Life On The Fog Farm


Water is at the heart of climate change. As the world continues to transform, water, in one way or another, is significantly related to the resulting effects. For example, water levels of our oceans and seas are expected to rise. Water contained in massive rainfall in the major storm systems that rage, fed by the cyclical effects of climate change’s higher temperatures that increase evaporation of water resources. And then there are the regions that will become deserts, lacking water entirely. How will these areas feed their populations? Will they have to be abandoned altogether? Thanks to some Star Wars inspiration, nope.

Remember how the people who live on Tatooine used “vaporators” to irrigate their desert farms? Guess what? That technology, imagined in the 70’s, is real in the here-and-now of 2017. Yep, the technology has been developed to literally make water appear out of thin air. Like magic!

Even the most arid desert has some humidity within its immediate atmosphere. The trick is in trapping and condensing those tiny particles of humidity. Today’s “vaporators” work on the same principle that takes place when droplets of water start sliding down your glass of iced tea.

That cold drink is cooling down the immediate atmosphere around the glass. When that happens, humidity within that tiny area is no longer trapped within the warmer air. It is free to attach itself to the surface of your glass. That’s also how rain is formed. So, in a sense, the “vaporators” of Star Wars are actually air conditioners, cooling the hot, desert air so water droplets form.

But it would seem like it would take an awful lot to produce enough water to be helpful. Is this technology even practical? Well, let’s take a look at what Chilean & Peruvian farmers are doing, who farm in the dry, arid regions of the high Andes. They have a steel mesh contraption, kind of like a net. Covered in a special coating to attract the molecules of water within the air, they basically harvest fog.

6.22.2a

Is fog-catching making a difference? A single fog-catcher, about one-meter square, produces about 5 litres of water daily. An improved design hopes to up water collection to about a dozen litres daily. Either way, the technology being used has meant the difference between harvest success over crop failure for the artichokes, avocados and grapes commonly grown.

Even greater than creating water out of thin air, the technology is sustainable, portable and powered by nature. So don’t be surprised if the next big thing in agricultural areas are rows of tiny billboard looking thing-a-ma-jigs. But since you read with the Gringa, you’ll just shrug and say, “Hey, look. It’s a fog farm!”

Source:

New Scientist

Image Source:  Design We Need

Makeshift

Video Source:  Makeshift

Today’s Alternative News

The Latest Buzz About Bees


If you are an eco-aware individual, you know that mankind has wreaked all kinds of havoc on this Earth. From climate change to endangered species, the impact of humanity has been, for the most part, not a good thing at all. We all have to admit that we have failed as a species in our management duties.

One might think that a hard-core environmentalist might be an advocate for getting back to basics and living an old-fashioned homesteading lifestyle. Or, perhaps modeling a lifestyle after indigenous people who live in harmony with the nature that surrounds them. Technology and green living don’t seem at all synonymous. But what if we turn the tables on the path humanity has been traveling. What if mankind becomes committed to using technology to save the planet. Can such a strategy work?

Let’s take a look at the example of declining bee populations. The world of drones is offering as a solution replacing bees rather than saving them. They propose to create micro-drones that will become the AI pollinators of the future. Considering that the US lost 44% of its honeybee colonies in 2016, the agriculture industry is ready to embrace this idea. Many wild bee species are teetering on the edge of extinction. But is replacing them with robots a better solution than fostering a comeback of the real deal?

Many farmers think that we have no time to ponder the consequences. They are watching what they believe to be a doomsday scenario unfolding as we speak, er, read. Scientist and researcher, Eijiro Miyako, of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan is poised to become the savior of agriculture. This may be the messiah grateful families offer thanks to as they gather round future dinners tables filled with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, maybe.

At the heart of his invention is a unique gel used in the electro-chemical industry. This ion based gel has long-lasting adhesion that is water-resistant, making it the perfect carrier for pollination duty. After various tests to determine that the gel is safe for use, being exposed to plants, insects and animals, it was time to build a vehicle model.

Miyako’s final design is a tiny, bee-sized drone with four-propellers. Miyako customized it with some horse hair because, after all, bees are fuzzy, too, right? The hair delivers an electrical charge that helps the grains of pollen remain attached.

Next came the big experiment… pollinating some plants. After buzzing a few plants, researchers used a special fluorescent microscope. When the scientists observed the tell-tale glow of pollen in test tubes, they knew they had achieved fertilization success with their pollinating robot.

Now, humans have been self-pollinating plants for some time. But it is incredibly labor intensive and time-consuming. If we become a world without bees, it would be impossible to hand-pollinate enough crops to feed all of humanity. The difference between human pollinators and real bee pollinators is a single person pollinating about 7 trees a day or a 2 million bee colony pollinating 1 million acres of trees. Big difference, huh?

But a pollinating drone is not a one-size-fits all solution. In the real world, there are different bee species for a reason. Each has their own specialty. Bumble bees are great tomato pollinators and leafcutter bees are preferred to pollinate alfalfa crops. On a side note, humans can learn a lesson here about the value of diversity! But, I digress.

And pollinating crops is not the only use being considered by the micro-drones. Instead of embarking on the complexities of replacing bees, which could end up creating a whole other set of environmental problems, an entomologist from the University of Minnesota, Marla Spivak, offers up a novel suggestion. She thinks attempting to create armies of drones of different designs to ultimately replace extinct bee species is too complicated and will take too much time, a solution that may arrive too late in the end, so of no use to save a starving world. Instead, she suggests using drones to perform a necessary job that is currently fraught with risk for bees, delivering pesticides and fertilizers to crops.

Instead of applying these chemicals in a broad spray that affects any insect present, not just bees, use drones for precision application. This can also protect surrounding human and animal populations by reducing vapor drift and runoff that contaminates groundwater resources.

