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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Last stand for choice in Mississippi (encore edition)

In Jackson, Mississippi, a red state in the heart of the bible belt, the battle over abortion was kicked into high gear when an eight day anti-abortion demonstration ensued in the state's capital this past summer. On one side: activists fighting to save the last abortion clinic in the state. On the other: Operation Save America trying to shut it down.

On this edition, Making Contact's Sarah Olson takes a closer look at the Mississippi women fighting for reproductive justice as they try to save the one remaining abortion clinic in the state.


Pastor Flip Benham, director, Operation Save America; Adam Tenant, Operation Save America; McCoy Faulkner, women's organizations and abortion clinics security officer and retired cop; Betty Thompson, counselor and administrator, Jackson Women's Health Organization; Michelle Colón, president, National Organization for Women Jackson Area; Shannon Reace, Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Coalition HIV/AIDS advocate; Norma McCorvey, lead plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, but now anti-abortion activist; Kim Ghandy, president, National Organization for Women (NOW); Jenni Smith, Unity Mississippi; Shauna Davie, Jackson State University student.

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Freelance Producer: Sarah Olson
Mixing Engineer: Phillip Babich
Freelance Associate Producer: Emily Polk
Intern: Alexis McCrimmon

Greener News Room

For more information::

Jackson Women's Health Organization
2903 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39216

National Women's Health Organization
3613 Haworth Drive
Raleigh, NC 27609

National Organization for Women (NOW)
1100 H Street NW, 3rd floor
Washington, D.C. 20005
202-628-8669 (628-8NOW)

Feminist Majority Foundation
1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 801
Arlington, VA 22209

National Abortion Federation
1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036
202-667-5881; naf@prochoice.org

Guttmacher Institute
120 Wall Street, 21st Floor
New York, NY 10005

ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project

Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Project
ACLU of Jackson, Mississippi
601-355-6464; missrfp@yahoo.com

Unity Mississippi
P.O. Box 4212
Jackson, MS 39296

*Photo: Courtesy "Operation Save America." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2007. Answers.com 28 Feb. 2007. http://www.answers.com/topic/operation-save-america


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2:39 PM

Monday, February 26, 2007

Elemental water treatment could save millions of lives

University of Delaware researchers announced the development of an inexpensive, non-chlorine-based technology that removes 99.999% of microorganisms, including viruses, from drinking water. The process incorporates highly reactive iron to deliver a chemical “knock-out punch” to a host of notorious pathogens including E-coli and rota virus.

The discovery promises to dramatically improve the safety of drinking water around the globe, particularly in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over a billion people, one-sixth of the world's population, lack access to safe water.

Four billion cases of diarrheal disease occur worldwide each year, resulting in 1.8 million deaths, primarily infants and children in developing countries. Eighty-eight percent of these deaths are attributable to unsafe water supplies, inadequate sanitation and hygiene.

“What is unique about our technology is its ability to remove viruses, the smallest of the pathogens, from water supplies,” said Pei Chiu, an associate professor in UD's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Chiu collaborated with Yan Jin, professor of environmental soil physics in UD's plant and soil sciences department, to develop the technology. They then sought the expertise of virologist Kali Kniel, an assistant professor in the animal and food sciences department, who has provided critical assistance with the testing phase.

Viruses are difficult to eliminate in drinking water using current methods because they are far smaller than bacteria, highly mobile, and resistant to chlorination, which is the dominant disinfection method used in the United States. By using elemental iron (a byproduct of steel production) in the filtration process, the team was able to remove viral agents from drinking water at very high efficiencies. The elemental iron is inexpensive, costing less than 40 cents a pound. 99.999% of the virus organisms are either chemically inactivated or irreversibly adsorbed to the iron.

The team of researchers has been documenting the technology's effectiveness against human pathogens including E. coli 0157:H7, hepatitis A, norovirus and rotavirus. Rotavirus is the number-one cause of diarrhea in children, according to Kniel.

The treatment also removes organic material, such as humic acid, that naturally occurs in groundwater and other sources of drinking water. During the disinfection process, this natural organic material can react with chlorine to produce a variety of toxic chemicals called disinfection byproducts.

“Our iron-based technology can help ensure drinking-water safety by reducing microbial pathogens and disinfection byproducts simultaneously,” Chiu noted.

Besides helping to safeguard drinking water, the UD technology may have applications in agriculture. Integrated into the wash-water system of a produce-packing house, it could help clean and safeguard fresh and “ready to eat” vegetables, particularly leafy greens like lettuce and spinach, as well as fruit, according to Kniel.

“Sometimes on farms, wash-water is recirculated, so this technology could help prevent plant pathogens from spreading to other plants,” she said.

Greener News Room



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10:50 PM

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mapping clean water resources in Africa

For the people of Kenya’s semiarid Samburu region, water is a precious commodity. People and livestock compete with wildlife for water, and in the dry season water sources can easily become contaminated. To address these issues, scientists at Earthwatch’s Samburu Field Center have compiled three years of data on the region’s water and other natural resources into a comprehensive Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database.

The new GIS database maps water sources, including information about water quality and seasonal variability, as well as habitat quality for wildlife and livestock. These maps provide the latest information on water resources, and will be shared with local communities to inform management plans for settlement, grazing, and conservation lands. This important outcome is consistent with U.N. Millennium Development Goals, especially Goal 7, which includes ensuring sustainable access to improved water sources.

“Never again will I take water for granted,” said Suzanne Zilvetti of New Jersey, a volunteer at Earthwatch’s Samburu Field Center last year. “I felt so much a part of something bigger than just ‘seeing wildlife.’ It really hit home when, after sitting and counting animals that came to drink from a waterhole (for five hours), we actually saw a touring van taking pictures of us!”

“We can share data in a context that communities will understand,” said Fred Atieno, a GIS expert and co-investigator at the Samburu Field Center. Layers of information can be added to the GIS maps that show the region’s roads, villages, markets, schools, and other features familiar to local communities. Different layers show water source locations and quality, seasonal rivers, and where there is good grazing land or scrubland.

“This database will help in the creation of community conservancies,” said Atieno, referring to local land-based community groups that can “zone” their land to minimize stress on natural resources. “It will relate conservancies to resources on the ground.” Through zoning, conservancies can ensure that people have enough water and livestock have enough grass. They can also help minimize conflicts with elephants and carnivores, and conserve water and habitat for relief during extreme droughts.

The map may also help with public health issues, in a population where 80 percent of the diseases diagnosed are waterborne. “If we know a patient comes from a community where the database shows the water is high in amoebas, we know that the patient has a higher chance for that,” said Philip Leitore, a coordinator at Wamba Mission Hospital, which has a partnership with the Samburu Field Center.

