For Those Who Don’t Give a Crap

Sometimes it takes a little retro-active research to complete the picture. I do not know how we here at missed this, but as a note for next year, we’ll stick it in now. November 19th was World Toilet Day.

sewageOn this day we remind ourselves that 2.5 billion people around the globe do not have access to a toilet – one of those home appliances that we all too often take shamefully for granted. According to the World Toilet Organization (WTO), poor sanitation kills 1.8 million people a year, mostly children and due to diarrhea diseases.

In 2005 President George W. Bush signed into law the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, which makes a strategic focus for U.S. foreign aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene. In the last fiscal year of 2008-2009, Congress earmarked $300 million to support these projects. So your tax dollars do work towards solving this international crisis.

According to a Center for Strategic & International Studies September 2009 report on “Enhancing U.S. Leadership on Drinking Water and Sanitation,” 61% of Americans put improved access to safe drinking water at the head of the list of issues.

So fear not, your money isn’t going to waste – it’s going to waste management – human waste management!

Enjoy this vid…

Some Trying to Save Nature Others Trying to Save Face

On Wednesday, Google Inc. launched a new feature in its Google Earth Web site, which is designed to let Californians see the risks of climate change. The feature is called CalAdapt and it illustrates the workings of warming temperatures, rising sea levels, precipitation shifts and the impact which intense wildfires have on the environment.

ArnoldThe state of California partnered with Google on the program – and it was part of a 200-page state report explaining how California should prepare for climate change.

Google unveiled the new interactive tool in San Francisco as part of a climate change conference with the Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger. Three years ago Schwarzenneger signed a state global warming law which requires the slashing of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

In related news, House Republicans on Wednesday, in the first Capitol Hill addressing of “Climate Gate”, read aloud excerpts from at least eight of the uncovered e-mails, which are at the heart of the international scientist scandal.

The Final Spelunk of John Jones

26-year-old John Jones died last Thursday after being stuck for nearly 28 hours in Nutty Putty Cave, a popular spelunking site to the south of Salt Lake City. Jones was a medical student, husband and the father of a 13-month-old girl.
Nutty Putty Cave is a formidable 1,500 foot cave which outdoor enthusiasts began exploring in the 1960’s. It took a team of 50 rescue workers, using drilling equipment, rope and a pulley system to try and free the young extreme sportsmen. The 6-foot-tall, 190-pound Jones was stuck with his head at an angle below his feet, in an L-shaped area of the cave called “Bob’s Push”. The crevice is on 18 inches wide and 10 inches high.

Cave Rescue DeathAt one point during the struggle, the rescue workers moved him 12 feet out of the crevice, far enough to give him some food and water, but he slipped back into the spot when an anchor in the cave roof which was supporting the pulley system gave out.
Search and rescue workers had successfully pulled two different people from the same spot in the 1,500-foot-long cave during the same week in 2004.

The cave will remain closed to spelunkers until a final decision is reached about its future. Nutty Putty Cave is privately owned by Utah’s State Institutional Trust Land Administration. Those who wish to explore it need to make reservations in advance and acquire an access pass, which is contingent upon one’s caving experience or the presence of an experienced guide. Jones’ who was home with his wife and baby daughter for the holiday was exploring with a group of 11 people, including some of his four brothers.

Putin Proves That He Is A Real Tiger

In 2008 Vladimir Putin shot a five-year-old female tiger with a tranquilizer gun and helped put a transmitter around her neck. The transmitter allowed people to follow the animal’s perusing through Russia’s Far East.

siberian tigerOn Wednesday Vladimir Krever of the World Wildlife Fund said that the satellite tracking devise has been silent since mid-September; which could be due to battery failure, a broken collar or poachers.

Sadly tigers are becoming an endangered species in the far-eastern region of Russia due to factors such as poaching and the loss of habitat. Since 1997, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, their number has declined by 40%. They said that only 56 tigers have been spotted in an area of 9,000 square miles (24,000 square kilometers), which is about one-sixth of their known habitat in Russia. The Wildlife Conservation Society estimates the total number remaining in the wild as 300. A similar estimate in 2005 put the number of tigers left in Siberia at 500. These numbers show that the animal could be facing extinction.

