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Monday, July 30, 2007

Crowd farming

Need help paying your power bill, throw a party and invite a few thousand friends.

No, we don’t recommend hitting your guests up for a donation but if 2 MIT grad students have their way, large venue events such as concerts and sporting matches may one day power their attractions with the aid of “Crowd Farming.”

Envisioned by James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk, both students at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning, the “Crowd Farm” would turn the mechanical energy of people walking or jumping into a source of electricity. Their proposal took first place in the Japan-based Holcim Foundation's Sustainable Construction competition this year.

The technology used in for instance Boston's South Station railway terminal could be implemented by placing a responsive sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly under the force of human steps. The slippage of the blocks against one another as people walked would then generate power through the principle of the dynamo, a device that converts the energy of motion into that of an electric current.

The Crowd Farm is not intended for home use. According to Graham and Jusczy, a single human step can only power two 60W light bulbs for one flickering second. But get a crowd in motion, multiply that single step by 28,527 steps, for example, and the result is enough energy to power a moving train for one second.

The students' test case, displayed at the Venice Biennale and in a train station in Torino, Italy, was a prototype stool that exploits the passive act of sitting to generate power. The weight of the body on the seat causes a flywheel to spin, which powers a dynamo that, in turn, lights four LEDs.

"People tended to be delighted by sitting on the stool and would get up and down repeatedly," recalls Graham.

Other people have developed piezo-electric (mechanical-to-electrical) surfaces in the past, but the Crowd Farm has the potential to redefine urban space by adding a sense of fluidity and encouraging people to activate spaces with their movement.

"Our intention was to think of it not as a high-tech mat that would be laid down somewhere, but to really integrate it into a new sort of building system," Graham says.

The students were inspired in part by an "ingenious device invented by Thomas Edison. When visitors came to his house, they passed through a turnstile that pumped water into his holding tank," says Graham.

Greener Magazine


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1:00 PM

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Iraqi refugee crisis

Mourning the death of her daughter, wounded and living by charity in neighboring Syria, 46 year old Iraqi refugee Iman Abdul-Rahim asks America to help refugees like herself and her family in what Refugees International calls the world's fastest growing displacement crisis"

Photo: Scotsman.com Since 9/11, the U.S. Congress has appropriated $610 billion dollars in war-related money. With inflation figured in, that's roughly the same amount spent over the full 16 years of the Vietnam War. The Iraq War alone has cost the U.S. $450 billion dollars.

And what about the cost to the Iraqi people? In addition to civilian casualties, since 2003 hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been forced to flee their war-torn country to nearby neighboring countries--countries that either don't want them or can't take care of them.

Greener Magazine

Listen nowOn this edition, correspondent Dahr Jamail takes us to the streets of Damascus, Syria where we hear from the Iraqi refugees themselves and the organizations trying to assist them.


Eman Abdul Rahid, Iraqi woman whose arm was broken in a car bomb; Adhem Mardini, UNHCR public information officer, Damascus office; Abu Noor, teacher; Omar Jassim, laborer; Rathman Shakr, former detainee and torture survivor; Adnan, ex-Army officer; Dr. Omar Al-Khattab, young Iraqi doctor; Sarrah, student of dentistry; Hummam al-Mukhtar, 17 year old Iraqi student; Hussam, 22 year old Iraqi student; Adel Al-Jabbah, Amir Alaby and Abdel Aziz, Syrian shop owners.

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Contributing Freelance Producer: Dahr Jamail
Mixing Engineer: Phillip Babich
Interns: Samson Reiny and Puck Lo

For more information::

Refugee International
1705 N Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
202-828-0110; ri@refintl.org

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
+41 22 739 8111 (automatic switchboard)

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
PO Box 372
CH-1211 Geneva 19
+41 22 730 42 22

New York Delegation to the U.N. International Federation
800 Second Avenue
Suite 355, 3rd floor
New York, NY 10017

(U.N. based humanitarian news agency for excellent reports and updates on the refugee crisis)

Dahr Jamail's MidEast Dispatches:


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12:44 PM

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gulf Coast reconstruction in the post reconstruction era

Wander through New Orleans' historic French Quarter today and you might believe the revival of the city after Hurricane Katrina's destruction is complete. Restaurants, shops, hotels and clubs are up and running. Almost miraculously, it seems all is back to normal.

