Bill Moyers reminding us

The news media has been largely silent, but Bill Moyers seems to be enjoying honesty and honor recently. And he’s showing me how wonderful it would be if true convictions were revealed more often.

“There’s a story about the medieval knight who returns to the castle after a long absence. He rides back through the gate with his helmet battered, his shield dented, his shield broken, and his horse limping. The master of the castle looks down from the parapet and shouts: “Sir Knight, what has happened to you?” And the knight looks up and says “Oh Sire, I’ve been up pillaging and plundering your enemies to the east and the west.” And the lord of the castle looks down at him and says, “But I have no enemies to the east and the west.” And the knight answers: “Now you do. Now you do.”

“And in a society where capitalism and corporations have more power than any other aggregation of human beings, the watchdog role of the business press, becomes as essential as the watchdogs to Washington. Where, then, does journalism stand as the future of our media world is being determined by such investment and the rapid development of business models to better target us primarily as consumers instead of citizens?

“…the oldest story in America – the struggle to determine whether “We, the People” is a political truth – one nation indivisible – or merely an economic arrangement masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.”

What Adam Said to Eve, by Bill Moyers

New use for DDT

Malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever are increasing so rapidly that DDT is returning.

Malaria accounts for nearly 90 percent of all deaths from vector-borne disease globally. And it is surging in Africa, surpassing AIDS as the biggest killer of African children under age 5.

At least 80 percent of human infectious diseases are transmitted by bugs. More than 3,000 species of mosquitoes have been the worst of all the disease carriers.

But now DDT is not used to kill a mosquito but to keep it away, a so called non-contact repellent action of DDT.

When DDT sprayed on the walls of huts in Thailand, three out of every five test mosquitoes sensed the presence of DDT molecules and would not enter the huts. Many of those that did enter and made contact with DDT became irritated and quickly flew out.

“Indoor DDT spraying to control malaria in Africa is supported by the World Health Organization; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the United States Agency for International Development.

“The remaining concern has been that the greater use of DDT in Africa would only lead mosquitoes to develop resistance to it. Decades ago, such resistance developed wherever DDT crop spraying was common. After the DDT bans went into effect in the United States and elsewhere, it continued to be used extensively for agriculture in Africa, and this exerted a powerful pressure on mosquitoes there to develop resistance. Although DDT is now prohibited for crop spraying in Africa, a few mosquito species there are still resistant to it.

“But DDT has other mechanisms of acting against mosquitoes beyond killing them. It also functions as a “spatial repellent,” keeping mosquitoes from entering areas where it has been sprayed, and as a “contact irritant,” making insects that come in contact with it so irritated they leave.

Esquire 1971, Gordon Edwards eating a tablespoon of DDT to show the safety of DDTFrom Esquire 1971, Gordon Edwards is eating a tablespoon of DDT to show the safety of DDT.

In Mosquitoes, DDT, and Human Health, he describes the death and suffering caused by insect-borne diseases, and tells why we must bring back DDT.

From the NYTimes:
Until a suitable alternative is found, DDT remains the cheapest and most effective long-term malaria fighter we have.

Discover has a short article, 20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Mosquitoes.

#3 In 1998, researchers found a new mosquito species in the London Underground, descended from ancestors that flew in when the tunnels were dug 100 years ago. Once bird-feeders, they now feast on a menu of rats, mice, and people. They rarely interbreed with their aboveground colleagues. Their DNA actually varies from one subway line to another.

#6 It would take 1,200,000 mosquitoes, each sucking once, to completely drain the average human of blood.

Average milestone in propaganda

Cartoon - Rove and PlatoGen. David Petraeus will likely testify to Congress about progress in the war in Iraq on or about September 11.

The White House said the hearing date was not related to the anniversary of the 2001 attacks.

The announcement was made on Air Force One while President Bush headed to a summit in Canada.

…Bizarro ‘toon by Dan Piraro, via boxofthoughts
…story from Reuters aboard Air Force One

Find pests before disease

A new field of biology may be emerging to detect a plant’s early response to disease.

Plants emit a wide range of volatiles when they are infected with diseases or attacked by pests. It’s part of their defense mechanism and can attract useful predators and helpful parasites.

