Lifestyle

Rooms rotate with the push of a button in this extraordinary Iranian house

Green Prophet - July 25, 2014

Iranian architecture has evolved over the years – like everywhere – and the new generation of designers are producing truly impressive work. Take the extraordinary Sharifi House by next office. In order to maximize space, flexibility and daylight, the design team inserted semi-mobile rooms that rotate with the push of a button.

The Sharifi House in Tehran adapts to various climatic conditions with semi-mobile units on the first and third floors that rotate with the push of the button.

Opening the units allows for more space, more light, and creates terraces that open to the surrounding urban fabric. This is great for summer months when the residents are feeling open and transparent. But in the winter, or when the home owners seek privacy, it’s possible to turn the units back in.

The mobile units protrude from a three dimensional facade, a space-saving technique that was made necessary by the long and narrow plot on which this and neighboring homes are constrained.

Related: Iranian architect Nader Khalili built earth buildings fit for space

Like traditional Iranian homes, the Sharifi House incorporates dynamic seasonal modes of habitation with modern versions of the winter and summer living rooms (Zemestan-Neshin and Taabestan-Neshin.)

Parking and housekeeping functions are relegated to the ground floor, while the basement is used as a sort of miniature gym – with exercise equipment that the residents can use to maintain good health.

Adaptable, flexible and filled with light, this transforming home is an excellent example of Iranian ingenuity – we absolutely love it.

:: Core 77

Categories: Lifestyle

Plastic for kibble – vending machines for stray animals in Istanbul

Green Prophet - July 24, 2014

There are roughly 150,000 stray cats and dogs in Istanbul alone, and with so many other problems to deal with, city officials aren’t likely to make them priority. One Turksih company came up with a brilliant solution to feed some animals and recycle plastic at the same time.

Pugedon approached the city with an idea to install vending machines throughout Instanbul.

Placed mostly in city parks and other areas where a lot of people congregate, the machines are receptacles for used plastic bottles, and have a bonus flap at the end where dishes of water and kibble are placed.

Every time a person pops in a plastic bottle, a bit of kibble is released into bowls at the bottom of the machine, which stray animals are free to eat without persecution.

The city was happy for Pugedon to install these machines because it costs them nothing. In fact, they’re fairly self-sustaining. Funds raised by recycling the plastic are used to purchase the kibble.

Related: Egyptian vet school exposed for vicious treatment of animals

I don’t know about you, but I’m always so heartbroken to see stray animals in the street. Many countries in the Middle East (and just about everywhere, let’s be real) have a stray animal problem, and most cities are at a loss for how to deal with it.

We’ve seen some inhumane solutions. In Egypt, for example, the government poisons street animals, and they can sometimes be seen dying a violent death as the strychnine circulates through their bodies.

This is a much more humane solution. People can feel like they’re helping the animals without having to take them home or interact with them directly, and there’s an environmental benefit at the same time!

Genius!

For more Turkish genius, check out these awesome solar-powered lanterns that also put recycled plastic bottles to good use.

:: Elite Daily

Categories: Lifestyle

Solar panels and saving money at home

Green Prophet - July 23, 2014

How would you like to save money by no longer paying electric bills? There are several ways in which this can be accomplished. The first option is to go completely off the grid, and choose not to use electricity of any kind. This may not be suitable for the average person and will definitely not be comfortable, even for the extremist.

The next option is live very frugally and save energy in every way possible by limiting the amount of time in the home with the lights on, unplugging appliances, and even lowering the heat settings. Again, this is not a comfortable option. This option also does not fully eliminate electricity bills. However; a third viable option does exist.

The benefits of solar energy are not always openly discussed, but here are 5 good reasons

1. Solar energy is reliable. With only a bit of cleaning to do, this form of energy can offer several thousand hours of electricity and power for a home.

2. Solar energy is completely renewable. The Sun is not disappearing any time in the near future, and no mining is necessary in order to use its power.

3. Solar energy is not harmful to the environment. In fact, it is part of the natural environment.

4. Over time, the initial costs of installing solar panels are cancelled out by the amount of money saved not paying a power company.

5. Solar panels can be installed one or many at a time to fit almost any budget.

It is obvious that solar panels can be useful, but some may not understand just how useful.

Imagine your perimeter wireless dog fence being powered by solar energy, or any other type of underground fencing for dogs running even during power outages. This could keep your pets safe, even when the electric company cannot keep the power functioning during bad weather.

Solar panels can be used to heat water for the home, keep the lights burning bright, and even power the television.

Solar panels can show an immediate savings on the electricity bill. They will not eliminate the bill completely unless all electrical aspects of the house are appropriately hooked into the solar panel converted energy. This is not a difficult task. In fact, solar panels can be purchased in a number of places and are simple to install for those who are true do it yourselfers.

Maybe your budget is tight in these tough economic times. That is alright, as panels can be installed one at a time as the budget allows. Money saved can then be put to further panels. Once an entire home is converted to solar panel energy the savings will start, as no more power bills will be hitting the mailbox. In this manner, the solar panels seem to pay for themselves.

Are you ready to convert? Honestly, we cannot think of many reasons why not converting is an option. Start saving a bit today and buy a single panel. See how things go. The earth and your wallet will be very thankful.

Image of solar panel dog house from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Demand safe work conditions in the Middle East where laws may be lacking

Green Prophet - July 23, 2014


Some workplace environments are naturally going to be considered more dangerous than others, meaning that someone working in an industrial or agricultural occupation is likely to be more exposed to dangerous working conditions than a person working in an administrative role in an office.

Regardless of the obvious risks associated with perhaps a blue-collar worker in a working in a chemical plant compared to a white-collared counterpart who is based in an office, there are strict rules and regulations that have to be adhered to in order to protect the safety of workers everywhere.

If you run a business then you will hopefully be fully aware of your obligations regarding health and safety at work, but there is more to be gained than simply complying with the minimum standards required by law.

Occupational safety & health

Let’s look to the United States if laws are lacking in the Middle East: The federal government created the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSH) to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women.”

The OSH Act subsequently created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which operates at federal level and allows for individual states to run their own safety and health programs, on the proviso that their own schemes were at least equal if not better than the federal program put in place.