The gringa prefers Spivak’s approach. I don’t think we should just give up on bees. They are here for a reason. And everytime mankind gets too big for his britches, thinking he doesn’t need something as lowly as a bee, it always leads to trouble. We simply must get over ourselves. We are all in this together, even the bees! We all need each other even if we don’t understand the role and contribution each cog in the wheel makes.

Regardless of which duty Miyako’s drones fulfill in the future, farmers will still be using them. And that means a critical job of the future lies in the drone industry. Whether someone is in on the manufacturing aspect or is a micro-drone pilot, young students of today who invest their time and efforts in drone technology will be setting themselves up for a future career that is not only lucrative, but might just help to save the world. And that’s the greatest kind of job to have.

Source: NPR

Image Credit: Dr. Eijiro Miyako

Video Credit: Science Magazine

papayaTreeNursery

Oysters & Fortunetellers


Where the gringa lives in the gulf coast of Texas, oyster farming is big business. The gringa’s farming experience is limited to my father’s cattle ranch and my own egg farming. Is that how oyster farming works? Do you just leave the little guys alone most of the time to do what oysters do? Toss them a bit of feed, protect them from predators, stuff like that? Well, actually oyster farming has gone hi-tech. For young people who are interested in a beach bum lifestyle with the edge of technology, oyster farming or working with the technology related to the industry may be your thing if you love science as much as beach bumming.

Oysters don’t need their human overseers to bring them a bale of hay or toss out some nutrient enriched scratch. They are living filters that live on the bottom of a bay. Oyster farmers really don’t have that much to do, it would seem, unless it is harvest time. Sounds like the perfect beach bum job.

However, there is one thing that can happen that can interrupt an oyster farmer’s hiatus between harvests. If storm clouds gather, oyster farmers have to get out of their hammocks, put away the surfboard and forego the margaritas and head out for some serious relocating work in the estuaries.

You see, as bottom feeding filters, rain in this polluted day and age can be deadly for oysters. And even if contaminants in run off don’t kill the slimy, little buggers they could, in turn, kill a human if eaten. A local thunderstorm with a heavy downpour means one of two things:

  • Completely relocate their stock, or,
  • Quarantine the area and delay harvest until it is safe.

Now, even if an oyster farmer was willing to relocate their oysters, often weather conditions can change rapidly and unexpectedly in coastal regions.  Usually an oyster farmer simply doesn’t have enough time to respond. So, the oysters bide the storm and everyone hopes for the best. But considering how heavily polluted most of the soil is in populated areas around the world, it’s usually not good news when it’s all over.

The gringa doesn’t have the numbers for industry loss or farm closures in the Gulf of Mexico area I call home. However, I can tell you about what’s been going on in Tasmania. Since 2013 industry research has recorded a loss of over $4.3 million (Australian currency!) for Tasmanian oyster farmers due to contamination related farm closures, caused by pollutants in rainfall water runoff that entered estuaries.  This sounds awful, right? Well, take heart, dear readers. There is good news for Tasmanians as well as oyster farmers everywhere thanks to an agriculture technology start-up company, The Yield.

The Yield has designed a system of sensors that were tested in 14 Tasmanian oyster farm estuaries. This comprised about 80% of the entire oyster industry for the state. The technology measured:

  • Water depth
  • Salinity
  • Temperature
  • Barometric pressure

Oyster farmers use their smartphone, or other device, to access the handy little app that is updated every five minutes with new data about their squishy, little, hard-shelled babies. Access is also available to food safety regulators so everybody that matters is in the loop.

But the gringa wants to know if this has made oyster farming better. I mean, it’s always fun to have new gadgets but where business is concerned, is there a point to the expense? Here are the benefits of this new technology:

  • Reduces paperwork between farmers & food service regulators.
  • Food quality and safety has improved.
  • Accurate measurements has resulted in fewer farm closures.
  • Fewer farm closures has resulted in higher production, yields and profits.

Well, it looks like this technology is worth the investment for oyster farmers. It also looks like the investment of time and effort of scientists and meteorologists for more than a century was also a worthy investment. That is the backbone of the information that went into designing this system. If you have a habit or hobby of recording weather related “stuff”, who knows, one day what you may consider a hobby or pre-occupation could change the world! More than a hundred years worth of weather and tidal related data helped developers understand weather and tidal patterns, how they changed with the seasons, and how this would affect the performance of the technology to predict weather events. So, basically, Tasmania’s oyster farmers are more successful because of digital fortunetellers.

Sources:

www.techrepublic.com

www.theyield.com

oysterstasmania.org

Image Credit: oysterstasmania.org

 

 

Sparky & Boot, The Greatest Heroes of All Time


Although the gringa doesn’t often write about dogs, there is, indeed, a very soft space in my heart for them. In fact, I love them with all of my heart. I think dogs are just grand. In fact, in my own life I consider a dog named Sparky to be a hero. Alone on a rural farm with my oldest son who was about 5 years old at the time, Sparky took a bullet while keeping out an intruder. The gringa’s dear readers can only imagine how that dog lived a life fit for a king the rest of his days, even if he was left with one paw that resembled a flipper as a result of his wounds.

That being said, and after the gringa regained her composure and was able to type once again, I am moved to share the story of Boot.  He was the only retriever in a company of twenty military service dogs comprised of German Shepherds and Dobermans. Serving aboard an attack boat, he landed on the shores of enemy territory in Japan during World War II.

Trained at Camp Pendleton in California, Boot was actually the pet of a Sergeant and soon earned a reputation as playful, friendly and a bit of a character. When the ship was asea, the War Dogs were housed in kennels. Boot, however, got special privileges as a pet. He enjoyed more freedom as an on-board mascot and liked to cruise the decks, sneaking up behind unsuspecting sailors and grabbing their arms from off the railings. When forces landed at Iwo Jima, Boot was part of the invasion force and his later unexpected performance in battle made headlines in local papers.

