When biologist Chandler Robbins first tagged Wisdom the Laysan albatross in 1956, he probably had no idea that the oceanic bird would long outlive him. But here we are in the year 2021, and Wisdom is still alive and mating. In fact, Wisdom has just hatched another chick at the tender age of 70.
Within the international bird community, Wisdom is regarded as the “oldest known wild bird in history,” having outlived several mating partners and the biologist who first placed a band on her all those years ago. In total, it is believed that the Laysan albatross has hatched more than 35 chicks in her life, all of which were born at the Midway Atoll national wildlife refuge in the North Pacific, where more than a million albatross return to nest each year.
“Because she only nests every two years, the international bird community looks forward to seeing if she’s been able to come back and nest,” said Sean Dooley, national public affairs manager for BirdLife Australia. “The odds are stacked against them so much, whenever it happens it’s always a cause for celebration.”
Although it may seem odd that a bird can continue to be productive right up to old age, the reality is that only primates and whales have an extended lifespan after fertility.
“To humans, it seems remarkable but we’re still determining whether this is par for the course for these magnificent birds,” said Dooley. “In the bird world the other famously long-lived birds are the parrots, especially cockatoos. In captivity, there have been cockatoos getting on towards 100. Eighty or 90 years have been recorded of cockatoos in captivity. Even in the wild, they’d be expected to have a natural lifespan of at least 30 to 40 years old, if not older.”
We recently shared how Disney added disclaimers at the beginning of many of their movies notifying the audience that the movie contained insensitive and discriminatory depictions of certain racial, ethnic, or cultural groups. Rather than take the movies off their platforms altogether, Disney is using the films to teach about the history of discrimination so we may use the knowledge to move forward towards a more equitable world. Now, in the face of recent criticisms of Dr. Seuss books, many librarians are using a similar approach when it comes to outdated literature.
Some libraries have approached potentially problematic literature by creating “historic artifact” sections where books like Little House on the Prairie and Dr. Seuss’ If I Ran The Zoo can stay on the shelves in a separate section, but with a disclaimer that despite their historical relevance, the books do contain offensive descriptions of certain ethnic and racial groups.
Other libraries, like the Nashville Public Library, have started discussion series to stimulate conversations with children about why these books are problematic, stopping at certain passages to discuss why they are hurtful and give more historical context about the time the book was written.
In addition to approaching popular older books with a critical eye, some libraries have also created guides to help parents navigate their way to new family favorites that are more inclusive. The Brooklyn Public Library has a list of popular books matched with more contemporary titles that follow similar themes. For example, they suggest picture books with racially diverse characters like Don’t Touch My Hair for young children and Not Your Sidekick, a book about magic featuring LGBTQ+ characters for Harry Potter fans.
Librarians are inherently opposed to book censorship, but also recognize that some books contain messages and depictions that are counterproductive to the culture of inclusivity, equality, and acceptance they are trying to teach children. These great strategies from librarians offer a solution for acknowledging the role these books play in literary history and how to move forward and learn from the areas in which they fall short.
Many of the new buildings being constructed today are designed with the planet in mind, and while that may help humanity shrink its carbon footprint, the reality is that the number of old buildings will continue to outnumber new buildings well into the future. Keeping an old building up and running is environmentally taxing, but because we still need them to house people and businesses, these buildings will have to be renovated in order to help save the environment.
Of course, renovating an old building is no cheap or simple matter, which is why the Danish architecture firm Henning Larsen has come up with an innovative solution for renovating the outside of a building. In essence, what the firm has come up with is a prefab, modular facade that can be rapidly installed on top of an existing facade to instantly help the building save energy while giving it an aesthetic lift. Henning Larsen came up with the modular design while trying to find a renovation solution for social housing projects in Denmark that were constructed in the middle of the 20th century.
“The point of departure was this very particular typology of social housing that we have from the 1960s and ’70s: long blocks of housing that, after a half-century of use, are in need of some attention,” said Martin Vraa Nielsen, who is co-leading the project.
According to the designers, the new system of panels is a little like the Ikea kitchen of facades: easy to use and scale-up. In fact, the designers say, depending on the layout, an entire housing block could be renovated in as little as a week.
“The panels work by clipping onto the existing structure, so you’re actually not pulling the old walls down, you’re just adding this new outer layer,” says Nielsen. “It adds another layer of insulation to the often not-so-well-insulated structures, thus helping reduce heat loss.”
There are a number of other great benefits that come with this prefab design. To start with, residents don’t have to move out while they’re being installed. On top of that, residents have the power to choose from a catalog of different windows or balconies when it comes to the outside of their building. They might, for instance, opt for a deeper window well that creates a window seat filled with daylight, or perhaps a balcony that can fill the entire apartment with more light.