Here’s why these tigers are endangered:

Chinese poachers have begun attaching explosives covered with animal fat to tree branches. When tigers or Amur leopards swallow the bait, it explodes in their mouths. The poachers use the animals for hides and bones, prized in traditional Chinese medicine.

Another factor which plays a huge role in Russia’s disappearing wildlife is illegal deforestation in the country’s Far East.
Siberian tigers can weigh up to 600 pounds (272 kilograms) – they are also known as Ussuri, Amur or Manchurian tigers. They prey on wild boars, deer and bears.

At one time, the Siberian tigers freely roamed most of Eurasia, from the Black Sea to Central Asia – however now they are limited to the forests of Far Eastern Russian and the Chinese province of Manchuria. In china the killing of a Siberian tiger is punishable by death.

The Russian government is currently planning to hold a conference regarding the conservation of wildlife, namely the tiger.

A Quick Look at Permaculture

Trying to rebloom the deserts? Try Permaculture.

A quick overview: The method, invented in the 1970’s, involves analyzing the environment you are trying to build and jumpstarting the system. Think of it as trying to get a dough to rise with a starter kit. For example, if you’re trying to grow chickens, you take into account what chickens need and produce, add those into your ecosystem.

Once you add part of it, the system can begin to work to help along the next part, meaning, the chicken manure starts breaking into the soil, making it more fertile and producing more feed for chickens. If you do it well enough, you have a nice closed ecosystem going, that according to permactulture farmer Geoff Lawton, can even help the desert bloom again.

“Almost all the deserts on earth at one point were forested,” he said. “They all have different types of oasis systems. What you’re doing is picking different points in the desert and turning them into a rich oasis.”

Check out this video for a good overview, and see if you’re interested in the cause.

Forever Young? 16 Year Old is a Toddler

This may make you think twice about whether you want to be forever young. Brook Greenberg is 16 years old, but she’s basically a baby. Her aging gene is essentially turned off. Either that, or she never had it. And doctors are still searching for whatever it is she doesn’t have. While there’s no hope for her in the long run, to pinpoint the gene she’s missing may give doctors a clue to the aging process.

Dr. Richard Walker has been studying her case since 2006, though her disease remains a mystery, totally undiagnosed, and unique. She may be the only one of the planet who can’t age. But she’s still very, very sick. She can’t eat or walk, and must be fed through a tube.

Walker described the potential benefit her condition may have for humanity. “Once we’re adults, we don’t want to change,” Walker said. “We all want our bodies to be about 21. But those genes don’t turn off at that time. It causes the bodies’ stability to erode, and that’s what aging is. The punchline: if you can get those genes and turn them off, then you wouldn’t have aging.”

A world without aging seems a dangerous place, though. Humans were not meant to say 2 years old for 16 years, and certainly were not meant to live forever. Perhaps, though, this was the way the Biblical Tree of Life worked. An enzyme that turns off the aging gene? Could be. I’m staying the heck away from it. I’m not supposed to be here forever.

Foreign Oil Makes way for Domestic Manure

Power CircleShawn Saylor inherited his multi-generational family dairy farm, and with it, came all the cow manure. 600 cows worth of cow manure. All that foul-smelling awfulness was causing complaints from passersby. That, and energy costs were going up, while the price of milk was going down. So Saylor put 2 and 2 together, and decided to get rid of the smell while at the same time drastically reducing his energy costs.

He installed a system that scrapes all the manure into a 19,000-gallon tank, moves it into 16×70 foot digester that heats it for a little over 2 weeks, and out comes methane gas that powers twin electric generators. The electricity is enough to power the whole farm and 12 neighboring homes, and then some. The heat runoff is used to heat water, buildings, and whatever is left over he sells back to the local grid.

Overall, it saves him $200,000 a year. With a system expense of about a million bucks, the whole thing pays for itself in about 5 years. Besides paying for the farm’s electric bill, the digesters reduce 98 percent of all odor. Electric generators give off a rather neutral smell compared with the contents of a cow’s behind.

