(via Haiti to plant millions of trees to boost forests and help…

(via Haiti to plant millions of trees to boost forests and help tackle poverty | World news | guardian.co.uk)

Haiti aims to plant 50m trees a year in a pioneering reforestation campaign to address one of the primary causes of the country’s povertyand ecological vulnerability.

President Michel Martelly will launch the drive to double forest cover by 2016 from the perilous level of 2% – one of the lowest rates in the world. Despite scepticism engendered by past ill-fated campaigns, there are hopes that the high-level push will mark a turning point after hundreds of years of degradation.

Haiti was once covered in verdant forests but land clearance for colonial plantations was followed by tree felling for cooking fuel. It is estimated that 30m to 40m trees a year are cut down.

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(via Prekindergarten program boosts children’s…

(via Prekindergarten program boosts children’s skills

Boston Public Schools’ prekindergarten program is substantially improving children’s readiness to start kindergarten, according to a new study of more than 2,000 children enrolled there. The program uses research-based curricula and coaching of teachers, is taught primarily by masters-level teachers, and is open to any child regardless of family income.

The study, out of Harvard University, appears in the journal Child Development. Some of the study’s findings on the effects of the program are the largest found to date in evaluations of large-scale public prekindergarten programs.

Researchers found that the program substantially improved children’s language, literacy, math, executive function (the ability to regulate, control, and manage one’s thinking and actions), and emotional development skills citywide. Children in the program were 4 and 5 years old and from racially, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds. While all students who participated benefited, the improvements were especially strong for Latino children.

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(via Put a cork in it: Natural renewable cork makes a comeback…

(via Put a cork in it: Natural renewable cork makes a comeback as home insulation : TreeHugger)

There is nothing new about using cork as an insulating material; Fridtjof Nansenlined the Fram with a foot thick layer of the stuff, and almost got to the North Pole in it, while Amundsen used the boat to get to the South Pole.

Cork is a completely renewable resource that we actually should use; the cork forests in Portugal provide habitat for the Iberian Lynx and the short-toed eagle. The land that the cork forests occupy is (or was until the crash) in demand for real estate and other developments; if the cork isn’t harvested the tree gets it.

A world away in Vermont, Alex Wilson of BuildingGreen is renovating a farmhouse, and using only the greenest and healthiest of materials. Cork is certainly that. Alex writes:

The primary reason I’m excited about using cork insulation on our house is that I don’t like some of the chemicals used in conventional foam insulation. Extruded polystyrene is made with a blowing agent, HFC-134a, which is a very potent greenhouse gas that is contributing to climate change, and nearly all foam insulation materials contain hazardous brominated or chlorinated flame retardants. (more info on this here)

Cork, by contrast, contains nothing but cork—nothing! As it is produced today by Amorim Isolamentos, S.A., the granules are poured into large vats and heated with steam in an autoclave at about 650°F for 20 minutes. The heat expands the granules by about 30% and releases a natural binder, suberin, that exists in the cork. There are no added ingredients.

There are a few downsides; it is not exactly local, having to take a transatlantic voyage. Alex agonized over this but in the end concluded that the virtues outweighed the distance. It is also expensive, three times the price of the extruded polystyrene it replaces. It’s not going to take over the market.

However it is a serious option for the seriously green builder. More at BuildingGreen where it may be behind a paywall; if you are in the industry it is worth the price of a subscription.

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(via How Numbers Affect Your Happiness) It’s pretty clear…

(via How Numbers Affect Your Happiness)

It’s pretty clear that money can’t buy you happiness, and generally speaking we’re pretty bad at predicting what else will. If you’ve ever wondered exactly why that is, the BBC takes a look at how numbers change our expectations.

We know that people who’ve had big payouts from the lottery aren’t usually any happier for it, and the hedonic treadmill suggests that we just move back to the baseline of happiness after we get what we want. As far as predicting happiness is concerned, we’re a little more unclear on why we’re so bad at it. To figure it out, the BBC points to a study by Christopher Hsee of the Chicago School of Business:

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(via 1 | This Solar-Powered Plane Is Driving Amazing…

(via 1 | This Solar-Powered Plane Is Driving Amazing Technological Breakthroughs (Plus, Flying With No Fuel) | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation)

In 1931, a Swiss explorer named Auguste Piccard took a record-breaking balloon flight to over 50,000 feet in the air. A few years later, he realized that modifying his balloon cockpit could create a new kind of cockpit—a bathyscaphe—that is capable of descending deep into the ocean.

This May, his grandson Bertrand Piccard will extend his grandfather’s legacy of exploration, piloting a completely solar-powered airplane across the U.S., from San Francisco to New York City, over the course of two months (the plane will make four stops along the way). Just as his grandfather’s balloon cockpit led to unexpected deep-sea innovation, the plane, dubbed Solar Impulse, is already having effects outside the aerospace industry. Because let’s be honest: a solar-powered plane isn’t very practical.

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