How low can you grow wasn’t the motto of yesterday’s Agrivest conference and startup contest in Tel Aviv, but it could work for Rootility. The non-GMO solution wowed local and international guests at an event that brought out decision makers and investors from some of the world’s biggest seed and food companies.
Rootility, from Israel, pitched its root-growing platform to people from Bayer, Syngenta, PepsiCo and Monsanto and more, as world leaders all agree that new solutions are sought for feeding the world’s population living within a climate in question.
Like the trait amplification seed company Kaiima (just funded with $65 million), Rootility is working in this space – a non-GMO biotech solution to enlarge a plant’s root structure. It can work for a broad range of plants including tomatoes and melons. Larger roots, presumably help the plants access more water, nutrients and real estate, resulting in a greater crop yield by at least dozens of percents, reports the company’s CEO.
They were one of a dozen of new agritech companies from Israel spotlighted.
There was Eden Shield, a company that I’ve interviewed in the past: Eden Shield uses natural extracts present in desert plants to fend off plant predators, reducing the need for using conventional pesticides. A bonus, says its CEO, is that pests’ defences never get accustomed to the off-putting fragrances Eden Shield is able to create. It actually works more like a “nose plug” confusing the pest so it can’t smell the plant crop it wants to eat.
MiRobot looked pretty neat. It’s a robotic system (left) to fully automate milking, made for a developed world where “no one wants to be farmers, and even fewer people want to milk cows,” says its presenting CEO.
Metabolic Robots showed us an interesting add on for poultry farmers –– a box that helps regulate feed so that chickens are fed according to activity levels, age and size. Industrial chickens get pretty stressed out waiting for the food to drop, resulting in high rates of mortality due to fighting.
The solution (pictured below), is able to save about 6 percent in feed costs, and prevent poultry mortality by about 30 percent, its CEO said.
We love the ability of sending information to the cloud so that for the first time, the poultry industry will know more about the health and habits of its chickens. The solution, its CEO says, can also predict disease.
EggDetect is another add-on solution for existing infrastructure in conventional chicken hatcheries: they can separate male chicks from the females before the eggs hatch and do this in a non-invasive way. The solution could save chicks from the shredder, well, the culling of new-born male chicks, at least if your chicks are born in this German state. It can’t save embryonic chicks though as the solution only works to detect males about a week before they hatch.
The system can also detect at Day O the fertility status of the egg. Some 20 percent of all eggs that go in the hatchery are not fertile and will never become viable. Why bother warming and turning them for a week? Tests that exist today can only determine egg viability one week after it’s been in the hatchery.
I didn’t get to see all the presentations, only about two-thirds, but out of those I did see Catalyst Agtech was my favorite. The company is not selling us a blue skies solution, but a way to make do with conventional agricultural problems.
Pesticide use in conventional agriculture is here to stay, at least for a while. And until other alternative solutions like aquaponics are more broadly applied, pesticides will continued to be used for high yield crops.
Catalyst Agtech is able to detonate much of the damage that the widely used pesticide atrazine can do if left to linger in the water table. Before atrazine leaches through the soil into our water, the company’s solution catalyzes the breaking down of its toxic elements within 150 hours, the company claims.
Atrazine, made by Syngenta, is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. It is banned by the EU because of the groundwater contamination issues.
One caveat here is that if atrazine can be “greened” before it reaches the water table, it might make its use more widespread than it is today. Could that be a problem?
Over all the event was an impressive one. Big corporations like Syngenta, Monsanto (which has bought the Israeli agritech companies Beeologics and Rosetta Green), PepsiCo and Bayer sent high level representatives who were featured to speak, somewhat frankly, about what kinds of potential they saw in Israel and about how startups can start to think about doing big business with billion dollar companies.
I briefly spoke with Nitza Kardish, the CEO of Trendlines Agritech (pictured top right with Ofra Strauss from the Strauss Group). Trendlines and Mofet put on the event.
She told me that not all the startup companies in the Israeli agritech scene are looking for the Big Exit, like in traditional Internet high-tech start ups in Israel. And some of them sell their products directly to the farmer.
Kardish told Haaretz in a previous interview: “Our vision is to create and build companies that will improve the human condition. What amazed us when we began searching for the ideas to develop is that there is lots of knowledge in the research realm, but no one knew how much of it is applicable and can be commercialized.”
Working in a lab on something which could be the next big thing in agtech? Contact Trendlines, Mofet or Green Soil, a VC dedicated to the agtech space.
So if you missed this year’s event startups and investors, let’s hope Agrivest is on a roll. Learn more here. What might enticing for some executives is the chance to get your galoshes wet: the organizers included a three-day field trip around the conference, where about 20 international visitors are currently going cross-country seeing some Israeli inventions in the field and in the cowshed.
What’s it like to live on a boat? In such cramped spaces and always subject to nature’s whim, otherwise reasonable people can go mad if they don’t get cooperate. Acrojou explores the idea through a fascinating theatrical circus genre that is trending – even in Lebanon.
Although we have definitely become aware of a new hybrid of circus and theater – not only in more advanced societies but increasingly in less-developed countries like Lebanon as well, it’s not fair to say that there is anything at all like Acrojou.
Started in 2006 by long-time collaborators Jeni Barnard and Barnard White, this UK-based group also incorporates elements of design into their performances, which by now have been seen by 60,000 people in nine countries.
Their design philosophy is nowhere more fascinating than in The Wheeled House, which is a makeshift nautical home made of an assortment of recycled or repurposed materials.
In the short movie clip above, Barnard and White engage in a swan dance of strife, toil, love, and sickness while the imaginary sea tosses them about.