There are teams of federal and state safety personnel who work to educate employers as well as provide compliance assistance, together with enforcement action when the required standards are not being met.

Working practices have greatly improved in recent years as people have become aware of the risk of exposure to dangerous and hazardous carcinogens and the direct link the represent to cancers such as peritoneal mesothelioma, which results from exposure to high levels of asbestos, maybe many years ago.

Read our story here on how Israelis were dangerously exposed to asbestos during a fire this past summer

If you want to not just achieve a minimum standard of safety and health for your workers but provide a high level of confidence amongst your employees that you are raising the bar as high as possible, this will put your business in with a competitive edge when it comes to retaining workers and allowing your firm to grow through having a happy and motivated workforce.

Some steps that you can take to improve health and safety in your workplace.

1. Plan and inspect
Your key role as an employer when it comes to safety and health, is to identify potential hazards in the workplace and take the required steps to eliminate or minimize exposure to them. Create and develop your own safety plan that becomes a blueprint for safe working practices and tell all employees what you expect from them in return for your concerted efforts to ensure their safety.

The sort of hazards that you need to focus on are items like toxic industrial cleaning products, operating machinery and lifting heavy items or working where there is a risk of exposure to heights.
Your business may have its own unique set of challenges to address but the principle remains the same, adopt and follow a safety plan and then carry out regular inspections to identify any issues.

If you work with tools or machinery, then there should be regular inspections to ensure that they are in good working order and that any employee using these items, has received adequate training and is aware of the correct safety procedures.

2. Regular dialogue
It is good policy to encourage regular dialogue with your workers regarding health and safety practices and you can also nurture a culture within your business where employees feel free to express their ideas and thoughts on how to improve safety in the workplace. Ask them if they are worried about a practice or product and how it can be handled better.

3. Always investigate incidents
Even if there is a minor accident that does not result in a serious injury or any harm being caused, it is still advisable to investigate any incident, no matter how trivial or non-threatening it turns out to be. Having an accident investigation procedure will help to identify potential weaknesses in your policy and may help prevent a more serious accident occurring down the line.

Safety and health at work should never be an afterthought, as it should be considered as critical to a successful business as customer service standards and financial planning.

By committing to good health and safety you are making a sound business decision and protecting probably your greatest asset, your workers.

Barbara Wells has worked as a nurse in various elderly care homes and hospitals. Her articles mainly focus on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure awareness.

Image of asbestos roof from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Green tourism the “next big thing” in Middle East

Green Prophet - July 23, 2014

An exciting tourism project is set to promise a bright economic future for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi native Aziza Turkistani has created her own green tours in order to tempt tourists back into the region after disappointing visitor figures in June. She has been licensed to operate tours in Makkah, Jeddah and Taif for eight years, and would also like to provide transportation for pilgrims to Makkah, while attracting Saudi and GCC women to the tours.

The move is an important one for Saudi natives, who consider tourism to be a “woman-friendly” industry as there are no religious restrictions that would impede the tours. Makkah tour operator Aziz Awlya said that he sees potential for “green tourism” which would offer peaceful breaks for those who live hectic lifestyles.

In an area that was once considered a wasteland, tour operators are now seeing opportunities for safari packages, dune riding, sand surfing and camel and horse races.

But green tourism is also attracting interest around the world. Two key events are taking place throughout the latter half of 2014: the Hotel Show Dubai and the World Travel Market Responsible Tourism Programme, taking place in September and November respectively.

This year’s Hotel Show Dubai, taking place at Dubai’s World Trade Centre from September 28th-30th, will be focusing upon sustainable hotel design. Future Hotel, a sustainable design model, will look at how architectural design concepts can be sustainable, using displays of the latest products and predictions for future building designs.

Meanwhile, over in the United Kingdom, some of the world’s largest tourism operators including ABTA, Kuoni, Virgin Holidays, Thomas Cook and Tui, will be congregating at the London ExCel to discuss some of the most pressing issues challenging climate change in the tourism industry.

The event will take place from November 3 to 6 and will cover a variety of topics, from the economic to the environmental effects of tourism. Notably, Tuesday morning’s events will commence with a talk on “Reducing Water and Energy Consumption,” led by ABTA Chief Executive Mark Tanzer.

Water conservation is a particularly grave concern for tourism companies across the world; earlier this year, it was revealed that Lake Mead, the main water supply for Las Vegas, was running dangerously low.

And back in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is very much facing the same concerns: it was recently revealed by Green Prophet that drastic measures were being taken to increase water supplies in Saudi Arabia, including tapping into prehistoric underground aquifiers.  

It may be too little too late for the Middle East’s water supply, but with large conferences such as the Hotel Show Dubai drawing more attention to environmental concerns, we could have a more sustainable future.

Image of miles of sand via Wikipedia

Categories: Lifestyle

Beef much worse than chicken or pork – for the environment

Green Prophet - July 22, 2014


Confirming what we’ve known all along, the consumption of beef is much worse than a vegetarian diet, and also worse than eating other animal meat products like pork and chicken, a new study from Israel confirms.

While veganism, even fruitarianism is picking up speed in Israel, researchers on the ground set out to quantify the impact of eating beef in hard numbers.

New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, done in collaboration with scientists in the US, compared the environmental costs of various foods and came up with some surprisingly clear results.

The findings, which appear this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), will hopefully not only inform individual dietary choices, but those of governmental agencies that set agricultural and marketing policies.

Ron Milo of the Institute’s Plant Sciences Department, together with his research student Alon Shepon, in collaboration with Tamar Makov of Yale University and Dr. Gidon Eshel in New York, asked which types of animal based-food should one consume, environmentally speaking.

Though many studies have addressed parts of the issue, none has done a thorough, comparative study that gives a multi-perspective picture of the environmental costs of food derived from animals, the researchers report.

The team looked at the five main sources of protein in the American diet: dairy, beef, poultry, pork and eggs. Their idea was to calculate the environmental inputs – the costs – per nutritional unit: a calorie or gram of protein. The main challenge the team faced was to devise accurate, faithful input values.

For example, cattle grazing on arid land in the western half of the US use enormous amounts of land, but relatively little irrigation water. Cattle in feedlots, on the other hand, eat mostly corn, which requires less land, but much more irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer.

