Strandbeest: beach-blown plastics that have a life of their own

Green Prophet - June 14, 2014

Theo Jansen transforms plastic bottles and conduit into skeletal frames – complete with movable joints, wings, and bellies – that are able to walk powered only by wind.

This modern-day Frankenstein has toiled for decades to create life from the inanimate; he sources his materials from building supply stores and recycling depots, not graveyards.

As his creatures evolve, becoming more proficient at individual survival, he envisions herds of his “animals” living out their lives on beaches around the world. 

Jansen’s critters have no productive function, they simply are. A philosophical question arises from his melding of art and technology: why is aimless existence oddly unsettling?

Since 1990, Jansen has been building his “strandbeests” using inexpensive plastic tubing. His first prototypes of wind-walkers have evolved into a pack of artificially intelligent machines that can respond to their natural habitat.Over the decades, the designs have better adapted to their beachfront environment, able to survive storms and “sense” tidal changes. His machines react to the changing weather and control their own movements.They have jointed legs, which are more efficient than wheels when traversing sandy plains. They’ve developed new appendages to better harness the wind; first using simple sails to power the critters along the beachfront, next using rotating wings, now using recycled plastic bottle “stomachs” to store energy (in the form of air pressure) for days when breezes are scarce.

Speaking in a BMW television commercial, Jansen (he was formally trained as a physicist) said, “The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds.”

YouTube features video of Jansen making strandbeests, and also clips of the fully-formed figures in action on a beach near his home in Delft. (Most cameo the inventor and his sidekick white pup.)

Could these animals be domesticated?  Not as pets (too enormous for human companionship – plus they could never be house-trained) – but possibly as working animals? Re-jigger them to sweep up litter from Abu Dhabi’s and Doha’s Corniche; or pop on some solar collectors so they can act as charging stations for all the tech in our Red Sea/Dead Sea beach bags.

Maybe allow these self-propelling beach critters to become part of the natural order, and quietly enjoy their presence. Their creepiness subsides. The graceful motion and quietude mesmerizes.  Ever see a plastic bag dance quietly in a gust of wind? It’s magic when the weird becomes wonderful.

Images from Strandbeest

Categories: Lifestyle

Meat laundering, Middle East style

Green Prophet - June 14, 2014

Israel’s dubious meat industry gets more sickening: we’ve already covered exposes of poultry fed with feces and pumped with toxic contaminants. Now it’s all about beef and how it’s frozen, treated laundry style and then resold as fresh.

The consumer watchdog TV show, Kolbotek, also exposed extreme cruelty toward cattle and sheep brought for slaughter in one of Israel’s prime slaughterhouses, Adom Adom.

Kolbotek has sent in undercover agents in the meat processing industry.  The meat and poultry in fact is “treated” with water and phosphate additives to make it appear to be fresh cut meat, in  order to sell it at higher prices.

Israeli Consumer Products Law restricts the amount of water that is added to meat to  no more than 5 percnt of the meat’s total weight. The actual amount of water, however is much more; often exceeding 15% or more.

Even if the actual water content is indicated on packages of frozen meat, high water content result in the meat being considered as  “fake” or not of a quality suitable to be marketed as fresh meat.

Due to the high prices of beef and other meat sold to Israeli consumers, the average citizen eats less beef and other high priced meat (only 15 kg  per person a year) than people living in meat consuming countries like Argentina, Australia, the US and the UK.

Israeli consumers interviewed by Kolbotek said that when it came to eating certain cuts of meat, like entricote steak for example,  they know that cuts coming from frozen meat are less attractive and do not taste the same as fresh cuts.

Water being added to both meat and fish products has been an issue that has previously been covered by Kolbotek; as well  as by Green Prophet, especially in regards to imported frozen fish products from China that are said to be  pumped full of water and chemical additives.

According to Kolbotek’s narrator, Rafi Ginat, it now appears that literally thousands of tons of frozen meat, imported from countries like Argentina, Uruguay and Australia are treated with a solution  of water and sodium triposphate, also known by the code name of STPP M212.

Sodium Triphosphate, the same additive used to improve the  appearance and taste of frozen fish, is also used in a variety of other products, including tooth paste and cleaning compounds. The meat in  question is often sold in local supermarkets as entricot steak and other higher priced “fresh” meat. This also includes higher priced poultry like pullets or “Spring Chicken”.

How the “meat laundering” process works is something that might be compared with washing clothes in a front loading washing machine.

The thawed frozen meat is put into a large revolving drum and treated in a “bath” of  water and STPP solution that gives the meat a more desirable color as well as adding weight to it. The treated meat is then packaged and sold as fresh meat at a much higher price than the frozen variety.

Kolbotek sent its investigators  to several large Israeli supermarket chain stores, including Shufersol Deal, Rami Levi; and Baladi, a large wholesale meat supply company. Meat samples were tested  for concentrations of water and chemical additives like STPP.

Meat samples were tested in local laboratories, as well as being sent  for testing in a large European laboratory for comparison with meat sold there, according to European standards.

It was found that many of the Israeli meat samples  were considerably lower in quality than those found in most European countries, which have strict laws dealing with meat cuts that are sold as fresh and not frozen.

This was particularly so for meat samples sold in the Rami Levi supermarket chain, which were found to be high in phosphates and other chemical additives.

Kolbotek interiewed Ms. Angie Gaon Eidelberg,  a former engineer with the Israeli Health Ministry’s food quality division, who told them that “fresh” meat sold in Rami Levi’s Ashdod branch was “full of water and chemicals; and was not fresh meat at all but “fake” meat being represented as fresh.

The meat also contained high levels of vitamin C additives that make the meat look more attractive. Some meat samples from sources like the Baladi meat company and from the previously mentioned Adom Adom
meat processing company were found to be acceptable but much higher in price than the “fake” samples.

In fact, cuts like entrecote steak from these acceptable sources sell for much higher prices; up to NIS 150 per kg. Rami Levi’s spokesperson told Kolbotek that they sell meat from Baladi that is of high quality; but Kolbotek’s investigation appears to prove otherwise.

The entire “meat laundering” scandal, as exposed by Kolbotek, can be seen here (in Hebrew):

The bottom line of findings by Kolbotek indicates that “there is no fresh quality meat like entrecote steaks that sell for  NIS 70 a kilogram.”

Rafi Ginat, Kolbotek’s long time narrator, ended the program by saying that ” we cannot trust even the health ministry to tell us what is fresh and what is not; we can only trust ourselves to find good quality meat.”

The fresh meat test:

He added that one of the most simple tests is to insert your finger into the muscle of a piece of meat being sold as fresh; and if the depression created in the muscle stays there afterward, the meat is thawed out and not fresh.