Last year the lab at Wamba Mission Hospital detected cholera in a water sample by Earthwatch-supported scientists, prevented a public epidemic that could have affected many in the Samburu population. The GIS database also shows how wet and dry seasons affect water quality, helping to warn people when and where outbreaks might occur.

Greener News Room

Resources:: http://www.earthwatch.org/expeditions/samburu.html

Photo expedition to Samburu distric; David Hewitt



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9:07 AM

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Senegalese election potential watershed for democracy in West Africa

Tomorrow's democratic elections in Senegal may mark the last hoorah for octogenarian, reform president Abdoulaye Wade. Wade, who was elected to the presidency in 2000 by a coalition of all the Senegalese people, including Christians, Animists, and Muslims, leads the socialist opposition party known as the Senegalese Democratic Party or (PDS).

The President's final campaign rally was held Friday in Dakar the Senegalese capitol. Cheered by hundreds of youthful supporters, Wade told the crowd that he would bring jobs to the country’s youth, those who are desperate for a chance to leave the country. Many young men and women attempt to illegally emigrate to Europe in hopes of finding employment.

His election marked the first time since Senegal achieved independence in 1960- after 300 years of French rule that there was a peaceful transition of government when socialist President Abdou Diouf, who had ruled since 1981, stepped aside.

The country of approximately 12 million is the only West African nation to have successfully avoided political violence in the form of a coup, which most observers credit to the Senegalese democratic experience under French rule.

Wade is anticipated to emerge victorious in Sunday’s election having the support of a majority of the country’s Muslim base led by the Mourides. The Mourides are a Sufi Muslim brotherhood founded in Senegal in the early 1900s. Millions of Senegalese claim allegiance to them.

Several days ago, supporters of Mr. Wade were accused of disrupting a rally for a former protégé of the president, Idrissa Seck, who is now a rival for the presidency. Seck's campaign team blamed the attack on followers of Cheikh Bethio Thioune, a Mouride leader who, at Friday's rally, sat on center stage with Mr. Wade. Thioune denied any involvement in the violence at the Seck rally, while at the same time acknowledging that he favors Wade’s candidacy.

Senegalese election rules prohibit any candidate from attaining office without at least a better than 50% minimum of the popular vote. There are 15 candidates in Sunday’s election so Wade, some believe, may not make it in the first round. If that happens there will be a runoff election between the 2 leading candidates on March 11.

In recent years thousands of young Senegalese have arrived by boat, hungry and ill from the hazardous trip, suffering from exposure and angry at the lack of opportunity they say faces them in their home land. No one knows for certain how many have died on these voyages. Their much painful slogan is "BARCELONA OR DEATH"

At the rally the President promised to embark the nation on an unprecedented round of modernization, which would create jobs in construction as the country improves its infrastructure by building modern hotels, airports, highways and a new rail system.

Greener News Room

Additional Resource:: CIA World book, Senegal



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1:28 PM

Friday, February 23, 2007

International polar year kicks off Monday 2/26

On Monday, Feb. 26, 2007, The United States will mark the start of the International Polar Year (IPY) with an event hosted by the National Academies and the National Science Foundation. During the ceremony, which will be held in Washington, D.C., a panel of polar scientists will discuss the latest research and present an overview of expeditions to take place during IPY. There will also be remarks from government leaders whose agencies play an active role in this international effort.

International Polar Year is a global research effort to better understand the polar regions and their climatic effect on the Earth. More than 200 scientific expeditions will take place over the next two years to study changes to permafrost, the melting of polar ice sheets, and marine life in the cold and dark. The research completed during IPY will provide a baseline for understanding future environmental change.

Monday, Feb. 26, 2007, 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Auditorium, National Academies building, 2100 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C.
Those who cannot attend may watch a live video webcast of the event and submit questions using an e-mail form at http://national-academies.org.

Ralph Cicerone, president, National Academy of Sciences

Members of Congress:
• Brian Baird, representative, Washington (invited)
• Lisa Murkowski, senator, Alaska (invited)

Federal Agency Speakers:
• Arden Bement, director, National Science Foundation
• James Connaughton, chairman, White House Council on Environmental Quality
• Shana Dale, deputy administrator, NASA
• Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
• Mark Myers, director, U.S. Geological Survey

Science panel:
• Mead Treadwell, chair, U.S. Arctic Research Commission
• Robin Bell, senior research scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, N.Y.
• Robert Bindschadler, chief scientist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
• Gretchen Hofmann, associate professor, University of California, Santa Barbara
• Deanna Kingston, associate professor, department of anthropology, Oregon State University, Corvallis
• Konrad Steffen, director, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder

Public registration for this free event and more information about IPY is available online at http://www.us-ipy.org/.

Greener Magazine will have complete video coverage of the IPY event beginning Monday 2/26.


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9:35 PM

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Legacy of Torture

In 1971, John Young, a San Francisco police officer was killed. Members of the Black Panther party were arrested, charged and then tortured by San Francisco and New Orleans police.

Courts eventually dismissed the charges based on the police extracting confessions via torture. Now more than 35 years later, the case has been reopened. On January 23rd, 2007, some of those same men were arrested again.

In this special documentary from the Freedom Archives, we hear from some of the accused men themselves. They describe the torture and how they were targeted for their political activities.


Ray Boudreaux, John Bowman, Richard Brown, Hank Jones and Harold Taylor, former Black Panthers; Soffiyah Elijah, attorney.

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Freelance Associate Producer: Emily Polk
Mixing Engineer: Phillip Babich
Intern: Alexis McCrimmon

For more information::

Committee for Defense of Human Rights (CDHR) - Defend the San Francisco Eight
P.O. Box 90221
Pasadena, CA 91109

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
415-863-9977; info@freedomarchives.org

Center for Constitutional Rights
Report on these recent arrests and torture:

"A Legacy of Torture: From Cointelpro to the Patriot Act"
by Ron Jacobs

"Arrest of Former Black Panthers Aims to Erase Revolutionary Legacy,"
by Sérgio Ramires

"Murder Charges Against Former Black Panthers
Based on Confessions Extracted by Torture"

"John Bowman remembered at the African American Art and Culture Complex,"
by Wanda Sabir

Profile of Richard Brown and Richard O'Neal (ABC News story)

Greener News Room



Top of Page

11:10 AM

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

150 years after Dred Scott

March 2007 marks the 150th anniversary of the Supreme Court's momentous and divisive Dred Scott decision, which denied full American citizenship to African-Americans and gave legal sanction to a racial hierarchy that would undermine the most basic principles of American justice to the present day.

According to Richard Re, a senior editor at the Harvard International Review, "Conservative estimates indicate that at least 27 million people, in places as diverse as Nigeria, Indonesia, and Brazil, live in conditions of forced bondage."

