“A bus designed for people who never take buses”: how London’s Routemaster became a £300m white elephant |City Metric

The article has an interesting take on tradition vs modernity.

http://www.citymetric.com/transport/bus-designed-people-who-never-take-buses-how-londons-routemaster-became-300m-white

Summary:  Routemasters were the iconic London buses that were decommissioned in 2004. To revive this cultural icon, Transport for London (TfL) reportedly spent £11.4m to get the new Routemasters designed. Each new bus cost £375,000 (which was almost double the price of a normal bus at £190,000), were heavier and thus less environmentally friendly, could carry fewer passengers due to its design, caused discomfort for the passengers (too hot in summer, and too cold in winter), and cost more to run (a conductor is needed in addition to the bus driver due to the possibly unsafe open design at the back).

Questions:

  • Should cultural icons or traditions be preserved at all costs?
  • If traditions are allowed to die out, what might the repercussions be?

How 700 Kerala villagers waded through a dead river, cleansed it and brought it back to life in 70 days | Hindustan Times

Source: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/how-700-kerala-villagers-waded-through-a-dead-river-cleansed-it-and-brought-it-back-to-life-in-70-days/story-6ZQbllXDeutd7eOsYWYBeN.html

For two decades, the Kuttemperoor river in south Kerala’s Alappuzha district slowly choked under the weight of rampant illegal sand mining and construction sites that dumped tons of sewage on its once-pristine banks. Fish and aquatic life were wiped out, and the once-gurgling river of Rajeevan’s childhood was reduced to a narrow cesspool of festering diseases.

Not anymore. A 700-strong local group of villagers, mostly women, have spent weeks wading through toxic waste, algae and risking deadly water-borne diseases to physically de-silt and clean the river.

After 70 days of back-breaking effort, the results began to show. The 12-kilometre long river now brims with water, the stench is gone and children are playing on its green banks once more.

Slims River: Climate change causes ‘river piracy’ in Canada’s Yukon | BBC

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39634290?

A team of scientists say a melting glacier in Canada’s Yukon has caused a river to completely change course.

The glacial lakes used to feed two river systems – the Slims River and the Kaskawulsh River – but when water from one lake poured through the channel into another, it cut the Slims off from its water source.

The event is known as river piracy or stream capture, and can take thousands of years. But the researchers documented the piracy of the Slims River in just one spring.

The change in the river’s flow affected the whole landscape. Sheep are now grazing on the exposed river bank, while other rivers in the area are running high. Fish population, wildlife and lake chemistry will continue to be affected, the study noted.

Straw Wars: The Fight to Rid the Oceans of Discarded Plastic | National Geographic

Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/plastic-straws-ocean-trash-environment/

Small and lightweight, straws often never make it into recycling bins; the evidence of this failure is clearly visible on any beach. And although straws amount to a tiny fraction of ocean plastic, their size makes them one of the most insidious polluters because they entangle marine animals and are consumed by fish. Video of scientists removing a straw embedded in a sea turtle’s nose went viral in 2015.

The plastics industry opposes bans at every turn. Bag manufacturers have persuaded lawmakers in Florida, Missouri, Idaho, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Indiana to pass legislation outlawing the bag bans.

Keith Christman, managing director for plastic markets for the American Chemistry Council, says the industry also will oppose any efforts to outlaw plastic straws.

Bans of individual products often come with “unintended consequences,” Christman argues. Replacement products can cause more environmental harm than plastic products there were banned, he says. In some cases, products advertised as biodegradable sometimes turn out not to be. Worse, consumer behavior sometimes changes. When San Francisco banned Styrofoam products, he says, an audit of litter showed that while Styrofoam cup litter dropped, paper cup litter increased.

“What we really need is good waste management structure in countries that are the largest source of this challenge,” he says. “Rapidly developing countries in Asia don’t have that structure.”

What sets the anti-straw campaign apart from other efforts—and why the anti-straw campaign may succeed—is that activists are not seeking to change laws or regulations. They are merely asking consumers to change their habits and say no to straws.

‘Forest cities’: the radical plan to save China from air pollution | The Guardian

Short article: http://www.businessinsider.sg/stefano-boeri-forest-city-china-2017-4/?

The Air Quality Index, which uses a scale from 0 to 500 (with higher numbers indicating worse pollution), rates Nanjing’s air quality as 132 — a level considered unhealthy for the public, especially those with respiratory disease.

The Italian design firm Stefano Boeri Architetti believes that building towers covered in plants could help the city reduce its pollution. The company recently announced that it will build two skyscrapers that will hold a total of 1,100 trees and 2,500 cascading shrubs on their rooftops and balconies.

Longer article: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/feb/17/forest-cities-radical-plan-china-air-pollution-stefano-boeri

“It is positive because the presence of such a large number of plants, trees and shrubs is contributing to the cleaning of the air, contributing to absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen,’ the architect said. “And what is so important is that this large presence of plants is an amazing contribution in terms of absorbing the dust produced by urban traffic.”

The architect said believed Chinese officials were finally understanding that they needed to embrace a new, more sustainable model of urban planning that involved not “huge megalopolises” but settlements of 100,000 people or fewer that were entirely constructed of “green architecture”.

“What they have done until now is simply to continue to add new peripheral environments to their cities,” he said. “They have created these nightmares – immense metropolitan environments. They have to imagine a new model of city that is not about extending and expanding but a system of small, green cities.”

‘Shocking’ levels of PCB chemicals in UK killer whale Lulu | BBC

Video source: https://www.facebook.com/bbcnews/videos/10154639020352217/

Article and video Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39738582

“Lulu had a level of PCBs of 957mg/kg – and this has put her as one of the most contaminated individuals we have ever looked at.”

Scientists believe Lulu’s age, estimated to be at least 20, may be one reason that the levels of PCBs were so high, because they had built up over the years.

The chemicals have a range of effects. There is evidence that they can impair the immune system. They also affect reproduction, preventing killer whales from bearing young.

It is estimated that there is a million tonnes of PCB-contaminated material waiting to be disposed in Europe.

But getting rid of them is expensive and difficult – they need to be incinerated at more than 1,000C to be destroyed.

Prof Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said that the issue was very concerning but also complicated.

He said: “The records show PCBs have been declining in concentration in the marine environment, so the regulation we have in place is working.

“It’s just they take a very long time to disappear. Overall I think we are going in the right direction, but it is going to take many more years to get to a point where they are going to disappear entirely.”

Would You Stay if Your Home Became a Desert? | National Geographic

Video Source: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/170421-gobi-desert-homeland-vin-1

 

Article Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/china-great-green-wall-gobi-tengger-desertification/

According to a 2013 report by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), desertification, land degradation, and droughts have accelerated globally during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, particularly in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas. Throughout the past 40 years, the Earth has lost a third of its arable land to erosion and degradation.

In a big move to address the problem, in 1978, the Chinese government implemented the Three-North Shelterbelt Project, a national ecological engineering effort that called for the planting of millions of trees along the 2,800-mile border of northern China’s encroaching desert, while increasing the world’s forest by 10 percent. Also known as the “Great Green Wall,” the project’s end date isn’t until 2050; so far, more than 66 billion trees have been planted.

“With the Great Green Wall, people are planting lots of trees in big ceremonies to stem desertification, but then later no one takes care of them, and they die,” says Jennifer L. Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson Center.

Additionally, afforestation can exceed the land’s carrying capacity, dooming the trees to an eventual death without constant human intervention.

“People crowded into the natural sand dunes and the Gobi to plant trees, which have caused a rapid decrease in soil moisture and the groundwater table,” Xue says. “Actually, it will cause desertification [in some regions].”