The United Arab Emirates is home to the world’s tallest building, Burj; it’s over-run by McMansions a la Arabia, and the Emirates don’t hesitate to create artificial islands out of extravagant shapes like planet earth. Now a humbler approach that mimics western trends: a cargo company in the UAE has put together 42 shipping containers for its office.
Laurie, our in house architect isn’t sold on shipping containers as architecture (cargotecture), but the staff at the new building think it is one of the coolest.
The interior of the building, the local newspaper The National reports, is the HQ of the cargo company Geochem, which keeps the offices chilled to near zero. Insulation is thanks to Dubai’s Smartbox which built the facility and took corrugated steel boxes and turned them into offices and rooms.
“From the outside, you would never know it was made out of shipping containers,” said Arjun Menon, managing director of Smartbox. From the inside, you can do anything you would like. If I had the budget, I could make one of our rooms look like the Burj Al Arab.”
Approvals for these sorts of buildings have been a challenge, Menon said.
Meanwhile a second building like this is planned for the Dubai Design District. This one will contain wind towers (using inverted containers) and will mimic traditional Arab design – something we are aching to see.
A new sketch of Abu Dhabi was just uncovered, showing a rare glimpse into the desert port before it became a super city. The sketch which reveals its most humble beginnings as a desert outpost, with tower to guard the island’s water resources is a sharp reminder of how quickly cities and empires can be built out of nothing. I see this sketch also as forewarning – a sign showing us that we need to think more in terms of lasting outcomes and sustainability before towering super cities take over our horizons.
The sketch was found last year when Liza Rogers working at the archives of the National Maritime Museum in London was looking around for documents relating to the history of Qatar. She opened the sketchbook of a leather-bound collection by R W Whish thinking she might see something there on Qatar.
To her surprise she found a faint, 155-year-old pencil sketch depicting a horizon, light cloud, a fort, some towers and the masts of several ships in the harbour. The sketch was sub-headed: “Aboothubbi, HMS Mahi, 3½ fms”.
While not considered a great work of art, it sheds light onto the early history of Abu Dhabi which has erected itself quite literally out of the sand in the last 100 years or so.
Abu Dhabi skyline today
There isn’t much historical documentation of Abu Dhabi, evaluators of the sketch say.
There is a growing concern that the free trade agreement between Iran and Turkey has encouraged an increase in the production and transit of drugs in the Middle East. Following the 2009 agreement to enhance co-operation efforts of land, air, and sea transportation, politicians and economic analysts have grown ever more concerned about the rising threat of drugs amid a free trade environment.
Iranians a Force in Turkish Drug Industry
Experts would appear to have every right to feel concerned, with statistics showing that heroin seizures increased from 2,025kg to 3,044kg between 2009 and 2010, which is just a year since the free trade agreement. Prior to the agreement, it had taken three years for a similar increase between 2005 and 2008. Those statistics represent the seizures of heroin, an opium-based drug, being transported to Turkey.
For the drug traffickers who are not caught during transit, close to one million Iranian nationals have chosen to continue living in Turkey instead of returning to their homeland. But rather than choosing to move for an improved quality of life, many of the illegal migrants are making the move for the purpose of becoming involved in the lifestyle offer by drug trafficking.
In fact, Turkey’s Department of Anti-Smuggling and Organised Crime (KOM) revealed in 2011 that 34% of all foreign nationals arrested in the country were Iranian. No other national demographic had a higher rate of drug-related arrests than Iranians, with these individuals dominating in the Turkish drug industry.
Hash Usage in Iran
Iran is not only making the headlines for drugs in the wider Middle East, but also within its own borders. Economic struggles within the country, combined with the readily available presence of cheap drugs, have driven many young Iranian nationals to consume drugs until the point of addiction is reached.
Prior to the development of serious addictions, Iranians are legally allowed to consume hashish, a product that is prepared from the readily available cannabis plants that are available throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Consumption of hash can act as a gateway drug for many young people, who turn to escapism to cope with the economic struggles of Iran. Wellness centres like FloridaBeachRehab.com have witnessed this problem on many occasions.
However, there is a considerable catch associated with the legal status of hash. While many hash users in the rest of the world will choose to smoke it through a variety of delivery methods, Iranian nationals can only legally consume hash by oral means. Effectively, this creates a situation where hash is easy to come by. Once in possession of the drug, it is then possible for the purchaser to smoke it in private.
Opiates Causing Damage
Iran has previously revealed to Economist.com that more than 2 million of 75 million people living in the country are addicted to damaging opiate-based drugs. Along with heroin, many of those 2 million addicts are using a cheaper derivate heroin, which is known as crack or shishe (this term is used to name cocaine in its freebase form). Users will gather in public places to smoke shishe and pose a threat to others.
