Tag Archives: connect-green

Teenie Micro Solar Cell From Semprius

Pin Sized Solar Cell from Semprius

Picture courtesy Inhabitat website

 

Semprius just unveiled an teenie solar cell that is half the size of a pinhead, which when combined with powerful inexpensive lenses can concentrate sunlight more than 11,000 times and convert it to electricity!

Semprius has been a leader in Concentrated solar research and development. In 2008 they had come out with a method to slice monocrystalline solar wafers thin enough to be flexible and partially transparent but still maintain their high solar efficiency. The slender silicon slices are then imprinted onto a substrate using Semprius’s patented microtransfer printing process.

Semprius’ patented micro-transfer printing technology brings for the first time, high performance semiconductors to virtually any surface, including glass, plastic or metal substrates or even other semiconductor wafers. By liberating the semiconductor devices from their traditional substrates, Semprius technology enables the construction of a wide variety of new products with large-area, thin, and lightweight form factors, high reliability and low cost. The resulting circuit devices have levels of performance comparable to the original semiconductor.

 

Smaller and more efficient! Wonderful news for Solar and alternative energy market; if only it were affordable sooner.

Read the entire article here

September 16th World Ozone Day

Today is the World Ozone day, on 19th December 1994 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 16 September the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date, in 1987, on which the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed. This commemoration around the world offers an opportunity to focus attention and action at the global, regional and national levels on the protection of the ozone layer. All Member States are invited to devote this special day to promotion, at the national level, of concrete activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the Montreal Protocol and its Amendment.

If you grew up in the 80’s and 90’s you might have heard about the hole in the Ozone layer. Which incidentally is not actually a hole, but an area in the ozone layer where ozone has been severely depleted; thereby allowing sun rays to pass through without much absorption or reflection. Each year for the past few decades during the Southern Hemisphere spring, chemical reactions involving chlorine and bromine cause ozone in the southern polar region to be destroyed rapidly and severely. The world reacted to this pretty much united by removing chloro-flouro carbons or CFC’s from spray cans, refrigerants etc. And the hole in the Ozone layer has been shrinking since 2006. By the end of 2009, the Montreal Protocol had resulted in the elimination of over 98 per cent of historical levels of ozone-depleting substances.

You can keep track of it on the NASA Website here.

Ozone Hole on the 12th of September 2010

Picture Courtesy NASA

The 2009 UN Climate Change Conference was held in Copenhagen on 16th September 2009 with the slogan “power Green Growth, Protect the Planet”. Countries agreed to work towards a common, long-term goal to limit global temperature rise to below 2° Celsius.

Climate Change and Actions to slow the Human impact

Climate change and global warming are divisive issues for many people still who remain skeptics in spite of what is happening around them. In some cases the belief is religious while in others it makes it easier to explain away our own reckless behaviors by putting it all on nature. Either way the reality is that there are visible changes happening all over the world from receding glaciers to mistimed monsoons, droughts etc… to stronger hurricane seasons.

Climate change is recognized as a major environmental problem facing our planet. Evidence is building that impacts are being felt in the form of melting icecaps in the polar areas and increased variability of temperature, rainfall and storms in virtually all regions.

Developed countries committed to establish and implement targets for greenhouse gas emissions, and a number of developing countries, including major emerging economies, agreed to implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions and to communicate their efforts every two years.

Countries also agreed on the importance of acting to Reduce emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), and to provide support for the most vulnerable to cope with climate change.

To support these priorities, countries pledged up to $30 billion a year for developing countries between 2010 and 2012, to be disbursed through a Copenhagen Green Climate Fund.

Countries also backed the goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020.

