See how Asia’s Aral Sea shrinks before our very eyes in these time lapse photos

Green Prophet - October 01, 2014
We’ve killed it! Once the fourth largest lake in the world, the Aral Sea between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is about 10% of its former size. Is it our love for cotton or Soviet mismanagement?...
Categories: Lifestyle

Qatari students take on robots!

Green Prophet - September 29, 2014
Elementary and middle school students from schools across Qatar recently tested their robotics know-how. The mock robot competition was held at the College of the North Atlantic Qatar (CNA-Q)....
Categories: Lifestyle

Mason jar salads: cheap eats for a healthier planet

Green Prophet - September 29, 2014
My kid is hell-bent on healthy eating. No more shawarma or falafel sandwiches she says, and she’s had it with high school cafeteria hummus here in Amman, Jordan. She’s also insistent on sustainable...
Categories: Lifestyle

Magnetic pole reversal and how it can flip your world

Green Prophet - September 29, 2014
Is there a chance of a “flip flop” reversal in the earth’s magnetic poles? Scientists have noticed some changes in the earth’s magnetic field suggesting a pole reversal could...
Categories: Lifestyle

Swimming UpStream with Steven Looi’s water farm

Green Prophet - September 29, 2014
A two-minute cruise by bike down the street from my parent’s house and I discover a very special social experiment. What’s that saying? You have to travel halfway around the world to find...
Categories: Lifestyle

Star Trek tractor beams can clean the seas and lasso pirates!?!

Green Prophet - September 29, 2014
Some news that Trekkies will love, and which could be applied to clean up our seas: tractor beams to the rescue! Consider in nature, waves such as those in the ocean begin as local oscillations in...
Categories: Lifestyle

Tel Aviv graffiti made into sexy furniture (PHOTOS)

Green Prophet - September 28, 2014
A pair of Israeli designers has turned alleyway graffiti into fine furniture with the help of some unwitting street artists in their south Tel Aviv neighborhood.  It’s ersatz...
Categories: Lifestyle

Energy drinks illegal for under 20s in this Arab country?

Green Prophet - September 27, 2014
Battling obesity and illnesses like diabetes and hypertension this Arab country is now looking to ban the sale of energy drinks to minors, teens and young adults until the age of 20. All energy...
Categories: Lifestyle

Why donkeys should be the new garbage truck

Green Prophet - September 27, 2014
Tunisians are famous the world over for trash selfies. Now simple calculations made by this Green Prophet shows that Tunisia, and many other countries in the MENA region, could spend at least three...
Categories: Lifestyle

Build your own sustainable WikiHouse for under $200!

Green Prophet - September 26, 2014
Love Lego as a kid? Or maybe you jumped straight into IKEA flat-pack furniture assembly? Now you can design and build your own low-energy, full-scale house with parts that slot together like a jigsaw...
Categories: Lifestyle

Play with nature and lift Middle East moods (PHOTOS)

Green Prophet - September 25, 2014
How best to stay on track living productive, happy lives in the midst of communal fear and sadness? Tap into the healing power of nature, but make it more potent by pairing it with paint. Combine...
Categories: Lifestyle

Shmita and surviving a year in Israel without starving as the land rests

Green Prophet - September 23, 2014

Shmita is a Jewish way to let the land rest once every 7 years. For Jewish Israelis it’s a deeply spiritual practice. Some may be surprised to know that the significance of this commandment is deeply ecological too.

The biblically ordained shmita or Sabbath for the land is about to happen following the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah (or Jewish New Year) tomorrow. In other words shmita is the 7-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah for the Land of Israel.

I first started Green Prophet in 2007 during a Sabbatical year, and coming full circle the shmita year starts again. Shmita means “release”.

An academic Sabbatical, when professors take off to San Francisco for a year abroad, comes from the Jewish concept of the Sabbatical year when the land rests.

RELATED: The shmita year and connection to the environment

But when we talk about a rest for the land, the ecological points to this tradition are significant – mind-blowing, even, knowing that sages were proscribing and following the shmita tradition hundreds, and thousands of years ago.

