Bernard Khoury is one of Lebanon’s most sought after architects, and now he has built his own home – a rooftop penthouse bam smack in the middle of Beirut. Brownbook magazine recently interviewed the celebrated designer; hit the jump to find out what they learned.
With so much construction and so little thoughtful urban planning, Beirut has become what many call a ‘concrete jungle’ – a mismatch of old dilapidated buildings and new construction competing for what little space is left in the crowded Mediterranean City.
This is the city so much of Khoury’s most popular work has emerged, and now, finally, he has made it the resting spot for him and his family.
Brownbook contributor John Burns writes:
Having designed the building himself, Khoury – arguably Lebanon’s most sought-after architect – framed the city he repeatedly describes as having been ‘cannibalised’, ‘ravaged’ and ‘ruined’ by rapid property development with a 12 metre-high, wall to wall window in the main room of his apartment, inviting his beloved urban portrait to take pride of place.
That same window brings plenty of natural light into the three story home, which is comprised of an entry level where most of the home’s functions are situation – including the kitchen and dining area, a mezzanine area for his two children, and a third autonomous room for guests that leads out to rooftop terrace and swimming pool.
While Khoury typically is not concerned with interiors, in this case he designed much of the furniture as well, including a stunning long dining room table akin to a farmhouse design, except significantly more modern.
A leather swing overlooks the bustling city below, and elaborate étagères on either end of the reception area were crafted by a local artisan. It is this that particularly interested us about this otherwise not-very-green million dollar home.
“I worked with an artisan who used to work with both my grandfather and my father – an old man with a great knowledge of wood,” Khoury tells Brownbook.
“I’m a big advocate of trying to reconnect with local artisans wherever you are across the planet when trying to design and build.”
:: Story and images via Brownbook Magazine
This year’s lineup of five “supermoons” may put a sky-watcher to sleep. There were the new moons of January and February, followed by one on July 13th. So if you glimpsed one of those, did you catch another on August 10th (and the final act that happens on September 8th)?
Because last night’s moon was the closest the cheesy orb has ever been to Earth this year.
You likely learned about moons many moons ago. It’s a cycle that looms large in Islamic religion, and serves as a natural time clock for female fertility. It goes through phases every 29.5 days moving from full to half moon to crescent to new. And – with the same reliability as sunrises and sets – the cycle repeats.
So what’s a Super Moon? It’s an astronomical mash-up of two distinct lunar aspects. When a full moon is coincidental with the moon orbiting at its closest point to Earth, astronomers describe it as a “perigee full moon”. A perigee is the point in outer space where an object traveling around the Earth is closest to Earth’s surface, and they routinely happen whether or not the moon is full.
According to the Weather Network, lunar perigees differ depending on measured orbit, ranging from 356,400 to 370,400 kilometers from Earth. A perigee full moon is specifically when the full moon happens closest to the minimum of that range. They typically occur every 13-14 months, but could some years have produced up to six Super Moons.
Last night’s Super Moon - at 356,896 km away, his year’s truest perigee full moon – occurred when full moon and perigee happen less than half an hour apart from one another.
It’s not always easy to gauge the size of the moon as we watch it in the sky (which is apparently one possible reason for the famous ‘moon illusion’), but being closer generally makes a perigee full moon look around 14 per cent bigger than an apogee full moon, and it gives off about 30 per cent more light as a result.
Parking Full Moon myths such as werewolves, lunatics and a jump in babies being born, what can you really expect? It could cause higher than usual tides – not good news for people in the path of Hurricanes Julio, Halong and Genevieve.
It will reduce your star-gazing if you happen to be camping at Jordan’s Wadi Rum, Egypt’s Sharm El Sheik or Israel’s Mitzpe Ramon .
To make sure your own skies will be clear for Super Moon viewing, tune in to your local weather forecast.
Image of moon over Egypt desert from Shutterstock
The prospect of climate change sparking food and water shortages in the Middle East is less likely than previously thought, with new research by an Australian climate scientist suggesting that rainfall will be significantly higher in key parts of the region.
Recent projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) raised fears that storm activity in the eastern Mediterranean would decline this century if global warming continues on present trends. In turn, that would have reduced rainfall by between 15 and 25 per cent over a large part of the so-called Fertile Crescent.
This is land encompassing parts of Turkey, Syria, northern Iraq, and north-eastern Iran and the strategically important headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
When University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre researcher Dr Jason Evans analysed the IPPC projections, he found that the region’s agricultural base faced significant challenges as a result.
