London Becomes World's First National Park City

Patrick Wong/iStock via Getty Images
Patrick Wong/iStock via Getty Images

London is one of the biggest, busiest cities on Earth. The 2000-year-old metropolis is home to modern skyscrapers, historic architecture, and more than 8.6 million residents spread across 33 boroughs. But if London mayor Sadiq Khan has his way, the UK capital's reputation as a strictly urban center will soon change. As the Independent reports, London has elected to be the world's first-ever National Park City.

The title National Park City may sound like an oxymoron; national parks are often natural areas protected from human development. But a new initiative from the National Park City Foundation called the International Charter for National Park Cities (NPC) aims to apply many of the same qualities of national parks—like well-managed green spaces, clean air, and diverse wildlife—to the world's largest cities.

On Monday, July 22, Mayor Khan announced that London would be the first city to sign on. He said in a tweet: "A cleaner, greener London is central to my vision for our city—and we're taking bold action to ensure people, places are nature are better connected."

The main way city officials plan to achieve that goal is by adding more green space. London is already 33 percent green public space [PDF]. By connecting public parks, adding green roofs to existing buildings, and expanding private backyards and gardens, the city will work to achieve 50 percent green space by 2050. Not only would the new natural areas improve the quality of life of London's residents, but they would also support the city's animal population, which includes 15,000 species today.

London is the first of what the National Park City Foundation hopes will be many cities to join the charter. The goal is to bring 25 cities on board by 2025, with Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Glasgow already in talks to gain National Park City status.

[h/t Independent]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Beavers on Devon's River Otter to Become England's First Permanent Population in Centuries

Beavers were hunted to extinction in England in the 16th century, so locals were surprised to find a group of the mammals living on Devon's River Otter in 2008. Instead of moving the beavers, the Devon Wildlife Trust monitored the population to see how it would interact with the local environment. Now, as The Guardian reports, the government has deemed the beaver reintroduction program a success, meaning the species now has a permanent home in the country for the first time in centuries.

Though the North American beaver is better known, beavers are also native to Europe. Hunting reduced the Eurasian Beaver population to 1200 specimens by 1900. Their numbers have recovered in the years since, but they're still mainly limited to Scandinavia, Germany, France, Poland, and central Russia.

The beaver group currently living on the River Otter likely originated with either an accidental or unauthorized release. When local authorities discovered the beavers were breeding in 2014, they intended to relocate them to protect the local ecosystem. The Devon Wildlife Trust proposed an alternative: Allow the population to live on the river undisturbed for five years, and only remove them if they were proven to cause harm by the end of the trial.

The beavers did not hurt the environment—they actually added several benefits, according to the five-year study. The population, which now consists of 15 family groups, constructed 28 dams throughout the river system. These dams helped slow water flow during floods and contained water during droughts that would normally dry up riverbeds. The beaver-engineered habitat also allowed an increase in the number of water voles, fish, and amphibians.

When the trial officially ends on August 31, the beavers will become permanent residents of Devon in the eyes of the government. They're concentrated on the River Otter for now, but they're expected to expand beyond it, potentially starting new beaver populations in other parts of England for the first time in modern history.

[h/t The Guardian]