‘The Plant Whisperer’
Saber Miresmailli from UBC in Vancouver said,

“For better results in pest management, we should shift our attention from pests to plants because they can provide us with more accurate and reliable information about their health.

“We just need to learn how to translate their signals and understand them.”

He’s building a database of gases and volatile oils that are emitted from plants and plants under stress. His early worked showed that the volatile oil of rosemary stopped spider mites. Now he’s looking forward to a new system of sensors for pest management programs – an intelligent scouting machine. Early stage detection requires translating plant signals using olfaction sensors, an electronic nose, to follow chemical cues. [pdf]

Detecting plant volatiles at an early stage will prevent infestation from spreading and reduce the use of pesticides.

Trees fail to sequester carbon

Surprising many, planting trees may not reduce airborne carbon.

Duke FACE FacilityTo detect if trees deposited carbon in the soil, several projects enriched the air over forest canopy by spraying pure CO2 through laser drilled holes in tubing mounted on telescopic poles.

Duke University has been pumping extra CO2 over trees for ten years and found that forests may not absorb enough carbon to make a difference to global warming. “Elevated CO2 could significantly increase the production of foliage, but this would lead to only a very small increase in ecosystem carbon storage.”

In some areas, plant growth increased from 10-40 percent, but in most areas carbon was not moved from the air back to earth, the target of carbon reduction and sequestration efforts.

Carbon storage seems to occur only in the most robust and nutrient rich soils where biological activity is the most vigorous. Without paying attention to water and soils, conventional tree planting may not help reduce global warming. On average or marginal land, trees merely return the carbon dioxide to the air. Carbon will only be absorbed in a forest floor with a healthy and complex system of water, minerals, fungi and bacteria.

Oddly, invigorating soil with charcoal may produce healthy soil and thus absorb more CO2. As BioPact says, “When biochar is added to soils, they become impressively fertile because they prevent nutrients from getting washed away by rain and erosion.” I think the explanation for biochar benefits will go beyond erosion and soil mechanics. Carbon provides more than structure at the microscopic level and may interact with water and minerals as well as becoming a lattice for fungi.

Bioenergy.list is keeping abreast of soil’s ability to store carbon and the increasing attention given to charcoal as a zero-carbon biofuel.

The University of Hawaii energy program found that charcoal is a zero-carbon fuel and “the sustainable fuel replacement for coal”.

“Coal combustion is the most important contributor to climate change.

“Coal combustion adds about 220 lb of CO2 to the atmosphere for every million BTU of energy that it delivers; whereas crude oil adds 170 lb per million BTU, gasoline adds 161 lb per million BTU, and natural gas adds 130 lb of CO2 to the atmosphere per million BTU of delivered energy.

“On the other hand, the combustion of charcoal – sustainably produced from renewable biomass – adds no CO2 to the atmosphere! Thus, the replacement of coal by charcoal is among the most important steps we can take to ameliorate climate change.”

End of the Fender forest?

Greenpeace Music Wood CoalitionFender, Martin, Gibson, Taylor, Guild and others have joined with Greenpeace to create the Music Wood Coalition to preserve and manage forests.

“Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”, portends Jerry Garcia.

The USA guitar industry is not a major consumer. Its annually using just 150 spruce logs a year as soundboards. A sawmill cuts 120 logs per shift. But keystone forests in the USA are at risk, with some areas in Alaska exhausting their supply of old-growth Sitka spruce in just six years. About 80% of all spruce logs are sent to Asia for construction or used in US doors and windows.

“Walk through any music store and the instruments you’ll see represent a virtual who’s who of exotic and valuable timber species from the four-corners of the globe: spruce from Alaska, mahogany and rosewood from South America, ebony from Africa and a host of other lesser known species.

“Unfortunately, unbridled demand for forest products on global markets has led to the destructive and often illegal logging of the forests where these species are found. Global demand has driven many species to the point of commercial extinction and others are becoming increasingly scarce-as are the plants and animals that share their environment.

“Today less than 10 percent of the Earth’s land area remains as intact forest landscapes. Music wood is only a small part of this problem, but it can be a big part of the solution.”