The story goes that a Lieutenant arrived at camp and requested a War Dog to flush out some enemies forces who were hiding out in nearby caves. The Sergeant explained that all the War Dogs were currently out on duty and he would have to wait until their return. Noticing Boot, the Lieutenant asked why he could not be deployed. The Sergeant explained that, despite the fact that he had been fully trained as a War Dog, he was actually a pet, the troop’s mascot, but, since he knew all the battle commands, the Lieutenant could take him and give it a shot. The Lieutenant did just that and Boot was successful at clearing out three caves that were being held by enemy forces.

Because of Boot’s heroic actions, U.S. Marines were able to advance their battle line. Once Boot returned home, his fame followed him. He and his Sergeant made a guest appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The nation’s very first Marine War Dog Training School was at Quantico Bay. It opened in January, 1943 under the command of Captain Samuel T. Brick. Fourteen Doberman Pinschers and a single Boxer were the first recruits. The Boxer, named Fritz, was the first dog sworn in as part of the Marine Corp. By the time Boot joined the Marine Corp, the United States had several War Dog training camps, including the one he attended at California’s Camp Pendleton.

When training began, War Dog recruits were ranked as Privates. Within three months successful recruits became Private First Class. Corporal rank was achieved at one year, Sergeant at two years and Platoon Sergeant at three years. Four year War Dog veterans became Gunner Sergeants and one year later they promoted to Master Gunner Sergeant. It was not uncommon for a War Dog to have a higher rank than their handler who might be fresh out of boot camp.

As the gringa envisions Boot fearlessly chasing the enemies in the close confines of the caves, she is taken back in her memory to the day Sparky took a bullet. He started out as a stray taken in as a pup. The gringa can’t count the number of times he tore up the fence and caused any number of problems. At one time the man of the house became so frustrated that he ordered the gringa to “take that dog to the pound”. The gringa obediently loaded Sparky up into the car the next day, drove to the pound, read the documents that required a signature releasing the dog for euthanasia in the event an adoption never happened, then burst into tears and loaded that darn dog back into the car and returned home.

When the man of the house returned and growled, “I thought I told you to take that dog to the pound.” The gringa calmly replied, “I did. You didn’t say anything about leaving him there.” And that was that. Although one would have never known from all the trouble he caused as a one year old spunky pup, that darn dog grew up to become the most amazing dog the gringa has ever known.

We lived on a farm and had loads of chickens. That came about because the gringa had the bright idea of becoming a chicken farmer. What wasn’t expected was that when it came time to sell hens to become roasters on family tables or roosters that might end up in a soup pot or illicit cockfighting ring, the gringa could not bear to destine the little creatures to such a fate. So, the chicken farm became an egg farm and rooster bachelor haven. It also became the hub for local chicken hawks looking to score an easy meal.

Although Sparky had no training whatsoever, it did not take him long to realize that the chickens were part of the family and he became their self-appointed protector. He would go bananas barking and lunging upward as far as he could, threatening chicken hawks that seemed to be miles away in the sky. If the chickens got too spread out as they foraged, he would herd them closer to the barn where they could skedaddle to safety if a chicken hawk showed up.

Sparky wasn’t our only dog on the farm. Living out in the country meant that it was not uncommon for people to dump an unwanted dog, expecting it to somehow revert to its wild nature and survive alone. We also had Dot, a dumped deaf Dalmatian, Trixie, a golden chow the man of the house found as a homeless golden puffball that the gringa relentlessly shaved down to the skin all year round, and Scooby, a fat black retriever looking thing who revealed an amazing rapid weight loss overnight which caused us to realize that she was only fat because she was pregnant. So then we had 6 more dogs on our hands, which we eventually found homes for.

Out of all of these dogs who had a grand farm dog life, Sparky was the only one who exhibited remarkable intelligence. The others were all fine dogs in their own respects but there is no doubt that Sparky alone stood out as a hero.

For instance, there was the day a neighbor moved in about 5 acres over. She was a single woman who, the gringa believes, must have had a very tragic story. She was not just reclusive but obsessed with security. She installed an electrified security fence that was 8-10’ tall around her house. If that weren’t enough she put in a small shooting range and was outside all the time practicing her marksmanship with her pistols. Then she got some dogs. And not just any dogs.

You see, we lived on the flatland prairie north of Dallas at that time. A person could step outside and practically see for miles. And sound carried even further. It didn’t take too many trips to the barn before the gringa witnessed the new neighbor outside her secure perimeter with four full-grown German Shepherds and a professional handler in a protective suit training the dogs to attack. I tell ya, the gringa went from thinking she had a recovering victim next door to considering a full-fledged, dangerous lunatic was near at hand.

After weeks of training, the handler no longer came. The neighbor, however, continued to take the dogs outside the security fence and work with them on the open prairie. Her confidence in controlling them was misplaced.

One day, while I was outside working and our oldest son was doing his thing on the swingset, the gringa could hear the whistles and commands that indicated the nut next door was working with her dogs. Soon her tone of voice changed. The gringa heard crazy barking and turned to see her pack of attack dogs high-tailing it across the fields, making a bee-line for me and mine. I threw down my feed buckets, ran and scooped up my son, threw him through the back door of the house then hoped I had time to lock the gate on the pen to the barn where my donkeys were happily munching away on some fresh hay I had just laid out. I gave the chickens up for dead and started calling the dogs to me.

I locked up the pen and headed back for the house eyeing the distance that was quickly closing between me and the German Shepherds. I realized I had to make a decision. I might not even have time to make it into the house myself, there was no way to even attempt penning up my dogs. All of them were outside dogs, housed in the barn at night and during bad weather. These unmannered barn dogs were all going to have to go in the house with me. I didn’t care and they were more than happy to follow and see what the mystery was all about in this one structure they had never been allowed to explore.