Read more on issues surrounding Israel’s meat industry:

Israel’s Cruel Meat Industry Exposed by Watchdog TV Show

Israeli Meat Fed With Feces and Pumped With Toxic Contaminants

The Meat You Eat May Not be What You Think

Categories: Lifestyle

Massive solar panel factory opens in Qatar, long overdue

Green Prophet - June 11, 2014

Qatar Solar Energy has unveiled a massive factory that will produce high quality solar panels that make the most of the desert sun, a boon not just for the emirate, but potentially for the entire Middle East.

QSE claims that they are now the largest solar power producer in the region with 300 MW capacity, eclipsing the United Arab Emirates, which recently ranked third in the world for Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) after Spain and the United States.

At the unveiling, which was attended by a host of dignitaries, QSE told Al Jazeera that they have plans to expand their capacity to 2.5GW, though board member Reyad Fezzani was not willing to predict when they might reach that goal.

“It’s an exciting future for solar energy and we haven’t even scratched the surface,” Fezzani told journalists during a tour of the facility outside of Doha.

Related: Qatar has the world’s largest carbon footprint

Qatar is the sixth largest producer of natural gas, and many of its citizens are among the world’s wealthiest, but the emirate has long recognized the need to bring more renewable energy on board to cope with such difficulties as water scarcity and finite fossil fuels.

“In line with Qatar’s 2030 Vision, we are making tangible and determined steps towards deploying new and renewable energy and establishing Qatar as a technology development and research hub in these new energy industries,” says QSE on their website.

In order to help facilitate research and development, the group established the Al Jazari Center of Excellence is said to host a “highly skilled and equipped R&D Lab Center.”

Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, attended Sunday’s inauguration, Al Jazeera reports.

“What impresses me is that it’s driven by a visionary view of what we should be doing for the future,” he told the paper, adding the facility was “beyond state-of-the-art.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Asbestos fire survival guide

Green Prophet - June 11, 2014

An important business community in Bnei Brak (Ramat Gan) outside of Tel Aviv has been made toxic by an asbestos fire that broke out last Wednesday. The asbestos fire, which ended up smouldering for days, took place in a one-story building with an asbestos roof that was used to store tires, clothing and electric bicycles.

Strong wind caused the fire to spread. The bigger problem is that it was next to two very populated towers.

The area was in one of Israel’s largest industrial zones. People were told to stay away from BSR Towers next to the blaze. The BSR Towers are a complex of three towers, two built on opposite sides of Derech Ben Gurion road dividing the cities of Bnei Brak and Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv.

But people who work at the towers are confused as to what they should do. Some were told to return to work.

The two BSR Towers each 24 and 27 story towers respectively were built in 2004, a time when building with asbestos was illegal. But they were constructed next to a large warehouse which was full of the stuff.

The BSR buildings or the Alon Towers are offices and workplaces to many including *Nava who refuses to go back to work for fear of asbestos fibers, she tells Green Prophet.

The fire has released toxic asbestos fumes and particles in the air. Nava believes that “People are not taking this seriously it seems,” she tells Green Prophet.

“[One] day after [the] fire, I walked nearby fire area, which was closed off,” Nava reports. “A few young soldiers explained that there was a fire with poison in air. I asked about the BSR building and took another route there. Arcaffe was closed. A kiosk was open. What happened? I asked.

“Evacuation, said the kiosk owner. I walked into BSR 3 and was told by a security guard to get out as the building had been evacuated earlier.

“But the security guards stay, without protection,” Nava, who is from Tel Aviv, says.

She writes to me: “If you go you may see some folks with SARS masks in their pocket. The security people there are quite pleased to talk. I was told [by my boss that] Monday it was work as usual. I do not know who showed up. I do not want my picture out there nor my name. I tried to talk to co workers about dangers but I walked out alone Sunday at 1pm.

“Meanwhile I have written Ministry of Environment officials and so far received no response,” she tells me.

The World Health Organization says that no exposure to asbestos is okay for humans. According to some sources it is most dangerous when it is burning, as asbestos vapors easily seep into the air supply and can be breathed in by unsuspecting victims.

Asbestos is invisible and it is odorless. The cancer that it causes does not show up for 15 or 20 years or more after exposure making it difficult to pinpoint exposure.

It is found everywhere throughout Israel.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection urged that anyone within 50 meters of the fire were at risk for inhaling toxic asbestos particles and urged them to stay away until the clean up is complete.

Other precautions for those that lived close to 6 Hayarkon Street in Bnei Brak was to keep their windows shut and their air conditioners off to avoid inhaling cancer-causing asbestos fibres.

It’s hard to imagine that in the case of strong winds that the seclusion zone still remains at only 50 meters or about 55 yards. Other measures, according to the ministry should be taken:

Surviving an asbestos fire:

Avoid remaining outdoors, or in buildings that are partially open such as garages, for long periods of time.

Do not open windows of your building that face the fire site. Do not operate air conditioners that take in external air from the ground level.

If you notice that windows facing the site were open, or that an air conditioner taking in external air from the ground level is operating, wipe the surfaces (windows, shelves, floor) with a wet rag, then double bag the rag and throw it out.

If there is an odor of fire in your building, the following populations should evacuate the floor: pregnant women, asthma sufferers, those with cardiovascular problems, and those with other breathing problems.

Any further questions can be addressed to the Ministry’s Tel Aviv District office: 03-763-4444.

I have to say cynically – good luck with that. I’ve seen my kids playing with chunks of asbestos in public parks in Jaffa. The stuff is everywhere in Israel, including on the roofs of kindergartens and on government buildings.

The neighboring office of my house leased by the charity Yad Sarah is roofed in asbestos. Appeals made by myself to the organization’s president and spokesperson have been fruitless. They say it is not their problem. The roof faces my kids’ bedroom. Am I afraid for them? Very much.

Who pays when the next generation gets cancer?

In Tel Aviv, and Israel, and the Middle East asbestos is everywhere. The city of Nahariya is particularly at risk for mesothelioma the special kind of lung cancer that asbestos exposure causes.

Earlier in March an Israeli Defence Ministry building went up in flames. It was also housed in asbestos but no one mentioned the dangers back then.

I can also imagine all the unnamed fires in the region that carry an asbestos exposure threat.

The only safe building is a building with no asbestos. Let this hard lesson be one that we don’t need to learn again.