In an interview at GreenBase, Scott Paul, the Greenpeace Forest Campaign Coordinator, said the campaign starts in the Southeast Alaskan rainforest, the northern most extent of the North American great coastal temperate rainforest considered too be the rarest forest type on Earth. In Alaska the Pacific Coast Mountains trap moisture rolling in from the ocean, as storms drench the region with as much as 200 inches of rain a year. The ancient trees of this forest live from 200 to 700 years, and one species can survive for 1,000 years or more.

GuitarPlayer said that “Sitka spruce—the wood used for the vast majority of acoustic guitar, piano, violin, and other musical-instrument soundboards—is being harvested at such a rate from the Southeast Alaskan forests where it grows that the end of the instrument-quality supply is in sight.”

China’s reputation

Russia tested 185,000 toys last year, and 93,000 of them were found unsafe, reinforcing a collapse in the reputation of Chinese goods. Many countries including Nigeria, Peru and the Netherlands are blocking imports. Thailand has stopped all food imports from China.

Repairing a herniated disk

Prestige artificial spinal diskThis piece of hardware is an artificial spinal disc made by Prestige.

The apparatus is screwed into the vertebrae above and below the removed disc and rotates on a “ball-and-trough” system to restore motion.

Driving a concrete truck for thirteen years and
slinging the chute back and forth, Lazaro Puerto at only 45 and was crippled with pain. The FDA recently approved his replacement spinal disc, which is designed to ease pain and, unlike old procedures, restore a greater range of motion in his neck.

Until now, the “gold standard” operation has been to remove the damaged disc and fuse the two vertebrae together with bone grafts and titanium plates. It could stop the pain, but with loss of motion. Studies seem to successfully show satisfactory motion, although the surgery is considered high risk because it is near the spinal chord.

Artificial disk in the neck vertebraeA flexion-extension x-ray shows the artificial disk implanted in vertebrae of the neck.

Technology for back pain from damaged or herniated spinal disks is improving, but learning to care for the spine is important.

In the neck, the spinal cord and nerves are surrounded by bony vertebrae, which are separated from each other by discs that allow the neck to rotate and bend.

A disc is like a jelly doughnut, made of tough cartilage on the outside and softer material inside. If the disc is damaged, degraded or herniated by disease or injury, some of the “stuffing” comes out, and the disc no longer properly cushions the vertebrae. It leads to intense pain and loss of motion.

The implant could replace many of the 200,000 traditional cervical operations performed each year in the United States in which a damaged disc is removed and the vertebrae above and below it are fused with bone grafts. [link to story, also posted on my construction blog]

Only breath is automatic

In his famous “love lab”, the Family Research Laboratory, John Gottman observed more than 3,000 couples during three decades of research, analyzing their discourse, including arguments, and recording their physiological responses.

What he concluded wasn’t whether people fought — 69 percent of his subjects never resolved their conflicts — but how they fought.

The relatively happy couples did not escalate disagreements; they broke tension with jokes and distraction and made “repairs” after arguments. When wives raised issues gently, for example, neither partner’s heart rate exceeded 95 beats per minute and the ratio of positive to negative comments during a fight was an amazing five to one. …more at MindHacks

“When wives raise issues gently…”?? Whassa that?!? I mean, like, hey! It’s accepted that men can be defensive regarding emotions, but it’s not difficult nor impossible to grow.


A Sufi tale:

A lover came to the dwelling of the Beloved and asked to be admitted. “Who is there?” the Beloved asked. “I am here,” the lover answered. The Beloved refused to admit the lover. After wandering in grief and longing for years, the lover returned to the Beloved and begged to be admitted. “Who is there?” The lover responded, “You alone are there.” The door opened.

Are we trading forests for fuel?

Greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels based on deforestation are larger than those of petroleum fuels.

Dominick Spracklen of the School of Earth and the Environment at the University of Leeds says that if your primary concern is reducing carbon dioxide emissions, growing biofuels is not the best way to do it.

In fact it can have a perverse impact elsewhere in the world.

The amount of carbon that is released when you clear forests to make way for the biofuel crop is much more than the amount you get back from growing biofuels over a 30-year period.

But is it true that biofuels are causing the rape of forests?

“The fact is that most biofuel crops are grown on non-forest land.

“Sugarcane in Brazil offers the best example: the crop is grown 1000 miles South of the Amazon, and has no impact whatsoever on deforestation rates.