About 170,000 square kilometres of viable rain-fed agricultural land would be lost; a longer dry season would limit grazing on rangelands; and changes in the timing of maximum rainfall would force farmers in northern Iran to change cropping strategies and even crop types.
The results are to be published in the journal Climatic Change.
But the IPCC projections were based on the results of global modelling of climate change, which tends to obscure smaller-scale regional effects.
“The global models are good for investigating what’s likely to happen on a planetary scale but the resolution is quite coarse when looking at a more localised regional scale,” says Dr Evans. “It’s a bit like enlarging a digital photograph until it becomes pixellated and all sorts of detail is blurred out.”
“Simulating the climate of the region is a challenge for climate models, due in part to the high natural inter-annual variability, the topography of the region – which includes multiple mountain ranges and inland seas – and the presence of a slight cooling trend in recent decades despite the global trend being a warming.”
So in a second far more detailed study, to be published in the Journal of Hydrometeorology, Evans used regional climate modelling specific to the Middle East, and the result was very different.
It emerged that while storm activity over the eastern Mediterranean would indeed decline, moisture-bearing winds would be channelled inland more often and diverted by the Zagros Mountains, bringing an increase of over 50% in annual rainfall to the Euphrates-Tigris watershed.
“We need to confirm this result with other models, but a 50 per cent increase in rainfall in such an important agricultural area is a much more hopeful scenario than a 15 per cent decline,” says Evans.
Image of the Tigris River in Turkey from Shutterstock
Sunni fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took over Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam last Sunday, along with three towns and an oilfield according to the commander of the Peshmerga Kurdish fighters who had been defending the facility. Facing minimal opposition, ISIS seized control of Mosul Dam after a 24-hour battle. Workers remain inside the facility.
Seizing dams is a proven tactic used to gain control in warfare; the Mosul Dam gives ISIS the ability to cut electrical power or flood cities located along the Tigris River. It could prove a turning point in Iraq’s mounting civil war, a significant step towards toppling the Shi’ite government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
“If you control the Mosul Dam, you can threaten just about everybody,” Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum told CNN. He added that ISIS now has the potential to create a massive flood that would not only cause local death and destruction, but also extend 30 miles to Mosul and over 280 miles to Baghdad.
According to Al Arabiya news, ISIS has warned residents in nearby villages along the Syrian border to leave their homes, hinting at a planned assault.
The humanitarian situation of civilians is reported as dire, and they are in urgent need of basic items including food, water and medicine. If floods happen, conditions will rapidly deteriorate, ushering in monumental public health and environmental challenges to this already beleaguered region.
Since thousands of Iraqi soldiers fled ISIS offensives, Shi’ite militias and Kurdish fighters have providing a critical line of defense, but recent losses have shown Kurdish fighters to be ineffective, placing increased pressure on Iraqi leaders to form a power-sharing government capable of countering the Islamic State.
Using social media to promote and propagandize their actions, ISIS tweeted its intention to open the borderline between Ninawa and Dohuk provinces, a linking to a statement which said, “The Islamic Caliphate legions have launched operations towards the northwestern regions…God facilitated for the mujahedeen to break into many important areas controlled by the Kurdish gangs and secular militias.”
With a growing reputation for performing public executions, crucifixions and beheadings as it works its way through towns and villages populated by vulnerable minorities, ISIS is “a dire threat to all Iraqis, the entire region, and the international community,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The group – which seeks to create an Islamic caliphate that encompasses both Iraq and Syria – is considered the biggest threat to the stability of Iraq since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein.
Image of Mosul Dam from BBC/AFP
More than 100 graffiti artists were invited to Tunisia as part of the Djerbahood project – an inventive rehabilitation initiative that uses street art to turn a dusty village into an inspiring open air gallery.
We have watched with great interest as Tunisia’s graffiti culture has grown since post-Jasmine revolution. Artists like VA-JO and El Seed have dazzled us with great designs, along with a unifying sociocultural message that spins the stereotype of the anarchist street artist.
And while the political landscape in Tunisia remains tenuous, graffiti artists appear to have significant freedom and support to share their work.
In particular, 150 artists from 30 different countries were invited to participate in the Djerbahood, where they painted old, dilapidated and perfectly good buildings with their signature style. Famous Belgian artist ROA was among the artists whose playful work incorporates certain domed buildings into his pieces – like the large octopus with a bulbous head.
El Seed, who is Tunisian, was also present for the massive paint out. And we are also particularly enamored with the artist from Mexico, Curiot, who added a significant splash of color to the village.
