Toledo Urban Farmer Faces Penalties After Turning Vacant Lots Into Growing Space [Video]

An urban farmer in Toledo, Ohio has been hard at work reclaiming abandoned lots in his neighborhood. Thomas Jackson went to school to learn how to be a master gardener, landscaper, and urban farmer. “Thomas Jackson is the kind of person the city should lift up and celebrate,” a featured editorial in the Toledo Blade claimed. “Everyone who has met him or been to his neighborhood — Milburn Court, Auburn Avenue, and Macomber Street and their environs — and seen his work, from Congressman Marcy Kaptur, to the Green Party, to University of Toledo professors and students, to representatives of the Ohio EPA, says what he is doing is fantastic.” The Toledo Blade went so far as to claim that Toledo should name him citizen of the year. Instead, the Toledo Blade reported on Monday, the city “is persecuting him.” In order to turn the dirt on the vacant lots that he now owns into soil worthy of growing healthy food, Jackson has spread thick layers of mulch over the properties. The mulch, Jackson says, will turn into fertile soil. He says all of the lots he has been working on will be beautified. He will be able to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to his neighbors and increase the values of their homes, he believes. According to the Toledo Blade, the mulch is a problem for some residents and officials. He is now facing ordinance violations because of the mulch. One city councilman and some residents in the city fear that the mulch will attract rats. The city officials say he must move the mulch piles. According to the Toledo Blade, when an editorial writer visited the sites, no smell was detected and there was no signs of rodents. Jackson claims that the properties were once over run with shoulder-high weeds and plenty of garbage. Jackson claims he has already improved the sites. “My plan is to grow and sell organic food. The whole goal is to change the eating habits of the people around me,” Jackson told the Toledo Blade in a separate, earlier interview. “I’m not trying to hinder anyone’s enjoyment of their life. I’m trying to enjoy my right to make a living for my family and clean up my neighborhood.” Urban agriculture instructor Bryan Ellis said that Jackson’s style of urban agriculture will increase economic development and help residents have access to nutritious, fresh produce. “Thomas is setting himself to be one of the predominant growers in northwest Ohio, and he will be using some of my students as assistants,” Ellis said several months ago, speaking of students within Toledo Public Schools. The Toledo Blade reported that over 100 residents have signed a petition supporting the urban farmer and that housing experts say that there are countless violations more severe throughout the city that are being ignored. The Blade editorial team says that people at Land Bank have reportedly called him a highly professional, superb landscaper who is easy to work with. “Why is the city persecuting this man? He’s exactly the sort of pragmatic idealist we need. “Because he is on the wrong side of petty power, and the city apparatus always stays on the right side — it is no more complicated than that. “The danger is not only that this decent man will give up on his dreams and leave the city, but that other people like him will. There will be a chilling effect, not only for urban farmers but all visionaries who take a risk — at least the ones who haven’t the wherewithal to wire the system.” From The Blade’s Pages of Opinion: Officials should take care not to drive visionaries from the city. — The Toledo Blade (@toledonews) December 26, 2016 “I received numerous complaints from the residents regarding increasing in the size and number of rodents in the area, a bad smell, and just overall concern about the condition about the neighborhood and the property,” Toledo City Councilman Tyrone Riley told the Toledo Blade earlier this year. “They’ve sent me pictures of trucks dumping mulch.” Central Toledo neighborhood disagrees on urban garden – — WTOL 11 (@WTOL11Toledo) December 9, 2016 Jackson told the Toledo Blade earlier this year that he believes he is being targeted by Councilman Riley because the councilman is related to one of Jackson’s neighbors. Riley reportedly called Jackson’s claims of operating an urban farm, “cute.” Riley said that Jackson never pulled the necessary permits to landscape his properties with the mulch. Janice Hughes, the neighbor who complained, said that she contacted city officials, because there were trucks parked around Jackson’s house. “The city has fined us for numerous things, and I don’t understand why he isn’t being fined, all those vehicles over there. I’m not against anyone being an entrepreneur, bettering themselves, but we’re in a residential neighborhood,” Hughes said. Reportedly, Jackson has edged the properties with small trees and shrubs that are “meticulously pruned” in order to make sure that his growing lots are still beautiful for the neighborhood to look at after they have been harvested each fall. Jackson has planted hundreds of trees in his lots. The mulch that he is using to restore the soil with has been donated by local tree companies. It helps the companies get rid of their waste for free, and Jackson gets free mulch for his urban agriculture project. His goal is to level all woodchips mounds at four feet in order to allow any fruit trees he plants to grow free of any contaminants that might be in the Toledo soil. Urban farming experts say that urban soil is usually contaminated with heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and chromium. Jackson says that he was taught that urban farmers can ensure that crops aren’t contaminated by applying cover soil two to three feet thick. “Urban environments often have an increased median level of lead in soil (greater than 400 mg lead/kg) due to higher concentration of industries, age of and automobile traffic,” Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh wrote as an associate professor and chair in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Southern Maine. “Anything that can be done to eliminate bare soil will help reduce the amount of lead you are exposed to. For example, installing raised bed gardens and use clean topsoil is an option.” Lisa Cottrell, administrator for the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions, said earlier this year that if Jackson intends to erect a hoop house or a greenhouse, he will need to pull a permit, but that there is no ordinance forbidding gardening in the city. “Any building, any parking, we would have to see. But you can garden all day long.” Some of the city officials don’t view Jackson’s actions as gardening, though. “We have community gardens all over Toledo,” former city official Tom Kroma said. “There’s no gardening in what he’s doing.” ICYMI: Urban gardens planned for west Toledo are put on hold. — NBC 24 (@NBC24WNWO) December 9, 2016 Esteemed local horticulturalist Michael O’Rourke, who is also known as “Garden Guy” on WUPW Fox Toledo, said that it might look to skeptics like the wood chips are nothing more than debris, but that Jackson is demonstrating proper urban agriculture technique. Jackson was certified in 2008 as a master Ohio nursery technician by the Ohio Landscape and Nursery Association. He earned a certificate in aquaculture from the Ohio State University Extension Office and the Ohio Aquaculture Association in 2014. The OLNA and OSU Extension Office confirmed these certifications to the Toledo Blade earlier this year. Cindy Geronimo, the commissioner of code enforcement in Toledo, suggested that Jackson find another location to remediate the mulch besides for on his own property. [Featured Image by Polarpx/Shutterstock]