Environmental facts from the UNEP

  • Forests cover 30 percent of the planet’s total land area. The total forested area in 2005 was just under 4 billion hectares, at least one third less than before the dawn of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago.
  • The ten most forest-rich countries, which account for two-thirds of the total forested area, are the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States, China, Australia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Peru and India.
  • Six million hectares of primary forest are lost every year due to deforestation and modification through selective logging and other human interventions. More than one-third of all forests are primary forests, defined as forests where there are no clearly visible indications of human activity and where ecological processes are not significantly disturbed.
  • Primary forests shelter diverse animal and plant species, and culturally diverse indigenous people, with deep connections to their habitat.
  • Only 20 per cent of the world’s forests remain in large intact areas. These forests consist of tropical rain forests, mangrove, coastal and swamp forests. Monsoon and deciduous forests flourish in the drier and more mountainous regions.
  • Trees quite literally form the foundations of many natural systems. They help to conserve soil and water, control avalanches, prevent desertification, protect coastal areas and stabilize sand dunes.
  • Forests are the most important repositories of terrestrial biological biodiversity, housing up to 90 per cent of known terrestrial species.
  • Forest animals have a vital role in forest ecology such as pollination, seed dispersal and germination.
  • Trees absorb carbon dioxide and are vital carbon sinks.
  • It is estimated that the world’s forests store 283 Gigatonnes of carbon in their biomass alone, and that carbon stored in forest biomass, deadwood, litter and soil together is roughly 50 per cent more than the carbon in the atmosphere.
  • Carbon in forest biomass decreased in Africa, Asia and South America in the period 1990–2005. For the world as a whole, carbon stocks in forest biomass decreased annually by 1.1 Gigatonne of carbon (equivalent to 4 billion 25kg sacks of charcoal).
  • The loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than the transport sector.
  • World population currently stands at 6.5 billion people. It is projected to grow to 9 billion by 2042.  The expansion of agricultural and industrial needs, population growth, poverty, landlessness and consumer demand are the major driving forces behind deforestation.
  • Most deforestation is due to conversion of forests to agricultural land. Global removals of wood for timber and fuel amounted to 3.1 billion cubic metres in 2005.
  • Worldwide, deforestation continues at an alarming rate, about 13 million hectares per year, an area the size of Greece or Nicaragua.
  • Africa and South America have the largest net loss of forests. In Africa it is estimated that nearly half of the forest loss was due to removal of wood fuel.
  • Forests in Europe are expanding. Asia, which had a net loss in the 1990s, reported a net gain of forests in the past five years, primarily due to large-scale forestation in China.
  • Eighty per cent of the world’s forests are publicly owned, but private ownership is on the rise, especially in North and Central America and in Oceania.
  • About 11 per cent of the world’s forests are designated for the conservation of biological diversity. These areas are mainly, but not exclusively, in protected areas.
  • Around 10 million people are employed in conventional forest management and conservation. Formal employment in forestry declined by about 10 per cent from 1990 to 2000.

The theme for the celebration is “Ozone layer protection: governance and compliance at their best”.  Governments world over are encouraged to create programs or events to raise public awareness of the importance of protecting the ozone layer for present and future generations. These can include workshops, press conferences, competitions in schools, and university lectures by experts. The list of programs as conducted by different countries will be listed on the UNEP website.

Check out how countries world over are celebrating the World Ozone Day HERE

Sources for details – UNEP website

This is the symbolic representation of a ton of CO2 from the Copenhagen summit of 2009.

Check out Seal the Deal – website of the 2009 December UN Climate change meeting in Copenhagen

Global FootPrint Network: Keeping Tabs On Our Consumption

August 21st was EarthOvershoot Day! Wondering what that means? So did I. That is when I found this organization “Global Footprint network”.

So what is the Global footprint? In articles about reducing consumption we have all come across the term Carbon Foot print; when that is taken to a global scale it becomes the Global footprint for all inhabitants of our planet.

Every year, Global Footprint Network calculates nature’s supply in the form of biocapacity, the amount of resources the planet generates, and compares that to human demand: the amount it takes to produce all the living resources we consume and absorb our carbon dioxide emissions. Earth Overshoot Day, a concept devised by U.K.-based new economics foundation, marks the day when demand on ecological services begins to exceed the renewable supply.

This year August 21st is the day on which we exhausted our ecological budget for the year, with 4 months remaining in the year.

How is Earth Overshoot day Calculated?

Earth Overshoot Day shows the day on which our total Ecological Footprint (measured in global hectares) is equal to the biocapacity (also measured in global hectares) that nature can regenerate in that year. For the rest of the year, we are accumulating debt by depleting our natural capital and letting waste accumulate.

[ world biocapacity / world Ecological Footprint ] x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day Day

What is Happening?

As with everything else in the environment being aware and reducing consumption and waste will go a long way in reducing our impact on the environment. Global climate change is one of humanity’s greatest challenges; addressing it is key to our long-term well-being and the continued vitality of our societies.

I had a conversation with my friend about program on NatGeo about Human population explosion and how that could lead to chaos due to inadequacies of resources vs. population… Scary but possible unless Governments world over pay heed to the burgeoning population in its urban centers. In 2008 according to data collected most number of people worldwide were residing in urban areas; their populations were calculated to be around 6.6 Billion and this was estimated to grow by 1.5Billion by 2030! Our role in shaping the Earth is powerful, and the human footprint continues to expand.

What Can Be Done?

The Global Footprint Network aims at creating a world where everyone can live well, within the means of one planet, and it is going to take all of us pulling together toward this common goal.

The scale of our challenge is enormous. Nothing short of a revolution in our economies, societies, energy choices and lifestyles is required.

At Global Footprint Network our programs are designed to influence decision makers at all levels of society and to create a critical mass of powerful institutions using the Footprint to put an end to ecological overshoot and get our economies back into balance.
Check out this video on the importance of ecological footprints

Check out your Ecological Footprint here very interesting almost like an FB game! This is my Ecological Footprint! 4.7 planets is everyone lived like me!!