Like all good theater, the project stimulates thought – albeit in a haze of suspended disbelief – about living in tight spaces and stressful situations.
This can be interpreted as a metaphor for the impact that population growth, climate change and diminishing resources has on both ecology and people, and even a model for the kind of qualities that will be necessary to survive such a world.
In addition to creating an aura in which people must grow spiritually close to nature’s rhythm, and rely on their own resilience to survive life in a tempestuous sea, the performance also calls into question the use of materials in homebuilding, as well as consumerism in general.
With living space on the fictional wheeled home so confined, “stuff” comes to matter so much less than the tools necessary for survival – such as charts and other way-finding equipment – and the relationship between the two people who are chucked into it together.
Having had recent experience (my boyfriend and I just broke up last night after a few very stressful weeks on a sailboat), this performance especially resonates with me.
But the most interesting aspect of this film, I think, is the very real shift in focus occurring in art house films and theaters across the globe; whereas most art in the past narrowed in on mainly social issues, now enviro-social issues are sufficiently interestingly subjects as well.
And so they should be given that they are inextricably interconnected.
The family came into a hospital for a regular check up when the MERS virus was detected, according to local reports.
“They had no travel history, no contact with a known confirmed case and no history of contact with animals,” WHO said in a statement. The eight year old boy from Jordan, his dad and newborn are all being monitored. None of the family had been in contact with animals or other suspected cases of MERS.
To date the World Health Organization has found 163 laboratory-detected cases on infection and 70 deaths. The latest death in Abu Dhabi was preceded by two deaths in Qatar in November.
Human cases of MERS, which can cause pneumonia and flu-like symptoms such as coughing and fever, have been reported in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Tunisia.
The Qatari health council warn people with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory illnesses to avoid any close animal contact when visiting farms and markets.
The coronavirus MERS emerged in the Middle East last year, killing nearly 40 percent of the people so far infected. It’s related to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and fears that the virus would explode amongst this year’s Hajj pilgrims have so far proved unfounded.
Image of virus under microscope from Shutterstock
An enormous flexible canopy of photovoltaic cells will shade the pavilions at Dubai’s 2020 expo, an innovative step towards greater energy efficiency for the international event, but critics warn that the workers slated to build the necessary infrastructure stand to suffer the most.
This is the first time a country in the Middle East will host the Expo, which is a great boon for Dubai and the Gulf countries in general, which have pushed really hard to make their presence known in the international sphere.
From the Masdar-sponsored World Future Energy Summit, one of the most important energy networking events on earth, to athletic gatherings such as the World Cup coming to Qatar in 2022, these events help to shift the global perception that the Middle East’s is only populated by either rich Arabs who keep cheetahs as pets or terrorists.
Renowned architects HOK and Populous have been picked to design the pavilions, which are inspired by the souk or Arab market. Larger pavilions will be arranged on the perimeter, while smaller booths will be aligned closer to the center, and the whole facility will be organized around a central distribution core.
The theme of the expo will be “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.”
A carefully designed human circulation system is designed to foster new connections, and a fully automated underground tube system will connect the pavilions in a way that keeps services “invisible.”
But that’s not all that will be invisible. We have walked the back streets of Dubai, just two blocks from the glittering skyscrapers and retail outfits that make up what the Expo design team call its “essence,” and we have seen the squalor in which the city’s workers are forced to live.
While laws have improved, those that regulate hours and working conditions are poorly enforced, and many people die or fall seriously ill from laboring under the hot sun without proper nutrition or shade.
Sara Kamalvand, a respected designer who was deported from Dubai for being “brown,” according to her, wrote this upon hearing the announcement that Dubai has been selected to host the 2020 Expo.
“#Expo2020 will proliferate the slavery of Indians, bangladeshis, pakis, and the rest of the brown people [sic] of this planet, that are serving a white washed society, clinging to the last remains of a petrol hungry, non-spaced anaesthetic past. By placing the expo in Dubai we will only emphasize our own madness, and the deterioration of all human values.”
So the solar canopy (which will be turned into a big light show at night) and the 50 percent clean energy that will be generated on-site are all huge steps for Dubai, which up until recently has paid little more than lip service to genuine green innovation, but a truly sustainable system transcends building materials and energy generation.
The people who build these magnificent monuments to excess should at least get fair recompense.
Westerners may be confused about Middle Eastern customs and how people, men especially, use the ‘squat’ toilet. How we “go” impacts our environment: sit down toilets, and toilet paper consume more resources. Here is a guest post from the Sex and Saudi blog on how Saudi Arabians urinate.
I have received the inquiry below from a Westerner dating a Saudi: ‘I noticed my Saudi boyfriend sits down on the toilet either to urinate or defecate and usually in the West men stand while urinating. I have been too embarrassed to ask him why he does that.’ Here is the answer from my vantage point.
Typically, Saudis pray five times a day, and in order for this praying to be accepted, one has to be fully cleaned in terms of the body and cloths. This is why Saudis are raised in a way that encourages them to care about the cleanness of their body and cloths.
Before praying (five times a day), Saudis clean all the parts of their body that are exposed and uncovered (hands, feet and face). Saudis always maintain the cleanness of their body, and this is why they sit down while urinating or defecating and, moreover, wash with water their privates.
So, Saudis sit down on the toilet either to urinate or defecate and usually in the West men stand while urinating.
So, Saudis have been raised to maintain a high level of cleanness, which has therefore become part of their character and which might not be understood by their Western partner.
This implies that a Saudi might take a shower after having sex not necessarily because of ideological reasons but because the way s/he has been raised encourages him/her to keep their body cleaned all the time. This also implies that the Saudi skin is used to be exposed to so much water and therefore is less sensitive to it.