Ohio State: Farmers Must Reduce Phosphorus Discharge Feeding Toxic Algae That Blooms On Lake Erie

Ohio State University researchers have announced several things that can be done to reduce the toxic algae that blooms on Lake Erie. The scientists have tested multiple strategies in order to reduce phosphorus discharge, because it is what which feeds the toxic algae. This is no small problem, even though it’s not in the headlines regularly. Inquisitr reported in 2014 when a State of Emergency was declared after the water supplies of over 500,000 residents in Ohio and parts of Michigan became undrinkable thanks to the harmful algal bloom (HAB). “Liver-affecting microcystin is a toxin from blue-green algae and is the toxin that was detected in the Toledo area’s water supply. Lake Erie contained an excess of nitrogen an phosphorus. This occurs when runoff from fertilized fields and laws, malfunctioning septic systems and livestock pens hit the water source, according to International Business Times. Governor John Kasich has declared a State of Emergency for Fulton, Lucas and Wood Counties. “The HABs threaten the health of animals and humans. Boiling the water will not make it safe to drink or cook with. Boiling the water may make the situation even more dangerous. Residents have been ordered to restricted uses of the water: Healthy adults can wash their hands and shower with the water, but children or adults with weak immune systems should not. Symptoms of poisoning from microcystin include diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, and abnormal liver functioning. According to the EPA, severe poisonings from the toxin can include respiratory arrest and seizures.” Last month, the State of Michigan decided to designate its section of Lake Erie as “an impaired waterway,” because the harmful algae is damaging fish and other wildlife, according to a report in Detroit News. The area affected by the declaration is less than two percent of the Great Lake, but the designation was required under the federal Clean Water Act, because shoreline monitoring and analysis of satellite imagery made it clear that the western Lake Erie basin did not meet Michigan’s water quality standards. Heidi Grether, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, explained the reason for the designation to Detroit News, which reported that blue-green algae bloom have been a clear problem since 1990s. How much would you be willing to pay to keep toxic #algae out of Lake Erie?
Details on new research: — Ohio State (@OhioState) December 12, 2016 Large sections of Lake Erie can be coated in pea-green slime that produces toxins. The Ohio State University researchers announced their results following an agreement between the U.S. and Canada to reduce phosphorus discharge into Lake Erie by 40 percent, because this discharge is the cause of the dangerous bloom. The scientists found that farmers can do multiple things to cut down on the dangerous effects of the phosphorus discharge: They need to apply fertilizer below the soil surface. They need to plant cover crops. They need to create buffer strips. The researchers say that cover crops and buffer strips make it less likely that the excessive fertilizer can wash into waterways. Yet, only 39 percent of farmers in the Lake Erie watershed use subsurface fertilization, only 22 percent grow cover crops, and only 35 percent plant buffer strips. The researchers say that to cut phosphorus discharge by the required 40 percent, many more farmers will need to do their part. “A lot of farmers have already taken the risk… to help move the needle,” Jay Martin, director of Ohio State’s Field to Faucet water quality program, said. “That’s really encouraging. But we need to accelerate.” Ohio State suggests ways to reduce harmful algae blooms — WTVG 13abc (@13abc) December 26, 2016 “We think we know which levers to pull, so let’s go design some field experiments,” scientist Robyn Wilson, who was part of the Ohio State project, said. Wilson hopes that farmers will do their part to protect the state’s drinking water and wildlife without regulation, and suggested ways that the farmers could be persuaded. “Their profit margins are really small right now; they don’t have a lot of wiggle room,” Wilson told The Columbus Dispatch. “The question becomes what’s the best combination of policy tools to get that extra percentage of farmers to adopt.” Researchers at @OhioState @stonelab gather #algae measurements w/ a #databuoy hoping to predict bloom #toxicity. — FondriestEnv (@FondriestEnv) December 8, 2016 Residents in Ohio say they are willing to fight the algae using taxpayer money, an ABC affiliate reported. People surveyed said they would be willing to pay slightly higher food prices, a special income tax or a sales tax in order to fund outreach programs or incentives for farmers. The Lake Erie algae bloom project by Ohio State University was a five-year, interdisciplinary collaboration that reportedly united biologists, ecologists, political scientists and economists, according to The Columbus Dispatch. [Featured Image by Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP Images]