The major problem with shishe is that it is not just poorer sections of Iranian society turning to the drug. Alarmingly, weight-conscious and beauty-obsessed women from the middle class are turning to shishe as a cure for weight loss. Courses are also said to be available for those who would like to manufacture shishe from the comfort of their own home.
To tackle the epidemic, Iran has attempted to implement a number of policies. Leading the charge are programmes formed to encourage safe disposal of needles, as well as methadone clinics to assist heroin addicts. With a 15% rate of HIV diagnosis among needle users in Iran, such initiatives are vital for responding to the troubling issue.
Iran is facing a battle on two fronts, with some of its citizens engaging in the trafficking of opiates to Turkey and then later settling there to join the local drug industry. Free trade is said to be the catalyst behind the first issue. Next, the dire economic conditions of Iran have driven many to consume cheap opium-based drugs. Iran has years of effort to combat the growing threat of drugs in the Middle East.
Image of drugs in Iran from Shutterstock
One hundred years ago on the first of September 1914, a bird named Martha died at the Cincinnati Zoo. She was the last of what had once been the most numerous bird in the world – the passenger pigeon. How did this happen? Read more as we attempt to solve this extinction mystery.
A favorite animal
Each night after her bedtime story my daughter would quiz me. “What is your favorite animal?” She would ask, hoping that I would agree that we absolutely must adopt a dog, a cat or a pony. “Dolphin.” I would answer.
The next night I would choose a different animal. It had to be something cute but completely unsuitable as a pet. I moved from cetaceans to insects to endangered species and finally to extinct animals. “Brachiosaurus, woolly mammoth, passenger pigeon.”
That last one piqued my interest. This one didn’t die of an asteroid sixty-five million years ago. This was recent history. John Muir, Charles Darwin, even my own grandparents were alive when these birds flocked over Midwestern American skies. They lived during the enlightenment and the age of scientific discovery. Surely someone must know what caused them to go extinct.
Martha’s big family
A quick internet search told me that passenger pigeons lived in Eastern North America and were at one time the most populous bird species on earth, numbering as many as five billion.
The famous ornithologist John James Audubon wrote that they had darkened the skies for days as during a total eclipse. Their weight had caused trees to collapse. Naturalist A.W. Schorger wrote that a single nesting site in the state of Wisconsin contained 136 million breeding adults. For comparison, the stockier mourning dove which bears the closest resemblance to passenger pigeons, number only about 250 million worldwide.
A living example
The European starling is North America’s most prolific living bird. It numbers only 200 million. Starlings disappeared from the skies over Jordan and Israel in the 1990s and just as mysteriously returned in recent years. Watch this murmeration of about 100,000 Starlings flying over Istanbul Turkey and imagine their number multiplied by 30,000. That’s what a mile wide, 300 mile long cloud of more than three billion birds would have looked and sounded like as it darkened the skies of southern Ontario for fourteen hours in 1866:
From great multitudes to Zero
Seventy years later, a childless 29 year-old passenger pigeon named Martha, died in an Ohio zoo. She was the last of her kind. If you didn’t feel a chill run down your spine or hear some swear words escape from your lips at that thought, maybe you should read that again.
From five billion to zero over the course of a short human lifetime. What the #*^% happened?! There are people living today who might have seen one in a zoo or standing on a telegraph wire. We have witnesses we even have photographs. But for an extinction that happened after Charles Darwin published “Origin of the Species” and after the world’s first national parks were founded, we know remarkably little.
Why so many?
To discover why the passenger pigeon’s numbers dropped to zero we should first investigate why their numbers rose to such– dare we say, unsustainable numbers. In fact there are relatively few vertebrate species who thrive in such large numbers. During their heyday, more than than one fifth of all birds in North America belonged to this single species. Where were their predators?
One theory is that passenger pigeons were an outbreak species with Native Americans as their primary predator. Flocking in such large numbers, they were easy to hunt. Their young could be picked from the ground. Migrating flocks were caught with nets or clubbed from the sky. Native Americans killed just enough to keep their population under control until…
The arrival of Europeans led to the death of millions of Native Americans which led to an explosion in the population of passenger pigeons until– Europeans developed a taste for these birds. They were used as cheap food for slaves.
Waves of hungry immigrants soon created a passenger pigeon economy. They used guns and nets. They set trees on fire. They used blinded and tethered “stool pigeons” as bait. A single hunter could take in 5000 birds in a day. Hunters in Michigan collected 7.5 million passenger pigeons in 1869. Their haul increased each year until it peaked at between 10 and 15 million birds in 1878.
Then, following the same pattern as peak whale oil, peak fish and peak oil, their numbers began to collapse. The ecosystems which supported these multitudes were poorly understood and before we knew it we were past the point of no return. Passenger pigeons usually laid only one egg per year and so they were unable to recover their numbers.
A 14-year-old boy shot the last wild passenger pigeon with a BB gun in 1900 and Martha died alone in captivity, one hundred years ago this week.
