environment

Tokyo’s new rentable bikes are a great start, but the city is still far from bike-friendly…

Tokyo’s new rentable bikes are a great start, but the city is still far from bike-friendly…

Close your eyes and throw a stick in pretty much any Tokyo neighbourhood, and there’s a good chance that you’ll hit someone riding a bicycle. With roughly 72 million bikes on the streets of Japan, they’re an essential part of daily life for many, especially in urban areas where space for motor vehicle parking is both limited and expensive.

Last weekend, though, we stumbled upon a fleet of sparkling new bicycles that couldn’t be more different to the typical mamachari shopping bikes that everyone from junior high schoolers to worryingly wobbly grandmothers pedal around town. Sleek, compact, and with”Suicle” stamped on their crossbars, these lime-green lightweights are available for anyone with a prepaid IC bus or rail card and a half-decent sense of balance to rent.

Eager to know if the ride, and the process of renting and returning, was as smooth as a nearby sign purported it to be, we took a couple of the mini bikes out for a spin.

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Drivers spill the beans while saving the planet with Nissan’s two-seater electric vehicle

Drivers spill the beans while saving the planet with Nissan’s two-seater electric vehicle

In October last year, Yokohama City joined forces with Japanese automobile manufacturer Nissan for a special project dubbed Choi-Mobi Yokohama. Furnishing the historic port city with a small fleet of rentable, ultra-compact electric vehicles, Nissan set out to examine the feasibility of making such modes of transport commonplace in urban centres. Allowing anyone with a valid license to zip around the city – emission free, of course – for just 20 yen (US$0.19) per minute of use, ultra-compacts like the Choi-Mobi are tipped to be a useful replacement for taxis and private vehicles in urban areas in future years.

The concept alone was enough to have tech-heads and environmentalists alike grinning from ear to ear, but on April 1 this year, Nissan asked a group of Choi-Mobi renters to use their time together inside the vehicle to convey important messages to one another, telling not April Fools but “April Truths”.

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The best night views in the Maldives are on its magical shores

The best night views in the Maldives are on its magical shores

The Maldives has always been a popular honeymoon destination, known for its crystal clear waters, gorgeous beaches and glamorous, resort-style accommodation. As if the area wasn’t romantic enough, at night there’s a breathtaking natural phenomenon that transforms its shores into glimmering waves of iridescent blue. One visitor who stumbled on the unbelievable sight likened it to the starry night skies of the Milky Way and took to the internet to find out the cause of the mysterious occurrence.

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In wake of nuclear disaster, world’s largest floating wind farm being built in Fukushima

In wake of nuclear disaster, world’s largest floating wind farm being built in Fukushima

The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and subsequent Fukushima nuclear accident have made many in Japan rethink the country’s reliance on atomic energy. Investment in alternative, renewable energy sources is looking more and more attractive to some, and the sentiment is particularly strong among residents of Fukushima Prefecture itself.

Those seeking a less volatile source of power may be getting their wish with the proposed development of what would be the world’s largest-output floating wind farm off the Fukushima coast.

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Air quality in Beijing now so poor that sunrises are being broadcast on giant TV screens [UPDATED]

Air quality in Beijing now so poor that sunrises are being broadcast on giant TV screens [UPDATED]

As if today being a Monday wasn’t depressing enough, media outlets are reporting that the air quality and visibility in China’s capital city has become so bad that the state has begun televising live footage of sunrises on enormous screens ordinarily used for advertising. That’s right: with the real thing now almost completely hidden behind a thick layer of smog, people are actually watching nature on TV.

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Moby Drink: Iceland creates a beer made with endangered whale bones, can’t sell it

Moby Drink: Iceland creates a beer made with endangered whale bones, can’t sell it

Japan gets a lot of press for its continued whaling operations, but it’s not the only country that still hunts whales. Iceland also fishes a couple hundred whales a year and is one of the last remaining commercial markets for whale meat.

In fact, during the upcoming winter festival of Þorrablót, the traditional nosh is pickled whale fat along with such delicacies as burned sheep heads and pickled sheep testicles. Now what’s a real Viking to wash all that down with? Why, whale beer of course!

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Days of thick smog leave Shanghai residents gasping for fresh air

Days of thick smog leave Shanghai residents gasping for fresh air

Air pollution in China is a serious problem, especially in urban areas in the east like Shanghai. Over the past week, the city has been dealing with a particularity nasty bout of smog that has far exceeded safe levels according to its own Air Quality Index. The smog has been heavy since around the beginning of the month, with one of the worst days on December 6 that saw pollution levels over ten times that of the air in neighboring countries.

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Bama, China: Home to some of the oldest, healthiest people in the world

Bama, China: Home to some of the oldest, healthiest people in the world

With rapid developments in medicine and an overall increase in awareness when it comes to our general health, in many parts of the world people are living to an age like never before. Although many of us pay careful attention to the advice given to us by medical professionals, health and fitness magazines, and the media in general, curiously some of the healthiest and oldest people in the world rarely visit their doctor, nor do they have access to the information that we in the developed world do. Is it possible that the secret to longevity lies elsewhere?

A village in Bama Yao Autonomous County, China, is one of five locations across the globe where people are known to live far beyond the global average, with few suffering from health problems during their lifetime. Many of the inhabitants of this village live to be more than 100 years old, and despite the villagers’ environment being a tropical region where ultraviolet rays are strong, women of the area have a pale complexion and are strikingly attractive.