The researchers needed to account for these differences, but determine aggregate figures that reflect current practices and thus approximate the true environmental cost for each food item.

The inputs the researchers employed came from the US Department of Agriculture databases, among other resources. Using the US for this study is ideal, says Milo, because much of the data quality is high, enabling them to include, for example, figures on import-export imbalances that add to the cost. The environmental inputs the team considered included land use, irrigation water, greenhouse gas emissions, and nitrogen fertilizer use. Each of these costs is a complex environmental system. For example, land use, in addition to tying up this valuable resource in agriculture, is the main cause of biodiversity loss. Nitrogen fertilizer creates water pollution in natural waters.

When the numbers were in, including those for the environmental costs of different kinds of feed (pasture, roughage such as hay, and concentrates such as corn), the team developed equations that yielded values for the environmental cost – per calorie and then per unit of protein, for each food.

Mind the gap, and cost of beef

The calculations showed that the biggest culprit is beef. That was no surprise, say Milo and Shepon. The surprise was in the size of the gap: In total, eating beef is more costly by an order of magnitude – about ten times on average – to the environment than other animal-derived foods, including pork and poultry.

Cattle require on average 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water, are responsible for releasing 5 times more greenhouse gases, and consume 6 times as much nitrogen, as eggs or poultry.

Poultry, pork, eggs and dairy all came out fairly similar. That was also surprising, because dairy production is often thought to be relatively environmentally benign. But the research shows that the price of irrigating and fertilizing the crops fed to milk cows – as well as the relative inefficiency of cows in comparison to other livestock – jacks up the cost significantly.

Milo believes that this study could have a number of implications. In addition to helping individuals make better choices about their diet, it should hopefully help inform agricultural policy. And the tool the team has created for analyzing the environmental costs of agriculture can be expanded and refined to be applied, for example, to understanding the relative cost of plant-based diets, or those of other nations. In addition to comparisons, it can point to areas that might be improved.

Models based on this study can help policy makers decide how to better ensure food security through sustainable practices.

Image of beef on scale from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Turkey’s Designnobis turns plastic bottles into solar-powered lanterns

Green Prophet - July 22, 2014


If you live in the Middle East, surely you are accustomed to seeing plastic bottles lining city streets and even far-flung desert areas. While a tiny fraction of these might be recycled in some countries, most of them will languish for years in informal and formal landfills.

A young firm from Turkey, Designnobis wants to turn them into lanterns!

Unlike other solar-powered lanterns that are currently on the market, Infinite Light treats waste (plastic bottles) as a valuable resource, which helps to drive down its overall carbon or environmental footprint.

It could also potentially drive down the cost, since users would only have to purchase a kit of parts, which includes a flexible solar panel that is placed inside a transparent bottle (for more efficient solar gain), small batteries that store the daytime energy absorbed by the solar panel, and a wire frame that provides the lamp’s portability.

“With Infinite Light, we aimed to create a sustainable lamp with minimum cost,” the designers at Designnobis told Fastco Design. “The lighting unit does not require any infrastructure, and it is a ready-to-use package that can be placed in a discarded plastic bottle.”

Related: WakaWaka provides solar-powered lighting for Syrian refugees

Albeit just a concept at this stage, this design would meet a tremendous need in the Middle East in particular. Especially now during summer, power outages are rampant, electricity is scarce, and millions of people – Palestinians, Syrians, and Iraqis most notably – have been displaced from their homes due to political conflict.

Which means there are millions of people who lack access to basic lighting, which can literally save lives in certain situations. For example, women and children become targets of sexual violence in refugee camps, a terrible crime that is particularly common in areas that have insufficient lighting.

Such a lantern, which is super easy to carry and hang in homes or offices, or donkeys even, thanks to the brilliant but simple wire frame, could also go a long way to reducing the plastic pollution problem in the Middle East North Africa region.

Plus, widespread availability or distribution and use of the Infinite Lights could help shape the way that people view plastic. Rather than view it as trash, it should be seen as a free and valuable resource that can be recycled for other meaningful and important uses.

:: Fastco Exist

Categories: Lifestyle

سياحة الصحراء في السعودية: هل توأد في مهدها؟

Green Prophet - July 21, 2014

أخبار طيبة لصحاري الشرق الأوسط: اعتبرت منظمة السياحية الدولية الكثبان الرملية كأحد أهم الوجهات السياحية الحالية و ذات الأثر البيئي المحدود. و للمملكة العربية السعودية تحديدا فالخيارات كثيرة، حيث أن الصحاري تغطي جل أراضي المملكة، و قد عزمت الهيئة العامة للسياحة و الآثار السعودية استثمار تلك الصحاري سياحيا عن طريق جذب هواة المغامرة و الطبيعة القاسية

طبعا، هنالك سباقات الهجن و الخيل، و رياضات مبتكرة كالتزلج على الرمال و ركوب الكثبان. و أما إن كنت تبحث عن أنشطة أقل عنفا، فحري بك التخييم في سكون الليل، تحت سماء غير ملوثة بأضواء المدن، أو حتى التجول في أرجاء الصحراء و اكتشاف ثرواتها الطبيعية من حيوانات برية و نبات و واحات

 تشجع الهيئة العامة الاستثمارات الخاصة في المنتزهات البرية و المهرجانات الثقافية، كمهرجان حائل الصحراوي الثقافي على سبيل المثال، و ذلك ضمن إطار اهتمام المملكة بالجهود الرامية إلى حماية البيئة. و يقول رئيس الهيئة مبارك السلامة في مقابلة مع مجلة ’سعودي جازيت’: يجب أن يكون هنالك دعم لإعادة ترميم المعالم و المصنوعات الحرفية التاريخية و الخاصة بكل منطقة، بالإضافة إلى تمديد المماشي الصحراوية الحالية و زيادة عدد منظمي الرحلات السياحية. و يضيف: طبعا على جميع الأطراف المعنية بهذه المشاريع الأخذ بالاعتبار حماية البيئة و الحفاظ على طبيعة الصحراء الحسساسة، و ذلك لضمان استدامتها لسنوات عديدة قادمة