In ancient times we can look to biblical text for the source of the shmita tradition, which is considered a mitzva or commandment to religious Jews: “Six years shall you sow your land and gather in its produce. But in the seventh year, you shall let it go and abandon it, and the needy of your people shall eat, and the wildlife of the field shall eat what is left; so shall you do to your vineyard and your olive grove.” (Exodus 23:10,11)

“>Maimonides, in his, “The Book of the Mitzvos,” discusses the above mitzvah, and writes: “By this injunction, we are given a mandate to renounce as ownerless all produce of the land in the Shmittah Year, and to permit anybody to take what grows in our fields.” (Mitzvah 134)

When the land belongs to no one

An outshoot of this mitzvah is to desist from cultivating the land during the seventh year.

Practically speaking, Jews living in the land of Israel sill practice shmita. According to the late Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen as his writings appear in the Hazon Archives: “During the Shmittah Year, the produce that grows naturally in the fields is considered to be ownerless. According to our tradition, the rabbinical courts can hire workers to gather this produce and distribute it to the public.

“For example, there are rabbinical courts in Israel today which hire workers – the farmers themselves – to gather the produce, and it is then distributed to the public for a low fee which covers the costs of the gathering and distribution.”

Laws for observing shmita are complicated and since I am not a rabbi I will not go into them in detail. But essentially there are some kinds of allowances for fruit and produce that may be consumed while the land owned by the Jewish farmers is left to go fallow.

I understand that new seeds may not be planted, but trees can be cared for so the orchard or vineyard is not lost. We’ll go into more detail later.

Ripe peppers rotting in a greenhouse during shmita year in Israel are seen below.

But what will people eat during shmita?

In our world where tomatoes routinely take transatlantic flights it is not hard for Israelis to obtain food from elsewhere. And I should note that this particular mitzvah applies only to the land of Israel. Jews living in other countries do not observe this commandment.

When it’s too late to freeze ahead for the year and when you can’t rely on preserves, fruits and vegetables sold in a shmita year however may be derived from five sources, according to Wikipedia.

They are:

1. Produce grown during the sixth year, to which the laws of the seventh year do not apply.
2. Produce grown on land owned by non-Jewish (typically, Arab) farmers in Israel.
3. Produce grown on land outside the halakhic boundaries of Israel (chutz la’aretz). A large number of greenhouses have been set up in Jordan this year to grow produce for Israel’s observant folks.
4. Produce (mainly fruits) distributed through the otzar beit din (I have no idea what this means)
5. Produce grown in greenhouses.

This last way of growing (#5) resonates with eco-minded folks. I know of religious Jews in Israel who have started buying hydroponic and aquaponic systems to fulfil this year’s mitzvah of shmita, while allowing them to grow their own food at home.

Hydroponics, which I am trying at home is a great way to maintain a steady supply of greens like lettuce, and organic herbs. My na’ana (or mint) plants are growing like weeds laying down roots throughout my whole system.

Hydroponics is acceptable shmita practice according to orthodox rabbis

According to the Torah scholar Mordechai Schon in Israel hydroponics is acceptable, but there may be some conditions that apply. He tells Green Prophet:

“Growing vegetables using systems like hydroponics for shmita were introduced many years ago. There is a book that was published in 1950 named Hydroponics in Israel by Dr. Meir Schwartz הידרופוניקס – גידולי חצץ. בהוצאת המכון לחקר החקלאות ע”פ התורה on this subject.

“M Swartz did extensive research to test the viability of it; to be able to grow vegetables in the shmita year; and was guided by the Chazon Ish [Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz - left] who also helped him raise funds for his research,” says Schon.

“There are authorities that permitted hydroponics even growing outside; but the Chazon Ish (left) permitted only if growing indoors [if there is a roof or covering which prevents rain and sunlight it is considered indoors].”

Food tips during shmita

Practically speaking and for people observing the mitzvah of shmita, I asked Schon how people truly classify and source their food, according to Jewish law. Let’s say what happens if you have a small food garden at home?

