How fast can Africa’s Ebola outbreak move to the Middle East?

Green Prophet - August 02, 2014

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:

Bats Blamed for Deadly Middle East Respiratory Virus
Deadly Middle East Corona Virus May Come from Camels
Swine Flu Death Toll in the Middle East Region

Photo of Ebola epidemic scare newspaper headlines by VOA/AP:
Photo of Ebola virus , by Reuters/Yahoo News

Categories: Lifestyle

Could new rules finally curb shark finning in the UAE?

Green Prophet - August 01, 2014

The United Arab Emirates has passed resolution 500 in an effort to curb shark finning and protect endangered species. Currently a hub for the shark trade, the UAE will implement the new laws on September 1, 2014.

The new laws prohibit fishermen from catching sharks within five nautical miles off shore, and within three nautical miles of the islands scattered throughout the UAE. Also, any animals protected by the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

This includes three species of hammerhead sharks.

While the new laws prohibit the export of sharks caught in UAE waters, whether they are smoked, fresh, dried, salted, frozen or canned, imports are acceptable and re-export of some shark species will also be permitted.

Although it could have been more, it is a positive step,” filmmaker and conservationist Jonathan Ali Khan told The National, adding the resolution defines the issue of shark fishing and trade more clearly and is “an important move forward”.

Related: Dubai marine life at risk after devastating shark catch

Fishermen will still be able to import sharks from Oman and Yemen, which is currently common practice according to The National, but detailed paperwork, which includes a certificate or origin, the shark’s scientific name, and a health certificate, will be required before those sharks can be exported to other countries.

Additional certification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Water will be required to trade sharks protected by CITES.

This is designed to protect endangered species and prevent finning, but there is some concern over whether customs officials and other authorities will be able to identify the sharks that need protection.

“The numbers of landed sharks from UAE waters are not the main issue, it is the re-export,” Ali Khan told The National.

“Will sharks coming from Oman and other countries be slowed down because of the paperwork? That is the real question.”

Photo courtesy of Julia Spaet- KAUST PhD student researching shark populations in the Red Sea.

Categories: Lifestyle

Barisieur – a hybrid alarm clock and brew machine for coffee addicts

Green Prophet - July 31, 2014

After going several months without, I’ve fallen back into the habit of ‘needing’ at least one cup of joe to wake up, and I know I’m not the only one. Cue Barisieur from Britain’s Joshua Renouf.

“Motivated by playful designs which encourage interaction; and induce a cherished relationship with both the product and user,” Renouf designed a hybrid coffee maker and alarm clock that wakes its owner up with a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

Using stainless steel balls that boil water through induction heating, the machine puts a gentle spin on the alarm clock that signals the start of another day.

It’s exactly the thing that every coffee addict has dreamed of. And it’s incredibly easy to use.

Related: Ode and farewell to my daily cup of joe(s)

All one has to do is grind their coffee beans the night before, and then add water, milk and sugar – for those who need to sweeten up their life – in various little compartments, and voilà, the Barisieur fills the room with the right kind of smells right on time.

How is a hybrid coffee machine and alarm clock even remotely a Middle Eastern environmental issue?

It’s not – not really. Of course coffee was first cultivated by Arabs in the 14th century, and people in the Middle East are as hooked as any westerner (though brewing styles vary from country to country – a fascinating study in itself.)

But mostly we are celebrating good design with a palette of minimalist materials. Design that knows what people want – what coffee addicts want!

In all seriousness, coffee is a complicated thing and should be enjoyed in moderation.

If it’s sourced sustainably from fair-trade companies that ensure farmers receive a fair, living wage, and sound ecological practices are used to ensure the healthiest beans, we can maintain a reasonable footprint.

But there’s one more benefit to the Barisieur, according to Renouf.

“Living slow even when times are fast,” he says. And we can live with that.

:: Designboom

Categories: Lifestyle

Extraordinary fishbowl architecture photos by Iran’s Mohammed Domiri

Green Prophet - July 30, 2014

The most spectacular Islamic religious architecture and interior design is something few westerners have experienced. Mohammed Reza Domiri changes that, at least a bit, with extraordinary photography. Using an extreme wide-angle lens, the young Iranian unveils a world of color, geometry, and beauty we can only dream of.

Just 23-years-old, Domiri is a physics student in Iran who has a deep passion for photography. His architecture photography is particularly outstanding, and he is lucky to have incredible subjects throughout Iran – from Shiraz to Isfahan and beyond.

While contemporary Iranian architecture is evolving in a completely different direction – like this home with rotating rooms - historical mosques, baths and palaces reveal a reverence of detail that won’t be seen in even the most flamboyant new structures these days.