و تجذب سياحة الصحراء الزوار الأجانب بشكل خاص لما تقدمه من مناخ مغاير تماما لما اعتادوا عليه في مناطق أخرى. و تحتوي صحراء السعودية خاصة على العديد من المعالم التاريخية، و التي تقف شاهدة على أحداث عديدة عصفت بها الصحراء على مر الزمن، كمدائن صالح و حي الطريف في الدرعية، اللذان صنفا بمرتبة موقع تراث عالمي من قبل منظمة الأمم المتحدة للعلوم و التربية و الثقافة

يقول علي عيسى للمجلة ذاتها، و هو أحد هواة سياحة الصحراء: أنا على ثقة تامة بنجاح هذا النوع من السياحة إن توفرت المرافق الأساسية للسياح كأماكن التخييم و المراحيض، كما نجحت عدة دول خليجية بتنظيم رحلات عائلية مماثلة

و في مقابلة أخرى، يقول جعفر محمد سلطان، و هو منظم رحلات سفاري صحراوية في الأحساء: ما يميز الصحراء هو وجهيها المختلفين- الليل و النهار، و لكليهما سحر و جمال قلما يشعر الزائر بالملل في حضرتيهما. و يضيف: هذه الميزة بإمكانها جذب سياح بمختلف الأذواق و الهوايات

أيضا، توفر السياحة الصحراوية فرص عمل موسمية للشباب الطامح للعمل. و لكن، قد تكون لتلك السياحة جوانب غير محمودة، خصوصا في منطقة  الشرق الأوسط حيث القوانين الخاصة بحماية البيئة غير مطبقة كليا و قابلة للتأويل على هوى المنتفعين. حيث من الممكن أن تهدد أعمال التطويرالغير منضبطة الموائل الأصلية للنباتات و الحيوانات الصحراوية، بالإضافة إلى تدمير الآثار الهشة. بذلك، تكون تلك الأعمال قد ساهمت في القضاء على صناعة السياحة في الصحراء السعودية و هي بعد في مهدها

Image of sand dune skier from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

قد يعتبرك البعض معتوها إن خطرت ببالك فك

Green Prophet - July 21, 2014

قد يعتبرك البعض معتوها إن خطرت ببالك فكرة تحويل بطة محنطة و ملقاة في <حاوية> إلى <لمبة>. و لكن لم يكترث سباستيان إرازوريس بهذا الاعتبار، و بطته الآن تبعث الضوء من حيث كانت تبطبط

و قبل أن تصدم -عزيزي القارئ- بمشهد مصباح يعتلي جثة دجاجة هامدة، اقرأ –يا رعاك الله- ما قاله الناقد الفني كريستيان فيفيروس-فون عن فناننا هذا في كتاباته المعنونة :إعترافات إرازوريس، أو عن مهن حقيرة و حكايات مظلمة عن الفن و التصميم

تمثل مبادئ إرازوريس الفنية – الحادة و المثالية و المثيرة للجدل، معايير جمال بحلة فنية صارمة، و التي تؤسس للجدل بديلا عن الانسجام كعنصر أساسي و لا غنى عنه في عقيدة المبدع

على الأقل قد نعلم الآن أن فنانا هذا لم يقم بقتل تلك الدواجن من أجل هذا المشروع الفني الغريب، و لم يقم بتثبيت المصابيح و الأسلاك في جثثها بدون أي عبء فكري. و لكنه أراد لأفواهنا أن <ترغي> بالحكم المستخلصة من هذا الإبداع

يبدو المنظر مهينا، أليس كذلك؟ التمثيل بما كان كائنا حيا في يوم ما، <يبقبق> هنا و هناك؟ و لكن، أليس هذا ما نفعله يوميا في حياتنا؟

فإننا دائما ما نقدم راحتنا و طاقتنا و أزيائنا و حتى مظاهرنا على أي كائن حي على شفير الانقراض؛ فيلا كان أو وحيد قرن أو دب قطبيا أو طيرا مهاجرا أو نحلا أو إنسان غاب

و طبعا، هنالك عنصر إعادة التدوير، ذاك الذي تتقنه الطبيعة بإلهام رباني. و لكن عندما نتدخل بمخلفاتنا الصناعية الغير قابلة للتدوير الطبيعي كالعلب البلاستيكية، عندها يختل نظام البيئة و تعصف بنا الكوارث الطبيعية لتهدد صميم وجودنا على هذا الكوكب

جميعنا يستطيع إعادة التدوير؛ بما فيهم فنانينا و مصممينا. و لكنه من المؤسف أن يلجأ هؤلاء إلى سلات المهملات للقيام بعمليات إعادة تدوير – في محاكاة ساخرة لما قد تفعله الطبيعة بنا في المستقبل بما كسبت أيدينا

و الحق يقال، التصميم باهر: مجرد <لمبة> بدل من الرأس، و ها هي الدجاجة تشع حياة مرة أخرى على الطاولة

يقول إرازوريس معقبا عن المشروع على موقعه الإلكترني: كنت قلقا بصراحة من ردة فعل العامة عندما عرضت البطة المصباح

و يكمل: فكرة تحنيط الحيوانات لم تكن شائعة بعد، و لم أرد أن أنعت بغريب الأطوار بطبيعة الحال، و لكني شعرت أنه من الواجب علي القيام بالمشروع. و لدهشتي، لاقت الفكرة قبولا غريبا و غير مفهوم من زائري المعرض. ربما وجدوها مؤلوفة و جميلة و مريعة و مضحكة في آن واحد

هذه هي الحكاية باختصار

::Meet Sebastian, Designboom

Categories: Lifestyle

LEED-seeking eco mosque recycles precious ablution water in Dubai

Green Prophet - July 21, 2014

A new “eco-mosque” that seeks LEED silver certification has recently opened in Dubai. Designed to set an example for other mosques and local residents, the Port Saeed mosque can accommodate 3,500 worshippers.

Let’s face it – aside from a few great initiatives here and there, Dubai consistently makes moves that are anything but green. Which makes it hard for residents to act upon their Earth-loving convictions much less nurture them.

That is why bringing Islamic environmental stewardship into the mosque is such a brilliant idea.

Tayeb Al Rais, secrtary-general of the AMAF, expressed his hope that this mosque will encourage future developers to embrace a similar approach.

“It is Dubai Municipality’s and the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities responsibility to guide donors who want to build mosques to follow green and eco-friendly standards, and this mosque could set an example of why it is a good move,” he told Gulf News.