But no miracle has been performed here. Walk outside the French Quarter and you will see an American city and its people largely abandoned by its government and left in near total disrepair, struggling to reclaim some semblance of order and normal life.

On this edition, we will hear from four people speaking at the U.S. Social Forum. They are working to rebuild and strengthen their damaged communities.

Listen nowFeaturing::

Uyen Le, National Alliance of Vietnamese American Service Agencies Community Development Fellow; Sharon Hanshaw, Coastal Women for Change Executive Director; Viola Washington, People¹s Hurricane Relief Fund and the Welfare Rights Organization; Daniel Castellanos, Alliance of Guest Workers for Dignity and Workers Center for Racial Justice Organizer.

Greener Magazine

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Interns: Samson Reiny and Puck Lo
Mixing Engineer: Mike Lamar

For more information::

National Alliance of Vietnamese American Service Agencies
1010 Wayne Avenue, Suite 310
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-587-2781; navasa@navasa.org

Coastal Women for Change
336 Rodenburg Avenue
Biloxi, MS 39531

People's Hurricane Relief Fund
1418 N. Claiborne, Suite 2
New Orleans, LA 70116
504-301-0215; info@peopleshurricane.org

New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice & Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity
803 Baronne Street
New Orleans, LA 70113

The New Orleans Worker Justice Coalition

Loyola Workplace Justice Project
Loyola University New Orleans
College of Law
7214 St. Charles Ave., Box 901
New Orleans, LA 70118
504-861-5550; molina@loyno.edu

National Day Laborer Organizing Network

United States Social Forum


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9:27 AM

Saturday, July 14, 2007

War on democracy

"I don't care if they [the private media] call me names… As Don Quixote said, 'If the dogs are barking, it is because we are working.'" Hugo Chavez President: Venezuela

A new feature film, The War on Democracy by Australian journalist John Pilger, currently showing in the UK, but noticably not in the US takes issue with American foreign policy over the past 5 decades since the end of the WW II.

From America's entry into the Asian arena and Viet Nam to our current involvement in Iraq, Pilgers examines US foreign involvment from the perspective of other nation states and people and emerges with a very different view of US partitocracy.

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11:09 AM

Friday, July 13, 2007

Swords into ploughshares

"Snarewear" jewelry, successfully changing the lives and fortunes of poachers in Zambia ensuring the survival of species threatened with extinction.

Reformed poacher Thomson Tembo, Zambia, proudly models a necklace made from snare wire.Photo: Julie Larsen Maher (WCS)You may not see them in midtown Manhattan boutiques yet, but the latest rage in certain rural villages in Zambia is a line of necklaces, bracelets and other jewelry made from a one-of-a-kind material: wire snares once used to illegally catch wildlife. Called “Snarewear,” the handmade jewelry is the latest in a line of products sold by a growing band of reformed poachers, all of whom have joined a highly successful sustainable farming co-op designed in Zambia’s rural Luangwa Valley.

The co-op, known as COMACO (Community Markets for Conservation), is a voluntary program designed by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, that allows poachers to turn in firearms and snares in exchange for training in organic farming methods, bee-keeping, gardening, carpentry, and now, jewelry making. So far, over 40,000 snares, along with 800 firearms have been turned in. Many products are sold in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, and outlying towns under the brand name “It’s Wild!” (http://www.itswild.org/). Last year the program grossed over $350,000 in sales and has attracted over 35,000 members since its inception in 2002. The Wildlife Conservation Society estimates that it has saved thousands of animals from poaching, including elephants, lions and leopards.

Snare wire jewelry is an idea that COMACO director Dale Lewis of the Wildlife Conservation Society proposed to a Zambian jewelry designer, Misozi Kadewele. Faced with many hundreds of yards of confiscated snares left to rust in storage, Lewis decided to see if they could be transformed into something more useful.