Perfect arches, soaring columns, mind-blowing mosaics and stained glass windows that play with light in the most sublime, ethereal way – these are all brought into stunning view with immaculately framed and exposed photography

Related: The world’s most beautiful mosque in Malaysia is vulnerable to rising seas

Anyone who has ever tried architecture photography understands how difficult it is to capture the essence of a building.

But for Domiri, it’s part of the fun. An astute student of light, the artist often takes several shots of once scene and then pieces them together in order to reveal the bigger picture for his viewer. Seriously, I can’t say enough about this work, except that you should seek more of it out for yourself.

Adding to the exclusive nature of these images is the fact that photography is widely considered taboo in Islamic holy spaces. Somehow Domiri, so young and yet so talented, has transcended the taboo – perhaps because he can obviously be trusted to convey his subjects with the utmost respect.

I visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi earlier this year as part of a media tour with Masdar City, and while it is considered one of the most spectacular mosques in the world, I did not capture any photos even remotely as awesome as these!

:: Mohammed Reza Domiri Ganji

Categories: Lifestyle

Investing ethically in the Middle East

Green Prophet - July 30, 2014

With several of the Middle East’s city-states becoming some of the world’s richest locations, it’s little surprise that an increasing number of people, particularly from the west and Far East, are looking at investment options in the region. Twinned with this however, is surge in investors looking for more ethical opportunities for their money.

Trading in ethically approved portfolios and carbon credits (although individuals should avoid these) for instance, is now big business as people consider the impact they’re having, particularly on the environment.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at how investors looking to move their money to the Middle East can do so while still making a positive difference.

Managed Investments

The simplest and most obvious route to take is to search for a wealth management company that offers eco-friendly and ethical investment portfolios. There are plenty of them about, and a quick search of the internet will give you a few options. You’ll then be able to put your capital straight into a fund based on approved assets, or the company will help tailor something for you. This is a great choice for those who like to know what they’re investing in, but aren’t too interested in the hands-on aspect of moving money about. It’s also worth doing your own research to establish whether or not the products they’re offering really are environmentally friendly however. Some companies will have different definitions as to what makes something sustainable or ethical.

Is Energy the Answer?

What is not at all obvious is the energy industry. It’s well known that a great deal of the Middle East’s wealth has come about because of huge oil reserves, which are sold all over the world. The problem with this of course is that investing your money in an industry that profits from gas-guzzling vehicles and inefficient manufacturing is not at all environmentally friendly. You might be surprised to hear then, that the region is actually making major inroads to improve its own energy production, and there was actually more than $30 billion driven into the renewable energy industry last year alone.

If you’re dead set on investing in the Middle East, and want to make your money work for the environment, then there are few better ways of doing it than looking at some of the available ETFs, or simply purchasing stock in some of the companies that are doing this work. If you’re new to moving finances abroad, then you should also consider using a specialist foreign exchange company such as Currencies Direct. Banks are rarely the best choice for either investment decisions or currency dealings.

Solar panelling is looking as though it could be one of the next major developments, with up to $50 billion in investment expected over the next six years. Much of the area has excellent sunlight all year round, which makes this form of energy production a no-brainer. Investors are certainly encouraged to look into this as a growing sector – there are many start-ups about, and those that will make the best returns will do so by identifying which of these eco-friendly businesses are the most likely to really break out. They could well be the major global energy providers of the future.

Image of UAE Dirhams from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Design your own LEED energy efficient dream green prefab with Blu

Green Prophet - July 30, 2014

Why should affordable Dream Homes be limited to Barbie dolls? Design your own fantasy shack from the comfort of your keyboard with California-based Blu Homes – makers of fully customizable, prefab, green housing.

Tap into their “Configurator” software (link here) and choose one of their nine basic models of 1- and 2-story buildings. Then, move through your prototype room by room, choosing built-in furnishings, finishes, and colors. All Blu Homes are LEED Silver certifiable, with most material options are made from recycled materials. Their website claims that Blu prefabs will drop household energy consumption by 50-70%.

Just click to customize every detail. Add outdoor decks with built-in stereo speakers, or fireplaces and refrigerated wine cabinets – then delete them if you don’t like the look. (Use the same computer skills you’ve honed playing Sims or Club Penguin!) Developed by professional architects, the predesigned building components ironically remove the architect from the design process.

Be warned, you might lose hours playing here.

If you stop fiddling around and really get serious, the purchase process is simple. First, set up your ideal design and complete a brief survey about your requirements. Blu will then link you with a design team which includes the people who actually factory-craft the house. On-site installation takes only two days.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Prices for the smallest model (1 bedroom, 461 square feet) start at $155,000.

Load up larger models with luxe add-ons and you’re quickly in the $700,000 ballpark.  Factor in land costs and site prep and realize this design/build method saves time, but not much money.