Related: 5 Spectacular eco mosques of the world

“We hope the mosque will continue to remind worshippers of their duties towards the environment, of which we are the custodians,” he added.

In addition to solar-powered water and solar-powered exterior lighting, the facility is equipped with a lot of low energy LED lights attached to a smart system that detects the presence of worshippers. The air-conditioning system is similarly rigged to know when there are a lot of people inside.

Exterior lights are equipped with small solar panels as well, reducing the mosque’s overall dependence on the grid.

Perhaps most important, though, is the water recycling system. Water is a precious commodity in Dubai. It’s all desalinated water that uses a substantial amount of energy and involves unsavory consequences for marine life when brine is pumped back into the Gulf.

After one year, a team of representatives will determine whether the mosque meets the requirements of a silver rating for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

Funding for the massive mosque – with nearly 14,000 square feet of built up area – was provided by an anonymous donor provided to the Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (AMAF), which inaugurated the new house of worship last week.

Shaikh Salih Al Maghmasi, an imam from the Al Quba Mosque in Madinah, delivered the first sermon at the mosque last Friday.

:: Gulf News

Image via Gulf News

Categories: Lifestyle

ملاعب الفرجان: نحو قطر أكثر اخضرارا و نشاطا

Green Prophet - July 21, 2014

سؤال: ما هي أقصر الطرق لدفع القطريين لتبني أنماط حياة أكثر صحة، خصوصا مع ازدياد معدلات التخمة في الدولة؟

!الجواب: لتستضيف قطر كأس العالم لكرة القدم، و لتنشئ عدة نواد رياضية حديثة

فوضت اللجنة الأولمبية القطرية شركة ’جريمشو’ للتصميم المعماري لإنشاء عدة مرافق خضراء (ذات تأثير بيئي محدود) على مساحة قدرها 37.5 ألف متر مربع بعد أن ضمنت استضافة كأس العالم لكرة القدم لعام 2022. أما عن أسباب التخمة و الكروش المتدلية؟ يشير ميزان الحرارة في قطر إلى الخمسين درجة مئوية –ذلك على ذمة صورة للميزان أرسلتها إلي صديقتي من داخل سيارتها في قطر. ليست بالأجواء المثالية للتريض لمعظمنا. لذلك، أدركت ’جريمشو’ حين ربحت المناقصة العالمية لتصميم المجمع أن ما عليها هو تصميم مشاريع سهلة التنفيذ و ذات أثر بيئي محدود، و التي توفر المساحات المظللة الكافية للرياضيين و الجماهير على حد سواء

تلك هي ملاعب الفرجان الجديدة في قطر؛ المزودة بكل ما تشتهي الأنفس من وسائل الترفيه الرياضية من ملاعب كرة قدم و طائرة و سلة و يد، و مساحات رياضية مختلفة، بعضها مخصص للأطفال. و يشمل التصميم أيضا مقهى في وسط المجمع، و أماكن متعددة للنشاطات الاجتماعية. أما الهدف من إنشاء تلك الملاعب هو توفير بيئة مرحة للقطريين، ليستطيعوا من خلالها تحسين أنماط حياتهم و صحتهم. و لكن المرافق الرياضية الجيدة لا تهبط فجأة من السماء، بل تبنى على أسس تصاميم ذكية و متقنة

و بما أنني قد عملت في قطر من قبل في أثناء تحضير الجناح القطري لمؤتمر ’ريو 20+’ في البرازيل، فأنني أستطيع تنبؤ حاجة جريمشو لإدراج مواد خاصة في تصميماتهم لضمان بيئة مريحة لزوار الملاعب، و للحد أيضا من استهلاك الماء و الطاقة. و بالفعل، فقد خصصوا مساحات مظللة بنسيج يحاكي زهور صحراوية محلية، و ثبتوا مقاعد في هيئة كثبان رملية تتحيح للحضور مشاهدة و تشجيع رياضييهم المفضلين بكل راحة

أيضا، لقد صممت الشركة الملاعب على أرضية مختلفة التضاريس، مما يسمح لنسمات الهواء بالدوران في كافة أرجاء المجمع و إضفاء عامل برودة آخر؛ الأمر الذي لم أسمع به أنا شخصيا من قبل في عالم التصميم! و بالنسبة للماء -الاكسير الذي كثيرا ما يزداد ندرة و ثمنا- فلن يذهب أيه هدرا، لأنه ستتم معالجته و تنقيته لإعادة استخدامه لأغراض الري

و قد علق  ’كيث بريويس’ من شركة التصميم على المشروع قائلا: نحن مسرورون بعلمنا أن تصميم شركتنا سيخلق فضاءات عامة و متاحة للجميع، و التي من خلالها سيتم إثراء الأنشطة الاجتماعية، و تنمية المواهب الرياضية المحلية في المجتمع”. و أضاف: “هذا المشروع سيمنح قطر الفرصة لحث جميع المقيمين على أراضيها لتبني أنماط أكثر صحة

 

Categories: Lifestyle

After America’s fossil water goes dry, will the Middle East follow?

Green Prophet - July 20, 2014


Ample fresh water supplies for agriculture and drinking by the world’s burgeoning population are becoming more and more scarace these days due to over-consumption and the ravages of global warming and climate change. This has resulted in the need to tap into prehistoric underground aquifers, such as North Africa’s Nubian Aquifer under Libya; and the the Disi and Wasia aquifers Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Aquifers in other parts the world, containing large amounts of ancient or “fossil water” , are also in jeopardy as these non-renewable sources of fresh water are being exploited by countries with increasing water needs.

One of America’s largest “fossil water” aquifers is the Ogallala aquifer, which lies under 8 states in America’s “bread basket” wheat growing region; stretching from South Dakota to Texas. This aquifer covers a land area of 111.8 million acres (45.24 million Hectares) and 175,000 square miles (281,635 sq kilometers).

The water in this ancient aquifer is estimated to be at least 10 million years old and created during a period when there was considerably more water in that region; such as during the last great Ice Age. The water trapped in this aquifer in not replenished through annual rainfall; so once it is used up, it’s gone – possibly forever.

Intensive farming in this region has resulted in large amounts of Ogallala water being tapped to grow grains such as wheat, corn and sorghum. These grains provide much needed foodstuffs and animal feeds for people living in the US as well as other parts of the world.