It should be mentioned that, in England, for example, it is cold most of the time, and therefore washing with water one’s private after defecating makes this area wet.
In other words, this area does not get dry easily in such a cold weather of England. So, in England, washing with water one’s private after defecating is not a fun experience! Despite this, Saudis living in England still do so.
Yet, in England, toilets do not offer water, which is therefore a problem for Saudis.
Saudis, however, go around this problem by taking a bottle of water with them to the toilet to wash their private after urinating. So, this is clearly a political issue, with some kind of tension between the beliefs of Saudis and the structure of the English toilet.
That is, the structure of the English toilet imposes certain values on Saudis, whereas the beliefs of Saudis encourage them to go around this structure.
Image of man on toilet seat from Shutterstock
The deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus has been detected in three camels linked to two new human cases of the disease in Qatar, fuelling speculation that camels might be the animal link that passes the virus to people.
British researchers who conducted some of the earliest genetic analyses on MERS said the virus was also related to a strain found in bats.
The three camels come from a single herd, according to the Supreme Council of Health and the Ministry of Environment. The associated pair of human cases have already been cured. Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health said in a statement, “The three camels were investigated among a herd of 14 camels, and the samples were collected as part of the epidemiological investigation.”
World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl said there was still insufficient evidence to say for sure what the source of the human MERS infections was. “Neither camels nor bats can yet be said to be reservoir of MERS,” he posted on the Twitter.
Last summer, Dutch scientists found strong evidence that the MERS virus is widespread among one-humped dromedary camels in the Middle East, suggesting people may become infected from camels used for meat, milk (read about camel milk here), transport and racing.
Human cases of MERS, which can cause pneumonia and flu-like symptoms such as coughing and fever, have been reported in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Tunisia.
The Qatari health council warn people with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory illnesses to avoid any close animal contact when visiting farms and markets.
The coronavirus MERS emerged in the Middle East last year, killing nearly 40 percent of the approximately 176 people so far infected. It’s related to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and fears that the virus would explode amongst this year’s Hajj pilgrims have so far proved unfounded.
Image of camels from Shutterstock
With the global village getting smaller every day, it starts to become inconceivable that our access to the Internet and local phone calls require a complicated network and chip change every time we cross borders. A new chip, developed by Israeli engineers hopes to change that.
The Tel Aviv startup company Cell Buddy is currently developing a universal SIM chip for roaming around the world, wherever you may roam.
Local media reports from Israel say that the chip is nearing the end of its testing phase and will be ready for market soon thereafter.
If this new technology comes to light it will take the pain out of switching chips, and it will save e-waste from hitting the landfill sites. Universal chips enable universal devices so you can use your smart phone anywhere there are mobile networks.
With an estimated 6.8 billion users of cell phones in the world Cell Buddy stands to make a lot of money if their technology, thought to be a Holy Grail of the cellular world, works.
Cell Buddy engineers connect its universal SIM to an app which helps users find the best cell network deals in each country or region they are in. The Cell Buddy works to help you make price comparisons, saving you time, money, headaches, and essentially a lot of extra SIMS.
So far the company works with 30 countries, and cell networks are already sending in their SIMS to be part of the new network.
There is an interest for smaller providers to get into the system so their access is highlighted to tourists who might just be offered packages from the bigger companies.
The estimated cost is $60 a year for the SIM and service.
For business travellers, and the mobile global elite this might be the best way to stay connected to the world.
The Arabian Gulf has waters that are some of the world’s most saline; and where water temperatures often reach as high as 35 degrees Celsius during the hot summer months. Despite these harsh realities, the waters of the Gulf contain a variety of aquatic plants and animals.
The Gulf state of Qatar has mangrove forests that are in danger of being damaged or destroyed by developers who want to “eat up the shorelines” according to The Gulf Times.
Efforts are now being made to preserve and restore these natural buffers from severe storms; and which also provide havens for birds, fish and other animals.
Studies also indicate that mangrove forests may store up to eight times more carbon than tropical rain forests.
Ajmal Khan, Qatar’s Shell Professor in Sustainable Development and Professor at the Department of International Affairs at Qatar University told the paper that mangroves are comprised of species of plants that can withstand the harsh weather conditions in Qatar.
He explained that the mangrove’s root systems anchor the plants into the underwater sediment, thereby slowing down incoming tidal waters and allowing organic and inorganic material to settle into the sediment surface.
Replanting of Qatar’s mangrove forests is being accomplished by volunteer university students planting seeds in designated areas to enable new mangroves to grow in locations like Purple Island (on the outskirts of Al Dhakira). The students, who undertook this project on their own, called it their “Mangrove Restoration Campaign”.
Other Arab Gulf states with mangrove forests include Abu Dhabi, whose Bu Tinah Atoll wildlife refuge. Another mangrove forest site, near Dubai, is said to have become so prolific that camels may be employed to chomp down runaway mangrove forests.
Whether the issues involve trying to perserve these natural wildlife habitats and coastal area preserves, as in the case of Qatar; or managing the size of them, as in the case of Dubai, it is a wonder that these aquatic forests can survive as well as they do in such an extreme climate area as the Arabian Gulf.
Read more on mangrove forest habitats in the Arabian Gulf:
A day late and an undergarment short! The morning after Thanksgiving, I read about a new stress-busting bra that could’ve kept me from, once again, approaching turkey-day as a competitive eating event.