Some estimates place that figure at 10 times the number, over a quarter of a billion people. To put that in perspective, Re writes, it is believed that 13 million slaves were taken from Africa through the trans-Atlantic slave trade that ended in the 19th century."

When slave Dred Scott and his wife Harriet arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in the spring of 1846, they came as refugees in their own land and they must have been overwhelmed by the willingness of white St. Louisans to accept them as free Americans.

The Scotts after all had been the property of white America their entire lives. Moved from one state to another by their owner, Dr. John Emerson a military physician, the Scotts lived for many years in Illinois and Wisconsin – 2 states where slavery was not institutionalized.

Following the death of Emerson, Dred and Harriet Scott returned to Missouri where, with the help of white sympathizers they applied through the courts to obtain their freedom. Three years later, in 1850, a jury decided the Scotts should be freed under the Missouri doctrine of "once free, always free."

That however was not to be the case; after a torturous 11 year court battle the U.S Supreme court ruled the following in 1847

    • Any person descended from black Africans, whether slave or free, is not a citizen of the United States, according to the U.S. Constitution.

    • The Ordinance of 1787 could not confer freedom or citizenship within the Northwest Territory to Black people.

    • The provisions of the Act of 1820, known as the Missouri Compromise, were voided as a legislative act because the act exceeded the powers of Congress, insofar as it attempted to exclude slavery and impart freedom and citizenship to Black people in the northern part of the Louisiana cession.
The decision shook the entire nation when it was announced, and its aftershocks reverberated through the end of the Civil War.

In honor of this landmark case, Washington University will host a conference, titled "The Dred Scott Case and Its Legacy: Race, Law, and the Struggle for Equality," from March 1-3.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will bring together leading law, history and culture experts as well as judges and descendents of Dred and Harriet Scott.

"This symposium, devoted to the continuing legacy of the Scotts' struggle, hopes to examine the legal background of the case and its legacy, both of which involve the uncertain and problematic role of the law in addressing fundamental questions of justice, racism and inequality," says Konig.

"It will inquire into the legal strategies of black and white abolitionists before 1857 as well as the efforts of civil rights attorneys to make meaningful the full legal citizenship that the decision denied. Its concerns will, therefore, be contemporary as well as historical, combining the perspectives of many disciplines to examine the historical roots of legal inequality and to understand the power of its persistence."

Speaking for the event David Konig, Ph.D., professor of law in the School of Law and of history and African & African American studies at Washington University in St. Louis says,” This anniversary will undoubtedly be a moment of deep national reflection on enduring issues of race and justice and is a reminder of the persistence of so-called 'badges of slavery' making the 13th Amendment an unfulfilled promise, and the 14th and 15th Amendments incomplete,"

"The Dred Scott case isn't a ghost," Konig says. "We haven't outgrown implicit embedded cultural forces from Dred Scott. They act on the law, they penetrate the law, and they come through the law to enforce stereotypes. The current immigration debate is just one example."
John Baugh PhD. the director of African & African American studies in Arts & Sciences and Washington University's Margaret Bush Wilson Professor notes that the Scott trial has global relevance to anyone concerned with equality.

"It far exceeds the experience of slave descendants in the United States, although it is an iconic example of the historical injustice suffered by U.S. slaves and their descendants," he says.

"The Scott case confirmed that America was once a nation where racial discrimination, supported by legal statute, defied the doctrine of equal opportunity and justice for all that has been the beacon of American liberty to those whose ancestors came to America of their own volition," says Baugh. "Slaves were denied access to justice, and the Scott decision attempted to codify racial inequality, albeit in direct defiance of the colorblind vision that Dr. King expressed in his unfulfilled dream of American racial equality."

Greener News Room


Washington University Symposium March 1-3, 2007

Full text of Supreme Court Dred Scott decision



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2:45 PM

Friday, February 16, 2007

Peruvian glacier may vanish in five years

When glaciologist Lonnie Thompson returns to Peru’s Qori Kalis glacier early this summer, he expects to find that half of the ice he saw during his visit there last year has vanished.

What troubles him the most is his recent observations that suggest that the entire glacier may likely be gone within the next five years, providing possibly the clearest evidence so far of global climate change.

The fact that the Qori Kalis glacier, high in the Andes Mountains, is only one of many ice tongues retreating on the Quelccaya Ice Cap, the largest body of ice in the tropics, provides strong evidence of the warming that appears to be underway worldwide. Thompson, Distinguished University Professor in the School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State University and a world-acclaimed paleoclimatologist, outlined his fears at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco this week.

Since 1974, Thompson has made the trek to the Quelccaya ice cap at least 27 times, drilling cores through to bedrock, taking samples and periodically monitoring its slow but accelerating retreat. Ancient plant beds have been newly uncovered as the ice retreats. The first were discovered in 2002, more are uncovered each year, and carbon dating indicates that most have been buried for at least 5,000 years. They indicate that the current retreat of the ice exceeds any other retreat in at least the last 50 centuries.

Evidence from the analysis of those ice cores – as well as records from more than a dozen other remote ice fields across the globe over the past three decades –point to an increase in temperatures throughout the tropics.

Thompson notes that today’s globally averaged temperature is thought to be only a few degrees cooler than the temperature at the height of the Eemian interglacial period, roughly 125,000 years ago when melting ice raised sea level nearly 6 meters (20 feet). Recent model projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest that the globally averaged temperature at the end of the current century could be 3 degrees warmer than it is today, he says.

“It raises the question of whether there are delays in the climate system that haven’t shown up as a change in sea level yet, but that will eventually come.”

He also points towards Greenland with another warning. The Jakobshavn glacier is the island’s largest outflow glacier, draining more than 6.5 percent of the ice cap. In the last decade, Thompson said, the glacier has doubled the speed it is sending ice out to the ocean.

“We’re talking about huge amounts of ice and water going into the ocean in this one single case,” Thompson said.

In 2001, he predicted that the famed “snows of Kilimanjaro” in Tanzania would disappear in 15 years as the glaciers atop that ancient volcano succumb to a warmer climate. If anything, he now wonders if his predictions were too conservative.

“Kilimanjaro is behaving just like Mount Kenya and the Rwenzori, both also in Africa, as well as the glaciers in the Andes and the Himalayas,” he said. “This widespread retreat of mountain glaciers may be our clearest evidence of global warming as they integrate many climate variables. Most importantly, they have no political agenda,” he said.

Aside from the sheer geophysical changes this represents, he worries most about what it means to the millions of people relying on these ice caps as major water supplies. He’s quick to emphasize that 50 percent of the planet’s surface area lies between 30 degrees north and south of the equator and that 70 percent of the people live there. This is also where climate phenomenon that impact the entire planet originate, such as monsoons and El Ninos.