Of luck and Lyme Disease
Naturalist John Muir once said that if you tug at any little part of nature you find that it’s hitched to the whole universe. We were lucky that passenger pigeons didn’t fill an irreplaceable niche in our food chain. Martha’s family died at a time when industrialization allowed humans to more efficiently produce food. A similar extinction of honeybees or cod would have disastrous economic and social effects today.
Martha’s death did have a human impact. Passenger pigeons fed primarily on tree nuts such as acorns and chestnuts. The four billion chestnut trees which once covered much of eastern North America were been wiped out by an invasive fungus. But enough acorns and other nuts remained to support a large population of deer mice. And deer mice are host to a wood tick which carries Lyme disease. It is possible that MERs or Ebola outbreaks are caused or amplified by similar environmental disasters caused by our “destroy now ask questions later” approach to nature.
Martha’s death taught us that it is possible for humans to have a devastating impact on what seemed to be an inexhaustible natural resource. By revealing this truth, she may have helped spark the environmental movement which saved the American bison, the bald eagle, the grey wolf and numerous other species from a similar fate and led to conservation laws and the national park system.
Disruptions in food trade and marketing in the three West African countries most affected by the Ebola virus out of control have made food increasingly expensive and hard to come by, while labor shortages are putting the upcoming harvest season at serious risk, the United Nations FAO warned today.
In Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, quarantine zones and restrictions on people’s movement aimed at combating the spread of the virus, although necessary, have seriously curtailed the movement and marketing of food. This has lead to panic buying, food shortages and significant food price hikes on some commodities, especially in urban centers, according to a FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).
At the same time, the main harvest season for two key crops – rice and maize – is just weeks away. Labor shortages on farms due to movement restrictions and migration to other areas will seriously impact farm production, jeopardizing the food security of large numbers of people, the alert says.
Generally adequate rains during the 2014 cropping season had previously pointed to likely favorable harvests in the main Ebola-affected countries. But now food production – the areas most affected by the outbreak are among the most productive in Sierra Leone and Liberia – stands to be seriously scaled back.
Likewise, production of cash crops like palm oil, cocoa and rubber – on which the livelihoods and food purchasing power of many families depend – is expected to be seriously affected.
“Access to food has become a pressing concern for many people in the three affected countries and their neighbors,” said Bukar Tijani, FAO Regional Representative for Africa. “With the main harvest now at risk and trade and movements of goods severely restricted, food insecurity is poised to intensify in the weeks and months to come. The situation will have long-lasting impacts on farmers’ livelihoods and rural economies,” he added.
Major spikes in food prices
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are all net cereal importers, with Liberia being the most reliant on external supplies. The closure of some border crossings and the isolation of border areas where the three countries intersect – as well as reduced trade from seaports, the main conduit for large-scale commercial imports – are resulting in tighter supplies and sharply increasing food prices.
In Monrovia, Liberia, a recently conducted rapid market assessment indicates that prices of some food items have increased rapidly – for example, in Monrovia’s Redlight Market the price of cassava went up 150 percent within the first weeks of August.
“Even prior to the Ebola outbreak, households in some of the affected areas were spending up to 80 percent of their incomes on food,” said Vincent Martin, Head of FAO’s Dakar-based Resilience Hub, which is coordinating the agency’s response. “Now these latest price spikes are effectively putting food completely out of their reach. This situation may have social repercussions that could lead to subsequent impact on the disease containment.”
The depreciation of national currencies in Sierra Leone and Liberia in recent months is expected to exert further upward price pressure on imported food commodities.
To meet short-term food relief needs, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a regional emergency operation targeting some 65,000 tonnes of food to 1.3 million people.
At the same time, FAO’s special alert says that “rapid assessments are required to identify the type of measures that are feasible to mitigate the impact of labour shortages during the harvesting period and for related post-harvest activities.”
And measures to revive internal trade are essential to ease supply constraints and mitigate further food price increases, it notes.
Preventing further loss of human life and stopping the spread of the virus remain the top priorities at this time. FAO has joined the coordinated UN effort to support affected countries, is in daily communication with WHO and other key actors, and has personnel in West Africa aiding technical and logistical efforts.
It is critical that rural communities understand which practices pose the highest risks of human-to-human transmission as well as the potential spill-over from wildlife. Toward that end, FAO has activated its networks of local animal health clubs, community animal health workers, producer organizations, forestry contacts and agriculture extension and rural radio services to help UNICEF and WHO communicate risk to affected populations.
Image of coco bean from Shutterstock
If you have been looking for ways to cut down on your energy spending while contributing to salvaging the environment, the government has offered you an opportunity with its Feed-In tariffs (FIT) scheme.
Subscribers of this scheme can be paid for the electricity they generate and the surplus that gets exported back to the National Grid.