*Name changed

Categories: Lifestyle

Dual gender creatures in nature makes us think twice about gender bending

Green Prophet - June 11, 2014

Listen up class.  There’s a mind-blowing biological anomaly called bilateral gynandromorphism, a condition where an animal or insect contains both male and female characteristics, evenly split smack down the middle. The end result is a creature that is literally half male and half female.  It’s rare and most frequently spotted in birds, insects and crustaceans.

These images of affected butterflies from Dalton State College in Georgia, USA and Colossal are striking, but if you really want a visual shock, search for images of lobsters and poultry! (Spoiler alert – one is included at the end of this story.)

How’s it happen? All sexually reproducing organisms begin as a single cell comprised of a fused sperm and egg cell which divides repeatedly to create all the different cells in the body.  In insects (and birds and shelled critters) cell division is “determinate”, meaning that each division determines exactly what purpose that cell will serve (a muscle cell, a nerve cell, etc.).

A gaff in early cell division could result in a chromosomal haywire that splits gender characteristics in half. If the error occurs during later cell divisions, the result could be a smaller portion of the body/wings that looks like one sex and a larger portion that looks like another.  It can even happen more than once during development, resulting in patches of female and male scattered throughout the body!

Thankfully, the condition doesn’t occur in humans. The earliest cell divisions in people are “indeterminate”, meaning that cell development pathways remain flexible. Also, given that almost all human sexual differentiation is a result of hormones which are distributed relatively evenly throughout the body,  you would never see a stark split in human physiology with, as example, a breast on one side and a flat chest on the other.


It’s thought that bilateral gynandromorphism occurs when two sperm enter a single egg. One fuses with the nucleus of the egg and a female insect develops, and the other develops within the same egg but without another set of chromosomes. Both a male and a female insect develop within the same body.

This isn’t chimerism – the condition where two embryos with unique DNA fuse together and develop as a single fetus, resulting in an individual with two sets of DNA in a single body – essentially the opposite of identical twins. (This can occur in humans as well as chickens.)

Sometimes a chimera will have one set of DNA be male and the other female. This is what happens in the case of our avian gynandromorphs where female DNA will express as hen and male DNA will express as rooster (see the surreal last image, below).


Gynandromorphism doesn’t always look as perfect as these examples – but it does look perfectly bizarre!  Read a more thorough scientific explanation from the Dalton State researchers (link here).

All images from Dalton State College

Categories: Lifestyle

First bitcoin ATM in the Middle East opens in Israel

Green Prophet - June 10, 2014

BITBOX will launch the Middle East’s first bitcoin ATM tomorrow evening local time in Tel Aviv. The specialized vending machine allows even novice bitcoin users to both purchase and sell bitcoins in a very secure manner.

I admit to belonging to the crowd that hasn’t become too excited about bitcoin, because I’ve been waiting to see how serious it will become. This news from Israel has my attention, and should have yours too.

The ATM will open in the lobby of TOWN-HOUSE TLV hotel, 32 Yavne St. at the corner of Rothschild Blvd on Wednesday 11 June, 2014, at 7pm.

“Bitcoin is experiencing a massive growth-trend in Israel but until now all transactions must either be carried out through a bank, with a lot of bureaucratic hurdles involved, or through trading with private individuals which can be unreliable and raise questions of trustworthiness,” said Nimrod Gruber, CEO of BITBOX.

“The launch of the first Bitcoin ATM in the Middle East will allow any person with no previous knowledge of bitcoin and how it works to easily buy and sell bitcoin 24/7 bypassing the bureaucracy of the banks”.

Gruber adds that the familiar interface will make it easy for users to exchange their bitcoins for local currency (Shekels). They can also purchase bitcoins, and anyone who doesn’t have what is called a wallet, which is how this currency is stored, the ATM will create one on the spot.

Bitcoin is an alternative currency developed in 2009 by developer Satoshi Nakamoto as a way to bypass bureaucracy and facilitate easier transactions.

The bitcoin system has no central repository and no single administrator, which has led the US Treasury to call bitcoin a decentralized virtual currency, according to Wikipedia.

Because bitcoins can be transferred directly from one person to another they are sometimes described as digital cash. Although its status as a currency is disputed, media reports often refer to bitcoin as a cryptocurrency or digital currency.

BITBOX explains that the ATM will be particularly useful for Israel’s foreign workers. They can buy bitcoins through the ATM in Tel Aviv and minutes later, their families will be able to withdraw cash in local currency in a similar bitcoin ATM in their home country.

Made by US-based Robocoin, the ATM is said to be very secure.

Phone, PIN, and palm-vein secure customer accounts against theft and fraud, according to BITBOX. And the security features comply with strict anti-money laundering regulation.

:: BitcoinATM; stock ATM image | Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Gorgeous geodesic dome burned down for Las Fallas festival in Spain

Green Prophet - June 10, 2014

The Castielfabib community of Valencia put on an especially exciting show during this year’s Las Fallas festival in Spain. An annual celebration that culminates on St. Joseph’s Day – (the patron saint of carpenters, of course), “The Fires” involves an entire community working together. And fire. Check out the geodesic dome that went up in flames.

Falla Castielfabib 2014. Plantà. from matoses on Vimeo.

Las Fallas most likely takes its origin from a Spring / Harvest pagan ritual that has evolved into one of Spain’s zaniest fiestas, and that’s saying a lot. Specifically a Valencian tradition, the week-long event brings the community together for a series of comic, religious and historic street activities that is laced with with a healthy dose of irony.

Mixuro Estudio de Arquitectura led the geodesic dome project in The Castielfabib community – a deeply inspiring and creative project that would have made Buckminster Fuller proud. ‘Bucky’ widely extolled the geodesic form created by Dr. Walther Bauersfeld three decades before he became a respected voice among earth-conscious people.

Several members of the community signed up to work with the design team to make a geodesic dome out of non-toxic materials, a process that took days, but which was rewarded with an extraordinary, but temporary space of utter perfection.

Related: DIY Geodesic home made with straw bales for about $1,000

Stacks of cardboard and paper triangles with colorful triangles inside them were assembled to create the dome – the colorful parts inside, which really impressed me. The dome was erected on a substantial plot covered in sand. Children are seen in the video playing in the sand while the adults put the finishing touches on their structure.

And then the flames! Largely I think because of the material choices and how the dome was erected, the fire was carefully managed to burn from the inside out. The person responsible for putting that initial flame to this beautiful communal artwork that involved so many hours of devotion and purpose is called The Malleler Mayor.

Ecologically speaking, this is probably not that great. Extracting a pile of materials just to burn them down?

But culture is also an essential component of any ecosystem, and the design team’s ability to simplify a fairly complex project to such an extent that an entire community could build it together with very little training speaks volumes about their talent. And the community’s commitment to tradition.