“This is basically the weather engine for the world.”

“These glaciers are going to be gone,” he says. “If you a living at the base of one of these mountains, it doesn’t matter why they’re disappearing – only that they are. Millions of people are going to have to adapt to these changes, many of which will occur in some of the poorest regions of the globe.”

He says that Peru’s Quelccaya offered another glimpse of a dangerous future for people living in that region. Over the years, as Qori Kalis retreated, a massively deep lake formed at its margin, high up a valley it has been contained by a natural dam. Last March, a massive chunk of the glacier broke off, tumbled downhill and splashed into that lake, sending a wall of water over the dam and cascading down into the valley.

“I’ve crossed this meadow that lies about 18 miles (30 kilometers) below Quelccaya perhaps 27 times and this is the first time I’ve ever seen this much sediment there, evidence of that recent flood.”

He said that such events wouldn’t have happened before 1991 since there was no lake there before that. “You see this unfolding also in the Himalayas where you have the retreat of glaciers and the formation of high-altitude lakes. Now the people in the valleys below face a new geological hazard.”

Through aerial mapping and satellite images, historic photographs and current surveys, researchers now can paint a picture of just how much ice has vanished in recent decades. New measurements at Quelccaya, Kilimanjaro and other sites all show that these ice masses are shrinking at an alarming rate. Thompson plans new expeditions to both mountain sites later this year to add to the evidence.

Thompson recently returned from drilling ice cores with his Chinese collaborators at a new site, Naimona’nyi, a 20,000-foot (6,100-meter) ice field in Tibet near the western border of Nepal. They retrieved three cores to bedrock, each offering a record of the local climate, trapped in the ice. While the ice core has not been dated yet, preliminary analysis shows an increase in temperature over time that nearly mirrors the record from various other sites worldwide.

“This may be very old ice,” he says.

Finding the plants that had been preserved under the Quelccaya ice was a real wake-up call, he believes. He and his colleagues have found more than 50 additional sites with remarkable plant remains, most dating back to that 5,000-year-old mark.

“About 5,000 years ago, we had perhaps 300 million people living on the planet,” he says. “Now there are more than 6.5 billion covering the globe. If you change the climate for many of these people, where will they go? There are fewer options today than there were back then.”

Greener News Room


Contact: Lonnie Thompson (614 292-6652; Thompson.3@osu.edu.


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12:22 PM

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Halting genocide, defining a time to act

Follow your intuition and act? When it comes to genocide, forget it. It doesn’t work, says a University of Oregon psychologist. Any large numbers of reported deaths represent dry statistics that fail to spark emotion or feeling, fails to motivate. Even going from one to two victims, feeling and meaning begin to fade, he said.

That case was outlined in brief Feb. 15 in a news briefing prior to a Friday morning session at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science devoted to “Numbers and Nerves.”

Paul Slovic, a University of Oregon professor and president of Decision Research, a non-profit research institute in Eugene, Ore., urged a review and overhaul of the 1948 Genocide Convention, mandated by much of the world after the Holocaust in World War II. “It has obviously failed, because it has never been invoked to intervene in genocide,” Slovic said.

Slovic is studying the issue from a psychological perspective, trying to determine how people can utilize both the moral intuition that genocide is wrong and moral reasoning to reach not only an outcry but also demand intervention. “We have to understand what it is in our makeup – psychologically, socially, politically and institutionally – that has allowed genocide to go unabated for a century,” he said. “If we don’t answer that question and use the answer to change things, we will see another century of horrible atrocities around the world.”

In the 20th century, genocides have occurred in Armenia, the Ukraine, Nazi Germany, Bangladesh, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, Currently, killings continue in Darfur. “America has done little or nothing to stop genocide,” Slovic said, adding that the lack of response has come from both Republican and Democratic administrations. Research shows that people cannot trust moral intuitions to drive action. “Instead, we have to create institutions and laws that will force us to do what we know through moral argument are the right thing to do.”

How to reach that critical mass for decision-making, however, will be a challenge. It is thought that every life is equally important and thus the value of saving lives rises linearly as the numbers of people at risk increase.

However, models based on psychology are unmasking a haze on the issue. One model suggests that people react very strongly around the zero point. “We go all out to save a single identified victim, be it a person or an animal, but as the numbers increase, we level off,” he said. “We don’t feel any different to say 88 people dying than we do to 87. This is a disturbing model, because it means that lives are not equal, and that as problems become bigger we become insensitive to the prospect of additional deaths.”

In Slovic’s latest research, evidence is mounting for an even more disturbing ‘collapse model’ that he described in his talk. “This model appears to be more accurate than the psychophysical model in describing our response to genocide,” he said. “We have these large numbers of deaths occurring, and we are doing nothing.”

His new research follows up an Israeli study published in 2005 in which subjects were presented three photos. One depicted eight children who needed $300,000 in medical intervention to save their lives. Another photo depicted just one child who could be helped with $300,000. Participants were most willing to donate for one child’s medical care. The level of giving declined dramatically for donating to help the entire group.

Slovic and colleagues Daniel Vastfjäll and Ellen Peters used the same approach but narrowed the focus. Participants in Sweden were shown a photo of a starving African girl, her individual story and the conditions of the nation in which she lives. Another photo contained the same information but for a starving boy. A third photo showed both children. The feelings of sympathy for each individual child were almost equal, but dropped when they were considered together. Donations followed the same pattern, being lower for two needy children than for either individually.

“The studies just described suggest a disturbing psychological tendency,” Slovic said. “Our capacity to feel is limited.” Even at two, he added, people start to lose it.

If we see the beginning of the collapse of feeling at just two individuals, “it is no wonder that at 200,000 deaths the feeling is gone.” This insensitivity to large numbers is understandable from an evolutionary perspective. Early humans fought to protect themselves and their families. “There was no adaptive or survival value in protecting hundreds of thousands of people on the other side of the planet,” he said. “Today, we have modern communications that can tell us about crises occurring on the other side of the world, but we are still reacting the same way as we would have long ago.”

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, based in Menlo Park, Calif., is a major supporter of Slovic’s current research.

Greener News Room

Paul Slovic, UO psychology department, and president of Decision Research, 541-485-2400, pslovic@oregon.uoregon.edu

Links:: http://www.uoregon.edu/~uocomm/experts/faculty-data/Slovic+_Paul.html and http://www.decisionresearch.org


Photo, International Rescue Committee

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3:37 PM

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Southern African cholera outbreak

Cholera has broken out in several nations in Southern Africa and has been blamed on sewage contamination in Angola.

