I've often posted about cheap and easy solutions to contaminated water in poor countries. This week, I have several more examples of ingenious low-tech water purifiers.
Near Near Future describes a personal water-purifier called the LifeStraw:
LifeStraw, by Torben Vestergaard Frandsen, is a 25 cm long plastic straw/pipe filter which turns dirty water into clean, drinkable water. Sucked up water meets two textile filters that filter out big materials, even clusters of bacteria. Then the water is led into a chamber of iodine impregnated beads, where bacteria, viruses and parasites are killed....The last chamber consists of granulated active carbon, which role is to take the main part of the bad smell of iodine, and to take the parasites that have not been taken by the pre-filter or killed by the iodine.The LifeStraw retains its potency for a year. Another interesting portable purifier relies on a bellows-and-membrane arrangement to filter water.
Of course, these are Western technological devices, which must be manufactured elsewhere and distributed in poor villages. This leaves villagers in a position of utter dependence; if first-world political or economic considerations get in the way of manufacturing or distribution, they're out of luck. That's why real progress is more likely to come from rejecting this technological paradigm, in favor of local, low-tech solutions. Thus, as remarkable as the LifeStraw is, I'm more excited by water filters that can be constructed by anyone, from waste materials like cow dung and coffee grounds:
An Australian inventor claims that a handful of clay, yesterday’s coffee grounds and some cow manure are the ingredients that could bring clean, safe drinking water to much of the third world. The simple new technology, developed by ANU materials scientist Mr Tony Flynn, allows water filters to be made from commonly available materials and fired on the ground using cow manure as the source of heat, without the need for kiln. The filters have been tested and shown to remove common pathogens including E-coli. Unlike other water filtering devices, the filters are simple and inexpensive to make.That was supposed to be it for this week, but I just came upon another bit of water-related good news, this time from WorldChanging:
Oculus Innovative Sciences, a Petaluma, California-based biomedical company, has developed a formulation of "ion-imbalanced, super-oxygenated" water which is able to kill bacteria, viruses and spores, but leave multicellular organisms unharmed. But not untouched -- the super-oxygenated water actually speeds healing of severe burns, diabetic ulcers, even necrotic flesh. The product is called Microcyn, and this week it received "510K" approval from the FDA as a medical device.Reading stories like these, I'm always struck by what an awe-inspiring power it is to be able to alleviate suffering, to heal people. I've never seen a weapons system yet that impressed me half as much as the average ER nurse does. That's why it's so consistently exhilarating to find oneself on the side of real power, no matter who "wins" according to the grubby calculations of dead-eyed political hacks.
Someone recently said, apropos of the Great Men of our era, "They have so much death, but we have so much life." I take this to mean that their power amounts to absolutely nothing. They've already lost the only game worth playing.