Studies show that we eat more when stressed. We overindulge, fret about weight gain, and soothe frazzled nerves by eating more. This consumption loop moves to high-gear during holiday feasting that starts with Thanksgiving and continues ‘til we toast in the New Year. And, unlike Muslim holidays, the Western ones I’ve imported to my Jordan household aren’t counterbalanced by daytime fasting.
Researchers are tackling new ways to get overeaters to push back their plates; motivated by health concerns but also by profits (Americans alone spend over $60 billion annually on weight loss).
There are stress apps for smart phones, calorie-counting forks, and bracelets equipped with motion sensors. Now, engineers at Microsoft Research have invented a bra that can help regulate stress eating by monitoring the wearer’s moods.
I don’t need a bracelet to alert me when I’m spearing another spud; what makes Microsoft think I need a bra to help me decipher my state of mind?
“It’s mostly women who are emotional overeaters, and it turns out that a bra is perfect for measuring electrocardiogram,” said Mary Czerwinski, a cognitive psychologist and senior researcher in visualization and interaction at Microsoft.
Talking to Mashable, she said (while probably stifling laughter), “We tried to do the same thing for men’s underwear but it was too far away from the heart.”
This miracle bra features built-in sensor pads with a microprocessor powered by a 3.7-volt battery. It can simultaneously sample eight bio-signal channels including heart rate and respiration, skin conductance, and movement, according to Czerwinski’s research paper, Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating.
Data streams to a smart phone app and to the researchers’ computer while users record their own moods (again, on smart phones). Scientists interpret the info, accurately predicting changes in physiology that accompany eating and stress; they can also gauge whether the subjects were happy or angry.
The garment does have problems; they only worked for four hours before needing a battery recharge. Czerwinski’s now looking for another body part to monitor that has similar physiological accuracy, but that doesn’t require as much work.
“Those brave women kept having to run to the bathroom to charge their bra,” Czwerwinski said. “I think an insert in the foot would be good because feet are really sweaty.” That image alone will curb most appetites.
Not everyone turns to food for stress relief. Some of us have the inverse reaction; actually cutting back consumption when upset, or skipping food altogether.
“The message should be that people shouldn’t people think too much about their eating,” said Gudrun Sproesser, a post-doctoral student at Germany’s University of Konstanz, “If they feel like eating in a positive situation, they should; if it’s negative, they probably will compensate for that.”
As for me, I think I’ll pass on the high tech bra and, instead, reach for elastic waist pants. Did somebody say “dessert”?
Image of a woman with a tablet from Shutterstock
Jordan is pushing ahead with the largest commercial scale wind farm in the Middle East region, the Tafila Wind Farm, seemingly without care for the massive bird migration population that passes through Jordan twice a year. Green Prophet called Israel’s Bird King, bird migration specialist Prof. Yossi Leshem.
He knows of the plans and says “it’s a real problem.”
No one from the Jordan wind turbine consortia has consulted him, he says. Tomorrow, Monday, he will be going to a big conference in Israel to bring the message to Israel’s future wind turbine developers as well, he tells us.
Tafila’s $280 million wind farm being built on the Great Valley Rift is being constructed by the Jordan Wind Project Company (JWPC) which will run the development of the wind farm. The JWPC is a co-development between the companies InfraMed (50 percent), Masdar (31 percent) and EP Global Energy (19 percent).
Leshem, who has built radar systems to prevent bird collisions with army jets tells Green Prophet: “Why is this a problem? Because the wind turbines will affect migration and this can cause real damage to all these birds.”
Birds of prey, raptors and storks, he says are at particular risk.
He points to the wind turbines on Gibraltar: as the birds migrate from Spain to Morocco thousands of griffin vultures are killed at the site of the wind turbines.
The potential effects of wind turbines on bird flight patterns at the Jordanian site were carried out by the JWPC, the group financing it. This report says such commercially-funded studies are typical.
Leshem is one of the region’s most noted bird migratory researchers. No one from Jordan contacted him about any possible adverse effects the farm will have on the birds.
“The thing is that we are always for alternative energy. But the environment that is good for wind is also good for raptors, storks, and pelicans,” he tells Green Prophet.
The only solution that Leshem sees that’s in sight is a radar system for monitoring migration patterns. In Jordan and Israel too, he says: “They need radar for wherever they have such wind farms. When the radar picks up migrating birds they can turn the turbines off.
“I am sure that they are not installing radar in Jordan. The same in israel,” says Leshem, busying for a conference in Israel about this issue tomorrow.
As for the group in Jordan building the turbines: “no one has talked with me about it. You see the birds don’t belong to Jordan or Israel. They are coming from Asia and Europe and on a big scale.”
Will the next Middle East war be over birds? We hope that energy infrastructure builders, and birders can find a way to produce energy and protect the birds.
With no appreciable amounts of oil or natural gas, Jordan, like Syria is a Middle East anomaly when it comes to its fossil fuel rich neighbours like Saudi Arabia and Israel. But new energy is blowing into Jordan.
Financing is all in for what will be the Middle East’s largest wind farm – a 117 megawatt Tafila Wind Farm to be built about 100 miles south of Amman.
The consortia of investors released the news that the Tafila Wind Farm is fully financed to its expected cost of $290 million. The plant will start power delivery in 2014 and is expected to be fully operational by 2015 and at that point producing some 3 percent of the country’s energy needs.
Jordan Wind Project Company (JWPC) will run the development of the wind farm. The JWPC is a co-development between the companies InfraMed (50 percent), Masdar (31 percent) and EP Global Energy (19 percent).
“Our country has suffered from a lack of domestic conventional energy sources and from serious challenges in security of energy imports. Jordan, however, has abundant renewable resources, and this will be the first and a showcase for many such projects to come,” added Judeh.said Samer Judeh, chairman of JWPC.