The site of one of the world’s oldest and most famous synagogues, the El Ghriba synagogue, Djerba is the largest island of North Africa at 198 square miles.
Support for this inspiring project came from the Embassy of France in Tunisia, and Boga Cidre, Airbus, One Tech, Digard, SEH Legal and Yosr Ben Ammar.
A municipality in Morocco has similarly used graffiti in order to stem urban decay and to find idleness among the youth.
An Israeli industrial designer has created the world’s first “Social Gas Mask” whose sleek space-age form allows for less hindered swapping of facial expressions. In a crisis (which is pretty much any time a gas mask is needed), who wouldn’t want better visible access to other people’s faces?
The new mask is being pitched as something that won’t impede your regular activities. Masked models are shown cuddling on their couch and checking email on their smartphones.
Got friends coming over to watch the newest episode of Tyrant? Why let looming chemical warfare get in your way?
Zlil Lazarovich was inspired to take up the project after her childhood experiences during the 1991 Gulf War: “I remember the alarms, the panic, my parents putting on my mask and sitting for long periods of time in the chemically sealed room we prepared at home,” she said.
“These events and memories, which are not unique to myself but are also a part of the collective memory of all Israelis, made me realize how important it is to maintain a sense of normality even in the most stressful times.”
Gas masks have been around since World War I. Primitive respirators were in use by the 1800’s, designed to protect against inhalation of gaseous chemicals or airborne particulates and used mostly by miners and those who worked with chemicals. Mask design has largely been unchanged except for improvements to materials and filtering devices. The clunky contraptions conceal the user’s face, which – in turn – limits communication by literally “masking” facial expressions.
Lazarovich is trying to change the way people perceive gas masks by removing the fear factor. Social Gas Mask is designed to offer “an empowering image and a positive experience”. Its large vision panels, side filters and small mouth opening facilitate better communication between individuals spending time together in stressful situations.
“The wide, cheeky shape of the filters gives the impression of a wide, healthy and happy face instead of a long, skeleton-like one,” she added.
Nonverbal behavior is the most crucial aspect of communication. After several studies on nonverbal communication, Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, concluded that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements – including facial expressions. Enhancing the possibilities for nonverbal communication is at the core of Lazarovich’s design.
The mask is conceptual and there are no plans to commercially produce it at this time. Interesting improvements to an old piece of technology, for sure. But a crying shame it’s functionality is still necessary.
Images from Zlil Lazarovich
Personal grooming can be murderous! That’s the takeaway message of a two-century-old crime and modern women are taking note, inciting others to join their cause on Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr.
In 1793, radical revolutionary journalist Jean-Paul Marat was killed by a female Royalist; fatally stabbed in his bathtub, where he would sit for hours treating a skin disease that had plagued him for years. (Image above spoofs “Death of Marat” painted by his pal, Jacques-Louis David.) His bathroom ritual helped do him in, is your daily routine killing you too?
Now legions of women weary of razor cuts, wax burns (start using sugar wax – here’s our recipe) and depilatory rashes are teaming up on social media in groups dedicated to the unshaven female body. It’s a revolt that arises every few generations against a style norm; a buck against an estimated 6,000 years of human slavery to shaving.
Shaving evolved not so much for vanity as for health (ancient Egyptians went hairless to deter lice and prevent disease). It eventually gained secular style status and significance in religion too with Jewish and Islamic laws specifically addressing shaving practices.
The act of shaving (or not) has frequently been political, used to convey personal rebellion. More recently, it’s assumed an environmental component – with disparate groups such as The Sierra Club and beer-brewer Budweiser urging men to grow beards to save water (3 gallons is used for a typical facial shave). A hirsute-ladies trend is also gaining traction online.
Fish around on Facebook and discover groups such as a Swedish gang named “Ta håret tillbaka!“, Hairy Armpits, and Hairy Legs (which turned out to be a dog-walking service). Some are clearly fetish groups, others offer bona fide support and encouragement to women considering a foray into fuzz.
WANG (Women Against Non-Essential Grooming) believes, “Everyone should be free from coercive gendered bodily norms. We look forward to a day when people can present their bodies in whatever way they choose, free from social constraints.”
The Hairy Legs Club Tumblr site self-describes as a “positive space”, and the Very Hairy Legs blog celebrates women who decided to stop shaving.
An unscientific survey (of friends who answered my calls this morning) showed no takers for this trend. There were waxers and sugarers, predictable for the Middle East where girly body baldness reigns supreme.
