An American in Yemen: unlikely and wonderful tourism


Polish-American software developer Maciej Cegłowski decided to take a holiday in Yemen's capital city of Sana'a, home to breathtaking, 600-year-old skyscrapers that look like gingerbread houses.

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Bangalore's garbage crisis and America's invisible trash


Noah Sachs uses the years-long Bangalore garbage crisis to ask some pointed questions about America's secretive waste-disposal industry, which treats the treatment of American waste as a military-grade secret, protected by barbed wire and vicious lawyers.

Bangalore's drowning in rubbish, it's contaminating the water and poisoning the Earth, tens of thousands labor in filthy, unsafe conditions to sort and recover it -- and the average Bangalorean is only generating about one pound of trash per day. Americans throw away seven times that amount, and the fact that it's whisked away doesn't mean it's not a problem. In Sachs's view, the Bangalore situation just makes visible the lurking consequences of America's own profligacy.

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Crowdscrounging pennies to support Canada's most important environmental research

When Stephen Harper's petrotories yanked funding from the Experimental Lakes Area -- Canada's answer to the Large Hadron Collider, a captive ecosystem where some of the world's most important environmental research has been conducted -- the world gasped and raced to rescue it; now, scientists are reduced to scrounging for crowdfunding to continue some of the most important environmental research in the world.

John calls it "an amazing opportunity for all of us to fund incredibly important basic scientific research" -- it is, but it's also a blazing indictment of the year 2014, Canada, Stephen Harper, and hydrocarbons.

The Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is a freshwater research facility in Northwestern Ontario, Canada that has operated as a government research program for over 45 years. After the Canadian Government announced that it would no longer fund the ELA program, operations were transferred to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in April 2014. IISD now needs additional funding to expand ELA’s vital legacy of research so that it can continue to find effective solutions to environmental problems affecting fresh water.

We can thank the ELA for many of the improvements we have seen in recent years to the quality of the water we use daily. ELA’s whole-lake research findings have been instrumental in the phase-out of harmful phosphorus additives in cleaning products, tightening air pollution standards in response to acid rain threats, and proposed installation of scrubbers inside industrial smokestacks to reduce mercury levels found in the fish we eat.

The ELA features a collection of 58 small lakes, as well as a facility with accommodations and laboratories. Since its establishment in 1968, ELA has become one of the world’s most influential freshwater research facilities. In part, this is because of the globally unique ability at ELA to undertake whole-ecosystem experiments.

World's Leading Freshwater Research Facility, the ELA, Needs YOUR Support!

Crowdfunding the Drinkable Book: a book of silver-doped water-filters for the developing world

Jonathan writes, "The Drinkable Book is a water filter and an instruction manual for how and why to clean drinking water. The drinking paper uses a thick, sturdy sheet of paper embedded with silver nanoparticles, which are lethal for microbes. Funds will go to print 1,000 Drinkable Books and distribute them in Ghana, Haiti, India, and Kenya with water nonprofit Waterislife."

Our goals include: 1) Engage local communities in protecting and cleaning their drinking water. WATERisLIFE has ties to rural communities in Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, and India, where feedback from local folks in these communities will be gathered in Fall 2014 through Winter 2015. "WATERisLIFE is a big believer in "boots on the ground," according to founder Ken Surritte. So the books will go with teams traveling to parts of Africa and India, where they'll hold educational sessions on maintaining a clean water source."

2) Theresa will also explore other filter prototype designs to determine the best way to clean water with this pAge drinking paper technology. While in South Africa, Theresa worked with Corinne, a MS engineering student from Carnegie Mellon University. Corinne has led a group of students to design an emergency water filter using pAge filters. This new filter design also shows great potential, especially for emergency response and disaster relief applications! Initial field studies on this new filter prototype will start at the end of the summer 2014.

3) The number of books needed is many more than Theresa has ever made in the lab, and the production needs to be scaled up.

The Drinkable Book

Crowdfunding Deepcity 2030: gritty strategy game about resilient cities

Greg Greene writes, "Since directing The End of Suburbia in 2004 I've been exploring ways to popularize sustainable and resilient cities. Playing with notions of urban apocalypse, we're crowdfunding development of Deepcity 2030, a real time strategy game set in a near future of strange beings, megastorms, and scarcity where energy is as precious as life itself. The game combines a gritty steampunk aesthetic and off-beat humour with ongoing opportunities for players to demonstrate strategic prowess by inventing possible world futures." I backed it.

