Car Rental Group Donates $30 Million To Save Rivers

We may not yet be seeing an end to a number of global long-term issues, but many have since come forward to help. To shoulder educational expenses for underprivileged children, NFL stud Chris Long is playing an entire season for free. On the other side of the spectrum, Petsmart is donating millions of meals to shelter animals. Now tackling the urgent matter of resource depletion is Rent-A-Car, which is pledging $30 million to river conservation.

There are four main parts to this new project, which is known as the “Routes & Roots: Enterprise Healthy Rivers Project.” It is targeting rivers in Mississippi, Colorado, Canada, and Europe.

Rent-A-Car (Enterprise) will be dealing primarily with nutrient runoff and watershed restoration, while working closely with farmers and ranchers. The project is ambitious, but will likely remain afloat thanks to its healthy budget. Granddaughter of Enterprise founder Jack Taylor is optimistic about their vision.

“Our philanthropic focus … reaches beyond to make a difference and improve the quality of life wherever our employees and customers live and work,” noted Carolyn Kindle Betz.

Looks like Enterprise isn’t just about its cars!

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Nature Park Installs Colorblind-less Viewfinders

For decades, technology has paved the way for treating detrimental illnesses such as HIV and leukemia. While some conditions remain without a cure, therapy and devices have made everyday living more bearable. A Tennessee nature park gave back to its colorblind visitors by installing a special viewfinder.

“To realize, through red/green deficiencies and other forms of colorblindness, there potentially are more than 13 million people in our country alone who cannot fully appreciate the beauty our state has to offer, we wanted to do something about that,” [said Kevin Triplett, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Tourist Development.]

The colorblind-less viewfinders alleviate specific color deficiencies, allowing tourists to marvel at the park. In the fall, trees don an incredible concoction of reds and yellows, a first sight for some.

“I’m glad to have seen it. I just wish I had seen this all my life,” [local Jim] Nichols said through tears. “Kinda like what I would imagine the difference between here and heaven.”

Positive responses from colorblind sightseers had the state installing more viewfinders across other parks. And there you have it — never take your senses for granted. Not everyone can enjoy them the way we do.

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Reforestation Project To Restore Brazilian Amazon

Saving cities up to $505 million a year, trees are the underdog we tend to dismiss too often. After planting a record-breaking 66 million trees in 12 hours, Indian volunteers have inspired even greater reforestation attempts. Conservation International is going big, attempting to restore 70,000 acres of the Amazon forest.

“If the world is to hit the 1.2°C or 2°C [degrees of warming] target that we all agreed to in Paris, then protecting tropical forests in particular has to be a big part of that,” [says] M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International.

Stopping the seemingly trivial issue of deforestation can cut up to 37% of carbon emissions. To rehabilitate the Amazon, the group is using the muvuca strategy. This tactic combines over 200 native forest species that have a 90% chance of successful germination.

“With muvuca, the initial outcome is 2,500 species per hectare. And after 10 years, you can reach 5,000 trees per hectare. It’s much more diverse, much more dense, and less expensive than traditional techniques.”

Even better, Conservation International is employing indigenous communities and family farmers. A few million trees have already been planted, and it seems an appetite for change is growing along with them.

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Deep Water Wind Farm Is Powering The Scottish Grid

Following the success of solar power, developers have been harvesting clean energy from other sources. Now that we can accumulate electricity through passing vehicles and even cow excrement, nothing else seems far-fetched. Wind power may be nothing new, but these floating offshore turbines are the first of their kind.

The 30MW installation… will demonstrate that offshore wind energy can be harvested in deep waters… where installing giant turbines was once impractical or impossible. At peak capacity, the wind farm will produce enough electricity to power 20,000 Scottish homes.

The irony behind the nautical wind farm is its contractor — Statoil. The company is a corporate giant notorious for oil drilling. It’s somewhat of a paradox, but I’m a fan. Statoil claims that the wind farm’s offshore location is also beneficial.

The farther out you can place offshore turbines, the steadier and faster the wind is. It also comes with the added benefit of avoiding any community arguments over clean ocean views… [also] unimaginably large rotor components can be delivered by sea rather than by land, where roads have weight limits.

In the end, Statoil is living proof that you can easily give back what you take from nature. While we’d rather leave Mother Nature alone entirely, compensation is better than nothing.

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Technology Doesn’t Have to Make Us Less Human

Recently, I featured the EMINENT (EMN) token — a token that would get us all started on creating kindness in the world — in an article that talks about how technology and compassion could meet. To be honest, what fascinates me about technology is not just how it makes things convenient and efficient for our daily lives, not just how it gives us so much information and immediate access to everything in the blink of an eye, but also how it could improve our humanity.