The Feed-In Tariffs scheme is administered in countries like the UK by Ofgem as a means of speeding up investments in renewable energy across the UK. FITs payments however are made by your electricity supplier. Before we see the benefits of the FITs scheme, here is a look at why you should embrace renewable energy.
Advantages of renewable energy
No global warming emissions
It is common knowledge that electricity production accounts for a huge chunk of global warming emissions around the world. Natural gas-fired power plants, coal-fired power plants etc. are beneficial to end users but the effects are long lasting on the ecosystem.
Using renewable energy sources means you are contributing your quota to ensure a reduction in these global warming emissions.
Improved environmental quality and public health
The generation of electricity from renewable energy instead of fossil fuels brings some significant public health benefits. This is because breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer etc. have been linked to air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas plants. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy has been found to reduce premature mortality as well as lost work days. It equally reduces the overall cost of health care.
Inexhaustible energy supply
All around the UK, sunny skies, strong winds, under-soil heat and fast-moving water abound. These can provide a constantly replenished source of energy. The technical potential of these sources of renewable energy is such that you don’t have to worry about depletion as it can serve the entire nation comfortably.
Renewable energy is gaining popularity across the nation now due to the stable prices. The costs of renewable energy have also continued to decline steadily and have been projected to drop even further. A look at the price of Solar Panels between 2010 and today buttresses this point. The stable pricing is also as a result of the fact that the cost of running and maintaining a renewable energy system is typically lower than what it costs to maintain fossil fuel energy. Most renewable energy equipment does not need changing for a decade or more.
Barring localised equipment damage, wind and solar energy systems are far-less prone to large-scale failure since they are distributed. As distributed systems, they are spread out across a wide geographical area and thus severe weather in one location does not affect energy supply in an entire region.
Why subscribe to the FIT scheme?
You can reduce your electricity bills
By subscribing to the FIT scheme, you will be able to generate your own clean and sustainable electricity. This should be enough to take care of your lighting needs and also power a good majority of your home appliances meaning you will purchase less electricity from your supplier. This is bound to reduce the electricity bill most of the time.
You can earn money for exporting electricity
Surplus electricity that you can generate but don’t need can be exported back to the national grid. If your eligibility is proven, you can earn 4.77p/kWh for electricity you export back to your supplier.
Interestingly, the generation and export tariff rates offered index-linked. This means that they can increase and decrease in line with the inflation numbers. The tariff rates are adjusted every year by the percentage increase or decrease in the RPI over a 12 month period culminating on 31st December of the former year.
What should you expect with Feed-In Tariffs?
The money you can earn via the Feed-In Tariffs scheme is dependent on the kind of renewable energy technology you install. However, on average a 4kWp Solar PV System that was registered before the 1st of April 2014 can generate an income of £874 in one year with the Feed-in Tariff scheme and also save the owner £250 on the annual electricity bill.
In summary, the Feed-In tariff scheme offers a three-pronged advantage that cannot be turned down. You get to contribute to saving the environment, save money on your existing bills and bring in income by exporting excess energy back to the authorities
My experience with the Turkish police was problematic. As a tourist I was accosted by a man on moped, but because the perpetrator didn’t rape me or manage to steal my bag, the police weren’t interested in my complaint. New infuriation with the police stirs: Istanbul police officer takes selfie as a man a man commits suicide this morning.
The man jumped into the Bosphorus Strait from the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul and as the police unsuccessfully coached him to back down, a cop could be seen taking a selfie of the”action”.
The suicide was slow. After a three-hour operation on the bridge, the man jumped at a reported 9:35 am, and was later found dead by naval police in the water. The police who took the selfie is now being investigated.
For those of you who want to take positive selfies – see what Tunisians are doing as they take selfies with piles of trash. Those are selfies that can lead to positive change. Not celebrating someone’s pain.
American photographer Peter Augustus has created a series of images that may change how you look at processed food and help you resist the siren call of snacking. Important images for the Middle East, where fast-food is one of the leading commercial growth sectors with junk-food-mad consumers ballooning apace with corporate profits.
I knew a woman who dropped 30 pounds taking a cue from a character in the Wally Lamb bestseller, She’s Come Undone. She imagined a thin layer of slimy mold on everything she wished to not eat – instantly killing her appetite. These pictures have the same effect.
In his latest (and ongoing) project entitled “Mystery Meat,” the Hong Kong-based artist presents popular fast-food items (such as the pork burger, hot dog, ham sandwich and chicken nuggets depicted here) substituting the processed end products with their original ingredients.
He says relocating from the US to Asia changed his thinking about food. “Arriving in Hong Kong for the first time, a city overloaded with visual stimulation, one of the most impactful scenes for me was the meat shops found in my neighborhood of Sai Ying Pun,” he told The Huffington Post.