Countries Most Vulnerable To Impact Of Climate Change Will Run Solely On Renewable Energy: Pledge To Use Only Green Energy 'Soon'

Countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change pledged to generate all their future energy needs from renewable energy sources. While the climate conference being held in Marrakesh, Morocco, might not have been very fruitful, on the last day of the summit, 48 of the poorest countries that usually bear the worst impact of the rapidly changing climate agreed to an ambitious pledge. These countries jointly agreed to run on 100 percent renewable energy, reported BBC. While these nations haven’t set a deadline, they will achieve the goal, “as rapidly as possible.” 48 countries just agreed to go 100 per cent renewable #Readyfor100 — Jodie Van Horn (@loves2jodel) November 18, 2016 The countries are trying to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels, reported Reuters. They feel transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy sources as soon as possible could allow them to ward off several disastrous effects of global warming occurring due to the ever-increasing burning of fossil fuels to support rapid urbanization and industrialization. In the high-level meeting, the 48 members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum promised to update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement “as early as possible before 2020,” reported Business Green. Together, the countries intend to prepare strategies for ensuring carbon emissions are steadily lowered until the mid-century. Simply unstoppable. 47 countries commit to 100% renewable energy: clean dependable accessible #Go100RE #1o5c #COP22 — Christiana Figueres (@CFigueres) November 18, 2016 Multiple nations that are part of the forum, including the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, and Madagascar, are being increasingly threatened by extreme weather events. While low-lying nations like Bangladesh are steadily losing their coastlines to rising seas, many African nations are facing harsher droughts. The effects of #climatechange are not spread evenly among humans! Coral-dependent nations are so vulnerable… — Mission Blue (@MissionBlue) November 11, 2016 Needless to say, these countries are at the forefront of the negative impact of global warming and could soon become victims of unpredictable and severe weather patterns, which could easily prove disastrous, pointed out Dr. Gemedo Dalle, chair of the forum and Ethiopian environment minister. “Without stronger climate action, we might not survive, and this is not an option. This ambition is crucial to their survival in a warming world, as well as an example to other, more prosperous nations.” Incidentally, many of these vulnerable nations will require crucial support from richer and developed countries to completely switch to renewable energy. These countries need infrastructure and financial assistance, which might be difficult to come by from the developed nations, especially if they don’t support the same ideology. Addressing climate is critical to protecting planet, safeguarding most vulnerable & advancing shared prosperity — United Nations (@UN) November 15, 2016 Moreover, these vulnerable nations are often the industrial backyard for the rich nations. Hence, despite their noblest intentions, the poorer nations might have to stick to traditional fuel sources that have a well-established supply chain management backed with a high degree of reliability. In comparison, renewable energy sources often fail or fall short if the weather conditions aren’t optimum, claim proponents of fossil fuel usage. Fossil fuels like coal still dominate the energy market, which hasn’t shown any signs of regression in the past several decades. Owing to the steady supply, many of the vulnerable countries, including Philippines and Bangladesh, have plans to deploy several coal-based power plants in the next five to ten years, reported Climate Change News. Hence severing ties with such conventional fuel sources might prove quite difficult, noted several experts. Given the prevalent conditions, the regional governments themselves might not release funds to opt for renewable energy sources simply because going green is an expensive and relatively unreliable proposition. Fund release key issue for vulnerable nations via @DhakaTribune #DT #Environment — DhakaTribune (@DhakaTribune) November 9, 2016 Interestingly, industrial nations like China have been steadily increasing their reliance on renewable energy sources despite operating their factories round the clock. China has made several strides towards a low-carbon economy, noted Saleemul Huq, director of the Dhaka-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development. How Burlington, Vermont, became the first U.S. city to draw 100 percent of its power from renewable sources — POLITICO (@politico) November 18, 2016 Incidentally, there are a few countries that have stayed committed to ditch fossil fuels and increase their reliance on renewable energy sources to power their economies. If the vulnerable nations could steadfastly stay away from the incentives to remain committed to conventional and polluting fuel sources, they could gradually develop infrastructure that produces energy without generating greenhouse gases. [Featured Image by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

Civil Disobedience: Tri-State Pipeline With Safety Issues Being Forced On Residents Without Proper Oversight

