Food, Fresh Water and Electricity Without Fossil Fuels.

“We are only limited by our lack of investment and interest.”

What is needed to feed a population of 100,000 – 250,000 people? How much does it cost to produce electricity, clean water and food? Can this all be done in a sustainable fashion without fossil fuels? 21st Century technology is doubling its efforts to supply a rapidly growing human population.

Current techniques for fresh water extraction and food production has exacerbated aquifers, rivers and lakes to the point of no return. For agricultural purposes, humans are extracting more water from wells and aquifers than is being replenished naturally by the water cycle. The unfortunate consequence of over-exploitation is that humans only start thinking of alternative methods of fresh water, food and energy production when natural sources have been depleted.

In order to understand how technology is helping with sustainability, we must look to places where fresh water is scarce, but the sun and wind are plentiful. Places like Israel, Spain, Libya, Saudi Arabia, California, Australia and China have shortages and droughts of fresh water for human consumption and the agriculture industry.

I will briefly describe some of the costs affiliated with creating a system that is relatively eco-neutral in that less atmospheric contamination is produced and water is conserved and recycled more so than current methods.

The CIA world fact book is a database that includes specific information about each country ranging from natural resources, electricity consumption, military capacity, geography, to imports and exports. It is a reliable source to compare data between countries. It currently states that 75.3% of all electricity in the United States of America is produced by fossil fuels, 9.7% from nuclear, 7.6% from hydroelectric, and only 5.3% from renewable sources. The renewable sources of electricity production include wind power, solar power and geothermic power. It is no secret that Americans consume more energy, more food, more water, and contaminate more than any other people on Earth (though the United Arab Emirates is catching up). It is said that if the whole world lived like Americans, we would need 4 Earths!

“I think we have all come to the realization that America consumes way more of the world’s “stuff” than the people we account for.  Americans make up for roughly 5% of the world’s population, but we consume much more than that.  We use 20% of the world’s energy, eat 15% of the world’s meat and create 40% of the garbage on Earth” – Jason Jeffrey Semon

Not all geographical locations are the same, nor have the availability of natural resources, but countries like Nicaragua, Germany, Spain, Iceland, Denmark and Portugal all produce between 20% – 40% of their electricity using renewable resources. Germany, which receives significantly less sun per year than the USA, produces more solar energy and exports more solar panels to countries weening themselves from fossil fuel-based energy sources.

An ideal and sustainable society is very complicated, but we can ameliorate atmospheric contamination and over-exploitation of fresh water by including new techniques to the energy and agricultural industries. For coastal cities in arid or semi-arid territories, a desalinization plant is a great way to preserve underground aquifers. Over-exploiting wells can cause environmental disasters that include sinkholes and salt water intrusions.

In the southeast part of Spain, in a city called Carboneras, is where the largest desalinization plant in Europe is located. The province of Almería, where Carboneras is located, is one of the driest places in Europe. It is also home to the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world. The province is home to a ¨sea of plastic¨, greenhouses that cover over 80,000 acres of land and exports food to a number of European countries. The province is also home to more than 640,000 people, all of which need electricity, food and fresh water in the desert.

The desalinization plant at Carboneras, Almería cost about 121 million euros to construct ($158,768,335 Sept. 2, 2014). It provides water for 7,000 hectares of greenhouses (17,297 acres) and a maximum of 200,000 residents. The desalination plant uses a lot of energy. The figures range from 1kwh/m3 – 2kwh/m3 (per cubic meter) of water. The electricity for converting brackish water into fresh water is currently generated by a coal-fired plant. The plant converts sea water into fresh water using a reverse osmosis method, which uses a membrane to physically “strain” the salt water. Price estimates vary from 0.50 euros – 1.0 euros per m3 for consumption. Coal and petroleum-fired plants are clear sources of atmospheric contamination, and are subject to fluctuating international price markets of import and export of fossil fuel.