More recently, grains like corn and sorghum have also been used to manufacture biofuels like ethanol. The depletion of water in aquifers like the Ogallala is becoming a big concern to environmentalists who now estimate that most of the water remaining is this aquifer alone will be used up by the year 2028 in areas like Texas and Kansas. These states are now in the midst of one of the worst droughts in recorded history.

If prehistoric aquifers like Ogallala are in danger of being depleted in non-desert regions, it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what will be fate of fossil water in desert aquifers like those under Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Libya.

When ex-Libyan leader Muamar Gadaffi began his Great Man-Made River project in 1984, he boasted that the water in the Nubian Aquifer could supply the needs of Libya for “hundreds of years” and turn that country into an agricultural wonder. When the water was created there, animals like elephants, giraffes, wildebeests and other African species roamed that region and were hunted by primitive peoples.

The fossil water in Saudi Arabia’s Disi (part of which is under Jordan) and Wasia aquifers may be even more ancient.

Jordan is now involved in a project to extract large amounts of Disi aquifer water and convey it to Amman in large underground pipes.  It’s only a matter of time before this not replaceable water will be used up as well. There’s no sure solution to the problems of severe water shortages, even with more strict water conservation and recycling of waste water supplies. This appears to be the reality facing many countries; especially those in water scarace regions like the Middle East.

Read more on water scarcity and undergeround aquifers:

Saudi Arabia and Iran Are Exploiting Their Ground Water Supplies

Jordan’s Disi Water Conveyance is on Track; But to Where?

Libya’s Great Man Made River Project Could Stop Flowing

Map of water depletion on Ogallala Aquifer, by NBCNews.com

Categories: Lifestyle

Dubai launches new Space Agency: Muslims on Mars!

Green Prophet - July 20, 2014

The Middle East joins the race to space with a new program which will launch a research probe to MARS in the next seven years. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai) announced establishment of a UAE Space Agency.

With a starting budget exceeding  $5 billion USD, the newly hatched government agency aims to send the first Arab spaceship to Mars by 2021. How’s that jibe with the fatwa against Mars space travel? The UAE probe will be unmanned, sidestepping the “suicide mission” tag of the Netherlands-based Mars One program.

The agency intends to kick-start growth in Arab technology and aerospace industries, with expected positive knock-on to the regional economy.  It also positions the UAE as one of only nine countries with a Mars space program.

A press release stated,” The more than 60 million kelometer (sic) journey to Mars will mark UAE out as one of few countries with space programs to explore the Red Planet. Our region is a cradle of great civilizations. Given the right tools, Arabs, once again, can deliver new scientific contributions to humanity.”

The announcement was made via the sheikh’s Facebook page (link here) and has so far attracted nearly 1000 comments ranging from enthusiastic support to harsh criticism.

“So these Arabs can spend so much money on such things(they’ve been given so much wealth) and can’t help our brothers and sisters in Palestine, Syria, Burma etc?”, opined one of the sheikh’s followers. Many of the naysayers point to the increasing humanitarian crises in Syria, Iraq and Palestine as better targets for UAE investment. 

Others stick to classic Facebook wise-guy-isms such as the commenter who said, “You’re sending Arabs to space, yet you can’t spell kilometers’”.

The forward-thinking sheikh said, “We chose the epic challenge of reaching Mars because epic challenges inspire us and motivate us. The moment we stop taking on such challenges is the moment we stop moving forward.”

In 2011, he established the first ever Global Energy Forum in Dubai, and he championed development of the UAE’s renewable energy sector.  But those efforts hardly mitigate the environmental irresponsibility of Emirates’ out-sized (earthbound) development schemes that place value on world-record-breaking luxury over world-preserving rationalism.

Will space exploration be a new arena for the Gulf to demonstrate environmental and technological leadership? Or is it just another paragraph in a future World Records annual?

Image of Mars from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Greet, meet, and eat with African asylum seekers in Israel

Green Prophet - July 19, 2014


If you live in south Tel Aviv in the Shapiro neighborhood by the central bus station you might come in contact with an African migrant or refugee. Unless you live side by side with them, it’s doubtful that you’ll get a chance to talk to one of the tens of thousands of men, and sometimes women, who fled or migrated to Israel from countries like Eritrea and Sudan, in hope of a better life. But eating with them? That’s a different story.

On a Monday night in Jaffa a few months ago, TV was passé: Israelis and African migrants and refugees opened their ears and hearts to one another at a local restaurant which shut its kitchen down to the public and opened it up to let the Africans do the cooking.

Facing deportation, and with little in the way of job prospects and any sort of status in Israel, their fate is hanging by a thread. It’s hard for them to trust anyone who might be linked with the Israeli authorities.

Over the years about 60,000 African migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have come to Israel mainly through Egypt and other Muslim countries. Some have fled violence in their countries, or have come to Israel for better prospects.

Sitting at my table was Dawit Damuz, a 30-something migrant from Senafe, Eritrea, a city close to the Ethiopian border. He has been in Israel since 2004. He told us that his life was made hell by the army who tortured him and other men that did not conform to army sanctions. There were strange practices called “helicoptering” which tortured men by hanging them from their legs. Men in the army simply go missing, there are extrajudicial killings, and incommunicado detentions.

Only four official religions can be practiced in the country, Damuz explained, and anyone who is meeting in groups larger than five people at a time are punished.

Now in Israel Damuz has become a local leader among the asylum seekers in Tel Aviv who are facing deportation by the authorities. While they claim refugee rights, some Israelis and their politicians say it is the burden of countries through which they passed to absorb the migrants.

If there is any doubt about the problems the Africans may face, according to Human Rights Watch, “Torture, arbitrary detention, and severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and religious freedom remain routine in Eritrea.”

But even if for small moments, politics could be brushed aside at the second Cook, Eat & Meet in Jaffa. Every day Israelis were invited to meet some of the faces of the African refugees who share their city.

Amnesty International organizes such events to show locals in some cities the plight of asylum seekers and refugees. Two new immigrants to Israel, one from the UK and one from America organized this event in Jaffa.

Earlier on the Israelis in the group, about 30 or 40 people, were chopping vegetables and sipping on a beer, tea or a glass of water. We sat around tables of about eight and talked with an asylum seeker.

