Tags: environmental issues, Science, Society, sustainable development, technology
Researchers engineer bacteria to produce first biofuel identical to commercial fuel
By Simon Veazey
Until now biofuels were not completely compatible with unconverted modern engines, working inefficiently and corrosively.
But researchers say they have genetically engineered bacteria, splicing in tree and algae genes, to produce hydrocarbons identical to those used in commercial fuel.
The research was carried out at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom (UK), producing modified E. coli bacteria that produce enzymes that convert sugar into fatty acids which in turn are converted into fuel.
Professor John Love at the University of Exeter said in a statement: “Producing a commercial biofuel that can be used without needing to modify vehicles has been the goal of this project from the outset.”
“Global demand for energy is rising and a fuel that is independent of both global oil price fluctuations and political instability is an increasingly attractive prospect,” he said.
The ecological credentials of biofuels produced from food crops are sometimes criticized. But Love believes that a scaled-up version of the process would enable them to adjust the genes to allow the bacteria to produce fuel from animal manure, not sugar.
The research was partly funded by Shell’s research division, Rob Lee from Shell Projects & Technology said in a statement: “ While the technology still faces several hurdles to commercialisation, by exploring this new method of creating biofuel, along with other intelligent technologies, we hope they could help us to meet the challenges of limiting the rise in carbon dioxide emissions while responding to the growing global requirement for transport fuel.”
Tags: environmental issues, Food, sustainable development
Spring has sprung, and it’s time to start planting vegetable seeds indoors to transplant into the garden.
Jennifer Zoch, seed technician at Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds based in Iowa, explains that the benefits to starting plants by seed include keeping garden costs down as well as the fact that there are many plant varieties that cannot be found at local garden centres.
“The process begins with deciding what you and your family like to eat and size of the garden and seed selection,” Zoch said.
Seed selection options are heirloom (seeds used by past generations), hybrid (plants cross-bred for special traits), and organic (non-synthetic pesticides or fertilizers).
Regarding heirloom seeds, Zoch said, “Flavours are better and the vegetables come in different shapes and colours. There are specialty crops which apply to a region or provide for special needs, like apples for making cider.”
Ideal veggies to start early by seed are cold-weather crops such as lettuce, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, and cabbage.
When to plant indoors
To start various plant seeds indoors, count backward from the expected last frost date pertaining to the number of days for the plant to be ready to plant outdoors according to the seed packet instructions.
Containers and soil
Any container—even yogurt cups with plenty of holes for drainage—can be used along with a mixture of organic potting soil (soil, peat, and compost), explains Zoch.
Local garden centres sell seed-starting trays and plastic covers. Peat plugs are simple but peat has no nutrients, thus fertilizing is needed when the plants get their second round of leaves.
“Liquid fish emulsion added with water meets organic standards for fertilizer but is a little smelly,” Zoch said.
“Do not use raw manure or compost with grass clippings contaminated with herbicides as the residue might kill your seedlings. That is why it is good to be familiar with the source of the product you are using, and to buy local and/or organic whenever possible.”
Plastic covers trap moisture and warmth, but remove immediately after the seeds sprout in order to avoid fungus.
Once the seeds sprout, they need a lot of water, light, and ventilation, Zoch said.
“Many beginners kill plants by over watering. Water once a day (if needed) and at the same time each day before noon, so foliage can dry before nightfall to avoid fungus.” – Jennifer Zoch, Seed Savers Exchange
“Many beginners kill plants by over watering. Water once a day (if needed) and at the same time each day before noon, so foliage can dry before nightfall to avoid fungus.”
Re-pot when there are more than a couple of roots wrapped around the inside of the container or the drainage holes, or poking out of the peat plug. Zoch explains that plants can have a tough time getting established, stop growing, or even die if the root hairs are damaged while taking them out of the pot due to being root-bound.
The next step includes “decreasing water, moving plants to a cooler room for a few days, and regularly brushing your hand over the plants, or a few hours of an electric fan blowing gently on them to simulate wind,” Zoch said.
“This simulation strengthens the plant cells in the stem.”
One to two weeks later, gradually introduce the plants to the outdoor elements by placing them on the west side of a building or under a tree in the shade, then gradually move them away from the tree or building into more light. Cover the plants at night.
A couple of days prior to planting, till the garden soil and then till in peat and compost. Add granulated organic fertilizer and peat into each seed hole. Zoch advises covering with dirt any areas that may have peat exposed as it will pull moisture away from the plant and kill it.
“Set the plants about 1/2-inch lower than ground level for good watering and root development,” she said. “Water the plants gently with a watering can. Avoid getting the foliage wet.”
Never step on areas where plants will be planted, but rather walk between rows to make a path to weed, water, fertilize, and pick the produce.
