The earth revolves around the sun, and so does the green-tech industry. Some of the earliest pioneers of solar energy started in Israel 30 years ago with the company Luz.
Luz went on to become Luz II, then BrightSource, which is now a US-based solar power company about to flip the switch on a massive 377-megawatt solar thermal farm in the California desert.
And at the start of 2014, the sun and stars will align and a dream will be coming true for Israeli solar pioneers and visionaries like BrightSource Israel CEO Israel Kroizer.
BrightSource will break ground on one of the world’s largest solar thermal energy plants, in Israel. The Ashalim plant is expected to produce 121 megawatts of solar energy in the Negev Desert by 2016, providing enough “green” energy to fuel 40,000 Israeli homes.
After many bureaucratic hurdles, BrightSource –– which uses mirrors called heliostats to focus the sun’s rays on a tower to create steam to drive turbines –– is finally returning “home” and is fulfilling a dream to help make Israel energy secure, says Kroizer.
He was with BrightSource from its genesis and says that the new solar plant, developed by the Megalim consortium of BrightSource and France’s Alstom SA, is more than a business deal — it’s personal. BrightSource, he notes, employs about 400 people, 300 of whom are engineers and development staff working mainly in Jerusalem, where its international R&D happens.
Sunning the engineers close to home
“The staff is very happy to be working in the country, in Israel. It’s a real help to have a big project next door to us,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “We will learn a lot from it, instead of flying 10,000 miles to California every time we want to learn something.”
The $1.1 billion solar thermal energy plant being developed in Israel is the country’s first large-scale solar energy field, and one of the biggest of its kind in the world. It will heighten Israel’s prominence on the map of clean-tech entrepreneurship and green energy production.
Kroizer says: “The government gave us a very good structure and we appreciate it very much. The way we will run this project is as though it will be the crown jewel of all our projects. Yes, even over our project in California.
“The Israel project is close to us and everyone involved in it wants to make it the best,” he tells ISRAEL21c, not disclosing any financial developments still in sensitive boardroom talks.
Putting the BrightSource deal into proportion, Israel’s Ketura Sun was the first to launch a mid-size solar energy field in 2011.
Ketura was developed by Arava Power Company and Yosef “Kaptain Sunshine” Abramowitz. It produces five megawatts of energy, a fraction of what the BrightSource plant will provide. Arava, however, is expected to produce an additional 58.5 megawatts in the future, based on contracts it won in 2012.
Unlike the Suntech photovoltaic (PV) panels used by Arava, which convert the sun’s power into electricity directly, BrightSource focuses the sun’s rays from hundreds of ground-based mirrors to a collection tower. There the solar heat boils water to create steam to drive power turbines.
The solar thermal route is somewhat more complicated, and therefore expensive, than PV panels.
Kroizer says the two types of technology serve two different markets. “Almost every country installing solar energy is installing both kinds of solar solutions, in a certain proportion, to compensate for the grid’s limits,” he says.
Stabilizing the grid
He also argues that thermal storage is more suitable to the grid.
“With PV, you get energy when the sun is ‘on.’ When the sun is ‘off,’ you don’t have energy. The difference in the cost is basically compensating for this value of more stability in the grid, which is what the grid needs.”
Another advantage to the BrightSource technology is that the heliostats can be positioned on uneven ground, unlike PV panels.
Despite its developments in America, BrightSource still faces hurdles there: It pulled out of a recent American IPO, it has lost valuable energy buy-back contracts this past year; and CEO John Woolard recently stepped down, reportedly to spend more time with his family.
Meanwhile, the company is working on the paperwork to win a tender for a second solar thermal plant in Israel to produce about 60 megawatts, at the same time it secures financing for the bigger Ashalim project.
For business travelers and the curious who are coming to Israel, BrightSource has a pilot six-megawatt project in operation in the Rotem Industrial Park built in 2008, open to the public. A new visitor center may be built at the Ashalim plant if there is enough interest, says Kroizer.
This story was first published on ISRAEL21c – www.israel21c.org
Itchin’ to best Betty Crocker by baking up new awareness to the plight of our home planet? Take a page from an Aussie zoologist who’s created an astounding series of planetary cakes with scientific accuracy that goes deeper than sugary frosting.
Self-taught chef and food blogger Rhiannon molded different types of batter into the underlying geologies of Earth and Jupiter, and now she’s posted a tutorial so you can create your own consumable cosmos.
She says on her blog, Cakecrumbs, “I didn’t expect (the Earth cake) to get anywhere near the amount of attention it received…it was kind of surreal.” (The confection was picked up on website I F*cking Love Science, and the Jupiter cake is trending strong on Pinterest.)
“The cake was a total experiment on my part, and not one that went flawlessly. There were many imperfections…and I never share recipes unless I know it’s absolutely tried and true. But I also hate letting people down. So I decided to re-visit the concept so I could make a tutorial,” she blogged.
The rock/ice core of her Jupiter is chocolate mudcake, wrapped by a layer of metallic hydrogen composed of almond butter, and a final coat of colored vanilla forms the liquid molecular hydrogen. Her Earth has a similar construction, finished off with green marshmallow continents adrift in calm fondant seas.
Rhiannon said choosing a favorite planet was tough, “As a kid I was fiercely passionate about two things: animals and the solar system. I ended up following the path of the former and never kept up to date with the latter, but the inner passion for astronomy has never died. Space is just so freaking cool.”
She settled on Jupiter for one reason: its Great Red Spot. The giant anticyclonic storm is one of many raging across its massive surface: Jupiter is thrice the size of Earth making the magnitude of that whirlwind incomprehensible to most cake-loving earthlings.
