Researchers have created a simple and more cost effective way to filter water that could revolutionize the way people access clean water around the world.
At a conference, Rohit Karnik found himself fascinated by a scientist’s description of how sap flows through trees. He realized that the way that trees have evolved to prevent air bubbles from forming and blocking their circulatory system might be an effective way of filtering out microscopic pathogens from drinking water.
Karnik and a team that includes a high school teacher and a high school student reported the details last week in the journal PLoS ONE of a water filter that might be effective, cheap, and biodegradable.
“Today’s filtration membranes have nanoscale pores that are not something you can manufacture in a garage very easily,” Karnik says. “The idea here is that we don’t need to fabricate a membrane, because it’s easily available. You can just take a piece of wood and make a filter out of it.”
“There is a community of people who do look at sap flow and drying in plants because it’s obviously important, but that community doesn’t intersect with the water purification community,” Karnik, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told Boston in an interview. “They are thinking about how plants work and not how we can use plants to accomplish something else.”
Trees have a tissue inside called xylem that transports sap. The hardwood at the center of the tree is old, dried xylem that has filled in with resins. But in the outer layer of the tree and in new growth is the xylem that transports sap.
Trees use a structure of channels similar to pipes, connected by a membrane that allows fluid through but blocks out small particles or air bubbles.
“Plants have had to figure out how to filter out bubbles but allow easy flow of sap,” Karnik observes. “It’s the same problem with water filtration where we want to filter out microbes but maintain a high flow rate. So it’s a nice coincidence that the problems are similar.”
To see if it really worked the way he thought, he created a simple setup using sapwood from pine trees on private land in Massachusetts. He peeled the bark off a pine branch and took the sapwood underneath containing the xylem into a tube. He then sent a stream of water containing tiny particles through the tube and showed that the wood filter removed them.
“We also flowed in bacteria and showed we could filter out bacteria using the xylem,” he says. Karnik estimates the xylem removed 99.9 percent of the bacteria.
“There’s huge variation between plants,” Karnik says. “There could be much better plants out there that are suitable for this process. Ideally, a filter would be a thin slice of wood you could use for a few days, then throw it away and replace at almost no cost. It’s orders of magnitude cheaper than the high-end membranes on the market today.”
The wood filter they tested would be able to cleanse about four liters of water a day.
“We would like to see this developed further, so we are seeking funding to develop this into filtration devices,” Karnik said. “We did not file for a patent. I just felt one shouldn’t patent something that’s so universal, but I think that how do we process xylem or how do we make filters out of it—that’s where I think there’s a lot of potential to develop this technology.”
Scientists Find Natural Water Filter in Tree Branches
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a natural water filtration system inside the branches of a sapwood white pine tree.
Adidas To Produce 11 million Parley Shoes From Ocean Plastic
Plastic pollution and improper waste disposal is a global nightmare, and it’s incredibly challenging to resolve. It could be anywhere; forests, communities, and the most profound of the oceans are already contaminated and disturbed.
Today’s headlines are filled with animals choked to death by plastic and garbage, especially those in the oceans. The waves and shores on most beaches contain wastes, floating bottles, single-use plastics, and the like. This trash is human-made, and it is just right that humans should resolve it.
It is an obvious issue that people do not want to face and talk about these issues because of guilt and shame. Years from now, the place we live in, the beaches we love, and the forests where we find lasting peace won’t be the same as it was the last time we checked on them. Our environment and natural resources suffer from the problem we have made.
There are a lot of movements and organizations pushing ocean clean-ups, proper waste disposal education, plastic elimination, and many more. The little efforts we do is an excellent start and will make a significant impact on the environment.
But, the big question is, what happens to the garbage we collected? How can we transform trash into something useful and environment-friendly?
Adidas announced its commitment to help reduce ocean plastic waste by creating 11 million pairs of new shoes out of plastic collected from the waters and beach sides around the planet.
This idea came from Cyrill Gutsch an activist designer who thought of developing a better and faster work on plastic and garbage that are always seen alongside beaches—where people run, jog, and rest.
The organization’s move to put work on these is not just a part of putting up awareness and educational programs on trash, but creating something out of nothing and transforming waste into something valuable.
This move will establish work for production and gain more out of the trash people get to pass by daily. The organization’s partnership with Adidas is a smart way of “marketing” cleaner beaches and oceans rather than imposing something people cannot cope up.