“[In the West] most of us seldom see anything that even closely represents what kind of animal we are eating when we purchase it — it is always prepackaged, nice and neat, showcased in an air-conditioned supermarket. Being forced to pass by these meat shops on a daily basis with their pig heads, intestines, eyeballs and hearts hung on hooks out in the open led me to challenge myself to view these shops as a normal place where actual food was being sourced every day, that ended up in my meal at a local restaurant.”
Augustus says he hopes to explore the disconnect between people and the food we consume. His aim is to challenge viewers to think twice about where their meal has come from. “[With these photos] I hope to cause the viewer to take into account what the natural form of their food looks like. I think the work highlights a number of important debates, and it is not meant to be repulsive — just to raise awareness,” he said. “It also touches on the longstanding debate of the quality of chicken and meat products and the use of unnatural fillers and hormones in the animal products we eat daily.”
Green Prophet consistently covers subjects of healthy eating and Big Food. We’ve brought you stories on expansive cattle feedlots that stain the earth with bloody lakes – visible from satellites and recorded on Google maps – and reports on processed pink slime made from the byproducts of butchery. (If only the rest of human waste streams were as efficiently “upcycled”!)
Don’t be duped by processing and final presentation. Find out where and how your food is sourced. Moderate changes in how we eat can have large impact on our health and the well-being of our planet. Be more conscious about what goes on your plate.
All images by Peter Augustus
The Dead Sea is an amazing place to float, meditate, and to heal your aching body. But some guys hanging out on its shores show it is an awesome place to discover natural phenomena.
Check out the salt crystals that they collected at a recent trip to the Dead Sea in the video below.
If you are eager to “grow” your own salt crystals the video below shows how it’s done. Skip ahead to the second half of the video if you want to do it with ordinary table salt.
Isn’t nature mind blowing?
There seems to be a tremendous struggle happening in the Middle East – a fight between the good guys, like this 10-year-old Emirati wunderkid, and psychotic fundamentalists (along with a host of other corrupt elements.) The good maybe overwhelmed by the very worst bad guys there could be. And then there is the boy who already has seven scientific patents to his name.
Before I go any further, I want to point out that I came across this story over at The National, an Emirati publication. Major shoutout to Ben Flanagan, who should be in the running for a Pulitzer with this story! He really captures the essence of a boy who is just a boy, and yet he has accomplished the feats of a grown man.
It felt like Flanagan was looking for evidence that young Adeeb Al Blooshi had missed out on his childhood, but came away with the most subtle yet complex unveiling of a young person with the wisdom and knowledge of a sage – for example, the “inventor,” as Flanagan calls him, recognizes somehow that he has to separate his accomplishments from his friendships with peers his own age.
“I don’t really like to combine the inventions with my personal life. [My school friends do] ask me, and when they do I answer them,” he told The National. “But then again, we’re all busy playing football.”
Al Blooshi is an inventor, and the recipient of 100 awards and certifications. Did I mention that he is just 10 years old? Or that he is currently on a tour of seven countries under the patronage and watchful eye of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed – the Crown Prince of Dubai?
“The young scientist is on a world tour to help him build on his previous inventions, which include a prosthetic limb for his father and a housework robot for his mother,” writes Flanagan.
“Because of his work he was named by CNN as among the world’s most impressive young medical pioneers.”
For more about his work and tour, and the chance to read one of the most enjoyable pieces of journalism I’ve encountered in a long while, please head over to The National.
Lead image via Naija
Namomi Kizhner has designed a collection of jewelry that harvests energy from the human body. A thought experiment more than anything, these jewels provoke a fascinating discussion about the ends to which humans will go in order to get the next hit of energy.
Appropriately called Energy Addicts, the project explores the numerous sources of energy the human body produces and then seeks to exploit them. Made of gold and a 3D-printed biopolymer, each jewel taps a particular involuntary physiological response.
“It interested me to imagine what would the world be like once it has experienced a steep decline in energy resources and how we will feed our energy addiction,” Kizhner told Dezeen.
“There are lots of developments of renewable energy resources, but the human body is a natural resource for energy that is constantly renewed, as long as we are alive.”
For example, stems on either end of the Blood Bridge are inserted into veins on the lower arm, and blood spins the wheels to produce energy – much like hydroelectricity.
The E-pulse Conductor is slightly less invasive – it harvests electrical pulses produced by the neurological system in the wearer’s spine. But the Blinker is kind of creepy. This piece of jewelry is mounted to the wearer’s nose and eyelids to harvest kinetic energy every time the eyes blink.
Kizhner designed this series as part of her graduation project in industrial design for Hadassah College in Jerusalem. Judging by her early project, this talented young designer is going places!
Are you allowed to ride a bicycle? For Afghan girls and women, that’s a no. If they dare, people may throw rocks at them or call them unspeakable names. The Global Ride for Solidarity coming up this weekend is designed to catalyze a new cultural paradigm in the country, one that finds riding a bicycle in Afghanistan as normal as walking.