She covered the baked globe with marshmallow fondant, then dry-brushed layers of edible ink. Once the base colors were down, she removed pigment to create the storms, adding highlights with delicate brushes. The whole process took about 8 hours.
This young cake decorator with a fierce passion for wildlife conservation acknowledges that planetary knowledge is mostly theoretical, and reminds her fans that the cakes are “totally not to scale”.
But they are gorgeous to behold, and – with mudcake surrounded by almond butter, wrapped in vanilla Madeira sponge under a crumb coat of vanilla butter-cream – likely taste otherworldly too.
Got room in your kitchen to take on outer space? Check out her detailed tutorial (with video), below:
All images from Cakecrumbs
This is the remains of what would have been a flyover leading on to the Jebel Ali Palm Island, which, along with Deira Palm Island, is one of the two abandoned palm tree shaped offshore developments that didn’t get beyond the earthworks, but are still visible from space.
Mildly reminiscent of the Easter Island figures, or the many stone henges in the UK, these monoliths have become part of Dubai’s own archealogical heritage. When one considers the accelerated context in which each epoch of this city’s history has occurred, it’s not an unreasonable analogy.
Already there is talk here of a new property bubble developing. It just goes to show, where the hunger for easy money is concerned there’s no room for the old maxim ‘Once is a mistake. Twice is stupidity.’
Have a look here: 24°59’8.41″N 24°59’8.41″N
Note from the editor: this photograph is part of a series called “Consumption” that seeks to document consumerism’s impact on the environment. From resource extraction and commodity production all the way down the supply chain to retail stores and waste processing facilities, Richard artfully examines what nature has come to mean in a world that depends on buying stuff.
With Masdar City, Foster & Partners was the first international architecture firm to design buildings in Abu Dhabi that borrow from the region’s desert-savvy vernacular. Now they are continuing that tradition with the Zayed National Museum on Al Saadiyat Island, which will sport five wing-shaped solar thermal towers when completed.
Conceived as a monument to Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a beloved figure in the United Arab Emirates who had a strong commitment to nature conservation, the new museum will showcase the emirate’s history and culture, as well as its more recent social and economic transformation.
“Architecturally, the aim has been to combine a highly efficient, contemporary form with elements of traditional Arabic design and hospitality to create a museum that is sustainable, welcoming and culturally of its place,” writes Foster & Partners.
At first glance, it’s hard to see how F&P have incorporated ancient Islamic principles into the modern design.
A fan of five steel “wings” that sprout from a landscaped mound looks more like something from a science fiction novel set in the future, and the massive lobby buried underground to make optimum use of the earth’s thermal properties resembles a large hobbit house more than anything we’ve seen on the Arabian peninsula, but a passive cooling system mimics traditional wind towers used in much traditional Islamic architecture.
Like the Bastakiya wind towers in Dubai, which evacuate hot air using the stacked chimney effect, the five solar thermal towers draw hot air from the ground, funnel it through the galleries, and then push it out through vents at the tip of the aerodynamic towers.
Cool air is then pumped into the lobby through buried ground-cooling pipes, which mitigates air-conditioning use – something of an addiction in scorching hot Gulf countries.
While the sun presents a huge challenge for designers working in the Middle East, it can also provide great benefits, including plenty of natural light – something that F&P understands well.
“Throughout, the treatment of light and shade draws on a tradition of discreet, carefully positioned openings, which capture and direct the region’s intense sunlight to illuminate and animate these interior spaces,” they write.
Along with Zaha Hadid’s Performing Arts Center, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Guggenheim and a slew of other landmarks, the Zayed National Museum is expected to attract scores of visitors to Al Saadiyat Island, an exclusive cultural district that will be connected to Abu Dhabi via a 10 lane causeway.
The Tourism Development & Investment Company approved the design in 2010 and more than 1,000 pilings were constructed and tested by July, 2010. Since then, no new updates have been posted, but the TDIC expects to open the museum to the public by 2016.
We have to laugh at this research, given the latest news that there is a gay test being developed by Kuwait to weed out homosexuals from Gulf regions: scientists from Israel and Switzerland find that while many kinds of insects and spiders “act” gay, they probably are gay by accident.
Inon Scharf of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Zoology and Oliver Martin of ETH Zurich have found that homosexual behavior in bugs is probably accidental in most cases.
In the rush to produce offspring, bugs do not take much time to inspect their mates’ gender, potentially leading to same-sex mating, found their study now published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.
“Insects and spiders mate quick and dirty,” Scharf observes. “The cost of taking the time to identify the gender of mates or the cost of hesitation appears to be greater than the cost of making some mistakes.”
Friends without benefits?
In birds and mammals, homosexual behavior has been shown to have evolutionary benefits. It provides “practice” for young adults and maintains alliances within groups. Scientists have recently tried to find explanations for similar behavior in insects, suggesting it could serve to prepare for heterosexual courtship, dispose of old sperm, discourage predators, and distract competitors.
But in reviewing research on some 110 species of male insects and spiders, the researchers found that the available evidence weakly supports such adaptive theories. In general there is no clear benefit to homosexual behavior in insects.
The costs, on the other hand, can be considerable. Homosexual mating is at least as risky as the heterosexual kind, expending sperm, wasting time that could go toward other activities, and boosting the risk of injury, disease, and predation.
In a previous study, the researchers found that all of these factors shorten the lives of heterosexually active males by an average of 25 percent. They expect homosexual behavior to be similarly costly.