But prefabs tend to be more energy efficient and easier to maintain than conventional homes, so lowered operation and maintenance costs will – in the long run – help recoup your initial investment.

Prefab buildings are inherently greener than their site-built cousins as construction within controlled factory conditions reduces waste and allows for shorter time to complete work.

Designed for sustainable certification, all Blu Homes feature:

  • Structural steel framing made of up to 90% recycled content (and, in turn,100% recyclable)
  • Forest Stewardship Council certified and sustainably farmed hardwood flooring options
  • Maximized natural light using proper solar orientation and architectural design
  • Energy-efficient lighting and appliances
  • Low-flow fixtures on faucets, shower heads and sinks
  • Low or no VOC paints and finishes, always formaldehyde-free
  • High performance insulation made with recycled content and soy-based binders
  • Hard floor surfaces with radiant heating to protect against allergens and molds

Middle East prefab manufacturers have been around for decades.  Most (such as Super Fab and Extraco) are largely focused on temporary shelters, commonly used for construction site offices, labor camps – and in recent years – emergency refugee housing. Iraqi Prefab has moved into fast-food facilities,and Gulf Prefab offers prefab mosques, schools and resort applications.

But so far none have offered a fun function like Blu Homes’ “Configurator”, which may be the perfect tool to test  if a lean, green living machine is the best place for you to hang your hat.

Images from Blu Homes

Categories: Lifestyle

Israel’s 420 MW leads the Middle East in solar installations by a landslide

Green Prophet - July 30, 2014

While solar power plant installations jump to a new annual record this year, according to the Worldwatch Institute, global trends show that despite all the batabata bing bing (announcements, agreements, tea ceremonies, hand-shaking), the Middle East is doing miserably in taking advantage of the sun –– one country is the exception there and it is Israel.

The Institute clocks 2013 a record year for solar energy growth for solar electricity generation as both the photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) markets continued to grow.

Some 39 gigawatts were installed worldwide, and the PV solar market represented one third of all newly-added renewable energy capacity.

Solar PV installations nearly matched those of hydropower and, for the first time, outpaced wind.

Even though photovoltaics still continue to dwarf CSP capacity, the CSP market also had another year of impressive growth. By the end of 2013, a total of 19 countries had CSP plants installed or under construction.

This is matched with consumption of power from PV and CSP plants which increased by 30 percent globally in 2013 to reach 124.8 terawatt-hours.

Who’s using solar power?

Europe accounted for the majority of global solar power consumption (67 percent), followed by Asia (23.9 percent) and North America (8.1 percent).

However, despite the record growth in installations, global investments were down 20 percent (from $142.9 billion in 2012 to $113.7 billion in 2013), reflecting a significant decrease in costs to build solar installations. Not necessarily interest in the area.

This month a global PV module spot price reached an all-time low of $0.63 per watt. For the first time, Asia overtook Europe as the largest regional market.

Prospects are bright, say experts. And in some countries solar power on roofs is less expensive than buying power retail. Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Italy, and Germany lead the way in this regard.

This year 2014 is expected to bring 40-51 gigawatts online.

Below are the country highlights showing the miserable representation from Middle East countries – countries that have the power and capital potential to lead the way. Clearly crisis management, and carbon based fuels of the last 100 years are still the number one priority for most leaders in the Middle East region.

Prove us otherwise!

Country highlights to compare to the sorry state of the MidEast MENA region:

China installed 12.9 gigawatts of PV, the most ever installed in one year by any country.

Europe installed close to 11 GW of PV.

North America added 5.2 GW of PV.

In Central and South America, solar development has been sluggish.

The Middle East and Africa had little PV activity, with the exception of Israel and South Africa, which added 420 MW and 75 MW, respectively.

Categories: Lifestyle

How girls can go wild on bikes – penny in your pants hack, and more tips

Green Prophet - July 29, 2014

We’re all over bicycles as the best green alternative to getting you where you want to go.  News about bike-messenger schemes in Beirut, dedicated bike lanes in Jericho, and affordable bikes made of cardboard get our wheels spinning every time.  So we’ve loving this simple way to eliminate one of the biggest obstacles to bike riding for women in conservative cultures such as….um, the Middle East.

Green Prophet recently reported on a jacket designed to get women on bicycles (link here), but ask any female cyclist what garment most precludes pedaling, and they’ll pin it on a skirt.  Or a dress.  Or possibly a kilt.  But you get the point – any clothing with flappy fabric around the legs is a surefire way to attract unwelcome audiences with impromptu flashes of upper thigh and panties – embarrassing, and a distraction from safe cycling.

Scottish cycling enthusiast Johanna Holtan came up with a stunning solution, achievable with the contents of your pocket!

Grab a small coin and a hair elastic.  Pinch an inch of lap-area fabric and enfold the coin. Secure it with the elastic (or rubber band).  Get on your bike, laugh at the wind and never inadvertently expose people again!