American National Geographic Adventurer and Afghan Cycles Producer Shannon Galpin has spent the last seven years working in Afghanistan, driven it seems by a powerful conviction that bicycles can be used as a conduit for social change and justice – particularly for young girls and women.
She founded the non-profit Mountain2Mountain to provide tools that help women ride their bicycles freely, and is now working really hard to help ensure that athletes can train and compete in a safe environment both at home and abroad.
This includes working with local officials and elders to alter their perspective of the bicycle’s role and worth in a community, and involving them in a movement to normalize female cycling so that it is no longer considered an egregious social taboo.
Shannon Galpin wants to turn the bicycle into a catalyst of freedom. And she appears to be going through smart and respectful channels in order to make that happen.
“A recent Human Rights Watch study states that Afghans perceive women’s cycling as a step above morality crimes like adultery,” she writes on her website. But you can help slay that myth.
On August 30, 2014, get on a bike, ask someone to take a photo or stage a selfie, and post it on all your social media sites – such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to show that you support women and cycling – everywhere in the world. And for maximum effect and fun, be sure to use these hashtags: #pedalarevolution #afghancycles #solidarityride2014.
Whether you join a ride or create your own, there are numerous ways to show your solidarity with the Afghan women who know the thrill of riding through epic mountains, who have tasted the blessed freedom that comes with being a powerhouse on a bike.
You might also want to catch Afghan Cycles, a feature length documentary that explores what life is like for members of the Afghan Women’s National Cycling team. A Let Media production directed by Sarah Menzies, the documentary incorporates storytelling and striking footage in often inhospitable and dangerous territory. This project could also use your support.
Visit Solidarity Ride on Facebook for more information.
Maybe we’d have a little more tolerance and understanding in this world if ISIS just smoked some of the plants instead. Or maybe the plan is to smoke some of the spoils. Watch the video above as ISIS burns alleged cannabis plant fields in Syria.
I was in Syria 15 years ago as a tourist and didn’t see a trace of cannabis anywhere in the ultra conservative country. It could be grown for shipping the pot abroad to attractive markets nearby in Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.
A startup company I am building called flux is developing a technology that could be used to help consumers (where it’s legal) grow medical cannabis. Sign up here at flux to be updated when we launch.
Meanwhile I am going to look around for the pot hummous recipe I saw online somewhere. Oh here it is. Very appropriate for these crazy times.
Want to know more about cannabis in the Middle East? Our Israeli correspondent Miriam goes on a tour of Tikkun Olam, one of 8 licensed grow ops in Israel. Read the whole story here.
The ever increasing amount of space junk makes it dangerous to pass through Earth’s orbit. Space junk can intercept and hit satellites throwing them out of orbit. But wayward satellites still able to perform may get a tow back to position thanks to a new Israeli startup. Need a lift?
The robotic space tow truck developed by Effective Space Solutions is now in talks with manufacturers to help them create a tugboat or DeOrbiter microsatellite. The company expects to “launch” within two years.
The aim of inventors is to help it reposition satellites if they’ve gone off course – or push them off course where they can effectively “die” in a satellite graveyard several hundred kilometers above their usual orbit of 36,000 kilometers above our heads.
There are currently two stranded Galileo Project satellites and the company says that their solution could bring them back on course and live out their days until the satellites run out of energy.
Effective Space Solutions was founded in 2012 by veterans of the Israeli space industry and the company now seeks additional funds after raising a $1.5 million seed fund from Singulariteam and the Israel Space Agency.
Arie Halsband is the company’s founder.
This invention reminds me of that 80s show What Will They Think of Next. I am hoping they’ll figure out a robot to clean up our space junk.
While many Muslims don’t drink alcohol, the people of Batroun, Lebanon love their beer. At least according to Jamil al-Haddad, the visionary behind Colonel beer and a new microbrewery built out of recycled materials.
Jamil has been brewing beer for a very long time, and took several classes abroad in order to hone his craft.
“I was 17 when I started to make liqueur at home, Irish cream, banana, strawberry. I started in order to make a bit more money so I could buy myself windsurf boards,” he told Lebanon’s Daily Star. “I began while I was in the boy scouts, and then I made it at home.”
In addition to brewing a fine micro beer called Colonel, the 30-year-old entrepreneur commissioned Cedar Environmental to help make the building in which this alchemy takes place a powerful showcase of renewable materials and clean energy – a very ambitious move for the coastal business.
The brewery’s walls are clad in recycled wooden crates and the wall panels designed by engineer Ziad Abichaker are comprised of bricks made of melted down recycled plastic. The brewery has used up the equivalent of two million plastic bags, according to Your Middle East.
Other recycled materials have been incorporated into the project, which eventually will include a restaurant, bar and other facilities that Jamil has up his sleeve.
“This will be an outdoor area for barbecues, beer festivals and other cool summer events,” he explains to Daily Star, and a spot near the sea has been designated for small bungalows.