There has been growing interest over the oil pipeline protest in North Dakota over the last several weeks, to the point where the Obama administration had to jump in, ordering a halt to the pipeline’s construction and requesting that the company consider the view of the native tribes in the area, who are playing a major role in the protests so that the pipeline doesn’t pollute their water and cut through Sacred Stone Camp on their land. Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein at the pipeline protest in North Dakota, with a can of spray paint. [Photo by Alicia Ewen/KX News via AP Images] The oil pipeline protest has been spotlit by political figures such as Green Party candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baracka, who now have warrants to their arrest for vandalizing company property, as well as a warrant for journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! The same news service Democracy Now! has also reported on another protest — which isn’t against an oil pipeline, but one for natural gas. In their report, they covered the arrest of several activists in Massachusetts, where a Spectra Energy pipeline is being built, and in New York against an electric company that supports Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline, as they were blocking construction for three hours on August 30. According to reports, Spectra Energy is expanding their Algonquin pipeline through Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood, which is slated to be built only hundreds of feet from the aging Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. Spectra Energy is a Houston-based company that installs and manages pipelines through the United States. Their proposed expansion through a densely populated community, according to the Spectra Energy, will bring natural gas to New England. But protesters argue that there is no need. As the video for Thom Hartmann’s The Big Picture shows, there are safety issues with the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, which can also be confirmed by an article published by Nature that refers to committing aging power plants to run past 2050. But Spectra Energy reportedly has some safety issues of its own. One person on Yelp left a comment on the pipeline company’s review page which said that Spectra Energy does not have a good safety record, and with their pipeline running through neighborhoods where people who are unaware of the kind of the company’s safety record live, they felt that building the pipeline there was too much of a risk to take. Before Spectra Energy came along, another company from Houston called Kiner Morgan was looking to build a pipeline in Boston too. The main image for this article shows those protesters in 2014, and the protest has been going on ever since. [Photo by Pat Sullivan/AP Images] An article published in 2013 by The Orlando Sentinel writes that Spectra Energy had been cited 14-times since 2005, six of which were for pipeline corrosion. The article refers to a independent organization from the U.S. Department of Transportation which cited the company and also made a announcement on their site saying they had shut down Penn/Jersey system pipelines owned by Texas Eastern Transmission — a subsidiary of Spectra Energy, until the company took corrective action to protect the public. In March 2014, the Christian Science Monitor reported on the corrosion of older pipelines which resulted in a explosion in Harlem, killing eight people. Their article mostly referred to getting the aging pipeline replaced under new regulations, the difficulty of doing so, and how the explosion was a shake-up for the infrastructure in the industry. Marcellus Drilling News writes about the various corporate customers for the pipeline who stopped being customers after a law was passed preventing them from passing off the costs from the pipeline to natural gas consumers. The Portland Press Herald confirms this pullout, which many were hoping would kill the $3 billion project. But the Spectra Energy group decided that shutting it down was not an option, bouncing back to keep installing the pipeline. A local CBS affiliate in Boston also reported on the civil disobedience on-site where protesters from Resist The Pipeline cuffed themselves to vehicles. A few months ago, Al Gore’s daughter was arrested at the site, where she too blocked workers from building the pipeline, as reported by TheInquisitr. [Image by Charles Krupa/AP Photo]

Diamond Investment History Gets A Green And Nuclear Upgrade

Diamonds have been a captivating topic for people across history, but recently there were a couple of new business investment chapters added that include the environment and the tough market of recycling nuclear material. Although many people are interested in large-sized or rare diamonds like the Hope Diamond or the Foxfire Diamond, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, there are others that are being sought after as innovations or investments. For example, in the past 10 years, the major headlines about diamonds in the business world has been concerning their source. In particular, getting rid of the practices that created “conflict diamonds” was of paramount importance because children were used to mine diamonds, according to a 2010 report from Reuters. A woman holds a 100-carat perfect diamond. [Image by Carl Court/Getty Images] Now, diamonds are breaking through into the energy market, and business investors are also looking at a new type of diamond that is commonly referred to as a “green” or environmentally friendly option. New Atlas reports on November 28 that the next wave of both recycling nuclear waste and also energy investing might be the nuclear diamond. Obviously, nuclear waste has been difficult to repurpose, contain, or recycle since the beginning. However, researchers at the University of Bristol converted nuclear waste into lab-created diamonds that function as low-grade batteries that are alleged to last for up to a couple of thousand years. As it appears, investors may have more opportunities to add nuclear diamonds to their portfolios because a conference by top scientists about their research on nuclear diamonds recently ended on December 2 in Boston, Massachusetts, according to the Materials Research Society. The green and nuclear diamond investments might be ideal for anyone with gems in their portfolios because some types of diamond industries are gaining new opponents. Business Insider explained in an opinion piece in 2013 that diamond engagement rings being sold as an “investment” are a sham. In engagement ring form, the diamonds are not going to sell for a return on investment in the market. In other words, do not buy diamond jewelry and expect to be able to gain a profit in the short-term if you are in a financial pinch. Adding to this, the diamond jewelry industry has been losing profits because of near-perfect man-made diamonds, according to a November 6 report from Wall Street Journal. For example, De Beers has been particularly hit hard and they are one of the top diamond investment opportunities. Although the history of “blood diamonds” or conflict diamonds has been declining because of the Kimberley Certificate Process, there are still some opponents to investing in diamonds from certain areas of the world. For example, on December 1, KGW reported that Muhammad Ali’s daughter, Khaliah Ali, was investing in a Portland, Oregon, company that focused on being “environmentally friendly” because they were lab-created diamonds. According to reports, MiaDonna recently created a 6.28 carat lab-created diamond that sets a historic record for being the largest ever produced outside of nature. The diamond market for jewelry is being threatened by lab-created gems. [Image by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images] This historic diamond company captured the attention of Khaliah Ali because there are still allegations of atrocities associated with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Khaliah Ali’s father played an important boxing match in the DRC on October 30, 1974, and drawing attention to the poor working conditions of diamond mines in that country was important to her. On top of investing in an eco-friendly diamond company, Khaliah Ali works with MiaDonna’s founder, Anna-Mieke Anderson, to promote the Greener Diamond Foundation. This organization specifically works with children that have suffered at the hands of the diamond mining industry in their countries. One other way that the environment is being emphasized is through an online pawn shop website called where individuals can place their diamonds for sale. Since the diamonds being sold are previously owned, they are not creating a need for new diamonds to be mined. Forbes paraphrased’s owner, Benny De-Kalo, on November 3 stating the following about his “diamond mine.” “[T]here is up to $1 trillion worth of diamonds in drawers, jewelry boxes and in safes around the world and 40 percent of that value is in the U.S. In addition to diamond engagement rings, $8 billion to $9 billion dollars in jewels and watches are inherited.” Alternatively, some diamonds are being valued not as an investment, but as a way to invest in good causes. Castanet wrote on December 1 that diamonds are being auctioned online to specifically raise money for charities in the Kelowna, Canada, community. In the end, for anyone that wants to invest in diamonds as much as possible, there is some hope because there are currently two diamond mines for sale in South Africa, according to Rapaport News. [Feature Image by REB/Getty Images]