Schon writes: “Fruits, shishis, fruits from sixth year which includes all fruit that started growing before shmita as it is not considered shmita fruit. If it started growing after Rosh Hashanah it has kadushas shviis and may be eaten. It could be sold through otzar beis din.

“The other option is import.”

Schon continues: “Vegetables that were picked after Rosh Hashanah but started growing before Rosh Hashannah may be eaten but have kdushat shviis and could be sold through otzar beis din. [There are more stringent opinions that prohibit vegetables that were picked after Rosh Hashanah as that is the opinion of the Rambam; but the Chazon Ish was lenient on this].

“Vegetables that started growing after Rosh Hashanah is prohibited. Vegetables that were grown by non-Jews on their land is permitted [there are different opinions if there is kdushas shviis] the other option is import or from crops that were grown in many parts of the south in the Aravah where shmita does not apply, since it is considered halachically chutz laaretz (or outside the land of Israel).

“Also some vegetables [mainly potatoes are stored from the sixth year],” Schon concludes.

If you are observant and have more questions add them to the comments here and I will ask Schon, willing to help, to reply in this article.

So to sum up, the shmita is a way to let the land rest for a year. It sure sounds a little complicated for the Jewish consumer looking to make a salad, but there is sound ecological reasons for shmita so the land can be replenished. But also, there are spiritual ones that I see as well. Whenever we remind ourselves that this land, any land on earth, does not really belong to us, but is borrowed, we give it more reverence and respect.

If in doubt about shmita, ask your rabbi. Peace out everyone observing shmita and peace out planet earth!

Top two images: ChameleonsEye /

Categories: Lifestyle

Breastfeeding is great; but breast milk jewelry?

Green Prophet - September 23, 2014

Breastfeeding is brilliant.  Medically optimal for newborns and new mothers; naturally sustainable (no plastic bottles to create, clean and dispose of, no shipping and transport, and no need to refrigerate since it’s delivered on demand), and best of all it’s free. But how do you feel about breast milk turning into an accessory?

Allicia Mogavero found the experience of breastfeeding her three babies so rewarding she devised a means to remember it long after the kids moved on to self-service drinks. Searching for a way “to never forget how sweet and irreplaceable the experience was”, she found her answer in jewelry made from her breast milk. Mogavero developed a method to permanently preserve some of her output (which she refers to as “liquid gold”); a secret alchemy that morphed milk into beads, in turn creating a bracelet. Her breast milk bauble proved so popular, friends asked her to make jewelry from their milk too, and so Mommy Milk Creations was born. She makes rings and pendants and lockets, and has expanded into jewelry containing umbilical cord stubs (see below), locks of baby hair, and dead pet remains.

Breast-sourced bling isn’t cheap, costing up to $160 for a sterling silver (and milk!) locket; most items hover around the $100 mark. Her website points out that the pieces are a lifetime reminder of the time you produced breast milk, and suggests that you pass them down for generations or gift them to your children.  “What a fantastic gift to give to your child, the root of their survival!”, says the designer.

Mogavero understands that her unusual jewelry isn’t to everyone’s taste. “I’ve heard it all,” she told MailOnline, “”What’s next, a baby’s first poop keepsake?’ or ‘That is disgusting, breast milk is body fluid!’” But she takes the criticism in stride.

Got your interest? Her website describes the ordering process. Choose one of her existing items, or send in a sketch – she might tweak her designs to suit your taste. Approximately 30 ml of milk (two tablespoons) is usually good for two breast milk beads; she suggests mailing it to her via regular airmail double bagged in breast milk storage bags, in a padded envelope “so it doesn’t slosh around”. In a pinch, use a regular ziplock. Mogavero accepts orders from around the world and has experienced no problems with Customs – simply mark the package as “liquid”.

Delivery time varies (she’s a one-woman show) and can take up to one year from the time she receives your milk. Memorial items take around 6-10 weeks. You may notice slightly different shades or swirls in your milk bead, the result of fat separation in the milk (see bead, above). She says it enhances the “jewels’ beauty”.

Green Prophet Tinamarie wrote about breast milk being worth more than oil.  Maybe it’s poised to bump past diamonds and gold too.