And yet, in some species, up to 85 percent of males engage in homosexual behavior. The researchers say this is not because bugs directly benefit from the behavior, but because they mistake other males for females. Almost 80 percent of the cases of homosexual behavior the researchers appeared to be the result of misidentification or belated identification of gender. In some cases, males carry around the scents of females they have just mated with, sending confusing signals to other males. In other cases, males and females look so similar to one another that males cannot tell if potential mates are female until after they have mounted them
The researchers say insects and spiders probably have not evolved to be more discriminating in their mating choices because the cost of rejecting an opportunity to mate with a female is greater than that of mistakenly mating with a male.
This explanation is supported by the fact that many species that exhibit homosexual behavior also mate with related species or inanimate objects, like beer bottles — indicating a general tendency toward misidentification. It is also possible that sexual enthusiasm in bugs is related to other evolutionarily beneficial traits, the researchers say.
“Homosexual behavior may be genomically linked to being more active, a better forager, or a better competitor,” says Schart. “So even though misidentifying mates isn’t a desirable trait, it’s part of a package of traits that leaves the insect better adapted overall.”
To confirm their theory, the researchers plan to study the conditions that make homosexual behavior more or less likely in bugs. They also want to look more deeply into male resistance to homosexual mating.
As for Kuwait and the gay test: We guess the bugs will be allowed to stay.
Image via dominiqs
Smart phone developers aren’t just devising novel ways to deliver information about composting and how to save energy (like 5 green apps that can save the planet). They are helping us run our homes.
Developers and startup companies are now unlocking the power of phones as mini computers and call centers to run solar systems. See Nova Lumos - a company that charges a per use fee to run and own solar panels in Africa.
The latest from Israel is a company called GreenIQ that pairs a smart phone with a home owner’s irrigation system.
For $200 and $35 shipping and handling, this smart system can operate your garden by Wifi even when you are on a trip to Helsinki.
Linking with available data, GreenIQ “knows” the outdoor humidity, chances of rain, and time of sunset, so that when you irrigate your plants and trees, or water your grass, you do so only when the water is really needed.
“The GreenIQ has no sensors. It gets all the weather information from the internet via WiFi. The weather data comes from the weather station nearest to your home,” Odi Dahan, GreenIQ founder and CEO tells Green Prophet.
Countries like Finland have been thinking about creating smart cities for years already. Israelis too have been coming up with great ideas, the problem is getting them implemented. GreenIQ however is ready to ship.
It does two things: it not only saves water, but the smart system, according to the company, can save you power by helping you turn off the garden lights. That is, if you aren’t already using solar power lights to light your way.
This is a good solution for home owners in suburbia who want their systems on autopower. Or for people who live in hot countries and travel a lot.
This is a problem we have when we leave the house for a month at a time. Since there is no smart system for feeding and walking the dog, or taking care of our chickens, we ask someone to come over to help.
We already have a sensor at home that turns our outdoor safety lights on come dusk, and I prefer to water my garden by hand. It’s actually the better part of my day when I do that.
But if you need to go on autopilot (I am thinking apartment landlords, or office buildings), GreenIQ could be the solution for you.
The Middle East boasts some of the world’s saltiest waterbodies, but none approach the horror of Lake Natron in Tanzania, one of the harshest environments on the planet. It’s hot, chalky waters can turn birds and land animals into calcified statues, spookily captured by photographer Nick Brandt in his new book, Across the Ravaged Land.
The Caspian Sea, bordered by Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan, is both the world’s largest lake and the largest saltwater lake.
Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran is the largest lake in the Middle East, and the third largest saltwater lake on earth.
And the Dead Sea, bordered by Jordan, Israel and Palestine, holds the title as the deepest of the world’s salty seas.
But those majestic waters all step aside as, just in time for Halloween, Lake Natron steps onto the podium as the world’s most frightening:
Water temperatures can reach 140 °F and alkalinity hovers around pH 10, similar to ammonia. The steaming hot lake is colored bright red by bacteria. Enter these waters at your own risk.
Brandt visited the lake while working in Africa and discovered calcified corpses of bats and birds scattered along the shoreline.
“The water has an extremely high soda and salt content, so high that it would strip the ink off my Kodak film boxes within a few seconds.” writes Brandt. Animals exposed to the water die, gradually stiffen into ghostly statues.
Brandt told New Scientist, “I couldn’t help but photograph them. No one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake’s surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake.”
“I thought they were extraordinary – every last tiny detail perfectly preserved down to the tip of a bat’s tongue, the minute hairs on his face. The entire fish eagle was the most surprising find,” Brandt told The Huffington Post. He snapped the images in 2010 and 2012.
“There was never any possibility of bending a wing or turning a head to make a better pose — they were like rock,” he said, “so we took them and placed them on branches and rocks just as we found them, always with a view to imagining it as a portrait in death.”
A disused government-owned slaughterhouse in Casablanca that ceased to operate in 2000 now hosts art exhibitions, music shows, film screenings and other cultural activities run by La Fabrique Culturelle.
Spotted over on Brownbook Magazine, The Slaughterhouse is an exciting new space for artists in what has become one of Morocco’s most bustling commercial centers.
Abandoned among a slew of other modernist structures, Les Anciens Abattoirs’ can be reached by the city’s extended tram line, which has helped to bridge neglected neighborhoods such as Hay Mohammadi and the more affluent city center.
Originally designed by French architects Albert Greslin and Georges-Ernest Desmarest and gifted to the nonprofit architectural preservation society Casamémoire, the former slaughterhouse continues to display some of its original infrastructure, including giant metal hooks used to hang dead animals.
In time, however, assuming that the municipality lends its approval and La Fabrique Culturelle can procure sufficient funds, the sprawling concrete complex will be divided into five creative districts that accommodate different cultural activities – including a documentation center and a library.