“Snarewear is wearable art with a mission,” said Lewis. “Necklaces, bracelets, earrings and decorative pieces not only make a fashion statement, but a statement for conservation as well.”

Misozi uses seeds from local plants and trees incorporated with snare wire that she has handpicked from large bags of the tangled material. She employees several other local people to complete her creative team. It takes one person one day to complete a necklace, the group can produce five if they collaborate.

Completed snare wire jewelry and pieces are for sale at the regional Mfuwe Airport in Zambia, where tourists from around the world pass through to see wildlife in South Luangwa National Park. However, plans are already underway to expand sales via the Internet, though, as Lewis likes to point out: “Supplies are hopefully limited as snares will become a thing of the past in Zambia.”

Greener Magazine


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2:29 PM

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tour of duty

Photo: Sarah Olson As the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq enters its fifth year, a group of veterans load onto school buses in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and head south. They are off to talk with soldiers, not about fighting war but about stopping war. So what happens when soldiers talk to soldiers about the Iraq War?

On this edition, Making Contact's Sarah Olson brings us along for the ride. We meet the veterans who spent a week traveling to military base towns throughout the south, and we hear from people they encountered along the way.


Listen nowRicky Clousing, former sergeant in the Army's 82nd airborne division, Ft. Bragg;Sandy Kelson, in the Army between 1963 and 1966 and member of Veterans for Peace; Cherie Eichholz, staff member at Veterans for Peace, organizer behind convoy; Pat Tate and Bill Hill, bus drivers for convoy and Vietnam veterans; Lori Tinsley, mother of Specialist Logan Tinsley, Captain Ben Gatskey,Private First Class Ryan Fullan and anonymous woman, Ft. Stewart soldiers; Kevin and Monica Benderman, conscientious objector and his wife; MyEsha Johnson and Shellaya Johnson, Mayport Naval Station; Al Zappala, member of convoy, war veteran, son killed in action.

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Freelance Producer: Sarah Olson
Interns: Puck Lo, Alexis McCrimmon and Samson Reiny

Greener Magazine

For more information::

Veterans for Peace
216 South Meramec Ave.
St. Louis MO 63105
314-725-6005; fax: 314-725-7103; vfped@veteransforpeace.net

Iraq Veterans Against the War
P.O. Box 8296
Philadelphia, PA 19101
215-241-7123; fax: 215-241-7177; ivaw@ivaw.org

Appeal for Redress
PO Box 53052
Washington, DC 20009-3052
360-241-1414; fax: 360-694-8843; info@appealforredress.org


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12:41 PM

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Deadly extractions: oil and mining interests in Africa

"In August 1996, Sutton's bulldozers, backed by military police firing weapons, rolled across the goldfield, smashing down worker housing, crushing their mining equipment. ... About 50 miners were still in their mine shafts, buried alive." BBC Correspondent Greg Palast - Bush Family Fortunes.

On the fourth anniversary of the President's visit to Africa we thought it would be appropriate to take another look at that moment in time at the Bulyanhulu Gold Mine and compare it to the present in order to examine what, if anything has changed since then with regard to the developed world's approach to globalization and the welfare of Africa's "mineral poor".

Mining has been a major source of income and development for much of Africa. At the same time mining projects are increasingly linked to serious environmental and social concerns. There is tremendous potential to harness Africa's mineral resources as a means of developing the continent's economy, yet there are notable differences in the efficacy of particular mining projects and regional development plans.

When President Bush made a one-week tour of the African continent in early July 2003 the U.S. public heard a lot about human suffering and conflict there. The tragic AIDS epidemic and the toll of bloody wars are critical issues that should be examined in-depth. Yet, one key component seemed to be missing from the coverage: multinational corporate interests and their effects on people in African nations.

On this edition of Making Contact, we take a look at some examples: In Tanzania a Canadian-based corporation is accused of burying alive artisan miners in order to acquire control of a gold mine; and, the drive for oil has sparked political and social upheavals in Sudan and Angola.