I know it seems like a paradox. Facing a computer or phone screen all day could surely make you less human, right? My mom likes to say that we are all slowly becoming less human and more robot in this day and age. But I beg to disagree. So for this one, I will list down some of my favorite apps and how their functions actually encourage, promote, and deepen our sense of humanity.

1. Seek

We’ve all probably seen movies or read books that describe a technological dystopia as a world less human, dominated by robots, androids, cyborgs and other metal stuff. No more organic or natural. Everything is machine. But what’s so interesting about Seek, an app developed by iNaturalist.org, is that it shows the very opposite side of technology.

iNaturalist.org is a virtual community of nature lovers where people share information on nature-related projects in their respective cities, post observations of animals and plants around them, and contribute to archives of scientific data. The app Seek offers the same thing, except gamified. It “encourages outdoor exploration and learning by harnessing image recognition technology” where you could earn badges as you capture photos of more species and learn cool trivia about them afterwards.

Now who’s to say technology will take us away from nature?

2. DailyArt

My mom also likes to complain that today’s generation doesn’t know how to appreciate culture the way previous generations did. The pleasure of reading is reduced to clickbait. Our passions all just revolve around video games and social media. Even our music sounds electronic. There might be truth to those statements, but again, I don’t think it’s necessarily the case.

DailyArt is a good testament. By providing a daily dose of art history, it inspires a whole new generation of prospective artists and art critics through technology. It features one classic masterpiece everyday (you can make it part of your morning routine), loads and loads of fascinating stories about painters and their paintings, and even create your own gallery of your favorite ones. Plus, you can also share them to your friends on social media.

Point is, being very invested in online participation doesn’t really have to distance us from human pursuits such as art. Sometimes, we can even improve our skills and interests through virtual means.

3. Calm

Awarded by Apple as 2017’s App of the Year, Calm offers meditation techniques for sleep, relaxation, and stress reduction. It teaches you how to be mindful and release anxiety, reflect your emotions, be in touch with your body and your senses, relax your muscles, and many other methods.

Contrary to popular belief, technology doesn’t always bombard us with excessive activity or push us into being crazy busy; sometimes it also provides us avenues for feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.

4. BeepBeep Nation

Soon to launch, the BeepBeep Nation app will offer people opportunities to get help and give help to others in need. With just one beep, you can request for whatever type of help such as getting a ride home or reading restaurant recommendations. Underneath that function, however, what BeepBeep Nation really aims to do is make the world a better place by encouraging face-to-face social interactions and a strong culture of kindness. By helping others, you get to meet new people and widen your circle of friends, or even just have a healthy, engaging conversation.

Again, who’s to say technology will keep us apart and make us less human? It might just bring us closer together.

Some apps nurture and promote human interests such as love for nature or the arts. Other apps help us towards reflection and introspection, letting us deeper into ourselves. Others can even help us build personal relationships with others, and not only on a virtual level, but face-to-face.

A lot of these apps, though only made possible through technology, surpass our preconceived ideas of a digital future. Rather than decrease our humanity, technology might even have the ability to make us feel even more human.

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Magical Wooden Classroom Helps Children Bond with Nature

The past decade has probably seen the worst environmental damage humans have ever caused in history. However, it is also probably witness to the best human efforts in reversing the tragic situation and working towards accountability. Chile will create five new national parks in a preservation effort, China will reforest an entire area as big as Ireland (6.6 million hectares!), and announced most recently, Australia will spend 500 million dollars to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

If we are to continue these attempts at environmental preservation, then financial support from the government has to be accompanied by cultural efforts.  By which I mean we need education. And who else can we educate more than those who will inherit this earth? To continue our environmental progress, it is children who foremost need to understand how nature works.

That’s exactly the objective of this magical wooden classroom designed by Studio Weave for Belvue School.

[T]he building was created to help reconnect students with nature and it opens up to an adjacent woodland recently acquired by the school to serve as an educational nature reserve . . . Constructed from a low budget originally allocated for a cargotecture school expansion, the 1,600-square-foot Wooden Classroom comprises a “cozy lounge” informal teaching space and a “sociable kitchen” student-run school cafe next to the woods.

With curved ceilings and clerestory windows, the wooden classroom is entirely provided with natural lighting and ventilation. Students may appreciate the neighbouring woodland through large window walls. To constantly check in with the nature aspect, a forest management specialist was consulted by Studio Weave throughout the construction process for Belvue School.

“We identified that the boundary between the playground and woods marks the border between familiar school territory and the magical, mysterious world of trees,” said Studio Weave. “This very important threshold, symbolising the entrance to another world, like the gate to the secret garden, or the cupboard to Narnia became a focal point and we consequently designed the woodland classrooms to act as a gatehouse between one world and another.”