“The only biofuel currently made from crops grown on rainforest land is biodiesel from palm oil.

“There are groups of countries much larger than Europe, where biofuels can be grown without any major environmental side-effects. Countries like the Central-African Republic, South Sudan, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, and clusters of regions in Asia, to name but a few.

Biofuel production is criticized in the headlines for rainforest deforestration, displacing food acreage, water shortages, and excessive waste.

BioPact looks beyond the headlines and blogs to assert that green fuels offer the only realistic way to overcome high oil prices.

We are NOT faced with the simplistic choice of rainforests versus biofuels.

We, also nuts

More Americans receive mental health care in prisons than in hospitals.

“If you think health care in America is bad, you should look at mental health care,” says Steve Leifman, who works as a special advisor on criminal justice and mental health for the Florida Supreme Court.

Time Magazine via MindHacks:

Fifty years ago, the U.S. had nearly 600,000 state hospital beds for people suffering from mental illness. Today, because of federal and state funding cuts, that number has dwindled to 40,000.

When the government began closing state-run hospitals in the 1980s, people suffering from mental illness had nowhere to go. Without proper treatment and care, many ended up in the last place anyone wants to be.

1000 days out of sight of land

Reid and Soanya's Schooner AnneOn the frontier of marriage, Reid Stowe and Soanya Ahmad said, “We sail on in beautiful weather almost in disbelief that each day and night can be more beautiful than the next.”

In an attempt to leave dry land longer than anyone before, they must remain almost three years at sea without going ashore, without additional supplies or fuel and without pulling into harbor.

They post their blog from the Schooner Anne.

Day 113
Wind ENE 8-10 knots,
Course SE, Speed 3.5 knots,
Position: 29° 59 S, 25° 00W,
Temp. 68° F 20 C

Starship Schooner Anne continues her boundless voyage into the unknown surrounded by stars that fall and come closer and closer.

Stars fly past the underwater window rolling and bouncing from the force of our ship. They want to come into our cozy warm home and are surprised when our thick lexan window deflects them and sends them rolling astern to surface where they mix with other stars we have excited.

They all make a long glittering tail behind us. This goes on all night as we hold our course under the rotating starry dome of the sky. In the early evening, we head for Orion while the Southern Cross watches from the far southwest. Later in the night, Orion is high in the sky and Southern Cross has disappeared.

Reid Stowe and Soanya AhmadThese are the long nights when the stars guide us. We are meeting so many new stars that we can’t even begin to name them. Carter, our friend at the planetarium knows more of them than anyone else, but when we look at the stars we’re too busy saying hello to them to name their constellations.

Can you imagine?

Soanya and I have seen them so many times already that we see them in each other’s eyes even in the daytime.

Schneier interviews head of TSA

Security expert Bruce Schneier interviewed Kip Hawley, chief of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The interview reveals interesting insights about the methods required to deter terrorism.

This is a fun excerpt:

Schneier asks, “Can you please convince me there’s not an Office for Annoying Air Travelers making this sort of stuff up?”

Kip Hawley replies, “Screening ideas are indeed thought up by the Office for Annoying Air Travelers and vetted through the Directorate for Confusion and Complexity, and then we review them to insure that there are sufficient unintended irritating consequences so that the blogosphere is constantly fueled.”

Backscatter body scanning x-rayThough the TSA has made stupendous mistakes, it faces a difficult task to develop effective methods that will intervene threats and also preserve our liberty and privacy. For example, body scanning machines use “high energy x-rays that scatter rather than penetrate materials as compared to lower-energy x-rays used in medical applications. Said to be harmless, it can move through materials such as clothing.”

Hawley reassuringly says that images through clothing from backscatter x-ray must be and will be adequately quarantined. See SmartCheck.

Behavior Detection Officers, a new profession starts now.
People with hostile intent can be detected by their behavior, heart rate, respiration, body temperature, verbal responses, facial micro-expressions and the involuntary movement of their muscles.