Shavers were divided between those who do it every day versus only when they “need to” (qualified as beach visits, jobs that require wearing a skirt, or important dates).
So will you ditch your depilatory? Reject the razor? Give it a test-run with a pair of “hairy leg socks” like those shown below.
Share your views, but please – no pictures!
Images from WANG’s Facebook Page
In 2011, scientists warned that giant plumes of methane gas could fast-track planetary warming. And now – a version of this prediction has come to pass in Siberia. Despite being at the “ends of the Earth,” Yamal Peninsula’s three methane craters contain a cautionary tale for us all.
While more research needs to be done before we can jump to hasty conclusions, the details surrounding the craters that suddenly emerged in Siberia point to a climatic disaster of epic proportions, the kind Bill McKibben from 350.org has been warning us about for decades.
Three craters have appeared in the Arctic environment, where temperatures have risen on average 5 degrees Celsius in the last couple of years, according to the Washington Post. One is nearly 100 feet in diameter and contains extraordinarily high levels of methane.
“Gas pressure increased until it was high enough to push away the overlaying layers in a powerful injection, forming the crater,” “href=”http://www.nature.com/news/mysterious-siberian-crater-attributed-to-methane-1.15649″>explained geochemist Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.
The other two craters have diameters of 45 feet and 13 feet. And while the pockmarked peninsula poses a particular risk to local people, especially considering that industrial plants have been erected on the frozen land that is now melting away, the global community will be affected as well.
Despite the danger of investigating this “spooky” unstable landmass, archaeologist Andrei Plekhanov from the Scientific Center of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia reported in a recent Nature article that the air at the bottom of the crater consists of up to 9.6 percent methane – compared to the standard 0.000179 percent.
This is worrisome because methane is far more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping greenhouse gases in our atmosphere – the one atmosphere that everyone on planet Earth shares.
“Pound for pound, the comparative impact of [methane gas] on climate change is over 20 times greater than [carbon dioxide] over a 100-year period,” the Environmental Protection Agency reported.
NIMBYism refers to the idea that as long as something bad (pollution, mining, social injustice) is taking place anywhere other than my back yard, it’s not my problem. But the thawing permafrost and subsequent release of methane bombs is everyone’s problem.
Image of the Siberian crater via AFP/Getty Images
Is there anything worse than being in a hot city with cars idling, kicking up heat and pollution? We don’t think so, and apparently Erick van Egeraat agrees. The city of Unaizah has approved Egeraat’s plans to build a massive ring road around the city, as well as an underground street.
Erick van Egeraat submitted a plan to build a ring road that encircles the 58-hectare city center. This is a one-way road that has four lanes of traffic. The diameter of the East/West route is 800 meters while the North/South route comprises a diameter of 920 meters.
And this is where it gets interesting. The master plan includes an underground street that travels North/South and links, along with the ring road, to an underground parking lot. With this, the design team hopes to limit the aboveground vehicular traffic and ensure easier pedestrian access to the city.
Work has already commenced on the ring road construction, and Egeraat is finalizing the master plan and other building projects.
Included in the city’s upgrade is a push to grow more palm trees inside the city center to reference those that have historically grown just outside the city. Plus this creates an environment that is more conducive to social engagement than one without any green spaces, and provides much needed shade in the brutal heat.
Also on the docket are more retail facilities, residential quarters, a mosque, and a mall. The latter will be decked out with vertical gardens and perhaps even waterworks (we hope they use reclaimed water.)
To date the most efficient way of making solar cells is using silicon. Now a team of scientists at the University of Sheffield in the UK is the first to fabricate perovskite solar cells using a spray-painting process – a discovery that could help cut the cost of solar electricity.
Cutting the cost of solar energy, PV and CSP is the reason why last year was a record year for solar energy uptake globally – as we reported.
The Sheffield team found that by spray-painting the perovskite they could make prototype solar cells with efficiency of up to 11 per cent. Lead researcher Professor David Lidzey said: “There is a lot of excitement around perovskite based photovoltaics.
“This study advances existing work where the perovskite layer has been deposited from solution using laboratory scale techniques. It’s a significant step towards efficient, low-cost solar cell devices made using high volume roll-to-roll processing methods.”
Experts from the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering have previously used the spray-painting method to produce solar cells using organic semiconductors – but using perovskite is a major step forward.
Efficient organometal halide perovskite based photovoltaics were first demonstrated in 2012. They are now a very promising new material for solar cells as they combine high efficiency with low materials costs.