The power that fashion (and footwear) has is a robust platform to make people move faster in helping with this global issue, says Gutsch. Aside from this, people get to learn the importance and value of things that are around them, he added.
Through fashion and social media along with influential endorsers who are known around the world, it is easier to communicate with people from different parts of the globe. It becomes a trend in which people believe in too and never argue about.
It’s about time that we get a new perspective on saving our planet and earning from the human-made trash that has been disrupting the way we live. Since environmentalism started, it was all about “protesting and warning”—a good insight from Gutsch—and it was never enough to push people to their limits to help change the world on plastic-use and garbage disposal. People continued to do the same thing over and over again.
The product idea from Gutsch and the decision to turn ocean plastic wastes into materials used for Adidas’ athletic garments, is a scientific and creative level of art, he says. This initiative is a better way to actually “spread awareness” about the problem.
Parley shoes by Adidas started in the year 2017 and produced over 1 million pairs since its introduction. In 2018, they were able to make 5 million of environmentally-centric shoes made out of Parley’s ocean plastic.
However, trash is way more than the millions of shoes produced and has been adding up every single day. This fact is a sad truth that people have to face today. As ugly as it sounds, this is the hope environmentalists need to convince everyone that this is a significantly impacting issue that we all should do something and be part of the solution.
It’s not about how many Parley shoes Adidas can produce and perhaps when other shoe companies join the force, but it’s still about how people
Twitter Blasts Lonely Planet For Inaccurate Video Of Philippine Tourist Spot
If there is something that Filipino citizens are incredibly proud of, it is their cultural heritage and their breathtaking tourist destinations. One of the most popular among the different world-class spots is the Banaue Rice Terraces located in the mountainous Cordillera region.
The world was struck in awe over the beauty of the thousand-years-old man-made rice terraces including the travel guide Lonely Planet. However, yesterday, the travel website is in hot water after they published a video that claimed the Chinese built the famous tourist spot.
In the video released by the Lonely Planet was a feature on the “world’s greenest places.” It claimed that “these mud-walled terraces were first built around 2000 years ago by the Chinese.” Since netizens took notice of the video and the inaccuracy in its content, the company has taken it down from its Facebook page. Nonetheless, screenshots were still taken by users.
As expected, Filipino fumed with what they call was a “lie” and “an attempt to credit everything to the Chinese.” A Twitter user schooled the travel guide company with some Philippine history.
“The earliest recorded Chinese contact to the Philippines was in 982 AD. The Banaue Rice Terraces was built by Filipino indigenous people 2000 years ago. Get your facts straight.”
Following the post of Jose Ruperto Martir, which is the first time that the inaccurate content was noticed, Lonely Planet thanked the poster and said that they would take a look into it.
“Thank you for flagging this; we’ll share this with our editors who’ll take a further look into it. We’ll share updates/action points on this thread.”
Nonetheless, many Filipinos were disappointed by the mishap. A user replied to the post made by Lonely Planet in response to the post of Martir said:
“I have been watching Lonely Planet (fave host: Ian Wright) since I was a kid with my family. This is an utter disappointment!”
She also raised the concern of misinformation and the idea that it may also have happened in the past – creating a dent to the reputation of the company.
“I’m worried about the misinformation you may have made in the past. What were your sources that states the Chinese built our gorgeous Banaue Rice Terraces?”
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the terraces are an “outstanding example of an evolved, living cultural landscape that can be traced as far back as two millennia ago in the pre-colonial Philippines.
Filipinos are well aware of this fact as it is one of the most basic lessons Filipino children learn in school. That is why many netizens questioned the Lonely Planet for the source of their claims.
“There are rice terraces in China. Maybe they mistook them as one and the same? Fact check fails,” a Twitter user said.
“You’ve got an error in your research studies,” another one added.
The UNESCO’s website reveals that the Banaue Rice Terraces, dubbed as the “Eighth Wonder of The World” were “all the product of the Ifugao ethnic group, a minority community that has occupied these mountains for thousands of years.”
“The Ifugao Rice Terraces are the priceless contribution of Philippine ancestors to humanity. Built 2000 years ago and passed on from generation to generation, the Ifugao Rice Terraces represent an enduring illustration of an ancient civilization that surpassed various challenges and setbacks posed by modernization,” UNESCO further noted.