Greener Magazine


Nyang Chol, a senior official with RAS, the humanitarian wing of the rebel SPDF faction in Sudan; Leslie Lefkow, a human rights specialist with Doctors Without Borders; Sam Ibok, director of political Affairs with the African Union; Phillipe Gaspar, a 13 year-old Angolan refugee; Chantal Uwimana, Africa programme officer for Transparency International; Gregor Binkert, resident country representative for the World Bank in Chad; Ongar Lassie Yorongar, a leading political figure in Chad; Tundu Lissu, a Tanzanian human rights attorney; Investigative journalist Greg Palast, author of "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy."

For more information::

Transparency International
+49 30 343820 0

Lawyers' Environmental Action Team

Greg Palast, BBC reporter and author of "Armed Madhouse" and "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" http://www.gregpalast.com/

Sutton, acquisition of Barrick Gold Corporation, Canada


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10:52 PM

Friday, July 06, 2007

Design for the Other 90%

In May 2007, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum opened “Design for the Other 90%,” an exhibition in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden that highlights the growing trend among designers to develop solutions that address basic needs for the vast majority of the world’s population not traditionally serviced by professional designers.

Woman examines woven portable light mat - Photo: Stanford Richins

The exhibition features more than 30 works that demonstrate how design can be a dynamic force in transforming and, in many cases, actually saving lives. “Design for the Other 90%” on view May 4 through Sept. 23, 2007, explores the variety of affordable and socially responsible objects designed for the more than five billion people across the globe (90 percent of world’s total population of 6.5 billion) who often lack the means to purchase even the most basic goods.

The exhibition features design solutions for the poor and marginalized people around the world, including the LifeStraw, a mobile personal water purification tool, and furniture made from hurricane debris made available through the Katrina Furniture Project, which works to rebuild the economic and social capabilities in New Orleans.

“By showcasing the work of designers using their skills and ingenuity to produce architectural and design solutions that really affect quality-of-life issues, Cooper-Hewitt will raise awareness of the critical need for humanitarian design,” said Director Paul Warwick Thompson.

Organized by exhibition curator Cynthia E. Smith, the exhibition is divided into sections focusing on water, shelter, health, sanitation, education, energy and transportation and highlights objects developed to empower global populations surviving under the poverty level or recovering from a natural disaster.

Among the featured objects in the exhibition:

  • The Pot-in-Pot Cooler, a storage container that doubles the amount of crop saved while extending its shelf life
    The Big Boda Load Carrying Bicycle, which can easily carry hundreds of pounds of cargo or two additional passengers at a substantially lower cost than other forms of human-powered utility vehicles
  • MoneyMaker Pumps, which families can use to irrigate fruits and vegetables during the dry season, allowing greater crop yields year-round; and
  • Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child project, an inexpensive, universal laptop computer to be used as an educational tool for children.
“Design for the Other 90%” focuses on the design world’s response to the devastation caused by natural as well as man made disasters.

LifeStraw, Photo: © 2005 Vestergaard Frandsen The exhibit also features examples of shelters used throughout the world, including Global Village Shelters, which are used as temporary homes and rural clinics; Mad Housers Huts, built by volunteers to house the homeless; Day Labor Station, a mobile worker center; and the Seventh Ward Shade Structure, providing a gathering place for planning reconstruction efforts while the Porch Cultural Center in New Orleans is being rebuilt.

There is also a garden with a low-cost drip irrigation system on display, which reduces water use by 30 to 70 percent while increasing yields by more than 50 percent by extending the growing season.

“Design for the Other 90%” recognizes the growing urgency for designers to develop affordable and sustainable solutions that address basic necessities such as shelter, food, drinking water and sanitation for a majority of the world’s population. “Ninety-five percent of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10 percent of the world’s customers,” said Dr. Paul Polak, president of International Development Enterprises and a member of the exhibition’s advisory council. “Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90 percent,” he added.

Greener Magazine


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12:49 PM