A cheaper and cleaner way of generating electricity for a desalination plant would be wind, solar, or even wave power (using ocean waves to do work).  Roscoe Wind Farm in Texas has 634 wind turbines that produce enough energy for 250,000 homes. This wind farm was once the largest in the world and cost about $1 billion to install. It produces about 781.5 MW (megawatts) of electricity.

Andasol Guadix

Above: Andasol solar power plant in Guadix, southern Spain.

A revolutionary solar power station located near Guadix, Spain, called Andasol Solar Power Station is a parabolic trough solar power station. This solar farm uses a parabolic mirror to focus solar energy onto a tube, which in turn, heats water flowing through it. The heat or steam can then be used to power machinery or move a turbine. It also contains a system that is able to generate energy during the night using salt water. Andasol Solar Power Station cost 900 million euros ($1.1 billion) and can produce 165 million kilo-watt hours of electricity each year. To put it in perspective, about 450,000 people currently benefit from the energy produced by this station. It will reduce carbon emissions by 150,000 tonnes per year when compared to coal-fired energy plants. This is a significant victory for clean and renewable energy industries for future endeavors.

In agriculture, intensive greenhouse horticulture is becoming more popular, more sustainable and more profitable than conventional agricultural methods. Popularity comes from the agriculturist’s ability to have more control over aspects of cultivation ranging from wind, humidity, nutrient absorption, water use, temperature and pests. They have been able to reduce or eliminate chemical pesticides for pest control by using simple sticky paper, insects, arachnids and other arthropods that eat fungi or other insects. New substrate and hydroponic systems allow for agriculturists to recycle water and use less fertilizer. In a hydroponic system, the water is continuously recycled in a closed system and the water solution does not seep into the soil. This prevents fertilizers from entering the local water table, which can provoke unwanted environmental reactions like algae blooms. A water recycling system also reduces water use in that it is not “lost” through the soil.

 

Campo de Dalias_1-busco-en-el-poniente-el-ejido-1271116254

Above: Campo de Dalías, El Ejido, Almería, southern Spain. Part of 100,000 hectares (247, 105 acres) of greenhouses overlooking the north Mediterranean coast.

Intensive agriculture projects like those in Campo de Dalías and Campo de Níjar in the southeast corner of Spain is said to also reduce global warming because of its design. The greenhouses are painted white, a technique used in southern Spain, especially with housing, to reflect the solar intensity away from buildings. The glimmer of the greenhouses in the Almería province helps to reduce the overall temperature of the plants it harbors as well as the surrounding territories. Compare the white, energy-reflecting greenhouses to the vast and expansive black-top parking lots in the United States that absorb so much energy. If they would only equip all American parking lots with sun-shade solar panels – not only will it keep your car cool from the hot summer heat, it will produce enough energy for the building you are about to walk into.

As new technologies and cost-effective materials are tested, the increase in food consumption and human population does not necessarily have to degrade our environment. In traditional farming, soil is the primary medium from which crops grow. In monoculture farming, each year more fertilizer must be applied and depending on the water source, salt deposits begin to accumulate, which causes a reduction in crop yield. To avoid the environmental and production risks to crop yield, intensive agriculturalist have turned to substrate materials. Substrate is a growth medium, either organic or synthetic that replaces soil. Hydroponic growth substrate varies from place to place and is still being developed to produce the cheapest, but most effective growth medium. Some greenhouses in Spain and other parts of the world use grow bags, rockwool, perlite, vermiculite,  sand, and coconut fiber. Coconut fiber is great because it is organic and is usually a bi-product, or waste product of the coconut industry. What was once “garbage” is now a viable medium for the agricultural industry.

These techniques must be embraced if we are to ensure our food, water and energy needs in the present and in the future.