Renewable Energy Helped Germany Meet 95 Percent Energy Requirement – Nation Had To Pay People To Use Electricity

Germany had been increasingly meeting its energy demands through renewable energy sources. A few days ago its energy production through such eco-friendly sources was so high; it had to pay its people to consume the electricity. Germany hit a new high in production of electricity from renewable energy resources over the weekend. At one point, Germany had produced enough energy to meet 95 percent of its power demand. This forced the power prices to go “negative” for several hours, reported QZ. In other words, commercial customers in Germany were being paid to consume electricity. Germany had so much renewable energy on Sunday that it had to pay people to use electricity — Chris Dixon (@cdixon) May 12, 2016 At 11 a.m. last Sunday, Germany’s renewable energy production plants produced so much electricity, it could meet 95 percent of Germany’s power demands. On average, the country was able to produce enough energy through eco-friendly sources to meet 87 percent of its energy requirement. Interestingly, since traditional power plants which either relied on nuclear power or by burning coal couldn’t halt their production, the prices of electricity plummeted, allowing consumers to actually make a profit by being connected to the country’s power grid. (Image via Agora Energiewende) Germany is one of the few European countries that have been spearheading the transition towards clean energy. It has been steadily working towards decreasing it reliance on fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy sources. The country is in the middle of an initiative called ‘Energiewende’ which means “energy transition”. Through the long term project, the government hopes to drastically cut down on greenhouse gas emissions by about 80 to 95 percent, reported the Daily Mail. Additionally, following the Fukushima disaster in Japan, Germany also intends to phase out nuclear power before 2022. The country plans to rely on renewable energy sources for meeting at least 60 percent of power demands before 2050. But given the rapid pace of development, and Sunday’s incident, it appears Germany might meet its goal well ahead of schedule. Germany has more renewable energy than it can use.Meanwhile US and UK lag so far behind. Why? Wilful blindness maybe — Margaret Heffernan (@M_Heffernan) May 12, 2016 It’s astonishing note that just last year; renewable energy sources contributed just 33 percent of the nation’s energy production. Speaking about the increasing contribution of renewable energy towards the nation power grid, shared Christoph Podewils of Agora Energiewende, a German clean energy think tank, “We have a greater share of renewable energy every year. The power system adapted to this quite nicely. This day shows again that a system with large amounts of renewable energy works fine.” The energy production was boosted by unusual windy conditions and ample, unhindered sunlight. Sunday’s requirement was 57.8 gigawatts. While there will be very few such days when the country is blessed with such high intensity of natural forces, solar power managed to meet 45.2 percent of that total, wind power 36 percent, biomass power 8.9 percent, and hydropower plants 4.8 percent. Excess energy created by wind and solar power in Germany means consumers make a profit — Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) May 11, 2016 To consistently rely on renewable energy sources, Germany still has to make significant strides in development of technology. Moreover, the country still needs to improve the efficiency of the equipment and find new ways of storing energy. The storage systems will gradually release energy on days that aren’t windy or sunny. Nonetheless, despite being an industrious nation, Germany’s commitment to renewable energy is commendable, said Osha Gray Davidson, who has written a book on Energiewende, “Manufacturing accounts for much more of the German economy than the American economy, and they have 80 million people – much larger than a country like Denmark, which gets more of its power from renewables but has a much smaller industrial base, and has a population of 5.5 million people.” Multiple towns, cities, and now entire countries like Germany are proving that renewable energy can be relied upon to power large and developed areas. Interestingly, densely populated countries like China are not only spending more on eco-friendly energy productions technologies, but also discussing unifying the world’s power grids to ensure adequate supply of power to all corners of the world. [Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]

New Theory Suggests Trees Have Brains, Express Emotions, And Make Friends – Barking Mad Or A Leafy Mystery?

