For decades, technology has paved the way for treating detrimental illnesses such as HIV and leukemia. While some conditions remain without a cure, therapy and devices have made everyday living more bearable. A Tennessee nature park gave back to its colorblind visitors by installing a special viewfinder.
“To realize, through red/green deficiencies and other forms of colorblindness, there potentially are more than 13 million people in our country alone who cannot fully appreciate the beauty our state has to offer, we wanted to do something about that,” [said Kevin Triplett, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Tourist Development.]
The colorblind-less viewfinders alleviate specific color deficiencies, allowing tourists to marvel at the park. In the fall, trees don an incredible concoction of reds and yellows, a first sight for some.
“I’m glad to have seen it. I just wish I had seen this all my life,” [local Jim] Nichols said through tears. “Kinda like what I would imagine the difference between here and heaven.”
Positive responses from colorblind sightseers had the state installing more viewfinders across other parks. And there you have it — never take your senses for granted. Not everyone can enjoy them the way we do.
It’s been a year of firsts for the railway system — from going solar to launching its fastest model. Pushing its limits even further, China is test-driving its Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit system, which is fully electric and trackless.
ART bears the physical appearance of a train but it doesn’t rely on following a track. Instead, it follows a virtual route using an electric powertrain and tires. It’s expected to function much like an urban train or a tram, but since there’s no investment cost in laying down rails, it should be much cheaper to implement.
The train can only travel 15 kilometers at a time, but can fully recharge in just 10 minutes. Environmentalists will likely tip their hats off to the new system — it’s entirely emissions free! Smoggy China could surely use more sustainable public transport alternatives. Thankfully, its government has been taking other measures to ensure that its locals don’t further experience pollution-caused health issues.
40 percent of China’s factories have been shut down, and authorities are reportedly working on a timetable to end the sale of gas- and diesel-powered cars.
A round of applause for China — sounds fresh!
Step aside, fossil fuels — everyone is going solar. With eco-houses and trains now on the market, we might as well redesign as much as we can into solar. This is where electricity-generating greenhouses are stepping in.
Electricity-generating solar greenhouses utilize Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs), a novel technology that generates electricity more efficiently and at less cost than traditional photovoltaic systems… WSPVs absorb some of the blue and green wavelengths of light but let the rest through, allowing the plants to grow.
In testing a variety of plant species, researchers at UC Santa Cruz found that 80% remained unaffected by changes. The remaining 20%? They actually grew better under the building’s bright magenta windows.
“If greenhouses generate electricity on site, that reduces the need for an outside source, which helps lower greenhouse gas emissions even more,” said [professor Michael] Loik. “We’re moving toward self-sustaining greenhouses.”
The greenhouse uses 5% less water — a success, taking into account that greenhouses occupy 9 million acres of land. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, the system costs 40% less than traditional means. Clearly, percentages have demonstrated a win-win situation for these buildings, which will hopefully bring users 100% satisfaction.
While environmental groups are tackling climate change on a grander scale, startups are handling smaller projects. Though it’s clear that innovations like Off Grid Box and SkyCool are making an impact, change can’t come quickly enough. To assist Pacific islanders displaced by natural disasters, New Zealand hopes to distribute refugee visas.
“There might be a new, an experimental humanitarian visa category for people from the Pacific who are displaced by rising seas stemming from climate change,” [said] James Shaw, New Zealand’s climate change minister… “and it is a piece of work that we intend to do in partnership with the Pacific Islands.”
The country is recovering from the repercussions of denying sanctuary to two deposed Tuvalu families. It seems the 1951 refuge convention, which defines a refugee as someone at risk of persecution, is making room for climate change as a legitimate oppressor.
“The lives and livelihoods of many of our Pacific neighbors are already being threatened and we need to start preparing for the inevitable influx of climate refugees,”
In the coming years, New Zealand will also up its refuge quota to 5,000 per annum. Looks like a storm of change has come.
Rarely does a community experience a surplus of energy — much less clean energy. In fact, rural areas are still depending solely on whatever they can gather from eco-boxes. Germany, on the other hand, may be the first to boast an energy overflow. As it happens, in a single weekend, the country produced enough wind energy to provide households with extra — for free!
[Bloomberg], which tracks daily wind power in Europe, said that over 24 per cent of the EU’s electricity demand was powered by wind on Saturday, the highest per cent ever recorded.
Wind farms amassed an impressive output of 39,409 megawatts altogether. That’s almost equally as shocking as electricity itself. But considering much of Germany’s power grid is wind-generated, everything falls perfectly into place.
Offshore wind accounted for 2.8 per cent of the EU’s electricity demand while onshore wind accounted for 21.8 per cent. Wind represented 61 per cent of electricity demand in Germany.
Good weather may have played a hand in helping Germany strike gold (or air) — but its eco-initiatives surely take the cake.
