Lifestyle

Turning words into energy at ‘Powering the Middle East’ in Jordan

Green Prophet - April 18, 2014

Many conferences end in handshakes and no action, but Powering the Middle East aims to close deals. This two day summit in Amman hosted by HRH Prince Assem Bin Nayef from Jordan will connect energy and water players in the private sector with government officials capable of turning words into real projects. Hit the jump for details.

Apart from the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) sponsored by Masdar in Abu Dhabi, few summits in the Middle East region are designed to not only talk about the issues but to act on them.

Part of the Power Strategy Summit Series which will convene in Brazil, South Africa and other countries, Powering the Middle East will bring together governments from 10 Middle Eastern countries and vested players in the private sector that together aim to turn worthwhile, meaningful, scalable projects to fruition.

An agenda advisory board will conduct ongoing surveys to ensure that the topics broached in panel sessions on 17 and 18 September, 2014 are absolutely the most relevant.

Members of this board include Alice Cowan, Program Director of The Clean Energy Business Council (CEBC), Loay Ghazeleh, Undersecretary Advisor on Major Infrastructure & PPP at Ministry of Works, Bahrain and Kishan Khoday, Regional Practice Leader for Environment & Energy at United Nations Development Program.

Unlike the WFES, which is like a small city when in full attendance, Powering the Middle East restricts delegates to 125 people with a 70/30 public to private split to ensure that the conference is manageable. And since quality is better than quantity, some of the most important businesses involved in the Middle East’s renewables industry will be there.

JinkoSolarco, Sun Edison, Tata Power, and First Solar are among the firms that will send representatives to meet up with governments from Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman, among others along with Ministers of Utilities, Academic and research institutes and Public sector bodies.

Related: Jordan moves ahead on its first solar PV project worth 52 megawatts

Fundamentally, this two-day conference aims to “erode the barriers to uptake of renewable energy sources and improve electrification in these economically growing and important regions.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is sending Dr Mustapha Taoumi, MENA Program officer as a representative, which speaks volumes about the summit’s expected efficacy.

“Renewable energy presents a powerful opportunity for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to achieve a globally important position in the renewable energy market – a market which is likely to become the cornerstone of the low-carbon green economy of the future,” Taoumi said in a recent statement.

“At Powering Middle East, IRENA will offer ideas on the business models most likely to attract investors and it will contribute to important discussions about policy and regulation, institutional frameworks, grid infrastructure, financial resources and capacity building.”

If you or your organization could benefit and fits the above criteria, be sure to register now for what is likely going to a game-changing event that could catalyze a host of important developments in the MENA region. Visit: http://www.ese-power.com/register to get involved.

Stock image of men in meeting / Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

‘Blooming’ Mashrabiya sunscreens shade twin media towers

Green Prophet - April 18, 2014

New York’s REX architecture studio has designed a pair of skinny media towers that feature ‘blooming’ Mashrabiya sunscreens that protect against excess solar gain.

After realizing that glass has no place in Middle East architecture given consistently sunny and hot climate conditions, studios involved in the region began to design external shading structures that shield buildings from too much sun.

Siemens recently incorporated fin-like shades on their new headquarters at Masdar, whereas the Al-Bahr towers in Abu Dhabi have a moving system that require a great deal more energy and materials.

REX has designed double-sided retractable mashrabiya screens for a pair of enjoined media towers. Both the client and budget are confidential, but the stone-clad towers with full glazing are designed for a narrow footprint somewhere in the Middle East.

“To efficiently accommodate the two media companies’ program within the precedent footprint, offices are stacked over broadcast and news studios, which in turn are stacked over each company’s common facilities,” writes REX in their design brief.

“The large studios which could not fit within the thin towers, and for which permanent blackout is desired, are organized below grade.”

Both sides of each tower are shaded by retractable sunshades with a 47.5 ft diameter. When the sunscreens overlap, they form a Mashrabiya pattern, “meeting the media companies’ shared desire for infusing the buildings with local iconography.”

The screens respond to the sun’s movement across the sky and open instantaneously, and at night, LED lights embedded in the shading structure create a massive 722 x 722 foot media wall that broadcasts the companies’ content in real time – this is visible from afar.

In terms of its projected environmental impact, shading the interior will help to reduce air-conditioning loads and LED lights reduce energy consumption as well, but this is going to be a mammoth undertaking if it ever gets underway.

Within the 2,600,000 square foot twin towers are offices, studios, an amphitheater, auditorium and theater, a cafe, canteen and even a fine dining restaurant, a lounge for regular employees and one for executives, a health club, majlis (not the floating kind, unfortunately) and an art gallery.

:: REX

Categories: Lifestyle

Pomegranates and oranges take this cake! A recipe

Green Prophet - April 17, 2014

Coming up on my fourth year of taste-testing my way through Jordan – where the seasonal foods of the Levant pack a triple punch of being delicious, healthy and affordable – I amp up the smart-eating quotient by always avoiding desserts, filling up on marvelous mezzes and entrees because regional sweets leave me flat.

Knafeh (hoisted on you at every turn) is sticky, local ice cream is plastic-y, and an array of bread puddings seem lifted from the pages of Brit boarding school cookbooks. And someone please explain the appeal of Turkish Delight?

An English food writer has shared a recipe for a simple cake with emphatically Middle Eastern ingredients that might just get me to step away from the fruit bowl.  Check out Diana Henry’s orange and pomegranate cake recipe, one of the featured desserts in her latest cookbook,  “A Change of Appetite: Where Healthy Meets Delicious” (Mitchell Beazley, £25).

Serves eight

Ingredients for the cake:
50g (1¾oz) wholemeal breadcrumbs
100g (3½oz) ground almonds
175g (6oz) soft light-brown sugar
2 tsp baking-powder
finely grated zest of 1½ oranges
215ml (7½fl oz) olive oil, plus more for the tin
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Ingredients for the syrup:
juice of 1 orange
100ml (3½fl oz) pomegranate juice (pure juice, not ‘pomegranate juice drink’)
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp runny honey (let Miriam steer you to the real deal!)

