Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

Cambodian farmers are benefiting from organic farming techniques:

[A] sizable number of small-scale farmers in the Kingdom of Cambodia are not leaping into today's chemically dependent monocultures. Rather, they're using intelligent low-tech to take them straight to what many believe should become the norm of the future -- modern, high-yield, organic farming.

About 50,000 farm families in 15 of Cambodia's 20 provinces are learning to double and triple their yields and diversify their harvests without the high-cost, high-risk chemical and mechanical inputs found on most modern farms almost everywhere else.
Also in Cambodia, the Khmer Software Initiative aims to create open-source software adapted to the local language and economy:
We believe that in order to enter a digital world without forfeiting its culture, a country must do it by using software in its own language. Software in a foreign language exacerbates the digital divide, makes basic computer training difficult and expensive, closes computer-using jobs to people with little economic resources, impoverishes local culture, and blocks computer-based government processes, as the local language script cannot be used in databases.
Link via Allison Randall, who also discusses, “a non-profit organisation focused on the localisation, or translation, of Open Source software into South Africa's 11 official languages.”

Speaking of appropriate technology, Village Earth has joined Appropedia to create the largest world's largest open-source clearinghouse for information on sustainable and low-tech solutions.

Eritrea has banned female circumcision. Wonderful news, but let's hope they back the ban up with education, instead of relying on punitive measures.

Mexico may legalize abortion, instead of turning a blind, hypocritical eye to back-alley procedures and self-induced miscarriages:
The debate now roiling Mexico would have been nearly unthinkable a decade ago, proponents of the law say. The topic was so taboo that the church once excommunicated actresses and television producers for bringing it up in a soap opera.

“People are talking about abortion openly for the first time in Mexico,” said Lilian Sepúlveda, a lawyer with the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights who tracks the issue in Latin America. “It is historic.”
A simple operation could prevent many maternal deaths in Africa:
Teaching doctors in Africa a low-tech operation to cut the cartilage of the symphysis pubis could save the lives of women in obstructed labor and their babies, according to an Essay in the open access journal PLoS Medicine.
Echidne reports that Wal-Mart has signed on to Planned Parenthood's contraceptive policy, and has accordingly announced that all its stores will stock OTC and emergency birth control, and provide it to customers
...without discrimination (no harassment or lectures), without delay, without judgment or regard for the number of refills prescribed or, in the case of OTC products requested.
Pam Spaulding continues her interview with Joe Murray, former attorney and columnist for the hard-right American Family Association, who has come out in favor of gay rights:
Look, there is no need to see gays as the enemies; such a view is not healthy. I used to believe that gays were part of a grand cultural conspiracy, out to replace the Christian culture, but found this to be untrue.

For the most part, gays want exactly what I want — a family, respect, happiness, the right to follow their dreams. Is this too much to ask? Would granting these rights shred our cultural fabric? Surely not.
If someone like Murray can overcome his prejudices, it’s quite possible that the rest of us can learn to see people where we once saw enemies.

Speaking of which, Atrios applauds Republican Governor Charlie Crist:
Florida's clemency board has worked out a deal with Gov. Charlie Crist to allow most felons released from prison to have their voting and other civil rights restored.

Under a rule approved Thursday, all but the most violent felons would avoid the need to get on a long list for a hearing before the board, which sometimes takes years.
A Washington man has apparently managed to power his house with a backyard hydrogen cell:
In 2004, they started rigging up a Rube Goldberg contraption that uses solar panels and electrolyzers to generate hydrogen and allows Web-based monitoring of its proton-exchange-membrane fuel cell. In late 2006, a bemused but impressed inspector granted state approval. Now the system, which they built for around $50,000, taps any surplus solar electricity to fill a 500-gallon hydrogen fuel tank, enough reserve for about 14 days’ worth of power (a second tank can be added to double that capacity).
Not content with having invented the Internets, Al Gore is working on an overhaul of the electric grid:
Using the momentum of his Oscar-winning documentary on global warming, Gore is advocating a decentralized "smart grid" that would allow anyone to set up their own generator and buy or sell surplus electricity without caps.