And you come away with the knowledge of what each of your actions cost.

Keep in mind we are already accruing a debt this year, be conscious of your consumption.

Live Green!

Sources:

Global Footprint Network

World Governments Fail to Deliver on Biodiversity Promises

Suggested Reading from Amazon:

Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth (New Catalyst Bioregional Series) (Paperback)

Sharing Nature’s Interest : Ecological Footprints as an Indicator of Sustainability

Ivanpah Solar Project In California

There are many new Alternative energy projects coming up all over the US, and the US still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to alternative energy when compared to the developing economies China and India. China is the leader in investment in alternative energy programs world over.

Under the EERE’s solar Energy technologies program many new alternative energy programs are developing. On August 12th the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a power purchase agreement for the utility-scale Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. CPUC granted a 20-year contract between Southern California Edison Company and Ivanpah operator BrightSource Energy, Inc. for 117 megawatts (MW) of planned production from the three-tower, concentrating solar power (CSP) complex in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California. The contract calls for electricity to begin flowing on September 30, 2013. The site’s three plants will feature the company’s proprietary solar power tower technology, which employs thousands of flat mirrors to concentrate the sunlight on a central tower-mounted receiver. Water pumped to the receiver is boiled into steam, which drives a turbine to produce electricity. Solar power towers allow the capture of a greater percentage of solar energy than do other solar thermal technologies. Ultimately, the project is designed to generate approximately 400 MW of electricity, an output that would nearly double the existing generation capacity of CSP facilities in the United States.

The project will be sited on about 4,000 acres of public land proposed public land in San Bernardino County.

Project Overview
  • An approximately 400 megawatt solar complex using mirrors to focus the power of the sun on solar receivers atop power towers.
  • The complex is comprised of three separate plants to be built in phases between 2010 and 2013, and will use BrightSource Energy’s Luz Power Tower (LPT) technology.
  • The electricity generated by all three plants is enough to serve more than 140,000 homes in California during the peak hours of the day.
  • Located approximately 4.5 miles southwest of Primm, Nevada, in the desert on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
  • When constructed, Ivanpah will be the first large-scale solar thermal project built in California in nearly two decades and the largest in the world.
  • The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will nearly double the amount of commercial solar thermal electricity produced in the US today.
Environmental Benefits
  • Avoids 400,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year; the equivalent of removing 70,000 cars off the road annually.
  • Employs a closed-loop dry-cooling technology, which reduces water use by 90 percent. Will use 100 acre feet per year, the equivalent of 300 homes’ annual water usage; and nearly 25 times less water than competing technologies.
  • Cuts major air pollutants by 85% compared to new natural gas-fired power plants.
  • Technology places individual mirrors onto metal poles that are driven into the ground, reducing the need for extensive land grading and using far fewer concrete pads than other technologies.
Economic Benefits
  • Construction Jobs                                 : 1,000 jobs at peak of construction; average 650 jobs annually over 3 year period
  • Operations and Maintenance Jobs : 86
  • State and Local Tax Benefits             : $400 million*
  • Total construction wages                   : $250 million
  • Total Employee Earnings                   : $650 million
    *Based on 30 year plant life cycle

Read the entire article here

Check out Brightsource Energy website

Ways To Help Save The Planet Before You Are 12!

I was at the library the other day browsing through the returns section when a title caught my eye “101 ways You can Help Save the Planet Before You’re 12!Loved the premise and checked out the book to read at leisure. The book reminded me of the kids I come across at the zoo who are really knowledgeable about the environment, recycling et al… I am pleasantly surprised when a 6 year old asks for a recycle sign when am doing face painting! and of course it makes me feel hopeful to see them being so aware at such a young age.

At the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium there is an exhibit called “My House at the Habitat Hollow” It is a house which has made use of recycled materials and showcases recycling, and reusing things, alongside recreation of Ohio’s native wildlife environment inclusive of fox holes and other fun stuff kids can climb through. There is a lot of interactive learning stuff inside which kids get to touch and feel, and I believe gets them introduced to the concept of the 3R’s “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Looking from the outside one tends to think it looks kind of bare and does not look like there would be animals in there and give it a pass… but once a kid makes a visit inside they invariably come back the next time they are at the zoo.

So I picked up the book with the intention of getting some pointers when volunteering at the zoo. The book compiled by Joanne O’Sullivan covers a broad variety of topics children can pay attention to. The book is simple enough that a tween can read and understand it. It would be a wonderful addition to any child’s library.

What did I like about it?

It is an easy read, simple instructions. Kids have enormous potential to bring about change and they are more receptive to change when they understand the how and why. The book helps kids in getting involved in day to day decisions where there is a green alternative. Websites and other helpful links are provided. DIY projects ranging from gardening to making stuff out of waste. Simple changes which make kids think before consumerism gets to them 100%. Thought provoking. I believe it is a good first step for any child who likes to read.

