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How Whale Watching Is Boosting Endangered Populations

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Hump back whales tale by hans dekker via flickr

Environmentalism and vacationing don’t typically go hand in hand, and in many cases, activities we enjoy during our leisure time can be directly harmful to the environment. When it comes to caring for our oceans, however, there’s one recreational activity that’s brought about great ecological benefits in recent years: whale watching.

How is whale watching contributing to the health of our oceans? After all, at first glance it doesn’t seem like there’s much going on there; you’ve got some excited people on a boat hoping that whales will show up. When we dig a little deeper, however, the beneficial aspects of the activity become clear.

An Inside Look At Whale Watching

People who have been whale watching love to describe the excitement of the experience. Out on the water, armed with cameras, you can never be sure if or when a whale will surface. When it happens, though, there’s great excitement as these enormous, mysterious creatures engulf the boat in mist as they rise to the surface or leap from the water. The enormity of seeing a whale can only be described as awesome in the original sense of the word – but the value of the experience doesn’t end when you disembark.

Whale Watching’s Ties To Conservation

Whale watching has been one of the fastest growing types of nature-related tourism since the 1950s and now has 87 participating nations and territories, 34 of which are members of the International Whaling Commission. These groups host over 9 million people each year, interested in exploring the world of whale watching, and a large percentage of profits from whale watching goes to research and habitat protection.

Another reason that whale watching is so beneficial is that many of the companies that run whale watching trips contribute valuable data about whale behavior, life cycles, and movements to scientific organizations. This allows scientists to allot more of their time and resources to developing solutions to issues like pollution and global warming that are impacting the whale population.

Getting Off The List

For those seeking concrete evidence that whale watching is beneficial to the health of our oceans, there’s no greater proof than the removal of 9 humpback whale groupings from the endangered species list; 5 other whale groups remain on the list due to insufficient population growth.

Humpback whales have been on the endangered species list since the 1970s, shortly after an international ban on commercial whaling went into effect. The whales were nearly hunted to extinction in the years before the ban, necessitating such extreme protections.

Eco-Friendly Tourism: Part Of A Larger Movement

What watchers today can expect unprecedented sightings in some areas, including pods of 15 to 20 whales in Pacific waters, but these nature lovers aren’t the only ones experiencing our oceans in new and exciting ways today. Rather, whale watching is part of a larger movement to encourage tourists to engage with the environment in respectful, mutually beneficial ways.

In Zanzibar, for example, tourists staying at the Cenizaro property The Residence can participate in dives developed by One Ocean. Visitors can see the many brilliant varieties of fish and plant life in the waters nearby, while One Ocean works with the Mnemba Island Conservation Area to protect that ecosystem. Similarly, those who stay in Zanzibar’s protected Menai Bay are charged a tax on all water activities, with the funds allotted to caring for the surrounding marine life.

Too often, our actions are grouped into one of two categories – either we are actively engaged in environmentalist activity to save a planet in distress or we’re participating in leisure activities that are ruining our Earth. The reality, however, is that the division isn’t stark and you can care for the planet while still leading an exciting and enjoyable life.

 

Environment

Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations

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green housing techniques

Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?

The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.

New Construction Options

One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.

In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.

The Simple Retrofit

From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?

Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.

Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.

Big Innovations

Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.

In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.

Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.

It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.

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Environment

How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions

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auto industry to clean air pollution

Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Public Health Crisis

It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.

Eco-Friendly Vehicles

It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.

Used Cars

Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.

Public Perception

With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.

Progress

The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.

With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.

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