To serve:
Garnish with seeds from ½ pomegranate (Karin shows you how to get them out of the shell – and fast – link here)

Mix together the breadcrumbs, almonds, sugar and baking-powder. Add the zest, 215ml (7½fl oz) olive oil and eggs, and stir well.Pour the batter into an oiled springform cake tin 20cm (8in) in diameter. Put it into a cold oven and set the heat to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake has browned and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Meanwhile, gently heat all the syrup ingredients together. Stir a little until the honey has melted, then increase the heat and simmer for five minutes. You should end up with about 100ml (3½fl oz) of syrup.

When the cake is cooked, pierce the surface all over and slowly pour on the pomegranate syrup, allowing it to sink in. Leave to cool completely in the tin. It will sink a little in the middle, but don’t worry – this makes a lovely dip in which the pomegranate seeds can lie. Scatter the seeds on top just before serving.

Henry suggests serving this uber-moist cake with a dollop of Greek yogurt – which is unavailable in Jordan markets. Maybe improvise with some labneh instead!

Image of orange and pomegranate cake from Laura Edwards and The Telegraph 

Categories: Lifestyle

Phenomenal time lapse video makes Doha look like magic

Green Prophet - April 16, 2014


Want to see a city on “speed” grow? This time lapse video captures Doha as it expands rapidly for the 2022 World Cup  in soccer. 

Doha is getting exactly what it wanted when it made its bid for various international events: a lot of exposure. Most people will struggle to place Qatar’s capital on a map, but compelling time lapse videos like this and other marketing campaigns leading up to the 2022 World Cup will eventually make the emirate a household name.

Michael Shainblum has done a remarkable job of making Doha look like the world’s most enticing city with and for Zoom Arts.

A pulsing soundtrack adds dimension to a dynamic survey of such fixtures as souqs and mosques and ancient forts, while sublime footage of modern life in the oil-rich city makes traffic look incredibly glamorous.

It really is quite intoxicating – the city skyline somehow exudes more sophistication than its cousin of excess Dubai, which has forever sealed its fate as an oversized novelty store with developments such as the curious ‘Aladdin City’ complex currently underway in Dubai Creek.

Related: local architect questions the logic of Qatar’s 2020 World Cup

Shainblum impressively resists the impulse to only represent stereotypical Doha by showing less glamorous parts of the city – such as its mammoth oil refineries, but he does pull off what amounts to a moving monument to globalization and “progress.”

The glittering towers demonstrate great wealth, while construction zones remind the viewer of what an extraordinary metamorphosis the city must undergo in order to prepare for the huge influx of soccer fans that are expected in 2022.

While it is clear to anyone who reads the news that we need to make some very real societal changes, that the rapid growth development model based on more consumption of finite resources is simply unsustainable, this time-lapse is professional, exciting and deserves to widely celebrated.

An expert blend of old and new Doha, Welcome to Doha is a reminder that the Arabian Peninsula has its finger on the pulse of the world’s most cutting edge technology, ideas and marketing savvy.

If you have any doubt, check out what happens after 2:20.

:: Sploid Gizmodo

Categories: Lifestyle

No male escort? Sheesha extinguished for Saudi Muslimahs!

Green Prophet - April 16, 2014

Restaurants and cafes in Jeddah have posted signs warning women that if they want to be served sheesha, their mahrams (male guardians) must be at their side.

The message – which comes from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) - also requires that sheesha only be sold to customers over age 18. Fair enough, that bit. But the ban has Saudi women sheesha lovers steamed.

“I don’t want to drag my husband or my son to a café in order to have sheesha,” said businesswoman Alaa Daani.

“What if I want to go to a women-only gathering where we don’t want men with us,” she told Arab News, “I don’t see the need of a male guardian for this. This has nothing to do with gender mixing or anything against the rules of Islam.”

Complicating the issue is the fact that many women keep their love of sheesha secret from their mahrams. “No one knows I smoke sheesha, this is why I don’t smoke at home because my family doesn’t want me to do anything that harms my health,” said college student Hayat Ali. “I go with my friends once a week to any café to smoke sheesha and have a good time. There is nothing else to entertain us here but shopping and smoking sheesha. What are we going to do now?”

The new ruling comes on the heels of an indoor sheesha smoking ban and coffee shop owners say this might further harm their businesses. “We lost a lot of money and many clients after the regulation of serving sheesha only outdoors, which led us to rent more space and expand the café to the rooftop in order to serve it,” said café manager Jameel Mohammed, “I guarantee our business is going to lose a lot and we might have to shut down the café.”

Social media grabbed the news and ran with it – both sides of the argument weighing in loudly. “I am totally supporting this idea because it is sad when I see young women smoking sheesha in public,” said Ahmed Al-Shammari on Twitter.  In his judgement, sheesha smoking makes “them look cheap and easy.” Sheesha’s popularity is at least partly attributable to the fact that it (unlike the women who like it) is so cheap and easy to access.

This is one smoking regulation that will likely trigger some intense heat.

Image of female sheesha smoker from Shutterstock.

Categories: Lifestyle

Glowing highways make it look like we’re driving through eco-fairytales

Green Prophet - April 16, 2014

Glow-in-the-dark roads recently debuted on a 500 meter stretch of Netherlands highway!  Brought to you by the guy behind glow-in-the-dark trees.  He’s been burning the candle at both ends – not so much to increase light levels, more to roll out new applications of his natural luminescence designs.

Standard street lighting has been replaced by light-absorbing glow-in-the-dark road markings in this pilot project, first proposed by Studio Roosegaarde in 2012, now installed after an arduous government approval process.

All reports indicate that the road safety project is more like a stunning art installation. A local news report said, “It looks like you are driving through a fairy tale.”

Daan Roosegaarde, studio founder and lead designer, told ARStechnica, ”I was sitting in my car amazed by these roads we spend millions on – but no one seems to care what they look like and how they behave. I started imagining this Route 66 of the future where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us.”

