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Vietnamese Kindergarten Paves the Way for Sustainability

Photo Credit: inhabitat

Vo Trong Nghia architects have recently completed the construction of a farming kindergarten with green rooftops in Dongnai of southeastern Vietnam. The knot-shaped kindergarten adopts comprehensive energy-efficient features, such as a green roof, concrete louvers for shading, recycled materials use, water recycling, solar-powered heating and many more features to educate pre-schoolers on the importance of sustainability. The spiralling green roof serves as an outdoor classroom to teach children how to grow their own food, while three internal courtyards provide a comfortable and safe playground for the children. As a pilot project of LOTUS (Vietnam’s green building rating system), the kindergarten has received a Silver Provisional Certificate from the Vietnam Green Building Council for its energy-efficient design.


Date & Source: May 3, 2014; inhabitat

World’s Coastal Megacities Are Sinking!

Photo Credit: BBC 

Gilles Erkens from the Deltares Research Institute has warned that some of the world’s coastal megacities, such as Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok are sinking 10 times faster than water rising and would probably sink below sea level if no immediate action is taken. Compared to natural subsidence, human activity such as groundwater extraction for drinking water has greater impacts on the land. Combined with the effects of rising sea levels, larger and longer floods are expected to occur in coastal regions. According to the research, the best solution to mitigate the problem is to stop pumping groundwater and seek alternative water sources for the cities. Tokyo and Venice are examples of cities which did so to combat land subsidence in their countries.


Date & Source: April 29, 2014; BBC

Solar Farms Become Potential Oasis for Plant and Wildlife

Photo Credit: Click Green
BRE National Solar Centre (BRE NSC) has recently launched expert guidelines on how to boost nature on solar farms in collaboration with leading UK conservation groups and the Solar Trade Association (STA). Generally, solar farms have minimal disturbance to the ground as they occupy less than 5% of the land, have no moving parts and require low maintenance. Therefore, about 95% of a solar farm is still accessible and has high potential for plant growth, wildlife enhancement and conservation grazing. According to the guide’s author, Dr Guy Parker, species monitored on solar farms showed a significant increase in population compared to arable farm lands, which suggests that solar farms can be developed to safeguard vulnerable species, such as bumblebees and butterflies. 


Date & Source: April 28, 2014, Click Green

Gigantic Iceberg under Surveillance

Photo Credit: NASA

A gigantic iceberg that is roughly 10 times the size of Manhattan, which had broken away from the Antarctic into Pine Island Bay last November, is currently shifting away from the bay and into the Southern Ocean currents. The iceberg, which is known as B-31, could threaten shipping lanes as it shifts further. NASA is now tracking B-31 using satellites, while the British Antarctic Survey has employed airplanes to drop 37 GPS tracking units onto its surface to follow its position. The breaking process of icebergs, also known as calving, is said to be caused by the increasingly warm waters. The melting of icebergs from calving is one of the main contributors to sea level rise.


Date & Source: April 27, 2014; Inhabitat

Galapagos Islands in Danger of Losing Their Blue-Footed Boobies

Photo Credit: Frans Lantin

A new study in Avian Conservation and Ecology revealed that the population of blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos Islands has dropped by more than half since 1960s, from 20,000 to 6,400 individual today. Monitoring results show that the boobies had very little or no breeding at all between 2011 and 2013, coinciding with the period when sardines made up less than half of their diet. Past studies have shown that successful booby breeding occurs when the birds' diet is made up almost completely of sardines. The number of juvenile boobies is estimated to dwindle even further as the bird’s aging population makes it harder to raise offsprings. Other dwellers of the islands such as sea lions and Nazca boobies are also affected by the shortage of sardines. 


Date & Source: April 25, 2014, National Geographic

New Technology Uses Krypton to date Antarctic Ice

Photo Credit: Hinrich Schaefer

A group of scientists have recently released a report about radiometric krypton dating, a new ice-dating technology that allows scientists to successfully date Antarctic ice of 120,000 years old. Scientists can study past climates by using dating methods on ice cores to determine the air composition and temperature of ancient times, such that more precise predictions of future climate can be made. Krypton used in the new method has a half-life of about 230,000 years, and is more stable than carbon and does not interact chemically, making it useful in assisting scientists when dating ancient ice of more than 1 million years old.


Date & Source: April 21, 2014; Aljazeera America

SOS conserves Malaysian Seahorses

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Save Our Seahorses Malaysia (SOS) is a newly registered NGO that has been working to ensure the long term survival of seahorses in Malaysia over the last 10 years. As a volunteer-driven group, SOS organises field trips, awareness and research projects to study and deliver the message on the importance of seahorses in the marine ecosystem. Out of the 53 globally-identified species, there are 13 species of seahorses found in Malaysia, which are all currently under threat from human exploitation as there is no special protection from any legislation. Adam Lim, SOS’ leader, emphasised that considerable effort must be taken in order to conserve Malaysia’s seahorse population.


Date and Source: April 21, 2014; The Star Online

Lophiaris silverarum: New Orchid Species Found in Panama

Photo Credit: Katia Silvera/UC Riverside

Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside has discovered a new species of orchid found in a mountainous area of central Panama. Although it was found about 8 years ago on a field trip with her father, the new species was not actually given a name until recently. This is because determining a new species is a very lengthy process and researchers have to thoroughly study the plant to establish if it is indeed a new find. The orchid, Lophiaris silverarum, which is categorized under the Lophiaris genus, is named after Silvera’s family. According to Silvera, plants are more diverse in the tropical regions and tend to grow in areas that are difficult to explore. Unfortunately, their habitats are being destroyed rapidly due to land development. 


Date & Source: April 21, 2014, Mother Nature Network

Detroit’s Bus Stops: Repurposed Doors Salvaged from Demolished Houses

Photo Credit: Mother Nature Network

Designer Craig Wilkins and his artistic team have launched a new, award-winning “Door Stops” project that involves installing mobile art pieces-cum-transit benches for Detroit residents. The highlight and creativity of the door stops are the benches which are made out of doors and other building materials recycled from the city’s demolished houses. Combined with splendid artwork of local artists, it has become a pleasant waiting area for local people. In the event of any changes in service or traffic routes, each door stop is designed to be mobile and can be moved to new locations whenever necessary. The team plans to install about 25 mobile transit benches across the city and is seeking funds to add solar lighting and GPS markers. 


Date & Source: April 18, 2014, Mother Nature Network

CarbonCure Concrete Blocks Store CO2

Photo Credit: Atlas Block

Did you know that conventional cement production accounts for 5% of annual CO2 emission? This is because limestone releases CO2 in order to produce cement. To tackle this issue, CarbonCure has introduced its innovative concrete blocks that are able to sequestrate CO2 within the concrete itself through a supplementary curing reaction. The curing reaction reverses the cement production reaction by using purified and compressed liquid CO2 which is collected from industrial processes and injected back into cement, to produce CarbonCure concrete blocks. The life cycle analysis of the product shows that more CO2 is sequestrated than is produced during concrete production and shipping, which can help to reduce CO2 emissions up to 20%.


Date & Source: April 17, 2014; Treehugger