“The world is less than 40 years away from a food shortage that will have serious implications for people and governments”

 “For the first time in human history, food production will be limited on a global scale by the availability of land, water and energy,”  Dr. Fred Davies

So in the end, how much money will it cost to produce enough food, electricity, and fresh water for 250,000 people in a semi-sustainable way? I would estimate about $3 billion. At about $1 billion for each industry, $1 billion for solar/wind power, $1 billion for desalinization plants, and $1 billion to produce tens of thousands of acres of greenhouses that can sustain perhaps an even larger population than current methods. Implicating this three-pronged system can do wonders for impoverished areas of the world that struggle to survive from international donors.  It has been studied may times that international aid to places like Africa have actually made things worse.  Places like Algeria, Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Congo and Ethiopia are well endowed with natural resources like petroleum, natural gas, minerals and metals, but the profits from these industries cannot support their current populations. They must harvest alternative energy in order to change the political, social and economic landscape of the continent. They must, in addition to meeting electricity needs, convert to clean energy for agriculture, so that, the African continent can industrialize, engage in infra-continental agricultural trade, and maintain its status as the least contaminated continent in the world.

International paternalism restricts the local economy from developing in that it gets flooded with international products, which are sold at a cheaper price than local products. $3 billion is a lot to develop wind parks, solar parks, desalinization plants and thousands of acres of greenhouses, but it is far cheaper and more effective than the $50 billion in international assistance the continent receives each year.  The more international aid that goes to the African continent, the more impoverished and more destitute the people become. The wind, sun, and ocean are three resources that are renewable and ecological sources of energy that will eventually triumph over fossil fuels, therefore, it is best to begin now before the wells dry up. We are only limited by our lack of investment and interest.

Only through environmentalism and social ecology can 21st century humans be able to meets our energy and sustenance needs, which in effect, reduce our impact on the climate and environment.

 

By: Opton A. Martin

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If I Buy Freedom and It Doesn’t Work, Can I Return it and Get My Money Back?

“We know that freedom isn’t free, but how much does it cost? Is there a discount on freedom? Can I use a freedom coupon? Where is my buy 2 countries, get 1 free card? If I buy freedom, and it doesn’t work, can I return it and get my money back…I have the receipt!”

I as a former resident of Torrington, Connecticut, United States of America, since 2001 would have contributed about $6,812 to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond. The website nationalpriorities.org has been tracking the U.S. cost of war since 2001 and allows Americans to see how much of their tax dollars, down to local populations, have been contributed to the efforts overseas.  Torrington’s citizens since 2001 have paid out $119,212,900 (15-aug-2014) to a multiple-front war. Since there are about 35,000 residents in Torrington, and about 1/2 are working or paying income taxes, 1/2 of all Torringtonians have contributed over $6,000 to the war on terror. But the real question is are we safer now because of the war on terror? Have we made the world safer? Is the war on terror actually producing more terrorist organizations? How long until it’s finally over?

Since September 11th 2001, there has been a liquidation sale on “freedom” worldwide when then president of the United States, George W. Bush and his administration, soon announced a global war on terror. At first the cross hairs were focused on Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their sympathizers. Then, Bush decided to put Osama Bin Laden on the back burner and continue what could be seen as a Bush family legacy – Iraq. The American military’s focus switched rapidly to Iraq, where the regime of Saddam Hussein was suspected to have had weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda.

Before, during, and after the deposition of Saddam Hussein, investigators claimed that Iraq did not possess high caliber (nuclear material) weapons of mass destruction nor had been working with Al Qaeda. In fact,  Al Qaeda and other extremist groups were natural enemies of Saddam’s regime. If Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had been working together, why would they have kept it secret? Their unity would have been seen as a sign of strength in the region. Luckily, their distinct ideologies did not allow for a military or political union – their conflicting personalities and dislikes were greater than their hatred for the United States.

Under current president Barack Obama, who more or less has been progressive concerning local and social matters within the USA, has not only continued the legacy of Bush-era military campaigns, but has amplified a seek-and-destroy, extrajudicial drone program that could be considered crimes against humanity. Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are what I would like to call “Drone Zones” in that no real formal declaration of war has been made, but are part of a continuous bombing campaign in which civilians are unfortunately part of the casualties.  These bombing campaigns are simply not effective in changing hearts and minds. Whose ideology is going to favor Westerners when their neighbor, perhaps a civilian, had been killed by them?  Spreading democracy doesn’t come from without, but from within.

