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WHO Favorites: Creative Environmental Ideas

(Originally published October, 2011)

Last month, over 8 million people tuned into 24 Hours of Reality, a global-warming info-dump and call to action, organized by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. During the event Gore claimed that the climate-crisis grassroots movement is “growing more rapidly than any grassroots movement ever.” However, although the science behind the climate crisis seems increasingly solid, the politics of climate change grows ever more divided and contentious. As the movement’s most visible spokesperson, Al Gore seems to act as a polarizing figure, leaving some to question whether he is in fact a help or a hindrance to the cause. So perhaps it’s time to “think small” for a change, and consider some of the innovative ideas that are helping people cope with environmental challenges around the world.

Living Bridges and Other ‘Arbotecture’

In terms of infrastructure, residents of Nongriat in northeastern India, have created perhaps the most symbiotic relationship with nature that mankind could ever hope to achieve. For 500 years, the villagers of Nongriat have been adapting their natural surroundings to suit their needs. In an area where heavy rains mean steel or wooden bridges are inadequate, they have come up with an ingenious solution to connect the water channels and make transport in the region possible. They grow their own bridges. By guiding the growth of the roots from the ficus elastica- a species of rubber tree that flourishes in the region- they have managed to grow bridges up to 100 feet in length, capable of holding the weight of 50 people. Bridge-growing can take up to fifteen years to complete, but once established they do not deteriorate or rot, instead they continue to grow and strengthen for future generations.

Although growing infrastructure elsewhere in the world may not seem very realistic, one possibility for many areas could be to grow our own furniture. In Australia, Peter Cook has been growing tables and chairs for 25 years in his back yard, using a process known as tree shaping.  This technique involves directing arboreal growth into pre-determined designs, allowing tree shapers to create anything from ladders to entire building structures.

Radical Recycling

While growing buildings may be a bit time-consuming, another eco-friendly alternative is to build them out of waste… human waste, to be specific.  By combining vegetable oil with the ash from incinerated sewage, Yorkshire Water and Leeds University in England have created carbon-negative bricks, classified as such because the plants used to create the oil once absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere. They are currently being developed for commercial use; a production plant is in design and scheduled to begin operation in 2012.

From building a house out of waste to constructing an entire island out of rubbish – WHIM Architecture envisions using plastic waste gathered from the North Pacific Gyre (a huge garbage patch in the north-central Pacific Ocean) to create a self-sufficient island the size of Hawaii. Plastic would be used to make both buildings and fields, while compost toilets would create fertile ground. Not only could this help clean our oceans, it could offer a potential habitat for refugees from coastal areas inundated by rising sea levels caused by global warming.

Simple Solutions to Save and Improve Lives in the Developing World

In the Philippines, the world’s cheapest light bulb has been developed. In many shantytowns, houses are built so close together that they get virtually no sunlight during the day. Using a bit of corrugated iron and an old plastic bottle filled with filtered water and some bleach, people living in slums are now able to light their homes from dawn to dusk for a one-time outlay of just $1. This low-tech innovation (which also recycles plastic waste) lasts for up to five years and works by refracting sunlight into the dark room below, giving out around 55 watts of light. The ‘Liter of Light’ project, founded by Illac Diaz, is active in shantytowns and schools in 31 different cities in the Philippines and promises to provide a lighting solution to millions living in slums throughout the developing world.

Finally, an innovative idea for an urgent and serious concern: the need for clean drinking water. According to UNICEF, three million people every year die as a result of diseases caused by unsafe drinking water. A German manufacturing firm, Zeltec Engineering, has come up with the Watercone to combat this problem. As simple as it is effective, the Watercone uses the sun’s rays to transform salty or brackish water into clean drinking water. It has been proposed for use not only in the coastal regions of developing countries, but in disaster areas such as tsunami-hit Japan, where hundreds of thousands were left without potable water for several weeks. This basic equipment could prove invaluable in saving the lives of millions.

 

 

LINKS :

Climate reality project: http://climaterealityproject.org/

Gore polarizing figure: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2011/09/15/movie-review-al-gores-polarizing-misleading-climate-reality/

Living bridges (video) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxe5wRhSpag

Tree-shaping: http://pooktre.com/

Tree building structure: http://lh6.ggpht.com/_hVOW2U7K4-M/Sp7qLffqAUI/AAAAAAABHPk/hF-kRAm05Ms/s640/67ieryjdfgf.jpg

Sewage Bricks: http://www.constructionenquirer.com/2011/09/23/bricks-made-from-sewage-cut-co2/

WHIM Architecture: http://www.recycledisland.com/

World’s cheapest light bulb (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOl4vwhwkW8

Liter of Light: http://isanglitrongliwanag.org/

Watercone (site): http://www.thewatercone.com/Index.html

Watercone (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=On7gbKIa5zc

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  • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

    Okay, look, I am all-but-certain that human pollution changes the environment. And we probably DO have to take enforceable legal actions which prevent the accumulative problems of human pollution.

    BUT. But, when it comes to “environmental awareness” promoted by the mainstream / corporate media, I know I’m being told a paternalistic lie.

    Anthony Cuthbertson, I don’t want to tear down at you, but what I’m saying is that the rich don’t give a flying f-word about the environment, and they give even less of a concern about the people to whom they become rich selling materialistic consumer goods and war machines.

    They see an upcoming world in which ENERGY will have to be rationed, because we live in a world of finite energy resources and we spent the 20th century consuming all the hydrocarbons we could in a way that made sense to “the markets” — AKA to the corporate chieftains who could become “wealthy” extracting hydrocarbons and helping other corporate chieftains produce, market, and sell things (at profit) to the consumer markets — cheap energy means easy profits. America devoted the 20th century to this principle. Not to freedom, as they paternally lie to us.

    But now the ENERGY resources have passed their peak of feasible extractability. They can continue to extract energy resource hydrocarbons, but they can’t do it beyond the volume peak at which they used to do it. We are going to have less and less total volume of energy producing fuels.

    And they hate the common people. They despise the public. They want all the good things in the world they can securely latch their hands on, and they don’t want to share any of it with the people who were deceived into helping them get it.

    So they’ve picked “carbon” as a proxy for energy. They want to ration energy, so they start rationing carbon. Simple, paternalistic game or lie.

    The lie? It’s “always worked before.” But now we need to just not fall into the same patterns of 19/20th century American history and not swallow the hook, the line, and even the fucking sinker.

    I notice you didn’t really try to say that “carbon” is the bogeyman that’s causing “climate change”, you just mentioned once in passing that something “carbon-negative” is good. But I made this comment / post just as it is so that you and Russ Baker clearly hear what I have to say on the issue of carbon-dioxide based anthropogenic global climate change.

    “You’ve got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues,
    “And you KNOW it don’t come easy…

    “I don’t ask too much, I only want trust,
    “And you KNOW it don’t come easy…!”

  • http://www.911Blogger.com/ Orangutan.

    How about a book (or article) about the life, work, and patents of Mr. Nikola Tesla?

  • http://www.911Blogger.com/ Orangutan.

    Documentary ‘Gashole’ is pretty good too!!

     http://documentaryheaven.com/gashole/

    Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joobOHZnxok

  • http://www.911Blogger.com/ Orangutan.

    Any news on Thorium Reactors?

  • http://www.911Blogger.com/ Orangutan.

    The Missing Secrets of Nikola Tesla here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5uiK_QnyrE

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