We really love this. Can you tell?

Categories: Lifestyle

Students tackle ‘space elevator’ design challenge in Israel

Green Prophet - June 09, 2014

In 1895, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky proposed to build a space elevator that could reach from Earth into space; it never got off the ground, but in 1957 another Russian – Yuri Artsutanov – came up with a more plausible idea. It wasn’t built either, but now he has a chance to judge a team of Israeli students who are tackling the concept anew.

Artsutanov proposed to build the space elevator from a geostationary satellite base. His would have been anchored to Earth with a cable and a counterweight that would have kept the cable’s center of gravity in sync with the satellite base.

The engineer never did see his idea come to fruition, but now, more than half a century later, Artsutanov has the opportunity to judge a team of students at Israeli’s Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, where the 12th annual Technobrain competition is taking place.

Tasked with building a device that will stand at an 80 degree angle to the ground and climb to a height of 82 feet, the students are not permitted to use any kind of open flame or combustible energy.

Related: Polluting the final frontier with space junk

“The challenge requires contestants to also slide down from this height while lifting a “space elevator” carrying practical cargo from the other side of the pulley,” according to Israel 21C.

The pulley represents the Space Station’s location, while the mission course is said to emulate the space elevator’s movement.

Taking place on 18 June, 2014, the competition will see three father and son teams – all graduates of Technion – try their hand at perfecting a concept that first originated over a century ago.

We look forward to learning about Artsutanov’s response to the student designs. Hopefully they will make him proud. At the very least, $1,440 and $865 in prizes for the winning designs are up for grabs.

Space elevator image | Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Musical ambassadors for our planet

Green Prophet - June 07, 2014

Is there anything that communicates more effectively than music? It transcends language, with a power unmatched among the Fine Arts to cross boundaries, express and evoke emotion, and unite disparate people.

It’s the reason national anthems exist,  why charity singles raise so much cash, and why infectiously joyful songs like Pharrell Williams’ HAPPY can spur hundreds of spin-off videos representing communities around the planet.

An improbable trio of stellar musicians kicked off the celebration of May 9th’s Europe Day – part of the 2014 Amman Jazz Festival which took place in May across Jordan’s capital city.

Two Syrians joined the stage with a German to perform for a multinational audience – and underscored this writer’s belief that musicians make the world’s finest ambassadors. But since Pete Seeger passed away this year, are any musicians using their talents to spread environmental awareness?

German composer and accordion player Manfred Leuchter and Syrian composer and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh have been musical partners for over 8 years. Syrian soprano Dina Orsho joined them onstage for an incredible concert of original compositions and improv, a virtuosic blending of wind instruments and mind-play by three unique talents.

Leuchter is an established ethno-jazz-and world-music accordion master who developed his very own musical genre merging occident and orient. In pieces where his instrument dominated, the music was similar to klezmer, energetic and joyful sounds that mimicked human voices.

Clarinetist Azmeh has a distinctive sound that’s gaining international recognition. Currently finishing his doctorate at the City University of New York, his usual point of US entry is New York’s JFK airport where immigration lines split for Americans and visitors.

Says the Syrian artist, “When I get to the desk, a third line opens just for me! And I’m led to a special room where I meet all my good friends from Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq.” He good-naturedly explained how tightening security results in many hours lost in airport holding rooms for people from the Middle East.

During one of these layovers (his worst was 5 hours) he put the time to excellent use and composed a piece of music entitled Airports, which he dedicated to all Middle Eastern air travelers who’ve – well – been in the same boat. The piece calls for audience participation.

“Please sing loudly”, he asked the Amman audience, “so they can maybe hear us across the border.” (We were sitting about 45 miles from war-ravaged Daraa in Syria). Everyone was soon singing the haunting, wordless song, echoing Orsho’s extraordinary vocal lead.  A goose-bump moment that ended the concert on a surprisingly optimistic vibe.

If music can convert an international audience into a cohesive sound machine, transcending politics and tapping into our common humanity – why don’t we use it more often to communicate urgent matters of peace, understanding, and acceptance?

Silence the talking heads, muzzle the pundits. Set “Cradle to Cradle” to music.  Make an instrumental version of “Silent Spring”. This specific performance was funded by the European Union and the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC). Think they’d underwrite a similar musical program in support of the environment?

Just imagine.

Categories: Lifestyle

Spiraling Plantagon vertical farms grow more food on a small urban footprint

Green Prophet - June 06, 2014

Food insecurity is daunting, particularly in cities. And while industrial vertical farming offers a solution, the absence of chickens and may and other signs of farm life casts suspicion on this method of tech-based food production. Plantagon aims to bridge that divide with a solution that can be implemented on just about any building, anywhere. Founded by Swecorp Citizenship Stockholm AB and the Onondaga Nation in New York, Plantagon International has nurtured an extensive network of researchers, governments, non-government organizations and other interested parties across the globe to develop a food-growing system that packs more quality food into a smaller urban footprint. The basic premise is this: just about any building can be transformed into a productive greenhouse using various kinds of systems – either a facade that is clipped on to an existing building, a multifunctional greenhouse that allows the building to continue functioning as it with the addition of a food-growing system, or an entire building devoted to growing food. The machinery to drive the operation is located in the basement, and a helix or ramp climbs up the building, circulating vegetable pots on trays throughout the building. A service corner allows access to each level from the basement to the crown of the building Related: End hunger – food and vertical farming in the Middle East The helix maximizes light exposure and the footprint ratio (more plants when compared to a flat, horizontal plot), while minimizing water use and artificial lighting. Different systems would be implemented in different climate zones, depending on the light availability and the circumstances. One might choose to install a PlantaWall facade, which is 3-6 meters deep and offers shade for the offices while still providing sufficient daylighting. Carbon dioxide, in this system, would be directed from areas populated by people to the plants, while oxygen produced by plants would be lead to the offices to improve air quality. Plantagon also offers multifunctional greenhouses or a standalone building. In each case, they have a thorough method of establishing the right conditions for each scenario. The core of the company’s mission is to scale up urban farming across the globe with a focus on symbiosis; in so doing, they hope to alleviate food insecurity in the coming years of population expansion and climate change by providing locally-grown produce that would be delivered directly to people (which helps to bring down transportation costs and reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions.) Most essentially, Plantagon embraces urban industrial agriculture as a necessary solution to feed the millions who are moving into cities - by 2050, 80 percent of the Earth’s inhabitants will live in cities. “As modern people we must strive to find good solutions in food production that use synergies in the hinterland between technology and everyday life,” the company notes.   Or we could continue with business as usual, in which case we will need arable land the size of Brazil in order to produce sufficient food. :: Plantagon

Categories: Lifestyle

Tunisia’s phosphate town is dying over our addiction to phosphorus

Green Prophet - June 06, 2014

Today Redeyef, Tunisia, is quite a scene: it’s a decrepit French colonial houses are surrounded by mountains of black phosphate sand, radioactive water lakes and its inhabitants, the vast majority unemployed, walk around with yellowish brown toothy smiles.

