I am always amazed at how imaginative people can be. The TED.com blog is full of stories and videos of interesting people with amazing things to say; and so are universities. You will find a number of entries on my blog site that are based on something amazing that has been developed for the third world by the folks at MIT. This entry is about an idea originating at Stanford University. I came across it in an article by CBC.CA (Foldscope paper microscope can diagnose malaria, costs 50 cents – Technology & Science – CBC News) that explains how Professor Manu Prakash came to create a microscope made almost entirely out of cardboard that can be used to diagnose a multitude of diseases like sleeping sickness, malaria and schistosomiasis in the developing world where access to laboratory equipment is extremely limited.
Imagine if everyone that contracts one of these debilitating illnesses could be quickly diagnosed and treated! This is the type of story that I love to see because it opens up the mind to all sorts of opportunities.
The original CBC story describes the microscope better than I can, so I won’t go into the details here, but I do also want to post the direct link to Dr. Prakash’s TED talk so that you can see him and his invention. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
I have thought a lot about the vocabulary we use when we speak about issues. Much of the language we use comes to us courtesy of Economists. We speak of consumers or clients rather than citizens. We speak of economic debt and deficit to the exclusion of the discussion of social, cultural, environmental or infrastructure debt and deficits. We speak of healthy economies rather than healthy people, or healthy environments. And we rarely ever focus on important issues like fun or happiness.
This vocabulary poses a number of real problems for us. One very real problem is that if we use economic terms to describe our problems, the solutions we find will be limited to those that offer economic value. This is the old problem where having only a hammer in your tool belt tends to make every problem look like a nail. In the long-term, if we are to really deal with important issues in a constructive way, we have to change the way we speak to reflect our real values. This type of culture change takes time, and, if science is to be believed, we don’t have a lot of time before the chaos starts.
In the meantime, we can at least frame our economic arguments in terms that demonstrate that sustainability is at the heart of long-term economic success, and that is done brilliantly in a TED talk (embedded below) by Chris McKnett from 2013.
Here is an unusual article from CBC about how Amazon.com is making use of Japanese goats to get rid of problem weeds on the company’s Japanese office grounds. Companies don’t always get it right, but when they do, they should get kudos from the rest of us.
Oh, and by the way, goats and sheep aren’t allergic to poison ivy, so they are a great way to get rid of that particularly pesky weed. See this interesting page describing how goats can be very eco-friendly. I am not certain how eco-friendly goats are in times of drought though…I had heard that the very things that make goats eco-friendly from a herbicide perspective can make them less sustainable in times of drought because they tend to denude the landscape, even eating the roots of the plants.
Once again, TED has published a very timely piece on an issue that is becoming huge in the west these days…corruption and its societal costs. Corruption has always been around, but until recently in the west, it was associated with shame and scandal. Now it seems to be so commonplace that we barely even acknowledge it. But the costs of corruption to society are very important and this TEDGlobal talk puts the matter into perspective. definitely worth a read. Thanks TED.
When we talk about corruption, certain types of individuals come to mind, says Charmian Gooch, co-founder of watchdog NGO Global Witness. She gives some familiar examples of the type. There’s the (former) Soviet megalomaniac — such as Saparmurat Niyazov, the all-powerful leader of Turkmenistan, whose indulgences included erecting a 40-foot-high gold-plated statue of himself that rotated to follow the sun. There’s the African minister, dictator or official, such as Teodorin Obiang, son of the president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, where many live in dire poverty despite per capita income comparable to Portugal. Obiang junior owns an 18 million Euro art collection, million-dollar sports cars, a Gulfstream jet, and a $30 million Malibu mansion. Until recently, he was officially earning less than $7,000 a month. Then there’s the former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete — a convicted money launderer.
It’s easy to think of corruption as something that happens “over there,”…
One of my colleagues passed me a link to the trailer for a really interesting movie entitled “A Chemical Reaction”. The documentary was produced by Paul Tukey, an award winning writer about lawn care. He is the founder of the safelawns.org, which is an organization that has as its mission to “To create a broad-based coalition of non- and for-profit organizations committed to educating society about the benefits of environmentally responsible lawn care and gardening, and effect a quantum change in consumer and industry behavior.”
The trailer is for a documentary that features our little neighbour, the town of Hudson Quebec (just East of Ottawa), and how a local doctor there, aided by the mayor and council changed the way that lawns are maintained in Canada and likely around the world.
I can remember when it all all went down, but it was a blast to see the folks that made it happen. I remember that there was concern in the medical community (especially in the holistic medical community) about the safety of lawn care products, and that concern was slowly spreading to the general community. You might remember that, back then, everyone (especially municipalities) dumped tons of chemicals on their lawns each year to make them green and “healthy”. Of course the fact that the resulting monoculture was anything but “healthy” and brought with it serious health effects for many creatures (including people) was only beginning to dawn on most of us. And then, in response to a conserted campaign by a local doctor, the Mayor and council of Hudson Quebec decided to take a stand for the health of people over the “health” of lawns. After 10 years of legal battles that ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada, brave little Hudson prevailed and the Court affirmed the right of municipalities to have by-laws that ban the use of chemicals for lawn care.
Anyway, I have only seen the trailer for this documentary, but I found it to be very engaging and compelling. The full film is available on DVD for private or public viewing. The full film is $19.95 to purchase for private viewing and is available for screening at a higher cost. I am considering buying a personal copy so that I can write a better review in the future, but at 3 minutes and 44 seconds, you will not be wasting your time if you decide to look at the trailer.
You may think it a bit of a stretch to link exercise to the environment, but I think it is pretty appropriate. What got me thinking about it was an article on CBC.ca that pointed to the following YouTube video. I hope that after watching the video you agree with me.
The video is by Toronto’s Dr. Mike Evans and as CBC’s article pointed out, it has gone viral on YouTube (it has now had over 1.6M hits). Both the video and the article about it on CBC.ca refer to the health benefits of exercise for all of what ails you (hence the name “magic pill”). The video is reminiscent of the videos on the “Story of Stuff” channel on YouTube. While doctor Evans makes his very compelling argument in favour of exercising at least 30 minutes a day (and he notes that more is better to a limit) he draws images on a whiteboard that capture your attention and make you want to listen to the message. I am not certain if he is any way associated with the Story of Stuff people, but the style of drawing and the humourous and interesting facts he injects into the discussion sure remind me of their excellent environmental pieces.
What interested me most was the fact that even the most moderate exercise (only 11 minutes per day) provided a huge benefit to many of the body’s critical systems. The first 30 minutes of exercise seems to get you the biggest bang for your sweat buck. After 30 minutes the benefits accrue in decreasing amounts, but they still accrue.
Want to find out what sorts of problems you can alleviate with the magic pill of exercise? Take 6 minutes and watch the video. You won’t regret the investment in time… I sure didn’t. You will instantly see why it went viral. Send a link to the video on to your loved ones.
Oh, what was the tie in to the environment you ask? Well, if you are walking, running or cycling everywhere, you aren’t burning fossil fuels, and I think we can all agree that lowering your carbon footprint benefits the environment.
As a final postscript, remember to keep checking back to the “Story of Stuff” channel to see if they have added anything new. Their environmental stuff is fantastic and it is great for all ages.
And thanks again to CBC.ca for providing me with another excellent learning experience.