China Halts Factory Operations To Fight Pollution

China may be home to one of the world’s great wonders, but it’s also housing something far more dangerous — air pollution. It may be cracking down on carbon emissions with air-purifying bicycles and solar farms, but it seems efforts are lacking. A blessing in disguise, damaging factory activity has forced the country to shut down industrial regions to reevaluate environmental laws.

“After all, factories will be better, more sustainable, and more socially responsible after being inspected,” says [Archie Liu of MKT & Associates]. “It’s better for our supply chain. Then we can tell Walmart, Costco, and other retailers of ours that we’re qualified and that everything we make for Americans are environmentally friendly.”

With 40% of Chinese factories at a standstill, economic impact will be harsh — but totally worth it. Chinese tax bureaus will be taking over environmental groups, meaning greater consequences for law-breakers.

“It’s a huge event. It’s a serious event. I think many of us here believe it will become the new normal,” says Michael Crotty, president of MKT & Associates.

Criminal enforcement may sound overbearing, but in a deteriorating planet, may be just what we need.

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The U.K. Ban on Ivory Sales And Exports

Time and again, elephants have proven that they are worth more than just their tusks. Back in August, they rescued hundreds of tourists from a flood in Nepal. And while some, like war veteran Col. Faye Cuevas, are doing their best to protect them, it seems the efforts are not enough. Last year, the U.K. has taken a favorable — albeit small — step towards banning almost all sales and exports of ivory products.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced a consultation to end the trade in ivory of all ages — previous attempts at a ban would have excluded antique ivory produced before 1947.

The government says there will be some exemptions, for musical instruments and items of cultural importance.

A lack of clear restrictions is corroborating the fears of environmentalist groups, who are unsatisfied by the ban. They argue that the UK still leads in exporting legal pre-1947 ivory antiques even in the past few years, and though the transactions are technically not punishable by law, the high amount of sales stimulates demand and encourages poaching in Africa.

Nonetheless, pressures from conservationists and Prince William himself — a long-time campaigner against the trade — are pushing the government to impose a total ban. If I were being encouraged by English royalty to head towards a certain direction, I’d probably start walking.

At a wildlife conference in Vietnam, [Prince William] said: “Ivory is not something to be desired and when removed from an elephant it is not beautiful.

“So, the question is: why are we still trading it? We need governments to send a clear signal that trading in ivory is abhorrent.”

Well said, Prince William. I toot my horn (or tusk?) in your favor. While waiting for further updates this 2018 from the government of the UK, perhaps we could share a toast to the greatness of elephants.

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Independent Space Nation Launches Satellite

While NASA is busy trying to ward off aliens, Russian scientist Dr. Igor Ashurbeyli is considering other options. The rocket scientist is behind Asgardia, the world’s first space community which has launched its first satellite into orbit late last year.

[The nanosat] contains 0.5 TB of data belonging to 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens, such as family photographs, as well as digital representations of the space nation’s flag, coat of arms and constitution.

Talk about getting serious! Asgardia may not be NASA’s brainchild, but the agency is on board as a partner. Currently, 114,000 people are cleared for citizenship in the independent space nation. Asgardia’s physical platforms will hover close to Earth in low orbits, and will be home to its first inhabitants in just eight years. While the UN remains skeptical about the space nation, as they should, Ashurbeyli is more than optimistic.

“We have to be like a normal country. All countries have problems, and soon we will have the same problems,” he says. “But we will have more than normal countries because we are not on earth.”
I myself have doubts, but with the many technological breakthroughs by humans that were previously thought of as impossible, I am assured that at least, a person can dream. And pursue that dream scientifically. It may be a long ways away for Dr. Ashurbeyli, but if I’m still around by the time he successfully puts Asgardia up in the air, I might just look into applying as a citizen.
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Blockchain Program Piloted to Help Homeless in Austin

With corporate tech giants making appearances on our news feeds every hour, it is difficult to deny that technology serves the purpose of profit most of the time.