We drank a Central African Republic warm pudding drink called popoto made with rice and peanut butter. The recipe was shared and as we sipped it seemed like every Israeli with roots elsewhere said it reminded them of a drink from “home”. For me it tasted like the local Arabian sahlab, a thick drink sprinked with peanuts made to warm your insides on cold winter nights in Israel.

And throughout the night African migrants and refugees shared their stories of home, obligatory army service, the lack of freedom of speech –– and food.

A stack of injera bread, with a hint of molasses and a bit sandy to the bite (from the desert?), waited by the service window as three readied pots of simple food, like alicha, with vegetables and lentils released smells not familiar to the Arabian city of Jaffa.

There were journalists, PR professionals, those from the startup community, and activists eager to “taste” the life and times of those less lucky in Israel. It was a time for people to get personal as we sat around round tables letting the Africans explain their life and times before Israel.

That night my home city of Jaffa, sometimes troubled, sometimes violent, but always interesting, seemed to be transformed. Whether it was the good will, and positive energy inside the Tarnagol Restaurant (that hosted this encounter) which transferred this vibe I cannot say.

All I can say is that the event brought some new life and hope to everyone there. We learned a few recipes that connected Israel directly to Africa, even if only by way of an imaginary border.

For upcoming events like this one, email refugeesandisraelis@gmail.com

Categories: Lifestyle

What biomimicry architects can learn from scorpions

Green Prophet - July 19, 2014


Ben-Gurion University of the Negev scientists have poured molten aluminum into a scorpion burrow and discovered that scorpion burrows have a platform on which to warm up before the evening hunt.

Amanda Adams from the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research and Professor Berry Pinshow, her adviser, are investigating the burrows of wild Large-Clawed Scorpions (Scorpio maurus palmatus) in the Negev Desert of Israel.

After trapping the scorpions, they prepared replica casts of their burrows by filling them with molten aluminium. Once the casts had solidified, they were then dug out to be analysed by a 3-D laser scanner and computer software.

Rather than being simple holes in the ground, it was found that the burrows followed a very sophisticated design. Each burrow began with a short, vertical entrance shaft that flattened out a few centimeters below the surface into a horizontal platform.

The researchers believe that this provides a safe, warm place for the scorpions to increase their body temperature before they leave the burrow to forage at night. As ectothermic animals, scorpions rely on energy from the environment to regulate their internal temperature.

RELATED: A deadly scorpion can be a safe pesticide

The burrows then turn sharply downwards, descending further below ground to form a dead-ended chamber. Being cool and humid, this chamber provides a refuge for the scorpions to rest during the heat of the day, where evaporative water loss is minimal. As the design was common to all the burrows studied, this suggests that burrow building in scorpions has evolved by natural selection to meet the animals’ physiological needs.

“Very little is known about burrow environments,” says Dr. Adams. “We plan to expand our studies to more scorpion species around the world to test how burrow structure is shaped to be part of the burrow builder’s extended physiology.” Understanding the relationship between environmental conditions and burrow structures, meanwhile, could help to predict how burrow-builders will respond to climate change.

Scorpions are predatory arachnids, found on all continents except Antarctica. They occupy a range of habitats, including forests, grasslands, mountains and deserts. Their varied diets include arthropods, lizards and even small rodents.

Categories: Lifestyle

The UAE unveils plans to send the first Arab spaceship to Mars by 2021

Green Prophet - July 18, 2014

Apart from a couple of monkeys from Iran, the Middle East has yet to send a serious mission to space. But Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE vice president and ruler of Dubai, recently confirmed that this is about to change with news that the United Arab Emirates is planning to send a spaceship to Mars by 2021.

“Our region is a cradle of great civilizations,” Sheikh Al Maktoum said in a recent tweet. “Given the right tools Arabs, once again, can deliver new scientific contributions to humanity.”

In order to be able to send a mission to Mars however, it’s first necessary to establish a space agency that can coordinate the mammoth effort that sending an uncrewed mission to Mars entails.

Al Maktoum said in a statement that the agency will be responsible for “organizing the mission, developing the UAE’s aerospace sector, and maximizing the contribution of space industries to the national economy,” writes The Verge.

The UAE has already invested a substantial sum to develop its space technology. $5.4 billion has been spent already – mostly on satellites.

Related: Iran plans to send a monkey to space

“The government’s investment company owns satellite broadcasting system Yahsat, which recently announced plans to launch its third satellite in 2016,” The Verge reports. “The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST), established by the government of Dubai in 2006, launched its own DubaiSat-1 in 2009, with DubaiSat-2 following in 2013.”

“The new probe to Mars represents our Arab and Muslim world entering to the era of space exploration,” says Al Maktoum.

Although the UAE has been pushing to develop a pan-Arab space agency since 2008, several nations in the Middle East / North Africa region have been embroiled in the kind of conflict that creates a barrier to science. And no doubt some critics will question the UAE’s expenditures on such a “frivolous” mission. But we think that this will be a huge boon to the region.

In addition to developing the necessary technology, this kind of project could usher in a new generation of young scientists and explorers, which will hopefully be publicized from the region (rather than abroad.)

With its oil and gas reserves, and a progressive government that values science and technology development, the UAE is well-poised to pull this off.

Categories: Lifestyle

Zaha Hadid modernizes Islamic design with winning Heydar Aliyev in Azerbaijan

Green Prophet - July 17, 2014

The London Design Museum bestowed upon Zaha Hadid the prestigious Design of the Year award for this incredible Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan, and there’s nothing green about it. But it does reinterpret fluid Islamic design in some interesting ways, and it really is a work of pure genius.

Zaha Hadid Architecture won an international competition to design the center in 2007. She told Dezeen that it’s her most important design to date.

Located in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, the Heydar Aliyev Center is designed to host the country’s cultural programs and activities while making a concise break from the rigid, formal architectural language prevalent in the Soviet Union.

“The design of the Heydar Aliyev Center establishes a continuous, fluid relationship between its surrounding plaza and the building’s interior,” Hadid’s team write in their design brief for Dezeen.

“The plaza, as the ground surface; accessible to all as part of Baku’s urban fabric, rises to envelop an equally public interior space and define a sequence of event spaces dedicated to the collective celebration of contemporary and traditional Azeri culture.”