The spray-painting process wastes very little of the perovskite material and can be scaled to high volume manufacturing – similar to applying paint to cars and graphic printing.
“Remarkably, this class of material offers the potential to combine the high performance of mature solar cell technologies with the low embedded energy costs of production of organic photovoltaics.”
While most solar cells are manufactured using energy intensive materials like silicon, perovskites, by comparison, requires much less energy to make. By spray-painting the perovskite layer in air the team hope the overall energy used to make a solar cell can be reduced further.
Professor Lidzey (pictured above) said: “The best certified efficiencies from organic solar cells are around 10 per cent.
“Perovskite cells now have efficiencies of up to 19 per cent. This is not so far behind that of silicon at 25 per cent – the material that dominates the world-wide solar market.”
He added: “The perovskite devices we have created still use similar structures to organic cells. What we have done is replace the key light absorbing layer – the organic layer – with a spray-painted perovskite.
“Using a perovskite absorber instead of an organic absorber gives a significant boost in terms of efficiency.”
Solar power is becoming an increasingly important component of the world-wide renewables energy market and continues to grow at a remarkable rate despite the difficult economic environment.
Professor Lidzey said: “I believe that new thin-film photovoltaic technologies are going to have an important role to play in driving the uptake of solar-energy, and that perovskite based cells are emerging as likely thin-film candidates. “
Pull free, safe drinking water straight from the sky!
The earth’s atmosphere is a huge freshwater reserve, packed with 13,000 cubic kilometers of moisture, yet over 150 million of people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. Green Prophet has reported on billboards that harvest clean water from air. A company called Eole Water has taken the same concept and “built a better mousetrap” – or in this case, better wind turbine – retooling technology to siphon 1,000 liters of clean water a day from the same wind that is used to generate renewable energy.
They’ve been testing their prototype in the desert environment of Mussafah, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. Results indicate that this self-sufficient wind turbine (powered by a combination of solar and wind energy) is capable of producing up to 1,000 liters of potable water on a daily basis.
This system sidesteps a need to connect to a wider power grid, and its intelligent maintenance management system makes it particularly well suited to areas with little or no access to basic infrastructure.
It employs a condenser with a moisture exchange surface that is one meter wide and five kilometers long. Built from a revolutionary “food safe” alloy, it can sustain the water creation process for decades without risk of corrosion.
This new technology is maximally sustainable with air and sunshine being the only consumables. There is no carbon dioxide released, no groundwater drilling or water surface pumping. Collected water flows through a five-part water treatment system, including an ultraviolet filter, resulting in water that exceeds the drinking water standards required by the World Health Organization.
Components have been designed to withstand the most extreme climates with features such as:
- A hydraulic tilted mast able to withstand strong winds which does not require heavy lifting equipment for each maintenance operation
- Automatic shutters to protect against sandstorms and high densities of dust particles
- A remote monitoring system which enables our technical teams to detect any dysfunctions
There are similar technologies coming online all over the world which extract condensation from the air and convert it into drinking water. Many take on the added functionality of being able to provide drinking water to isolated communities. Technological multi-tasking with a green pedigree – it’s no wonder that last year Eole Water was awarded with a special Jury mention of “Enterprises and Environment Prize” in the category “Innovation in Technology”, organized by the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy.
Images from Eole Water
The Rose of Jericho (in this case Latin name Selaginella lepidophylla) is a type of desert moss found in Israel and Jordan which has the ability to quite literally ‘resurrect’ itself after extreme bouts dehydration, sometimes for years. Christians therefore call it the Resurrection flower.
When you expose the Rose of Jericho to water, the result is breathtaking. After a few short hours it uncurls from a tight ball into a green flower. See this timelapse video below by Sean Steininger. And some gifs from the film.
I’ve seen the Rose of Jericho in dried form for sale at Christian pilgrim sites in Israel. No doubt if you look hard enough on your travels you’ll find it in the wild – just like the old miswak toothbrush spotted in the Dead Sea.
The Rose of Jericho is also known as the Flower of Maryam and is used by midwives all over the Middle East. According to Baraka Birth, “traditional midwives have used the Flower of Maryam with their laboring mothers for hundreds of years.
“A quick glance at its names suggests its religious significance: it is referred to as the “leaf of Maryam” (mother of Jesus), the “hand of Fatima” (daughter of the Prophet ), as well as simply “daughter of the Prophet,” and “resurrection plant.”