It will keep you modest when pedaling, and when hopping on and off your bike too. It totally works.

Holtan founded award-winning Edinburgh University Student Association Global and is co-curator of Trade School Edinburgh. By night, she’s the heart and soul of Bikeable Jo, an online space which shares bikeable stories from all over the world.

Oh, and pants don’t feature in this story – but they do make for a better title!

Image of a woman on a bike from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Turkish architects design peace islands to replace La Spezia war arsenal

Green Prophet - July 29, 2014

With so much conflict erupting around us, it’s hard to imagine a peaceful future, but Erdem Architects does a good job of it. The Turkish firm recently won an international design competition with their proposal to turn an area of the Italian city La Spezia, historically used to host the city’s war arsenal, into a series of serene peace islands.

The La Spezia Arsenale 2062 competition was open to architects and designers around the world; they were asked to conceive a more peaceful reality for the host of destructive weapons and reintegrate the area to become a vibrant part of the city. La Spezia lies between Genoa and Pisa in the north.

Günay Erdem and Sunay Erdem took an unusual approach to their design – starting with playful hand drawn renders (versus computer-generated images.) These, which I love for being so human and natural, unsurprisingly have a softening affect on the master plan for the three peace islands.

Like water colors, the diagrams clearly outline the duo’s sweet vision for La Spezia, the diagrams evoke a sense of peacefulness – which is exactly what the brief called for. They trust that the locals will evolve away from the spirit of war and combat, the very antithesis of peace, in search of something more gentle.

Each of their islands has a different theme. Peace Island #1 is a place for socializing – an airy, pedestrian-friendly space for indoor and outdoor eats - that will resonate with vestiges of cultural and historical heritage - without the arsenal part! This is 2062 – remember? Anything is possible.

Related: Gorgeous green-roofed Ostim Park is an incubator for clean tech in Turkey

And perhaps that is what I like most about this design – the sense that anything is possible. My least favorite part is the second island, which is supposed to be for a zoo.

This is an honest thing that probably wouldn’t even transpire. There won’t be enough animals alive to go in zoos by 2062, unless – tragically – we won’t find them anywhere else thanks to climate change and rampant habitat destruction (I shudder at the thought.)

Here’s the important thing: the sentiment is there – the idea that animals are peace-loving and therefore being around them makes our life better comes with good intentions, but in my opinion, as an environmentalist and supporter of wild rights for all creatures, the zoo is not a great idea.

Peace Island #3, on the other hand, is going to be spectacular if this plan comes to pass! This is where a smorgasbord of flowers and other plants will be raised to create a densely vegetated, beautiful space in the heart of the city.

“The arsenal harbor gets a new lease of life after being transformed into three peace islands: The first island is a place of agoras, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, pubs and bookstores where people socialize, not make war,” “Günay Erdem tells World Architecture.

“The second island is a zoo island with animals representing peace. And the third island is a place where plants, the most representative of a peaceful life, grow.”

While other projects captured this essence as well, the judges favored Erdem’s design for its “compliance to program, original details and design creativity, long view and possibilities on the gulf landscape development, composition and look.”

:: Erdem Architects

Categories: Lifestyle

3 green reasons why the UAE should be on your travel bucket list

Green Prophet - July 29, 2014

The United Arab Emirates has now become a very popular holiday destination, boasting dry, hot weather for much of the year. Although the climate may be appealing to tourists, the United Arab Emirates has much more to offer than sun, sand and sunbathing.

1. Natural Attractions

As well as the modern, built up cities, the United Arab Emirates also has stunning natural landscapes. If you visit the Liwa Oasis, you will have the opportunity to take a walk or a camel ride and visit the restored fort.

Wildlife lovers may enjoy a visit to Sharjah, which is home to a variety of endemic animals to the Arabian peninsula such as the Arabian leopard, oryx, foxes and mongooses. The Desert Park at Sharjah has more than one thousand species of animals. Sharjah is also a wonderful location for diving, with warm waters that boast coral reefs and colorful marine life.

The United Arab Emirates is a great location for bird watching, with species including kites, falcons and owls, as well as more than two hundred and fifty species of small bird.

2. Culture

Although best known for the shopping facilities and sandy beaches, the United Arab Emirates also has a lot to offer in the way of cultural attractions. Dubai Museum, which was opened in 1971, is home to collections which teach visitors about the Dubai way of life. Exhibits include antique cannons, pearl fishing boats and displays of archaeological and historical significance.

The archaeological site at Julfar is worth a visit for those who are interested in the history of the area. The site consists of the remains of a former port city which dates back to the Middles Ages, with buildings including a fort, royal palaces and a mosque.