They’re called Behavior Detection Officers, and they’re part of several recent security upgrades, Transportation Security Administrator Kip Hawley told an aviation industry group in Washington last month. He described them as “a wonderful tool to be able to identify and do risk management prior to somebody coming into the airport or approaching the crowded checkpoint.” [link]

Hawley mentions several times to Bruce Schneier that the TSA is moving toward behavior detection, and is actively seeking employees. I searched Google August 12 for “Behavior Detection Officer” and found only 15 listings and again August 15 to find just 26 results.

In “Airport security now reads minds”, Scientific American pointed to this snippet:

Jay M. Cohen, undersecretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology, said in May that he wants to automate passenger screening by using videocams and computers to measure and analyze heart rate, respiration, body temperature and verbal responses as well as facial micro-expressions.

Kaitlin Dirrig at McClatchy Newspapers reported that there is ‘danger in facial expressions’ and that Behavior Detection Systems will be also added to port security, special-event screening and other security screening tasks.

At the heart of the new screening system is a theory that when people try to conceal their emotions, they reveal their feelings in flashes…. Fear and disgust are the key because they’re associated with deception.

Behavior detection officers work in pairs. Typically, one officer sizes up passengers openly while the other seems to be performing a routine security duty. A passenger who arouses suspicion, whether by micro-expressions, social interaction or body language gets subtle but more serious scrutiny.

Frankly, until these surveillance methods become part of our landscape and are installed in our grocery stores, I doubt we’ll know how these officers work, whether in pairs or at remote terminals using technology and software that is increasingly automating threat detection and criminal justice.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled passengers give up all rights to be free of warrantless searches once a “passenger places hand luggage on a conveyor belt for inspection” or “passes though a magnetometer.” [link]


War has a price.
Let’s hope annoying and caustic security methods may one day become unnecessary. Let’s insist that mistakes are quickly corrected, that the thousands of folks named John Smith are quickly removed from mistaken lists, that we can wear our shoes, …

Total Information Awareness > Terrorism Information Awareness
TIA captures the “information signature” of people. Darpa began funding research and development of a tracking system called the Total Information Awareness (TIA) Program in 2002, now renamed the Terrorism Information Awareness Program. [wiki]

There’s a lucrative market in knowledge discovery tools that will sort through the massive amounts of information to find patterns and associations.

At least 20,000 police surveillance cameras are being installed along streets in Shenzhen in southern China and will soon be guided by sophisticated computer software from an American-financed company to recognize automatically the faces of police suspects and detect unusual activity. [link]

In these foolish days

Cry ‘Havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war. – Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

I wish we would postpone all major policy decisions for at least a few years. The world seems too nuts.

For decades uranium was extremely cheap, but in recent years, prices have skyrocketed. In 2000, a pound cost US$10, in 2007 uranium costs around US$135 – an increase of 1300 percent.

There are two main reasons for this price explosion. On the one hand there is rapidly growing demand, on the other, supplies cannot keep up.

250 new nuclear power plants

Why Invading Iraq Would Be A Horrible Idea

Dick Cheney on YouTube: Invading Baghdad Would Create Quagmire

Q: Do you think the U.S. or U.N. forces should have moved into Baghdad?

Cheney: No.

Q: Why not?

Cheney: Because if we’d gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn’t have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off — part of it the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of eastern Iraq the Iranians would like to claim, fought over it for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.

The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families, it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.

via TinyRevolution, River Blog

Crooked road to this moment

Say it hereSay it here.

Every so often Brad Zellar posts at Yo Ivanhoe! on The Rake. His thoughts are always a challenging basket of words.

“He knew how to make the heart sing and yodel and howl with joy, could coax from it creaks and croaks and murmurs. He seemed to be able to make it confess its secrets, its hopes and desires, fears and needs. …. In what was left of his own battered heart, however… The heart’s ventriloquist was a solitary and broken man.”

Maybe I enjoy Brad’s work because we both took home the same traffic ticket. I’ve had a few traffic tickets, but I’d thought only I could have garnered such a cruel ticket. The circumstances are identical!

Almost a dream, anyway. The best I can offer: It’s the middle of the night and I’m driving through the completely empty streets of the city and I come to a red light at this intersection. There’s a cop car right there on the opposite side of the intersection, parked along the curb, facing the green light.

I sit there at that red light for what seems like fifteen minutes, and during this time I don’t see another vehicle pass through the intersection. I sit there for a few more minutes until I figure there must be something wrong; the stop light must be broken.