“It is referenced in the Bible in II Kings 19:34-36 and in Psalms 83:13, “make them like tumbleweed,” here referring to the dried twiggy balls of Anastatica that disperse in the wind, scattering its seeds.
You can buy it here – some places actually sell the stuff online!
If you are addicted – watch the full life cycle of the Rose of Sharon come to life in this time lapse video:
Street art helps the young generation cope with discontent and dissent- making space for fresh ideas, while preserving old values. At least that’s how we see it in this fantastic series of Tunisian murals which take the old Arabian domed style architecture in Tunisia and playfully interacts with it.
The street art was created by ROA with some 150 others as part of Galerie Itinerrance’s Djerbahood open air museum project in Djerba, Tunisia. This artist took advantage of the domed buildings in the city for several of his monochromatic spray paint murals that spread across multiple surfaces.
Israeli designer HIlla Shamia has found a way to mix “oil and water” or aluminum and wood – two materials I’ve never seen fused together. The product designer has created a novel way to meld both poured aluminum with irregular wood chunks to create modern tables and benches with a warm industrial feel. Old world and new world in one.
We’ve been seeing designers and so-called nature lovers pouring molten aluminum into everything from beehives to scorpion dens to get intricate patterns laid by nature.
Hilla’s process preserves the natural tree form while the molten aluminum goes with the flow as it finds its way into cracks of the wood, burning the wood ever so slightly where the two pieces meet.
Israel’s Hiriya Park, also known lovingly and totally sarcastically in some circles as shi*t mountain, is the one thing you’ll notice driving from the airport to Tel Aviv. It used to be where where Tel Aviv sent all its stinky trash, and baby diapers. Now it’s becoming Tel Aviv’s Central Park.
Shut down about a decade ago because of neighbors and birds getting caught in the flight path, Hiriya is now becoming an ecological wonder. I visited the park a few months ago when some green bloggers from big media were in town, and am impressed to see its progress.
When people from far and wide think that the Middle East is a backwards, backwater place, look at marvels like this: a massive landfill site now being transformed into a 2,000 acre park that will contain bike trails, energy reclamation, and soil rehabilitation. Let’s look beyond conflict and look to a green future, hopefully for all.
Tunisia offers other-worldly landscapes, fantastical and mysterious. Did you know that four of the Star Wars movies were partially filmed in the southern part of the country? (Tunisia had a starring role as the planet Tatooine). Now, adding to the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert, the tiny republic has another tourist attraction – a newborn lake.
Discovered by shepherds just last month in the middle of Tunisian desert, there has been no official explanation for its sudden appearance. Some geologists have proposed that seismic activity may have disrupted the natural water table, pushing water from underground aquifers to the surface. Others disagree.
Authorities have calculated that the lake area exceeds one hectare, with depths ranging from 10 to 18 meters; that indicates a total water volume of one million cubic meters – liquid gold for the drought-ridden country.
Locally dubbed “Lac de Gafsa”, so far more than 600 people have traveled to the pool and a makeshift beach has grown along its shoreline. Authorities have warned that the water, which began as a transparent turquoise until rapidly blooming algae turned it murky green, could be radioactive. That hasn’t deterred visitors who buck the 40°C heat by swimming, diving, and floating atop inflatable rafts.
“Some say that it is a miracle, while others are calling it a curse,” journalist Lakhdar Souid told France 24.
Gafsa’s Office of Public Safety warned Tunisians that the water may be contaminated or even carcinogenic, yet no official ban on swimming has been put in place.
It’s complete with its own Facebook page!
“This lake is located in an area rich in phosphate deposits, which leave residue that is sometimes strongly radioactive,” Souid wrote in Tunisia Daily, “In the first few days, the water was a crystal clear, turquoise blue. Now it is green and full of algae. This means it is not being replenished and is conducive to disease.”
The Tunisian mining industry is based in the central Gafsa region, home to one of the planet’s largest phosphate mines. Tunisia is the world’s fifth largest exporter of the chemical, used in the food preservative industry and agriculture. Phosphate mining underpins the national economy, but it comes at the expense of the environment.
Phosphate byproducts are known toxins, yet according to news site DW, one factory in the coastal city of Gabes still channels 13,000 tons of the dangerous pollutant into the sea daily. Industrial pollution has led to the ecological destruction of the Gulf of Gabes, infusing coastal waters with phosphogypsum, a toxic, slightly radioactive byproduct of the phosphate refining process.
Hazardous emissions resulting from phosphate processing also cause acid rain, which transfers toxins to groundwater. According to the Association for the Protection of the Chatt Essalam Oasis, there is a correlated uptick in asthma, skin disorders, cancer, and birth defects in nearby communities.