As I turned to close and lock the patio door, seeing the German Shepherds lunge through the gap between barbed wire strands of our fence I realized that Sparky was still out on the deck barking like a maniac at the intruders. I called and called but he ignored me and stood his ground. In the midst of the chaos and fear it took some time before I realized that his refusal to obey me was because, in the confusion, Trixie, still quite young, had run under the deck instead of into the house. I could see her trembling in the gaps between the wooden steps. He was protecting her. Crap. Now what does the gringa do?

The gringa instructs her 5-year-old son to man the back door. The gringa runs to the front door on the other side of the house, slips out and under the porch, belly crawls under the house, grabs Trixie, crawls back to the front, puppy in tow, still listening to the ruckus Sparky is making, hoping he survives but grateful for the distraction so I can safely rescue Trixie. By now I can hear the shouts from my neighbor who has obviously been making her way across the pasture to get her crazed dog pack.

I get back in the house, dump Trixie and load my shotgun with birdshot. I get my son out of the way who has been cheering Sparky but then suddenly becomes very serious when he sees his dirty, cobweb covered mother with an enormous gun in her hand (and most likely a very mean, murderous gleam in her eye).

I walk out beside Sparky and yell at the dogs to get. They go bananas, even crazier, and the gringa is pretty sure that she has just poured gasoline onto a fire. I don’t dare touch Sparky and try to drag him in the house. He is so pissed he might just bite me. The German Shepherds are not listening to their master as she uses her stupid dog whistle from the other side of the fence. Finally, the gringa makes her most critical decision. I maneuver over to the side of the deck slowly and land a blast of birdshot on the behind of the dog in the most unfortunate position of the outside of the pack. I never in my life thought a dog could jump straight up like a cat. However, when they are shot with birdshot in the backside, they do.

For a split second everything was quiet. We were all in shock. It was like the dogs were saying, “Did she just shoot one of us?” And Sparky was thinking, “What should I do next?” And then it was all chaos again. The neighbor lady was about to stroke out in her madness that I had just shot one of her dogs, not realizing it was only a flesh wound. One of her dogs was wailing in pain, the others were circling the deck, eyeing the steps as they prepared to rip me apart, and the gringa took advantage of Sparky’s momentary lapse back into reason to grab his collar and back up to the door. Thankfully my son was still performing his door duty because it promptly opened when my own backside struck it.

When the man of the house returned home from work, true to 5-year-old form, our son streaked right out the door and before his father could set one foot out of his truck, he promptly tattled on his mother and said, “Mom shot the neighbor’s dog today.”

And who knows, Sparky’s future injury may have very well been payback. The gringa will never know. All she does know is that it was afternoon naptime for her and a very grubby 6-year-old boy about six months after the gringa shot the neighbor’s dog. We had been sound asleep for about one hour when there came a strange, repeating pound on the front door accompanied by whines and yips. Dog sounds, yes, but not the usual dog sounds our little pack made.

I went to the front door and found Scooby and Dot jumping up on the door and the side of the house in distress. Scooby, like a retriever, took my hand in her mouth and tugged. Dot just made circles and strange yipping sounds. I followed, puzzled. They led me to the front gate of our driveway that was about the length of a football field. It couldn’t be seen from the house because of a cluster of trees that surrounded a small watering hole directly in front of the house. When I got to the gate there sat Sparky, shivering in pain and shock as Trixie comforted him by licking his wounded paw that would become a flipper after removing all the pieces of shattered bone in order to avoid amputating the whole darn leg.

I rushed Sparky to the vet not knowing exactly what had happened. I wouldn’t learn the truth until I talked to our other neighbor. He was a horse trainer and almost always outside working on his property which was across the road from me. He only noticed what happened after he heard the shot. He saw a person, too far away for any other details, running down the road and eventually out of sight. By the time he had put up his horses and come over to check on us we were already at the vet’s office. He said he saw the enormous cloud of dust I left behind as I drove like a  bat out of you know where.

When the vet found out that Sparky had been injured in the line of duty, he was very impressed. He knew that saving Sparky was going to be very expensive and that the gringa was not made of money. He offered to save Sparky for free if I would let him keep my hero dog. The gringa said no thank you, that a certain little boy would never forgive me for such a betrayal, and chose to max out a credit card instead.

Despite my own notoriety with a shotgun, it was really Sparky’s fame that ended up stretching far and wide throughout the local high school. When he reached the end of his days at 17-years-old and the appointment was made with the veterinarian to ease his passing, for three days high school students that were classmates and friends with our children made their way over for one last visit with Sparky. You see, since our kids were school age, Sparky faithfully made the morning and afternoon pick-up and drop-off trips to the school. Often he was hanging out the window, mooching a scratch from any passerby. Everyone knew Sparky, the dog with a limping flipper who was a hero. And now the gringa is crying again.

Sources:

www.uswardogs.org

k9history.com

 

A Curious Green Partnership


With all of the terror related events that have recently occurred in France, one wouldn’t think that France and Iran would be synonymous with the word partnership. Well, the gringa tells her dear readers to think again. Once again the sophistication of the French people  and the deeply philosophical nature of Iranians have resulted in both nations magnanimously spanning cultural differences that should be an example for all of us to follow. We would do well to emulate their motives as well, committing to save this planet and the human race from extinction.

This month the Environment Minister of France, Segolene Royal, met with Iran’s equivalent of the same office, Massoumeh Ebtekar, leader of the Environmental Protection Organization of Iran. They have outlined a schedule of projects that should bloom to fruition by February of next year.

Both officials will be touring Iran for three days. Topping the list of places to visit in Iran is lake Orumiyeh in the northwest. This saltwater lake, the largest of its kind in Iran, is a UNESCO heritage site. Over the past twenty years it has shrunk by almost 90%. This has been caused by a combination of un-sustainable farming methods, the construction of dams and the effects of climate change.