The main sounds are that of shuddering chains transporting phosphate, and sirens marking the beginning and end of working hours. The average life expectancy here is 60 years, as lung and colonic cancer, leukemia, kidney stones, rheumatism and tooth loss chip away at people’s lives.

Phosphate is a perverse affair for Redeyef: it has become the life and death of its people.

Phosphate is used in agriculture as fertilizer, and animal feed, but in dishwasher detergent, in soft drinks, and also as flame retardants and to treat water in water softeners. It is used to make cereal, produce chicken, make cheese, and to make ice cream, pudding, canned and fresh vegetables. It’s virtually everywhere unless you produce your own organic food. We can imagine its economic value.

The region of Gafsa in Tunisia is found in one of the largest phosphate basins in the world where Compagnie des phosphates de Gafsa (CPG), the fifth largest phosphate producer in the world, produces 8 million tons per year.

Redeyef, a community in the region of Gafsa, finds itself battling daily with the side effects of phosphate production.

Green Prophet meets Abed, father of four children, and soon two more, has worked in the water treatment sector for six years. He explains that the principle phosphate related activity in Redeyef is the “humid treatment”,  that is washing, of phosphate which is bought here from all over the region by train.

This practice is highly polluting for two reasons: first the open sky black phosphate sand mountains, of which Redeyef is increasingly seeing itself surrounded by, blows in the desert winds entering into the homes, crops, mouths and lungs of its inhabitants.

Second, the water used to wash the phosphate is expelled into artificial lakes which infiltrates into the groundwater. This water, once used to water crops and drink, is now highly toxic, containing elevated concentrations of radioactive metals such as uranium and cadmium.

For years Redeyef has demanded to see some benefits from CPG’s activities. “All the money and richness goes to the capital and the state does nothing for the inhabitants of Redeyef. We are a forgotten town and region. Our land is sterile, our water is contaminated and we are sick, we have no hospitals to meet the demand of high cancer rates and our own citizens have to clean the streets. Who’s fault is this?” Abed asks.

Phosphate has become the death of self-sufficiency. With limited self-employment alternatives, phosphate has become the only other alternative for local employment- which CPG has not been able to fulfill.

In 2008 stifled protests and social movements erupted as CPG’s rigged employment procedures angered prospective workers, who have had enough of seeing political favoritism destroy the glimmers of hope for those who studied and sacrificed years of work to become more “employable”.

Redeyef, was the inedited site where those who had enough of Ben Ali’s regime began protesting. The “Jasmine revolution” in Tunisia, which snowballed into the so called Arab spring, began in Redeyef. Abed emphasizes “ the Tunisian revolution began here- it was a phosphate revolution before being a jasmine revolution.”

One could say that phosphate gave life to democracy in Tunisia.

Today the situation has not changed. Production halted for two months earlier this year because of protests, chefs promote for favoritism and not merit, the health of citizens is deteriorating, and unemployment rates are still amongst the highest in Tunisia. When talking about the future for Redeyef and Tunisia, Abed has little hope. He tells Green Prophet:  “I think there will be worse protests in the future because there is high unemployment and phosphate is the only source of income for the region.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Holoscenes incites flood of reaction to climate change

Green Prophet - June 06, 2014

Holoscenes is a public art and performance installation that is a visual response to climate change. It’s centered around three people-sized aquariums that flood and drain and re-flood using powerful hydraulics that move 12 tons of water per minute.

Inside each aquarium is a performer acting out everyday behavior, soon rendered impossible by the deluge. It’s performance art that viscerally connects the long-term patterns of climate change to our everyday lives. Lars Jan of art lab Early Morning Opera has worked for three years with a  team of scientists, artists and engineers (including experts from Columbia University’s Earth Institute) to bring the concept to reality. The aquarium’s scale presents enormous challenges in terms of safety systems and procedures; testing the behavior of a mass quantity of rushing water and proving associated power requirements requires a fully functional aquarium.

Jan is hoping that his crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter will raise necessary funds to complete the first glass box.  He raised enough money to cover design and development, and half the cost needed for construction. Now he must raise another $41,000 to complete fabrication, or the project will miss it’s October debut at the Toronto Nuit Blanche Festival, an all-night festival that is one of the largest art events in North America.

If all goes to plan, it next moves to Sarasota, Florida (a Gulf-side city predicted to be underwater in 20 years) for a stint at the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art in March 2015.

Exhibitions with institutions in other cities are under discussion. Hopefully it also heads to Casablanca, Tunis and Alexandria before those cities succumb to the sea.

Jan, a 2013 TED fellow, believes that our relationship to water will become the central issue of the 21st century, and maintains that “art can be a powerful vehicle for communicating the complex phenomenon of climate change to a broad audience”.

The project has powerhouse support, with grants from the US National Endowment of the Arts, awards from the Rockefeller MAP Fund, New York State Council on the Arts, Panta Rhea Foundation, Awesome Without Borders, and individual donors.

Want to jump into Jan’s pool of supporters? Kickstarter donors can receive T-shirts, postcards, limited edition prints of the project  or a recorded “harmonic chant of gratitude” – see link here for details. Follow its progress on the Facebook or Twitter sites for Early Morning Opera. 

All images from Early Morning Opera.

Categories: Lifestyle

Phinergy tests range-extending aluminum-air battery for EVs in Montreal

Green Prophet - June 04, 2014

The world’s third largest producer of aluminum has teamed up with Israel’s Phinergy to produce a new battery that would make electric vehicles as cost effective as gas- or diesel-fueled vehicles and significantly extends vehicle range.

A supplement to the regular lithium-ion batteries that most electric vehicles use, the battery uses air and water to unlock substantial quantities of energy embedded in aluminum plates. Each vehicle would use roughly 50 of these plates, and just one of them provides enough fuel to power the EV for nearly 22 miles.

This new technology is said to extend the range of a vehicle on a single charge by nearly 1,000 miles. This kind of range would bring EVs in direct competition with conventional cars, and Auto Net claims that costs will be competitive as well. In other words, this battery eliminates the most fundamental barrier to wider spread use of cleaner cars.