He imagined road lighting provided by naturally glowing plant life or bio-engineered surface coatings. He thought about markings integral to road surfaces that would be triggered by temperature change to broadcast weather news to travelers (see image above).

This project is limited to glow-in-the-dark road markings on the N329 highway in Oss, and was developed in cooperation with road construction company Heijmans by combining photo-luminescent powder into road paint.  

There is tremendous potential for products like these given stressed government budgets, ratcheting transportation operation and maintenance costs and ever-increasing demand for electricity. Heijmans plans to expand the project after monitoring performance of this first installation, but some challenges are expected. The paint emits light for up to eight hours but light quality is diminished by uneven application or rough surfaces.  Eight hours is also insufficient in longer hours of northern winter darkness.

Studio Roosegaarde is a social design lab where artist Daan Roosegaarde with his team of designers and engineers create interactive designs that explore the dynamics between people, technology and space. They aim to bring technology and design to the real world, with practical and beautiful results.

Roosegaarde makes an open plea to governments around the globe to facilitate labs like his, “We should create labs in the city where we can experiment and explore these kinds of solutions. Like a free zone. We want to do it safely, but just give us a park and we’ll prove it to you. Be more open.”

Direct application of glowing pavement markings are impractical throughout much of the Middle East, where roads are not naturally cleansed of dust and oil by frequent precipitation. Here in Amman, light-reflective road markings are rendered ineffective soon after installation as vehicles grind dirt and debris into the sun-softened thermoplastic paint – preventing the light-reflecting components of the coating from performing their intended function. Bit this extraordinary pilot is a promising first step towards embedding renewable technologies into transportation.

Images from Studio Roosegaarde

Categories: Lifestyle

Israeli designs fashion hats good enough to eat

Green Prophet - April 15, 2014

An Israeli costume designer has created a series of hats that look good enough to eat, serving up 3-course millinery that pretty much covers soups to nuts. File this under “silver linings” - Maor Zabar cooked up his headpieces after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.  

His new obsession with avoiding illness-triggering foods infused his day-job designs!

“There is nothing I adore more than to let my imagination fly. To design colorful, fantastical hats, fascinators and other head couture,” says Zabar on his Etsy shop website, “I’m a costume designer for the theater and dance, with a particular passion (obsession?) for creating headpieces…for all those unique and special people who love a little drama and fun – I mean you.”

Each piece is meticulously hand-made from felted wool; gorgeously detailed from natural fibers, he never makes the same piece twice. Inspiration comes from history, culture, and fashion as well as from everyday foods. One of his designs is a wood-like sushi platter holding California rolls and a salmon nigiri (fiber chopsticks and a dollop of felted of wasabi included).

Another is a gorgeously rendered raspberry pie that has burst its pie crust, it “drips” becomingly down the wearer’s forehead.  Too sweet for you?  Then tuck into a healthy house salad hat or opt for a fried egg, with a side of mushrooms and asparagus.

The hats could prove poignantly nostalgic if World Food Program claims that the Middle East’s driest winter in several decades will radically change local crops and global food prices. (That report predicts that varying degrees of drought occurring across 66% of arable lands in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Iraq will have significant negative impact on regional diets).

For now, the designer (presumably with a full belly) hopes to expand his costume designs to include opera and theater productions outside of Israel.

“Millinery is not a common profession in Israel and most people here don’t wear hats or spend a lot of money on hats,” he says.

Maybe he could link up with fellow Israeli Kobi Levi, the freelance designer of fantastical footwear, and put the nation on the map as the epicenter of Gaga-esque couture! See more of Zabar’s extraordinary hat collection on his facebook page (link here).

All images from the designer’s website.

Categories: Lifestyle

3-D technology gives birth to lab-grown vaginas

Green Prophet - April 15, 2014

Dubious developments allow us to print 3-D gunsgrow “hamburgers” in a petri dish, and design environmentally responsive haute couture. Now a new application of technology radically transforms the human experience!  Four women have had new vaginas surgically implanted; organs fully lab-grown.  

Don’t let this provocative body part distract you from the news – this experiment powerfully changes modern medicine.

The procedure - the latest example of regenerative science - was performed by doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina and published in medical journal The Lancet. The implants happened eight years ago, but this is the first time the results have been reported. 

The four patients – teenagers at the time of surgery – suffered from a rare condition known as vaginal aplasia, wherein the vagina does not properly form in a developing fetus. Previously, treatment involved surgical creation of an internal cavity, which is then lined with intestinal tissue or skin grafts. The condition is often associated with other reproductive organ abnormalities, but two of these patients had fully developed uteri, making it theoretically possible for them to conceive post-transplant. 

To build the organs, doctors harvested tissue samples from each patient’s underdeveloped vulva (ensuring a perfect match), from which a large batch of cells were then lab-grown. A biodegradable “scaffold” was formed to the right size and shape for each woman; muscle cells were attached to the outside of the scaffold and vaginal-lining cells to the inside. Placed inside a bioreactor where nature took, building right-for-purpose tissues until they were suitable for surgically implant. 

“Really for the first time we’ve created a whole organ that was never there to start with, it was a challenge,” said Dr. Anthony Atala, Director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest.  All four patients subsequently reported normal sexual function. 

Lab-grown tissue built upon biodegradable substructures could soon bump out current practice of removing cartilage from ribs or ears or in order to perform facial reconstructions. (3-D printed substructures are already used to regrow bone). Atala told the BBC that he expects 3-D printing to further revolutionize the field.  

Living tissue has already been used to grow fully functional human bladders and blood vessels. Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland have used similar techniques to reconstruct noses damaged by skin cancer. And Professor Martin Birchall, a surgeon at University College London, successfully lab-grew and transplanted human windpipes.

Faintly beating hearts and urine-producing kidneys have been created in animal studies. Can human applications for more complex organs be far behind? 