All images from the MommyMilkCreations Facebook page

Categories: Lifestyle

How agtech is going to pot

Green Prophet - September 23, 2014

The tide is turning on American cannabis laws. More and more states are opting for medicinal and recreational use of marijuana and whether you are for or against it, there is an interesting effect: technologies being applied for growing cannabis will help make our planet make better food.

Take the Israeli startup EdenShield. The company has taken a special desert plant growing in Israel, Sinai and Jordan, and produces from it natural compounds that repels insects. The plant has evolved special natural chemicals to protect it from being eaten in the harsh desert climate. Think nose plugs for bugs.

While traditional farmers may be slow to adopt EdenShield’s natural extracts, grown and extracted in Israel and then used on netting in the field or applied in the greenhouse, large grow operations for medical cannabis have been taking note.

EdenShield applying its product in the field:

EdenShield is currently looking for financing, but is doing so with a buzz of interest from the medical marijuana community in Canada and the US. Here’s what EdenShield’s CEO, Yaniv Kitron and Guy Malchi, VP of strategy had to say to Green Prophet.

“Around six months ago I got a call from a large Venture Capital firm in Colorado. They wanted to know if our product was suitable for the cannabis plant,” Malchi tells Green Prophet. “We checked the literature and realized that cannabis suffers from ‘the three musketeers’ – thrips, white flies, and slider mites.

“These are the same bugs that we have a lot of experience with and have already demonstrated how our product is effective against them in the field,” he says.

EdenShield’s products which can also be applied onto a crop in the case of roses, is particularly important for the medical marijuana business where customers and regulations are demanding the decreased use of pesticides – who wants to smoke or ingest chemicals that can’t be washed off?

But on the other hand, Malchi points out, because cannabis was a banned substance there is no regulation on what can be used to protect it against pests.

Kitron says; “We hope this market has opened up for us. We’ve started to work with two licensed growers in Israel to demonstrate the efficacy of our product.”

While it certainly wasn’t a business direction they thought about at first, EdenShield is running towards opportunities in medical cannabis production which they think will create business in the more traditional sectors they aim for like food production in commercial farms, or in smaller organic food farms.

Malchi has been to a business networking meeting in Toronto a few months ago, “I can tell you that I approached the licensed holders and I got such great feedback and a huge interest. Now we are in the process of deal making.”

Coming from the world of medical and business innovation, and with Kitron a religious Jew, neither have a problem with pot per se, as long as it’s legal and medical: “The fact that it’s medical means that there is a high level of technical production. We are supplying something that is for medicine which has a good connotation. Maybe more than a technology for growing a bell pepper or tomato,” says Malchi.

EdenShield thinks its product could be especially great for Canadian grow operations where almost all large licensed facilities it seems are indoors: “Indoors our product is much more durable. For us the medical cannabis direction is a good fit,” says Kitron, pictured below.

EdenShield’s compounds are resistance-free, the company says, meaning that bugs never learn how to adapt and tolerate them.

Based on initial surveys the EdenShield technology which does not kill, but which confuses pests to where its food source is, is effective in deterring white flies (by 90 percent) and thrips by 80%.

The team is currently trying their product in Israel and in Africa and are farming the natural substance (plant name is secret) in the northeast Negev Desert. In a kibbutz. They have recently expanded their production from 3 to 30 dunams and are anticipating $1 million USD in sales next year.

And talking about business for cannabis is “sexy” says Malchi. “It certainly introduces our novel approach in a much more bold manner compared to other more conventional crops.

“But the concept is the same. People want to see less pollutants in their plants, and in their food. Ours is a botanical extract which is not only vegan friendly, it’s insect friendly and great for the kosher food market.”

Beyond pot, they’ve also seen an interest in their product for the flower industry in Africa. Europeans with a bad conscience, it turns out, will pay more so that African workers won’t be exposed to pesticides in their flower fields. The flower industry is a dirty one which needs cleaned up.

EdenShield is one of many companies I am seeing that are taking their tech from agtech to “pot”. It’s just a matter of time before the food producers of the world take notice.