“Electric vehicle adoption has been slowed by the limited range of regular batteries,” says Phinergy CEO Aviv Tzidon. “With Phinergy’s technology and Alcoa’s industrial leadership … we see an exciting opportunity to help move electric vehicles into the mainstream.”

Related: Why China will be the tipping point for EVs

Alcoa and Phinergy’s battery reduces emissions, they are recyclable and fully rechargeable, and they offer a high degree of safety without creating a huge expense.

“Alco and Phinergy look forward to collaborating with the Quebec government to advance this technology,” said Martin Briere, president of Alcoa Canada. “Our production facility in Baie-Comeau is well positioned to provide the aluminum for the battery.”

The companies recently tested their new aluminum-air battery at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal and will make a presentation at today’s Canadian International Aluminum Conference in the same city.

While little is said about the amount of aluminum that will be required to scale up production of these new batteries, or what kind of environmental impact that would incur, this technology certainly seems very promising.

Categories: Lifestyle

Original Unverpackt: zero plastic, zero packaging at new Berlin supermarket

Green Prophet - June 03, 2014

We’re accustomed to seeing food in bulk at souqs throughout the Middle East, but shoppers always leave with a legion of plastic bags to carry their goods. There is an alternative though, and Berlin’s first waste-free supermarket, the Original Unverpackt, shows how it’s done.

Like us, friends Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski were sick and tired of throwing away a pile of packaging every time they visited the grocery store. So tired of the packaging waste (16 million tons produced each year in Germany), the duo decided to do something about it.

Their idea involves a grocery store stocked with the bare minimum of high quality bulk goods that people pack into containers they bring from home. And since we’re so unaccustomed to this kind of forward thinking these days, the pair came up with an idea to provide reusable containers for those who don’t remember to bring their own containers.

While conceptually similar to small co-ops that are increasingly common, Original Unverpackt will be scaled up so that it could potentially compete with some of Germany’s largest grocery store chains.

Related: Saudi man’s charity fridge reduces food waste and helps the poor

The pair launched a crowd funding campaign to fund their zero waste supermarket in Germany, and people are so excited about the idea, Wolf and Glimbovski doubled their asking goal of €45,000. Their success suggests not only that consumers are supportive, but also that they should have little trouble growing the initiative beyond the first store that is slated to open this summer in Berlin.

While the produce and dry goods offered will be of the highest quality, Wolf and Glimbovski were careful to ensure that even lower income people can afford to shop at their store. As such, they have provided a combination of low, medium and high end goods.

“Everyone should be able to afford to help the environment in the way they can,” they said.

Do you think that it would be feasible to bring stores like this to the Middle East? Tell us in the comments.

:: Take Part

Categories: Lifestyle

Opus Tower: Zaha Hadid’s latest luxury composition in Dubai

Green Prophet - June 02, 2014

We’d love to tell you that the Middle East’s most famous contemporary architect is doing great green things for the region, but we can’t. Instead, Zaha Hadid’s latest project in Dubai, the Opus Hotel and Office Tower designed in collaboration with Meliá Hotels International, may well be among her most extravagant.

A lot of large architecture firms are working in the Middle East, and most have cottoned on to the notion that it’s essential to build within energetic and resource constraints. Most, that is, but Hadid.

We have lamented the Iraqi architect’s failure to be an example for the region several times in the past. Her swooping volumes are consistently arresting, but they do little to nothing to perpetuate a more responsible approach to design.

She has made some overtures by greening the 2020 Olympic stadium for Tokyo, but in general, Hadid seems dangerously unconcerned with adding responsible structures to the planet. But what about the LEED Silver Galaxy SOHO Project, you might ask, to which I would respond that most environmentalists no longer believe that LEED is sufficiently rigorous.

We now know that if everyone on the planet were to attempt to live like Americans do, we would need five planets to provide the requisite natural resources. Instead of trying to achieve this lofty goal, now is a time for scaling back our desires and living more within our means, within the planet’s means.

This is not the time for extravagant structures like the Opus Office Tower slated for a 2016 opening in Dubai.

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

The mixed-use building will consist of two separate volumes with a vacuous core linked by covered walkways on all four sides. While it appears to have been designed to maximize natural lighting, no mention is made of incorporating renewable energy, energy efficient appliances or lighting, or doing anything groundbreaking to offset this 21-storey structure’s environmental footprint.

With penthouse suites and private rooftop terraces, a luxury hotel and plenty of chances to burn money in retail outlets at the tower’s base, the latest addition to the Burj Khalifa complex merely extends the mirage of finite plenty in the emirate.

In addition to designing the tower itself for the developer Omniyat, Hadid has been commissioned to select each piece of furniture for the interior. We know that she won’t be hitting up local designers who work with recycled or repurposed materials.

Nope. The first Meliá Hotels International project in Dubai promises to be one of the glitziest towers yet, and that’s saying a lot.

:: Zaha Hadid

Categories: Lifestyle

China buys Israel’s largest food producer putting Zionists on edge

Green Prophet - June 02, 2014

Sensational food production issues in Israel are covered by Green Prophet. These issues have included exposure of cruelty in the meat industry; frozen fish from China that  are pumped with water and Chemicals, and meat being fed with feces and pumped with toxic contaminants.

It now appears that the Chinese are not only adding chemicals to food products being sold in Israel.

The  controlling interest in the country’s largest food producing company, Tnuva, has just been bought by China’s Bright Food Consortium. The Chinese company has agreed to purchase 56 percent of dairy firm Tnuva from the
private equity house Apax. The Chinese food giant will now have control of an Israeli food company that has been an iconic household word since even before the founding of the state in 1948.

Former Mossad head, Ephraim HaLevy, voiced his reservations of the sale to a local newspaper YNet, saying:  “the company buying Tnuva is owned by the Chinese government. This is not a company owned by a private Chinese businessman.  This allows the Chinese government to do make immediate decisions as it sees fit.”

How this Chinese acquisition may affect Israel’s largest dairy and food producer still remains to be seen. It could  result in a virtual flooding of the Israel food market by Chinese food products, some of which are of dubious quality.

This brings to mind the case of the previously mentioned frozen fish products that are “pumped with water and chemicals” to make the fish  appear fresher and of better quality. Everyone knows that China’s lax laws create products that smart consumers will not want to eat. Or perhaps they will export Israel’s high quality milk products to a growing appetite for such things in China. Either way when a foreign entity has control over a local food source we think that it cannot be good for local consumers.

Consider just local issues like this: Tnuva’s Adom Adom slaughterhouse in Beit Shean (photo) is still under scrutiny following adverse publicity it received for excessive animal cruelty following the Kolboteck TV exposure.