All images from Wake Forest Institute

Categories: Lifestyle

Paraplegic sea turtle lived without flippers for 4 years, then he got these

Green Prophet - April 15, 2014

A turtle that washed up on a beach in Israel was found with his two left flippers dangling hopelessly by his side – they had been severed by sharp fishing lines. The Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Michmoret named him Freedom and kept him for four years.

The center had no choice but to amputate Freedom’s necrotic fins, but when they did, he was no longer able to swim or breathe properly, according to NBC News.

“When he gets stressed, panicking for some reason, he gets into a spin as he can only use one side to paddle, his head tilts down to one side and he starts taking in water,” Yaniv Levy, the center’s director, told NBC.

“He stopped breathing once and we were lucky to resuscitate him.”

Related: Eco-crusader frees trapped turtle in Oman

Freedom, whose Hebrew name is Hofesh, lived like this for four years before an industrial design student came around looking for a meaningful design project to complete for his thesis.

Shlomi Gez’s work was cut out for him since the turtle needed prosthetic limbs that he could use to swim, but these are not easy to strap to a hard shell.

The Bezalel Academy student did some research, contacted a Texas rescue center that is rehabilitating a turtle with a similar condition, and eventually settled on a couple of angled fins that attach to Freedom’s shell.

Inspired by the tail of a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor jet, they are made with an “advanced plastic” and have restored the turtle’s ability to move without assistance.

Freedom will never return to the Mediterranean Sea, where Levy estimates only 10-20 Chelonia mydas breeding females have survived reckless overfishing, pollution and oil spills and other human and environmental threats, but he will become a breeder – just as soon as his new girlfriend Tzurit is ready.

Photos via the Israel Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center

Categories: Lifestyle

Google Earth reveals 10-year impact of 39 square mile desert mangrove project

Green Prophet - April 14, 2014

The ‘historical imagery’ function on google earth is particularly helpful in tracking changes to landscapes since about the turn of the millennium when satellite imagery became commonly available.

For instance, it has allowed me to estimate that the army of earth-moving vehicles that I saw at work have been excavating this site west of Abu Dhabi for almost a decade. The area of the development extends to roughly 39 square miles. The carbon footprint of this project defies belief.

The landscape was originally a large tidal sabkha plain. The developers had to first construct a sea barrier around the whole area, allowing the diggers to move in and lower the ground level.

A network of deep channels was created and then flooded through pipes before the removal of the sea barrier, allowing the area to become tidal again. The channels allow a deeper penetration inland of the high tide and make the whole ‘swamp’ navigable.

Related: Massive concrete amphitheater lies disused outside of Dubai

The process is currently being repeated on further areas, and the waste created by the excavations is being laid over the adjacent sabkha plain, raising the ground level and, presumably, creating an area suitable for future development.

‘Beds’ created by the channels have been planted with mangrove shoots, although with limited success so far. It is the stated aim of the Environment Agency to expand the Emirate’s mangrove forests. In fact, at least two million mangroves are slated to be planted along the coast by the end of this year.

Mangroves are known to store carbon efficiently and provide rich environments for wildlife. Many natural mangrove areas have been impacted upon by development around Abu Dhabi island.

I find tragedy in many aspects of this project: the destruction of a natural landscape, the excruciating regularity of the channel grid system and, of course, the energy consumed in order to create it, to name but a few.

Maybe it will eventually become a valuable environmental asset. But even if it does, it will always be there to stand testament to man’s fossil-fueled subjugation of nature.

Please see for yourself the breath-taking scale of this project on google earth at  24° 6’26.77″N  53°57’0.02″E

Note from the editor: this photograph is part of a series called “Consumption” that seeks to document consumerism’s impact on the environment. From resource extraction and commodity production all the way down the supply chain to retail stores and waste processing facilities, Richard artfully examines what nature has come to mean in a world that depends on buying stuff. 

Categories: Lifestyle

Dubai unveils lamp-shaped ‘Aladdin City’ towers

Green Prophet - April 14, 2014


Three lamp-shaped towers make up the new Aladdin City that is being constructed in Dubai as part of an effort to boost the city’s profile ahead of the 2020 World Expo. I wonder what the genie thinks?

Dubai is becoming something of a legend itself with indoor skiing, the world’s largest tower, and a suite of artificial islands. But a new development project seeks to pay allegiance to an ancient folk story that is well-known around the globe – Aladdin from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.

Instead of one lamp, however, the new complex will boast three: office space, parking buildings and luxury hotels will be incorporated into the three interconnected towers located within the commercial vessels port in the old area of Dubai – in Al Rigga, Dubai Creek.

“The symbolic content of the architectural form of the project buildings was inspired by the ancient legends from the 11th century, where vessels were sailed from Dubai Creek to the coast of East Africa, India and China,”  Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality told Gulf News.

“It may have been here where the tales of Sindbad and Aladdin came from.”

Related: Luxury underwater Disqus Hotel close to anchoring in the Gulf

A completion date has yet to be announced, but the Dubai municipality is expecting to draw more tourism to Dubai and stimulate the emirate’s economy either in time for or ahead of the 2020 World Expo.

The municipality also said that they are trying to improve their land use in Dubai, though this project does pose several challenges given the location in which it is being built.

Lootah told the paper that authorities want visitors to the region to still have access to the wooden abra boats that travel across Dubai Creek, as well as the harbor, without causing disruptions at the project site. Plus, visitor safety near a construction zone should be of concern.

Nothing has been said about the project’s environmental impact, but we don’t have high hopes.

For starters, the complex will have a footprint of nearly 361,000 square feet in an already crowded part of the Dubai, and its visual profile is nothing short of kitschy. At least the towers won’t be too tall however. The tallest will have 34 floors, while the other two will have 26 and 25.

Also, rather than creating a pedestrian-friendly environment, the project will provide 900 parking spots – further entrenching the car’s role in the city.