Now, get the satisfaction of watching the plants you’ve carefully nurtured grow and produce.
Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit that preserves heirloom plant varieties through regeneration, distribution, and seed exchange. To learn more from a webinar presented by Jennifer Zoch and Seed Savers Exchange, go to http://www.seedsavers.org/Education/Webinar-Archive/#seed_collection.
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Tags: Body & Mind, environmental issues, Food, health, Science, Society, sustainable development
By Jack Phillips
Earlier this week the U.S. Congress quietly passed the Agricultural Appropriations Bill, which has been derided by opponents as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” it was reported.
In the appropriations bill, the provision essentially protects purveyors of genetically modified seeds, including Monsanto, from lawsuits amid potential health risks, according to Salon.com.
President Obama signed the measure into law on Tuesday.
More than 250,000 people have signed a petition that opposes the Monsanto Protection Act, according to Food Democracy Now.
“Once again, Monsanto and the biotech industry have used their lobbying power to undermine your basic rights,” reads a statement on Food Democracy’s website.
There has been anger over how the provision passed through Congress, without being reviewed by the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees. The provision was introduced anonymously as the Agricultural Appropriations Bill progressed, according to Salon.
Now, the Food Democracy Now and the Center for Food Safety have blamed the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
The Center for Food Safety said that “many Democrats were unaware of its presence in the larger bill,” according to its website.
“In this hidden backroom deal, Senator Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental, and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” Andrew Kimbrell, the head of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement.
He added: “This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Senator Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”
Tags: CCP, China, environmental issues, Society, sustainable development
By Tian Yuan
Pollution is a big issue in China because it affects everyone. People get anxious when discussing the polluted air, sand storms, contaminated rivers and groundwater, and “cancer villages,” where toxic chemicals are having hazardous effects on the villagers.
Chinese officials talk about protecting the environment, but they get a special supply of clean food, water, and even air. In December 2012, when new Party leader Xi Jinping gave his “China Dream” speech, part of his vision included “a better environment.”
So if everyone is concerned about China’s environment, why is the pollution getting worse by the day, with the number of cancer villages increasing? It’s obvious that the officials are saying one thing but doing another: They are encouraging sacrifice of the environment in exchange for economic development and are penalizing those who spend money on cleaning up the environment.
Why is this? For starters, the Communist Party is an illegitimate dictatorship. To prolong its reign, the regime tries very hard to boost and boast about economic growth.
Before 2012, the Party tried desperately to keep the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate around 8 percent. After 2012, it went all out to keep the rate around 7 percent. Below this level, unemployment will proliferate, causing social instability that would endanger the regime’s rule.
A recent study by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research proves this point with solid numbers. The author looked at 283 cities in China and found that officials who spent their budgets treating pollution normally have no hope of being promoted. However, those who spent large sums on building highways and other infrastructure—increasing the local GDP at the expense of the environment—are very likely to be promoted.
In other words, if an official takes care of the people’s welfare and deals with pollution, he should not expect to be promoted. However, if an official raises the GDP figure, the regime gives him a raise without caring how much pollution was generated. Driven by this blatant personal gain, how many officials can we expect to protect the environment?
The Chinese regime also prohibits environmental protection movements by the people. Since 1996, the number of mass demonstrations and riots due to environmental issues has increased by about 30 percent each year.
From the p-xylene pollution in the coastal cities of Xiamen, Ningbo, and Dalian, to the molybdenum-copper pollution in Shifang in southwest China, and the Oji Paper Company’s waste pollution in Qidong, near the coast in central China, local officials colluded with companies and allowed polluting projects before the public became aware of the consequences.
The people have no channel through which they can appeal the state’s decisions. So they resort to demonstrations and riots, and the regime responds by “stabilizing society”—mobilizing the Armed Police force to suppress protesters. This has become the Party’s fixed protocol for solving environmental problems.
China’s dictatorship and the regime’s animosity toward the people’s will are also responsible for the severe pollution. The Western world’s environmental protection policies began as civil movements in the 60s and 70s, with democracy required for their success. The Americans achieved a strong foundation for environmental protection through votes and demonstrations.
During Japan’s industrialization, major localized pollution incidents caused local residents to become severely ill. In the 60s, there were many civil groups advocating environmental protection and challenging the Liberal Democratic Party, the dominant party after the war, which did not care about environmental pollution. These groups also encouraged people to boycott the worst companies.
By the mid 70s, environmentalist groups successfully changed Japan’s situation, with many politicians supporting environmental protection. Wanting to improve their public image, the companies began contacting environmental groups and promised to care about the environment. Positive mechanisms for dealing with environmental problems were eventually established.