For now the complex is distinguished by its rough walls tagged with colorful graffiti, reminiscent of Imed Trabelsi’s abandoned mansion in Tunisia, which was colonized by the art collective “The Bedouins” after the Jasmine Revolution.
Dancers occasionally show off their moves on the rooftop, poets perform, and musicians fill the cavernous halls with traditional and contemporary tunes while people from all sectors of society explore this unique venue.
“The Slaughterhouse has rejuvenated Hay Mohammadi’s reputation, and has managed to decentralise Casablanca’s cultural scene, away from its core in the west of the city,” writes Brownbook’s Natalie Shooter.
While Al-Dusheira municipality has shown support for pro-society graffiti art, La Fabrique Culturelle is having a harder time finding support for their project.
Designed to promote the arts and culture in order to cultivate the same among a population dulled by capitalism and television, The Slaughterhouse costs €5,000 each month just to stay afloat.
“Right now we’re just hosting residencies and artists to create and perform, because we have no budget,” says project coordinator Dounia Benslimane.
Located near the Derb Moulay Cherif detention center, the building is protected from demolition, but it remains to be seen whether Moroccan authorities will have the courage to allow a project with such independent creative roots thrive without centralized control.
Photos courtesy La Fabrique Culturelle Facebook Page
“Middle Eastern food” is a catch-phrase that embraces the cuisines of so many countries, and ethnic streams inside those countries, that a list of 60 essential ingredients can’t cover everything. But if you love the flavors of the Middle East… be it cumin-scented, crunchy falafel or the fragrance of rose-water in pastries like ma’amoul, it’s worth organizing space in your kitchen for the ingredients listed below.
You probably already have many of the suggested items in this post. We have also posted recipes for some exotic things, like pomegranate molasses, that you can make yourself. Some items, like sheep’s tail fat, are available only in Middle Eastern butcher shops and supermarkets. Olive oil or smen (clarified butter) are fine substitutes for sheep’s tail fat.
In most cases, you can omit or substitute ingredients. Some are unique, though, like the unmistakable taste of saffron. Much as we appreciate turmeric and indeed often cook with it, it will never smell or taste the same as saffron. For the cook experienced with Middle Eastern fare, this post may look like a shopping list, useful for reminding which items to replace. For those eager to learn more about cooking Middle Easter delicacies at home, it’s a good start.
To bring out spices’ best flavors, buy them whole, in small quantities, and grind them yourself. A traditional mortar and pestle takes little space in the kitchen and does the job quickly.
Cardamom, both ground and whole seeds
Cinnamon, both ground and in sticks
Cloves, both ground and whole
Coriander seed, both ground and whole (for grinding fresh)
Ginger, ground, or fresh root in season (can be frozen)
Nigella seeds (black cumin)
Rose petals, dried
Sumac, whole berries or powdered (Rhus syriaca)
Turmeric, ground or fresh root in season (can be frozen)
Za’atar leaves, dried
Place your leafy green herbs in a jar of water where they can get some indirect light, and they will keep for at least a week. Some, like mint and basil, might actually grow roots. Those, you can transplant to dirt and put outside to snip bits off whenever you need some.
Coriander leaves (cilantro)
Ginger root (may be frozen, whole)
Hot peppers of all sizes and varieties and degrees of heat
Thyme and lemon thyme
Turmeric root (may be frozen, whole)
If you’re not familiar with an ingredient – say, dried limes – buy only a little at first, then find a recipe using it. Once you’re comfortable with the ingredient, decide if you want to invest in a little more.
Anba, pickled mango relish (to dribble on falafel, shwarma and grilled anything)
Date honey (silan) – try our sweet potatoes roasted in date honey, here.
Lemons and limes, dried
Tahini paste to dilute and season
Tamarind paste or syrup
Smen (clarified butter, recipe here)
Sheep’s tail fat
Some items listed below, like walnuts and raisins, are not exclusively Middle Eastern, but are there because every Middle Eastern cook has some on hand, all the time.
Almonds, whole or blanched
Beans, navy and fava (broad beans), dried or canned
Burgul (cracked wheat), medium ground
Chickpeas, dried or canned
Raisins, black and golden
Rice, long-grained Persian or Basmati varieties
It doesn’t take a genius or a position paper to figure out that air pollution in cities and near industrial zones is toxic to human health. But now that it’s got an officially bad status with the United Nations, up there with asbestos and 100 other killer chemicals, maybe governments and cities will listen.
According the United Nations (UN) body, the World Health Organization (WHO) the air we breath should now be classified as carcinogenic and dangerous to human life.
It is now ranked in Group 1 of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the WHO organization that tracks cancer rates around the world. Particulate matter, the dark or white dust you wipe off your window sill, is a particular concern for lung cancer. Air pollution, indoor and out, now joins the bad list of cancerous materials like asbestos (for mesothelioma), plutonium, silica dust, tobacco smoke and UV radiation.
Air pollution is caused from a variety of sources in cities. Car and bus fumes, and particulate matter are especially toxic, as are fumes and emissions from power plants, cooking fuel, and any industry nearby that may be releasing emissions. I’ve been choked up in Bangkok but some of the worst air pollution I’ve felt in the Middle East region is in Amman, Jordan – also most recently voted as one of the ugliest cities in the world. While I’ve never been to Tehran, I am not sure I would like to: some 27 people a day die in the Iranian city from choking fumes.
The dangers vary from one region to the next but the WHO says all regions of the world are affected by poor air quality at some level.
How can we stop emissions? Riding bikes, electric buses, walking. As well as greener sources of cooking fuel and residential heating.
King Tutankhamen’s tomb continues to give up its secrets. This time it reveals something about a past far more ancient than the life and death of this boy-king some 3300 years ago.