When operating, Tafila will produce about 400 GWh of electricity each year and with it displace 235,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
InfraMed, is the largest investment vehicle dedicated to infrastructure in the Mediterranean area. Company CEO, Frederic Ottavy, said: “The Tafila project is responding to Jordan’s pressing energy needs while adapting to the country’s unique fossil fuel resource situation, water scarcity and wind abundance. InfraMed and other leading international players’ involvement demonstrates the project’s economic viability and sets a benchmark for the future implementation of projects under the country’s clean energy law.”
This project is a natural step toward Jordan’s energy and economic security. Today, countries in the region are increasingly integrating wind and solar power as commercially viable solutions to address long-term energy security.
“Jordan is a prime example of where the cost of renewable energy is lower than conventional sources of power generations,” aid Dr Sultan al Jaber, CEO of Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company.
Tafila is the first wind-power project to be developed under Jordan’s Renewable and Energy Efficiency Law passed in 2010. The law calls for the country to obtain 7 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015, rising to 10 per cent by 2020.
When fully developed, it will account for almost 10 per cent of Jordan’s 2020 renewable energy target. To reach its target, Jordan enacted a feed-in tariff for renewable energy added to the power grid.
Often viewed as the fastest way to scale-up renewable energy deployment, the country’s feed-in tariff is the first of its kind in the Arab world. Israel, next door has offered attractive, if not complicated feed-in tariffs for the last several years.
The Tafila site shown on Google Maps in the figure about (See A in Red) is located on the Great Rift Valley – a corridor for millions of bird migrations from Africa to Europe and back again every year. It’s one of the worlds major flyway bottlenecks.
An environmental impact assessment on this site has been done (links to PDF here), but paid for by the organization financing the wind plant construction.
Looking at data supplied by an Israeli tagged Griffin, the report researchers were able to conclude that the wind farm will probably affect the success of these birds which fly to the Dana nature reserve nearby. Kestrals, and buzzards are at risk too.
Jordanians as a whole have little environmental awareness and respect for wild animals. Wild birds are often hunted as game. We have personal reports of violence towards pets as common place. We hope that activists in Jordan are asking the right questions before this project begins.
Israel next door has an intensive community that tags and monitors birds from Europe all the way to Africa. Watch Green Prophet to see what they have to say about Jordan’s windy ambitions.
Some people talk about change and others actually make it. At the TEDx Hiriya event held yesterday at the Recycling Park, nine leading Arab and Jewish Israelis gathered to showcase social change in action.
At least a few of the nine participants at the TEDxHiriya event have been featured previously on Green Prophet.
Joseph Cory from Geotectura, one of Israel’s leading proponents of green building and innovative design solutions, discussed his multi-disciplinary and open source approach to design and research.
The Vertigo Dance Group was present as well. The group is one of the first that we know of in the world that works with able and disabled dancers to create eco-social performances in special outdoor locations.
Majda Natour (below), the principal of the green Alzahraa school in Qalansawe that recently scooped a green globe – one of Israel’s most prestigious environmentally-related accolades – discussed how she came to develop a school for Arab children that focuses specifically on sustainability.
Mark Talesnick, a professor in the Technion’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department that has produced a slew of innovative clean tech solutions, sums up his vision thusly. “I am an engineering academic. For years I did what academics are expected to do. Over the past few years I have found, hidden inside of me a mountain of passion to make the world a better place for generations to come. I try to promote change by giving students the opportunity and platform to have real impact. I am counting on them to carry out what needs to be done. Leadership to change can be taught!!!”
Amiad Lapidot founded Eretz Carmel, an amazing organization that has singlehandedly helped tens of thousands of households in Israel learn how to separate their waste to boost recycling capacity. He also built his own ecological home as a showcase.
Ori Shavit is a food journalist and a leader in Israel’s extraordinary emergence as a vegan-friendly nation. A trained chef, she regularly organizes and hosts vegan cooking workshops, provides vegan culinary counseling and lectures in different venues.
Adina Tal helped to establish the world’s first theater for deaf and blind performers. The fascinating Nalaga’at (do touch) Center at Jaffa port in Tel Aviv has since evolved into a world-renowned facility that explores the darkness and silence that exists in all of us.
Kira Radinsky, Ph.D founded SalesPredict, a sales technology company that pioneers artificial intelligence-based, predictive analytics solutions to business. She has also developed predictive algorithms that recognize the early warning of globally impactful events, such as riots and diseases.
Eran Ben Yemini founded Green Course – a student environmental organization that promotes environmental change through activism and leadership development. He is also the founder and chairman of the Green Movement party which focuses on leading environmental acts in the Knesset, which, incidentally, plans to be solar secure by 2014.
Last week, the Gaza Strip and its zoo witnessed the unprecedented birth of two African lion cubs at the Beesan Zoo, a facility in the northern part of the densely populated Strip that was built and opened by the Islamist Hamas movement. But just three days later, the cubs died, from unknown causes.
The mother lioness, who was discovered to be pregnant nearly six months ago, received extensive medical care, including vaccines, vitamins and good nutrition, before delivering the cubs naturally.
“Immediately after their birth, both cubs were moved into a warmer room to get the necessary care and they were regularly checked by a professional team of local veterinarians,” Shadi Hamad, general manager of the zoo, told The Media Line.
“We called the cubs ‘Fajr’ and ‘Sijeel’ — ‘Fajr’ after Hamas’s Fajr 5 rocket that was launched into Israel during the second war on Gaza, and ‘Sijeel’ after the name that Hamas decided to call the second war on the Strip that took place in November of 2012.”