Seed breeding, hydroponics and agriculture nutrient companies are also gaining a foothold in new markets from the medical cannabis boon. Technologies derived from the cannabis business, I am sure, will push food production forward the same way space technology aids imaging and medical devices, and defence technologies improve communications. I hope investor types that support platforms like AgFunder are taking note.

Want to connect to EdenShield? Green Prophet will introduce you. Send us an email and we will make the match.

Above image of cannabis tech from Shutterstock. Thanks to Trendlines for the tip.

Categories: Lifestyle

Desmond Tutu: “climate change is our global enemy”

Green Prophet - September 22, 2014

Nobel Prize-winning retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, long-time environmental advocate, just released a powerful video urging world leaders arriving in New York City for this year’s UN Climate Summit to “move beyond the fossil fuel era.”

In an associated editorial published in The Observer, he convincingly argues that the same boycott, divestment and sanction tactics used against firms which did business with apartheid-era South Africa must now be applied to institutions that exploit fossil fuels.

The Climate Summit 2014 kicks off tomorrow in New York City, when world leaders from government, finance, business, and civil society will meet to catalyze climate action. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked all invitees to bring bold action plans that will significantly reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015.

“Never before have human beings been called on to act collectively in defense of the Earth. As a species, we have endured world wars, epidemics, famine, slavery, apartheid and many other hideous consequences of religious, class, race, gender and ideological intolerance. People are extraordinarily resilient. The Earth has proven pretty resilient, too. It’s managed to absorb most of what’s been thrown at it since the industrial revolution and the invention of the internal combustion engine,” he wrote.

Until now, that is, when science clearly indicates that our environment is carbon-saturated. Tutu continued, “If we don’t limit global warming to two degrees or less we are doomed to a period of unprecedented instability, insecurity and loss of species. It is time to act.”

Tutu frames the issue as the premier human rights challenge, linking the most devastating effects of climate change – deadly storms, drought, rising food prices and the emergence of “climate refugees” – directly to the world’s poor. He rightly illustrates that developing states, which emit far less carbon than industrialized nations, will pay the steepest price.

He describes sensible, scalable ways we can be agents of change. “Boycott events, sports teams and media programming sponsored by fossil fuel companies; demand that their advertisements carry health warnings; organize car-free days and other platforms to build broader societal awareness; and ask our religious communities to speak out on the issue from their pulpits. We can encourage energy companies to spend more on the development of sustainable energy products, and we can reward those companies that demonstrably do so by using their products to the exclusion of others,” he stated in his editorial.

He urged swift action by nations and individuals alike, including freezing fossil fuels exploration, redirecting investments into renewable energies, encouraging governments to stop accepting lobbyist money from the industry and holding those who have damaged the environment legally liable for the harm they have caused.  No histrionics or hype, just simple strategies to start now. Watch his short video message below.

Click here to view the embedded video.

We can stop climate change. Join the global movement – a moral movement – spearheaded by individuals across the spectrum of professions and culture, religions and political alliances. Climate Change is the game the whole human family can play, we are collectively responsible for immediate action. “We can no longer tinker about the edges,” he said. “We can no longer continuing treating our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow, or there will be no tomorrow.”

Check out the event website (link here) for details on how you can get involved.

Image of a flash flood in Nahal Habsor, Israel from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Jewelry made from butterflies and bugs doesn’t fly with us

Green Prophet - September 19, 2014

How do you feel about jewelry made from dead animals? I’m not talking about fetish jewelry where teeth, bones, and vertebrae turn into sinister charms, but tasteful pendants and earrings made more colorful by adding real insect wings.

It’s a growing trend that morphs dead butterflies into jewelry. A grim pun there, as the most coveted species for this is the Blue Morpho.

Butterflies have existed for over 30 million years and come in about 20,000 species. Symbols of powerful transformation, the ancients linked them to death and the human soul.  We now view them as happy harbingers of summer, delicate aerial acrobats that add interest to our gardens. Some are pests, but most serve critical roles in nature by pollinating plants and eating other insects.