Although the project was designed in Denmark, the system is perfectly suited for social housing all across Europe as these types of buildings are quite common. Henning Larsen also points out that the design can be adapted for other types of buildings as well. The pandemic has forced the first installation to be delayed, but we hope to see this new renovation system in action very soon.
Image source: Henning Larsen
As the production of biofuel continues to increase, so does the need for sustainable feedstocks. Corn, canola, and sugarcane have all been used to produce biofuels, but the problem is that these feedstocks require land to grow on as well as a lot of resources such as water and fertilizers.
Kelp on the other hand doesn’t need any of that. Growing naturally within the marine environment, kelp is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world and provides a habitat for sea creatures. That said, raising the plant in controlled aquaculture settings raises a few challenges. For instance, the plant needs to be fixed to a substrate within sun-drenched waters to really thrive, but these parts of the ocean don’t offer the same abundance of nutrients found in deeper waters.
To get around this issue and help grow faster, a team of researchers from The University of Southern California came up with a novel contraption to get the best of both the nutrient-rich deep sea and the sun-drenched shallow sea. This machine is called the kelp elevator, and it raises the kelp up to the sunny surface during the daytime and lowers it to depths of around 260 ft (80 m) at night, allowing the kelp to soak up vital nutrients like nitrate and phosphate.
With the kelp elevator, which is made of fiberglass tubes and stainless steel cables, scientists were able to grow kelp off the coast of California much faster over the course of 100 days. In fact, the scientists produced four times the biomass of regular kelp using the kelp elevator.
“The good news is the farm system can be assembled from off-the-shelf products without new technology,” said Brian Wilcox, co-founder and chief engineer of company Marine BioEnergy, which came up with the elevator. “Once implemented, depth-cycling farms could lead to a new way to produce affordable, carbon-neutral fuel year-round.”
Big industries, such as agriculture and transportation, are starting to move toward renewable energy to create an eco-friendly future, but if we want to maximize the benefits of renewable sources, we must embrace them in our homes and everyday lives.
Sunne’s sleek design is lightweight and equipped with photovoltaic cells and an integrated battery so that it can harvest and store enough daylight to illuminate your home once the sun goes down. Because it generates its own power, there is no need for a plug or external electricals, which keeps the look and shape of the lamp chic and minimal.
The lamp is meant to be hung by a window so that it can absorb the sun’s rays through SunPower Solar Cells that Van Aubel developed in collaboration with The Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands. The side of the lamp that faces the window is fitted with solar cells while the room-facing side is covered in LED lights.
The light turns itself on once the sun starts setting, after which you can choose from three settings: Sunne Rise, Sunne Light, and Sunne Set. The oblong shape is reminiscent of the horizon, complimenting the three light settings which mimic the changing colors of the sky.
Van Aubel and her team also want to develop an app that can display information about the battery level and how much light is being collected by the solar cells so that users can place the lamp in a location with the best conditions for harvesting solar energy.
Van Aubel is a self-proclaimed “solar designer” and has already created a photovoltaic “stained glass” window and a solar desk that can charge your phone. Her vision is for solar power that is integrated into our homes, rather than solely reserved for centralized plants or households that can afford to install roof-mounted solar panels.
Sunne is one of the first solar-powered pieces that people can purchase and own, but it certainly won’t be the last. As solar cells become more affordable, a future where entire homes are run solely on solar may not be far off.
Imagine if you could take a road trip across the entire continental US in an electric vehicle without worrying about getting stuck without a charging station. This is the goal of the newly formed Electric Highway Coalition, a collaboration between six big regional utilities that aim to make charging stations more accessible on highways across the country.
The utilities involved are American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy, Southern Company, and Tennessee Valley Authority. Together, they plan to build a network of charging and service stations for electric vehicles that stretches across 16 states on highways from Texas to Florida up to Virginia and over to Indiana.
The coalition has yet to provide details on the exact locations of the charging stations and how many they plan to install, but the proposed charging technology would be able to charge vehicles in as little as 30 minutes.
The concept of an energy utility coalition to expand EV charging access isn’t new, but most of them are located on the West Coast and in the Northeast. This initiative is the first to tackle widespread charging station availability in the South and Southeast.
The participation of energy utilities in EV access is a big step because it speeds up the rollout of charging stations and puts more monetary support behind the transition to EVs. Obviously, the utilities also have a financial incentive to expand EV charging stations as they are the ones providing the electricity, but nonetheless, this is a great example of a cross-sector partnership to achieve a greener future.
While necessary to support human settlements, the development of infrastructure in coastal areas is often harmful to surrounding natural ecosystems. That’s because most of this construction is made of concrete — a material whose chemical composition and flat surface fails to act as a viable surrogate to natural substrates such as oysters and coral reefs.