Sijeel is also mentioned in the Qur’an as fiery rocks that rain down on unbelievers.
The birth of the cubs had taken Gaza by storm, with their pictures going viral on social media. Palestinians say it’s nice to have some good news out of the area that is better known as the site of heavy clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.
“The lioness got pregnant one year ago but suffered a miscarriage during ‘Pillar of Defense’ in November of 2012,” explained Nahed Al-Majdoob, head of security at Beesan Zoo, referring to an eight-day military incursion in Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces with hundreds of Israeli air strikes on Gaza. Hamas fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities. “She suffered psychologically, which affected her physically.”
The parents of the cubs are the only lions in Gaza. They were smuggled in from Egypt four years ago, when they were only three months old, through the Rafah tunnels, which previously existed on the border between the Palestinian territory and Egypt. The Egyptian and Israeli armies have since destroyed most of these smuggling tunnels.
“They suffered at first because they were accustomed to the tropical weather of Africa, their origin, while Gaza has a cold winter,” Hamad said. “But they survived.”
The new cubs, too, had to be warmed due to the current cold temperatures in northern Gaza.
“The zoo isn’t well equipped to raise two cubs,” Al-Majdoob said. “Therefore, the Hamas Ministry of Health employed a team of professional local vets to track the health of the cubs and their medical care.”
Gaza’s three small zoos include apes, monkeys, parrots, lions, snakes, ostriches, various kinds of birds and chickens.
Mohammed Jumua owned a small zoo that was completely destroyed by an Israeli rocket in 2008.
“I lost everything,” Jumua told The Media Line. “Most of my animals died. I paid extra to get the animals smuggled into Gaza from Egypt. My collateral damage reached half a million dollars. I was devastated and broke.”
Dr. Saud Shawa, owner and founder of Vetco, Gaza’s first veterinary services center and clinic, said that Gaza doesn’t have the proper capabilities to raise cubs or lions. He predicted that if not done carefully and correctly, the lions could die or become dangerous. His prediction came true three days later.
“Cubs need special care, vaccines, nutrition and vitamins. Not all of them are available in Gaza,” Dr. Shawa said. “Raising lions isn’t easy and needs to be done professionally and safely based on a background and knowledge of that tropical world.”
(This story is reprinted from the Middle East News Source, The Media Line)
Tetra Pak sold roughly 1.625 billion packages in Egypt in 2011, of which only 20 percent were recycled. That’s a lot of untreated waste, but now the company has pledged $340,000 to boost the country’s recycling capacity. They want to make their business more sustainable.
The Swedish company teamed up with Egyptian shopping bag manufacturer Akef Pack-tec to build a new recycling factory by the fourth quarter of 2014, but first it is necessary to improve the country’s recycling culture, which is currently non-existent.
Whereas many westerners can drop their pile of recyclables in a blue bin on the street or at a recycling center, such facilities have yet to be developed in Egypt. So it makes little sense to construct a recycling center without also establishing a way for the recyclables to make them there in the first place.
Aware of this challenge, Tetra Pak and Akef have conceived a multi pronged approach to their recycling initiative.
Mohamed Ismail, Environment and Marketing Manager for Tetra Pak Egypt told Food Production Daily that they want to build a collection stream in such a way that is both profitable and attractive to waste collectors.
Waste management in Egypt has a storied history, and the government can take very little credit. Instead, the Zabaleen, a group of Coptic Christians hidden away in a crusty corner of Cairo, have taken it upon themselves to recycle a great deal of the city’s organic and solid waste.
Over the years, their operation has become increasingly more sophisticated, and many of the materials harvested from the process are recycled into crafts and other goods that generate revenue.
But this is an unofficial waste management project that is almost embarrassing for Egypt. Tetra Pak’s new program can help to elevate this and similar initiatives.
Tetra Pak and partners will provide the funds and tools to build a recycling center, but entrepreneurs working with NGOs will be required to take ownership as well with a cost share program and generate performance reports in order to make the system self-sustaining.
Tetra Pak Egypt Managing Director Anders Lindgren told Daily News Egypt that the Ministry of Environmental affairs is looking for partners to achieve [the ministry's goals as regards the] recycling project.”
“Around 90% of the recycled used beverage cartons [UBCs] are Tetra Pak’s,” he added.
By 2016, the company plans to inject further funds such that a full 50 percent of the waste they generate can be recycled.
Currently, most of Egypt’s Tetra Pak supplies are produced in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Israelis are well known for being industrious – especially when it comes to turning innocuous every day materials such as tomato cans, or in Naama Arad’s case, paper into beautiful works of art.
Arad creates entire scenes with recycled Xerox paper shredded into hundreds of long strips.
That she has devised a clever way to create such long pieces is impressive enough, but then the artist, who was born in Israel and works from Chicago, arranges the strips so that they resemble otherworldly, and even slightly creepy scenes.
“The curtain-like structures cover large areas of the exhibition space,” writes my Modern Met, “giving the illusion of a room that continues beyond the four constricting walls.”
The resulting images, which evoke famous architectural landmarks and interesting landscapes, also remind us with no small amount of nostalgia of giant black and white movies, with the picture flickering in and out, and pooling on the ground in front of it.
“[Arad's] work proposes a fascinating point of view of emotions such as passion and the moment of falling in love with an Internet image,” reports My Modern Met, “and the repetition of this moment into a work of art.”
Deceptively simple, this extraordinary paper art also surreptitiously benefits the environment: think for one second how much paper we trash in a couple of hours, never mind days and years; then multiply that by billions of people and you can begin to fathom the state of our landfills.