Everyone loves butterflies, which partly explains their evolution into accessories. But look past the striking colors and give this some thought. What sort of spin-meistering makes it cool to wear dead bugs?

Many sellers of these items sidestep accusations of animal abuse by asserting that - since they source their wings from insects that die “of natural causes” – no butterflies are harmed in the process. (A butterfly’s lifespan can range from a week to a year, depending on species.) Others team up with butterfly farms to gain eco-cred: the farms donate dead bugs to the jewelers, who return a portion of sales back to the farms to help underwrite conservation projects.

Butterfly farms are typically composed of several large, net-enclosed areas – each about the size of a soccer pitch – where the critters experience all of their life cycles in a predator-free environment.  (This assumes you don’t consider the people waiting to clip their lifeless wings.)

Most of the insects come from Malaysia (where over 50% of the world’s butterflies live!), South America, and Indonesia. One site claims that harvesting dead bugs supports micro-economies, as local people can earn money picking them up and prepping them for shipment.  Since self-propelled flight is no longer an option, consider the carbon footprint of shipping the tiny carcasses to North America where most of the jewelry companies are located.

Harvesting wings from conservation-oriented farms protects butterflies in the wild, but what about the farms that raise them for the sole purpose of making jewelry?

Years back, a favorite Guilty Pleasure was tucking into chick-flick “It’s Complicated” with my pre-teen daughter.  We could recite every line, memorized the costuming, and both fell in love with a stunning necklace worn throughout the film by Meryl Streep (pictured above). We learned it was a Blue Morpho wing encased in crystal glass and rimmed in gold, retailing for about $1700!  Knowing it was a dead butterfly instantly killed our coveting.  But surely other smitten viewers stayed on the hunt for similar – and more affordable – designs.

Who knows how many wings were dissected to meet demand? Imagine the outcry if the jewelry involved other animals, like a puppy or kitten. Best described by novelist Robert Heinlein as “self-propelled flowers”, butterflies also deserve to be treated with kindness.

Postscript:  Years after we gave up on the Meryl pendant and at the end of a very long climb to the Monastery at Jordan’s Petra, my daughter and I took a stroll on the mountain top while the rest of our crew went to find water. A jeweler was selling handcrafted silver from a small tent – real artistry, not the made-in-India tat hawked by the Bedouin kids. And there it was – the Morpho pendant! Reproduced in blue mother-of-pearl and silver (image above). We bought it for a reasonable 30 JD ($42) and now take turns modelling it, smugly stylish because ours is butterfly-free.

Image of a child with butterflies from Shutterstock.

Categories: Lifestyle

World population may hit 11 billion by 2100

Green Prophet - September 19, 2014

The planet will be far more populated than previously estimated, so says a new analysis led by the United Nations. We reached the 7 billion mark just three years ago; another 4 billion people will join our ranks by the century’s end.

“The consensus over the past 20 years or so was that world population would go up to nine billion and level off or probably decline,” said co-author Adrian Raftery, professor of statistics and of sociology at the University of Washington, adding, “We found there’s a 70 percent probability the world population will not stabilize this century.”

The new study, published in the US journal Science Magazine and based on the most recent UN population data released in July, estimates that world population will reach 11 billion people by the end of this century. That uptick is largely due to high birth rates in Africa.

Earlier estimates relied upon expert opinions about future life expectancy and fertility rates; the new analysis used Bayesian statistics to generate more accurate predictions. (Bayes theorem is a mathematical method of determining probability.  It often produces results that are in stark contrast to our intuitive understanding.)

“This work provides a more statistically driven assessment that allows us to quantify predictions and offer a confidence interval that could be useful in planning,” said UN demographer Patrick Gerland.

The bulk of the boom will occur in Africa, where population is expected to rise from one billion today to four billion by the end of this century. Previous metrics assumed that African birth rates – the world’s highest – would steadily decline with improved access to contraception and women’s education. Instead, birth rates in most African countries have stagnated, likely due to unmet targets in social welfare programs. Wider access to birth control and education for girls and women have been proven to cause a decline in population.