In an effort to rethink the way we build in coastal areas, Israeli marine biologists Dr. Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Dr. Ido Sella have founded ECOncrete — a sustainable and scalable solution aiming to reduce the negative environmental impact of marine infrastructure.
To achieve its goal, ECOncrete has developed a line of alternative concrete materials that score high on durability and strength while also having an enhanced ecological and biological value. The ultimate idea is to bridge the functional and structural gaps between underwater concrete developments and their surrounding natural habitats.
“We wanted to take our academic expertise and apply it to the real world, at scale, to really make a change and offset the enormous damages that people are inflicting on our oceans,” said Perkol-Finkel.
Seeking to make coastlines less disruptive to marine ecosystems, ECOncrete replaces intrusive concrete structures, such as seafloor mats and seawalls, with products that blend in with their surroundings. It achieves this through biomimicry — a technique of drawing inspiration from the textures, shapes, and patterns found in the natural world in order to design products.
As a result, the company’s concrete solution is a bio-enhancing material that helps marine life thrive. And on top of that, the material can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by fostering natural processes such as biocalcification which can sequester CO2 from the oceans.
Since it launched in 2012, ECOncrete has tested its solution in several large-scale experimental projects worldwide and has since then improved the positive environmental impact of its alternative concrete structures.
The number of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has increased dramatically over the past few decades. Common treatments include medications that regulate dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain, but new research from the University of Arizona indicates that a family-centered therapeutic approach is highly effective for reducing ADHD symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
In the experiment, the researchers recruited children between the ages of 6 and 8 that had been diagnosed with or were suspected of having ADHD. The researchers worked with the parents of the children to adopt the “nurtured heart approach” to ADHD treatment in which parents, rather than children, are the focus of the therapeutic approach.
At first, the researchers only conducted the new approach with half of the parents involved and after six weeks, they found that of the children who originally scored high in inattention, 31 percent showed significant improvements and of the children who originally scored high in hyperactivity, 11 percent showed significant improvements.
The “nurtured heart approach” was originally developed by family therapist Howard Glasser as a medicine-free alternative to ADHD therapy. The approach focuses on training parents to foster a sense of connection between themselves and their children to promote improved confidence and self-worth. Parents are taught specific strategies to connect with their children when they are exhibiting symptoms of ADHD and engage them in activities and discussions that help them refocus.
In addition to statistically promising results from the experiment, the researchers also received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the parents who participated. This study offers a potential solution for treating children with ADHD with a reduced amount or even no medical stimulants.
Recently we have seen an increasing number of giant automakers pledging to phase out carbon-emitting vehicles over the next couple of decades — all in an effort to do their part in tackling climate change.
Now delivery service FedEx has joined the bandwagon, recently revealing plans to invest at least $2 billion in sustainable energy initiatives, including replacing all of its parcel pickup and delivery vehicles with zero-emission electric vehicles by 2040.
The Memphis-based logistics giant, which operates more than 200,000 vehicles and 680 cargo airplanes, will also continue investing in alternative fuels to shrink the carbon footprint of its aircraft and vehicles.
“We have a responsibility to take bold action in addressing climate challenges,” said FedEx CEO Fred Smith. “This goal builds on our longstanding commitment to sustainability throughout our operations, while at the same time investing in long-term, transformational solutions for FedEx and our entire industry.”
The investment will include a $100 million grant to Yale University to help establish the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture, which will focus on research and development in the field of carbon capture technologies. The ultimate aim will be to help scale carbon capture efforts, the company said, with “an initial focus on helping to offset greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to current airline emissions.”
Last week we shared a story about the UK’s plan to increase the number of zero-emission buses on its streets. Now Canada is following suit by unveiling a $2.75 billion investment to electrify its transit system over the next five years — with the aim to pave the way for a net-zero emissions future while promoting a green economic recovery from the pandemic.
In addition to expanding its fleet of zero-emissions and assisting the electrification of its public transportation, the investment will also support municipalities, transit authorities, and school boards. On top of that, the money will deliver on the government’s pledge to buy 5,000 zero-emission buses over the next five years.
The $2.75 billion is part of a larger public transit investment of $14.9 billion recently announced by the country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The hope is that these kinds of investments in zero-emission transportation will boost employment opportunities in Canada’s growing EV manufacturing industry.
It’s also important to note that the country’s zero-emissions strategy is not limited solely to public transit. Last year, the Canadian government introduced grants to help its citizens make their homes more sustainable and energy-efficient. Hopefully, it won’t take long for the US to follow in the steps of its forward-thinking neighbors up North.