Namibian health authorities confirmed the outbreak yesterday (13 February), saying six people in northern villages along the border with Angola have been taken ill with the disease.

According to the World Health Organization, the disease has killed more than 1,200 people in Angola over the past three months, with 35,000 others infected.

Cholera is a severe intestinal disease caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae. It causes severe diarrhoea and can lead to death within 24 hours if left untreated. Contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation are common causes of infection.

Kalumbi Shangula, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Health and Social Service in Namibia said five of the six cases were believed to have been contracted in Angola.

"It seems that the epicentre is situated in Angola spreading from there to Congo, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and now Namibia. Most of the outbreaks have occurred in informal settlement areas around towns," said Shangula.

Zambia has registered 5,500 cases of cholera and the disease has claimed about 90 lives in Congo, with 2,700 others infected. Mozambique's capital city, Maputo, has had over 700 cases so far.

The outbreak has been put down to the overflow of sewage-contaminated water into the Ruacana river from Angola following floods last month. Angola's crowded slums lack adequate water supplies and sanitation, which facilitates infection.

Contaminated Angolan water supplies have also been blamed for an outbreak of gastroenteritis in northern Namibia. There have been over 200 cases in Namibia so far, according to reports by the IRIN news agency.

Shangula said health officials are distributing water treatment pills and have set up medical treatment centres in the areas along the border, in an attempt to prevent the two epidemics spreading.

Rodrick Mukumbira
Greener News Room

Additional resources::


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1:22 PM

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Leadership program studies in Native American law, culture, nation building

ArizonaNativeNet, a Web portal designed to promote nation building in American Indian communities, debuted the first in a series of distance learning modules designed for tribal leaders.

As the first free program of its kind in the country, the Web-based project will address a critical and increasing need for information about Indian law and governance. The module, as well as a information about ArizonaNativeNet, can be viewed at http://www.arizonanativenet.com.

"There's really nothing like it anywhere in the world," said Professor Robert A. Williams Jr., director of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at The University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law. "The Internet has the potential to be an important tool of tribal sovereignty, bringing cutting-edge research and information to reservations."

ArizonaNativeNet is unique because it was developed by world-class experts in the fields of Indian law and native nation building, and provides a one-stop shop for information on other areas of concern, including health, education, breaking news, employment and grant opportunities.

Preliminary plans call for the development of over twenty distance learning modules in categories as diverse as "Entrepreneurship and Doing Business on Indian Lands" and "Modern Tribal Jurisdiction" from two highly regarded UA Native American academic programs: the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy (NNI) and The Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program (IPLP). The Native Peoples Technical Assistance Office (NPTAO), a division of the Office of the UA's Vice President for Research, Graduate Studies and Economic Development, has also played an integral role in the development of the Web portal and distance learning content.

The module introduced yesterday, titled "The History of Federal Indian Law and Policy: the European Doctrine of Discovery and American Indian Rights", is part of a project, the "Federal Indian Law for Tribal Leaders: IPLP Tribal Leadership Curriculum", which covers the Marshall Trilogy, the trust doctrine, tribal sovereignty, Congressional plenary power, the Doctrine of Discovery and the European Law of Nations. Designed especially for use by tribal leaders, attorneys, judges and college students, the modules include video clips, images, maps and supplemental reading materials. The modules should additionally appeal to anyone with an interest in the history and development of Federal Indian law.

ArizonaNativeNet is supported through a grant from the Arizona Board of Regents, Arizona Regents Reach Out (ARRO) grant program and a Congressionally-directed grant administered through the Department of Education.

Greener Magazine


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2:08 PM

Human rights and the African American experience

Inconsistency and contradiction are no strangers to American policy and politics.

One of the true ironies of the American civil rights movement is that while the U.S. was trying to lead the way in developing a framework for international human rights, it was leaving its own citizens behind, refusing to acknowledge the systematic social abandonment of African Americans.

On this edition we'll hear about this deep discrepancy at the heart of America's struggle for civil rights and human rights.


Dr. Carol Anderson, visiting professor, Harvard University, author of "Eyes Off the Prize: the United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights."

This week's host: Tena Rubio.

For more information::

Women's Foundation of California (San Francisco)
340 Pine Street, Suite 302
San Francisco, CA 94104.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Washington DC Branch
1409 E Street
Washington, DC 20003

Washington DC Youth Council
1000 U Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

U.S. Department of Labor Civil Rights Center
Frances Perkins Building
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210

Greener News Room


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1:12 PM

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A new vision of plant health services for world's poor

Plant clinics should replace narrow pesticide control measures to ensure that poor farmers can have healthy plants, argues Eric Boa.

Millions of poor people in developing countries rely on their crops for survival. For the governments of these nations, keeping plants healthy should be a high priority — yet most farmers cannot get help when and where they need it.

Strategies that address pesticide misuse and over-reliance on chemicals are not enough. A new vision of plant health services is needed.

Pesticide control: a narrow vision

Government agricultural policies in developing countries have focused on integrated pest management (IPM), a pest control strategy aimed at reducing the use of pesticides. IPM has successfully tackled pesticide misuse and cut down farmers' reliance on chemicals — especially for insect pests, where pesticide abuse is a major concern. But it does not provide small farmers with basic health services to provide advice based on sound diagnosis.

Similarly, farmer field schools that teach IPM practices help farmers learn about crop pests and diseases and have promoted innovation, but they do not provide plant healthcare.

Yet there is a heartfelt need for advice on the spot. While field schools have encouraged many farmers to adopt IPM for major crop pests, many more farmers need advice on a range of other pests and diseases. These hit poorest farmers the hardest.

Coffee wilt and banana bacterial wilt in central Africa are two recent examples. Research projects and support by extension agents, who advise farmers on agricultural and home economics issues, have helped farmers control these diseases, but such projects come and go and they cannot promote solutions to all farmers in the developing world.

Farmers' wider and persistent plant health needs require a different type of support — one based on regular services that can be sustained locally with help from experts when required.

On the move: mobile clinics for sick plants

Drawing on human health services as a model, new ideas are emerging about providing plant health services through networks of 'doctors', clinics and expert advice, available when and where they are needed.

Mobile plant clinics can promote the solid advances of IPM and farmer field schools and provide reliable plant healthcare for more people at low costs.

The first such plant clinics ran in Bolivia in 2004, with the support of the Global Plant Clinic, a UK-based centre that diagnoses and advises on plant diseases. Now, over 40 of these locally run clinics operate regularly in Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nicaragua and Uganda. Pilots have also been run in another six countries.

'Plant doctors' — local agronomists and extension agents — staff these clinics to diagnose plant health problems and recommend 'safe, sound and suitable' pest management methods that are both affordable and locally available. Examples include removing diseased plants in Nicaragua to prevent the citrus leprosis virus from emerging or using improved seed to reduce parsley leaf of tomato in Bolivia.