A large food producing icon company like Tnuva has a responsibility to the public it sells its products too. This should be even more  important than the profit motives on behalf of company directors. But we guess this is why Israeli activists were protesting the issues of food and housing in the summer of 2011.

Some commenters like David Rosenberg on Haaretz says that the public unwelcome of the Chinese buy out smacks of racism. They point out:

“But then again, the peanut-flavored snack Bamba is just as Israeli, and its maker, Osem, has been controlled by Switzerland’s Nestle since 2000. Telma Corn Flakes and Blue-Band margarine have been made by the Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever since it bought their Israeli manufacturer, also in 2000.”

We wonder how activists will respond to Tnuva products now.

Read more about Israel’s food issues:
Israel’s Cruel Meat Industry Exposed by Watchdog TV Show
Israeli Meat Fed With Feces and Pumped With Toxic Contaminants
Israel’s Frozen Fish Processed in China and Pumped With Water and Chemicals

Photo of Tnuva’s Adom Adom meat packing house by Yaron Kaminsky/Haaretz

Categories: Lifestyle

A museum for the History of Medicine in the Holy Land

Green Prophet - June 02, 2014

The blue and white painted ceramic jars stretch up to the ceiling. Marked with the traditional symbol of five crosses, each jar held a medicine ranging from honey to myrrh to the famous Jerusalem balsan. The jars came from the first pharmacy in Jerusalem founded by a Franciscan month in the 17th century.

“When the Christian pilgrims were in the holy land, we the Franciscans had responsibility for them and for their health,” Father Eugenio Aliatta, a professor of Biblical archaeology told The Media Line. “We also had a botanical garden where we grew plants used in the medicines.”

Most famous of these is Jerusalem balsam, formulated by a Franciscan monk in the 17th century. Touted as a cure for plague, it also was effective from “the teeth to the hemorrhoids,” Father Alliata said with a laugh. He is in charge of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum archaeology museum in Jerusalem’s old city, which displays the jars and other artifacts from the first pharmacy.

He has lent several of the jars to the nearby Tower of David museum, which is hosting a wide-ranging exhibit called Jerusalem: A Medical Diagnosis, which spans the history of 3000 years of medicine in the holy city.

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between medicine and miracles here.

“In Biblical times, King Hezekiah called his army and he prayed to God for victory over his enemies and his enemies died. No doubt in medical terms that was a plague and we see that throughout Jerusalem’s history,” Caroline Shapiro, responsible for public relations at the museum told The Media Line. “There are different plagues. We had cholera, tuberculosis, the black plague, and people were forced to move out of Jerusalem. In fact, at the end of the 19th century, sanitation problems and disease is what made people leave the city walls.”

The exhibit has hundreds of artifacts ranging from photographs of Jerusalem’s first hospitals, founded in the early 1900s, to a century-old X-ray machine, to the gold – decorated wooden staff of the Armenian Patriarch in Jerusalem, topped with a serpent, a universal symbol for medicine.

“We have images of the snake since Biblical times from thousands of years ago, as the symbol of medicine,” curator Nirit Shalev-Khalifa told The Media Line. “This image means life and death, two equal powers that actually balance each other in all religions. The serpent makes you alive but also carries the poison.”

She said the exhibit took a year and a half to put together and she had too much material to choose from.

“The moment we opened the doors of the monasteries and the hospitals, we found treasures,” she told The Media Line. “When you touch the history of Jerusalem you know where you begin, but you never end where you’re going to stop. It’s a never-ending story.”

Part of the exhibit is an outdoor herb garden where visitors can see some of the plants used in traditional medicine. They can not only look but can take a cutting home, if they wish.

The exhibit covers two halls of the museum, as well as the courtyard. The education department has prepared educational materials in Hebrew and Arabic, and thousands of Arab schoolchildren are expected to visit the museum, just inside the Jaffa gate in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The museum offers stunning views of Jerusalem, along with the exhibits.

It also offers a glimpse into a past of coexistence among all three monotheistic religions in Jerusalem.

“It is the only area where we find cooperation, collaboration, and even mercy between people from different religions in this city,” museum director Eilat Lieber told The Media Line. “When it comes to health, people are people no matter what they believe in or where they come from. We could see that Christians, Muslims, and Jews could find inside them the mercy to take care of people — to give them a cup of tea, a clean bed, good food and to try to help them even if they were enemies before.”

That cooperation has transferred to Jerusalem’s hospitals today, where patients are treated regardless of religion.

This is reprinted from the Middle East News Source, The Media Line

Image of old medicine cabinet from Shutterstock

Categories: Lifestyle

Renewable energy and traditional baking cooperation in Palestine

Green Prophet - June 02, 2014

Erella Dunayevsky bats a red balloon at a little girl, who chases it giggling. It could be any grandmother and grandchild playing together. But in this case, not only are Dunayevsky and the little girl not related, but one is an Israeli and one is a Palestinian.

“I’ve been coming here for 12 years and it’s very simple – I have the freedom to choose my own friends,” Dunayevsky, a therapist, tells The Media Line.

The villagers here eke out a living herding sheep and goats. There’s no extra money for toys or other luxuries. In the summer, their shack is boiling hot – in the winter, it is freezing. Tarek Al-Hadalin, whose brothers and sisters are among the children playing, say they look forward to the weekly play-dates.

“On Mondays, they start asking me when is Thursday coming?” Al-Hadalin told The Media Line. “They really wait for them to come. It shows them that there are good Israelis just like there are good Palestinians.”

Many of these Palestinian villages don’t have water and electricity. Residents eke out a living from sheep and goats. Erella says her visits are not political. They’re just a way for Israelis and Palestinian to breach the walls that divide them.

“It creates trust, for us and the people we come to know,” Dunayevsky says. “It has waves, if I know Tarek, then he takes me to his friend, and it goes like that.”

For example, she has helped Tarek’s mother find a market for her traditional embroidery in Israel.

These Israelis also try to help solve problems with nearby Jewish communities in land that Israel acquired in 1967. Israelis from one community, Carmel, are trying to force Tarek’s family to move a traditional bread-baking oven that is built into the ground, saying that the smell bothers them. Shepherds here have to detour around the community to get to grazing land they say belongs to them.

A few miles away, another Israeli, Elad Orian (who we’ve interviewed many times on Green Prophet) is figuring out ways to provide Tarek and other Palestinians here with sustainable water and power. These villages are in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank completely controlled by Israel.

“There is no infrastructure for Palestinians in Area C,” Elad Orian, the co-founder of Comet-ME told The Media Line. “The state of Israel has been trying to get these people to move off their land and move from Area C to Area A and B. One of the main tools they’ve been using is planning or lack thereof. They do not provide infrastructure services to these communities. They do not enjoy water or electricity.”