It’s three o’clock in the morning and I have no intention of sitting there until the sun comes up. I finally just run the red light, and the cops immediately pull me over.

Brad says,

I Like My Words In A Crowd, But... what   happens if you giveeach word      a      little      more privacy,             its          own                                     Montana?


You will enjoy this too. It’s my favorite.

In Other Words“, by Brad Zellar

The giving of thanks: lip service is easy, but really feeling it, truly giving it away, expressing it from your heart, that’s more difficult.

Where do you even start?

Any fool with a roof over his head, a car to drive, a job that pays the bills, food in his cupboard and refrigerator, a sense of responsibility, a feeling of belonging, of having a family or a community or a tribe that depends on him and perhaps even loves him; who has a leg to stand on, shoes on his feet, a warm bed, clean underwear, hot water, a toilet that flushes, books to read, music to listen to, a chair to sit on, hands and feet and arms and legs and eyes and ears that still work, a cracked and compassionate heart, a brain that is still capable of manufacturing sense (even if only occasionally) and cooperates, however gracelessly, with his tongue and dispatches words to his fingers; any fool whose fingers can still grip a pen, who still has access to blank sheets or scraps of paper and who continues to feel compelled to say something; anybody, in other words, who has lived a good, long while on the planet and feels things ever stirring in his head and heart, any such person should spend at least half of whatever time he has left in the world saying nothing but thank you.

The benefit of wolves

The wolves are back and the trees are growing. Trees are growing?

For the first time in more than 50 years, young aspen trees are growing again in the northern range of Yellowstone National Park.

Wolves help the aspen in YellowstoneA study published in Biological Conservation show a process called “the ecology of fear” is again at work.

Aspen trees are surviving elk browsing for the first time in decades.

“We’ve seen some recovery of willows and cottonwood, but this is the first time we can document significant aspen growth, a tree species in decline all over the West. We’ve waited a long time to see this, but now we’re optimistic that things may be on the right track.” via Gary Jones

The Utah State Forestry Extension study by Bill Ripple found additional benefits of wolves:

Wolves may be beneficial to numerous species of vertebrates and invertebrates such as fish, birds, beaver, and butterflies, as well as many other species of wildlife.

…the numerous benefits to ecosystem processes will include stream channel stabilization, flood plain restoration, and higher water tables.

Friendly banks are robbed less

Small bank on the frontierTell your bank: The average bank robber avoids friendly service.

“When a bank robber first enters… He wants to come inside the bank and be anonymous, but he can only be anonymous if we in the bank allow him. If we take that away, we strip away the whole foundation of his plan.”

To legitimate customers, being friendly seems welcoming. To most bandits, it induces paranoia that often causes them to back out.

A new FBI robbery prevention program called “Safecatch” trains bank employees how to greet suspicious people, offer them help and ask for identification. Some banks are adding a concierge perhaps trained in behavior detection. [story]

An interesting sidebar
The FBI suggests that banks call 911 and not use the alarm. Alarms typically signal a call center out of state, which first calls the bank to confirm the robbery before notifying police. That five-minute delay is enough time for a bandit to get away.

Private sector alarm services that shunt to our struggling 911 system should compensate our towns and cities.

Crater in photovoltaic’s green crystal

Life Cycle Analysis carried out at the Heat Transfer and Environmental Engineering labs in Greece show that “the conversion of solar energy to electricity using photovoltaic solar cells is less efficient” than using fossil fuels.

Producing PV materials, operating the systems and end-of-use recycling have a greater impact than using non-renewable energy.

There are several factors to evaluate further. Life Cycle Analysis does show that a large enough area of solar cells would outstrip the net impact of the fossil fuel system. [story]

Earth without dirt?

1930s  dust stormsAs well as problems from nutrient leaching and fertilizer run-off, conventional farms lose soil about 90 times faster than new soil is produced.

Drought and over-plowing in the 1930s resulted in dust storms that covered farm machinery.

Each year, 24 billion tons of the world’s soil blows or washes away, largely because of plowing.