So what is freedom in 21st century terms? Which country is most free? Is freedom being able to do literally whatever you want? Or is freedom being able to have social and economic mobility in the form of one’s access to a good education, housing, food, medicine, and other facilities or amenities that First World inhabitants encounter with less difficulty.

Spreading freedom and democracy as part of a bombing campaign can be seen as a vice, like any other, freedom is aggression, anger, addiction, greed, censorship, gluttony, hatred, hysteria, lust, perversion, vanity and wrath. Although this may not be our ideal of what freedom is, the countries that suffer from “American Freedom” by way of military operations, heavy policing and lengthy occupations, fear cultural infiltration or annihilation.

Freedom, by way of material objects, is in a sense purely economical, in that freedom is for the rich; oppression is for the poor. If you live in a conflict zone, and you are rich, you might have more freedom to leave, through legal means or not, than a poor person. If you live in a country where women’s access to reproductive services are restricted, as a rich person, you might have the freedom to travel to another country where women’s reproductive laws are different. This is not to say that a poor person cannot escape a conflict zone or access healthcare, but the pyramidal structure of modern and post-industrial human society shows that the upper echelon of society, the wealthy and powerful, are the ones who make and break the laws.  Materialistic freedom in terms of commodities is not universal.

Human beings are political property of the state in which they were born, reside or had resided. A stateless person is one who has no rights, and paradoxically has total freedom, yet no freedom. On the other hand, something like spiritual freedom is closer to universality in that one’s beliefs and thoughts are tangible within one’s mind, where no one else can truly restrict their beliefs, whether they practice them or not.

Spreading democracy and freedom after the Second World War was a bit different than how it is done today. After Mussolini, Hitler, and Hideki Tojo were disposed of, and the war had been won by the Allied Forces. After obliterating the Axis Powers, the Allied Forces wanted to help their former enemies rebuild and prosper – and they did.  Italy, Germany and Japan became stable economic powerhouses in which their citizens currently enjoy high personal income, well developed infrastructure, universal healthcare, stable borders, and relatively few internal conflicts that lead to deaths or executions. The citizens of these counties are generally considered to be free.

The Second World War cost the United States more than 4 trillion dollars (in 2014) according to some estimates. After about a five-year campaign, the U.S. and its soldiers were treated like true liberators, like “winners” of WWII. They are still considered the greatest generation of humans to ever walk the Earth. As we fast forward to 2014, after 10+ years of war in the Middle East, combining the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, all military operations, and  everywhere else terror resides, 4.4 trillion dollars is the current cost of war (total cost of all services related to conflicts), and Americans are not treated as liberators, nor winners, and things are worse now than when we started.

What does the future hold now that Hussein, Bin Laden, Hosni Mubarak, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, and other life-term dictators have been disposed of? Will the countries of Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq become economic powerhouses like Germany, Japan, or even South Korea? Not likely. The reason: the war economy. Peace and stability is just as important a factor to the global economy as war and conflict zones.

Now that there are currently more heavy conflict zones since before the U.S. and Allies’ invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, defense contractors are making more profits and bigger sales than ever. For the profit-driven industry of arms dealing, shame from not being able to reduce violence and bring about stability after a military campaign is less important. As long as the guns are firing and the bombs are dropping, there is profit to be made. Therefore, it is conducive to the industry to provoke or procreate areas of conflict. It is even better if they could sell arms to both sides of the conflict through conspiracies and inside deals. If both sides have the same weapons, one will be forced to upgrade.

With respect to dark-horse terrorist organizations with plenty of cash, the rise of ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is currently driving a wedge in concurrent conflict zones in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. They plan on taking over territories that roughly stretch from Morocco to India, to eliminate all borders between “Islamic” countries – high hopes for a group with few allies and many enemies.

Current conflict zones: Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria, Mali, Columbia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, Kurdistan, Pakistan, India, North & South Korea, China, Japan, South Sudan, Mexico, Egypt, Ukraine, Russia, Central African Republic, Libya, and many more, including the United States.