As the planet is hastily running short of natural resources, communities are looking to waste as an asset. Anything from biochar to human excrement are now staples in energy production. To bring everything together, engineers have created the NEWgenerator, which processes materials found in sewage.
First, the waste is fed into a bioreactor, where anaerobic microorganisms break down the solids and produce biogas.
The methane produced is chemical-free and perfect for cooking and heating. To complete the cycle, USF engineers have also made the most of liquid and solid waste.
The water that passes through is… disinfected with chlorine, and while the end result is probably still not drinkable, it’s clean enough to use to flush the toilets in the block or irrigate crops.
The remainder of the waste can be used as fertilizer. So far, the system is testing waters in India and South Africa. Each device is usable for up to 100 people a day, with future versions projected to reach thousands. Considering that millions are without access to basic amenities, the NEWgenerator is a game-changer for marginalized communities.
Saving cities up to $505 million a year, trees are the underdog we tend to dismiss too often. After planting a record-breaking 66 million trees in 12 hours, Indian volunteers have inspired even greater reforestation attempts. Conservation International is going big, attempting to restore 70,000 acres of the Amazon forest.
“If the world is to hit the 1.2°C or 2°C [degrees of warming] target that we all agreed to in Paris, then protecting tropical forests in particular has to be a big part of that,” [says] M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International.
Stopping the seemingly trivial issue of deforestation can cut up to 37% of carbon emissions. To rehabilitate the Amazon, the group is using the muvuca strategy. This tactic combines over 200 native forest species that have a 90% chance of successful germination.
“With muvuca, the initial outcome is 2,500 species per hectare. And after 10 years, you can reach 5,000 trees per hectare. It’s much more diverse, much more dense, and less expensive than traditional techniques.”
Even better, Conservation International is employing indigenous communities and family farmers. A few million trees have already been planted, and it seems an appetite for change is growing along with them.
The existence of eco-friendly, weather-resistant structures such as Thailand’s bamboo building are evidence that designers are saving the planet. To drive a point, MIT students are embedding irradiated water bottles into cement to make concrete more robust and sustainable.
The research revealed that exposing the plastic to gamma radiation actually made it stronger. The irradiated plastic was then ground into a powder and mixed with cement. The subsequent concrete was up to 20 percent stronger than concrete made without the irradiated plastic.
Engineers found the added plastic (only 1.5% of the concoction) made concrete significantly denser. If you’re skeptical about incorporating the mix into future room renovations, don’t worry — it isn’t radioactive. Furthermore, using plastic will potentially relieve a few dozen landfills.
“Concrete produces about 4.5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,” says [MIT professor Michael] Short. “Take out 1.5 percent of that, and you’re already talking about 0.0675 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a huge amount of greenhouse gases in one fell swoop.”
Environmentalists might campaign for a plastic-free society — but it isn’t the easiest option. Perhaps, now, it’s all about redirecting your waste to where it will be most useful.
With cruelty-free cosmetics flying off shelves, going completely vegan seems the logical next step. The Ocean Frontier Institute in Canada has since developed fish waste nail polish — maybe too adventurous for some. On the tamer end, beauty brand Mented has raised $1 million to create vegan products for women of color.
“Our end goal is that women of color feel prioritized in the world of beauty,” said [co-founder K.J.] Miller. “Women of color were used to being treated as an afterthought. It’s not every day that you’re a priority.”
Mented, short for “pigmented”, is first launching non-toxic nude lippies, then an entire range of eye makeup. The remainder of the fundraised sum will go to hiring personnel and marketing the business.
“We really think we’re onto something here at Mented,” [co-founder Amanda] Johnson said. “Even though women of color have a difficult time raising money, if there’s an underserved market, investors attack it.”
Whether we like to think so or not, racial inequality remains present in many communities. Mented is not only bringing color onto lips, but into a society that may still be stuck in black and white.
China may be home to one of the world’s great wonders, but it’s also housing something far more dangerous — air pollution. It may be cracking down on carbon emissions with air-purifying bicycles and solar farms, but it seems efforts are lacking. A blessing in disguise, damaging factory activity has forced the country to shut down industrial regions to reevaluate environmental laws.
“After all, factories will be better, more sustainable, and more socially responsible after being inspected,” says [Archie Liu of MKT & Associates]. “It’s better for our supply chain. Then we can tell Walmart, Costco, and other retailers of ours that we’re qualified and that everything we make for Americans are environmentally friendly.”
With 40% of Chinese factories at a standstill, economic impact will be harsh — but totally worth it. Chinese tax bureaus will be taking over environmental groups, meaning greater consequences for law-breakers.
“It’s a huge event. It’s a serious event. I think many of us here believe it will become the new normal,” says Michael Crotty, president of MKT & Associates.
Criminal enforcement may sound overbearing, but in a deteriorating planet, may be just what we need.