A groundbreaking new theory which suggests that trees have brains, talk to each other, express emotions, and are capable of making friends, may sound barking bad, but there is a growing amount of evidence which are leading more and more scientists to ask the unusual question – are trees an intelligent life-form? If so, it would appear Lord Of the Rings author J. R. R. Tolkien may have been closer to the truth than he realized when he wrote about the Ents. For those, and there may be some, not familiar with Middle-earth, the Ents are a sort of talking tree. And although for a long time many people such as Prince Charles have expressed their joy at talking to trees and plants, no-one really expected the trees to have a voice of their own – until now! [Image by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images] Forester Peter Wohlleben believes trees can not only transmit information and communicate with one another, but he also believes they are capable of learning. Writing in the Daily Mail, Peter explained that the theory may “sound incredible” but when you discover how trees actually interact, he challenges anyone to remain an unbeliever. “When you discover how trees talk to each other, feel pain, nurture each other, even care for their close relatives and organize themselves into communities, it’s hard to be skeptical.” Peter hasn’t always felt this way about trees. In fact he admits he was once pretty oblivious to their “hidden life”. Which is just as well because in the 1980s he was a civil servant with the German forest commission and his job was to “look at hundreds of spruces, beeches, oaks and pines every day, to assess their readiness for the lumber mill and their market value.” About 20 years ago Peter had something of an epiphany while organizing log cabin breaks for tourists. Observing how the visitors were memorized by the character of the gnarled and crooked trees he had an eureka moment. [Image by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images] Peter explained, “I would have dismissed such trees because of their low commercial value, but then I began to pay attention to more than just the quality of the trunk.” “I noticed bizarre roots, strangely intertwined branches, mossy cushions on bark… all kinds of wonders. Including, unbelievably, evidence of tree friendships.” Recalling how he found the remains of a “living” tree stump which belonged to an “ancient giant” in the forest that he manages (near the village of Hümmel, east of the Belgian border), Peter confessed how he was stumped that the remains of the tree which must have been felled at least 400 years ago, perhaps much more, was not completely dead. “Without leaves, a tree cannot absorb nourishment from the sunlight. Living cells must have food in the form of sugar, and they must breathe. The roots of the stump ought to have suffocated and starved to death long ago. “One possible answer existed. The other beeches around the stump had been pumping sugar into it for centuries to keep it alive, through their tangled roots. “Most individual trees of the same species growing in the same copse or stand will be connected through their root systems. It appears that helping neighbors in times of need is the rule, which leads to the conclusion that forests are super-organisms, much like ant colonies.” [Image by VCG/VCG via Getty Images] Research by Professor Massimo Maffei at the University of Turin has proven that trees are able to identify their own species from other plants and even pick out their relations from other trees. Some trees have roots which are so deeply entwined that like an old married couple they die together. Peter writes that when the thick silver-grey beeches in his forest identify hungry or diseased individuals and join together to support and nourish them until they recover, they remind him of a herd of elephants. “Like the herd, they look after their own, helping the sick and the weak back onto their feet. “And like that old stump revealed, they are even reluctant, like elephants, to abandon their dead. Of course, this cannot be done for every stump. Most rot and disappear within a couple of hundred years — which is not very long for a tree. But a few are maintained on life support for centuries. It appears to be the closeness of connection, or even affection, that determines how helpful the other trees will be.” [Image by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images] Alongside silent support, trees can do a lot more, as Dr Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver has discovered. Trees can apparently use fungal networks, that stretch under the soil between their roots, to send warnings using chemical signals and electrical impulses. Peter writes that this is known as the “wood wide web”. “Over centuries, if left undisturbed, a single fungus can cover many square miles and create a network throughout an entire forest. Through these links, trees can send signals about insects, drought and other dangers. “News bulletins are transmitted by chemical compounds and also by electricity, travelling at an inch every three seconds. “In comparison with the lightning impulses in mammal bodies, that is extremely slow. But there are species, such as jellyfish and worms, whose nervous systems conduct impulses at similar speeds.” Although at first Peter remained dubious that trees could communicate through making noises, new research from Dr Monica Gagliano at the University of Western Australia has changed his mind. “It’s believed trees crackle at a frequency of 220 hertz, which the human ear hears as a low A note. “When this note was played back to seedlings, their roots tilted towards the sound. It appears they could hear it, and were responding.” Peter, who has written a book on his love for the complexity of trees called, The Hidden Life Of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, believes the main reason humans cannot perceive the essential truth of trees is one of perspective. “The main reason humans cannot perceive how clever and complex they are is because we exist in such short time scales by comparison. There’s a tree in Sweden for instance, a spruce, that is more than 9,500 years old. That’s 115 times longer than the average human lifespan. “A tree’s childhood lasts ten times as long as ours. Activities that take us moments — waking up or stretching our limbs, can last months for a tree. “It’s hardly surprising that most of us see trees as practically inanimate, nothing more than objects. But the truth is very different. They are just as intensely alive as we are… and for much, much longer.” [Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images] [Featured Image by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images]

Large Glacier In East Antarctica Melting Rapidly, Scientists Fear Worldwide Rise In Sea Levels