Categories: Lifestyle

Sand and Salt Siege film to highlight Tunisia’s eco struggles

Green Prophet - April 14, 2014

A Siege of Salt and Sand (trailer), a new documentary film about Tunisia, promises to be an important motivator in redefining the current political agenda towards adapting to climate change and mitigating environmental issues in Tunisia.

Climate Change, as we know by now and has been reconfirmed this year through the 5th IPCC Assessment report, will change our lives radically in the coming decades. There are several hot spot areas such as Bangladesh, the Sahel, The Alps, and the Maldives where due to their geographic position, landscape, and microclimate are already experiencing climate change impacts. One of these regions is Tunisia.

Although the discourse around climate change in Tunisia has been developing, its inclusion in the political agenda is limited, if non-existent. Tunisia is living an important political moment, which could be the turning point for its economy, more importantly it could be an important turning point for a greener economy, and as always, civil society will be the key motivator.

In 2013, Radhouane Addala and Samuel McNeil ventured across the country to interview, film and understand who and how climate change is impacting the Tunisian population today.

The result is an outstanding documentary, which delivers important messages to the Tunisian population, its government, and all the countries which confine our beautiful Saharan desert. How will increased droughts, stronger storms, moving deserts, rainfall losses of 15-30 % alter social, political, cultural and economic systems?

As Samuel explains “A Siege of Salt and Sand is an alarm bell and a bridge. We want to connect similarly climate-maligned communities across the globe to help forge solidarity in facing our era’s gravest danger. By visualizing the complexities of climate, marine and desert science and translating the struggles of scientists, policymakers, fishermen and farmers, we are trying to build a thick connection from Tunisia with the rest of the world.”

Aside from climate change related impacts, A Siege of Salt and Sand bought to light other important environmental issues and raises several questions. For example, the ”black spots” of post-revolutionary Tunisia, where environmental regulation has been left behind and companies no longer feel obliged to follow rules that no one will enforce, or illegal industrial fishing in the Mediterranean, where fishermen in the Kerkennah islands south of Tunisia, are seeing their fish stocks depleted as “bottom trawling” destroys vital ecosystems offshore. Is this problem related to European companies benefiting from diminished controls of environmental regulations outside of European jurisdiction?

A Siege of Salt and Sand is currently in the post- production phase, Sam and Rad are crowdsourcing for the much needed financial support (and non – financial! ) to finish editing the arabic, english and french version of the documentary, as well as disseminating the information.

To support the project please donate through Indiegogo: A Siege of Salt and Sand

To watch the trailer : A Siege of Salt and Sand (Trailer)

Categories: Lifestyle

Why oil and gas companies should buy whales hearing aids

Green Prophet - April 10, 2014

Whales, the earth’s largest marine mammals, have had more than their share of ecological problems in all parts of the world’s seas and oceans. One of their biggest risks is noise in marine habitats caused by drilling for oil and gas. 

Who’s at risk? Those in unlikely marine habitats such as the Eastern Mediterranean, where a rare grey whale was sighted.

A previously unknown sub-species of humpback whale, named Arabian Whale, was also found swimming in waters off Oman. Sites of regular oil drilling.

Whales communicate and find their way by emitting sounds to one another as well as off marine objects such as reefs. Studies made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that migrating  Western Grey Whales are greatly disturbed by underwater intense  seismic sounds produced by oil and gas exploration companies in areas where they  often frequent; such as near Sakhalin Island, north of Japan.

The seismic surveys conducted by these oil and gas exploration companies involve using intense underwater sound blasts when searching for subterranean oil and gas deposits.

The intense sounds affect the whales, which rely on sound for communication, navigation and foraging for food.

Exposure to loud noise from seismic surveys can result in stress and behavior changes,  which affect foraging and nursing calves. The intense noise can also cause direct physical damage to the animals themselves. The company carrying out the surveys, Energy Investment Company Ltd, claims that the surveys are carried out in a manner that  “has not revealed significant impact on the whales”.

Migrating whales are often seen swimming together with other marine mammals like dolphins.

Other whale species, such as Pilot Whales, have been involved in numerous incidents involving being stranded on beaches.

The most recent incident occurred off Ft. Myers Florida January 21. Marine biologists believe that Pilot Whale beachings may be the result of the animal’s communication and direction finding senses being “confused” by various factors; including marine pollution and possibly by conflicting undersea noises as well.

The IUCN study was published in the Journal of Aquatic Mammals; and based its research on the migration routes and prime feeding grounds of the Western Grey Whale species.

The survey co-author, Dr Greg Donovan, is Chairman of the Western Grey Whale Advisory Panel (WGWAP) Seismic Survey and Noise Task Force. He is also Head of Science at the International Whaling Commission. To reduce the chance of seismic soundings disturbing the whales, he recommends that: “In the Sakhalin case it is advisable to conduct the surveys as soon as the winter ice has melted but most of the whales have not yet arrived.”

More articles about whales and other marine mammals in the Mediterranean and Middle East:

New Arabian Humpback Whale Species Located in Oman

Iron-rich Whale Poop Essential in Middle Eastern Marine Habitats

Is Willie the Grey Whale Lost of Looking for Club Med?

Image via WWF

Categories: Lifestyle

Hyper-absorbent diapers made from jellyfish biodegrade in under 30 days

Green Prophet - April 10, 2014

Until you have babies, the true awfulness of diapers doesn’t really set in. But ask the modern parent, who will buy up to 2,800 mostly non-biodegradable diapers in their baby’s first year. Then they will chuck most of them in the trash. Cine’al has at least one solution: hyper-absorbent diapers made with jellyfish.

Our oceans are changing. Not only are they overfished, but high acidity and warmer temperatures create a welcoming environment for jellyfish. Indeed, many scientists warn of the day that we’ll all be eating jellyfish stir fry.

Turns out, though, the exploding jellyfish population may be useful for an Israeli nano tech startup that makes earth-friendly absorbent goods such as diapers, “paper” towels, and even sanitary pads.