As military hardware reaches a level of surplus, state and local police forces worldwide have been either given or have been purchasing this equipment. In the before mentioned conflict zones, it is not uncommon to see the military acting as a civilian “peace-keeping force” (like what we have seen in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt). Yet in recent years, many countries like Spain, Italy, Malaysia and the United States have riot police or S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons And Tactics) who use military equipment on a regular basis to intimidate and scare local populations from demonstrating, protesting, and having their voices heard. This is an undemocratic way of maintaining social justice and order in that people will get the sensation of an authoritarian police state – people will stay home, be complacent and compliant, and be afraid to speak ill of the government for fear of persecution. This makes the U.S.A no better than the countries it invades to “spread democracy” if it continues to terrorize its citizens.

As the world has recently seen how the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri rang out and connected with other oppressed people as distant as Palestine, it is important for all people to try and invest in other industries, besides the arms trade, that aim to save lives, not take them.

Recycling Everything is Good For The Economy and The Environment.

¨Why is it everything for the economy regardless of the Earth´s destruction? We are in the 21st Century. We could do better. Environmentalism is good for the economy¨

 

Recycling is a noble and necessary cause for industrialized human societies. The problem is that people generally forget about the devastating effects of solids floating in our oceans, the exponential growth of landfills, and the excess of energy needed to produce more and more physical products from scratch. Since 1/2 of world´s 7 billion people now live in cities and urban areas, the garbage we produce is concentrated in landfills in which a mountain of material wealth is buried and forgotten. City dwellers see some of the garbage dispersed in the vast landscapes of concrete and steel, which looks a bit unattractive when not placed inside the trash containers, but when the trash is inside the containers, which are always filled to the brim, they are taken away and sent to who knows where – out of sight and out of mind, and we continue to throw potentially useful material away.

The idea of garbage, waste, rubbish, trash or whatever you want to call it, is useless to the Earth in that products made out of plastic, rubber, metal and glass will not disintegrate for it to use; that is why we as humans should recycle and continue using them.

The problems people face in advanced and industrialized countries with regard to recycling might not be their fault. The problem is that there is a general lack of innovation and lack of profit-driven advancements in the use of recycled materials. There are no universal methods for recycling in many places. Just look at any state, city or town in the United States: There is a different method and process for garbage and recycling collection in each municipality. This also occurs in some places in Europe in that there is no universal method or financial resources for collecting all that is recyclable. Some towns collect and recycle batteries, cooking oils, used cell phones, organic materials, some towns have public ashtrays (so cigarette butts don´t float among the streets), some towns don´t recycle at all, some have organized a weekly collection of large household furniture, etc. The lack of universal practices within individual states and countries make recycling an impossible task for most people.

There are a few ways to incentivize people to recycle:

1) Make it illegal to not recycle: Fining people for not recycling is not a new idea, but not recycling is much like throwing garbage in the street, which also carries a punishment of a fine.

2) Containers: If people have the resources, they just might use them. Organic material, plastic, glass, paper, metal, electronic equipment (including batteries), oils, and cloths (clothes, furniture cushions, etc) seem to be the majority of the things city dwellers throw out. It seems like a lot of different containers, but the initial sorting these materials could be profitable later on.

3) Innovation: Scarcity and abundance of materials is wealth – like having fresh water and good soil in the desert. The amount of food and organic material that is thrown out by people who live in areas with an abundance of sun (i.e. Southern California, southern coast of Spain, Arizona, and Egypt) can be used as compost for agriculture if treated properly. In the ¨sea of plastic¨ or ¨Europe´s salad bowl¨ in southeast Spain, there are cultivars of tomatoes and cucumbers who use the discarded husks or hairs of coconuts as a growing medium. It is an organic solution to recycle a material that normally would be buried in a landfill.

An unorthodox but innovative way of recycling comes from Sweden in that they incinerate some of their garbage to produce heat and electric energy for homes. Sweden recycles 96% of its rubbish while the remaining 4% is put in landfills, which eventually gets used. They recycle so well that they actually have to buy garbage from their neighbors to continue producing energy for heating by incineration.