One of the largest glaciers on Earth is quickly melting, according to measurements taken by scientists. The Totten glacier in East Antarctica is losing about 32 feet of its thickness annually and warm ocean water is to blame. Scientists from both the United States and Australia took ocean temperature samples from far below Totten glacier’s floating ice shelf. Analysis of the numbers determined warm ocean water is flowing underneath the glacier at 220,000 cubic meters per second. This movement of warm water is reducing the mass of the glacier anywhere between 63 and 80 billion tons every year. The moving water is melting the ice sheet at the point it hits the ground. According to the survey, Totten glacier is melting faster than any other glacier in East Antarctica. “This ice shelf is thinning, and its thinning because the ocean is delivering warm water to the ice shelf, just like in West Antarctica,” said Don Blankenship, a glaciologist at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the study’s co-authors, as cited by the Independent. Warm ocean water is rapidly melting one of East Antarctica’s largest glaciers. [Image by Frances M. Ginter/Getty Images] Scientists are particularly worried about the Totten glacier melting as more ice drifts toward the ocean through this region than anywhere else in East Antarctica. The amount of ice that slowly moves through the area is larger than the state of California. Should this amount of ice melt and flow into the ocean, sea levels worldwide could rise nearly 12 feet. The research team, led by Stephen Rintoul with the University of Tasmania in Hobart, sailed aboard the Aurora Australis to reach the Totten ice shelf in January 2015. The team was able to take ocean measurements at 10 different points along the ice shelf when an unexpected hole in the sea ice allowed the vessel to get closer than ever before. “We knew the Totten has been thinning faster than other glaciers in East Antarctica, but nobody has known exactly why until we took these measurements,” said Rintoul, per a report from ABC News. “We found that warmer ocean water is reaching the cavity through this channel at temperatures capable of melting the ice shelf at the point where it meets ground.” Warm water causing Totten glacier to melt; sleeping giant of East Antarctica, enough ice to raise sea levels by 3.5m — The Antarctic Report (@AntarcticReport) December 17, 2016 The ocean temperature measurements were taken at different depths ranging from 200 and 3,600 feet. The samples revealed warm water, named “modified circumpolar deep water,” was flowing toward the glacier. The underwater river is approximately six miles wide, half a mile deep, and runs near the western side of the glacier. However, labeling the water “warm” is misleading. The actual temperature of the water is slightly below the freezing point, but due to pressures from extreme depths, the freezing point of ice is slightly lower. This lower freezing point makes the water beneath warm enough to thaw the glacier. Until the research team discovered the warm water underneath the Totten glacier, scientists could only speculate what was going on. Previous research suggested there were pockets inside where warm water would enter, causing the glacier to shrink and sink into the water. Scientists worldwide speculate how the melting of Antarctica’s glaciers will affect sea levels. [Image by Frances M. Ginter/Getty Images] Scientists fear the global consequences should Totten melt and fall into the ocean. During a prior period of warm climate experienced in the Pliocene Era, approximately 3 million years ago, worldwide temperatures and glacial melting caused a significant rise in sea levels. While not certain, scientists do not believe the melting of only the Totten glacier would be enough to cause the same surge in ocean levels. In Antarctica, the ice sheets covering the land are so massive, they actually extend out into the ocean. East Antarctica holds about 66 percent of all the ice on the continent, so a massive meltdown would have dire significance to worldwide coastal areas. The research team’s report on the melting of Totten glacier in East Antarctica was published Friday in the journal Science Advances. [Featured Image by Torsten Blackwood – Pool/Getty Images]

Adidas And Parley For The Oceans Create Shoes Made From Recycled Ocean Plastic And Will Host Giveaway Of 50 Pairs

For decades, pollutants have ravaged our oceans, affecting its fragile environment and the animals living in it. Some of the most dangerous pollutants include radioactive waste and oil, especially during accidental oil spills from tankers or leaks from oil rigs. Still, they are a far cry from the most common pollutant now plaguing our oceans, plastic or to be more specific, microplastics. To understand the scope of the threat microplastics have on oceans’ ecosystem, they are one of the biggest threats of destroying the fish population because fish prefer to eat them over natural food. As a matter of fact, about one quarter of all fish in the oceans now contain plastics according to the United Nations. With these frightening facts, it can be hypothesized that a quarter of all fish consumed by people possibly contains plastic too. Let’s not forget this is just fish and there are other animals, not just living in the oceans but on land and air, that are affected by plastics that may consume them as well. Ergo, many in the green community are trying to find ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle the millions of tons of plastics that are polluting our oceans. In India, a company replaced plastic cutlery with those made by millet which in turn makes them edible too. When it comes to reusing plastics, they are now being incorporated into concrete to help reinforce it. Adidas and Parley (of the Oceans) have teamed up to create a new pair of shoes made of recycled ocean plastics. This pictures shows their logos inside the shoe commemorating their partnership. [Image via Adidas and Parley Promotions for Adidas X Parley Running Shoes]As for recycling plastics, Adidas and Parley for the Oceans (simply known as Parley) have teamed up to recycle ocean plastics to create something unique: a pair of shoes. Not only that, but people can have a chance to win one of 50 pairs of these eco-friendly shoes too. As shown from the video above, Adidas and Parley have found a way to turn ocean plastics into technical yarn. According to Ecouterre, the new shoes, called the “Adidas X Parley running shoes,” has uppers made of plastics that consist of roughly 16.5 post-consumer plastic bottles along with about 13 grams of gill-net plastic. Apparently, the plastic used to make the uppers derived from illegal deep-sea fishing nets and other man-made debris collected right off the coast of the Maldives, a tropical nation in the Indian Ocean known for its beaches that glow at night. Eric Liedtke, the Adidas Group executive board member responsible for global brands, has showed his excitement for the new shoes. He recently released a statement in which he claims they are already “iconic.” “This Adidas x Parley running shoe is already iconic. It’s a shoe for game-changers. We can’t wait to hear the stories of those who stand up, suggest creative solutions, take action and want to join us on our journey to clean up the oceans.” Cyrill Gutsch, the founder of Parley for the Oceans, also provided a statement on behalf of his company in which he details their end of the partnership. Gutsch also sees the recycled oceans plastics being used for other sportswear besides shoes. “So much work has happened behind the scenes since we launched our partnership with Adidas. We are creating new standards, new materials and technologies that are so different to those the sporting goods industry is used to. It is an ongoing challenge, but we achieved the first step. Now we can replace new plastic with recycled marine plastic debris: Parley Ocean Plastic. We can create footwear and apparel products with it and we are ready to scale it up.” The mesh used over the Adidas X Parley running shoes are made mostly of illegal fish-nets and other plastics found off the coast of the Maldives. [Image via Adidas and Parley Promotions for Adidas X Parley Running Shoes]The Adidas X Parley running shoes were made in honor of World Oceans Day, as reported by Inhabitat. Also in honor of the day, Adidas and Parley are giving people, specifically those on Instagram, to win one of 50 pairs of the shoes. All one has to do is upload a video that demonstrates their commitment to eliminating single-use plastic items from their lives. The chance to enter will last from June 8 to July 31. [Image via Adidas and Parley Promotions for Adidas X Parley Running Shoes]