Nevertheless, it is also impossible to ignore its greater impact when it serves the purpose of solving real social issues. For example, innovations such as 24-hour “free purchase” vending machines and portable origami tents were produced in a response to the issue of homelessness.

Today, one technological advancement that is making waves is blockchain. Blockchain is used in cryptocurrencies, and the use of cryptocurrency has become more common recently; I believe it is only bound to get bigger in the future.

However, another very real potential of blockchain is the way it can be used to solve critical human issues through its decentralized, private, and secure mechanisms. More governments around the world are also bound to engage this technology if they want to keep finding solutions to various social problems.

Surprisingly ahead of the blockchain race, the city of Austin pilots a platform that uses it to provide identity services for the homeless.

Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin since 2015, explained to TechCrunch that “at a high level, [the pilot] is trying to figure out how to solve one of the challenges we have in our community related to the homeless population, which is how to keep all the information of that individual with that individual.”

If governments cannot address the issue of identity, then the cycle of poverty persists among these people who live in the margins, such as the homeless or refugess. Austin’s blockchain platform seeks to consolidate the identification details of each person and let service providers, like those in health care, safely access that information.

The use of electronic encrypted records eliminates the need for paper records to verify a person’s identity. In addition to this, blockchain can also build someone’s personal history over time by keeping a record of the services he/she had previously availed. Indeed, the program opens up a lot of possibilities for social services.

As Sly Majid, Chief Services Officer for Austin, said, “If you have your backpack stolen or if your social security card gets wet and falls apart, or if you are camping and the city cleans up the site and takes your possessions, you have to start all over from the beginning again … It really prevents you from going about and doing the sort of activities that allow you to transition out of homelessness.”

If Austin can successfully use blockchain to improve the lives of homeless people, then it only goes to show that more governments should be willing to get involved in advance technologies and new economies as a commitment to their citizens.

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Richard Branson To Rebuild A Greener Caribbean

With Alphabet and Tesla taking over damage control on Puerto Rico, the Caribbean islands are waiting patiently in the wings. Struck by two category 5 hurricanes in the span of a few months, the territory is a war-zone. Stepping in to rebuild a more sustainable paradise is British billionaire Richard Branson.

“Another storm could strike within the coming weeks,” Branson told a meeting of leaders in Washington earlier this month. “The Caribbean must seize the opportunity and take the leap from 20th-century technology to 21st-century innovation.”

The project, dubbed the “Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan” hopes to bring clean energy into the country. So far, it’s best bet is to invest in wind and solar. Comparing the damage to that caused by a nuclear blast, Branson hopes not only to help the islands recover, but transform.

“We want to move the Caribbean countries into clean energy and make them more sustainable, which will make dealing with hurricanes much easier,” he said. “The Caribbean Heads of State agree with one voice that this is a good idea.”

As with any disaster, finding an efficient way to recuperate takes priority. But future prevention is by far the closest second.

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New Delhi To Sell Biodegradable Sanitary Pads

If people won’t stop tossing ’em, make ’em biodegradable. Since car tires, cooking grills, and six-pack beer holders went green, engineers are treading even deeper waters. In honor of International Women’s Day (and Mother Nature, of course) New Delhi is introducing biodegradable sanitary napkins for only Rs. 2.50 a pad. That’s hardly half a dollar!

The sanitary napkins will be available in a pack of four pads for Rs 10 across over 3,200 Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) Kendras by May 28, 2018, Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers Ananth Kumar said.

Currently, a pack of four napkins sells at Rs 32 ($0.49) — a ridiculous price for an easily perishable necessity.  Even worse, they are hardly accessible in rural communities.

According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, about 58 per cent of women aged between 15 to 24 years use locally prepared napkins, sanitary napkins and tampons.

What’s better than to make an essential affordable and eco-friendly? Power to you, India!

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U.K. To Install Free Solar Panels In 800,000 Homes

At this point in time, we are all familiar with the potential of solar power. It can run anything from trains to villages, which makes home installations a no-brainer. However, the devices don’t come cheap, which is why the U.K. government aims to build free solar panels in 800,000 homes in the next five years.