“Jellyfish are marine creatures composed of 90% water and that live in water. Their bodies are formed from material that can absorb high volume of liquids and hold them without disintegrating or dissolving,” according to Capital Nano, a leading nano tech investor in Israel that is raising funds to scale up Cine’al.

Related: World sees scary transition to seas full of jellyfish

This new material, called hydromash, is made with jellyfish and nano particles that give them the flexibility to add antibacterial and self-healing properties. It is capable of absorbing high volumes of water and blood in seconds.

“The Hydromash absorbs more than several times its volume (meeting the most challenging application requirements),” according to Capital Nano, “and biodegrades in less than 30 days (faster than any other bio-degradable products such as bio-degradable diapers made out of pulp.)”

The group would work with local governments that spend a great deal of money extracting jellyfish from the ocean, after which they become an environmental problem, since they have to be disposed of.

Cine’al can alleviate this problem by scooping up jellyfish at designated sites, dehydrating them and processing them to be used as a biodegradable super-absorber.

Led by Eran Fine (CEO) and Ofer Du-nour (Chairman and President), Cine’al is currently in discussions with partners in Korea and South Carolina, which they hope will result in the establishment of manufacturing plants near jellyfish collection sites. 

Image of diaper baby, jellyfish via Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Should ancient bones be up for sale? Shoppers in Dubai say yes!

Green Prophet - April 09, 2014

Decorative taxidermy reaches new heights in the United Arab Emirates!  Dubai developer Emaar has shelled out big bucks for the remains of a 150-million-year-old dinosaur which will be permanently displayed in the world’s largest shopping venue, Dubai Mall.

The adult Diplodocus specimen (90% original bones!) represents the first time ever that dinosaur fossils were found in a sleeping position. And Dubai buys another world record!

The remains were discovered at the Dana Quarry in Wyoming (USA), an area containing ancient fossils dating back to the late Jurassic Period. According to Dinosauria International, it’s the most productive dig site in Wyoming, and the “origin of over a dozen, mostly excellent articulated individual skeletons, ranging from the huge and lumbering Apatosaurus to the terrifying Allosaurus and the tiny Coelurosauria.”

Over 75 million shoppers came to Dubai Mall last year to shop and peer through the world’s largest acrylic panel (to view creatures in its amazing aquarium) and nosh at “Candylicious” (the world’s largest sweet shop).  The dino exhibit is expected to exponentially boost footfall.

But the story inside this story is that anyone with a full wallet can buy a full dinosaur (or downgrade to specific bones, teeth, or fossil imprints).

Google “dinosaurs for sale” and up pops PaleoDirect, the DinosaurStore, and even eBay as used bone sellers.

Truly spectacular specimens can be picked up through bespoke auction houses; last year a pair of “dueling dinosaurs” was on the block for $7 million – the duo, a tyrannosaurid and ceratopsian, was discovered dramatically intertwined in a prehistoric death match.  One of the most important discoveries in North American paleontology – destined for a food court in an UAE mall or Emir’s garden.

The upside is that that high roller Emiratis have clearly embraced “recycling” – recently cars, and now bones.

Image of Dubai dino from 7 Days in Dubai 

Categories: Lifestyle

No plastics safe? Industry hides frightening evidence on BPA-free baby bottles

Green Prophet - April 09, 2014

A new investigation by Mother Jones magazine revealed that chemicals used to replace controversial plastic additive bisphenol-A – commonly called BPA - may be just as dangerous to your health, if not worse.

Stunning news for everyone who drinks from plastic bottles, eats from plastic food containers,or wraps food with plastic cling wrap.

The chemical BPA mimics the natural hormone estrogen which is critical for brain and organ development and essential bodily functions. Research proves that too much or too little of estrogen, particularly during gestation and early childhood, leaves us susceptible to later disease including breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and behavioral disorders.

For years, public campaigns have waged war against BPA-containing plastics due to concerns about exposure to synthetic estrogen. But new research shows that plastic products advertised as “BPA-free” are still releasing the chemical.

Examples include plastic products sold by Evenflo, Nalgene and Tupperware – common brands found in many households. Substitutes aside, BPA is still widely used in many every day items from soup can linings to printed receipts.

BPA dangers were broadcast as early as 2008. Customers began demanding BPA-free products, particularly for children, and the substance was soonafter banned in bottles and “sippy cups” in the USA, EU, Canada, and other countries – but not worldwide.

Manufacturers introduced BPA-free products, but most of the chemicals used to replace BPA had not been tested to see whether they mimicked estrogen. It turns out that many of them do, with similar effects on human health.

Investigative reporter Mariah Blake also revealed how the plastics industry has used a “Big Tobacco-style campaign” to bury the disturbing scientific evidence. She states that about 80,000 chemicals are used in US manufacturing; virtually none has been tested for safety.

“In general, chemicals are presumed safe until proven otherwise under the U.S. regulatory system. So, when a chemical like BPA is removed from a production line, the industry will substitute another chemical that is untested, and we really, in many cases, just don’t know the health effects of that chemical. So, it’s largely an unregulated realm, ” said Blake in a video interview. (Watch the full interview – link here.)

Last week, a study estimated that continued use of BPA in food and drinks packaging is responsible for $3 billion a year in healthcare costs. Maybe time for a resurgence of jelly-jar glasses, cooking only enough food for any particular purpose, and of course, breastfeeding.

Image of a toddler drinking from sippy cup from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

How Masdar joined forces in Solar CSP to energize the Middle East

Green Prophet - April 09, 2014


Green Prophet offers an exclusive interview with Yago Mancebo, Investment Manager, Masdar, on how to put together partnerships to make solar CSP projects viable in the Middle East. Read below for his talk.

When the Request For Qualifications [RFQ] for Noor II and III came out we started talking to companies we knew well through our experience with Torresol and Shams.

However, this was the first bidding process in which we had participated on the bidding side here at Masdar. At Shams 1[100MW project in Abu Dhabi] and on other projects we were on the procurement side of the projects, so we had to learn about this process as an organization.