Some pointers which I found especially interesting:

  • Green Your Games – She suggests that kids pick up Save your planet games instead of repetitive electronic games.
    Examples –
    Planet Green game Free online Game by Global Green USA in Collaboration with Starbucks. Starbucks and Global Green USA collaborated on the Planet Green Game to educate the public about climate change through engaging and informative game play while encouraging individuals to become part of the solution in their own lives.  The game also assists individuals – through simple tools and links – in advocating action by elected officials, business and community leaders. I love the way they display tips when one completes a task. Check it out!

    Simcity Societies Paid Game – Use your Wii to create your ideal world. The game is from Electronic arts in collaboration with Tilted Mills. EA and Tilted Mill are excited to announce the most significant update to SimCity Societies yet, with six scenarios, city-wide policies, budgetary controls, and more. In this update, we introduce powerful new ways of playing SimCity Societies, as well as further refinements to both Creative and Strategic modes of play. This update wouldn’t have been possible without feedback from our users on Tilted Mill’s, EA’s and other gaming forums, and we are grateful for everyone’s input.

    Xeko The Endangered animal trading game – Gaming for Good is a new trend in gaming! Play Exclusive Games. Activate a Portion of Proceeds to a Nonprofit. Save Real Animals, People & the Earth.

    Adventure Ecology is a free online game. A Virtual world where you can take a grueling 100-day expedition traversing one of the earth’s most dangerous and environmentally challenged regions. Mix in 14 million sq kilometers of rapidly melting sea ice, 16 Inuit sled dogs, 4 polar adventurers, 3 hungry polar bears, 2.5 tonnes of expedition gear, 5 pairs of snapped ski’s, 6000 photos, 45 kg of chocolate, 2 world records and 1 important message. Launched in 2006 it is a very informative game. Founded by David de Rothschild, Adventure Ecology is a free, extensive online resource that aims to create and promote a greater connection with the natural world through a series of high profile expeditions.

  • Be A Picker Upper – Find Trash around the school, on the way to school etc… pick it up, drop it in the garbage can and don’t forget to wash your hands. Seeing you do it will make trash droppers realize their foolishness and of course it helps keep the environment clean.
  • Eating Slow Food Instead of Fast Food – Healthier for you and the Planet, creates less waste and uses lesser amount of fuel too…

  • DIY Green thingsMake a Solar Oven from a Pizza Box Make a Snow globe from baby food jar

  • Help the Honeybees Learn about the honeybees here

    Check out the book it has a lot of simple, easy to do projects for kids of all ages, 101 Ways to be precise :). Starting a green informed life early I believe is the best way, Live Green!! Have A Green week ahead 🙂

    101 Ways You Can Help Save the Planet Before You’re 12!

Toxic Dumps NIMBY?

I am always thinking and talking about not adding more non-biodegradable waste to the landfills. Personal responsibility is what is being talked about because that is where we all can: as individuals, families and communities make a difference for the betterment of the environment and our planets future. In the midst of this sometimes one kind of does not notice the waste generated by the corporations and factories which also make their way to landfills which we don’t get to hear about because they generally are not in our backyards…

The reason for my noticing or rather posting about this hazard is the about to be settled one of the largest ever class action lawsuits in the UK. This was about the illegal dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast three years ago. The case is against Trafigura one of the largest independent companies trading commodities today.

The chemical waste came from a ship called Probo Koala and in August 2006 truckload after truckload of it was illegally fly-tipped at 15 locations around Abidjan, the biggest city in Ivory Coast. In the weeks that followed the dumping, tens of thousands of people reported a range of similar symptoms, including breathing problems, sickness and diarrhea.

The story of this toxic waste dump started in a Mexican Oil refinery in 2005, the toxic byproduct of petroleum refining coker naptha, a dirty form of gasoline which could not be treated on site. Trafigura realized it can make a killing by buying the waste cheap and refining it elsewhere. So it charters Probo Koala loads the coker naptha and while off the coast of Gibraltar they added caustic soda and a catalyst to it, to clean it by the process called caustic washing. As a result of this process a highly toxic waste is produced which is banned universally. So they tried to pass it off on the Dutch as harmless oil-water mixture which was routine stuff, which the Dutch authorities tested due to the strong smell emanating from the waste and found to be toxic. Then it was packed off back on the Probo koala and Trafigura was told if they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars it could be treated and neutralized. Trafigura took the easy way out and found a local contractor who had no knowledge of what to do with the toxic stuff and dumped it in Ivory Coast or Cote De Ivorie as it is now known.

When the sickness and death surfaced there was immediate reaction in form of a class action suit by Greenpeace in the name of 31,000 people who were adversely affected by the toxic waste. That case garnered interest and the UK press covered it extensively. The settlement has come about as it came to light that Trafigura employees had knowledge about what was happening throughout. BBC had an in depth article about the incident which it supposedly took off its website in late 2009. The article can be found HERE on wikileaks.