France Bans Plastic Cups, Plates & Utensils: New Law Outlaws All Single-Use Plastic Dishes

France has become the first country to enact a blanket ban on all single-use plastic dishware. Under a new law which went into effect last month, the country gives manufacturers until 2020 to ensure that all of their disposable cups, plates and utensils are made of environmentally friendly products and can be composted at home, according to France’s The Local. The ban may make it harder for some parents throwing birthday parties or couples enjoying picnics, but it has been celebrated by many in France and around the world. Finally an intelligent ban! France bans all #plastic bags, plates & cups #ClimateChange #Anthropocene via @mashable — Annu Jalais (@AnnuJal) September 20, 2016 France Becomes First Country To Ban Plastic Cups And Dishes Viva la France! — Michal Jaster (@michal_jaster) September 20, 2016 However, CBS News reports that the ban has angered some in France, particularly manufacturers of plastic ware. Pack2Go Europe, a Brussels-based organization representing European packaging manufacturers, says it will keep fighting the groundbreaking ban. “We are urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law,” Pack2Go Europe secretary general Eamonn Bates told The Associated Press. “If they don’t, we will.” The plastic ban is part of France’s sweeping “Energy Transition for Green Growth Act” that was passed during the summer of 2015. CNN reports that the law will require all disposable tableware be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020. BY January of 2025, that number will rise to 60%. The French Association of Health and Environment reports that 150 single-use cups are thrown away every second in France. Only about 1% are recycled, in part because they are often made of a mixture of polypropylene and polystyrene that cannot be recycled. France has become the first country in the world to ban disposable plastic cups and plates — CNN (@CNN) September 20, 2016 Over 8 million tons of plastic wound up in our oceans in the year 2010 alone, according to scientists at the American Association for the Advances of Sciences. They warn that the number could increase tenfold in the next decade unless countries step up their waste management practices greatly. France, which hosted last year’s COP21 Climate Change conference in Paris, hopes to become a world leader in taking action to combat climate change and enacting environmentally friendly legislation and energy solutions. The UK’s Independent reports that French lawmakers say the idea behind the ban on plastic products is to promote a “circular economy” of waste disposal, “from product design to recycling.” French President François Hollande says that the ban is part of a larger push intended to make France “an exemplary nation in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, diversifying its energy model and increasing the deployment of renewable energy sources.” Plastic products are harmful to the environment and wildlife, in addition to posing health risks. One reasons for this is that plastic does not biodegrade and only breaks into smaller pieces. These pieces are often mistaken for food by wildlife, especially in oceans. In addition, millions of barrels of oil are used every year manufacturing plastic goods, which contributes to climate change. Proponents of the ban also point out that there are health risks linked to drinking out of plastic cups and eating off plastic dishes. These health risks tend to be higher when the food or drinks are hot, such as drinking hot coffee from plastic cups or eating hot foods from plastic bowls or plates. Supporters wanted the ban to take effect in 2017, but Ségolène Royal, the French environment minister, was worried that the ban could be seen as “anti-social” in socialist France because low-income families often use plastic plates and utensils. As a compromise, the ban won’t take effect until 2020. This should allow manufacturers more time to transition to environmentally friendly products and consumers in France plenty of time to prepare for the change. The ban on plastic dishes follows a similar ban that took effect in France this July which bans all plastic bags in grocery stores and markets. @Greenpeace I have forbidden the use of plastic bags in France. It was difficult but it's done. — Ségolène Royal (@RoyalSegolene) August 14, 2016 France bans #plastic #bags, what about the rest of the EU? — Just For EJF (@EJFshop) August 22, 2016 However, while many other countries, states and cities around the world have banned plastic bags, France is the first to ban plastic single-use dishes. France seems to be doing well with its goal of leading the way in positive changes for the environment. This year France has banned plastic bags, cups, cutlery, plates, and enacted a law requiring supermarkets to donate unsold food to charities — lu (@_luseal) September 17, 2016 Supporters in the United States are now calling for lawmakers to follow France’s lead and step up their commitment to combat plastic, waste and climate change. [Primary image by Eugene Buchko/Shutterstock]