Agricultural studies dating back to the early 1940s tabulating erosion from areas as far apart as the Himalayas and the U.S. show annual soil loss on plow-based farms average 1.5 mm of lost soil. Science Magazine reports,

As plows tear into the ground, they loosen the upper 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) of soil, exposing the dirt to rain and wind. Mechanized plows introduced in the 1930s have accelerated the loss.

Conservationists are exploring no-till agriculture. This method leaves fields unturned and allows crop stubble to remain on the surface to protect the soil; farmers plant new crops by making small holes in the layer of plant material.

Today’s plowless farms save our soil. No-till farms lose an average of 0.082 mm of soil each year, an erosion rate close to the natural geologic rate of 0.03 mm per year.

Koyapo childrenIndigenous soil management resists erosion
Natives of the Americas supplemented their soil with a remarkable method known as Black Earth or Terra Preta. [wiki]

Over a period of thousands of years, the way of life of the Koyapo tribe reveals that their soils, Terra Preta do Indio, were part of the everyday life of the people. [doc file].

Instead of today’s destructive slash and burn followed by plows, pouring carbon dioxide into the air even to produce green bio-fuels, natives covered up piles of logs and agri-waste with dirt and straw. Their footprint of carbon was returned to the soil as charcoal and nutrients using low-heat pyrolysis, heating their green waste and slash without oxygen

This indigenous method of making Dark Earth Soils – as deep as 1-2 meters [pics here] – are highly productive over prolonged periods and resistant to erosion. Philip Coppens wrote a readable article about dark earth here. Plants grow at least three times faster, without modern fertilizer. The natural soil builds a sustainable fertility with high levels of humus organic matter and nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium.

The properties of terra preta are amazing. Even thousands of years after creation, the soil remains fertile without need for any added fertilizer. Using terra preta also could reduce pollution from phosphates and nitrates entering groundwater and streams.

These highly productive soils would be beneficial to any farmer, anywhere in the world.

Google Video offers the BBC’s “The Secret of El Dorado” reporting that the people of 1491, the Americas before Columbus, possessed a secret with the power to transform our world and “their secret in the soil could be the solution to solving famine in the third world and other nations once and for all”….

How green is black dirt?
There is a huge potential for agricultural soils to reduce greenhouse gases and increase production at the same time. Before the industrial and green revolutions with the introduction of oil-based or mineral fertilizers, crop residues were a valued resource and returned to the soil as organic fertilizer. Research now shows there are critically needed benefits by directly returning carbon as well.

Biogeochemistry studies at Cornell are showing that carbon, black C, can reduce the greenhouse effect as well as help farmers. Charcoal can rebuild soil, replace nitrogen fertilizer and sequester carbon.

Amending soils around the globe can retain about 10 times more greenhouse gas than produced annually from the burning of fossil fuels.

The difference between terra preta and ordinary soils is immense. A hectare of meter-deep terra preta can contain 250 tonnes of carbon, as opposed to 100 tonnes in unimproved soils from similar parent material. WorldChanging declares that biochar’s capacity to capture carbon sound almost audacious.

Bio-Char is promoting carbon soil amendments and slash-and-char methods around the world showing that dark earth is more effective than fertilizer, compost or manure. Eprida has developed a sustainable closed loop charcoal technology noting that too little carbon in the soil contributes to topsoil loss, reduced soil fertility and lower agricultural yields.

The case for burying charcoal shows that pyrolysis is climate-friendly. Even if this approach would mean burning more coal as a large scale heat source for pyrolysis, it would yield a net reduction in worldwide carbon emissions.

Biomass and BioenergyBlack-carbon and biofuel
Soil biology improved, added fertilizer reduced, water holding increased, erosion slowed to geologic rates, and alternative fuel? [link]

The Eprida technology uses agricultural waste to produce biofuel as well as high-carbon fertilizer. Converting wood or biomass to char produces far less greenhouse gas. The journal Biomass and Bioenergy reports that biomass in the oxygen-starved process of pyrolysis produces methane, hydrogen, and other products for combustion.

There are several challenges ahead, but it seems that carbon might be manageable after all. Even thousands of years after creation, the dark soil made by indigenous Americans remains fertile without need for any added fertilizer. Producing biofuel and capturing carbon fulfills modern demands as well.