3. Beaches

If you enjoy relaxing on the beach, you will find plenty of options in the United Arab Emirates. Even beaches with Blue Flags – the eco standard. The coastline of Dubai has various public beaches, some of which provide facilities such as sun loungers and multi-coloured beach parasols. There are also areas on some beaches where you can take part in a multitude of sports activities, which include beach volleyball and football.

Many of the beaches are close to amenities such as bars and restaurants, so you will be able to find somewhere to get refreshments. When it comes to culinary wonders that tickle the palate, the restaurants in Dubai definitely won’t be found wanting. Here you’ll find various dishes from different cuisines, ranging from fast food and bar chow to gourmet Arabic cuisine, all these are readily available.

There is much to see and do in the United Arab Emirates, whatever your interests. You can spend the day relaxing on the beach, browsing the shops or you can go diving or take a camel ride through the lush oasis. There should be something to suit even the most discriminating of green tastes!

Laborant /

Categories: Lifestyle

Tesla’s MobilEye partner is going public

Green Prophet - July 29, 2014

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), the electric car company founded by Elon Musk, will be releasings its earnings statement next week and call it kismet or good planning, but Tesla has more good news: its partner Mobileye (NYSE:MBLY), the company that will be giving it driverless technology, said it will open on the New York Stock Exchange this week, with shares ranging between $17 and $19 each.

Want to buy into Tesla’s technology through the back door? The Israeli company is offering 27.8 million shares in a deal valued around $499.5 million. A Tesla spokesperson reportedly revealed nothing about the partnership other than it is “a business relationship.”

Mobileye makes technology that alerts people of an incoming accident. Its software around since 1999 is in use widely in Israel by taxi drivers there, and according to Silicon Beat, Mobileye expects its technology will be available in 160 different kinds of cars from 18 different global automakers by the end of this year.

Mobileye’s technology detects pedestrians and lets drivers know if they have left their lanes or about to collide with something.

Green lovers the world over are rooting for Tesla, about to reveal its earnings report – covering its gigafactory and busiess in China.

Tesla wants to have driverless tech in its cars by 2016 and some say that the Israeli tech will be the secret weapon.

Driverless cars are gaining publicity since Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) started working on them. These kinds of cars are the future – in a world with less emissions and accidents. We are rooting for Tesla.

Categories: Lifestyle

Would stackable B-and-Bee festival shelters work for refugees as well?

Green Prophet - July 28, 2014

When we first presented the solar-powered woven refugee shelters that have now been seen all across the world, many people suggested they’d also make great festival tents. Well, now we’re wondering the opposite. Could these B-and-Bee shelters designed for Belgium festivals provide temporary housing for refugees in the Middle East?

The answer is probably not. And here’s why.

Refugee shelters need to be super lightweight, cheap, and easy to transport. They also need to provide security – women and children are particularly vulnerable in sprawling refugee camps. In fact, major humanitarian aid organizations have published long lists of criteria that need to be observed in order for a structure to fit their needs.

So from this perspective, the stackable honeycomb hives are only barely suitable. They’re not very lightweight, parts have to be assembled with a crane, according to Dezeen, and they aren’t very secure. Festivals are by nature social events, so one goes there expecting to keep their social environment open and flexible.

Related: Collapsible woven refugee tents powered by the sun

In a situation where hundreds or thousands of people have unwillingly come together because of political or environmental situations outside of their control, however, every person is desperate for some peace, quiet, and privacy - even though these things seem to be scarce at present.

The last thing they need is to have someone stomping up and down the metal stairs in front of their tiny cells.

Granted, the cells are very spacious – each has a king-sized bed. And they’re flexible, well-lit, and well-ventilated, which are also essential ingredients for refugee housing. So major score there. Plus the larch wood-clad cubbies have light and lockers.

The fact that the bed can be used as a couch – the idea being that small groups of people can get together even apart from the action – will be less attractive to aid organizations or refugees than young festival goers. Seriously though, this is great, thoughtful design.

Compaan and Labeur first entered their conceptual Honeycomb Hotel into an innovation competition that they went on to win. The inventors Inventors Barbara Vanthorre and Ron Hermans then hooked up with Achilles Design and One Small Step to transform the original concept into something appropriate for festivals.

In order to do that, they did a great deal of research not only to determine the needs of festival organizers, but also to get a sense of what would best fit the needs and desires of a crowd of fun-loving revelers. This is especially geared towards the crowd that aren’t so much into tents.

There is a serious element to the design as well. The cells create job opportunities for people in Belgium who could really use some. Who knows? Perhaps when the group scale up production of their prototypes, six of which were recently tested at the Gentse Feesten in Belgium.

:: Dezeen

Categories: Lifestyle

Green spaces make bigger babies

Green Prophet - July 28, 2014

Not great news for mothers-to-be who live in cement-enroaching cities like Beirut: according to a new study pregnant women living near green urban spaces will deliver babies with higher birth weights. Time to start planting trees?