Now Trafigura, which has been for years claiming it has done nothing wrong, has agreed to a Global settlement. It still claims it has not done anything wrong, it blames the contractor for the untreated waste being dumped in the landfills. At last something positive might be coming out of gross negligence on the part of a huge multinational and how little it cared about human life.

This is just an example of what is going on world over, most of the “recycle” tagged electronic wastes make it to ports in Asia and Africa where laws are laxer and the companies or governments or in some cases both close their eyes and turn their backs unless something substantial happens. Nuclear wastes, industrial waste etc… every kind of waste that needs to be neutralized before making it to a landfill makes its way out of the producing countries because of strict regulations.

Large number of the ships in the world head to the Coast of Gujarat in India to die! Ships were once either sunk or taken apart in the countries where they were built, before high costs and environmental restrictions drove ship breaking efforts elsewhere. 80% of ships these days are broken down in The Indian subcontinent and China.

There they are stripped down and the metal is reclaimed, some of those vessels would have harmful chemicals etc on them including asbestos and PCB’s (Poly chlorinated Biphenyls) which unbeknownst to the workers who harvest the metal, take a toll on their health which would be visible may be many years later. Environmentalists have been talking about this for years and nobody seems to pay much attention at all. It is also interesting to see that in spite of these risks many workers do not even get basic protective gear while working to dismantle these ships.

Articles about Ship breaking dumps – Greenpeace

India World Shipping’s toxic Waste Dump

Also check out toxic victories by Greenpeace

Electronic Waste makes it way to Asia and Africa. The third world pretty much takes on the responsibility of being the waste dump as the poverty and cheap manual labor makes it lucrative for businesses there to take on these shipments and turn profit. The health impact and the environmental impact are mostly not paid any attention what so ever. Europe exporting electronic waste a report from the BBC

Toxic waste appears in many forms and in the end if they are not neutralized: which is costly in Dollars, but even costlier if it gets into the environment needs to be paid attention to. Hold our work places responsible, it is personal when it is about the environment. Factories and Multinationals and all organizations at the end of the day are made of people and we decide to do the right thing not just for the bottom line but for the future of generations who will be living on our planet, I believe we will try our best not to do what we don’t want in our back yard anywhere else. In some ways dumping toxic waste on the developing world by the developed nations could be termed Environmental racism.

Check out this video by Greenpeace to see how it is recycled and reclaimed in the developing world… Eye opening video

I believe the world is connected in more ways than we can imagine, and the similarities between people is much more than the differences we have and what happens in one place can have an impact on the rest of the world… Live Green!

Want to do something about it Join Greenpeace

UPDATE August 13th 2010 – Check out this article in the NYTIMES Magazine Where computers go to die…

Sources and interesting reads:

Wikipedia

BBC

List of Hazardous waste landfills in the US

Americas Nastiest Toxic waste dumps

Shocking -Are you walking around with Toxics?

Mob allegedly Dumping radioactive waste in the Sea!

EPA internal investigation into San Joaquim valley community and its toxic dump



The First EV Charging Station In North America

Edit August 18th 2010 – CORRECTION AS NOTED BY PGE – This is the first quick-charge station for electric vehicles in North America. There is already an established and growing network of standard charging stations in the Portland, Oregon area.

Oregon is for all practical purposes the Greenest state in the US and now it has the first Electrical charging station! I read in an Engadget.com article by Thomas Ricker that Oregon is touted to be where the most number of electric cars will make its debut. The charging station is located in the campus of Portland General Electric (PGE) in Downtown Portland and they are charging $3 for parking and the “Charging” is free to use as long as the automobile has a PGE sticker on it. The Takasago charging station manufactured by the NEC corporation can charge a Lithium Ion battery to almost full power in 20-30 minutes i.e. the time for a coffee break.

I have had this question in my mind about it being the first charging station, which is again based on a news bit from 2 years ago for Lake Oswego Oregon, a town outside of Portland where PGE had installed curbside charging stations in 2008. Read the article here just got me wondering whether they took it all down in the last couple of years, as this is now called the first one in North America.

The New charging station was inaugurated by Governor Ted Kulongoski,by charging a Nissan Leaf which he took for a drive and also put down a reservation for the Leaf. There are plans to install more than 2000 EV charging stations across the country, this is the first step in that journey.Looks like the EV’s will be on our roads soon.

Check out a video of the EV charging station on viddler

Check out the following articles for more details:

The was this article in Oregon live in 2008 about PGE charging stations in Oswego Lake just outside Portland, wondering what happened to it? Read the article here

The Oregon Live has a detailed article read it HERE

You can read the entire article on Engadget here

An article on inhabitat here

Water The Elixir of Life- Is It the Next Oil?