We can look forward to healthy soil, cleaner streams, cleaner groundwater, replacing slash-and-burn with beneficial slash-and-char alternatives, and carbon sequestration.

Preserving
and repairing our soils with charcoal amendments called biochar or agrichar offers a carbon sink to reduce greenhouse gases, new biomass fuels, and provides new models of sustainable higher-yield agriculture.

World Bank failed

The infrastructure challenges most nations face are enormous, but developing regions can ‘leapfrog’ into a clean and sustainable future by utilizing the latest technologies..

Across the African continent today, the lack of modern infrastructure holds back agriculture, manufacturing, and services. Without roads and ports, farmers cannot sell goods to distant markets for higher prices. Factories can’t operate without reliable electricity supplies. Travel from city to city and country to country takes days instead of hours, making regional trade difficult.

high-tech distributed power
To provide power, potable water and telecommunications for people living in disadvantaged and remote regions across the vast archipelago, Indonesia is installing fuel cells rather than diesel generators in places such as Sabang in Aceh, Rokan Hulu in Riau, Bitung in North Sulawesi, Nabire in West Papua and Merauke in Papua. Will these names become familiar in the future? These power plants will produce sufficient funds to repay the capital cost in less than three years.

Has the World Bank once in its history considered practical installations that give us pride today?

Building infrastructure was a major focus of development efforts in the 1960s and ’70s, when the World Bank and other institutions lent large sums to developing nations for massive building projects, like the Akosombo Dam in Ghana, which flooded nearly 4 percent of the nation’s land area to create hydroelectric power. Many of these projects had adverse environmental impacts; others put nations deep into debt. And some of the funding was pilfered by corrupt contractors and government and bank officials.

Transport by road is virtually impossible in Congo. The nation, the size of Western Europe, has less than 2,000 kilometers of paved roads. But it has more than 200 airports, most of which are unpaved landing strips at the edge of dense forest. These strips allow hundreds of private airlines, some of which own a single plane, to connect far-flung corners of the nation.

The investment to run one of these incremental airlines is modest — a refurbished Antonov aircraft, two pilots, and a mechanic — and their safety record is abysmal. But this air infrastructure makes trips that would take weeks by water possible in a few hours, and opens up trade between regions of the country that would otherwise be impossible to reach.

xxx

$2,000 per subscriber

Over the decade from 1994-2004 the major telephone companies profited from higher phone rates paid by all of us, accelerated depreciation on their networks, and direct tax credits an average of $2,000 per subscriber for which the companies delivered precisely nothing in terms of service to customers. That’s $200 billion with nothing to be shown for it.

Ira, who lives in Yokohama, Japan, has 100-megabit-per-second fiber-optic Internet service in his home. This costs Ira less than $30 per month. What the heck is up with that? Ten years ago, the United States had the fastest and cheapest residential Internet service in the world. Today U.S. residential Internet service, especially broadband, is among the slowest and most expensive.

Losing the position of living

In California, three siblings are centenarians.
Baby sister Genevieve Gully turns 100 in September. Big sister Ruth Newman is on the verge of her 106th birthday. And brother Clarence “Barney” Barnard has them both beaten: He’s about to turn 108.

More than 50,000 people in the United States today are 100 or older, according to the 2000 census. Most often, it runs in the family.

But life span in the USA is going down.

AP - life expectancy by countryForty-one nations support a longer life after improving their health care, nutrition and lifestyles.

The United States has been slipping for decades. [AP story]

A baby born in the United States in 2004 will live an average of 77.9 years. That life expectancy ranks 42nd, down from 11th two decades earlier, according to international numbers provided by the Census Bureau and domestic numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Sam Harper, an epidemiologist at McGill University said that “it’s not as simple as saying we don’t have national health insurance”, while Dr. Christopher Murray, head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, says,

“Something’s wrong here when one of the richest countries in the world, the one that spends the most on health care, is not able to keep up with other countries.”

Different illness, same sick feeling

Sick feels sick no matter what makes you sick because what makes you feel sick is you.

To slow you down, force rest and raise temperature, your brain helps you fight different types of illness by producing fever, loss of appetite, fatigue and general feelings of sickness and aches – all the common symptoms of feeling sick.

There’s a receptor at a single spot in the brain, about the size of a head of a pin….