Electronic material, which is probably the wealthiest item city dwellers constantly throw into the trash, is very easy to dispose of, but difficult to recycle. The amount of components that make up something as complex as a computer, mobile telephone or television: precious metals, glass, plastic, wiring, and rubber, make it so much more difficult to recycle. This is why there should be a separate container and resources to recycle electronic materials.

Much of the industrialized world´s electronic equipment goes to places like Nigeria and Thailand where toxic landfills are inhabited by local people who try to scavenge as much material wealth as they can. Places like Lagos, Nigeria, receives about 10,000 tons of trash, garbage, and potentially recyclable material each day. Although there is a community of people who live in a squalid shanty town within the landfill, they depend upon it, since they sell small quantities of useful materials, but it is simply too much garbage – and most of it is absolutely useless.

The paradox with electronic equipment is that although we use less material, we produce more garbage. One example of this paradox is how far we have come technologically with television and computer screens. In the 1980s-1990s, television and computer monitors were heavy, bulky, and expensive. Now in the 2000s, monitors are lightweight, use less materials, and are cheaper. People are buying more computers than ever, and more than ever they end up in landfills. Compare cellular phones in the 1990s to cellular phones in 2010: Large, bulky, and expensive mobile phones from the 1990s were few; small, lightweight, and relatively cheap (except for the iphone) mobile phones in the 2000s are cheap and more abundant than ever. There needs to be a revolution in how we recycle electronic equipment or risk a pandemic in which places like the Olusosun Landfill in Nigeria become commonplace elsewhere.

Imagine if each municipality, town or city had a massive recycling facility in which employees delicately sorted materials into different types of metals, plastics, glass, ceramic, organic material, wood, and electronic equipment. A facility of this type would create an almost endless source of full-time employment, much like the people to retrieve the rubbish in the first place. A better understanding of the materials that people discard will permit the exploitation of these materials again.

Plastic bottles, although recyclable, are one of the most abundant items that end up in landfills. Architects recently demonstrated how many plastic bottles New Yorkers contribute to landfills by building a massive structure with them. Each hour, the residents of New York City throw out more than 50,000 plastic bottles instead of recycling them. The structure is large enough to shelter about 50 people. This project demonstrates not only how much recyclable material is wasted, but also what else can be done with these materials instead of simply throwing them out.

Although Americans in the United States would like to think that it still leads the world in innovation, technology, and socioeconomics, it is evident now more than ever that it is beginning to lag behind its allies in Japan, China, Northern Europe, specifically Germany, and the countries of Scandinavia. Americans waste more than any other people on Earth. Culturally, things in the United States are bigger than in other countries (cars, houses, product packaging, etc)  Predetermined obsolescence of cheap products is also a concept that keeps Americans buying, which also drives the economy. Marketing has a lot to do with the amount of garbage Americans produce in that packaging for small items is large so that it catches the customer´s eyes from a distance.

The packaging for our blenders, x-box, mobile phones, televisions, baby toys, sunglasses, picture frames, tweezers, cans of tuna, boxes of cereals, and everything else people by from places like Wal Mart will be thrown in the trash. They must all be recycled along with styrofoam! What a retched material. Styrofoam is trademarked, whereas the non-brand name for this material is expanded polystyrene foam or EPS foam, whose name makes it sound like what it truly is: an almost impossible to recycle material. EPS foam for take-out foods should be regulated since it is almost impossible to recycle or biodegrade. Places like Oakland, Albany, New York, and San Francisco, have banned EPS foam for take-out foods.  The alternative is to use paper containers which are both recyclable and biodegradable.

Environmentalism involving clean energy and recycling in the United States is facing a lot of backlash in that people who have a stake in the most profitable industries like coal, petroleum, and petrochemical think that it will interrupt their profits, but once people realize that there is money to be made in recycling and innovation, it should catch on. The problem is that many of the policies made by lawmakers outweigh the small ecological movements that haven´t had a chance to grow. The countries of  Japan, Scandinavia, Northern and Central Europe have culturally recognized that recycling is a basic human activity that is part of living in a civilized society. These places have realized that they can be both rich countries that provide healthcare, clean energy, non-GMO food, free education, paid vacation and maternity leave, and great recycling programs without compromising their economy. American culture needs to change from: everything for the economy regardless of the Earth´s destruction. We are in the 21st Century. We could do better. Environmentalism is good for the economy

 

By: Opton A. Martin

 

The Cultural Shift Away From Transgenic and Genetically Modified Crops in Europe Could Be Bad Business for Spain.