The new research from Israel and Spain entitled “Green Spaces and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes” was published in the journal, Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The team of researchers including those from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev looked at 40,000 live birth records in Tel Aviv, Israel to determine how green space can influence birth and babies: “We found that that overall, an increase of surrounding greenery near the home was associated with a significant increase of birth weight and decreased risk for low birth weight,” says Prof. Michael Friger, of BGU’s Department of Public Health.

“This was the first study outside of the United States and Europe demonstrating associations between greenery and birth weight, as well as the first to report the association with low birth weight.”

An analysis of neighborhood socioeconomics also revealed that the lowest birth weight occurred in the most economically deprived areas with lack of access to green spaces.

What are green spaces? They are parks, community gardens or even cemeteries – places defined as land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation.

“The application of remote sensing data on surrounding green areas enabled our study to take small-scale green spaces (eg, street trees and green verges) into account, while the OpenStreetMap data determined the major green spaces,” Friger explains.

The Israel Environment and Health Fund supported the study.

Now all you pregnant green girls out there. Go outside and hug a tree. With your hands, or mind.

Image of pregnant woman from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

2014 brings Earth its hottest quarter-year ever!

Green Prophet - July 27, 2014

Two credible scientific datasets are suggesting that Earth, like George Clooney or Elle MacPherson, is getting hotter with age. Buckle your seat-belts and let the Climate Change debate begin!

The past three months were collectively the warmest ever experienced since record-keeping began in the late 19th Century. The Japan Meteorological Agency, which has been tracking global temperatures since 1891, reported that April, May and June nabbed individual titles as the warmest-ever of those months on record – and, when considered together – they also represent the planet’s hottest quarter year .

Bear in mind, this isn’t just saying that these temps are the highest in the past 123 years. We don’t have records predating 1891 – so, theoretically, these could be the peaks of the past 1,230 or 123,000 years!The agency states that the quarterly average was about 0.68 degrees Celsius (1.22 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th-century average. Hardly enough to ruin your summer vacation, but the knock-on to worldwide weather and climate events is arguably significant.

As reported by tech website Future Slate,”abnormally warm ocean water helped spawn the earliest hurricane ever recorded to make landfall in North Carolina, and a rash of heat waves have plagued cities from India to California to the Middle East.”  Additional heat is being produced by a building El Niño emerging in the Pacific, and, for this time of year, Arctic sea ice is trending near record lows.

Don’t put much stock in the Japanese data? NASA also released its monthly global temperature numbers for June. Using different calculation methods, NASA arrived at nearly identical results (June 2014 dropped to third all-time third warmest, and April was tied for second).

At the same time, these agencies report that in April, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached a monthly average of 400 parts per million for the first time in at least 800,000 years.

A “weird science” coincidence that this data is concurrent with Hollywood blockbusters “Godzilla”  and “Noah”? Are the numbers (and the conclusions drawn) just fear-mongering and quackery? Or rational indicators that we need to quickly clean up our post-industrial behavior?

We can argue, or we can act.

Image of warming earth from Shutterstock, temperature graph from The Japan Meteorological Agency

Categories: Lifestyle

A DIY hack to make your air conditioner cooler

Green Prophet - July 27, 2014

Allergic to home improvement? Here’s an easy DIY chore you shouldn’t sneeze at.  It will clean your air,  increase its “coolness”, and save you buckets of money to boot.  Change your air conditioner filters!

Amman, Jordan is enjoying a mild summer, but air conditioners (AC) have been buzzing for months.  The house teen spotted a sluggishness in her bedroom unit’s performance – the conditioned air is tepid, the mechanical breeze limp. Damn, mom, another broken appliance!?

The engineer husband wearily shakes his head.  Unplugs the unit and teaches the kid some basic AC maintenance. Turns out to be embarrassingly easy.  And if an attitude-y 16 year old can do it, so can you.

ACs are simple machines, and maintenance is also basic.  (Maurice has shown how you can rejigger your units to capture precious condensate and use the water to irrigate houseplants - link here). 

The primary way to keep your AC purring like the coolest of cats is to change its filter. Every unit has a removable filter to capture airborne dirt, dust, and here in the Middle East, sand. If filter fibers clog up, air flow is minimized and the unit becomes asthmatic. A wheezing AC is inefficient, meaning you’ll run it longer and consume upwards of 10% more energy.

Here’s the fix:

- Turn off the AC.

- Find the filter:

a. Filters in window and wall-mounted units will be located near the AC front panel, near the vents. Open the panel and slide out the filter.  It can look like either of the two images above – or similar.

b. Central air filters are usually placed behind air vents running along a return air duct (scan your walls and                    ceiling for a vent panel). Carefully remove the panel to access the filter.

c. Stumped? Check the user manual or Google the make/model for manufacturer’s guidance.