Orian says Comet ME, funded by the German government, has provided 20 systems of solar panels to these villages, which has brought electricity to about 2000 Palestinians. He says electricity is a revolution for many of these Palestinians.

“It touches every aspect of your life. Illumination and communication, refrigeration — everything depends on electricity,” he said. “It’s a real revolution and the real beneficiaries are women. Their lives are really transformed. It reduces the gender specific workload tremendously.”

For example, he said, laundry machines make washing clothes, which is traditionally women’s work, much easier. In addition, right now, many of the women are using milk from their sheep and goats to make butter. Electricity means they can use a machine rather than doing the work by hand and save hours each day.

Tarek, who is finishing high school, dreams of becoming a documentary filmmaker.

“I used to have to study with a gas lantern and it was difficult,” he said. “But now, with the solar panels we have electricity all the time. I can study, watch TV, and use my computer as much as I want.”

This is reprinted from the Middle East News Source, The Media Line

Image of wind energy turbine in Tuba via Elad Orion Facebook page

Categories: Lifestyle

Shipping container “cargotecture” not all it’s stacked up to be!

Green Prophet - May 31, 2014

Shipping box homes make sense where containers are available and alternate resources scarce, but it’s still cheaper and less energy consuming to build a structure using traditional framing or concrete block. Jump onto “cargotecture”  if you want to make an architectural statement.  But if you want to build sustainably, aim small, use local materials, and insulate.

Let’s lead by example: The Hive-Inn hotel concept by Hong Kong-based OVA Studio looks like Jenga for giants – surely you remember that stacked-block puzzle that was part of your kiddie toy box (or - maybe you recall it as a nerdy parlor game)?

The building, schematically designed for the Radical Innovation Awards, is made up of used shipping containers plugged into a steel “hive”.  Its modular design (and a permanently mounted rooftop crane) allows for hotel suites to be changed on whim without disturbing the surrounding containers.

Well, not quite on whim.  This is a concept, so connections to power, water, and life safety systems (including vertical circulation) are not addressed – nor likely to be easily interchangeable as tenants change.  Impact and interruption to street level activity each time a box is moved in and out of place will be significant. And how’s the erratically-loaded tower stand up structurally (not to mention seismically!)? (Well, someone is a Miss Crankypants.)

This scheme depicts the building as a hotel and the architects point out extensive branding opportunities, with individual containers sponsored by different companies – decorated with corporate images. Imagine “live-in” advertising, or pop-up boutiques promoting limited time sales events. As tenancy changes, so would the building’s facade – an evolving panoply of color and signage. Is that really a good thing?

Consider cities such as São Paulo, Brazil (the world’s 7th largest city) – in 2006 it banned all outdoor advertisements - that’s billboards, transit ads and storefront signage. A 2011 survey indicated that 70% of residents found the ban beneficial, allowing the true nature of the metropolis to emerge from behind the advert clutter. Subliminally, it’s also a respite from subconscious bombardment to part with your money…the antithesis to the Hive Inn.

OVA Studio suggest their design could be used as emergency housing or medical care units. Mobile apartments or offices are another option, allowing you to ship off easily (contents could remain inside the unit) to a new zip code.

Seems some people are turning to cargo container structures as a green alternative to traditional building. On the surface, it’s logical. There are growing numbers of unused containers, collateral damage from global trade imbalances. Costs prohibit shipping empties back to their point of origin (it’s cheaper to buy new containers and factor costs into shipping fees) – the result is a mountain range of steel boxes sitting idle at most world ports.

Shipping container architecture (tagged “cargotecture”) is appealing due to the boxes’ availability, strength, durability, and cost (many sell for under $1,000) – and they sure make for pretty images when re-purposed. But how’s it experienced in three dimensions? Individual containers create awkward spaces; long narrow rectangles with very low ceilings. Multiple boxes can be combined to expand interior volume, but cutting, grinding and welding steel is energy intensive.

Steel boxes are coated with toxic chemicals to make them durable for ocean transport – think chromate, phosphorous, and lead-based paints. Factor in the energy required to make them habitable; sandblasting the entire structure, burning openings for doors and windows.

The average container produces about 1,000 pounds of hazardous waste before it can be re-used as a structure. Bundle all this with the fuel-guzzling heavy machinery needed to move the container from port to final position, and this green habitat looks more like a white elephant.

Images from Design Fetish

Categories: Lifestyle

Solar Roadways: energy-generating roads that light up at night

Green Prophet - May 30, 2014

What if asphalt roads around the world were replaced with modular panels that generate energy during the day and light up at night? Our air would be cleaner and we would spend much less money on fossil fuels. Turns out, thanks in part to a compelling Indiegogo campaign, Solar Roadways may be coming to a highway near you.

When global warming first became a real and present danger, years ago, the Solar Roadways team began toying with various ideas to reduce modern society’s dependence on fossil fuels.

They turned their attention to roads, and began to wonder whether it would be possible to replace asphalt and concrete roads with modular energy-generating panels that could take a beating.

As their ideas evolved, they began to realize that they had hit upon something not only really worthwhile but maybe even feasible.

So feasible, in fact, America’s Federal Highway Administration awarded the group a substantial grant to build a prototype that would generate energy and provide light at night with energy-effiient LEDs, manage storm water runoff, and even prevent snow accumulation during winter months in northern latitudes.

Related: collecting energy from roadways with Innowattech

Phase I of the Solar Roadways project was so successful, the highway administration awarded the group a second round of funding to the tune of $750,000. And then Solar Roadways launched a crowd funding campaign that was so successful, there’s a very strong possibility that one day at least some of us will be driving on roads that generate energy.

Seeking one million dollars to hire engineers and other staff to perfect the design and shift from prototype to production, Solar Roadways instead has raised nearly $1.7 million – nearly double their original goal.

This success speaks volumes about the power of the crowd, but it also reflects a growing trend – people are investing in renewables because they believe that a future with cleaner skies is possible.

In addition to generating energy such that the hexagonal panels would eventually pay for themselves, the solar tiles could be used to build parking lots, bike pathways and sidewalks. And they could be tweaked to charge electric vehicles.

If this happens, fossil-fueled vehicles would no longer be necessary, since electric vehicle could be charged all across the country – wherever the roads are installed.

It’s hard not to lament the delay in pursuing such forward thinking ideas as this, a delay caused in large part by the fossil fuel industry. But better late than never right?

You can still support the campaign – that is, if you would love to see a network of solar roadways in your area.

Categories: Lifestyle
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