¨The Practice of Local Organic Triumphs Over Foreign and Transgenic.¨

Transgenic and genetically modified crops can be bad for business in the long run due to a cultural shift and social awareness of the dangers of  ¨American style¨ agronomic business practices in European Union member states.

 The first genetically modified food in the world to be sold in supermarkets was the tomato. In 1994, the FlavrSavr tomato hit the shelves in the United States after previously being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1992. The tomato has a deactivated gene that allows it to ripen from green to red on the vine, and an added gene that prevents rotting – essentially creating a tomato that is as hard as an apple that lasts a lot longer. Scientists and government agencies in the USA have repeatedly said that transgenic and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in foods are ¨safe for human consumption¨ stating that it is just as safe as conventional (non-transgenic foods). This debate is still being held between scientist on both sides of the aisle presenting evidence for and against its production and consumption, while the environmental impact is stuck in the middle, once again sacrificing the environment for the economy

The reality of transgenic foods like the tomato is that some people, who are old enough to remember, notice that nowadays, tomatoes don´t taste the way they used to, nor have the same amount of nutrients they had say thirty years ago. One example of lost nutrients is how the polysaccharide (sugar) pectin, which is naturally produced and broken down by the tomato for ripening, is reduced in genetically modified versions so that a tougher skin can resist bruising during harvesting. Pectin in humans has been shown to add to our soluble dietary fiber and reduce blood cholesterol levels. In addition, some transgenic crops are grown in sand, which has very little nutrients, henceforth, they need to be added. So what are the real benefits of producing transgenic foods?

In the past, some scientist praised genetically modified organisms in foods claiming that with the capacity  to produce more food, with fewer resources, humanity could solve world hunger and reduce food prices. Economic history shows that there was plenty of food in the world before the advent of  transgenic crops, the problem is that people die from hunger from the climate, spatial and economic reasons (drought, food is far away, or food is too expensive). According to the United Nations Environment Programme, about one-third of all food produced in the world is ¨lost or wasted¨.

¨Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).¨

One can deduce that producing more food doesn´t necessarily reduce malnutrition or hunger, but the economic implications show that having capital, water and land are most important in combating hunger.

As people in the Western world inform themselves better about the economic and environmental implications of GMO and transgenic crops, they will begin to shun them in favor of non-GMO crops that are not only more nutritious, but practicing ecological agronomics could potentially create more local jobs. Factory farms and transgenic super-plantations require very few people, are far removed from the general population, and require a lot of chemicals and machines. Why is it that the majority of the food people in New York eat come from California? – a distance of about 3,000 miles (4,828,km).

Transgenic food has taken hold of the European Union in a market that culturally has been trying to maintain their alimentary sovereignty free from ¨American style¨ crop production. The member state that produces the most transgenic or GM crops is Spain. Genetically-modified maize (corn) and potatoes are currently the only two GM crops approved in the EU. Soya, tobacco, and even trial versions for GM pest-resistant olive trees are being considered for production in Spain. About 90% of Europe´s transgenic crops – led by U.S. multinational Monsanto´s MON810 corn – is cultivated in Spain. The majority of this corn is used as animal feed for the country´s famous meat markets (hogs, chickens, cow, etc). One problem farmers and consumers face is the lack of transparency and regulation in terms of what the farmers are feeding their animals, and what people are actually eating. It has been reported that farmers feed their animals a mixture of transgenic and conventional corn, which essentially disallows farmers to chose between the two. The lack of transparency also denies its citizens to know exactly where this transgenic crop is being grown. Most Spanish citizens are against transgenic crops and would like for them to be labeled, but the European Union law states that if less than about 1.0% of the ingredients are transgenic, it does not have to be labeled.