The idea is to create a welcoming and an educational space for visitors, who will be able to take tours of the brewery before or after eating a wholesome lunch.
:: Daily Star
Image via Your Middle East
Are you tired of seeing the same old giant wind turbines in a field or offshore? And do you worry about their impact on migrating birds? Hooman Tahvildar Akbary from Iran has a solution that is both super efficient and beautiful.
Designed for the 2014 Land Art Generator Initiative Competition, a site specific art and energy competition for Copenhagen, Blowing Horn references the horns people used to use to communicate to one another over great distances (to me, a hard of hearing person, it looks like the horns we used to use to hear.)
Except this particular horn comes with an interesting twist.
“By reducing the cone diameter from the mouth,” writes the design team, “the speed of the wind increases towards the narrower end of the horn—an application of the compact acceleration turbine lens that makes use of the venture effect.”
The inside of the giant horn ‘monument’ contains a multi-rotor turbine that uses just one drive shaft. Designed by Doug Selsam, this technology allows for additional energy generation. While the horn captures the energy, the large base upon which it rests serves a separate function, the designers explain.
“The ship form at the base of monument is designed to act as a channel, which leads wind through a Windbelt™ array on the deck and the outer shell of this new golden horn for environmental energy production.
True to the competition guidelines, this energy generator doubles as a stellar example of public art that not only engages the public, but also generates energy.
The Land Art Generator Initiative got its start in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in 2010, and awards for the third biannual competition will be presented in Copenhagen in October, 2014 by Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action.
Sometimes, design really does change lives. Dr. Amit Goffer previously designed ReWalk, a device that gives paraplegics paralyzed from the waste down mobility again. But 90 percent of handicapped people are unable to use it. In order to give quadriplegics a similar new lease on life, the Israeli designer made a few modifications with UPnRIDE.
“I have the benefit of being confined to a wheelchair so I tried to create the ultimate solution for the handicapped as I see it,” Dr. Goffer, who is working with RehaMed Technologies CEO Oren Tamari on the new product, told NoCamels.
“The person on the outside will see it as a Segway and not a wheelchair. For the younger generation of handicapped individuals, this is especially important.”
The upright wheelchair incorporates new balancing technology that allows even quadriplegics, who have no control over their bodies, to traverse a wide range of terrain with confidence. Imagine that – someone confined to a wheelchair now has the same kind of mobility that able-bodied people enjoy.
UPnRide allows users to maintain their center of gravity – whether they are sitting or standing, and a stabilized platform ensures vertical balance. If the user does fall at all, safety arms will immediately grab them and place them back in the mobile device very similar to a Segway.
While the design is a couple of years from market, Dr. Goffer expects a completed prototype of the pending patent within the next few months. And if it’s anything like the ReWalk, which just received U.S. FDA approval for home use, it’s bound to be a huge hit.
Most Gulf countries import up to 90 percent of their food, which neither bodes well for food security no climate change – since the food that is brought in from Europe and elsewhere has a lot of what are called “food miles.” True to their name, Forward Thinking Architecture proposes a solar-powered hydroponic food belt as a solution.
Acknowledging that they are not designing anything new – because there are already several projects throughout the Arabian peninsula that utilize the sun and hydroponics to deliver food in the desert. One project that comes to mind is the Sahara Forest Project which has received a great deal of international press.
The OAXIS system aims to fuse existing technology in a modular, linear arrangement. The growing medium will consist of prefabricated and recycled steel structures equipped with super efficient irrigation technology that uses roughly 80 percent less water than most farms require. Rooftop solar panels provide energy not only for the architecture itself, but also to power artificial LED lighting that will help promote greater crop growth.
In order to transport these crops directly to cities throughout the peninsula, the design team proposes an underground transportation network that would also be powered by solar energy. In this way, the system is completely self-sufficient, and hardly contributes at all to harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
“…our objective is not to compete with nature and its amazing processes or with an existing oasis such as Al-Hasa, the design team says in their brief. “What we propose is a safe and controlled hydroponic facility based on a modular linear pattern, a city new ‘green axis.’
“It will produce solar energy to become self-sufficient and capable of running an underground transportation system that deliver the crops directly to the cities, shortening long distance food transportation (imports) and therefore reducing CO2 emissions.”
We particularly love the use of recycled steel, which has a very high embodied energy footprint, as well as the ubiquitous use of renewable energy. And the crops will grow year-round and could include strawberries, tomatoes, rocket, potatoes, thyme, lettuce, bell peppers, basil and more.
It’s an impressive design, and it could work!
Here is a cautionary tale of two very different countries which once shared a similar water use philosophy and usage patterns. The right photo is in Jordan’s Wadi-Rum desert. The forest on the left is in Ireland.
Parts of this country receive up to 4 meters of rain each year. But Ireland was running out of water so its government recently brought in water charges. Here is why.