The pollution in China reflects the corruption of the communist regime—pollution will exist as long as the Party exists. The soil is contaminated by heavy metals. Industrial chemical wastes are found in rivers, lakes, and groundwater, turning them an array of colors. The air is filled with tiny particles that cause lung cancer, and the food is loaded with toxins.
The Chinese have reached a critical point in their quality of life. If they continue to be indifferent and continue to be duped by the regime, the Chinese people will be committing a kind of suicide.
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, environmental issues, health, Society, sustainable development
In a village in Hebei Province—the province that surrounds China’s capital, Beijing—villagers have reported that their well water has been the color red for more than a decade and have suspected the unnatural color is due to the run-off from a local chemical factory. Several years of complaints to the authorities have produced no visible results, and the villagers have had no choice but to use bottled water for drinking.
Asked about the situation is Xiaozhuzhuang Village, Deng Lianjun, the director of the Bureau of Environmental Protection in Hebei Province’s Cangxian County, remarked that boiled red beans can change the color of water to red. According to Deng, the red color is not necessarily an indication of poor quality.
Locals then began calling Deng the “Red Bean Director,” and he recently stepped down amid criticism. With his departure, stories of local villagers suffering from cancer due to pollution began coming to light.
The Yanzhao Metropolis Daily, a Hebei Province newspaper, reported on April 7 that the test results of a well with red water at a chicken farm in Xiaozhuzhuang Village, showed that the content of aniline, a toxic chemical, exceeded the limit allowed in drinking water by 73 times.
On April 9, China News reported that since 1996 in the village of Xiaozhuzhuang, population 800, 24 people have died of cancer, with six villagers currently living with the disease.
Although villagers have made multiple complaints to the Central Government’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, the response has always been the same: “water test results are within normal parameters.”
“It happens in Anhui, Henan, Shandong, Shaanxi, and Shanxi [provinces],” long-time environmental and human rights activist, Hu Jia, told Sound of Hope (SOH) Radio.
“Sometimes there are multiple instances in one province. I have been to the front line, for example, in the areas surrounding the Huaihe River [a major river in east China],” Hu Jia said. “I have seen those people with esophageal cancer. There are ‘cancer villages.’ A small factory can poison an entire river, not to mention the pollution from various types of huge state-owned enterprises.”
According to the 2012 Annual Report released this January by the National Central Cancer Registry, the growth of cancer in China is alarming, with one person diagnosed every six minutes, and 8,550 people diagnosed every day.
The national cancer morbidity rate is high, with about 3.5 million new cases and about 2.5 million cancer deaths every year.
In February, China’s Environmental Protection Ministry published its 12th Five-Year Plan for the Prevention and Control of Environmental Risks of Chemicals, which acknowledged the existence of what are called “cancer villages”—places with sky-high cancer rates linked to pollution from toxic chemicals.
A New Epoch Weekly article, appearing in 2011, “Cancer Villages Unknown to the Outside World” featured the first person account of Mdm. Tang Miwan of Malaysia, who had joined a medical team sent to help the villagers.
The article revealed the locations of 30 cancer villages in Henan Province in central China. No foreigners were allowed to visit those villages, barriers were deployed at the entrances of some, and those visiting were instructed not to ask questions or take photographs.
According to the article, chemical waste water was routinely dumped into local rivers, and those villagers who consumed the seriously polluted water were at high risk of being diagnosed with cancer. Nothing would grow on the infertile land near the rivers, and villagers could not cultivate any land irrigated with the contaminated water. One person’s fingers festered after she washed her hands with the water.
Development at All Costs
“Damage to the environment and ecosystem has been the cost of China’s development,” Gong Shengli, a Beijing-based internet news researcher, told SOH. “A 2007 World Bank report reveals that 750,000 people die in China each year from air pollution.
“Land pollution is much more serious than air pollution, so the result is even more alarming. Serious pollution affects 40 percent of the country’s water supply, and 55 percent of underground water in 200 cities is polluted. This means about 300 million Chinese have no access to clean water,” Gong said.
According to a China Business Journal article in 2008, Julong Chemical Factory polluted the nearby Dongjin Village in Jiangsu Province, resulting in the deaths of 100 villagers over a period of 5 years, 2001 to 2006, from esophageal and lung cancers.
An article in the Changjiang Times in 2006 reported the creek adjacent to Diwan Village in Hubei Province was heavily polluted, leading to the deaths of more than 100 villagers from cancer.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s officials at all levels think of nothing but personal interest and gain, even those officials at environmental agencies. The officials’ performance ratings have been closely tied to the growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), so the officials are only concerned about tax revenues or the increasing growth rate of the GDP and give no regard to the rate of occupational disease or loss in food production,” Hu Jia told SOH.