In Butembo in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, the clinics attract hundreds of farmers every week.

In Nicaragua they are held in markets, outside farmer cooperative shops and next to bus terminals. The success of the clinics has prompted diagnostic laboratories across the country to form an easily accessible network so that farmers can send samples for analysis. In this way, clinics have identified new diseases in regions that are difficult to monitor regularly, such as a new tomato virus or early detection of bacterial wilt in potatoes.

Poor farmers need a voice

But there is a long way to go before plant health services receive the attention they deserve in policy debates.

Medical doctors and veterinarians are powerful voices in advocating better health services for people and animals. The World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health are global actors in lobbying for better health services.

The nearest equivalents for plants are the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). Both are concerned about wider access to technical support and advice for plant pests and diseases but this needs to be expressed more clearly through stronger policies promoting plant health services.

Poor farmers don't have a 'voice'. In theory it's more the FAO's than IPPC's job to articulate this but the real responsibility lies with individual governments. Yet their only response so far has been to use farmer field schools in the misguided belief that this is enough. It is not.

Mobile plant health clinics provide a new way to reach the 'missing millions' and improve poor farmers' access to plant healthcare. Clinics that diagnose and treat health problems work for people and animals, so why not for plants?

By Eric Boa
Greener News Room


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1:36 PM

Monday, February 05, 2007

Earthwatch and Starbucks join coffee farmers in Costa Rica

Earthwatch Institute and Starbucks Coffee announced last week the extension of a partnership, which brings Starbucks partners (employees) and customers together on Earthwatch environmental expeditions. The 2007 project will focus on conducting scientific research designed to benefit a cooperative of 2,600 coffee farms in Costa Rica.

Partners and customers with a taste for adventure and, presumably, coffee can participate in this different kind of Starbucks Experience, at the source of the bean, while benefiting the environment.

This summer, 8 partners and 20 customers will have a chance to join special Earthwatch expeditions to CoopeTarrazú, a coffee cooperative in central Costa Rica. The volunteer teams will use GIS (Geographic Information System) technology to provide a broad scale analysis of factors important to a farmer – including soil erosion and water quality.

”Coffee and our partners are the foundation of Starbucks’ success,” said Dub Hay, Starbucks senior vice president, “By extending our successful partnership with Earthwatch, we are able to provide a unique and uplifting experience for our partners and customers, while continuing the work we do with farmers to help ensure their long-term success.”

In 2005, Starbucks sent partners and customers on a two-week Earthwatch expedition to plant tree seedlings, restoring part of Costa Rica’s vanishing rainforest. "Planting trees to help restore the rainforest in Agua Buena, Costa Rica was an amazing, life-changing opportunity,” said Amber Chenoweth, a Starbucks partner in Seattle who was selected to participate as a volunteer on the expedition. “I was able to blend all my passions: connecting with others, coffee, conservation, photography and helping others. I actually got to live the Starbucks guiding principle: contributing positively to our communities and environment."

Earthwatch volunteers at CoopeTarrazú will map water resources and biodiversity indicators, such as the number and types of trees and insects. Local farmers will receive the maps, research results, and management tools to enhance the environmental sustainability of their farms, as well as yield and quality of their coffee. In addition, the partnership will provide support for educational development and foster a community for 40 local leaders.

Starbucks and Earthwatch have worked together on 15 different conservation projects. The partnership spawned expeditions in diverse settings around the world, including Kenya, Belize, and Vietnam. The research at CoopeTarrazú is just one of more than 130 ongoing Earthwatch field research projects. Since the early 1990s, Earthwatch has worked with organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America providing training and networking opportunities in those communities.

“By involving the people in the issues,” said Dr. Marie Studer, chief science officer at Earthwatch, “the joint Starbucks-Earthwatch program not only provides tools and options to the farmers to better manage their farms, but also helps raise awareness in the global community.”

Starting in April, you can enter this year’s sweepstakes at any Starbucks store and win a trip to Costa Rica. There, you will be an integral part of the research effort at CoopeTarrazú. Visit your local Starbucks or visit www.starbucks.com for more information. The customer sweepstakes ends May 13, 2007, with a drawing of 20 winners.

More info at http://www.earthwatch.org


Greener News Room

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8:47 AM

Friday, February 02, 2007

Maps reveal global health inequities

A new set of maps basing the relative size of countries on socio-economic data rather than land area show gross inequalities in global public health.

The innovative maps, published in PLoS Medicine this week (30 January), were developed by the Worldmapper project.

The project aims to show each country sized according to public health variables derived from UN data such as population density, disease distribution and healthcare spending.

By using these variables instead of landmass, the maps give a clearer picture of how health problems affect different parts of the world.

A standard map of global malaria distribution, for example, will show a relatively small area of the world affected by the disease.

But according to Danny Dorling of Sheffield University, who led the study, malaria is "a disease of people, not of land".

The maps illustrate that when populations rather than land area are measured, the resulting map is very different: Africa and South Asia appear vast and the developed world tiny. This picture is reversed when the map is drawn according to public health spending.

Dorling says that the maps "clearly demonstrate that despite advances in technology and exceptional wealth, human inequality and suffering are still a reality".

"You can say it, you can prove it, you can tabulate it, but it is only when you show it that it hits home," says Dorling.

He hopes the maps will be used in educational institutions to provide a perspective of the world distinct from standard projections.

The Worldmapper project completed 365 maps during 2006, including graphic depictions of the number of working medical staff available and the distribution of HIV/AIDS. Next, it aims to map major causes of death based on 2002 estimates from the World Health Organization.

Link to the full paper in PLoS medicine.

Evelyn Harvey
Greener News Room

Related external links: Worldmapper project


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1:39 PM

DOE's renewable energy budgets unveil Monday

WASHINGTON DC -- The Administration will be presenting its FY'08 budget recommendations for all federal programs, including DOE, on Monday - February 5.

This list provides a summary of those 2008 funding levels being proposed. The budgets by various sustainable energy advocacy organizations represent renewable energy and energy efficiency technology programs in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The organizations include:

1.) Biomass Coordinating Council
2.) Geothermal Energy Association
3.) National Hydropower Association
4.) Solar Energy Industries Association
5.) American Wind Energy Association
6.) American Public Power Association
7.) The Stella Group, Ltd.
8.) Solena Group, Inc.
9.) American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
10.) Alliance to Save Energy
11.) U.S. Combined Heat and Power Association
12.) Breakthrough Technologies Institute (and National Hydrogen
13.) National Association of State Energy Officials

Each of the budget recommendations presented below represents the position
of only the individual organization proposing them.