They will be joined in their tour by influential businessmen from the energy industry representing companies that specialize in environmentally aware renewable energy. These companies focus on water conservation, minimizing the impact of pollution and designing structures that are energy efficient.  Of particular mention is the leader of the multinational company, Engie.

Engie’s claim to fame is that of an energy company that desires to make a difference throughout the world. Operating in the fields of electricity and natural gas, they seek to manage dwindling natural resources responsibly and create innovative technologies that could render use of non-renewable natural resources obsolete.

France chose to partner with Iran because they believe that the two nations are facing similar energy and climate challenges. Although French officials see this as a great opportunity for the two nations, French bankers are not so keen on the idea. It seems the financial movers and shakers in France have not caught up with the decision of July 2015 when the world lifted sanctions that had been upon the nation of Iran. That’s understandable considering that bankers are just trying to decipher the complicated mess of laws and rules that would govern a financial venture in Iran. The gringa totally understands wanting to cover your own patootie.

However, even if the environment department heads of France and Iran get impatient for funds to flow, the gringa trusts in the ingenuity and passion of the French to discover a solution. There has even been mention of turning to Italy for financing. But what exactly do they want to use all that money for?

The funding will be used to help each nation come into compliance with the decisions of the international climate accord that was signed in Paris by many nations last year. Paris and Iran want to work together to create two thriving green economies. The gringa wants to know just what the heck a green economy is.

Well, the United Nations has been using the term “green economy” since 1989 when a United Kingdom group of environmental economists wrote a blueprint presenting their case for sustainable development, or so one would think from the title of their work “Blueprint for a Green Economy”. The short tome actually contains no reference at all to what a green economy is. The world is left scratching its head as to the meanings of authors David Pearce, Anil Markandy and Edward B. Barbier.

It isn’t until, in 1991 and 1994, the same authors released sequels to their original greenless blueprint of green economies that mankind finally discovered what the heck they were trying to tell us. When all three are read together, these are the conclusions to be drawn:

  • By changing economies, countries can change the world’s climate condition for the better.
  • Purposeful action must be sponsored by world leaders to develop sustainable energy.
  • Governments must lead rather than wait on the private sector.
  • Economics and environmental policy must become intertwined in order to solve the problems of a global economy and entire world population threatened by the effects of climate change.

What forward thinking France and Iran are displaying. Their actions may very well be the catalyst for a shift in economic thinking and how countries approach climate change initiatives. It is not uncommon for a country to get an economic bail-out when suffering from a financial crisis. The movement of the future may very well be “green stimulus packages” offered by the United Nations as well as individual countries that can afford to help others. The gringa is feeling hopeful.

Sources:

www.al-monitor.com

www.france24.com

www.engie.com

sustainabledevelopment.un.org

Image Credit: tse1.mm.bing.net

 

Let It Rain, Let It Rain, Let It Rain


Although Olympic focus has been trained on Rio, the gringa would like to take the dear reader back in time and to the other side of the globe to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. When China was preparing to host this historical event, pollution was high on the list of problems to solve. Although everyone is probably familiar with the tactic of temporary bans on driving & factory operations as drastic measures to help reduce smog. What many may not be aware of is China’s ambitious plans to control the weather, a $30 million dollar plan that they are still working on today. A plan to shoot into the heavens special “bullets” filled with salt and other minerals. What in the world are those crazy Chinese scientists up to? Apparently, nothing new! They’re just trying to make it rain.

Officially called “weather modification”, China helped clear their smog-filled skies during the Olympic games by making it rain, rain, rain. They are not alone in being rainmakers. Fifty-two other countries have developed their own rainmaking strategies. Ten of these countries joining the rainmaking team only five years ago. Rainmaking countries include: Canada, United States, Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Australia, India, Senegal, South Africa, Russia and the list goes on. You can see the map created by the World Meteorological Organization to see who all is in on the rainmaking game.

The gringa is rather ashamed to admit that as for the United States, the origins of its weather modification program is not as noble as China’s. For the U.S., it all started with Operation Popeye which was a top secret program that weaponized weather during the Vietnam War. Although I’m sure the scientists who worked for General Electric had noble intentions, they probably had no idea that the U.S. government was going to take their technology and rain down silver iodide on the poor Vietnamese people.

But I digress. Back to China. In addition to creating rain to saturate polluted air and get rid of smog, they also wanted to prevent rain from spoiling events taking place in the stadium that was dubbed the “Bird’s Nest”. To achieve this amazing god-like feat, the Chinese implemented a 3 stage weather modification strategy:

  1. Officials tracked weather patterns with satellites, planes, radar and supercomputer.
  2. 2 aircraft, 20 rocket launcher & artillery sites sprayed silver iodide and dry ice into remote cloud systems that might approach the stadium so they would dump their rain before arrival.
  3. Nearby cloud systems filled with rain were seeded with chemicals that shrink the water droplets thus ensuring that the clouds would have time to pass over the Bird’s Nest without dropping their rain.

Now was all of this really necessary? The Beijing Olympics were held in August which is a high precipitation season for China so, yes, the gringa supposes that it was necessary. Consequently, China’s success in being a master rainmaker or rainstaller has resulted in China being the world leader in the weather modification sciences. They have more than 1,500 professionals devoted to all things necessary in controlling the weather: scientists, pilots, flight crews. Also proudly serving in the program are tens of thousands of peasant farmers who are more than happy to help their government blast away a cloud when crops have been inundated or have clouds seeded during times of drought. Peasants are on call to operate more than 7,000 aircraft guns and almost 5,000 rocket launchers when called to report to rainmaking duty.

The gringa is not too sure what to make of all this. For the most part I am the type to believe that the less we interfere with nature, the better. However, considering how bad mankind has screwed things up where climate change is concerned, it may just be that Mother Nature could use a few rainmakers. So, I say to the Chinese:

Let it rain. Let it rain. Let it rain.

 

Sources:

www.technologyreview.com

www.wmo.int

uspto.gov

fas.org

wikipedia.org/OperationPopeye

Image Credit:  cloudfront.net

 

 

Tech & Nature – NOT Mutually Exclusive


Common sense might tell you that technology and nature are mutually exclusive. However, the reality is that with climate change poised to revolutionize where humans farm, technology innovators are poised to revolutionize how we farm. And there are all kinds of ideas out there that are as fascinating as they are practical.

Aquaponics is something the gringa would like to try. I have a small tropical fish aquarium I have experimented with over the past year. I feel ready for a greater challenge.  This method will not only provide me with vegetables, but they will be fertilized by the poop produced by the food fish I will also farm in the same tank. An added plus is that my pint sized vegetable patch and fish farm can be an interesting decorative addition to my pint size apartment. This may be the future of urban farming for apartment dwellers.

Easy DIY aquaponics project:

5 best fish for an aquaponics aquarium garden…

 

If you want to take your urban farming further than an apartment patio garden or indoor aquaponics garden, maybe the FarmBot is for you. If you live in a house with outdoor spaces, the FarmBot, which operates on a track system, can easily manage a backyard farm from beginning to end and provide enough fresh fruits and vegetables for a family of four each growing season. It plants seeds, waters and fertilizes each plant according to its variety needs, weeds the garden, and can be controlled from your smartphone or laptop just like playing a video game. The gringa thinks this sounds fun.

 

For larger scale operations, artificial intelligence is taking over all sorts of chores that were once managed by humans. By using cameras and sensors, technology responds to climate conditions to optimize water usage. There is more to collected data than just evaluating rainfall and soil moisture levels. Plants are analyzed down to individual leaves for health and nutrition needs. Clouds are analyzed to predict potential rainfall which might result in delaying a watering activity that might otherwise have been performed, thus conserving one of Earth’s most precious natural resources. For farmers and gardeners interested in the latest sustainable methods. Some of the biggest retailers of agricultural products are being supplied by growers using this kind of technology: Wal Mart, Aldi and Tesco.

A promising future in agriculture awaits our youth who are interested in robotics, technology and saving the world.

Sources: www.kingsroost.com

gardening-abc.com

prospera.ag

Image Credit:  pinimg.com

 

 

Were Ancient Martians Vegetable Farmers?


If a petrified cauliflower garden was discovered on Mars would that indicate that ancient Martians were vegetable farmers? Again, images transmitted by Mars rover Spirit have ancient alien conspiracy theorists reveling in the possibility. Unfortunately, unless ancient Martians enjoyed a crisp, tasty salad of silica, no, they were not vegetable farmers.

Near what NASA has dubbed “Home Plate”, Spirit took some pictures of interesting mineral formations that looked like cauliflower. Now, just because something looks like something doesn’t mean that it is that something. Think of all the little fishies in the sea that believe they are about to snag a little morsel for dinner only to realize, much too late, it was actually a bio-lure attached to the head of a deep sea angler fish who is about to be enjoying some dinner of his own. See, although that glowing tidbit looked like food, it was actually a dangerous decoy and not at all what it seemed. So, no, the gringa does not believe that these cauliflower looking formations are actually petrified cauliflower. But, still, is there any exciting news attached to their existence?

According to researchers from Arizona State University, although the mineral formations are no indicator of ancient Martian farmers, they could still very well have been created by alien life. Just not the kind of alien life that walks about, flies in spaceships and probes your brain. We are talking about microscopic alien life in the form of microbes. Which, I guess, technically speaking, under the right conditions could get inside a human brain for a “brain probe”, technically speaking, of course.

Now these silica protrusions were first reported to Earthlings by Spirit in 2008. Why has it taken eight years for the media to find something interesting? Well, science takes its own sweet time in research and drawing the right conclusions. Part of this research involves studying similar mineral formations here on Earth to get some local answers. One place to do that is in the high altitude Andean Atacama Desert of Chile which has some shapes that look like a mirror image of what was found on Mars. Could the microbes that created the Martian formations have traveled to Earth and duplicated their work here? Is that a sign of a cosmic connection between our two planets or is it common for microbes to create silica based cauliflower everywhere? Are conditions simply present in lots of places remote from one another for this to happen?

Scientists Steven Ruff and Jack Farmer, who penned an article published by Smithsonian Magazine, believe that the Martian petrified cauliflower may be proof that at one time, way back when, Mars was teeming with the kind of life commonly found in the vicinity of geysers, even living within the geysers themselves. After their investigation of Chile’s cauliflower, the work of artistic microbes who have a penchant for sculptures resembling vegetables, they linked the microbes responsible to some ancient microbes found in New Zealand that were definitely from out of this world. More silica cauliflower cousins have also been found in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park.

So maybe, just maybe, some space traveling microbes made their way here from Mars aeons ago. And the message they have left behind to get our attention are rock formations that look like cauliflower. Does that sound crazy or what? How would ancient microscopic Martians have ever known humans would ever develop the habit of even eating cauliflower and decide that would be their key way of making first contact or leaving behind a letter of introduction? The gringa appreciates the zeal of scientists but methinks this is all just an accident. Mars probably got slammed by an enormous asteroid, comet or meteor which sent chunks of Mars shooting out into space and one of these chunks happened to make its way to Earth and, bing, bang, boom, a kazillion years later we have cauliflower rocks just like Mars.

If that’s the case, there’s no telling what other bits of Mars may have made their way here and be right under our very noses. It makes rock collecting take on a whole new meaning. That little bit of quartz or gypsum you collect and stuff in a cubby hole or box today may prove to be of galactic origins tomorrow.

More interesting to the gringa than the thought of beings similar to us living on Mars long ago is the implication of space scraps making their way hither and yon from the vast reaches of space to finally land upon Earth. Who knows?! Maybe NOTHING organic on Earth actually originated here. Maybe our planet is a virtual junkyard of the Universe, with little bits from here and there surviving and growing up into what we have today. Hey, stranger things have happened!

Sources:  www.nasa.gov

www.yahoo.news

www.smithsonianmag.com

Image source:  www.americaspace.com

 

 

Life In A Bubble


There are many different reasons to be interested in the science of climate change. Maybe you are a lover of nature, like the gringa. Maybe you are a doomsday prepper, anticipating worldwide failures of critical natural resources necessary for humanity’s survival. Perhaps you are a problem solver, interested in creating solutions to help us all survive. Or you could be an author of science fiction and fantasy and the realities of climate change provide a plethora of creative resources. Whatever the reason, then you will find the possibility of life in a bio-sphere bubble interesting to ponder.

Tucson, Arizona was recently host to an environmental event sponsored by One Young World, a group of leaders in innovative climate change survival solutions, particularly Biosphere 2 (Earth is #1).  The event featured experts in science, international diplomacy, political science and commercial industry who are all interested in humanity’s need for sustainable sources for food and energy. The speakers whom event attendees were, perhaps, most interested in were probably the former astronaut and individuals who have been living in Biosphere 2.

If a person was to take a tour of Biosphere 2, you might be expecting a sterile, technical, enclosed life support environment like the International Space Station. However, you will probably be pleasantly surprised to find a faux ocean the size of an Olympic swimming pool surrounded by a bamboo forest. As you continue exploration, you will stumble across a desert recreation complete with species of ants and cockroaches.

The Biosphere idea was birthed more than two decades ago. In 1991 the dream was realized when eight individuals, four women and four men, donned their uniforms and entered the three acre terrarium smack dab in the middle of an Arizona desert where they would live confined for twenty-four months.

The habitat was constructed thanks to the generosity of a wealthy Texan who wants a place of safe retreat when the Apocalypse crashes down around our ears. He shelled out about $150 mill to recreate miniaturized versions of South America’s rainforest, the African Savannah, and a single ocean. The Biosphereans worked for two years to determine if this earthly microcosm would interconnect, survive and become a self-sustaining world producing oxygen and food.

Beneath the multiple geodesic domes of steel, glass and plastic transplanted nature began to fail the moments the doors were sealed. Precious oxygen was leaking and making its escape to the outside world. Despite the threat of suffocation, the Biosphereans soldiered on. They planted crops near the ocean. A sophisticated underground bellows system created wind. But small crops of oxygen producing plants and man-made breeze were not enough to make the habitat a survivable, much less pleasant, environment. For the sake of science the Biosphereans persevered through two years of oxygen deprivation yet finally called it quits when survival was only possible by pumping in outside-sourced oxygen.

But was this experiment really a failure? Of course not. It was a very valuable learning experience. Think of all the research that was accomplished on learning how vegetation, geography, water and air movement, and fresh water sources can all be successfully recreated and the knowledge of certain mistakes not to repeat in the process.

The Biosphere 2 is not a total physical loss either. The University of Arizona will continue studies on how to succeed in a biosphere lifestyle. Part of the property will be open to the public and re-christened “Land Evolution Observatory”. The university will launch a project that, over the span of a decade, will attempt to perfect the methods the Biosphereans began. The gringa considers these self-sacrificing and brave Biosphereans to be the pioneers of the Millennia.

The Biosphere story also has a romantic twist. The gringa, madly in love with her caveman, loves a good romance and is happy to learn that two of the individuals fell in love during their confinement together and married as soon as they had regained their freedom to the outside world. The couple, speaking to the Tucson audience, explained how profound their sense of inter-connectedness to their environment became. Daily they tracked carbon and oxygen levels, strongly aware that their survival depended on the right balance.  They felt aware, moment by moment, of each breath they took and each CO2 exhalation they made. The reality of the co-dependence the humans, plants, animals and insects all had with one another was always at the forefront of their mind.

When former astronaut Ron Garan addressed the audience, he discussed his six month stint enclosed in the self-sustained environment of the International Space Station. It was a profound experience that increased his environmental awareness and how tiny, fragile and singular our Earth is. His individual life perspective was completely changed as he worked beside the two Russian cosmonauts he shared duties with. Upon his return to Earth, he dedicated himself to collaboration with projects that will promote the survival of humans and the planet we call home. The only planet, mind you, that we have.

He recounted one of his most poignant experiences. It was the moment he returned to Earth. He peeked out the window of the capsule, saw a landscape of rocks, flowers and grass. His immediate mental and emotional response was, “I’m home” despite the fact that this American was actually in Kazakhstan. Once you’ve been off world, any square inch at any spot on the globe is home, regardless of politics, religion, nationality or ethnicity. The gringa finds this philosophy beautiful and inspirational. And I hope that we all figure it out together, how to save our home.

Source & Image Credit:  www.newsweek.com

 

 

Can Post Consumerism Solve The Climate Change Problem?


If gross consumerism is feeding the beast of climate change and post-consumerism is the solution, what the heck is post-consumerism exactly? Post-consumerism is a complete paradigm shift of thinking for capitalist consumer cultures. Its approach is to put the well-being of others and the environment before material success. The core value is to be satisfied with what is enough to sustain a life for today rather than mass accumulation of goods that are unnecessary and solely for the purpose of vanity.

Does this mean we would all live in crappy looking homes, wear crappy looking clothes and not bathe regularly? Will we be tilling our backyard gardens and lugging firewood and reading by candlelight with no more Internet? Will we be trading our home-grown tomatoes for a bar of soap from our crafty neighbor? The gringa wants to know the details. It’s all well and good to spout humanitarian “isms” that are noble and high-minded, but, the reality is, if it is too uncomfortable and crappy, spoiled people are just not going to be interested.

Well, first of all post-consumerism is not interested in ridding the world of commercial businesses. It does expect businesses to be held accountable to the highest standards of social, economic, and environmental responsibility. A post-consumer will only engage in trade for goods and services with businesses that operate this way. A post-consumer uses their dollars to hold businesses accountable. The gringa’s on board with that one, however, I would like more options. I would prefer if more businesses operated ethically in the world. Right now it’s kind of expensive for me to live true to a post-consumer standard where shopping is concerned. A $3 Starbucks coffee is a little steep compared to McDonald’s coffee on the 99cent menu.

For post-consumerism to become more affordable, more businesses have to operate ethically creating more competition that will drive down prices. But how can this happen? The same way it always happens in a capitalist system. The market responds to consumer demand.

Consumers underestimate the power of the dollar in bringing about change. We don’t have to miss a few days of work to attend a mass protest demanding corporate accountability. We don’t have to end up losing our jobs after getting arrested and thrown in the slammer for a couple of days at said protest. We simply need to recognize that in a capitalist consumer culture, the dollar is God. It has the Almighty power to make or break a business. And little ol’ you and me wield the power of God in a consumer society. Wield that power wisely and a society can redirect a business culture toward social, economic and environmental responsibility. That is how post-consumerism works. If enough people signal to a market what it is they demand in goods and services, the market will respond because they want your money. A concerted effort of consumers collectively rejecting unethical business goods and services, while at the same time supporting ethical businesses, can change the world.

How to live the powerful life of a post-consumer:

  • Minimize and use less “stuff”
  • Repurpose and re-use as much as possible
  • Shop ethically as much as possible and when you can’t, if possible, shop second hand
  • Embrace and practice any level of self-sufficiency or off-grid lifestyle that you are capable of where you are right now
  • Consider “first-world” luxuries you enjoy and the possibility of living without them or at least opting for energy-efficient models, alternative energy models, etc.
  • Minimize exposure to marketing campaigns
  • Expect to feel uncomfortable and perhaps a bit like a crazy radical when transitioning, embrace it and accept it
  • Reach out and begin to build community around you with your neighbors through projects such as swap meets (surely you have a few neighbors who are crafting away in the seclusion of their homes) or establishing a community garden that can supply everyone’s kitchen and maybe earn the community a bit of change at the local farmer’s market, and don’t forget to bond over some fun with a block party every now and then
  • Begin with the youth by starting up a local children’s book club and help children grow up with a sense of community responsibility fostered by the literature they read

So, how does the gringa measure up? Am I practicing what I preach? I am trying and it is not easy. There are just not as many options available for the goods and services I need. But, I try. A few examples based on the above listed recommendations:

  • Minimizing & Repurposing – We have the furniture that we need for our household (2 beds, 1 sofa, 2 chair dinette, 2 dressers, 2 file cabinets that serve as bedside tables, 2 desks, 1 bookcase). Our luxury furniture is rather minimal (2 TVs with TV tables, decorative entry table, 3 decorative side tables, 1 recliner). We also have furniture that is not necessary but either functional, can be argued to be “emotionally” nurturing, or sentimental (craft table, grandmother’s cedar chest, patio furniture). And then there are the wall decorations which are either family photos, my own art, or things we have picked up on our travels
  • Shop Ethically or Second Hand – We do this faithfully although there are still goods and services that we need and have no viable options, such as getting the oil changed in our car, certain grocery items, etc. I buy almost all of my clothes and furniture second hand.
  • Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Lifestyle – I have a patio herb and tea garden and a few vegetables. We have no cable TV/Wifi service. We have an antenna to get local news channels on the television and I use a mobile hotspot with my cellphone for Internet on my laptop when I work. I have to budget my online time. We do not use a clothes dryer. I have a laundry line on my back patio. We live where I can walk to my necessities (post office, bank, small grocery) so I only drive one day weekly when I go to the big market and I do all of my other “away” errands on that day. And I make some “stuff” we need like fabric softener. I save all of our vegetable clippings and waste and brew “compost” tea every week for plant fertilizer.
  • “First World” Luxuries – We have an energy efficient washing machine but I really want one that operates when you pedal a stationary bike (one day it shall be mine!). Living in a rental apartment, we have no control over whether or not our refrigerator, stove or dishwasher is energy efficient.
  • Minimize Exposure – This is probably the key to converting to post-consumerism. We simply must accept that marketers and advertisers know their craft and regular folk are no match for their techniques. We quickly become brainwashed into believing we cannot have a happy life unless we have this, that or the other. I do not look at magazines, watch television or go to the mall just to walk around and “look”.
  • Reach Out – I reach out beyond my community in an attempt to build literacy. I participate locally with local reading programs and occasionally stick my big nose into a political demonstration if it’s local and an issue I agree with. I KNOW my neighbors, engage with them regularly and we share over-abundances we have with one another whether it is food, patio plants, or a bulk bag of socks for kids.

Although what the caveman and I do is very little, it is changing our way of thinking. Each time we change a little something, we awaken more. We realize there is much more we can do and are willing to do but transition is slow and gradual. Sometimes something is staring us in the face and it just takes a while to realize because we are so conditioned to accept things the way they are.

For example, I have a netted enclosure on my back patio for my parakeet, finch and dove. Most of the year the gulf coast is the perfect weather for them to enjoy being out of doors in a flight cage. My dove usually lays an egg every now and then. We just realized that we have room for a few more dove and could be enjoying fresh eggs, albeit tiny ones, practically every day. So, change is gradual but in the end, it is still change. And if all people living a gross consumer lifestyle begin the process, the overall impact can be world changing.

The reality is that, although faithful recycling is great, waste is really not the heart of the problem. Accumulation of more and more “stuff” is. Higher demands of certain types of services is another part of the equation. Urban living makes post-consumerism more of a challenge but not impossible.  The gringa is open to radical change and the caveman is resigned to enjoy the ride because his little gringa’s crazy ideas often save him a nickel or two.

Source:  www.postconsumers.com

Image credit: http://www.prrepublika.wordpress.com