This Real-Time Map Shows You the Amazon Forest Fires

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Ever since Jair Bolsonaro proclaimed that economic growth was more important than protecting the Amazon, there have been 74,155 fires. For the past three weeks, a giant fire has been blazing its way through the forest, and an interactive map lets you watch it.

Many of the fires are set by farmers to clear land. In early August, farmers in the Amazon self-declared a “fire day” to burn trees, emboldened by the fact that the government isn’t enforcing rainforest protections that are part of national law.

“It’s very rare to have fires starting naturally in the Amazon,” says Weisse. “And so almost everything that we’re seeing is a result of human activity, and it’s mostly happening along roads or in farms or where people are.”

We Need a New Internet That Can Withstand Climate Change

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The internet infrastructure is vulnerable to climate change. The fiber optic cables that ferry data can handle some water damage, but they weren’t meant to be permanently underwater.

…within the next 15 years, in a scenario that projects about a foot of sea level rise by then, 4,067 miles of fiber conduit cables are likely to be permanently underwater. In New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle, the rising seas could drown roughly 20 percent of all metro fiber conduit. These are the lines that physically ferry our Internet traffic from place to place.

Another 1,101 “nodes”—the buildings or places where cables rise out of the ground, which often house computer servers, routers, and network switches to move our data around—are also expected to be swamped.

Fight Climate Change, Get a Free Nomad Lightning Cable

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Get a free Nomad Lightning cable when you donate to the company’s Carbon Fund fundraising event. The minimum donation is US$5, which the company will use to plant trees. This is a steal because the cable on offer is normally US$24.95.

Every dollar donated plants a tree in Acre, a region of Brazil, that is being devastated by deforestation. We want to try to reverse this. Every ten trees planted captures around one ton of C02. Learn more about the project.

What if Plants Could Be Smart Home Devices?

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What if plants could be smart home devices? That’s the idea of Harpreet Sareen and Pattie Maes in their cyborg botany research.

These experiments led the researchers to possible future applications that include sending notifications—the plant might jiggle to alert you when your package is delivered, for instance—or as a motion sensor, which could help you keep track of your pet or be applied to security systems.

Cool idea. When most people talk about “invisible interfaces” they usually mean things like smart clothing or using your voice like with a HomePod. Now if only trees transmitted Wi-Fi…

[email protected] is a Social Network for Plant Lovers

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First created in 2009, [email protected] is a social network for plant lovers, as well as a plant identification app.

Once a user makes an identification (or marks the plant as unknown), they submit their photos to the [email protected] community. Thousands of professional botanists and flora-philes scan the stream of new observations to verify a species, or suggest a new one. If a person confirms your observation, a little green “crowd” icon appears. Your score rises as more people validate your labels, although a few users are certified to train the algorithm without community validation.

I haven’t used this yet but I’ll definitely check it out. I also love iNaturalist. It’s not really a social network, but it can identify both plants and animals.

NASA Globe Observer is a Citizen Science Tool

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NASA GLOBE Observer invites you to make observations about the Earth around you. Observations you collect and submit with this app are used by scientists to validate, interpret, and understand satellite data collected by NASA from space.  The current version includes two capabilities. GLOBE Clouds allows observers to make regular observations of the Earth’s cloud cover and compare it to NASA satellite observations. GLOBE Mosquito Habitat Mapper allows users to locate mosquito habitats, observe and identify mosquito larvae, and reduce the potential threat of mosquito borne disease. Recently NASA added a new addition: Globe Trees. App Store: Free

NASA Globe Observer is a Citizen Science Tool

Which One is Better for the Environment: Physical or Digital Music?

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A study published yesterday found that streaming digital music led to “unintended” environmental and economic impacts. Despite a reduction in the use of plastics in physical music media, storing and transmitting digital music led to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Researchers discovered that the amount of GHGs generated by the streaming and downloading of music online is actually much larger than the amount that was once generated by the production of plastic used to make vinyl records, cassettes and CDs in earlier decades.

The study seems focused on plastic use in physical media vs. storing and streaming digital music from servers. I’d like to see more data, such as how much electricity is used when billions of people play the average CD vs. a digital song.

 

Use iNaturalist to Identify Flora and Fauna

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I’ve used iNaturalist for a couple years and think it’s a great tool. Two features that help the app stand out from competitors are 1: The machine learning it uses. Once you take a picture, it can automatically suggest what species you’re looking at. 2: With every photo you upload and tag with location and other metadata, you’re contributing to real science. iNaturalist shares data with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

The app is a joint initiative between The California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society and works sort of like a Shazam for Nature in that it lets you snap a shot of something you come across and instantly get an answer for what that planet, animal, or bug might be.

Can You Speak Tree Language? New York City Does

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Created by artist Kate Holten, the New York City Tree Alphabet lets anyone send hidden messages in tree language. You can also download it as a font.

A tentative version of Holten’s new Tree Alphabet was shared across the Parks Department for months, as groups across the system chimed in on which trees should stand for which letters–a more complicated idea than one might think, given that the Parks Department is particular about the species it wants planted.

*cries in Ogham*

Examining Apple's Recycling Ambitions

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Maddie Stone wrote a great dive into Apple’s recycling ambitions and the company’s quest to some day stop mining resources.

For a company that sells over 200 million smartphones a year, along with millions more tablets and computers, achieving what sustainability wonks call a “circular economy” will amount to a complete overhaul of everything from how Apple devices are manufactured to what we do with those devices at the end of their lives…The question is whether that’s a future Apple truly wants—or one that its investors will allow.

This Watch Wants to Curb Ocean Plastic Pollution

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There’s a watch that wants to help curb ocean plastic pollution. Awake Watch’s mission is to prove that there is a smarter and more sustainable way to consume goods. It wants to show that it can create objects with innovative design and very high quality, while still limiting its environmental impact as much as possible. And give people the opportunity to make a difference. The fabric the company uses for the strap is made from plastic waste, which has been collected from South East Asian seas and Japan. It turns the plastic into pellets, and then into nylon yarn. It creates the straps directly from rolls of this material, which is made using no chemical dyes, and is certified by the Global Recycled Standard label. The leather straps are made by a French company that uses Italian leather tanned in a vegetable tanning process. The Kickstarter was fully funded in an hour. To get a watch, rewards start at US$229.