Such an "Electranet" would eliminate the need for new-generation plants, spark widespread use of renewable energy and, ultimately, beat back global warming.
There are obstacles, of course:
"Anything that improves efficiency becomes a business problem," Yeager said, noting that outside of California, utilities are compensated based on the number of kilowatt hours they sell, not on efficiency.
On top of which, Al Gore is fat and wears earth tones. Still, I thought the proposal was worth mentioning, since they seem to have overlooked it at Planet Gore.

There’s talk of building a giant solar tower outside El Paso. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m too lazy to doublecheck. Nothing wrong with hearing good news twice, I suppose.

Treehugger discusses vertical farms:
New York Magazine has a spectacular spread on [Dr. Dickson Despommier’s] vision of "a cluster of 30-story towers on Governors Island or cluster of 30-story towers on Governors Island or in Hudson Yards producing fruit, vegetables, and grains while also generating clean energy and purifying wastewater. Roughly 150 such buildings, Despommier estimates, could feed the entire city of New York for a year. Using current green building systems, a vertical farm could be self-sustaining and even produce a net output of clean water and energy."
Inhabitat has lots more (including, as always, some great pictures).

The Maryland State Senate has approved a ban on the mechanical dredging of shellfish.

Majikthise reports on the trend away from offering bottled water at high-end restaurants, “in favor of more environmentally-friendly in-house filtration and carbonation systems.”

A new firm called Generic Medical Devices intends to market - you guessed it - generic medical devices:
We plan to market our products at two-thirds the cost of existing brand name counterparts. We can achieve this substantial price reduction because we do not need to conduct costly clinical trials, because physicians have been previously trained on these devices and because we do not need to spend the marketing dollars required to introduce a new product to the marketplace and secure customer adoption.
They wisely plan "to partner with humanitarian organizations to make generic devices available to developing nations."

Aggressive forest management is perhaps not such a pressing need as experts previously thought:
A new study of forest lands that burned in the 1990s in northern California and southwestern Oregon has concluded there is a "fair to excellent" chance that an adequate level of conifers will regenerate naturally, in sites that had no manual planting or other forest management.

The authors said in their report that "assertions that burned areas, left unmanaged, will remain unproductive for some indefinite period, seem unwarranted." Short term delays in conifer regeneration and a broader range of recovering plant and animal species may also have benefits in terms of varied tree size, plant biodiversity, and wildlife habitat.
The Central Eurasian Information Resource Image Database “aims to develop a broad and representative collection of images illustrating the geography, folkways, lifestyles and architecture of the vast regions of the Russian Federation and other newly independent states of the former Soviet Union which, until now, have been relatively little visited or studied.” Highly recommended, as is the University of Washington’s Stereocard Collection.

When I first saw Film Before Film, Werner Nekes’ stunning documentary on pre-cinematic devices and "philosophical toys," I wanted it to last five times longer than it did. Fortunately, it turns out that in the intervening years, Nekes has made five more films dealing with the camera obscura, anamorphosis, moving slides, picture montage, and stroboscopic devices like the phenakistoscope. All of them are now available on DVD from MovieMail, or directly from Nekes himself (note: if you’re in North America, you'll need an all-region DVD player to watch them).

In the meantime, you can visit the Pre-Cinema page at Early Visual Media, which covers a lot of the same ground.

Those of you who are not already members of the Victorian Hairwork Society may want to pay them a visit, and possibly even download images of their 1865 hair album.

The rest of you can proceed directly to Folk Art in Bottles.

Or, if you prefer, the Cigar Band Museum. Or the x-ray photographs of Judith K. McMillan.

The latest issue of Micscape features A Close-Up View of the Gerbera Daisy, and an amazing Gallery of Beta-naphthyl Acetate Photomicrographs by Brian Johnston.

I also enjoyed Richard Howey’s magnified images of everyday objects like Velcro.

You can see more of Howey’s work at his homepage.

Last, but not least, 210 photos of American deserts, taken between 1891 and 1936.

(Photo at top: "Studio" by Hugh Shurley.)


olvlzl said...

This feature deserves to become one of the jewels of the internet. Bravo, Phila.

Phila said...

Thanks! I try...

P. Drāno said...

Many thanks for all this! It'll take me a while to investigate all these very interesting, lovely links.