Related: Comparing Qatar stadium to a vagina is “ridiculous” says Zaha Hadid

In order to achieve that fluid style which appears to push out of the surrounding urban fabric like a mountain, the design team led by Saffet Kaya Bekiroglu built a steel space frame and clad the exterior in overlapping glass-fiber reinforced concrete panels.

“Fluidity in architecture is not new to this region,” they add.

“In historical Islamic architecture, rows, grids, or sequences of columns flow to infinity like trees in a forest, establishing non-hierarchical space. Continuous calligraphic and ornamental patterns flow from carpets to walls, walls to ceilings, ceilings to domes, establishing seamless relationships and blurring distinctions between architectural elements and the ground they inhabit.”

Daylighting may offset some energy use, but frankly, from an environmental perspective, this building has virtually nothing to offer. From an engineering, design and maybe even especially from a cultural perspective, all accolades are definitely worthy.

Photos via Iwan Baan

Categories: Lifestyle

Bahrain generates oil and brains using 5 MW solar power

Green Prophet - July 17, 2014


In a move to diversify its energy package Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco) launched its first pilot solar power project this past June in Awali, in the south of Bahrain.

Together with the National Oil and Gas Authority, the Electricity and Water Authority, and the University of Bahrain, Bapco wants to improve the generation of clean energy using the sun – the major renewable energy resource in the Middle East.

Economists and energy experts say the project will contribute to the growth of renewable energy industries, create jobs in a new and promising field, and reduce dependence on natural gas as a major source for power generation.

The $25 million project installed solar energy units in three locations: in Awali, with a 1.6 megawatt capacity; the oil refinery plant, with a 3 megawatt capacity; and at the University of Bahrain, with a 0.5 megawatt capacity, announced Bapco’s general manager of engineering projects Abdul Jabbar Abdulkarim.

“The project succeeded in generating electricity through solar energy and smart grid applications that optimise the reliability and safety of the electricity distribution network,” said Abdulkarim.

“The University of Bahrain played a pivotal role in the success of this project by placing 2,000 solar panels at various university facilities, with each panel generating 200 watts of electricity, for a total of 400 kilowatts,” said University of Bahrain vice president for planning and development Waheeb al-Nasser.

The university’s large expanse of land – nearly 10,000 square metres – is ideal for launching other renewable energy projects, he added, such as harnessing wind energy by installing wind turbines on the university campus.

Solar and wind energy are readily available in the kingdom of Bahrain especially in June and July. If you are in the Middle East now you will understand the power of the sun.

Categories: Lifestyle

Project Jewel: Moshe Safdie designs a massive indoor bio-dome for Singapore

Green Prophet - July 15, 2014

 Nearly half a decade after his famous Habitat ’67, architect Moshe Safdie is still going strong. Born in Israel, Safdie strives to incorporate sustainability in his firm’s designs, but Project Jewel may be his most flamboyant effort yet. Hit the jump to learn more about this interesting airport development in Singapore.

Slated for construction at Changi Airport, a major transportation hub that manages some 30 percent of the country’s air traffic, Project Jewel is designed to raise the airport’s profile as a worthwhile destination in itself for tourists either passing through or landing in Singapore.

Like a giant dome interconnecting terminals 1, 2, and 3, the new building will be comprised of glass and steel – not the most sensible or earth-friendly materials – and feature a massive indoor garden and even a waterfall that will pour from the dome’s roof.

Included in the mixed-use development’s offerings are retail facilities and a large communal facility complete with other interesting activities — all part of the plan to colonize the traveler’s mind with images of an airport that is more than just a boring place to wait for a plane.

Related: Bring Moshe Safdie’s green building to the Middle East

“To strengthen Changi Airport’s competitive advantage and ensure that we continue to capture passenger mindshare and traffic, we must take deliberate steps to enhance Changi’s attractiveness as a stopover point.  With Project Jewel, we are pleased to be developing an exciting product that will swing travellers to choose Changi Airport, and Singapore,” said Mr Lee Seow Hiang, Chief Executive Officer of the developers Changi Airport Group (CAG).

The indoor garden will include green walls that will help to offset a tiny amount of the overall emissions associated with an airport facility of this extraordinary girth – after all, it intends to serve 85 million passengers by the time Project Jewel is complete.

At $1.5 billion, this is no small project, so Safdie has a chance to really create something spectacular. It’s not clear when it will break ground, but at least local design firms will participate in the process of creating a unique lifestyle destination for the world’s wealthy elite.

:: Changi Airport

Images via Neoscape

Categories: Lifestyle

Tentsile tents are suspended tree houses you can carry anywhere

Green Prophet - July 15, 2014


It’s hard to write about frivolous design when there are so many worrying things happening in the Middle East, but that’s what we do. We try to put something light and happy in your heart, maybe a sliver of hope for happier, more peaceful days.

In this case hope and happiness come in the form of a treehouse you can take anywhere!

Originally invented in 2010 by Alex Shirley-Smith, the first tentsile treehouse tent exploded on the internet to such an extent that Shirley-Smith hired a new designer to work on several prototypes in 2012.

Kirk Kirchev came up with the current design, which can be suspended four feet above the ground as long as there are three points at which the tent can be anchored.

Like a regular multi-person tent that can be packed up in a small bag and carried around, the tentsile offers ultimate portability.

Related: Collapsible refugee tents powered by the sun

But it’s different in that it offers a vantage point that most people won’t find in a regular tent, one that lends itself to thoughtful reflection, but also spares those who might be concerned about insects and snakes and other wildlife encounters.

Of course, anyone with fear of heights might not love this design, and there’s always the question – how the heck do you get in the tent? See this video for a rough guide to pitching a suspended tent. Also, note the company warns people not to exceed the maximum load of 880 pounds.

The $599 two person “portable treehouse tent” comes in a variety of colors and with a removable fly sheet. In addition to providing shelter for two, it can connect with other Tentsile Connect tents to create a “super camp” of three or more tents – like a communal treehouse gathering.

Tents can be shipped around the world for $70, so unlike so many of these neat designs, it should be available to people living in the Middle East and North Africa as well

 

:: Tentsile

Categories: Lifestyle
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