While Africa expands, other populations will likely peak or decline. North America, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe are all expected to remain stable at under one billion each. Asia is likely to grow from 4.4 billion today around 5 billion people in 2050 and then start to decline.

“Population, which had sort of fallen off the world’s agenda, remains a very important issue,” said Raftery. Overpopulation is a root cause of the planet’s most critical environmental and social problems. More people on Earth will likely exacerbate climate change, infectious diseases and poverty and negatively impact the health and survival of other species. Overcrowding incites social conflict, and places unsustainable demand on all our resources.

Bear in mind, the numbers are projections. John Bongaarts, vice president of the Population Council in New York City said, “It could very well be that we could have epidemics, or wars, or unrest that creates massive mortality. But to be honest, it would require something of a huge magnitude to alter this trajectory.”

Syria’s civil war has caused over 200,000 deaths. In the first half of 2014, IS terrorists murdered an estimated 5,500 Iraqis. The recent Israel-Gaza conflict killed over 2,200. It’s impossible to quantify fatalities linked to record-breaking regional drought. There has to be a better way to stem population growth.

Image of a crowd from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Older than Stonehenge, mystifying moon god stones uncovered in Israel

Green Prophet - September 19, 2014

The crescent moon is a symbol of Islam. Muslim, Jewish and Christian holidays revolve around cycles of the moon. So it’s no big surprise that an ancient structure, devoted to the moon, has recently been uncovered in Israel.

Israel is the birthplace of monotheism, belief in one God, but this new structure paid homage to a Mesopotamian-era moon god, new research uncovers. Older than Stonehenge and older than many pyramids, it is not just a stone wall as it was once believed.

Israeli archeologists originally thought that the structure, located in Northern Israel, and known as the Jethro Cairn, or Rujum en-Nabi Shua’ayb transliterated from Arabic, was part of an ancient city found near the Sea of Galilee (and close to where my husband was born!).

But Israeli archeologist Ido Wachtel says that the 5,000 year old wall is likely paying tribute to “Sin” an ancient moon god also known as “Nanna.”

Jethro Cairn meant to mark out natural resources

The structure is 500 feet long, and the crescent shape is “Sin’s” symbol. He is usually shown riding a bull. This Jethro Cairn structure would have taken 35,000 days to build. The crescent is located 18 miles from Bet Yareh, which means house of the moon god. The name of the crescent is after Jethro (in Hebrew Yitro), an important prophet from the Druize sect.

Wachtel presented his findings at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East.

Wachtel, a student of Hebrew University in Jerusalem writes: “The proposed interpretation for this site is that it constituted a prominent landmark in its natural landscape, serving to mark possession and to assert authority and rights over natural resources by a local rural or pastoral population.”

Not long ago a very unusual cairn of stones appeared in the Sea of Galilee, supporting evidence that Jesus may have walked on water without the need for a serious miracle.

Archaeology in the Middle East must be protected

At any rate, these archeology findings show us that the Middle East region is important to protect – and that the moon and natural cycles of the earth have linked us from the beginning of history – possibly time.

We need to protect sites like the Jethro Cairn. Not just for people of today but for inquisitive ones of tomorrow. Let’s find a way to respect and protect archeology in the Middle East and vulnerable locations like Syria, Egypt, Iraq and any other region under the reign of conflict, terror and survival.

When I was in Syria 14 years ago, locals gave me gifts from archeology sites. They were wide open, and no one was there to protect them. The situation has only gotten much worse in Syria.

Categories: Lifestyle

Clear your coast – and row for the sea!

Green Prophet - September 17, 2014

Part of International Coastal Cleanup Day 20 kayakers will paddle from Caesarea to Jaffa, Israel this weekend September 18 to 20.

The team of kayakers are supported by the Mare Nostrum Project, which aims to raise awareness of the need to protect the Mediterranean Sea and its coastlines.

The Israeli event “Rowing for a Clear Sea” is part of the activities of International Coastal Cleanup Day on September 20.