My better half who is immersed in the markets up ticks and down falls has told me many times over the years that in our life time we may see fights or wars over water, to me it sounded very far fetched 10 years ago, and then I started reading up on it. He send me the link to the Forbes magazine website early this year with an article titled “The Next Oil-Water” The article in reference was from the Mother Nature Network and was published on March 22nd which was incidentally World Water Day. WHO has been celebrating world water day since 2005.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi the Nobel Prize winning Hungarian Biochemist said “Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”

Water- the elixir of life which makes life possible on Earth, and that which makes Earth unique amongst the other planets in our solar system. We are by all estimates 75% water, our brain in itself is 85%water! Without water there would be no life and that is a fact. It is the reason why we send missions to the moon, mars and planets beyond searching, hoping that may be somewhere out there is another place like ours, special because it has water the sustainer of Life.

What really opened my eyes?

I grew up in Cochin a small coastal city in the Southern most part of India. I have lived my life without major issues related to water shortage, there were a few times when there would be a pipe that burst or something and we would go get water from a nearby well. Then I moved to the US and the only issues we have ever had has been when hurricane Ike’s remnants lashed through a couple of years back and brought down trees and power lines along its path… for a couple of weeks we were left without power and potable drinking tap water.

Early this year when I went to India to visit my folks, there were riot like situations happening in some islands adjacent to the city of Cochin and the cause was drinking water. The wells and the water tables in the islands are saline, leaving them dependant on the mainland for potable drinking water. With the city growing in leaps and bounds and the population bursting at the seams whatever water is available gets consumed before it makes its way to the islands. The people in the islands were fuming over the injustice they have been putting up with for decades… I remembered then that this was an issue when I was in school in the 80’s and probably even before that. For us mainlanders as long as it was not affecting us the issue seemed remote and something one the inside pages of the newspaper that we read and forgot.

One of the interesting things that caught my eye on the road in Cochin were the Tankers with “Drinking Water” boldly emblazoned on the sides. There seemed to be so many of them around! Each tanker carries Precious water for the residents who pay premium to get it 3-4 times a week! I was talking to a friend of mine who has always had a well with a never drying water table beneath, who mentioned that wells around were drying up in the wink of an eye without no reason at all… What we concluded was that probably the huge flats around had something to do with it?? Water tables are interconnected and when we break them I feel there must be some repercussion. Anyways so when I got back home and my husband gave me the link to the Forbes article, I started trying to find out how much water I was using in a day. I collected water in buckets to shower with, and kept track of the water I used to cook, tried to minimize use etc and when I triumphantly mentioned my effort to my better half her suggested I take a look at my water foot print a little more in detail. He said remember almost everything that we consume comes in contact with water before it makes its way to us!

So I thought well I need to find out for real how much water approximately I consume or use. On searching I found this website water foot print and I was astounded by the numbers and the realization of how far off my calculation was from reality. For me a cup of coffee was 1 cup of water, where as in reality to make that cup of coffee it takes approximately 140 liters of water! The sheer magnitude shocked me and made me realize like everything else the onus falls on us to take a stand and make sure we are making use of this elixir thoughtfully.

My water footprint was 801 cubic meter per year, what is yours? Find out here

Interesting and thought provoking Water Facts:

  • In the population of around 6billion plus people on our earth, 1 billion plus have no access to drinking water.
  • Around 1000 children die a day due to sicknesses from drinking non-potable water.
  • Oceans dominate the earth but only 1% of that water is fresh, accessible and potable.
  • Dry nations will increasingly abandon agriculture because of water scarcity, as is now happening in the Middle East and North Africa, and will turn to the water-rich countries for grains and other foods. This trade in comestibles—flowing from lush lands to parched places—has earned wheat, rice, and other crops the sobriquet “virtual water.”
  • The World Bank reports that a third of public utilities in developing countries lose up to 40 percent of their water due to poor infrastructure and mismanagement.
  • In 2007 the city of Atlanta was nearly brought to a standstill when Lake Lanier, the area’s primary water supply, dropped to its lowest levels in a century.
  • Every time you open a faucet, remember that you’re doing something beyond the reach of almost 3 billion people.
  • 2005–2015 is the International Decade for Action Water for life, we are half way through it is high time there is action. Like everything else every small step counts.
  • 4 of every 10 people in the world do not have access to even a simple pit latrine and nearly 2 in 10 have no source of safe drinking-water.
  • Harvesting rain water is a very sustainable way to save water.
  • Planting local plants and drought resistant varieties helps.
  • Taking shorter showers helps, keeping the tap closed while brushing teeth or shaving helps…
  • The steps we can take are myriad it is just that we need to do it, pay attention to the small things and make sure to follow through when we care about something which in this case is survival.
  • China, with 1.26 billion people, is the one area worrying most people most of the time, In dry Northern China, the water table is dropping one meter per year due to over pumping, and the Chinese admit that 300 cities are running short. Some Chinese rivers are so polluted the water can’t be used for irrigation!!
  • In India, home to 1.002 billion people, key aquifers are being over pumped, and the soil is growing saltier through contamination with irrigation water.
  • Israel (population 6.2 million), invented many water-conserving technologies, but water withdrawals still exceed resupply. Over pumping of aquifers along the coast is allowing seawater to pollute drinking water.
  • Egypt, whose population of 68 million may reach 97 million by 2025, gets essentially no rainfall. All agriculture is irrigated by seasonal floods from the Nile River, and from water stored behind the Aswan High Dam. Any interference with water flow by Sudan or Ethiopia could starve Egypt.
  • Mexico City (home to 20 million people) is sinking because the city sucks out underground water faster than the aquifer can be refilled.
  • In Bangladesh, what’s been called the “largest poisoning of a population in history” has 35 to 77 million people drinking arsenic-laced water.
  • 5 tips from the MNN network
  1. Reduce your current shower time by one minute
  2. Locate and repair silent toilet leaks.
  3. Water lawns on demand, not on schedule.
  4. Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth.
  5. Smart Dishwashing – If you’re doing dishes by hand, don’t rinse under an open faucet. Buy an in-sink rack, load your soapy dishes, and rinse by pouring hot water over the top or using a handheld spray nozzle. Have a dishwasher? Use the short cycle for all but the dirtiest dishes.
  • In developed nations such as Japan, the USA and in Europe, most water shortfalls arise from politically popular but inefficient subsidies and protections of agriculture, which accounts for 85% of freshwater consumption worldwide.
  • An apple is the result of 70 liters of water! and Wheat uses less water than rice to cultivate, almost 50% less! Can you believe that!
  • Why there can be strife over water? Consider: More than a dozen nations receive most of their water from rivers that cross borders of neighboring countries viewed as hostile.

A prime cause of the global water concern is the ever-increasing world population. As populations grow, industrial, agricultural and individual water demands escalate. According to the World Bank, world-wide demand for water is doubling every 21 years, more in some regions. Water supply cannot remotely keep pace with demand, as populations soar and cities explode.

The reality is that the water we take for granted can and will become not so cheap in a not so distant future unless we wake up to the fact that it is indeed a precious commodity now, not an unending source which will keep on giving. We need to take steps to make sure drinking water shortages do not start the next cold war scenario or unrest world over.

Our first step like everything else starts with ourselves, that small step we take in the right direction… like deciding whether to plant drought resistant vegetation, if guided by awareness that water is a very limited and precious natural resource… To get started check out your water footprint here am sure you will be as surprised as I was. Live Green!

Check out this presentation by professor Scott Fendorf of Stanford University about Southeast Asian water shortage:

Interesting reads and sources for the data in water facts:

Read the Forbes Article here

The UN WHO project Water For Life Booklet a must read

World Water.org dedicated to providing information and resources to help protect and preserve fresh water around the globe.

Arizona Agricultural University website

Why files

Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin

Drinking water and sanitation data

Check out rainwater harvesting here

Interesting Books from Amazon –

Your Body’s Many Cries for Water

Out of Water: From Abundance to Scarcity and How to Solve the World’s Water Problems

Almost 25Years Later, Chernobyl & Its Effect On Biodiversity

There is renewed interest in Nuclear Power in today’s world as fossil fuel deposits are getting depleted as each day passes and the consumption increases. The supporters tout the usage of Nuclear energy in France and rest of Europe without major issues, but the reality is that nuclear fallout when it happens can leave an indelible mark on the environment around. We know for a fact that human impact on the environment has been the worst in recorded history in the last 100 years. One way we find out what the impact is on the environment is by learning from the mistakes we make and one of the worst ones was the Chernobyl Incident in 1986.

For the uninitiated Chernobyl is one of the largest nuclear disasters in Human history. 24 years back in 1986 in the early morning hours of April 26th some complications triggered an explosion in the Chernobyl Nuclear plant in the town of Pripyat in the erstwhile Soviet Union (now in Northern Ukraine). The fallout covered a vast area and led to the evacuation of the town of Pripyat.

The abandoned town and surroundings are still not populated and the nuclear plant which was closed down entirely in 2000 still remains, enveloped in a sarcophagus made of reinforced concrete (it is supposed to hold in the radioactive substances for at least 100 years).

I read this article in the BBC about a report in the Journal of Ecology about a study titled “Efficiency of bio-indicators for low-level radiation under field conditions” 2 eminent scientists Professor Timothy Mousseau from the University of South Carolina, US, and Dr Anders Moller from the University of Paris-Sud, France have been researching the fallouts impact on the wildlife in the region around Chernobyl. In their study from 2006-2009, they counted and examined wildlife including insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. In conclusion they have reported that their census of species in the zone – which was carried out for more than three years – provides more evidence that contamination has a “significant impact” on biodiversity.