Jordan is one of the world’s driest countries, with desert comprising 75 percent of its land area. The entire country averages only about 160mm of annual rainfall and 41 percent of its land receives fewer than 50mm of rain each year.
Ireland receives an average of 1000mm of annual rainfall and parts of its Atlantic coastline receive nearly 4000mm (4 meters) of rain each year. Ireland’s driest recorded year was 1887 when only 356.6 mm of rain fell, more than twice Jordan’s average rainfall. With such a plentiful source of freshwater, Ireland never had to pay for huge reservoirs, desalinization plants, waste-water reclamation systems or Red to Dead sea projects.
In fact, in 1997, the government of Ireland decided that water should be a basic human right. So domestic water charges were abolished. Ireland did this thirteen years before the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 64/292 in July 2010 which also “Recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”
Water, they argued, shouldn’t be a commodity. Water should be a human right.
Irish residents took full advantage of this basic right. They washed their cars, dishes, clothes, bathed, showered and drank the free water. They could even water their golf courses and gardens during rainstorms and let their faucets drip 24 hours per day, 365 days per year– all for free because there was no such thing as a water meter!
Hundreds of thousands of new homes were built without any consideration for water efficiency. Flush a toilet in a brand new million dollar Dublin home and seven liters of freshwater will begin a journey to the sea. Water was free so one noticed or cared when leaks in pipes developed. It is estimated that 41% of Ireland public utility water leaked away from underground pipes before arriving into Irish homes.
The average Irish citizen consumed 140 cubic meters of water per year. This is between two and three times the average for the rest of Europe and slightly less than a Jordanian’s average water consumption of 170 cubic meters per year.
It wasn’t long before the rainy country of Ireland began to experience water shortages. Ireland’s just-in-time rainwater delivery system couldn’t cope as the demand from growth and leaks and wastage grew towards infinity.
An Irish government report published in 2012 concluded that “Our current model of water provision, where unlimited quantities of an expensive product are provided at no charge, is simply not sustainable,” as economist Milton Friedman once said, “If you put the Federal Government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there will be a shortage of sand.”
It took slightly longer than 5 years but in 2014, only 17 years after the Irish government abolished water charges, the water charges came back. This time the government wasn’t shy about putting a price tag on this valuable and limited resource. As yet another Atlantic storm drops torrents of Gulf Stream humidity onto this Emerald Isle, the Irish water charges are estimated to start at €1.70 per cubic meter.
Meanwhile in Jordan, water costs €1.92 per cubic meter but subsidies reduce this so that only about €0.51 of this is passed on to the water user. So unless you’re willing to soap up outside in the rain, a shower in Cork Ireland (1207mm rain/year) will cost more than three times as much as a shower in Amman Jordan. (271mm rain/year). Put another way, a faucet that leaks one drop per second would cost about 15€ each year in Ireland and only 4€ in Jordan.
But what would happen if Jordan ran out of water or if the government could no longer guarantee the purity of Jordan’s water supply? People might buy bottled water. At about €0.50 per liter, bottled water costs €500 per cubic meter. This is 260 times the cost of Jordan’s municipal water. Sometimes governments must charge for a limited resource in order to reflect the true social cost of that resource. This is certainly true of water. After all, water is a basic human right.
Photo of Ireland and Wadi Rum desert by Brian Nitz.
A farmer in Al Ain, the very green, flowery emirate bordering Dubai, claims that after three years of impregnating legions of nannies on his farm, his billy goat suddenly sprouted udders. And then produced milk.
Mr. Nasser Al Alwi paid about $820 for his billy goat at a livestock show in the United Arab Emirates. It has since been used to breed, and has not disappointed his proud owner, who says he wouldn’t sell this goat for 10 times as much as he is worth.
There did not appear to have been any warning that the billy goat would essentially become a hermaphrodite. In addition to retaining his reproductive organs, “or the parts that make him male,” says Al Alwi, he also started to produce ‘milk’ from two new udders.
Although he is confident that his billy goat is producing delicious milk, Mr. Al Alwi has chosen a cautious path and sent the milk for laboratory testing to ensure there’s nothing too freaky about it – before he considers allowing others to have a taste.
“We are waiting for the lab test results to make sure the milk is of good quality and fit for human consumption and whether it could be used for medicinal purposes,” he told The National.
Mr. Alwi may be hoping that he has found his miracle meal ticket, his path to unlimited wealth and freedom – a hermaphrodite who makes powerful babies and then feeds them, but men and women of science might have burst his bubble.
“He is producing something else – but it is not milk,” Veterinarian Dr Ulrich Wernery told The National. “It is impossible, absolutely impossible. Because it is a male that is why. There are female organs and then there are male organs.”
“From my opinion it is ridiculous.”
Read the rest of the story, which becomes even more bizarre, over at The National.
Stock image of billy goat | Shutterstock