Professor Jan Kramers of the University of Johannesburg, Dr Marco Andreoli of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, and Chris Harris of the University of Cape Town found the key to this secret in small black pebble found in a mysterious part of Libya’s Sahara desert known as the silica glass field. The pebble was found to contain microscopic diamonds.
This suggests that it came from the core of a comet which struck North Africa some 28 million years ago. The impact was so powerful, it pulverized the comet’s carbon nucleus into microscopic diamonds which rained down upon a 6000 square kilometer region of the Egyptian and Libyan Sahara Desert.
It is believed to be the first ever evidence of a comet striking earth.
“NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) spend billions of dollars collecting a few micrograms of comet material and bringing it back to Earth, and now we’ve got a radical new approach of studying this material, without spending billions of dollars collecting it,” says Kramers.
Long before these scientists began to unravel the mystery of Libya’s vast field of glass, Egyptians used gems made from this glass in their jewelry. One beautiful specimen of comet-glass jewelry was fashioned into a Scarab Beetle which formed part of a brooch belonging to King Tutankhamen.
The pebble which helped tell us about this ancient impact isn’t nearly as showy as King Tut’s jewelry but to a scientist it is every bit as valuable. They named the pebble Hypatia, in honor of fourth century philosopher and astronomer Hypatia of Alexandria, thought to be the world’s first female mathematician.
While there are thousands of known meteor impact sites around the world and millions of meteorite fragments, Hypatia is the world’s first evidence of a comet striking the earth, the world’s first known pieces of a comet’s nucleus and the world’s largest known comet fragment.
That a ordinary black pebble can reveal so much reinforces something a famous physicist, Isaac Newton, once said:
“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
World Food Day, commemorated on October 16 is an annual event whose purpose is to find ways to alleviate hunger and malnutrition in various parts of the world. Green Prophet was there.
The event is a forum against environmental damage to both animals and humans by large multinational companies who often try to portray their actions as being beneficial to farmers, when exactly the opposite may be taking place.
One of these companies, Monsanto Agricultural Chemicals Company has often been the subject of numerous allegations that accuses it of creating immense damage to both crops and animals as a result of the pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural products it manufactures. These include genetically modified seeds, otherwise known as GMOs.
During a recent trip to the Netherlands, it was easy to experience first hand how many people in Holland are thinking green; and how adversely they feel about companies like Monsanto and the damage that it is alleged to be causing to both plants and animals in the larger cities in the Netherlands, as well as in the countryside .
Hanging out over the weekend in Dam Square, the central venue location for street shows and similar outdoor eve, we witnessed a large rally against Monsanto during a World Food Day rally and picnic sponsored by the Netherlands branch of the Millions Against Monsanto NGO and fully covered on their website (in Dutch).
In addition to speeches by local green politicians, the Saturday afternoon event included music by folk singers in both Dutch and English as well as food booths offering organic and vegetarian foods.
A large number of anti-GMO and Monsanto signs and placards were on display by participants, many of whom wore “anonymous” masks to emphasize their fight against the giant chemical consortium which they say is causing much environmental damage to their country and to the world at large.
Talking to one participant, a middle-aged chap who preferred to remain nameless, he said that it is very important for people to get involved in fighting companies like Monsanto, who produced the Agent Orange pesticide during the Vietnam war and has since then tried to improve their ecological profile by using their financial might to “buy into” green projects such as efforts to save honeybee colonies from being destroyed by conditions such as colony collapse disorder (CCD).
“The world must realize that these “green” efforts by this company is only to cover up the immense damage that it is doing to our environment,” he told us.
Besides the rally, which occurred on October 12, another large march in Amsterdam against Monsanto is planned for Wednesday, October 30. “This is one of the best ways to get people involved in fighting the Monsanto octopus,” another participant said.
Going around this very picturesque city, it is easy to see that the Dutch people are very keen into making their city and country more green. People on bicycles are everywhere; and electric cars and trams are commonplace. Organic foods are readily available in local markets; and a large organic foods market is located within easy walking distance of both the central train station and Dam Square. Although fossil fuel cars, buses and motorbikes are common, the large number of bicycles and electric trams has made the air in this city cleaner.
It would be great if ME cities like Tel Aviv and Beirut could copy Amsterdam’s example on how to make a large city more ecologically friendly; as well as display as much passion in fighting chemical and GMO producing giants like Monsanto.
Read more on Monsanto and GMO related issues:
Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman of Emaar Properties, and Ahmad Bin Byat, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Holding, unveiled the joint venture’s masterplan last week Tuesday in Dubai.
The 6 million sq m (over 1,482 acres) waterfront development, which is expected to provide business opportunities for Dubai’s youth, is slated for construction along the banks of Dubai Creek, stretching from land linked to Al Khail Road and across Ras Al Khor.
Not only large in span, The Lagoons will host a smorgasbord of new business, cultural and retail facilities, including a massive waterfront shopping mall and healthcare facilities. Linked via a series of “green boulevards,” these interconnected districts will have at their core two new twin towers.
“The spectacularly designed project underlines the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to develop world-class urban projects that further establish Dubai as a global city of the future,” said Mohamed Alabbar and Ahmad Bin Byat in a joint statement.
“The project gives a significant boost to Dubai’s economy by creating another dynamic urban hub that energises the property, retail and tourism sectors. It will create new jobs and strong business opportunities for our youth to prosper.”
Apart from eco-resorts, which we all know are never really eco in the first place, and water features and lush landscaped spaces that are not necessarily ecologically-sensible in the desert, the project does have at least one green attribute: it will be designed as a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use development linked to both the red and green metro lines.