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The revenge of the lawn

Author Mark Dery charts America’s ecocidal obsession with nice grass

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Designing the packaging for cricket protein bars


How do you package a protein bar made from cricket flour? Here's how. Exo raised $54.9K on Kickstarter last summer, as a pair of Brown roommates took their senior year project to the next level, trying to come up with a sustainable protein source, along with help from molecular gastronomy superstar Heston Blumenthal. The packaging was designed by New York's Tag Collective.

Orikaso: folding, cheap, amazing polypropylene flat-pack dinnerware



Orikaso is a line of super-cheap, incredibly durable, brilliantly conceived flat-pack plates, cups and bowls, created by Jay Cousins (here's his blog). They're made out of super-durable, long-lived, environmentally sound polypropylene. Folding them takes bare seconds, and once folded, they stay folded and are perfectly water-tight. They unfold in seconds, and are (theoretically -- I haven't tested this) top-shelf dishwasher safe. My favorite piece is the cup, which has lots of grace-notes, like metric volume measurements on both side and imperial on the other, and a handle that's so clever I actually giggled the first time I used it. The whole thing is basically a magic-trick.

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My City Garden: Boston-area yard-sharing service for urban gardeners

Gmoke writes, "My City Gardens is up and running for the season. We're a local yard sharing website that connects gardeners, mentors, and people with access to space, to neighbors who want to roll up their sleeves and dig in. If you have extra space in your yard you'd like help cultivating, need a gardening plot this summer or are willing to lend gardening advise to your neighbors, please sign up!"

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Weed growers versus the environment

Michael from Mother Jones writes, "Most people who use marijuana probably don't give much thought to where it comes from. Alas, a huge chunk of it comes from environmentally devastating 'trespass grows' in the national forests, where the growers cut down trees, divert waterways for irrigation, and deploy rodent poison that makes its way into species that are under threat, including birds and weasel-like mammals called fishers. 'I would consider it the No. 1 threat to salmon' in Northern California, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist tells Josh Harkinson, who reported the story for Mother Jones."

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Crowdfunding a smart, open source beehive to monitor hive-collapse

Tristan writes, "The Open Source Beehives project is a partnership between the Open Tech Collaborative and Fab Lab Barcelona crowd-sourcing a solution to the bee colony collapse issue.

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Modeling privacy rules on environmental regulations

Michael Froomkin writes, "My latest privacy paper, Regulating Mass Surveillance as Privacy Pollution: Learning from Environmental Impact Statements, has a new take on how to regulate mass surveillance in the US where the EU privacy model has not taken root, and where the 1st Amendment creates obstacles to stopping some data sharing."

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US Trade Rep can't figure out if Trans-Pacific Partnership will protect the environment


The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a secretly negotiated trade agreement let by the USA. Though the text is secret, enough drafts have leaked to make it clear that one of its goals is to ensure that foreign corporations can sue governments over laws that impact their profits, especially when it comes to the environment.

The US Trade Representative and the Obama administration have asked Congress to "fast track" the treaty, passing it without any debate or revisions. Naturally, Congress wants to know what the treaty is likely to say before they agree to this.

So in a hearing on Jan 28, Rep Mark Pocan (D-WI) asked Michael Froman -- the US Trade Rep running the TPP show -- about the environmental standards in TPP. Froman listed four areas in TPP that were "absolutely non-negotiable from a US standpoint," including "tough new environmental standards."

When the meeting ended, Pocan asked "So does that mean that if we give you fast track, you won't send us a deal that doesn't have that stuff in it?' At which point, we learned that the US Trade Rep uses a highly specialized meaning for the phrase "absolutely non-negotiable," meaning "totally up for grabs," because he immediately said, "I didn't say that."

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Electric Ecology: oil paintings of ewaste


Tim sez, "Our technological lives produce vast numbers of artifacts. Many of which become obsolete in a very short time. All of these relics, once vital to our daily lives, end up in drawers and landfills -- forgotten as soon as their usefulness is eclipsed. Electric Ecology, by Ruth Whiting is a series of oil paintings that investigates a mythical afterlife for the forgotten connective tissue of technology where plugs and cables live on in an imagined realm."

Ruth Whiting — Electric Ecology (Thanks, Tim!)

Interactive map of the world's tree loss

Global Forest Watch maintains a current map of worldwide tree loss and gain, based upon satellite and other mapping imagery provided by Google. The "loss" color seems to obscure the "gain" color at further-out zoom levels, but it's very easy to explore. [via Flowing Data]