“Political achievement and official posts have become top priorities for the officials. When there is no judicial independence in China, how can people expect [ethical] oversight of water safety, toxic chemical disposal, and the environment? Environmental problems have now become China’s ‘cancer,’ which is incurable when closely linked to [national priorities],” said Hu Jia.
Translated by John Wang and Euly Luo. Written in English by Barbara Gay. With reporting by Sound of Hope Radio Network.
Tags: Body & Mind, environmental issues, health, Nature, Science, sustainable development
Extended public comment period ends April 26
By Tara MacIsaac
Superfish: A genetically engineered salmon is on its way to approval for human consumption in the United States. It would not likely be labeled any differently than conventional Atlantic salmon in grocery stores.
The AquaBounty AquaAdvantage transgenic salmon grows two to six times faster than natural Atlantic salmon stock thanks to genetic engineering. It has been dubbed the “superfish” or “FrankenFish” by concerned advocates for Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) product labeling.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an assessment of the genetically engineered (GE) salmon on December 26, 2012, reporting that the salmon does not pose significant environmental threats or threats to human health upon consumption.
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and Sen. Patty Murray sent the FDA a letter expressing grave concern. Upon the senators’ request, the FDA extended the public comment period to April 26. The FDA will review comments before approving the product.
The senators write: “Legislation will be introduced in the 13th Congress to seek a more comprehensive environmental review of this and other genetically engineered fish, and require labeling of any such products sold in the U.S. so consumers are aware of what is on their dinner plates.”
The GE salmon would be labeled the same as conventional Atlantic salmon stock, “because the essential nature of the salmon has not changed as a result of the introduction of the AquaAdvantage construct, an AquaAdvantage Salmon is still an Atlantic salmon,” reads the draft assessment report.
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Tags: Body & Mind, environmental issues, Food, health, Nature, sustainable development
“You should eat more fish” is a remark I often make to patients. But I find that recently more patients reply, “But are fish safe to eat?”
They worry about the amount of mercury and PCBs that may be in fish. So today when it appears that everything has a touch of contamination, how safe are fish to eat?
A report from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, published in Environmental Science and Technology, analyzed seafood inspection data from the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan.
It states that today 85 percent of seafood used in North America is imported, and much of it is farm-raised (a practice called aquaculture) in Asia and elsewhere in the developing world.
One negative is that other nations have varying standards for aquaculture. For instance, they may use drugs that are banned in North America. But the big negative is that North American officials do not inspect most overseas farms. This means that only a fraction of imported seafood is tested for drug residues, microbes, and heavy metals.
In fact, on the world stage, U.S. inspection leaves much to be desired. For example, the Hopkins report says the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the United States checks only a mere 2 percent for these contaminants. This compares with 20 to 50 percent in Europe, 18 percent in Japan, and 15 percent in Canada. Moreover, Europe tests for the presence of 34 drugs, but the United States tests for only 13.
There was more bad news for me. I love shrimp, but according to Hopkins’ researchers, shrimp and prawns were the seafood that most often exceeded drug- residue limits. Crab, basa (a kind of catfish), eel, and tilapia were other problem fish—many of which are farmed.
Vietnam was the country that had the most drug violations, followed by China, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Taiwan, and Malaysia.
The question is, how much of a problem are drugs that are used to control diseases when fish are so crowded in farm operations? The greatest hazard is for farm workers. For the rest of us, no one knows how much chronic low-level exposure harms us. There’s also concern that bacteria may develop resistance to antibiotics.
So, if like me, you enjoy fish, how can you eat it without becoming depressed? Dr. David Lowe, author of the Hopkins study, suggests trying to locate domestic farmed seafood, which has a greater chance of being inspected. And if you’re lucky to live in Canada, there is no history of export violations.
The Seafood Watch Program in the United States lists the following fish that are high in omega-3 fats, low in mercury, PCBs, and pesticides: oysters (farmed), Pacific sardines (wild caught), rainbow trout (farmed), salmon (wild caught from Alaska), freshwater Coho salmon (farmed in tanks in the United States), albacore tuna from the United States or British Columbia, and arctic char (farmed).
It’s best to select small fish, which are less likely to contain contaminants and have higher amounts of omega-3 fats. But since larger fish eat these smaller fish, they have a higher concentration of contaminants. Wild and canned salmon are always a good choice.
Remember too that all fish are not created equal. A three-ounce serving of farmed salmon contains over 2,000 milligrams (mgs) of omega-3 fats. Shrimp have only 250 mg.
If you’re looking for fish with high amounts of magnesium, which protects against fatal cardiac arrhythmias, order tuna or crawfish. If you’re concerned about blood cholesterol, boiled or steamed lobster has only 72 mgs per 100 grams compared to 75 for skinless chicken and 2 poached eggs.