For further information on the justification for the proposed budget
numbers or for details on how the funds could best be spent within each
program account, please contact the corresponding organization.

I.) Biomass Coordinating Council::

BIOFUELS: $700.0 Million

Expanded RDD$D for cellulosic programs and biorefinery grants and loan
guarantee programs

BIOPOWER: $100.0 Million

For technologies to support biofuels plants, government facilities and
public institutions to reduce use of fossil fuels.

CONTACT: William Holmberg, Biomass Coordinating Council, 1629 "K" St.,
NW; Suite 210; Washington DC 20006 202-393-0001, x.7588;

II.) Geothermal Energy Association::

GEOTHERMAL: $75.0 Million

This is consistent with the Energy Policy Act of 2005's directive that
"The Secretary shall conduct a program of research, development,
demonstration, and commercial application for geothermal energy..."

CONTACT: Karl Gawell, Geothermal Energy Association, 209 Pennsylvania
Avenue, S.E.; 2nd floor; Washington, D.C. 20003; 202-454-5264;

III.) National Hydropower Association::

HYDROPOWER: $12.0 Million

To encourage the development and deployment of new emerging hydropower
technologies - ocean wave, tidal and in-stream hydrokinetic - and to
increase capacity at existing facilities through the development and
installation of the "next generation" of hydropower equipment.

CONTACT: Jeff Leahey, National Hydropower Association, 1 Massachusetts
Avenue, N.W.; Suite #850; Washington, D.C. 20001; 202-682-1700;

IV.) Solar Energy Industries Association::




To fund the President's Solar America Initiative, a major new R&D
initiative to achieve cost-competitive solar energy technologies across
all market sectors by 2015.

CONTACT: Noah Kaye, Director of Public Affairs, Solar Energy Industries
Association (SEIA); 805 15th Street NW, Suite 510, Washington, DC 20005;
202-682-0556; nkaye@seia.org

V.) American Wind Energy Association::


Funding would be focused on developing next-generation large wind turbines
as well as research and development for next-generation small wind

CONTACT: Bree A. Raum, American Wind Energy Association, 1101 14th
Street, N.W.; 12th floor; Washington, D.C. 20005202-383-2513;

VI.) American Public Power Association: :


This would fully fund all past and current REPI applicants.

CONTACT: Claude P. Boudrias, American Public Power Association, 2301 "M"
Street, NW Washington, DC 20037; 202-467-2929; cboudrias@appanet.org

VII.) The Stella Group, Ltd.::


A sub-account within the wind budget.


A sub-account within the biomass budget


A sub-account within the solar budget

SOLAR BUILDINGS: $10.0 Million

A sub-account within the solar budget


For technology validation of free-flow hydropower, tidal, wave and ocean
current technologies to be cost-shared by State and local government RD&D

CONTACT: Scott Sklar, The Stella Group, Ltd; 1616 "H" Street, N.W.; 10th
floor; Washington, D.C. 20006-4999; 202-347-2214; solarsklar@aol.com

VIII.) Solena Group, Inc. ::


For loan guarantees for plants gasifying biomass and agricultural wastes
to produce a syngas that can be used in combined cycle to produce
renewable power. This would be a sub-account of the biomass program.

CONTACT: Dennis F. Miller (Chief Scientist and Vice President); Solena
Group, Inc.; 1900 "K" Street, N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20006; 202-682-2405;

IX.) American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy::


With emphasis on advanced materials, hybrid propulsion, and heavy vehicle


With emphasis on appliance standards, emerging technologies, commercial
building integration, and residential building integration


To support sector-specific and cross-cutting RD&D programs.

CONTACT: Bill Prindle (Acting Executive Director), American Council for
an Energy Efficient Economy, 1101 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.; #801;
Washington, D.C. 20036; 202-429-8873 x.710; bprindle@aceee.org

X.) Alliance to Save Energy::


Note: This figure does not include the additional funding needed by the
State Energy Program and Weatherization accounts (see NASEO
recommendations further down).



CONTACT: Lowell Ungar, Alliance to Save Energy, 1850 "M" Street N.W.;
Suite 600; Washington, DC 20036; 202-530-2236; lungar@ase.org

XI.) U.S. Combined Heat and Power Association::


This is consistent with the 2006 authorized level (the Energy Policy Act
of 2005 includes authorization of $730 million for DE over the next three
years). Also shift of major program elements back to the Office of Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy from Office of Electricity Delivery and
Energy Reliability.

CONTACT: Paul Bautista, U.S. Combined Heat and Power Association; 5004
Fort Sumner Drive; Bethesda, MD 20816; 301-320-2505;

XII.) Breakthrough Technologies Institute (and the National Hydrogen
Association) ::


This would bring the program up to the 2006 authorized level (EPAct'05
authorized level for 2008 is $739.5 million for EERE and Science, but not
nuclear and FutureGen).

CONTACT: Bob Rose, Breakthrough Technologies Institute, 1100 "H" Street,
N.W.; Suite 800; Washington, DC 20006-5482; 202-785-4222, ext. 11;


Jerry Hinkle (Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs), National
Hydrogen Association, 1800 "M" St N.W.; Suite 300 North; Washington, DC
20036-5802; 202-261-1307; HinkleJ@HydrogenAssociation.org

XIII.) National Association of State Energy Officials::


The FY'07 authorized level is $100 million.

WEATHERIZATION: $300.0 Million

The authorized level is $600 million.

CONTACT: Jeff Genzer (General Counsel), National Association of State
Energy Officials, c/o Duncan, Weinberg, Genzer & Pembroke, P.C.; 1615 "M"
Street, N.W.; Suite 800; Washington, D.C. 20036; 202-467-6370;

Greener News Room

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12:55 PM

Turns trash into electricity, the little refinery that could

A group of scientists have created a portable refinery that efficiently converts food, paper and plastic trash into electricity.

The machine, designed for the U.S. military, would allow soldiers in the field to convert waste into power and could have widespread civilian applications in the future.

"This is a very promising technology," said Michael Ladisch, the professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University who leads the project. "In a very short time it should be ready for use in the military, and I think it could be used outside the military shortly thereafter."

The "tactical biorefinery" processes several kinds of waste at once, which it converts into fuel via two parallel processes. The system then burns the different fuels in a diesel engine to power a generator. Ladisch said the machine's ability to burn multiple fuels at once, along with its mobility, make it unique.

Roughly the size a small moving van, the biorefinery could alleviate the expense and potential danger associated with transporting waste and fuel. Also, by eliminating garbage remnants - known in the military as a unit's "signature" - it could protect the unit's security by destroying clues that such refuse could provide to enemies.