The deal “is set to create over 1,000 new jobs for people”, many of whom “will be tasked with installing and maintaining the panels”. These positions will first be “offered to military veterans”, who will also receive training “for new maintenance careers”.

Energy firm Solarplicity is donating the panels to low-income households, which could save families £240 on bills per year. But that isn’t where the fun stops. Residents will also receive smart meters that indicate energy usage throughout the day.

It’s “by far and away the largest renewable energy scheme of its kind in the UK”… and has been bolstered by a £160m investment from Dutch firm Maas Capital.

It’s a charitable move by the U.K. government that I hope successfully sees the light of day (pun entirely intended).

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Brazilian Judge Saves Amazon Region From Miners

Just weeks ago, the Chilean government snubbed an iron mine to rescue endangered penguins. Now, more mining projects are being placed on the back burner. Brazilian judge Rolando Valcir Spanholo halted a mining effort that would’ve destroyed 17,700 square miles of the Amazon rainforest.

The ruling came after the government sought to respond to an international outcry by issuing an updated version of the Renca decree that more broadly outlined steps to mitigate environmental damage, safeguard the rights of indigenous communities and retain protected areas.

Behind the initial plan is Brazilian President Michel Temer, a controversial leader who has narrowly escaped corruption charges. Since coming into power, Temer has slashed budgets meant to protect the environment and indigenous communities. As the Brazilian government is working on appealing a decision against Judge Spanholo’s ruling, activists have little time to strike back.

“The suspension of President Temer’s unilateral decree with its severe threats to vast Amazonian forest offers a welcome and temporary reprieve. Today’s ruling upholds constitutional guarantees and puts the brakes on this drastic regression, but is ultimately vulnerable to being overruled by higher courts.”

The Amazon may not be as appealing as Chilean penguins, but remains equally as valuable as an environmental resource.

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Mountain Man Paves Road For School Children

As the saying goes, a parent will do whatever they can for their children. If you’re anything like military mom LeAnn Boudwine, who sends care packages to soldiers, family goes beyond blood. Whatever the case, parenthood often demands sacrifice — or, for Jalandhar Nayak, moving mountains. To help his children cut down their 3-hour trip to school, the vegetable seller paved a 5-mile route by hand.

“My children found it hard to walk on the narrow and stony path while going to their school. I often saw them stumbling against the rocks and decided to carve a road through the mountain so that they can walk more easily,” he [said.]

Armed with only a chisel, hoe, and axe, the dedicated father spent two years picking away. Naturally, his actions became a subject of public interest, to which the local government responded by paying for his services. It will also construct the remaining 4 miles, which Nayak predicted would’ve taken another three years to carve through.

“Nayak’s effort and determination to cut mountains to build a road left me spellbound,” the local administrator, Brundha D, told reporters.

Truly, nothing compares to the love we receive from our parents.

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China To Plant 6.6 Million Hectare Forest

Succeeding its “wall of trees” stint, China is finally shifting its anti-climate change efforts into third gear. It may not compare to New Zealand’s tree-planting endeavors, but the ambitious eco-warrior is coming close. Hoping to up its environmental ante, the country is reforesting an area roughly the size of Ireland. That’s 6.6 million hectares!

“Companies, organisations and talent that specialise in greening work are all welcome to join in the country’s massive greening campaign,” [head of the State Forestry Administration Zhang Jianlong] said. “Cooperation between government and social capital will be put on the priority list.”

With 21.7 percent of China covered in forest, its environmental sector hopes to expand to 23 percent by 2020. Dubbed the world’s most polluted nation, China is hoping to alleviate the need for “clean air” jars with amore eco-conscious inclinations. Tree planting? It’s a good start.

This year the new forest areas will be built in the northeast Hebei province, Qinghai province in the Tibetan Plateau, and in the Hunshandake Desert in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region in the north.

So far, the government has shelled out $61 billion on reforesting efforts. Considering trees can save a single city $500 million a year, the forbidden land may just break even.

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