Newsdesk – August 25

A fire in the Amazon rain forest near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil.
Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

With Amazon Rain Forest Ablaze, Brazil Faces Global Backlash. The actor Leonardo DiCaprio called on his nearly 34 million Instagram followers to become more environmentally conscious in a post warning that “the lungs of the Earth are in flames.” “We saw wild pigs, tapirs, armadillos, anteaters, snakes in larger numbers than we are used to,” said Adriano Karipuna, a leader in the Karipuna indigenous community, whose territory has been affected by fires. Forest fires are common in Brazil during this time of the year, which tends to be cooler and drier. But the number now raging in the Amazon is unusually high. Data released by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research shows that from January to July, fires consumed 4.6 million acres of the Brazilian Amazon, a 62 percent increase compared to last year. As dozens of fires scorched large swaths of the Amazon, Brazilian government is struggling to contain growing global outrage over its environmental policies, which have paved the way for runaway deforestation of this world’s largest rain forest. The Bolsonaro administration has reacted with indignation to the outrage, claiming without presenting any evidence that nongovernmental organizations could have started the fires to undermine the far-right president. Brazil has strict environmental laws and regulations, but they are often violated with impunity. The vast majority of fines for breaking environmental laws go unpaid with little or no consequences. “The government has a duty to come up with an emergency plan for the Amazon,” said Ms. Wapichana, the first indigenous woman elected to Congress. “There is no response from the government. The government is acting in a defensive and desperate manner” – The New York Times

  • Climate change: Should you fly, drive or take the train? – BBC
  • The world’s richest institutions invest in fossil fuels. Activists are changing that – Vox
  • ‘Watered down’: Pacific leaders chide Australia on climate change – Aljazeera
  • Life in Miami on the Knife’s Edge of Climate Change – The New Yorker
  • What Would a City-Level Green New Deal Look Like? Seattle’s About to Find Out – Inside Climate News
  • Cane growers support front group working to undermine Great Barrier Reef science – The Guardian
  • Wind farms: climate protection vs. nature protection – Made for Minds
Image Credit: Getty Images

David Koch, Billionaire Who Fueled Right-Wing Movement, Dies at 79.  A man-about-town philanthropist, he and his brother Charles ran a business colossus while furthering a libertarian agenda that reshaped American politics. Three decades after David Koch’s public steps into politics, analysts say, the Koch brothers’ money-fueled brand of libertarianism helped give rise to the Tea Party movement and strengthened the far-right wing of a resurgent Republican Party. Since the 1970s, the Kochs have spent at least $100 million — some estimates put it at much more — to transform a fringe movement into a formidable political force aimed at moving America to the far right by influencing the outcome of elections, undoing limits on campaign contributions and promoting conservative candidacies. While the Kochs did not endorse Donald Trump, they contributed heavily to Vice President Mike Pence’s two campaigns for governor of Indiana and counted a half-dozen close allies among the president’s cabinet choices and Republican advisers. Jane Mayer, the New Yorker writer and a critic of the Koch brothers, said in her book “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” (2016), that the libertarian policies they embraced benefited Koch chemical and fossil fuel businesses, which were among the nation’s worst polluters, and paid millions in fines and court judgments for hazardous-waste violations. David and Charles poured money into causes like climate change denial to ensure their fossil fuel empire remained profitable for as long possible – The New York Times

The intriguing design of the California Academy of Sciences is built to promote cooling air movement around the building [Image Credit: Cody Andresen]
Can you cool a house without air conditioning? To deal with heatwaves, made more frequent by climate change, the number of AC units is expected to more than triple worldwide by 2050. AC units contain refrigerants that are potent greenhouse gases. These refrigerants are in fact the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in every country on Earth. But there are alternatives and plenty of them. It is possible to create buildings that stay cool with virtually no energy requirements at all. One of the simplest forms of passive cooling makes use of the temperature change in the air when water evaporates. Water requires energy to go from the liquid state to vapour, and it takes that energy from the air in the form of heat. Evaporative cooling is a natural phenomenon and there are a lot of examples in nature where this happens. In Spain, a traditional vessel called a botijo uses the same principle. The botijo is a large pot made of porous clay and used to carry water or wine. Small amounts of the drink evaporates through pores in the clay walls, keeping the liquid inside cool even under the hot Spanish sun. The use of evaporative cooling goes back to ancient Egypt and the Romans. In Arabic architecture, there is a structure called the mashrabiya. A mashrabiya is traditional wooden lattice carved with intricate designs, found on the outside or the inside of a building. In the summer the mashrabiya would be home to porous earthenware pots – like the botijo – filled with water. These would help to cool the room as a breeze flowed through the mashrabiya and over the pots. But there are even simpler ways to harness evaporative cooling in a building or outside space. A body of water in a courtyard – a pond, fountain or runnels of water flowing throughout the space – all do the same job – BBC