Looking at the total picture, the health benefits of fish far outweigh the risks. In fact, while I write this column, researchers report that people who eat fish regularly were 12 percent less likely to develop colon and rectal cancer.
Today, there are many risky contaminants in our air and water that are worrying. But I’m not losing any sleep over those in fish.
Dr. Gifford-Jones is a medical journalist with a private medical practice in Toronto. His website is DocGiff.com. He may be contacted at Info@docgiff.com.
Tags: CCP, China, environmental issues, Food, Society, sustainable development
Farmers in several areas of China’s Henan Province have been forced to irrigate their fields with industrial wastewater, because groundwater sources have dried up or been polluted by industry, according to state media.
The crops harvested from the polluted fields are all sold, because none of the farmers dare to eat their own produce, according to locals.
A report by Chinese state-run media Dahe described the wastewater discharged by Dongfeng Papermaking Co. in Dakuai Township, Fengquan District of Xinxiang City, as “gray and sticky.” A 200-meter-long open trench takes the water directly into nearby farmlands for irrigation without prior treatment, and a thick layer of pulp has settled on the surface of fields, it said.
Pan Kangping, manager of the Dongfeng paper mill, was quoted as saying that the village committee had signed an agreement with them, allowing the use of papermaking wastewater for agricultural irrigation.
Mr. Zhang, a local villager, told Dahe that the farmlands used to be irrigated by water taken from a well about 20 to 30 meters deep. After the papermaking mill was built, it drilled four wells up to 100 meters deep to pump groundwater for manufacturing. The farmers, however, were deprived of irrigation water as the previous wells were drained.
Villagers then approached the village committee and the paper mill to reach a settlement, Zhang said. The paper mill said that villagers could either buy groundwater pumped from the deep wells or use the post-treatment wastewater from the paper mill.
Villagers felt their interests had been violated, and they refused to buy water from the mill.
But they couldn’t wait and let the wheat seedlings dry up, Zhang said, and without a better alternative, all that they could do was to use the wastewater, as it came without a charge.
“We sold all of the harvest to the market. We don’t dare to keep any of it for our own consumption,” Zhang admitted.
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Tags: CCP, China, environmental issues, Society, sustainable development
Communist officials say that the water in the Huangpu River is drinkable based on only nine out of 136 test indices, even though thousands of dead pigs were dumped in the river.
So far, nearly 13,000 carcasses have been removed from the waterway, which provides drinking water to Shanghai’s 23 million residents.
Last year, the Chinese Public Health Ministry announced 136 indices used to test tap water quality, similar to the testing standard in the European Union, according to Dr. Wang Weiluo, an environmental expert currently living in Germany.
“But Shanghai water authorities only tested nine of the 136 indices,” Wang told the Sound of Hope (SOH) Radio Network. “You cannot state that the water has passed inspection, because most of the parameters were not tested.”
Wang noted that the methodology used by the authorities was questionable. “They neglected to test some of the indices that the water was bound to fail,” he said. “There are also some indices that would not be affected by the dead pigs before they started to rot, including the hardness and clarity of the water.”
Many pig carcasses were found in other rivers across China, including Xianyang City’s Wei River in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, Hesan City’s Kunnan River in the southern province of Guangdong, and Yichang City’s Wulong River in the western province of Hubei.
The Huangpu River hogs have caused deep concern among Shanghai residents and netizens. A Jiaotong University student wrote a blog post asking authorities to publicize the water quality test data. His post was circulated by close to 20,000 netizens in just over 10 hours, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.
A netizen named Pan Ting in Shanghai also questioned the water authorities in her microblog, and invited Shanghai residents to join her for a walk on March 23 to “commemorate their mother river.” However, authorities deleted her posts, and blocked her from using her microblog and phone, according to another RFA article.
Overseas dissident and writer Zheng Yi has been following China’s environmental problems for years, and told SOH that the water contamination is a systemic problem inherent to the Chinese regime.
“If no victim is allowed to organize a protest; if there remains no freedom of speech or basic human rights; and if the polluting enterprises and government officials continue to collude; then the widespread discharge of contaminated water will not change,” he said.
“China does not have a single river that is unpolluted. Many rivers are heavily contaminated,” he added. “With thousands of dead pigs floating in the river, of course the water would be polluted. There is no question about this.”
Written in English by Arleen Richards .
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Tags: Body & Mind, environmental issues, Society, sustainable development
A remote village in the north-eastern part of India is setting an inspiring example with its unique community cleanliness initiative, amidst contrasting unclean cities and villages with waste littered everywhere.
A remote village in the north-eastern part of India is setting an inspiring example with its unique community cleanliness initiative, amidst contrasting unclean cities and villages with waste littered everywhere.
