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Australia: 'Energy-harvesting' clear glass created by Perth team
30 March 2017 - New technology developed in Western Australia is making its mark on the solar energy market, becoming the world's first commercially viable clear, solar glass. Developed at the Electron Science Research Institute (ESRI) at Edith Cowan University, the glass contains special nanoparticles, with solar cells around its borders. Director of the ESRI Kamal Alameh described it as a game changer for the industry. 'We call it energy-harvesting clear glass,' Professor Alameh said. (more)

UK breaks solar energy record on sunny March weekend
30 March 2017 - For the first time, on Saturday 25 March 2017, electricity demand in Great Britain was lower during the afternoon than it was overnight due to high solar generation. National Grid, which runs the transmission network, described the moment as a 'huge milestone'. The company sees the solar power generated on the distribution networks - or local roads of the system -- as reduced electricity demand. he sunshine meant that solar power produced six times more electricity than the country's coal-fired power stations on Saturday. (more)

US: Cycling in Minnesota creates thousands of jobs and cuts health-care spending
30 March 2017 - For many Minnesotans cycling is nothing more than a Sunday frolic, but a new report finds that the state's bike industry produces $780 million in annual economic activity, 5,519 jobs and millions of dollars in health care savings because of reduced obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Fully 13.6 percent of Twin Cities residents commute by bike, at least once in a while. (more)

US: Fourth-quarter economic growth revised higher, boosted by consumer spending
30 March 2017 - U.S. economic growth slowed less than previously reported in the fourth quarter as robust consumer spending spurred the largest increase in imports in two years. Gross domestic product increased at a 2.1 percent annualized rate instead of the previously reported 1.9 percent pace, the Commerce Department said on Thursday in its third GDP estimate for the period. The economy grew at a 3.5 percent rate in the third quarter. (more)

US: Pending home sales surge to 10-month high
30 March 2017 - Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes jumped to a 10-month high in February, pointing to robust demand for housing ahead of the spring selling season despite higher prices and mortgage rates. Demand for housing is being driven by the labor market, which is generating wage increases, as it nears full employment. (more)

A positive outlook may be good for your health
29 March 2017 - There is no longer any doubt that what happens in the brain influences what happens in the body. When facing a health crisis, actively cultivating positive emotions can boost the immune system and counter depression. Studies have shown an indisputable link between having a positive outlook and health benefits like lower blood pressure, less heart disease, better weight control, and healthier blood sugar levels. (more)

Canada: How First Nations got ahead of the curve on clean energy
29 March 2017 - Renewable energy projects are on the rise in Indigenous communities across the country. And when it comes to moving away from fossil fuels, some industry experts say First Nations are ahead of the curve. 'There's about 165 Indigenous communities that own part, or all-of, clean energy projects,' said Chris Henderson, president of Lumos Energy. When it comes to implementing community clean energy projects, Henderson says First Nations are Canada's leaders. (more)

US consumer confidence hits 16-year high
29 March 2017 - U.S. consumer confidence surged to a more than 16-year high in March amid growing labor market optimism while the goods trade deficit narrowed sharply in February, suggesting the economy was regaining momentum after faltering at the start of the year. The economy's strengthening fundamentals were underscored by other data on Tuesday showing further gains in house prices in January. Robust consumer confidence and rising household wealth from the home price gains suggest the recent slowdown in consumer spending, which has held back economic growth, is likely temporary. (more)

Australia: Landcare funding boost to include $15m for new Indigenous protected areas
28 March 2017 - A $100m funding package to Landcare will include $15m for new Indigenous protected areas, raising hopes of further federal support for the environmental policy and its related Indigenous ranger program. The funding will also support Landcare projects, the work of Landcare Australia and the National Landcare Network, and a small grants program for sustainable agriculture. (more)

UK: Quiet revolution cuts energy consumption
28 March 2017 - After decades of constant increases, the consumption of electricity in many European countries is going down. Coupled with the rise in the use of renewable energy, this has cut carbon emissions faster than expected. Some countries, notably Germany, have been expecting and planning for this to happen, but the UK government has been surprised by the trend. It forecast a continued rise in the use of electricity, but it has been falling. (more)

US: Sea otters of Morro Bay have made a comeback
28 March 2017 - In May, the annual otter count found more than 3,090 along the California coast. They are the only ones left. If the numbers stay above that threshold set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for three years running, the otters can make it off the endangered species list. In Morro Bay, their survival is looking hopeful. Scientists estimate 30 to 40 adults and up to 20 pups have settled around the embarcadero T-piers this season. (more)

Ancient green building technique helps ease West Africa housing crisis
27 March 2017 - In 2000, Burkina Faso farmer Seri Youlou and Frenchman Thomas Granier started the Nubian Vault Association, which is also known by its French name Association La Voûte Nubienne (AVN). They resurrected what they call the Nubian Vault technique, or the process of constructing sturdy vaulted roofs with mud bricks similar to processes employed centuries ago in ancient Egypt. Not only has the technique helped put a roof over families' heads and driven economic development, it's benefited the environment as well. According to AVN, since September 2015 Nubian Vault homes have saved around 55,000 tons of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere. (more)

Nature conservation as a bridge to peace in the Middle East
27 March 2017 - Loss of biodiversity is a major challenge in today's world as is the quest for peace in regions engaged in conflict. But scientists writing in a Review published 22 March in Trends in Ecology and Evolution say that efforts to conserve natural resources present an opportunity to find common ground between communities at odds, building trust and renewed hope for peace. (more)