An eco-tram, light monorail, and water taxis will provide additional, sustainable transportation.
Truffles -the delicious tubers- have been a topic in food literature throughout the ages, from neo-Sumerian inscriptions in the 20th century BCE, to the writings of 19th-century chef Brilliant Savarin, to the joyful greediness of contemporary author Peter Mayle. But if you think that good truffles come exclusively from Italy and France…be prepared for an enjoyable surprise.The fabulous fungus also sprouts in the desert sands of the Middle East and North Africa region.
In this article in the SaudiAramcoworld blog, writer John Feeney says:
“If you can only find them, desert truffles lie in wait in arid areas all around the Mediterranean, especially along the North African coast from Morocco to Egypt and farther east across the great desert plain from Damascus in Syria to Basra in Iraq. In all this vast region of the earth, you will find few, if any, surface signs to show you where the truffles are hiding—yet in all these regions, people gather truffles for food
The shuks of the Levant begin to sell desert truffles in the springtime, from February to April, although the season may extend until June. They are much more abundant and affordable than their European cousins. Sweeney, a long-time resident of Cairo, adds,
“The truffles of the desert are not so strongly flavored, but as they grow much more prolifically than their European cousins, they can be used in much greater volume. I once enjoyed, in a humble restaurant in Damascus, a whole plateful of raw, sliced black desert truffles as a salad, dressed in olive oil and lemon. Now where, in all of Europe, could you enjoy such a thing? It would cost a king’s ransom. With the desert truffle, however, even people of relatively modest means can splurge on a kilo or two …”
Desert truffles are delicate, so once you’ve bought some, use them up right away.
You can preserve their flavor for a brief time by slicing or grating them into cooled smen butter or softened ordinary butter, or good oil. They may be frozen in a glass jar that withstands the cold of the freezer. Or borrow a European idea and bury sliced desert truffles in raw rice, packed into a jar and kept refrigerated. The rice will absorb the truffle flavor.
A system for flavoring raw eggs with truffles comes from the Wild About Mushrooms online cookbook:
Cut an egg carton in half crosswise. Place 1 or 2 (preferably 2) medium truffles in each carton in the middle of the eggs. Enclose the cartons in a plastic bag and seal. Place in the refrigerator. The eggs will be ready for use after 3 days. (Do not keep the eggs in the refrigerator longer than 1 week, as their odor and flavor may become too strong, and the lack of fresh air may cause them to spoil.) The eggs may be used to prepare scrambled eggs, omelettes, or your favorite deviled egg recipe.
Desert Truffle Soup Recipe
The recipe for desert truffles soup below comes from Tom Volk’s Fungus Of The Month site. As for many desert truffle recipes, it calls for camel’s milk. (Laurie Balbo has written about the growing popularity of camel milk here.) Not having camel milk on hand, substitute cow’s milk.
To keep it vegetarian, or vegan, use vegetable stock instead of beef stock, soy milk and cream instead of cow milk.
Elinoar’s Cream of Desert Truffles Soup
9-10 medium sized fresh white desert truffles (Tirmania nivea)
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup very light beef stock
2 cups camel’s milk
½ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste
Chopped parsley for decoration
light roux made with 2 tbsp butter cooked with 2 tbsp flour
Gently scrub the truffles with a soft brush to remove sand.
Peel and chop roughly
Slice two truffles, boil in the milk, remove and set aside for decoration.
Sauté onion in the butter until the onion pieces are clear.
Add truffles and white pepper.
Cook for a few minutes, add beef stock and bring to low boil
Reduce heat and cook until juices reduce (10 minutes)
Add roux to hot milk, mixing quickly to dissolve.
Pour over the truffles, and cook on low heat, mixing constantly, for 2 minutes
Puree the mixture (optional), return to the pan and add the cream
Heat through but do not boil.
Add salt, taste and correct flavors. Decorate with sliced truffle and parsley /
More wild recipes from the Middle East:
Image of Turkish desert truffle via Wikipedia
An emergent studio from Kazakhstan has designed a curious glass tube home that wraps around a large Fir tree in the tectonically active mountainous region of the country.
A. Masow Design Studio published renders of a new concept home for a 38-year-old business man and his family in Kazakhstan’s largest city – Almaty.
The cultural heart of the country, this mountainous region is prone to earthquakes.
While devastating earthquakes such as those that occur regularly in Iran and Turkey are unusual here, city planners have been very careful in the past to build structures that can withstand tectonic activity.
Slated for a clearing among an evergreen forest near the border of Kyrgyzstan, the multi-level cylindrical dwelling wraps around a mature 40ft fir tree with extended branches.
Some people contemplate nature on hikes or by camping, but this family would be able to ponder their natural surroundings all the time – though they’d have to sacrifice a lot of privacy in the process.
“The house has to be something that can only develop your spiritual and creative development,” writes A. Masow Design on their website design brief.
In order to achieve this affect, the studio has selected metal columns, plasterboard panels, concrete, and floor-to-ceiling glass panels to blur the boundary between the indoors and the outdoors.
Wood flooring matches the giant tree that shoots right through the heart of the tube home, and a spiral staircase wraps around the interior’s outer edge, a safe distance from the tree trunk and branches.
The home’s estimated $360,000 price tag is roughly one third the price of a standard home in the area, and the idea is so appealing, apparently, that another three clients have expressed an interest in having their very own glass cylinder home.
We just hope they’re suitably earthquake-resistant.
There’s nothing like homemade falafel when you’re in the mood for those savory, crunchy chickpea balls packed into a fluffy pita. We teach you how to make whole-wheat pita here. Making your own falafel, you decide exactly which fixings go into your package of chickpea goodness.