Mawlynnong, a small Indian village in the east Khasi hills of Meghalaya state, not only set an example of community sustained cleanliness but also, in the process, developed a model of eco-tourism that preserves its nature, age-old traditions, and provides livelihood to residents.
“Cleanliness and respecting nature is a tradition passed on to us by our ancestors,” said Rishot Khomgthohrem, a school teacher from Mawlynnong. “As a child I was taught that clean surroundings are a key to healthy life. At home, school, and at the place of worship cleanliness was emphasized and gradually it sank in me as a way of life.”
This way of living has been adopted and further evolved into a planned community initiative by every resident of the village. “Every day the villagers, young or old, keep the surroundings clean. Earlier four to five members were employed for it but now it’s just all of us doing it conscientiously and voluntarily,” said Khomgthohrem.
The village was unknown to the outside world, as it was not connected by road until 2003. The road connectivity brought the first tourist to the village.
“A reporter from Discover India magazine chanced upon Mawlynnong, and wrote an article introducing it as the cleanest village in India he has ever seen.”
In 2005 UNESCO acknowledged it as the cleanest village in India —thus introducing it to the world.
“These titles also made the villagers aware about the culture of cleanliness of their own village and they became more zealous in maintaining it.”
Waste segregation is among the many things that villagers do to maintain cleanliness: The usage of plastic is minimal and the tourists equally cooperate respecting the values of the community; bamboo dustbins are placed at every small distance and no one litters around.
“The level of awareness about maintaining cleanliness is immense among the villagers. Even if a leaf falls, whoever sees it the first, surely picks it and puts it in the dustbin,” said Sandeep Chourasia, a tourist consultant operating in east India. “No scavengers are as such appointed.”
According to Chourasia “we want to do this”-attitude of the villagers is the key behind village’s cleanliness success. This attitude is also supported by the traditional social order followed in the village whose tribal traditions encourage collective decision making.
Tourists often witness villagers taking part in the ritual weeding, sweeping and cleaning of the gardens and roads every evening.
“The children participate in the cleanliness ritual mostly everyday very enthusiastically,” said Mathew Khongsar, a government contractor at Mawlynnong. “I also participate when I can. We are set as an example for several others; however, I feel we need to work harder to set a high bench mark.”
The village established its own special committee for cleanliness that consists of members of the village who are either too young or too old to cultivate land.
“There is a database created after tourism boom in the village. A tourism fund is created and from it the essentials and necessities are fulfilled of one chosen family at the village who needs it the most,” said Deepak Laloo, the owner of a guest house at Mawlynnong.
The village offers breathtaking view of Bangladesh plains as it is located on the Indian- Bangladesh border. It also boasts of many eco-friendly architectural marvels like the Skywalk.
“The Sky walk is an 85 feet Bamboo structure offering a bird’s eye view of the village and a panoramic view of Bangladesh plains. It is indeed unique as not even a single piece of metal is used in its creation,” said Chourasia.
There is also a 1,100 year old tree root bridge in the village. The root bridge is an eco-technology developed by ancient tribes to construct bridges across rivers using the roots of trees. During the monsoons when it gets difficult to cross the river, root bridge is the way out.
According to Khomgthohrem “Our forefathers built this village during the reign of the Khasi King. It took 60 years to build it. The roots of the rubber tree are connected with string after they grew and the bridge was formed.”
Mawlynnong is very scenic, especially in the monsoons when there is lush greenery all around. Waterfalls pave their way to small streams and there is abundance of flowering orchids around. Obviously such breath-taking beauty inspires this all literate village.
The initiative brings hope to numerous Indian cities where big dumps of waste are a common sight.
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, environmental issues, health, Society, sustainable development
The well-known journalist Deng Fei recently alarmed the public by reporting on Weibo the popular Twitter-like service in China how polluted water is pumped underground in Weifang City, in eastern China’s Shandong Province.
Many of the city’s industrial enterprises (such as chemical plants and paper mills) have been evading official inspections by using high-pressure pumps to discharge wastewater containing toxic substances.
Deng started his independent investigation into water pollution after asking his 2.5 million Weibo followers on Feb. 12 to post pictures of their local rivers.
By Feb. 17 more than 2.9 million netizens had reported their hometowns’ water pollution problems with posts to Weibo.
According to Deng, the practice of pumping polluted water underground has been going on secretly for many years in Hebei and Shandong provinces.
The CEO of China’s tea city website (www.ntea.cn), Jiang Rongsheng, posted on his Weibo that when he was in the investment consulting business 20 years ago, numerous officials he had met said they would “bury” waste from the dyeing and weaving industries “underground.” That was something unforgettable to him, he commented.
Deng’s blog has been gaining much attention from the Chinese media due to its rise in popularity. Online forums have become battlegrounds between those who report the truth and those who censor it, with netizens continuously reposting Deng’s blog soon after authorities have deleted it.