By 2015, ammonia, nitrogen oxide and sulfur emissions will be required to comply with European standards. But, that could be too late for the people of Gabes and their surrounding environment. So it’s ironic that earth would choose this moment to provide a new recreational watering hole – effectively telling Tunisians to “go jump in a lake”.
Images of new Tunisian lake from Trenderfly
Two years after passing its Renewable Energy and Efficiency Law (REEL) Jordan is moving forward with what will be the largest largest solar photovoltaic (PV) installation in the Middle East. Construction will begin on the 52.5 MW Shams Ma’an facility in early 2015 with completion in 2016. Shams is the Arabic word for “sun”.
US-based First Solar, Inc. co-developed Shams Ma’an with Jordan’s Kawar Group, and has now signed a contract to engineer, procure (materials and equipment) and construct (EPC) the plant in Ma’an province. Scope also covers long-term operations and maintenance. They’ve also entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Jordan’s National Electric Power Company.
The plant is part of the Ma’an Development Area initiative in southern Jordan.
According to a statement on the First Solar website, the power plant will supply 160 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year - roughly 1% of Jordan’s overall generation capacity – sufficient to power over 35,000 average homes in the country.
The project will also create an estimated 500 jobs during its construction. Additionally, the plant will also help reduce Jordan’s carbon footprint by displacing approximately 90,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, equivalent to removing about 20,000 cars from its roads.
“Shams Ma’an has already established a new benchmark for the independent production of renewable energy in the region, demonstrating how the selection of the right technology and service providers creates considerable value, which in turn helps attract experienced institutional investors,” said Ahmed Nada, First Solar vice president for the Middle East .
This is the company’s second utility-scale project in the Middle East following 2013 completion of the 13 MW first phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum plant in Dubai. First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive PV solar systems which use its advanced thin-film modules.
Forward Thinking Architecture has designed floating farms for Singapore, a country that shares many of the problems we have in the Middle East – food insecurity, lack of land, and a rapidly growing population. We think this design might be appropriate for our region as well.
A subsidiary of JAPA, an ideas lab, Forward Thinking Architecture proposes that responsive floating agriculture can ease both present and looming food shortages.
Building on existing floating fish farms in Singapore, the concept comprises networked floating structures with a looping configuration that are equipped with rotating racks full of lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and other crops that can be grown year-round.
The loop design helps to maximize the amount of sunlight that is available and creates an appealing aesthetic that won’t deter from the surrounding landscape. This is important because the farms will be set up adjacent to the city on waterways, where people often congregate during their leisure hours.
And then there’s the “responsive” aspect of the design.
Neighborhoods in the city can each ‘order’ precisely what they need by communicating their requirements via a tech layer that crowns each floating farm. This not only helps to reduce food waste, but also reduces carbon dioxide emissions associated with food miles (how far food has to travel) and imports.
Using aquaponic and hydroponic systems, these floating farms also help to conserve water – as most vertical growing systems do, although being outside does increase the likelihood of evaporation.
One concern we might have is the extent to which air pollution, which grows alongside the population, would affect the quality of the food being grown. It’s not completely obvious whether the design team have included some kind of mechanism that would filter the air to avoid contaminating the plants.
Otherwise – great design. What do our readers think? Is this an appropriate solution to our food, water, and land shortages?