Arad gives a finite resource, such as paper, second life, thereby keeping it out of already overburdened landfills; in so doing, she also pays respects to the trees that were felled to make the paper in the first place.
Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights which lasts for eight days, begins at dusk tonight, Wednesday the 27th of November. The holiday commemorates the victory of the Jewish people against Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 165 B.C, and the restoration of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which had been ransacked and desecrated.
The light in the Temple, which was to burn through every night, had been put out. The sealed vessels of consecrated olive oil for the light had been opened and defiled. But one unbroken vessel of pure olive oil, enough to burn for only one day, was discovered among the wreckage. It miraculously burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil was pressed.
So the tradition of eating fried foods on Hanukkah began, which Jews all over the world gladly observe. Traditional savory pancakes like potato latkehs are a familiar treat. Sweet sufganiyot donuts appear in all the markets and bakeries. But we overlook the significance of the fried goodies. It’s really all about the olive oil. So we offer this healthy, herby, version of zucchini fritters, from the wonderful Delights From The Garden of Eden cookbook, by Nawal Nasrallah (author of Dates).
And while the author’s intention wasn’t to celebrate Hanukkah, there is another traditional Hanukkah food in this recipe: cheese.
Herbed Zucchini Fritters
Adapted from Delights From The Garden of Eden, by Nawal Nasrallah
Yield: 12 pancakes
3 medium zucchini – about 1-1/2 lb. or 675 grams – grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions or onions
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup parsely, chopped
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper (optional)
Olive oil for shallow frying
Toss zucchini with salt in a colander. Set a plate directly on top and weight it down with a heavy pot or a bowl filled with water. Let zucchini drain for 30 minutes. Press out excess moisture.
Put zucchini in a big bowl and add the remaining ingredients except the oil, mixing well.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet. Drop 2 tablespoons of mixture into skillet. Flatten the pancakes with a spatula. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden.
Transfer to a plate and keep warm in a pre-heated oven. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.
Happy Festival of Lights, and happy feasting!
More scrumptious things to cook for Hanukkah:
Photo of zucchini fritters via Shutterstock.
Efforts to find solutions to Cairo Egypt’s mounting garbage problems have ranged from allowing hundreds of thousands of pigs to eat the city’s organic wastes’ to using rag pickers to sort through the mountains of garbage that have accumulated.
Cairo is one of the world’s most populated and congested cities and since the beginning of the 2011 Arab Spring protests cleaning up is paramount.
Cleaning up mountains of garbage in a city of nearly eight million people crowded into a metropolitan land area of 453 square kilometres has never been an easy task. One of the ways in which large amounts of organic wastes have been dealt with has been to allow the use of pigs owned by minority Christian populations to consume organic wastes such as rotting fruit and vegetables, leftover foodstuffs and other “materials”.
These pigs are owned by people who are known as “Zabaleen”, which translated literally means “garbage people” and derived from the Arabic work zebala which means garbage.
This method involving pigs nearly came to an abrupt halt in 2009 when the Egyptian government decided to cull around 300,000 pigs in response to a scare involving the world-wide swine flu virus. Some people say that the virus was just an excuse to rid the predominantly Muslim city of swine.
The Zabaleen have been efficient in sorting out reusable and recyclable items from garbage, resulting in these modern day rag pickers to become known as efficient recyclers. Whole families are often involved in this business, including young children who are taught what to look for in the piles of wastes that are still prevalent on city streets and neighborhoods.
Losing so many pigs at once (the government made the pig culling decision within the span of 24 hours) resulted in a great loss of livelihood for pig owners whose animals were worth a significant amount of money.
“Every family had at least a dozen animals and could get about $1,400 for the sale of a pig. That gave them some emergency money when they needed it. The rag collector’s income fell by half,” said Ezzat Naem, head of the Zabaleen union.
Another union spokesperson added that the slaughter of the pigs ended a very efficient way to rid city streets of rotting organic garbage.
But now the Zabaleen are becoming more recognized as an efficient solution for getting rid of Cairo’s garbage. Members of the Zabaleen union have made agreements with city waste disposal companies to work together with them to help clean up the immense piles of garbage. The pigs are also making a quiet comeback, as their role to ridding the city from its waste problems is becoming more appreciated.
The Zabaleen’s role in ridding Cairo of its garbage can be summed up in a comment made by Zabaleen union head Ezzat Naem, a 50 something year old Zabaleen garbage collector who has been involved in this work for nearly his entire life: “We are the ones who have always been treated as a backward people; yet we have devised a more ecological model for ridding Cairo of its garbage.”
As such, there now appears to be more appreciation for pigs and rag pickers in Egypt’s largest city. At least by this Green Prophet.
More article about Cairo’s garbage and pigs issues:
Photo of young Zabaleen trash collectors: wikipedia
Israel, being on the “land bridge” that links it with Africa and Asia Minor, has always been well known for a number of biblical fruits. These include: the multi-seed pomegranates, grapes from which superb wines are now made; and of course several varieties of dates and olives. Another iconic fruit, although not native, comes from the genus opuntia and is known as the prickly pear or “Sabra” cactus.
The fruit received its “Israeli” name as a way to compare it to the personality of native born Israelis or Sabras; who are often said to be hard and prickly on the outside but sweet and soft on the inside.
Now, this national plant symbol is being threatened by the invasion of a species of parasitic aphid that has been attacking Sabra cactus plants in the far north of the country and threatens to spread over other parts of Israel as well.
The aphid, which scientists think may have “hitched a ride” into the country from abroad, attacks the cacti and secretes toxins into the tissues of the plant in order to make it easier for it to suck its food from the plant.