Our partner for Torresol [Spanish company operating the Gemasolar plant] is SENER, but SENER was already working with ACWA for the first Ouarzazate project [now called Noor I] and wanted to continue their work, so we ruled them out. ACWA have their own strategy for Morocco – they have been there since the first process and had already established their own consortium and strategy.

Abengoa [partners with Masdar and Total on the Shams 1 project] have their own strategy and usually are the developer, EPC contractor and owner. In this sense, Shams is a different story because it was a Request For Proposals [RFP].

We tendered the EPC and then (like any other IPP in Abu Dhabi and the region) you are the majority shareholder as a local company or local entity, with the foreign shareholders as bidders. The experience with Shams was fine, Abengoa and Total are good partners, but I don’t think we were quite aligned in terms of objectives and strategy with Abengoa in the case of the Moroccan bidding process.

So in the process of getting the consortium together, one of the missing parts was experience of the bidding process. We have a wealth of experience in CSP but as explained, we are new to the bidding process and for that reason we made the decision to join forces with GDF Suez, who is the biggest Independent Power Producer [IPP] in the world. This made for the perfect partnership, GDF with their experience in bidding and Masdar, with its experience in CSP We provide the CSP side of the business, they provide the IPP and bidding process of the business, and I think it is working well.

Another reason for joining forces with GDF Suez was that these are big projects, which therefore require big companies behind them. They have experience in operating big plants, and although it is not in CSP plants, in the end, the power block is the same so that is a good thing for us.

Both parties are aligned in terms of long term objectives for the project. Both organizations share a long-term view renewable energy investment opportunities, and again that supports the strength of this partnership. In our experience, when corporate values and business objectives are shared between partners it reduces the risk of complications further down the line.

In principle, the consortium’s decision-making process is like a joint venture – 50/50. There is no decision that is made by either partner without consulting the other. At Masdar we are leading the solar and EPC parts of the organization, because we have more experience in CSP. Despite having a smaller team than GDF Suez, our solar and EPC knowledge based on our Torresol and Shams experience adds tremendous value. In return, GDF Suez support us with their vast experience in Power EPC contracts.

With Noor III confirmed to use tower technology, we had discussions with GDF Suez about the choice of EPC contractor for the process. ACS Cobra is one of the most experienced contractors in CSP and fits our requirements of resources and capabilities – both technical and financial. We worked with them on the three Torresol plants and we are very happy with the performance.

We knew that ACS Cobra was working with SolarReserve on Crescent Dunes in the US. Given that Sener and SolarReserve are the only two companies that have the molten salts tower technology that we know works, and the good relationship we have with ACS Cobra, we decided to replicate the relationship they had in the US. So we chose to work with SolarReserve.

In terms of the relationship for Noor III, SolarReserve have a minority stake and are in the EPC contract. We will consult with them on anything that affects them as a minority shareholder, but that’s mainly related to shareholder issues in the company, not the bidding process. They help us because they know their technology better than anyone and they can optimize the tower. This is a really strong feature of our consortium.

Lessons and challenges with partnerships

The main challenge with forming a good partnership in CSP is that there are relatively few players in the industry! That GDF Suez is starting to get into the CSP market is positive, because we now have a least one more company interested in this technology. Looking at the example of ACWA, they have their own strategy and they prefer to be the leading partner in every sense, and that for us creates some difficulties because we want to be an active investor.

Further down the ecosystem, there are not that many EPC contractors with experience and you need to be quick in selecting your EPC contractor. That was a big part of the negotiation, trying to arrange a consortium as quickly as possible and with at least a guarantee, or as much guarantee as possible, that you are going to be competitive and with measured risks.

A wider problem for CSP is the lack of a big number of companies that are investing in the technology right now. I believe that this is going to be solved with the new markets and we hope to see more and more companies coming in.

The main experience we take from Shams 1 and Torresol is that the technology is still quite new and there are elements to it which can be refined and improved. This provides a good opportunity for new developments. It’s important to understand how you optimize the plants, and in this respect our experience with different technologies is really important. Parabolic trough is a more mature technology, but tower is quite new and we have gained experience from Gemasolar in Spain. All of the lessons we learnt during the construction and commissioning are vital and we are now applying our experiences.

One of the biggest lessons relates to suppliers. There are not that many suppliers out there, and things that work for other technologies do not necessarily work in this technology. For example, you know what kind of pumps you need to use, which ones are the best for this kind of technology and the use you are going to give to them. This is one thing that you don’t know if you don’t have the hands on experience of what happened in previous plants. There are many things that you can only know with experience; the theoretical understanding is important but reality is often not quite so simple.

Masdar’s plans for CSP

Overall, our basic strategy is to be a minority shareholder – but with a big minority stake – ideally about 40%. We have a constraint, and that is that we are a very small company, based exclusively in Abu Dhabi so that obviously has its limitations in terms of reach and in terms of capabilities. We look to have an active role in the projects and grow steadily. We rely on our partners to fill the gaps that we have to be able to have a big presence so we look for companies that can deploy a full team for the construction and operational process and we try to complement and add value by bringing our experience, global influence and reputation.

We are very interested in the international markets and we are always following developments. We are obviously very interested in anything that happens in MENA, we are focusing on Morocco, and we are active in wind and PV in Egypt. We also have a wind offshore investment in the UK (London Array) and we are looking to expand that, if possible. We have also been looking at South Africa for quite a time now – but we are being careful not to overstretch ourselves.

Clearly we are interested in what happens in Saudi Arabia and we have high hopes that we can play an important role in their diversification plans. However, we are also very interested in what might happen in Oman and Jordan too. We are right now building a wind project in Jordan and we are also looking to participate in PV tenders there too. Principally, we are focused on PV, CSP and wind, which will be our continuing strategy for the near future; however we are also investing in CCS technology in Abu Dhabi in partnership with ADNOC.