 - Most filters are washable, and can be rinsed with plain water in a sink or tub. Not sure if yours can handle a bath? Then wipe it with a damp rag to remove surface debris. If it’s still dingy, take it to a hardware store and get a replacement.

- Know that filters vary by size, material, and performance. Each is graded on its minimum reporting value (MERV). The higher the MERV rating (a scale of 1 to 12), the more cleaning power it has. Higher ratings are better suited for air handling in medical or industrial settings, or in buildings seeking green building status. For home use, stick with filters graded around 7.

- Pop the cleaned or new filter back in the unit, replace the panels, and remember to repeat it every month that the AC is in use.

You are so cool.

Images of dirty AC filter, another dirty filter, the AC panel and clean filter all from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Luxor’s 160 kW solar energy plants would make sun god Ra proud

Green Prophet - July 27, 2014

Luxor home to some of Egypt’s greatest temples has something to solute over: the city has started its first 80kW solar energy plant, worth about $530,000 US to power lights at Luxor University and surrounding streets.

A second solar power plant, with a capacity of 80kW, will be powering the Luxor government buildings.

The two plants were inaugurated last Saturday by Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, and the governor of the city of Luxor, Tarek Saad Eddin.

Another 2MW solar energy plant, cost $3 million USD will power some residential buildings in Luxor. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that about 300,000 people in Egypt lack access to electricity. Those with power put a growing importance on oil, especially the polluted kind like bitumen.

To the ancient Egyptians, the sun represented light, warmth, and growth. To modern Egyptians looking to repair their economy for tourism they see the way forward in renewables and sustainable tourism. The solar power plants were switched on shortly after Egypt hosted the international solar power conference: Luxor Is a Green City this past June.

Luxor is the largest tourism region in southern Egypt, with some 70% of Egypt’s Pharaonic relics found inside the Luxor region, according to figures from the Ministry of State for Antiquities.

While tourism is down significantly from past years, Luxor is still home to 168 cruise hotels located along the Nile’s pathway between Luxor and Aswan. There is a hotel capacity of 17,000 rooms waiting to be filled.

Will green tourists be wooed to come back to Egypt?

Saad Eddin tells local newspapers that he will be pushing solar energy in the Luxor region. PM Adel Labib says that there is a giant US$1 billion solar energy project in the energy pipeline.

Meanwhile those taking a cruise down the Nile, don’t expect big bargains as the increase in price of diesel has caused cruise prices to double, according to local news reports. Until recently fuel was highly subsidized.

The Telegraph has an excellent guide to cruises that are running this season if the trip is still on your bucket list.

Like Israel nearby Egypt is aiming to generate 20% of its energy from renewables by 2020. That translates to about 1.8GW of solar power in the framework. 

Ancient Egyptians knew that the sun was power. Modern ones too will hopefully see solar as the way forward and out of Cairo’s black smog days of polluting oil and diesel. Time to salute the sun.

Don Mammoser /

Categories: Lifestyle

Car sensing cycling jacket with LED lights – when design gets silly!

Green Prophet - July 27, 2014

Have you ever read an online story where the comments best the content, turning your idle news-scanning into a mini-meta experience? A recent piece on some new bike-safety gear caught our eye – (what’s not to love about designs to encourage pedal power!) - but it was the readers’ response that snapped the story into perspective.

Design for its own sake is superfluous; when the functionality of an artifact can be replaced by sensible behavior, that design slips into meta mode too.

Deimatic Clothing was developed by art school graduate Will Verity. It’s a jacket equipped with integral LED lights that are activated by approaching cars.  Triggered by proximity sensors, the lights flash with increased speed to better illuminate the cyclist. In the animal kingdom, deimatic behavior is a defensive strategy that uses visual threat to create the illusion of power.

One example is a rapid color change in insects or fish when they are frightened. On the surface, a clever concept – but it “weirds-up” in the marketing pitch.  The garment is aimed at helping women conquer cycling fears. Get Britain Cycling, a report published by the British government, calculates that women cyclists account for only 25% of British bike journeys (compare that to 55% of biking chicks in the Netherlands).  The biggest barriers to women riding were tagged as “fear of accidents” and “not owning a bicycle”.

According to Dezeen Magazine, Verity’s glowing jacket responds to a UK goal to “increase cycle use from less than two per cent of journeys in 2011 to 25 per cent by 2050″.

(Alternatively, women could be given free bikes- but where’s the design fun in that?) Readers dropped comments ranging from supportive to snide, but several were spot-on in calling out the concept’s weaknesses, “…how does the garment differentiate approaching vehicles and static objects? Relative to an advancing cyclist, isn’t the whole world in movement?”