Researchers tested the first tactical biorefinery prototype in November and found that it produced approximately 90 percent more energy than it consumed, said Jerry Warner, founder of Defense Life Sciences LLC, a private company working with Purdue researchers on the project. He said the results were better than expected.

The U.S. Army subsequently commissioned the biorefinery upon completion of a functional prototype, and the machine is being considered for future Army development.

The tactical biorefinery first separates organic food material from residual trash, such as paper, plastic, Styrofoam and cardboard. The food waste goes to a bioreactor where industrial yeast ferments it into ethanol, a "green" fuel. Residual materials go to a gasifier where they are heated under low-oxygen conditions and eventually become low-grade propane gas and methane. The gas and ethanol are then combusted in a modified diesel engine that powers a generator to produce electricity.

Ladisch and Warner said the machine eventually could be deployed in disaster situations, similar to Hurricane Katrina, or at any crisis location where people are stranded without power. Emergency crews could then use the machine to turn debris such as woodchips into much-needed electricity, Warner said.

The refinery also could provide supplementary power for factories, restaurants or stores, Ladisch said.

"At any place with a fair amount of food and scrap waste the biorefinery could help reduce electricity costs, and you might even be able to produce some surplus energy to put back on the electrical grid," he said.

Much of the fuel the system combusts is carbon-neutral, said Nathan Mosier, a Purdue professor of agricultural and biological engineering involved in the project. Carbon-neutral fuels like ethanol do not cause an appreciable net increase in atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. This is because the fuel releases carbon that has only recently been taken up by plants during photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen and sugars. The same is not true for petroleum, in which the carbon contents were removed from the atmosphere millions of years ago.

The biorefinery generator initially runs on diesel oil for several hours until the gasifier and the bioreactor begin to produce fuel, Warner said. In the initial commissioning test, researchers measured the amount of diesel oil burned and electricity produced to calculate its efficiency.

The machine produces a very small amount of its own waste, Warner said, mostly in the form of ash that the Environmental Protection Agency has designated as "benign," or non-hazardous. Any leftover materials from the bioreactor are put into the gasifier, which has to be emptied every two to three days.

"It's about enough to fill a regular sized trash bag, and it represents about a 30-to-1 volume reduction," Warner said.

Other companies collaborated in this project, including Bowen Engineering of Indianapolis, Huston Electric of Lafayette, Ind., and Community Power Corp. of Littleton, Colo.

Sources:: Michael Ladisch, (765) 494-7022, ladisch@purdue.edu

Jerry Warner, (703) 448-0440, Warner@DLSci.com

Nathan Mosier, (765) 496-2044, mosiern@purdue.edu

Greener News Room


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8:18 AM

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Africa's scientific revolution must start at the roots

If Africa is to build a sustainable science and technology infrastructure, it needs more than enthusiastic promises from heads of state.

Almost thirty years ago, African leaders meeting in the Nigerian city of Lagos promised "to put science and technology in the service of development by reinforcing the autonomous capacity of our countries in this field". Central to this strategy was a pledge that each country would devote one per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to supporting research and development (R&D).

This week (30 January) a virtually identical promise was made by the heads of member countries of the African Union (AU) at their 8th summit meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting heard a series of speeches about the importance of scientific and technological capacity to development — and again finished with a vow to spend one per cent of GDP on R&D.

For president Paul Kagame of Rwanda, one of the most persuasive spokesmen for this strategy, there was at least one positive aspect to watching history repeat itself. The repeat of the Lagos commitment, he said, showed that African leaders and policymakers had "got it right" in 1980 (see 'Turn words into actions' Rwandan president urges).

But, as Kagame himself admitted, Africa has suffered too often from a gap between intentions and reality. If the continent is to create its own scientific and technological revolution, fine words from the top must be complemented by sustainable change implemented from the bottom.

Reasons for failure and optimism

There are many reasons why the 1980 promise has not been achieved. Some of the blame lies heavily on the West, in particular on the 'structural adjustment' policies of lending agencies like the World Bank that forced African countries to reduce spending on public services such as universities and government laboratories.

Other reasons for failure can be found in the civil wars that have since affected much of the continent. In some countries, government spending has been skewed towards costly military technology at the expense of social needs. And regional conflicts have made the stable political and economic environment needed for scientific and technological infrastructure impossible.

Fortunately, and despite continued trouble spots such as Sudan, political stability is now spreading across the continent. Indeed, this is one important reason for optimism that the commitment made in Addis this week — and indeed the growing enthusiasm for science and technology among African governments — will achieve more success than the promises of three decades ago.

Another encouraging note is clear evidence from the summit that African leaders are turning their attention away from a narrow focus on the importance of R&D toward broader concerns over the steps needed across the board to stimulate technological innovation.

But these are insufficient to address a third reason for the previous plan's failure. The earlier political commitment to science- and technology- based development was never fully embedded in 'bottom-up' institutions and initiatives such as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and community self-help groups. These are the lifeblood of economic and social growth and the wellspring of genuine, sustainable innovation.

Fortunately, there were several signs in last week's summit that at least part of this message has been taken on board. For example, AU heads of state gave approval to a 20-year capacity-building strategy for biotechnology that rests heavily not only on national and regional initiatives, but also on active engagement from SMEs and social entrepreneurs (see 'AU endorses biotechnology plan, but not science fund').

Similarly, there was general recognition that extra spending on R&D will only work if it is combined with policies that enable the money to be spent effectively — in financing technical training and supportive regulatory structures, for example. As Kagame said, "it is not just about investment in science and technology, but also about improving the efficiency of this investment".

The need for communication and debate

But last week's meeting also held its disappointments — such as the failure to agree on details of a new and widely anticipated African Science and Innovation Fund. One reason for this is reported to have been difficulty in finding a formula to ensure adequate 'buy-in' from African governments.

This in turn partly reflects the difficulty these governments have in persuading their voting public of the importance of investing in science and technology. Ironically, but perhaps inevitably, much of the public (and media) interest surrounding the summit lay in its launch of the African Year of Football.

The heads of state said little in either their individual presentations or collective conclusions about the need for better communication to the public of scientific and technological information. But without this it will be impossible to create the conditions essential to effectively integrate science and technology into development strategies.

Political leaders' recognition of the need for such integration will, hopefully, increase the chance of that happening. Indeed, for many that was the most important outcome of the AU summit.

But if science is to be as important as football in African cultures, much more is needed. Ideas from across the continent about how this might be achieved are being actively debated in our AU discussion forum. You are invited to join the debate and help to ensure that, in 30 years' time, it will be possible to say that at the 2007 summit, not only did the heads of state "get it right" but the correct actions followed.

David Dickson
Greener News Room


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9:52 PM