Attorney Gan Yuanchun of Changsha City, Hunan Province, wrote in a Weibo post on Feb. 16, “Deng and Feng Yongfeng, who claims to be the founder of the University of Nature, have pointed out that Shandong officials lobbied in Beijing to prevent media reporting on the pollution. A CCTV documentary has been cut, and reporters in Weifang are under house arrest.”
Although Gan’s Weibo was soon deleted, netizens have been reposting it all over the Internet using screenshots of his blog.
A letter dated Feb. 16 allegedly written by the Environmental Protection Bureau to some enterprises in Weifang saying that CCTV was planning a secret investigation has also been circulating on Weibo.
However, Weifang Environmental Monitoring Commander Xie Zhenxi has denied that the Bureau ever sent such a notice. According to a Sina news report the following day, Xie said he “cannot say much and was not clear” about the letter appearing on Weibo.
While officials are trying to control information about the pollution by deleting weibo posts and shutting down media coverage, some members of the public who have managed to follow the controversy are quite angry.
“These actions are horrendous. If they are proven to be true, shall we use high-pressure pumps to pump the officials and leaders underground as well?” a legal scholar named Xu Xin commented on Weibo.
According to the Chinese regime’s mouthpiece Xinhua, one third of China’s water supply comes from underground. Investigative reports on 118 cities over the last two to seven years show that severely polluted water runs in 64 percent of the cities and mildly polluted water in 33 percent of them. Only 3 percent of the cities have clean water.
Read original Chinese article.
Tags: CCP, China, environmental issues, health, Society, sustainable development
People in the little town of Jinling, Shandong Province, live in the shadow of death, surrounded on three sides by chemical plants discharging toxic waste into their groundwater.
According to a report from China National Radio, locals say there is a funeral nearly every day, and the public cemetery is almost full with more and more new graves.
Jinling is located near the Qilu Chemical Industrial Park in Zibo City. A chemical distribution company releases waste into a small stream that borders the township. The stream used to be clear and sparkling, but is now an exotic peacock blue, and the stench is overwhelming.
Cancer is so common here that villagers tease each other about the “cancer virus”, and the village is well-known at the provincial cancer hospital. Whenever a patient arrives from Zibo City, the staff ask, “Are they from Jinling?”
With rapidly developing terminal gastric, lung, and esophageal cancers, the villagers in this town of about 15,000 are dying in their 30s and 40s. In many cases, by the time the cancer is diagnosed, they are already terminal.
The water is so poisonous that brides who marry outside the village only come back to visit for a day, and then leave right away. They would never bathe there, they say, as the contamination is so bad it burns their skin.
Tags: Body & Mind, Food, health, Science, sustainable development
Is sugar toxic? This is a question that many have pondered over amid skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates in many developed nations. A new study, publicized in the New York Times this week, answers “yes.”
The number one problem with the American diet is sugar, according to a new study publicized Wednesday after Mark Bittman, in a New York Times article, described the ubiquitous sweetener as “toxic.”
The study found that when people ingest more sugar, there is an increased chance of diabetes, regardless of obesity. The study was published in a PloS One issue on Feb. 27 and used “econometric models of repeated cross-sectional data on diabetes and nutritional components of food from 175 countries,” according to an abstract.
Regarding sugar, “no other food types yielded significant individual associations with diabetes prevalence after controlling for obesity and other confounders,” the abstract reads. “Differences in sugar availability statistically explain variations in diabetes prevalence rates at a population level that are not explained by physical activity, overweight or obesity,” it continues.
Rob Lustig, an author of the study with the University of California, San Francisco, said the paper was highly comprehensive.
“You could not enact a real-world study that would be more conclusive than this one,” he told the Times.
The study took into account poverty, aging, obesity, urbanization, and physical activity. It also controlled other foods.
The study found that “for every 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverage introduced per person per day into a country’s food system, the rate of diabetes goes up” by 1 percent, Bittman said, and concluded: “The take-away: it isn’t simply overeating that can make you sick; it’s overeating sugar. We finally have the proof we need for a verdict: sugar is toxic.”
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, environmental issues, health, Nature, Society, sustainable development
The Chinese regime for the first time admitted the existence of so-called “cancer villages”—areas near factories and polluted waterways where cancer rates have increased to startlingly high levels.
The Sina Weibo of the state-run Global Times on Wednesday published news and a map of the villages that are especially cancer-stricken. Posting in Chinese, the Times, a mouthpiece of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, cited the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection. The blog Tea Leaf Nation brought attention to the post.
“Among its content is a clear demonstration that because of chemical poisoning, ‘cancer villages’ and other serious [threats to] social health have begun to emerge in many areas. Moreover, according to media person Deng Fei, these … ‘cancer villages’ are spreading from the middle of Eastern China to the middle of Western China,” a translation of the Global Times message reads.