Amid the faux pas and the taking down of the inaccurate video, netizen’s eagle eyes were still able to spot the same inaccurate information in Lonely Planet’s website. On its website, Lonely Planet wrote of the rice terraces: “World Heritage listed, they’re impressive not only for their chiseled beauty but because they were introduced around 2000 years ago by the Chinese.”
The page is still up as of writing.
Because of the disappointment caused by the website and the video from Lonely Planet, netizens from the Philippines demanded an apology to the Ifugao people. They have also sought the help of the current Secretary of the Department of Tourism to respond to Lonely Planet’s inaccurate statements and misrepresentation of Filipino cultural heritage. /apr
[OpEd] Earth Hour Will Not Solve The Climate Crisis; But That’s Not What It Is About
The world will once again be enveloped with darkness as it celebrates the annual Earth Hour on April 30, 2019, in 180 countries across the globe. Houses, buildings, and businesses will be turning off their lights in solidarity to the grassroots movement that aims to raise awareness on environmental problems and promote energy conservation.
Earth Hour, a campaign born in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, is probably one of the biggest grassroots campaigns for the environment that inspires individuals and organizations to take tangible climate actions for over a decade. The movement was WWF’s program that focuses on raising awareness and stimulating conversations on why nature matters. The campaign has seen tremendous bearing from civil societies and government with millions of global supporters turning their lights off for an hour.
From the Eifel Tower to the Sydney Opera House, and the Empire State Building to Burj Khalifa, thousands of global landmarks have switched off their lights in support of the movement, and encourage individuals to take their part in protecting the environment in their little ways.
“On one hand we have the moral responsibility to live in harmony with nature; on the other nature is vitally important to everyone’s daily lives: we depend on it for the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink, and so much more. But we are pushing the planet to the limit and nature is severely under threat,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.
“Earth Hour 2019 is a powerful opportunity to start an unstoppable movement for nature to help secure an international commitment to stop and reverse the loss of nature – a New Deal for Nature and People as comprehensive and ambitious as the global climate deal,” he added.
Nonetheless, the impact of switching off lights for one hour is very meager and insignificant. It does not resolve the power and environmental problems that the world is facing in this day and age. The global climate crisis is so massive that even if all lights be turned off for an hour every year, nothing tangible will actually happen.
While the insignificance of the impact of Earth Hour and other grassroots campaigns like the rising movement to end single-use plastic cannot be denied, it is also necessary to understand why these campaigns have started and what they are trying to achieve in the first place.
In grass roots environmental campaigns that are targeted towards individuals to encourage them to participate in climate action, the message that they send is far more important than the pragmatic impacts of their activities. Needless to say, grassroots climate movements have successfully opened the gates for global acknowledgment that these problems exist and we should do something about it before everything’s too late.
Sustainability movements are deemed inconsequential by critics, but they proved to be gateways to more sustainable practices. In the recent campaign for the use of metal straws following the alarming plastic pollution in the Earth’s water systems, many criticized that metal straw won’t stop people from using plastic straws because it’s a cheaper and more convenient alternative to metal and bamboo straws.
And they might be right. Metal straws won’t solve the plastic problem, but the mere fact that conversations are happening because of them is a massive win for the movement. The discussion borne from the metal straw trend has reached multinational companies and pressured them to implement changes in their business practices.
Nevertheless, the fight for environmental sustainability is still a long battle ahead. Amid the loud call for corporate social responsibility, many members of the corporate universe seem to be pretending to have deaf ears. Oil giants, among other multinational corporations, have been spending millions of dollars on lobbying for environmentally problematic policies and on stopping laws that may compromise their businesses. And when business and money talks, everyone listens – including legislators.
This is why grassroots movements are essential. They are the ones that create the conversation that will pressure the government and the corporate sector to affect change in policy. The more that these campaigns reach and touch people’s hearts, the more that the calls to end corporate enslavement of the environment become screams that echo fervently.
The fight for the environment is not for ourselves; but for the future generations to see the beauty of our home as we know it. Let’s do our part to make Earth a conducive planet for our grandchildren and their grandchildren to thrive and prosper in. Switching your lights off on Saturday is a small thing, but it creates huge waves of hope and solidarity. /apr
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