Cities and monuments switch off for Earth Hour
26 March 2017 - The Empire State Building and United Nations headquarters in New York joined other iconic buildings and monuments around the world plunging into darkness for sixty minutes on Saturday to mark Earth Hour and draw attention to climate change. The Eiffel Tower, the Kremlin, the Acropolis in Athens and Sydney's Opera House also dimmed their lights as millions of people from some 170 countries and territories were expected to take part in Earth Hour, the annual bid to highlight global warming caused by the burning of coal, oil and gas to drive cars and power plants. The event, which originated in Sydney, has grown to become a worldwide environmental campaign, celebrated across all continents. (more)

US: Once a Superfund site with a crazy concept, Greensgrow celebrates 20 years
24 March 2017 - From its roots in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Greensgrow Farm has educated the community about sustainable practices. It has reached out to neighborhood associations and partnered with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for beautification projects. Over the last 20 years, the original three-fourths of an acre urban farm has blossomed into a funky garden center, farm stand, and greenhouse (plus a West Philly satellite) that annually take in $1.8 million in revenue and receive 10,000 visitors. (more)

China: Smog-hit Beijing plans 'green necklace' to block pollution
23 March 2017 - Beijing and the surrounding province of Hebei will plant trees, establish green belts, and make use of rivers and wetlands to create a 'green necklace' to protect China's smog-hit capital from pollution, the Hebei government said on Thursday. The city has also promised to curtail coal consumption and decommissioned its last coal-fired power plant earlier this month. (more)

Europe poised for total ban on bee-harming pesticides
23 March 2017 - The world's most widely used insecticides would be banned from all fields across Europe under draft regulations from the European commission, seen by the Guardian news. The documents are the first indication that the powerful commission wants a complete ban and cite 'high acute risks to bees'. A ban could be in place this year if the proposals are approved by a majority of EU member states. (more)

Night parrot sighting confirmed in Western Australia for first time in 100 years
23 March 2017 - A night parrot has been photographed in Western Australia, adding another twist to the mysterious history of the species that was presumed extinct until it was rediscovered in Queensland four years ago. It is the first verified sighting of the bird in WA for almost 100 years...The discovery was made by a group of four friends from Broome who have dedicated the better part of seven years to locating the bird, examining detailed maps, trekking into likely habitats, and spending evenings in the state's arid interior listening for unusual bird calls. (more)

Night parrot sighting in Western Australia shocks birdwatching world (+ ABC News video)
23 March 2017 - A group of four birdwatchers from Broome has photographed Australia's most mysterious bird, the night parrot, in Western Australia. The men's discovery is the first confirmed sighting of a night parrot in Western Australia for nearly a century. There have been other rumours of sightings throughout the 2000s, but no evidence accompanied them. (more)

Solving the worldwide plastic problem with innovative ideas
23 March 2017 - Many people are stepping up and taking action that will help the world resolve the over abundance of plastic waste. Here are a number of innovative breakthroughs in the desire to curb the world's plastic pollution problem, that show by working together, there can be a real positive change. (more)

Solar boreholes, irrigated crops throw lifeline to Kenyan herders
22 March 2017 - At the only borehole with water for miles around, the troughs are under siege in Saretho village as hundreds of camels, cattle, sheep, and goats await their turn. On the other side of the solar-powered well, women and children fetch water for household use ... Two years ago, the scene would have been different. Without the solar-powered pump they have now, the villagers found the local boreholes difficult and costly to operate. But since the Kenya Red Cross installed a solar system in 2014, they no longer have problems getting water. Elsewhere in the county, a group of former pastoralists have taken to growing fruit and vegetables. Its chairman Mathar Shale said he hasn't kept livestock since he started planting bananas, tomatoes, and cabbages. 'I can earn 70,000 shillings ($680) in a good month,' he said. (more)

UK group expanding campaign to curb antibiotics in meat production
21 March 2017 - A shareholder coalition founded in the U.K. is recruiting investors for a campaign to convince KFC parent Yum Brands Inc and other [US] food companies to protect public health and corporate profits by reducing the use of antibiotics in the meat they serve in the United States and around the world. Members noted that chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc and McDonald's USA have used strict antibiotic policies to elevate their brands. (more)

Access to nature reduces depression and obesity, finds European study
21 March 2017 - People living close to trees and green spaces are less likely to be obese, inactive, or dependent on anti-depressants, according to a new report. Overall, nature is an under-recognised healer, the paper says, offering multiple health benefits from allergy reductions to increases in self-esteem and mental wellbeing. (more)

Brazil: The man who planted a tree and grew a whole family of forests
21 March 2017 - When Antonio Vicente bought a patch of land in São Paulo state and said he wanted to use it to plant a forest, people called him crazy. In 1973 forests were seen by many as an obstacle to progress and profit. Maintaining forests are essential for water supplies because trees absorb and retain water in their roots and help to prevent soil erosion. So with some donkeys and a small team, he worked on his little patch -- 31 hectares (77 acres) of land that had been razed for grazing cattle -- and set about regenerating. More than 40 years later, Vicente -- now 84 -- estimates he has replanted 50,000 trees on his 31 hectare Serra da Mantiqueira mountain range property. Vicente said, 'I didn't do it for money, I did it because when I die, what's here will remain for everyone.' He adds, 'People don't call me crazy any more.' (more)

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