Participants from the Jaffa Port-based kayaking club Kayak4all and the Mare Nostrum Project will distribute bags and materials to the public to help clean up the beaches, while the kayakers will meet with different citizen and student groups to discuss the importance of keeping the Mediterranean Sea and beaches clean. This is the tenth year that the kayakers have gone out to raise awareness.

“The sea is a valuable resource that belongs to the public as a whole. Public awareness is key for the protection of the beaches and the sea. The Mare Nostrum Project, a leading Mediterranean-wide project, is happy to take part in the initiative as part of International Coastal Cleanup Day events taking place around the world,” says Prof. Rachelle Alterman.

On the day, sailboats from the Herzliya Sailing Club will join the kayakers for a spectacular sailing flotilla.

Coastguard volunteers will also take part under the aegis of Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection.

International Coastal Cleanup Day is the world’s largest volunteer effort to clean up the oceans and beaches. Get on board and grab your paddle!

Categories: Lifestyle

Jordan bans plastic bags, joining Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE

Green Prophet - September 17, 2014

The Jordan Food and Drug Administration (JFDA) announced plans to ban the use of plastic bags starting next year. The ruling also applies to plastic containers that come in direct contact with food products (think take-away and deli counter sales).

The action seeks to safeguard public health and address excessive use of disposable plastic products.“The well-being of consumers is all that we care about,” JFDA Director General Hayel Obeidat told The Jordan Times.

Bakeries and produce stands must switch to paper or reusable fabric bags; restaurants that dish out plastic plates will be required to use greener alternatives; and roadside coffee shops must stick to paper cups.  No word on what constitutes “greener” substitutes, nor how the ban will be enforced.

“Overusing plastic in direct contact with food transfers unhealthy chemicals to the food.” He pointed to the waste and environmental damage created by these products and underscored the dangers to livestock, birds and marine life when they ingest plastic litter.

The JFDA sent draft regulations for review and comment to the chambers of industry and commerce, and the Bakery Owners Association. Apparently all have expressed willingness to cooperate. Environmental researcher Batir Wardam told The Jordan Times,“Plastic bags do not dissolve [and] therefore cause permanent pollution.”

The bags also emit toxic fumes when burnt. Describing the JFDA move as “a positive step”, Wardam raised the importance of awareness campaigns and incentives in promoting the scheme.

The plan doesn’t address how to put a leash on the plastic-generating-prowess of Jordan’s souks and small businesses – the source of many of the ubiquitous black shopping bags that line the kingdom’s streets and flutter in its trees.

The ban is a positive first step, but one that needs to be partnered with a robust anti-littering campaign and program of municipal recycling; neither currently exists in the litter-strewn kingdom.

Many of Jordan’s neighbors have already commenced bans on the free issue of plastics.

Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE ban plastics too

Qatar was the first country in the region to prohibit the use of plastics to serve hot food, and they also introduced a charging scheme for disposable plastic bags. Kuwait aims to be a zero-plastic nation by the year 2020, developing new types of bags for bakery products, groceries, plastic dry cleaning bags and plastic sheeting used in construction and agriculture.

Effective last January, the UAE banned non-oxo-biodegradable shopping bags as a first step, to be followed by 15 additional items and gradually extending to all other disposable items. Earlier this summer, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a proposal to ban free distribution of plastic bags. Want a plastic sack?  You’ll have to pay.  It’s a tiny inconvenience that’s proven to change our behavior.

In March of 2002, Republic of Ireland became the first country to introduce a plastic bag fee, or PlasTax. Designed to rein in rampant consumption of 1.2 billion plastic shopping bags per year, the tax resulted in a 90% drop in usage – approximately 1 billion fewer bags were consumed in the first year. And those pennies charged to people who forgot their reusable market bags? Approximately $9.6 million was raised from the tax in the first year, funding additional environmental projects throughout Ireland.

In Jordan, more than three billion plastic bags are used annually, which translates into every person using 584 bags a year – almost 2 bags per day!  According to official estimates, more than 30 million bags a year are littered across the country.

Real change occurs when popular use of non-recyclable plastics becomes socially unacceptable.

Image of trash-eating cow from Shutterstock


Categories: Lifestyle
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