that can capture a lot of water from even the driest of places. Basically, air is filled with moisture and when it flows through the wind collector it comes in contact with a slightly charged surface that sucks the water right from the air. The amount of power needed is negligible, which means that the device can run using only solar panels.

The researchers built a small prototype water collector that contains a thin layer of MOF powder. The powder absorbs water vapor until it is saturated.

“Once you achieve that maximum amount,” Wang says, “you apply some type of heat to the system to release that water.”

And when the water is released, it collects in the bottom of the prototype.

There are other compounds that can suck water from the air, zeolites for example, but Wang says it takes a significant amount of energy to get these materials to release the water. Not so with a MOF device. “The amount of energy required is very low,” she says.

In the prototype, the heat needed to drive the water out of the MOF comes from ambient sunlight — no external power supply is needed.

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Thanks to the Flea!

The Trump Forest

Forest
There’s a new forest growing and it’s spreading over the entire world – and you can help spread it. Trump Forest is more of an idea than a physical place, but it’s all about the physical. President Trump’s ignorance around climate change is apparent and will have disastrous impacts on the planet. As a result of this some enterprising New Zealanders decided to grow resistance to Trump – literally. The idea is to plant as many trees as needed to counteract Trump’s ignorance.

Trump Forest’s tagline is “where ignorance grows trees.” The original plan was to plant a tree for every time President Trump said the words “climate change,” but it quickly became apparent that this wouldn’t grow a forest: Trump has long refused to say the words, and, last week, the U.S. Department of Energy was barred from using the phrase “climate change,” along with “emissions reduction” and “Paris Agreement.”

Human civilization currently emits about 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. To avoid extreme climate change, where the average global temperature would rise by 4°C, emissions need to be reduced to 22 gigatons (or 22 billion tons) by 2050.

Researchers at Oxford University estimate that, if pursued at scale, reforestation and afforestation could sequester as much as 5.5 billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year. So while planting trees is not enough to reverse climate change, it is a low-cost and effective act of resistance when coupled with other climate action efforts.

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This River is a Person in New Zealand Law

The Whanganui River its the first river to have the same legal stats as a person. The New Zealand federal government recently passed a bill granting the river legal personhood. This means that the river is afforded all the rights as a person under New Zealand law. The river’s rights to clean air, legal representation, and other protections people get are now granted to the river itself. This will protect not just the river, it also represents a change in how NZ thinks about the law.

With progress and time we should see other natural entities be granted the same protection as humanity in other jurisdictions.

Long revered by New Zealand’s Maori people, the river’s interests will now be represented by two people.
The Maori had been fighting for over 160 years to get this recognition for their river, a minister said.
“I know the initial inclination of some people will say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality,” said New Zealand’s Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson.
“But it’s no stranger than family trusts, or companies or incorporated societies.”
The Whanganui River, New Zealand’s third-longest, will be represented by one member from the Maori tribes, known as iwi, and one from the Crown.
The recognition allows it to be represented in court proceedings.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Why Mining Matters and Why You Should Care

Despite our technological advances modern civilization relies on mineral resources just as much (if not more) than we did in the past. Our computers need rare earth material to work and other products need metals like aluminum. Recycling isn’t perfect and isn’t plentiful around the world. All of these factors contribute to our need for the mining industry. Unless we change our purchases we will continue to fund mining corporations.

The issue is that mining corporations aren’t good. Indeed, this article outlines why mining companies are problematic all the way from support from the Canadian military on how to run “domestic operations” to the outright theft and destruction of land. What can we do about this?

Obviously, the first thing you can do to help alleviate mining pressure on the world is to consume less. The second thing you can do is buy used goods, then lastly recycle. The saying “reduce, reuse, recycle” is in that order for a reason.

For a more direct approach you can join the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network which is an organization focussed on making the world a better place. This week in Toronto there is a major mining convention and the MISN is there trying to (ironically) disrupt it and educate people. The first step to positive change is knowing that it’s needed and that’s what MISN is trying to do.

The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), organizes the world’s largest mining convention every year in Toronto in March and carries out lobbying efforts in favour of the Canadian mining industry throughout the rest of the year. They describe themself as “the leading voice of the mineral exploration and development community” and claim to encourage “best practices in technical, operational, environmental, safety and social performance”. Meanwhile, Canadian mining companies are far and away the worst offenders in environmental, human rights and other abuses around the world (according to a global study commissioned by PDAC itself but never made public).

The PDAC convention is dedicated to telling compelling stories about the mining industry’s successes and innovations, especially in the realm of “corporate social responsibility” and sustainability. But we know better! Let’s not let them get away with using this convention as yet another shiny PR opportunity to cover up industry harms and repress dissent.

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