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Trial begins between Australia and Japan over whaling

Trial begins between Australia and Japan over whaling

On 26 June at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Australia made its first arguments against Japan’s scientific whaling program which they assert is a cover for commercial whaling in violation of international treaties. Ever the political hot potato, the move is sure to ruffle some feathers both at home and abroad.

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Dragon Ball Creator Akira Toriyama’s Newest Work Released… to Japanese Environmental Groups

Dragon Ball Creator Akira Toriyama’s Newest Work Released… to Japanese Environmental Groups

Since the end of Dragon Ball’s massively successful series, creator Akira Toriyama has been putting out a fairly steady flow of one-shots, the most recent of which being 2010’s Kintoki.

Now, Toriyama’s newest work titled Lord Wu of Delicious Island (Oishi Shima No Wu Sama) is available for limited release.

How limited?  Well, your best chance is to become a primary school student participating in an environmental study group in Anjo, Aichi Prefecture.

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A Lost Renoir? River in China Looks Like an Oil Painting

A Lost Renoir? River in China Looks Like an Oil Painting

With its saturated colors, a picture of a lake in China’s Anhui Province looks like a painting that could have been done by the French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. No Photoshop trickery here though, the above image is an actual photograph of the lake. But how did it get this way?
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Artificial Nature: Is China Really Spray Painting Its Grass Greener?

Artificial Nature: Is China Really Spray Painting Its Grass Greener?

Along with some of the most worrying and bizarre images we’ve seen this week so far, rumour has begun circulating online that the grass is some parts of China is being sprayed with green dye to make it appear more lush and verdant.

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Beijing Smog Makes the City Look Like Another World — You Know, the Uninhabitable Kind

Beijing Smog Makes the City Look Like Another World — You Know, the Uninhabitable Kind

If you can look past the devastating damage it causes to your respiratory system, air pollution in Beijing has become so dense that it actually makes the Chinese capitol look like something from a fantasy or science fiction world.

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Measure Asia’s Air Pollution with a Map Based on the Length of Your Nasal Hair!

Measure Asia’s Air Pollution with a Map Based on the Length of Your Nasal Hair!

In recent years along with many other developing Asian nations, China has been increasing its level of industrial manufacturing as it readies itself for remarkable industrial growth. However, neglecting its environment for the sake of industry has brought with it the problem of dense smog pollution, with microscopic smog particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less having been detected in overwhelming large amounts in China’s air in recent days.

The smog is the same as that found in factory exhausts, car fumes and the like. Measured per cubic meter, at one instance the observed value of pollution in Beijing reached levels 10 times the Chinese government’s recommended safety level. If one were to go by the Wealth Health Organization (WHO)’s recommended value, the figure rises to 40 times greater than normal. When it comes to pollution, it is thought that of the asian nations undergoing remarkable growth, 70% of nations are reaching a critical level. The toxic substances that seep out into the environment cause asthma, pneumonia and even in some cases death.

Of course, those living in highly polluted areas will surely want to know how their air compares, but measuring the levels each time can prove tiresome and expensive. With this in mind, one innovative company called Clean Air Asia has stumbled upon a way determine just how polluted your air is, and has designed an interactive map based on – wait for it – nostil hair.

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Chinese Air Pollution Expected to Cross Over to Western Japan

Chinese Air Pollution Expected to Cross Over to Western Japan

For days now Beijing has been suffering from a prolonged spell of the worst air pollution in the city’s history, a crisis so bad that it has been dubbed the “airpocalypse”.

The air has been classified as hazardous to human health and has already sent countless people to the hospital for respiratory ailments. The city is blanketed in a thick grey fog that is said to smell of coal and sting the eyes, leading officials to close highways, force the cancellation of flights and outdoor activities, and warn people in affected areas to remain indoors.

According to a researcher at Kyushu University, China’s giant toxic cloud of pollution is now expected to cross over to western Japan sometime later today.

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Amazing New Garbage Bags Just Made Cleaning Up Your Town Cool (No, Really)

Amazing New Garbage Bags Just Made Cleaning Up Your Town Cool (No, Really)

As much as it might sound like a speech that one of those creepy, smile-flashing, tracksuit-wearing guest speakers might have given at your school when you were a kid, it genuinely is cool to be seen cleaning up your town in Japan right now.

In a joint venture between Garbage Bag Artwork and Columbia Sportswear Japan, a range of artistically-designed garbage bags has been launched, along with a swanky new website that aims to encourage both local groups and handsome folks like you and me to get out and clean up our towns. Read More

New Source of Rubber: Dandelions?!

New Source of Rubber: Dandelions?!

You might think natural rubber only comes from rubber trees, but that’s not the case! Bridgestone announced that it has been able to get viable, useable, tire-grade rubber from Russian Dandelions! Bridgestone is part of a collaborative research group that has been trying to find alternative sources of rubber, with Bridgestone focusing specifically on Russian dandelions. The collaboration is named Program for Excellence in Natural Rubber Alternatives, and aims to find alternative sustainable and renewable sources of rubber. PENRA is based at the Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. They discovered that they can extract rubber from the fleshy roots of Russian Dandelion.

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