أكد الشيخ محمد بن راشد آل مكتوم، نائب رئيس دولة الإمارات و حاكم دبي، نية الدولة في إرسال مركبة فضاء إلى المريخ بحلول مارس من العام 2021، لتكون أول محاولة جادة لاكتشاف الفضاء تنطلق من الشرق الأوسط
و قال الشيخ في تغريدة: هذه المنطقة مهد لحضارات كثيرة و عظيمة. باستطاعة العرب إثراء الموروث العلمي الإنساني من جديد بوجود الإمكانيات اللازمة
و طبعا، لإنجاح هذا المشروع الضخم، يجب أولا إنشاء وكالة فضاء لتتكفل بتنظيم جميع المجهودات اللازمة لإرساء مسبار على الكوكب الأحمر
و قد قال الشيخ في تصريح لمجلة ’فيرج’ أن الوكالة ستكون مسؤولة عن تنظيم هذه المهمة الفضائية، بالإضافة إلى تنمية قطاع الصناعات الفضائية في الدولة و الذي من شأنه تحسين الإقتصاد المحلي بشكل عام. و بالفعل، بدأت الدولة سلسلة من الاستثمارات الضخمة في تقنية الفضاء، حيث قامت بشراء عدد من الأقمار الصناعية بقيمة 5.4 مليار دولار
و قد أعلنت مؤسسة الامارات للعلوم و التقنية المتقدمة التابعة لحكومة دبي عن خططها لإرسال مسبار ثالث إلى الفضاء في العام 2016، و ذلك لتعزيز نظام ياسات للبث، بعد أن أطلقت سابقا مسباري دبي-سات-1 في العام 2009 و دبي-سات-2 في العام 2013
و علق الشيخ على هذا الطموح الفضائي قائلا: يعتبر إطلاق المسبار إلى المريخ بداية للعرب و المسلمين لدخول عصر الفضاء و استكشافه
و كانت قد دعت دولة الإمارات لإنشاء وكالة فضاء عربية منذ العام 2008، و لكن تورُط عدد من دول المنطقة في نزاعات سياسية مَثل تحديا لأي مشروع ضخم يعتمد على قاعدة علمية كهذا. و طبعا، هنالك من سينتقد إنفاق الدولة الكثيف في ’مشروع المريخ العبثي‘ هذا – كما قد ينعته البعض، و لكننا تأمل بأن يعود المشروع بالفائدة للجميع في المنطقة مستقبلا
و بالإضافة إلى تنمية التقنية الفضائية، فأنه يؤمل أيضا بأن يكون المشروع سببا في تخريج جيلا جديدا من العلماء و المكتشفين من المنطقة، عوضا عن الاعتماد على خبرات أجنبية في هذا الصدد. أما عن الإمارات، فباحتياطاتها النفطية و تقدير حكومتها للعلوم و التقنية، فإنها مؤهلة لمطاردة هذا الطموح
As if the Middle East hasn’t already had problems with serious infectous diseases, such as Mid East Respiritory Syndrome (MERS), an even more deadly virus, Ebola, may now be on its way there as well. Ebola is one of the world’s worst virus scourges and is now on the verge of becoming an international pandemic, according to World Health Organization (WHO) officials.
The virus, which originated in West Africa and has a 64% death rate, could be spreading from the three African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leon where it has until now been “confined” to.
According to a July 27 WHO Ebola virus update a total of 1,201 cases of Ebola have been reported in these countries, resulting in 672 deaths. The death count is now believed to have surpassed 700, according to reports issued Friday, August 1.
The disease has already killed Sierra Leone’s top Ebola treatment doctor, Shiek Umar Kahn. Two Americans, involved in treating Ebola patients, also became ill. The two Americans, Dr. Kent Brantly and an unidentified humanitarian aid worker, are to be flown in a special flight to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital in the USA; where they will be placed in a sealed high security isolation ward.
The possibility of an international Ebola pandemic became even more likely when a Liberian American man, Patrick Sawyer, became ill while on a flight from Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria, where he had been scheduled to attend a conference. There were 59 passengers and crew members on this flight, all of whom may have been infected by Mr. Sawyer. They are now in the process of being located in order to be tested for the disease. This process has been made very complicated by the fact these people may themselves have infected hundreds or thousands more in airports and elsewhere.
The Ebola virus (photo eloquent in its structure) and which has no known cure, is said to be very contagious and is easily transmitted from person to person, via the infected person’s blood or body fluids.
The incubation period of Ebola virus takes about 6 to 8 days before symptoms began to appear. Early symptions include fever, severe headaches, joint and muscle aches, chills and weakness. As the disease progresses, more serious symptoms occur, including nausea and vomiting, diarrhea (often with bloody stools), red eyes, raised rash, chest pains and cough, stomach pain and severe weight loss.
Bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth, vagina and rectum, as well as Internal bleeding, can also occur.
Beside blood, body fluids that spread the disease include sweat, semen, and stools.
It is not known if some of the passengers on Mr. Sawyer’s flight were from North Africa or the Middle East. The possibility that they were should already be ringing alarm bells in many Middle East countries; especially Saudi Arabia, where the annual Hajj pilgrimage will begin on October 2, 2104. The Hajj draws as many as 3 million Muslim pilgrims from all over the globe; and has in the past been the subject of other infectious diseases, including Swine Flu.
There is a strong possibility that the Ebola virus could very well show up during the 5 day pilgrimage; and as a result be spread to other countries even faster. As one communicable disease researcher stated, regarding the present Ebola outbreak: “We may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
Read more on deadly viruses in the Middle East: