Archives For Environment
Guy Consolmagno fears that the future of celestial mining will sink developing countries even deeper into poverty…
Can you put a price tag on an asteroid? Sure you can. We know of roughly 750 S-class asteroids with a diameter of at least 1 kilometer. Many of these pass as near to the Earth as our own moon — close enough to reach via spacecraft. As a typical asteroid is 10 percent metal, Brother Consolmango estimates that such an asteroid would contain 1 billion metric tons of iron. That’s as much as we mine out of the globe every year, a supply worth trillions and trillions of dollars. Subtract the tens of billions it would cost to exploit such a rock, and you still have a serious profit on your hands.
But is this ethical? Brother Consolmango asked us to ponder whether such an asteroid harvest would drastically disrupt the economies of resource-exporting nations. What would happen to most of Africa? What would it do to the cost of iron ore? And what about refining and manufacturing? If we spend the money to harvest iron in space, why not outsource the other related processes as well? Imagine a future in which solar-powered robots toil in lunar or orbital factories.
“On the one hand, it’s great,” Brother Consolmango said. “You’ve now taken all of this dirty industry off the surface of the Earth. On the other hand, you’ve put a whole lot of people out of work. If you’ve got a robot doing the mining, why not another robot doing the manufacturing? And now you’ve just put all of China out of work. What are the ethical implications of this kind of major shift?”
The Dow Jones named Nokia has the world’s most sustainable company in its 2009-2010 Sustainability Index. After leading for several years in Europe and Communications, it has been bumped up to “World Technology Supersector Leader” making it number one across the entire global technology sector. ITNewsAfrica reports: Continue Reading…
Every year, millions of watermelons are left rotting in American fields as famers select only the most perfect looking to go to market. Between 20 and 40% of the total crop is judged unworthy, over 360,000 tons of leftover melon.
A new study shows that the leftover watermelon could be converted into 9.4 liters of ethanol a year—only a drop in the bucket of the 9 billion gallons currently produced from corn and other crops this year. But scientists aren’t suggesting that the fruit be used to replace corn ethanol, but rather, to save energy in its creation. Watermelon juice is 10% sugar and full of the amino acids that help fermentation, a crucial part of ethanol creation.
[…] corn and molasses require lots of water, and sometimes nitrogen supplements to prepare for fermentation. The team suggests that watermelon juice from reject melons could drastically cut down on water usage, supply needed nitrogen, and even add some sugar to the mix, cutting the amount of corn or molasses by up to 15 percent.
Watermelon-as-biofuel is particularly interesting because 1) it doesn’t require any new technology to begin profitable production and b) growing and transforming watermelons takes a lot less energy than growing and transforming other biofuel sources, such as corn.
A Nigerian teacher and Ashoka fellow, Mohammed Bah Abba has invented an earthenware refrigeration system for preserving perishables in arid climates. Because the system preserves food, families that have used them have seen a drop in disease and an increase in income. The pot-in-pot is simple, affordable, and made form local materials, and so can be introduced throughout Nigeria and West Africa.
One clay pot is filled with wet sand, which must be kept moist. Into this sand bed is placed a second smaller pot, which is then covered with a damp cloth. The water in the sand evaporates, causing a drop in temperature, and cooling the inner pot.
Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake and the source of Africa’s longest river, Nile. The lake provides livelihoods for more than 3.5 million people in 3 countries (Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya). It’s used for transport and trade across east Africa. It has a booming fish industry worth USD 590Million annually.
The lake is also one of the world’s most dangerous water ways with an estimation of 4,000 – 5,000 deaths in lake-related incidents each year. Most are fishermen who leave behind an average of 7 dependants.
In order to improve safety and security, Ericsson, GSMA Development Fund and Zain conducted a feasibility study into increasing GSM network coverage across and around Lake Victoria’s perimeter.
To-date Ericsson and Zain have begun to upgrade and extend mobile network coverage to provide people with better communication.
“If we can reduce, by even one death, of the more than 5000 each year, it will be worth the investment.” Lars Liden, President Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa.
Zain on the other hand has developed SMS and voice call services that enable fishermen on the lake, to receive weather and safety alerts as well as fish and commodity prices.
“When you dial 110, the official Lake Victoria emergency number, the Ericsson CoordCom solution will route the call to the rescue and safety center coordinating rescue activities – from taking an incoming emergency call, to pinpointing the location and dispatching the right resources such as the police, fire department, medical assistance or other appropriate service,” said Lars Stuber, Ericsson manager.
Stuber says the second phase of the project will involve the implementation of a coordinated emergency search & rescue service which will use Ericsson’s Mobile Positioning System to locate the caller’s mobile signal, increasing the chances of a successful rescue in areas around the lake.
“As the East African community gets connected to undersea cables for the first time, the communities of Lake Victoria can now access a mobile safety net” said Gabriel Solomon, Senior Vice President GSM Association.
“It is now incumbent upon the governments of East Africa to leverage this network by partnering with the private sector and delivering a rainbow of new Services.”
A project to convert schools to solar power by 2020 has been launched by the Japanese government as part of their stimulus plan. CrunchGear reports:
Solar energy remains a hot topic (no pun intended) in Japan. As part of a huge economic stimulus plan, the government plans to convert all of the country’s 32,000 public elementary and middle schools to solar power by 2020. The aim: reduction of CO2 emissions and cutting long-term energy costs.
Conversion will cost between 650 and 980 million USD.
A part of me wants to draw comparisons between this operation and solar startups in Africa. A larger part of me is simply in awe of the project’s scale.
Two recent articles point to the scientific realities of the African continent and the potential it has for tremendously enhancing the sustainability of the growing world population. The first, published last year argues that the vastly uninhabited regions of the northern continent where the Saraha desert stretches, could be used to build massive solar farms that could theoretically power the whole planet. The second, published more recently suggests that Africa could also feed most of the worlds population with it’s vast stretches of fertile soil and uninhabited land.
When it comes to plans for solar, the concept would be to build a massive solar grid, using hydro-electric backup generators in the Mediterranean region to power Europe. The image above taken from treehugger.com shows just how little land it would take to power the entire world. The smaller box would be sufficient for contemporary Germany, the middle box represents powering the populations of the countries in the European Union and the largest box represents the land it would take to power the entire planet.
Here’s a mock-up of what the finished grid would look like.
The other report, suggests that there’s enough unused land on the planet, particularly in African and Latin America, to sustain the world population indefinitely.
“Some 1.6 billion hectares could be added to the current 1.4 billion hectares of crop land [in the world], and over half of the additionally available land is found in Africa and Latin America,” concludes the report, compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Models for producing new crop land already exist in Thailand, where land originally deemed agriculturally unpromising, due to irrigation problems and infertile soil, has been transformed into a cornucopia by smallholder farmers.
As in Thailand, future success will come by using agriculture to lift Africa’s smallholder farmers out of poverty, aided by strong government measures to guarantee their rights to land, say both reports.
AU’s Leadership Needed
The reality is that as various countries around the globe realize this (and as it becomes more necessary to sustain their own growing populations) there is very little to stop them from attempting to do so. It’s a logical, viable solution to one of the world’s rapidly growing problems. Foreign governments will shake a few hands and sign a few deals with African leaders, some of whom have historically simply been looking for the quickest way to subsidize their private jets and Swiss bank accounts. What will it take for this to happen while ensuring that Africa benefits from it’s own resources? The blame will fall squarely on the shoulders of AU leaders if they can’t see far enough ahead to make mutually beneficial deals fall into place.
After all, we don’t want a continent-wide repeat of Madagascar.
“No other technology offers as large an opportunity to improve lives … at such low cost and in such a short time.” – The World Bank
When a pregnant woman doesn’t have enough iodine in her body, her child may suffer irreversible brain damage and could have an I.Q. that is 10 to 15 points lower than it would otherwise be. An educated guess is that iodine deficiency results in a needless loss of more than 1 billion I.Q. points around the world.
Development geeks rave about the benefits of adding iodine and other micronutrients (such as vitamin A, iron, zinc and folic acid) to diets. The Copenhagen Consensus, which brings together a panel of top global economists to find the most cost-effective solutions to the world’s problems, puts micronutrients at the top of the list of foreign aid spending priorities.
Read more about how Micronutrients and salt iodization from Nicholas Kristof.