According to Zvi Mendel of the Volcani institute, a research center under the ministry of agriculture, “The aphid damages those parts of the plant which are vital for food supply and, in the end, the plant dies.”
The invading aphid species, Dactylopius opuntiae, inadvertently introduced to Israel from its native South America, has no natural predators in Israel, allowing it to multiply freely. The aphid invasion is currently confined to cacti located in Israel’s Hula Valley, according to an article in The Times of Israel.
By spraying the cacti with poisonous pesticides, Israeli agricultural experts are hoping to limit the spread of the parasite, which they think may have been brought to Israel by someone who purchased a cactus plant in Central or South America, the natural home of the cacti.
“It would be enough for him to have brought one leaf to Israel and planted it, and that is how the insect – which is difficult to see on the cactus – grew and spread,” says David Brand, the Jewish National Fund’s head forester.
Sabra fruit is harvested in late summer and is often sold in roadside fruit kiosks in both Israel and in the Palestinian Authority. The fruit is best served chilled and it is recommended that one wear gloves when peeling them to avoid being stuck by numerous cactus spines.
Read more on other iconic fruit indigenous to Israel and the Holy Land:
Photo of Aphid Giving Birth: Wikipedia
I never thought that I would agree with Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi starchitect who has failed time and again to support the green building movement. But her dismissal of claims that the Al-Wakrah stadium looks like a vagina has my support.
When I covered the newly released Al-Wakrah stadium design, which Zaha Hadid worked on with AECOM, I was more interested in the way that both firms are helping Qatar achieve their goal to stage a carbon neutral World Cup in 2022.
This despite the blogosphere’s insistence that the design looks like a vagina. (By the way, my boyfriend pointed out that most people were erroneously referring to the vulva as a vagina!)
How disappointing I thought, and what a sign of the times, that even the Guardian stooped so low as to perpetuate the hype that Zaha Hadid had designed a stadium that resembles a woman’s most sacred anatomy for a Muslim nation. To do that deliberately would be suicide, not to mention deeply disrespectful.
“The design for Qatar’s new Al-Wakrah sports stadium has quickly gone viral,” the paper wrote, “with its shiny, pinkish tinge, its labia-like side appendages and its large opening in the middle, the supposedly innocent building (“based upon the design of a traditional Qatari dhow boat”) was just asking for trouble.”
Hadid dismisses this claptrap in an interview with Time Magazine.
“It’s really embarrassing that they come up with nonsense like this,” she complained. “What are they saying? Everything with a hole in it is a vagina? That’s ridiculous.”
To be fair, the digital age has pushed us all to fight for hits and traffic in order to stay afloat, and the word vagina in any title is sure to get a lot of attention, but the Guardian’s Holly Baxter concludes with a statement that is so clearly out of touch with Qatar’s culture, the paper should be mortified.
“Perhaps the bigwigs who will be running the stadium should embrace this so-called faux pas and rebrand it as a deliberate nod towards the increasingly liberal Qatari policies concerning women in sport,” she wrote.
Qatar may be liberalizing their policies, but they would never sanction a building that mimics female genitalia. We’re talking about a region where free hugs can get a person arrested, for goodness sakes!
Sure, we are far less indignant when people describe skyscrapers as phallic (and most are), which admittedly underscores a serious double standard – a point that Hadid makes.
“Honestly, if a guy had done this project…,” she says.
But Qatar has much bigger issues to worry about – like whether or not they are going to change their policies to ensure that people building these stadiums will actually survive working conditions akin to modern day slavery (a story, ironically, the otherwise respectable Guardian broke) – than to stave off the media’s wanton lust for attention.
The Skateistan skateboarding school first established in Kabul shelters girls and street kids from Afghanistan’s harsh realities. Since then, it has been so successful, the non-profit NGO has established two more locations.
Many do-gooders go to countries like Afghanistan, where culture prohibits girls from certain activities common in the west, in an effort to save them, but Australian skater Oliver Percovich took his mission one step further by consulting with the local community and government to establish a facility that fits in with the prevailing cultural ethos.
Although girls are not permitted to ride bicycles in Afghanistan (like Saudi), skateboarding is considered a perfectly modest activity.
So when Percovich first showed up on the streets of Kabul with three skateboards and found himself surrounded by happy faces eager to learn what to do with them, he faced few obstacles upon opening a skateboarding school.
“I always like to go high on the ramps,” said Hanifa, a 14 year old Afghan skater. “When I’m up there I feel free, like I’m flying. I like that feeling a lot.”
In fact, the Afghan National Olympic Committee donated the 5,428 square meters of land on which the first school was built, though certain cultural exigencies have to be observed, such as keeping girls and boys classes separate, and girls have to be instructed by females only.
In addition to teaching skateboarding, the facility offers educational classes, including environmental science, so that children between the ages of 5 and 18 are developing their minds along with their confidence and physical dexterity.
It is the first international development initiative to combine skateboarding with educational outcomes, according to its website.
Several years down the road, Skateistan has uplifted hundreds of children. Roughly 40 percent of them are girls, and 50 percent of them are either street kids or refugees. And after experiencing such great success in Kabul, they opened two more branches – first in Cambodia and most recently in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan’s fourth largest city.
They have also established a grassroots street-level program in Pakistan.
“The students themselves decide what they want to learn – we connect them with a safe space and opportunities for them to develop the skills that they consider important,” according to Skateistan.
Since many of the children live in dangerous areas, the school even provides transport to ensure they are able to attend classes safely. Even so, a few children were once killed in a bombing attack, underscoring the devastating context in which this beautiful program uplifts our precious youth.
Images and video via Skateistan