Using 360-degree cameras to document the landscape and polar bears of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, teams at Google Maps, Earth Outreach, and Polar Bears International have made it possible for us to explore life on the tundra. This is behind the scenes of the Polar Bear Capital of the World:
This quiet town, set on the shores of western Hudson Bay, is a place where polar bears and humans coexist until the sea ice forms and the polar bears can travel on to the bay to hunt seals, their main prey.
During the warmer months, the polar bears are forced ashore by melting ice. While climate change may seem like a gradual process, often difficult to discern, the impact is real and evident in the polar bear capital. In Churchill, climate change has shortened the time that the bay remains frozen, reducing the polar bears’ hunting season by approximately four weeks…
In addition to this documentation, the team aims to educate about the polar bears’ quickly-changing habitat, and to inspire our reduction of carbon emissions, the largest man-made contributor to warming the planet.
To learn more, check out these ways to reduce your carbon footprint. And then search for polar bears in Churchill.
In the archives: watch more polar bear stories, more conservation, and another video about how technology helps us understand our changing world: the Catlin Seaview Survey of the Great Barrier Reef.
From KQED Science, find out how San Francisco’s 600 tons of compostable waste can be transformed into a dark, nutrient-rich material that will not only feed plants to improve the quality of what we eat and drink, but that also has the potential to offset America’s carbon emissions by over 20%. Above, agronomist Bob Shaffer takes us Inside the Compost Cycle.
Food scraps, mostly compostable, are over 30% of everyone’s garbage, and could instead help turn poor dirt into nutrient-rich soil where you live. If you’re interested in learning how to compost, check out these excellent links:
Watch more videos about sustainability, including the Moser Lamp, shaggy lawnmowers, Pierre’s high school greenhouse, Brooklyn’s Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, and how to use a paper towel.
What if we could replace plastics and styrofoam with something much more sustainable? Something that wouldn’t fill our landfills, pollute our beaches, or float out into our ocean gyres?
Meet Eben Bayer, the co-founder of Ecovative Designs. In 2007, Bayer and co-founder Gavin McIntyre developed the idea of combining mycelium from growing mushrooms with local crop waste to make a compostable biomaterial. Their goal: use it for packaging, insulation, shoes, fiberboard for furniture, and other products, thereby reducing or replacing non-biodegradable synthetic materials and plastics that can leach chemicals.
Are mushrooms the new plastic?
To find out, watch this 2010 report that explores how mushroom packaging is made. For more information on what Ecovative is working on, read this article in The Guardian, watch Bayer present at TED, or watch Ecovative’s Sam Harrington present to NASA.
Then watch more videos on innovative ideas and sustainability (like the Moser Lamp!), learn how creativity works, and check out Minute Earth’s The Biggest Organism on Earth.
In Onward: Searching for Life in Iceland’s Frigid Fissures, National Geographic grantee and biology researcher Jónína Ólafsdóttir goes diving in search of tiny arthropods in the underwater volcanic fissures of Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park. She is joined by NatGeo multimedia journalists Spencer Millsap and Dan Stone.
“When I started doing this research, I was amazed that no one had ever done it before,” she said one morning earlier this week as we drove to her favorite dive site. Iceland has a lot of research questions related to biology and geology that have never been answered, let alone even asked. “Iceland is a really great place for a scientist with an explorer’s heart,” she says…
Ecologists are often asked why they might study one particular animal, especially a small one that has little impact on humans. Jónína’s answer goes like this: humanity might never be dependent on microscopic arthropods but understanding how animals work together, how they depend on each other holds lots more clues about an area’s environmental history—and its future. At the top of the world, seeing how species change and adapt may indicate what happens as the climate changes around the world.
Read more about Ólafsdóttir's research at National Geographic, and check out more scuba diving videos in the archives.
In 2002, Brazilian engineer Alfredo Moser invented a simple way to bring the sun’s light indoors: fill a clear plastic 2 liter bottle with water and two capfuls of bleach, then make a hole in the roof and secure it with a waterproof sealant.
The result: 40 to 60 watts of free, natural light.
How does it work? The bleach keeps the water from turning green, and the water refracts sunlight. To see this innovative but simple invention in action, watch the the ecoideasnet video above (with captions on). Chilean Miguel Marchand helps to install the bottle lights, or Moser Lamps, in the home of a family that lives in the Andes.
Around 1.6 billion people — 25% of the Earth’s population — live without electricity, but with this simple idea, they can enjoy sustainable light in their home for free. Moser Lamps are becoming popular solutions in the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Argentina, Fiji, and other countries, and give an incredibly useful second life to plastic bottles.
If you make a Moser Lamp, please contact us by twitter, facebook, or email to let us know!
h/t BBC News.
Related watching: La casa ecológica de botellas, and more videos about sustainability.