Morocco will be important for us. It is a big project and a big first step for us in the IPP arena, so we want to learn as much as possible.
Yago Mancebo, Investment manager at Masdar and Wim Alen, Business Developer Manager at GDF Suez, will be participating in a panel discussion on creating partnerships for CSP projects at MENASOL (6-7 May, Dubai) alongside the other key developers active in the region, such as ACWA Power, Abengoa and SolarReserve.

For more information about this interview or to learn more about the MENASOL event, please contact Sarah Kingham at sarah@csptoday.com or visit CSP Today.

Categories: Lifestyle

Mysterious mass fish die-off in Tunisia sparks world-ending debate (video)

Green Prophet - April 08, 2014

Earlier this month several Tunisians in Hammamet, Sphax and Mahdia woke up to their beaches infested with dead fish and jelly fish, a beached whale in Tunis, off the coast of Sidi Bou Saïd was also carried to shore.

This event has generated an important debate, which confirms the need for investigative science and how little of that there is.

Some environmentalists sustain that the recent mass die-offs are not a coincidence, or a “natural” phenomenon, but a result of marine pollution.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Pollution off the Tunisian coasts is known to be a largely unregulated affair, particularly since the Jasmine revolution, an increasing number of unregulated coastal industries have been leaking toxic waste directly into the sea, furthermore the large majority of the commercial shipping traffic between the Suez Canal and Gibraltar passes off the Tunisian coasts, exerting significant marine ecosystem pressures from hydrocarbon fuel pollution, fumes and waste.

There are also talks on the connection between increasing covert hydraulic fracturing activities offshore between the touristic islands of Djerba and Kerkhennah and the concomitant increase in dead fish found along the coast. This connection is not incongruous, it is not the first time fracking is identified as the culprit in mystery mass die-offs, and given the strong toxic content of  chemical concoctions used in fracturing, a small leak can have enormous consequences especially in water where containment is nearly impossible.

On the other hand Hédia Hili, a veterinary doctor at the National Institute of marine science and technology, in an interview states that there is nothing abnormal about these phenomenons and it corresponds to annual events which are due to the proliferation of red jellyfish in the red sea seeping through from the Atlantic and Red sea, changes in the Mediterranean marine ecosystem, climate change and ocean warming. But are these not all anthropologically caused factors?

And there is a final, more esoteric explanation, some say this is an indication the world is going to end soon

When recently speaking to young Tunisian and Lebanese marine scientists it is apparent that the problem is not the lack of scientists willing to research on these issues, but it is the lack of funding. This is particularly true for the Mediterranean countries who are experiencing economic downturn, and therefore cuts in research and development. The Mediterranean risks becoming a soup of environmental disasters, with little investigative science to explain such disasters.

It is especially alarming to read several articles where the discourse explaining mass die-offs fall into the “it’s normal”  or “It’s a mystery” scheme.

Is the human race starting to refute the responsibility for the consequences of its actions?

Image of dead fish on the coast from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Dancing in combat boots, Jerusalem style

Green Prophet - April 08, 2014

A trio of break-dancing Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers strutted their stuff in a video uploaded to Facebook on Thursday. About a year ago, another IDF dance – captured again on YouTube – landed a few soldiers in prison. What do you think about acting so freely when wearing a military uniform? Video below.

This most recent performance features two Nahal male infantrymen and an unidentified female soldier spinning and flipping outside the Jerusalem Central Bus Station.

The clip was originally uploaded to a Facebook page named “Son of the Drummer,” which promotes a local percussion group, also featured in the video. The group uses upcycled materials such as plastic buckets, wooden dowels, and tin cans as instruments in impromptu street performances around Jerusalem. They create sound so vibrant that even folks in combat boots get moving!

Another video of this performance – which appears to have been spontaneous – has been uploaded to YouTube, see below:

Click here to view the embedded video.

No question these dancers are skilled – their acrobatic, polished dance is executed with joyful precision. In fact, after five minutes of moves the only thing “fatigued” about them is their clothes.

Image of breakdancing soldier from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Environmental Justice Atlas maps out ecological conflicts

Green Prophet - April 08, 2014

For the first time in history we have a real time, comprehensive global map of ecological conflicts thanks to the Atlas of Environmental Justice.

Ecocide, is becoming a critical issue as the world increasingly scrambles for resources, and so visually documenting and revealing the actors, drivers and structural patterns behind this scramble becomes critical in safeguarding our environmental wealth.

This is the work of the Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT), who among other objectives, is working with Environmental Justice Organisations to compile and make available an Atlas of Environmental Justice, which promises to become a reference for scientists, journalists, teachers and activists.

The platform aims to unite and crowd source reports from scientists, activist organisations, think-tanks, policy-makers from the fields of environmental law, environmental health, political ecology, ecological economics, to map out Environmental Justice or Ecological Distribution conflicts, conflicts that highlight the distributive & structural impacts of economic activities on the health and environment of specific populations.

The Atlas of Environmental Justice is designed to be a practical and intuitive platform that allows searching and filtering across 100 fields (like  Nuclear, Ore & building materials extraction, Waste Management, Biomass, Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice and Energy conflicts), by commodity, company, and type of conflict.

The map tells a story of environmental devastation and despoliation, of ecocide and eco-apartheid, but also a story of community mobilization and the factors which has allowed communities to gain the right to environmental health.  Approximately 2/10 cases, are considered ”environmental justice success stories”, and the key points we can learn from this map so far are that; although the number and types of ecological conflicts are increasing globally so is the “strength” of community mobilization,  “false solutions” such as carbon offsets are leading to an even more unequal distribution of environmental space and that  voluntary corporate responsibility is not working in the majority of cases – what is needed is corporate accountability.  

If you take a look at the Middle East and North Africa Region, there aren’t as many dots as there should be ( e.g. Phosphate Mining in Gafsa, Tunisia) so if you or your organization want to report on a conflict you can file a case through the EJOLT Database Form and contact the project’s deputy coordinator Leah Temper for more information.

Image of the Environmental Justice Atlas from EJOLT

Categories: Lifestyle
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