If that doesn’t sound magical, I’m not sure what does. It makes me want to be a child and rediscover the earth with fresh eyes again. Maybe that’s what we all need to really care for nature. Then again, bringing back the past is totally impossible. So here’s to hoping the children retain the wonder and magic they experience in this gorgeous wooden classroom to the bigger world once they themselves grow bigger in the future.

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Black Butterflies Inspire More Efficient Solar Panels

When it comes to moving forward with technology, we tend to fall back on nature. After all, in most ways, science is organic. If slugs can inspire a medical glue that will ease the difficulties of surgery, other animals can do the same. To improve on solar panels, researchers are drawing ideas from black butterflies.

The rose butterfly is native to Southeast Asia. Because it is cold-blooded and needs sunlight to fly, its black wings have evolved to be very good at absorbing energy.

Normally, solar panels are made with thick solar cells. Thin film solar cells have a lot of potential, but are not as productive. The black butterflies absorb heat perfectly because their wings are covered in holes. These holes effectively scatter light.

“I think what’s interesting is the excellent approach of looking at the underlying physiological concepts and then taking these concepts and emulating them in a structure that doesn’t look quite look like how a butterfly looks but does the same physics,” says Mathias Kolle, a professor of engineering.

The research has since received proper funding and, hopefully, will flutter along seamlessly.

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Wild Wolves Are Making A Comeback In Rome

Wild tigers are resurfacing in Kazakhstan after a 70-year absence and it seems Italy may be experiencing something quite similar. Wild wolves, a symbol of the country, are making a comeback in the outskirts of Rome after nearly a century.

“This is the first time in more than 100 years that wolves have been found living near Rome,” [said professor of natural sciences] Alessia De Lorenzis.

“We think they probably arrived here from the area around Lake Bracciano, north of Rome, where wolves have always existed, even when the species was pushed towards extinction,”

Biologists spotted the wild wolves roaming a reserve in Castel di Guido. They are of no apparent threat to livestock, as they survive on a diet of wild boars. Researchers have blamed their initial demise on hunting.

Killing wolves was encouraged in Italy until the 1970s, by which time only 100 or so individuals remained in Italy. But the species was given protected status in 1971 and has since gradually recovered.

There are around 1,500 – 2,000 wolves inhabiting Italy, with others bordering France. French farmers have claimed that the slender beasts have been attacking their sheep. But then again, perhaps it’s time we listen more to the animals’ needs and less to ours. Based on studies of animal extinction or endangerment, we could surmise it isn’t really the animals crying wolf, is it?

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China To Set Up Enormous Panda Sanctuary

If not the Great Wall, it seems China’s main attraction is its everlasting devotion to the giant panda. The home of the Forbidden City has even built a solar farm inspired by the peaceful bamboo-munchers. Now hoping to increase populations, China is funding a national park dedicated to the slow-reproducing bears.

Plans for the park – which would cover 27,134 sq km – were first put forward early last year by the ruling Communist Party and the State Council, China’s cabinet.

If the 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) proves enough, the Giant Panda National Park will dwarf Yellowstone by three times. With over 80% of the world’s pandas situated in Sichuan, 2018 is the perfect year for a get-together. Getting them to breed? We’ll leave it up to luck.

Giant pandas have a notoriously low reproductive rate, a key factor – along with habitat loss – in their status as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.

We get it, guys. Dating around can be unsettling — but perhaps not for the greater good.

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Satellites Capture Massive Penguin Colony

Penguins are adorable, and that isn’t ever up for debate. Even political bodies such as the Chilean government would agree. Ultimately, they did snub a billion-dollar mining project to save the flightless birds. However, populations are on the rocky side — or so we thought. Cruising over the Antarctic Peninsula, NASA satellites captured a 1.5 million fleet of penguins.

“The sheer size of what we were looking at took our breath away,” [said] co-author Heather Lynch, Ph.D… “We thought, ‘Wow! If what we’re seeing is true, these are going to be some of the largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world, and it’s going to be well worth our while sending in an expedition to count them properly.”

Drones captured roughly 751,527 pairs of Adélie penguins, which isn’t even the most NASA has ever tallied. It’s only the third or fourth. In the last 60 years, sea ice levels and concentrations caused population drops. Apparently, the feisty fledglings are adapting.

“The size of these colonies makes them regionally important and makes the case for expanding the proposed Weddell Sea Marine Protected Area to include the Danger Islands,” [said] co-author Michael Polito, Ph.D.

What’s that I hear? A lot of happy feet stomping on cool ice up in Antarctica!

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