The lack of basic road safety gear was noted twice by, “Maybe she should have to use a helmet before wearing this kind of stuff,” and, “Her bike has neither lights nor reflective surfaces? Oh, come on! Did Mr. Verity ask himself if women in the UK have a fear of bicycles because they don’t use basic equipment?”

Another wrote,”I know plenty of women who are not afraid to cycle in London and plenty of men who are. This should not just be pitched at women. It’s time to refigure the design problem of the London street.”

This year has seen an uptick in London road fatalities, and designers are working to improve cycling safety. The best way to encourage more bums on bikes is to install proper cycling infrastructure; wide and level lanes that are seamlessly interconnected and protected from other traffic; adequate lighting; and cyclist-specific traffic control signals. 

As a writer of internet content, random banter between me and the reader is what brings word-painting to life.  I write to share info and sometimes a point-of-view.  Reader feedback often returns a new angle of viewing a topic; comments can tell a different story.

The commentator subtext here is “less design and more common sense” – isn’t that the foundation of sustainability? Let’s take it full-on meta, and leave us your comments on superfluous design.


Categories: Lifestyle

Be a humanitarian superhero: park politics

Green Prophet - July 26, 2014

Israel and Hamas agreed to a 12-hour ceasefire in Gaza yesterday, a brief respite from the escalating violence that is testing the capabilities of relief agencies already strained by four years of Syrian war and renewed battles in Iraq.  It’s a half day opportunity to park politics and take humanitarian action. Want to make a difference? Jump into some point and click compassion.

We’ve all been smacked around by recent news – regional events of increasing horror. Consider the plane crashes (over 700 dead in July alone); attacks at an Egyptian border crossing (killing 22 border guards) and a Yemeni gas pipeline (7 dead); Boko Haram bombings in Nigeria (80 murdered); ISIS assaults on Iraqi Christians (over 150 fatalities); and the incessant bloodbath of the Syrian war (170 killed last weekend).

No time to crawl under our covers. We are not powerless. Broadcasting our political POV via Hashtag tweets and Facebook postings may raise awareness among our personal followers, but when it comes to human aid (as we learned with our hats-for-Syrians drive) cash is king.  We can fight feelings of helplessness with money, and provide immediate help.

Getting assistance to Gaza has long been problematic, and food security has been a chronic headache due to years of blockade and restrictions on fishing and farming. Import of goods and money (thwarted by closed borders and the combined shenanigans of Hamas, Israel and Egypt) is left largely to international aid organizations.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) issued an appeal for emergency food supplies for the estimated 150,000 people displaced in the past 3 weeks.

Swift response came from two Jordanian organizationsTkiyet Um Ali (TUA) and the Jordan Hasehmite Charity Organization (JHCO) who, together, provided 15,000 family food rations, which will enable UNRWA to feed 75,000 people for thirteen days. It’s a small dent in the growing mountain of need.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services and the agency, which is 97% reliant on voluntary contributions, runs a budget deficit of $69 million. You can pop some cash – now – to UNRWA, or several other non-political, non-religious aid agencies we’ve identified below.  Each makes it simple to donate, resulting in immediate aid at point of need.

UNRWA is providing trauma counseling, food, and emergency bedding.  Click here to help. 

TUA is accepting walk-up donations at their booths in Amman commercial centers including City Mall, City Mall Center, Carrefour City Mall, Safeway, Cosmo, Taj Mall, Mecca Mall, Galleria Mall, Sahara Mall – and in Irbid. Call +962 (0)6 4900900 for more information. Or click here for their English/Arabic website.

Not in Jordan? Donations can also be wired to:

Islamic International Arab Bank, Branch Gardens
Tkiyet Um Ali and Charitable Society for Voluntary Work
Account name: Tkiyet Um Ali
Account number: 1,010 / 000 188 -0/505

Medical Aid for Palestine delivers medical care working in partnership with local health providers and hospitals. Click here to help.

Awqaf (Islamic Affairs) Ministry for Gazan orphans (a/k/a Monsara) is a Jordan-based charity that seeks to fulfill essential needs of Gaza’s children. Click here to help.

Palestine Children’s Relief Fund has three offices and a field staff on the ground in Gaza identifying injured kids and providing them with critical medical care, and providing displaced families with urgent humanitarian aid. Click here to help.

This list is just a sampler of established agencies with proven experience in aid delivery.  Aware of others?  Please leave details in the comments section. Screw politics. Support people.

Image of UNRWA World Food Program trucks from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

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

Green Prophet - July 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:: Core 77

Categories: Lifestyle

Plastic for kibble – vending machines for stray animals in Istanbul

Green Prophet - July 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Related: Egyptian vet school exposed for vicious treatment of animals

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

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

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


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

:: Elite Daily

Categories: Lifestyle
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