The research team compared the abundance of species in the exclusion zone with similar types of habitats in the area, which were not contaminated. Ukranian scientists have challenged this study, but the reality according to the team is that this is the first in-depth study done in Chernobyl.

Professor Mousseau says: “If society is ever to learn more about the long term environmental consequences of large scale accidents – and Chernobyl is just one of several – it is important that we all take our responsibilities seriously.”

So before we support building new Nuclear Power Plants in our backyards – I believe most of us would say NIMBY to nuclear power plants, yet some of us would say “Yes” to it as long as it is not where we can see it, or we feel safe enough. Like Prof Mousseau says “We all have to take our responsibilities seriously” and I add “for we are the safe keepers of this earth for the future generations”. Live Green!

The Entire Article on the BBC website is here

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has been the leading international force behind rehabilitation, relieving issues of the people affected by Chernobyl disaster, developing the containment area, and educating the people about the nuclear disasters nationally and internationally. The website run by them has plenty of information about what has happened there past the disaster. This year (2010) the reigns have been handed over to the UNDP (The United Nations Development Programme) Check it out here

Some interesting pictures of the vehicle grave yard in Chernobyl here

Elena Filatova has a blog of pictures and write-ups about her visit to Chernobyl starting 2004 amazing pictures of a dead-city here

Check out this video on youtube from Feb 2010

Suggested Reading  –

Living with Chernobyl – The Future of Nuclear Power

Some Tips on How to Pick Organic

I tend to go by the norm look for the label which says USDA Organic certified like the picture below. Natural or non-gmo etc do not mean Organic, mostly if a producer knows his produce is organic and he uses organic farming methods chances are he will write ORGANIC on his produce.

The USDA website says Products certified 95 percent or more organic display this USDA sticker. Do remember this is a voluntary seal which most Organic producers use.

As per the USDA what makes the organic food different from regular produce is the following criteria:

Here are other differences between conventional farming and organic farming:

Conventional farmers Organic farmers
Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth. Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease. Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.
Use chemical herbicides to manage weeds. Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.
Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth. Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

So when setting out to buy organic one way to do it is head to one of the major grocery chains and look for the organic section, or else head to a grocer who stores more organic food. I tend to shop at Trader Joe’s nominal prices, good selection and it still kind of has a small store feel to it which is not overwhelming.

Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don’t use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. For example, rather than using chemical weedkillers, organic farmers conduct sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay.

When it comes to products sometimes it gets kinda tricky- some producers certify their products organic while others say 100% organic, you will need to read the labels to figure out what ingredient in the mix is organic and what is not.USDA guidelines are as follows :

  • 100 percent organic. Products that are completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.
  • Organic. Products that are at least 95 percent organic.
  • Made with organic ingredients. These are products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The organic seal can’t be used on these packages.

Some simple steps which don’t much affect your wallet and monthly budget are growing your own vegetables during summer (squashes, tomatoes etc flourish and are readily available to buy), Farmers market – you get fresh produce from the source and you help the local economy what can be better?

While deciding on Organic decide which is best for you, considering nutrition, quality, taste, cost and other factors. Each of us have to make decisions based on our circumstances.

  • Nutrition. No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food. And the USDA — even though it certifies organic food — doesn’t claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.
  • Quality and appearance. Organic foods meet the same quality and safety standards as conventional foods. You may find that organic fruits and vegetables spoil faster because they aren’t treated with waxes or preservatives.
  • Pesticides. Some people buy organic food to limit their exposure to these residues. Most experts agree, however, that the amount of pesticides found on fruits and vegetables poses a very small health risk.
  • Environment. Some people buy organic food for environmental reasons. Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil.
  • Cost. Most organic food costs more than conventional food products. Higher prices are due to more expensive farming practices, tighter government regulations and lower crop yields. Because organic farmers don’t use herbicides or pesticides, many management tools that control weeds and pests are labor intensive. For example, organic growers may hand weed vegetables to control weeds, and you may end up paying more for these vegetables.
  • Taste. Some people say they can taste the difference between organic and nonorganic food. Others say they find no difference. Taste is a subjective and personal consideration, so decide for yourself. But whether you buy organic or not, finding the freshest foods available may have the biggest impact on taste.Source for the information USDA FDA website

Check out this video on Organic farming from the Boggy Creek farms in Autin Texas.

The following vegetables are the ones with the most pesticide residues there for going organic for those might be a good choice:

  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarines
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Lettuce
  9. Grapes – Imported
  10. Pears
  11. Spinach
  12. Potatoes

I had been to the local farmers market yesterday and was amazed to see how fast most of the produce disappeared! It is indeed a pleasure to be able to talk to the person/people who work hard and produce what we consume.

Some Organic farmers markets have been put together here
Live Green!
Check out this link too for more info

a good read –

The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming (New York Review Books Classics)