Do you like lots of chopped cucumber and tomato, or do you prefer strips of breaded, fried eggplant? Some people adore a good smear of humus (recipe for humus here) on the inside of their pita, while others go with a generous dose of tahini on top of the ensemble. And here are some suggestions on how tahini can enhance every meal. Some like both. How about tucking some thinly-sliced onion into the corners, or pickles – or a dribble of hot sauce?
Those additions, and others, decorate and add relish to your falafel. But the heart of the matter lies in the freshly fried chickpea balls and their seasonings. Add or omit salt, cumin, garlic and green herbs according to your personal taste. It’s easy to do. Make up the basic recipe, fry one ball, and taste. Then you can decide how you want to change the rest of the falafel batter – or if you like it just the way it is.
There are three things to keep in mind when you make falafel at home. One, the chickpeas must soak 8 hours, so you need do that first step the night before – or early in the morning, if you’re planning to serve falafel at dinnertime. Two, the oil has to be very hot – it should shimmer. And three, you should have your pitas ready at hand and your vegetables or relishes pre-chopped and set out in bowls, so you can fill up and serve as soon as the falafel balls come out of the oil.
Commercial falafel stands put the ingredients through a meat grinder, but home cooks produce good falafel out of food processors, and that’s what I recommend.
Yield: about 20 falafel balls
250 grams – 1- 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon powdered cumin
1/2 teaspoon powdered coriander
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons water
1- 1/2 cups flour
1 bottle cooking oil – 750 grams – 3 cups
Soak the chickpeas in plenty of cold water overnight. Check them after several hours to make sure that they remain covered with water as they swell.
Drain the chickpeas and put them in the food processor. Add the onion, garlic, and herbs. Pulse until you obtain a mass that sticks to itself. Scrape the sides down a few times.
Add the spices, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 3 tablespoons of water. Run the food processor again to blend. Add the final tablespoon of water if it seems necessary to hold the mass together.
Turn the chickpea mass out into a bowl. Heal the oil in a heavy pan until it shimmers.
Wet your hands and form a round ball about the size of a walnut in its shell. Compact it between your palms. Fry this first falafel ball. Taste it and adjust seasoning in the raw mass if needed.
Fry until the outside of the falafel balls are brown and crisp, and the inside is cooked through. The first ball will tell you how long to keep them in the oil, although as you proceed, they will fry more quickly. Don’t crowd the balls while frying. Drain on crumpled paper and serve right away. Yum!
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Eating vegan only has become so popular in Tel Aviv that a new NGO called Vegan Friendly are handing out certificates to restaurants who offer a vegan main course. Look for the sticker on the door. Serving falafel or hummous doesn’t count as these Middle Eastern foods are already known to be vegan-friendly. And the group has already convinced ice cream shops to offer choices made from soy milk.
If you live in Israel or are travelling to the country look for a green V sticker on the front of the restaurant, but don’t confuse it with the green check mark rating that some restaurants earn every year for being a local favorite.
I found this sticker (above) on a car parked in the parking lot of my child’s Waldorf school, a school and pre-school that serves organic whole foods and vegan meals (except for eggs). The sticker here says Vegan Friendly, “also me” in Hebrew.
While Meatless Monday is pretty rare in the Middle East, especially now around the Big Eid holiday when it’s customary to slaughter animals in memory of the Koranic Ibrahim and his son Ishmael, there are growing movements no matter how small.
Veganism has taken off in recent years in Israel in parallel with a growing awareness to animal rights and the environment. Israeli activists have started the worldwide movement 269Life group where they etch and burn themselves the way cows get branded. A bit extreme for my tastes. But they aim to expose the world to animal suffering in the food industry.
But thanks to Vegan Friendly (Hebrew only), an NGO, locals are able to find restaurants and products that they can eat as vegans. Founders of the site were inspired to go vegan after watching the talk by Gary Yourofsky, the Best Speech You Will Ever Hear. It is below.
Getting restaurants to go vegan in Israel may be a bit easier than anywhere else in the world. Chefs are already aware of the Jewish kashrut or kosher customs in food, which are much more stringent than the Muslim halal.
Far from the reality of what’s happening in Tel Aviv however, Jews are not allowed to eat seafood of any kind, bugs, the blood of animals, they can eat only certain kinds of animals (no pork), and they do not mix meat and milk products together. For this reason, Israeli chefs are hyper aware of what is going into their creations. Consider the gelatin (made from pork, beef or fish?) and if there are any animal products at all going into the food.
Non vegan food items?
Things to watch out for if you are cooking vegan for your friends: honey is not vegan, nor are eggs or any animal derived byproduct. That means no cheese. No gummy bears. No beer. Read here for the 14 things that seem vegan but which are not. You’ll be super surprised to find things like wine and white sugar on the list.
Back to the topic at hand: We aren’t saying that everyone needs to turn vegan, and there is good reason to support the idea of lab grown meat, but eating less meat will help ease the greenhouse gas emissions that raising cattle cause.
Eating less meat will ease animal suffering in the less than humane conditions animals as ‘live exports’ to the Middle East are facing.
Or you could just do it to be like vegan star Natalie Portman.
Historically, graffiti has been used to subvert authority or spread anti-social messages, but in Morocco, one municipality has turned the art form on its head by getting kids to “tag” pro-society slogans instead.
In an effort to promote better environmental stewardship and civil participation, the Al-Dusheira municipal council teamed up with civil society groups such as the al-Dusheriah Associations Forum (Majd) to host a graffiti or mural competition on International Environment Day earlier this year.
Volunteer students were given free reign to tag designated walls, but instead of spreading “down with government” messages, as youth are historically wont to do, organizers encouraged them to use the time and space in a manner that celebrates art, green spaces, and both Arab and indigenous Amazigh culture.