The message was published in environment ministry’s “Twelfth Five-Year Plan for Prevention and Control of Environmental Risks from Chemicals,” the post reads. And the Global Times’ microblogging account also included a weeping emoticon.
Over the years, Chinese environmental activists have said there is a strong link between increased cancer rates and industrial pollution—in part due to corrupt officials looking the other way when developers and businesses violate environmental regulations. Investigative journalist Deng Fei in 2009 showed some of the worst-hit areas using Google maps.
Since the 1990s, cancer has been the leading killer of Chinese people, according to Caijing, a financial publication. It reported that the number of cancer villages could be greater than 247 across 27 provinces. However that number could be greater than 400, according to the state mouthpiece Xinhua.
The ministry also acknowledged that China has been slammed with “poisonous and harmful chemical products” that are banned in developed countries, reported the AFP news agency.
Environmental lawyer Wang Canfa said the Global Times’ blog posting was significant, as it was the first time that the Chinese regime officially noted the “cancer village” phenomenon.
“It shows that the environment ministry has acknowledged that pollution has led to people getting cancer,” he was quoted as saying. “It shows that this issue, of environmental pollution leading to health damages, has drawn attention.” The AFP reported that the term “cancer village” appeared as early as 1998 in Chinese media reports.
The Weibo posting comes just after several high-profile cases involving air and water pollution. In January, a thick haze of smog descended upon dozens of Chinese cities, including Beijing, lingering for days.
Around a week ago, Deng Fei asked his Weibo followers to take pictures of a river or a stream in their hometown and post it online. The move, he said, was designed to show the extent of pollution in Chinese rivers.
Tags: Body & Mind, Children, environmental issues, Science, Society
According to a study from a trio of educators in Maharashtra, India, noise-induced hearing loss is occurring at even younger ages than previously thought, and the primary causes are urban noises and the propensity for listening to media with the volume higher than the human ear can tolerate.
The study, published in the International Journal of Head and Neck Surgery in December, focused on 150 students from the Bharti Vidyapeeth Dental College.
The results showed that 75 percent of the students had been exposed to extreme noise pollution on a routine basis. Of those 75 percent of the students, 16 suffered noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
The findings are disturbing because the research gives further credence to what many of us in the hearing-health industry already know, which is that more and more people are facing hearing damage at younger and younger ages.
What the Indian researchers showed, however, is that NIHL is occurring because of non-industrial noise.
Some students in the study said they were exposed to loud noises at home, at school, and everywhere in between.
“So far risk of exposure to high noise level was considered to be limited to industrial environment only. However, with rapid urbanization and modernization, the cities are becoming crowded as well as noisy.
“Exposure to noise from these sources have put the population not exposed to industrial noise also at risk of NIHL, especially the younger population.
“If corrective measures are not taken this may lead to high percentage of younger urban population with permanent hearing loss,” says the study authored by Sunil Suresh Saler, Parul Sunil Saler, and Wilson Desai.
Some students in the study said they were exposed to loud noises at home, at school, and everywhere in between. Several of them told the researchers that they turned their iPods or video-game consoles up to the maximum volume level while wearing headphones.
Previous international studies have shown that use of portable stereos can lead to an increase in hearing damage.
Australia’s National Acoustic Laboratories discovered that one quarter of its survey respondents were in danger of hearing loss because of their use of iPods and other similar devices.
When we are young, we are more likely to take risks, and those risks can lead to health complications, as many people in their 30s and 40s are finding out when it comes to their ears.
Take Early Precautions
Hearing loss is a growing problem in the 21st century. Part of the issue has to do with technology we’ve adopted into our lives, but the more important threat is the increasing amount of noise we face because of situations that are often out of our control.
Construction noise, traffic disturbances, and loud urban atmospheres put stress on the ears of millions of people on a daily basis. Exposure to such noise is a health risk that is increasingly unavoidable and global.
“People generally lack knowledge of the ill effects which noise pollution creates. To avoid NIHL, attention must be given toward the noise around us,” the study from India said.
“Wear adequate hearing protection like foam ear muffs, ear plugs. There will be a definite hearing impairment due to noise pollution, which can be either permanent or temporary, if early precautions are not taken.”
The good news is that awareness helps. Once you recognize a health risk, you can always take steps to prevent or limit the damage.
That goes for anything from a toothache to blurry vision to a sudden ringing in your ears. All of those conditions can be treated, as long as you initiate the steps to address them.
MJ DeSousa, an audiologist and Director of Professional Practice at Connect Hearing, leads a team of hearing professionals across Canada. For more information about hearing loss please visit www.connecthearing.ca
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