After the gas is extracted, there’s still the matter of solid waste to deal with. It’s actually sold to the local community, which uses it for bedding for animals, or garden fertilizer.

And how about this for once: The government doing something right! Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection gave Saylor a $600,000 boost to get this thing going.

Perhaps we can all reduce our dependence on foreign oil by increasing our dependence on domestic poo.

Health Care Reform? What about Death Care?

How green will your funeral be? It depends what you’re being buried in and how you’re doing it. As of now, American funerals, along with the dead, bury 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, over 800,000 tons of embalming fluid, 90,000 tons of steel, and 30 million tons of wood every year. These numbers are according to the Green Burial Council in Santa Fe.

According to Joe Sehee, executive director of the Council, this is enough material to rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge, and it’s enough concrete for a two-lane highway from New York to Detroit.

Let’s talk morbid for a second. One of these companies, Eternal Reefs, actually describes itself as, “The surf and turf of natural burial,” which is the strangest slogan I have ever heard, frankly. Eerieness aside, what they do is combine environmentally safe cement and cremated remains and turn your ashes into an artificial reef.

All of this sounds a bit weird, but on the other hand the reefs are said to last for 500 years and provide a home for sea life. That, and you can even decorate the memorial reef with mementos and scuba dive there for a visit to the grave. It’s probably a lot more interesting that putting a stone on a cemetery tombstone.

EcoCoffinsFor people of more conventional tastes there is Eco Coffins Ltd., which allows its customers to design their own 100 percent biodegradable coffins. According to them, the coffins release 72 percent less carbon monoxide in the cremation process. Or you can just get buried with them and not release any. sells eclectic couches made out of used coffins. You may ask, what the heck is a “used coffin”? Did the dead person suddenly decide to get his pulse back and they had to put it in the preowned section? When’s the last time I saw a used coffin salesman?

Well, close, but no. Founder Vidal Herrera buys unwanted or slightly damaged coffins from funeral homes that would otherwise go to a landfill. Granted, these aren’t technically used, but that’s how they’re described.

On that note, have a green death, and a good life while you’re at it.

Sour to Sweet

Miracle FruitHere’s a fruit that will turn sour to sweet. It’s called, appropriately I might add, miracle fruit. The fruit itself, a simple berry, is nothing special. But chew it up and let it sit on your tongue a bit, and for the next 30 minutes or so, everything will taste sweet.

No one is sure exactly how this works scientifically, but the theory is that the protein in the fruit binds to taste receptors and changes the shape of molecules that bind to taste buds, so sour receptors register sweetness instead.

As the video notes, aside from the fun in sucking on a lemon and tasting sugar, miracle fruit can also help chemo patients eat by making their food taste better to them, not to mention dieters who want to eat healthier but can’t stand macrobiotic foods.

Sputnik Obesrvatory

The Sputnik Obesravtory was launched today and its another masterpiece by Jonathan Harris. I have been following his work for several years and this looks like a great video project. I like this video and path about Bacteria computing…

It’s the result of a two-year collaboration with New York-based Sputnik, Inc., an organization that documents contemporary culture through intimate video interviews with hundreds of leading thinkers in the arts, sciences and technology, covering a wide range of topics.

The central premise of the Sputnik project is that everything is connected to everything else, and that topics and ideas that may seem fringe and even heretical to the mainstream world are in fact being investigated by leading thinkers working in fields as diverse as quantum physics, mathematics, neuroscience, biology, economics, architecture, digital art, video games, computer science and music. Sputnik is dedicated to bringing these crucial ideas from the fringes of thought out into the limelight, so that the world can begin to understand them.

Conducted over more than ten years and previously unavailable to the public, the interviews within the site chronicle some of the most provocative human ideas to have emerged in the last few decades. The site itself aims to highlight the interconnections between seemingly disparate thinkers and ideas, using a simple navigational system with no dead ends, where every thought leads to another thought, akin to swimming the stream of consciousness.

There are about 200 videos on the site today, and there will be thousands more added over the coming weeks, months, and years.