“You can be anybody’s son, but good manners are better than good lineage,” one slogan read, the Common Ground News Service reported. ”A clean neighborhood is worthy of its citizens,” read another.
The volunteer students judged in various categories, including the best slogan and the most beautiful mural, received rewards for their artwork.
Graffiti has not always been an accepted art form in the Muslim world – or in any country for that matter – since it is typically associated with social deviants who protest against the status quo. In Egypt, for example, several resistance pieces popped up all over Cairo during recent clashes between citizens and heavy-handed authorities.
In Tunisia, graffiti grew in popularity following the Jasmine Revolution and a couple of artists have distinguished themselves on the international scene. VA-JO and el Seed have also moved their work from the street into fashion by tagging clothes and accessories.
As political turbulence continues to unsettle countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Morocco is determined to maintain stability without the kind of violence on display in Syria, for example, which has stranded more than two million refugees and killed more than 100,000 people.
Albeit a neat and smart initiative, it is unlikely to eclipse the more subversive brand of graffiti as many Moroccans still feel alienated by King Muhammed IV’s social and economic policies.
It’s the final run-up to Eid al-Adha, when Muslims around the planet commemorate God’s test of the Prophet Ibrahim by slaughtering a hapless quadruped: also called Qurbani, it’s an essential religious ritual wherein an estimated 100 million creatures will be killed.
Islamic law is crystal clear that in order for meat to be halal, animals can’t be mutilated, deformed or diseased nor experience discomfort or stress prior to slaughter. Any meat that doesn’t abide by these precepts becomes haram.
The Middle East live-imports most of its sheep from Australia, with tens of thousands of animals crammed onto huge ships each month, constrained in abominable conditions. Half of all sheep deaths during sea transport are caused by starvation as grass-fed animals don’t recognize the manufactured feed provided on ship, and stop eating. Crammed shipboard conditions raise dehydration levels and promote disease.
Spend some time with the halal ranchers oxymoronically named Mercy Slaughter to get a view of how halal sacrifice ought to be done:
Qurbani is essential for people with financial means, yet none of my Amman Jordanian friends has ever personally killed an animal. They’ve witnessed the ceremony as children, but never did the deed. Instead, most urbanites drop some dinar with butchers in exchange for a neatly packed parcel of meat and an assurance that the rest is handed to the needy.
Organizations such as Tkiyet Um Ali are also emerging, offering value (thanks to bulk buying) and organized distribution to the poor. An important side benefit of community-centric sacrifice-sharing is mitigation of problems related to improperly executed halal practices and poor waste management, since animals are slaughtered in Australia and meat shipped frozen to the Middle East.
This modernity is further distancing Muslims from animal slaughter. (Islamic vegetarians must participate in the practice: obligated to pay for an animal sacrifice, and distribute the meat to the needy, but they do not need to consume the food themselves.)
In his book Animals in Islam, Al-Hafiz B. A. Masri quotes Sheik Fardi Wagdi, “There may come a day when Muslims shall have to substitute the rite of animal sacrifice with other methods of giving alms.”
There is a growing movement of Muslims who have declared a fatwa on animal killings, who consider that sacrifice is not obligatory. They call to reform animal transport processes and advocate (in lieu of meat offerings) other means of support for the poor, including the sharing of vegetarian food, and pursuit of public services like educational support of the care of orphans.
“It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him.” (Qu’ran 22:37)
Image of sacrificial animal from Shutterstock
Stella, a solar-powered family car designed by students from the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in has won the World Solar Challenge 2013, ushering in a new era of efficient, practical cruisers that get all of their juice from the sun. It should inspire sun-lovers in the Middle East.
Solar Team Eindhoven from the Netherlands spent over a year developing their family car, which features photovoltaic solar panels on both the roof and rear, according to Dezeen. The latter are flipped up to optimize solar absorption and generate energy while the car is not in use.
Stella produces double the amount of energy that it needs to run, which allows the vehicle to contribute power to the national grid.
A biennial race across roughly 1,877 miles of Australian outback, the WCS has historically attracted solar-powered vehicles that aim for speed above all.
This year, however, in an effort to encourage a greater emphasis on practical vehicles that can be scaled up for commercial distribution, the competition organizers added the cruiser category.
While still held to the same standard as other categories, including energy efficiency, features, styling, and aesthetics, vehicles in this category had to demonstrate superior comfort and practicality as well.
And Stella performed better than the other 39 teams with an average speed of 42mph, a top speed of 75mph, and an average of three people on board throughout the journey from Darwin to Adelaide.
“I congratulate Team Eindhoven on their innovation, practical design and foresight, to think outside the square and add the extra seats,” said World Solar Challenge director Chris Selwood.
“‘Stella’ is a wonderful solar car in a field of exceptional cars and teams. I look forward to 2015 and the prospect of more cruisers as we work toward the world’s most efficient electric car.”
While this competition has formerly neglected every day pragmatism for exceedingly high-tech vehicles that the average family could never use, this year’s win signals a hopeful shift toward innovations that actually benefit humanity. That was the point, after all, when Denmark’s Hans Tholstrup first conceived the competition in the 1980s.
“The design of the car of the future has to meet the needs of modern consumers,” the team said when the car was unveiled earlier this year. ”The car must be capable of transporting a family from the Netherlands to France in one day, it needs to be suitable for the daily commute to work, and it needs to achieve all this in comfort.”
Solar Team Eindhoven narrowly beat Japan’s Tokai University, which won the WSC in both 2009 and 2011, and it is also the only car that competed in this year’s challenge that actually has a license plate.