As far as the philosophical implications of transgenic foods – namely corn or soya – is not so much as if it is used in society, but how it is used. Subjectively, I oppose the use of transgenic foods for human or animal consumption, but I have no problem if companies use transgenic crops for the production of ethanol, methanol, and other chemical compositions from transgenic crops. In the United States and Brazil, ethanol from corn (US) and sugarcane (Brazil) accounts for a large portion of combustible fuel production, replacing a significant amount of petroleum use, which contaminating slightly less than pure petroleum.

The economic implications transgenic foods might have for Spain and other member states that allow transgenic corn like Portugal, Czech Republic,Poland, and Romania might not come immediately, but permitting cultivation of more crops besides corn and potatoes to be produced might have a backlash effect. Germany is planning on prohibiting all GMO crops within its boarders.

As agro-business farmers in Europe are becoming ¨Americanized¨ in their acceptance of GMO foods, it could produce a schism in the way food is imported and exported in within Europe. Countries that are not part of the European Union, but form part of its economic region like Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Serbia have delayed their acceptance of genetically modified organisms. These countries along with Germany, see prohibiting genetically modified and transgenic crops as a scientific, economic and cultural an issue that has many people thinking that it is a bad idea.

Though the evidence is hard to filter and difficult to prove that GMO foods are harmful to human health, one can take a look the North American diet and see how much obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases are attributed to the foods that Americans consume. The United States is the largest producer and consumer of transgenic foods in the world – and to say that transgenic food has nothing to do with the increase in deadly disease in the USA is an understatement.

If Spain continues to increment the amount of  transgenic crops and feed to hogs, chickens and other farm animals, there might be a backlash in member states whose people culturally reject the importation of animals fed with GMO in foods. The idea of local organic triumphs over foreign and transgenic.

As local regions in Europe begin to prohibit the cultivation, sale and distribution of transgenic crops, like The Free State of Bavaria in Germany,  it can be seen as a way to strengthen local business and keep unpopular enterprises like Monsanto out of their food chain.

Spain has the advantage of being the sunniest place in all of Europe, especially in the province of Almería, Spain, which boasts an average of 320 days of sun each year. It has been exploited for decades by local and foreign businesses (including Monsanto) in an area known as ¨The Sea of Plastic¨ (el mar de plástico). This desert area basically feeds europe during the winter as its climate permits crop growth all year round.

If those in the Spanish agricultural business adhere to American models in food production there will be a decrease not only in the quality of food products, but confidence and trust in food products marked ¨Product of Spain¨.  Since it is currently one of the top 10 agricultural exporters in the world there needs to be a cultural and economic shift to protect itself from transgenic foods.

By Opton A. Martin

 

 

The Interesting Relationship Between Germans and Jamaicans: Resolving an Energy Crisis by Shedding Light on it.

What Do Jamaicans and Germans Have in Common? History, Tourism, Sports, and Clean Energy: Jamaica is on its way to resolving its own energy crisis.

“Out of Many, One People” – motto of Jamaica

The economic powerhouse that is the Federal Republic of Germany has an interesting relationship with the small island nation of Jamaica. The relationship is mutual in that Jamaicans and Germans have been working together on a few projects that involve government institutions, tourism and non-governmental organizations. From a historical point of view, there have been communities of ethnic Germans in Jamaica for more than 150 years. Where is the real connection between the two distinct countries?

Jamaica was inhabited by what anthropologists and historians refer to as Arawak or Taíno peoples, who settled the islands in the Caribbean, sailing from the South American mainland, since before the common era.  In 1494, during the second voyage of Christopher Columbus to the Caribbean, the island was then known as Xaymaca by the native Taínos. At first, the island was claimed by Spain until English privateers, corsairs, and pirates attacked Spanish vessels that circulated the Caribbean. In 1655, the Spanish lost the island to the English and until this day remains part of the British Commonwealth of Nations (hence Jamaica is an Anglophonic nation).

When the English took over the island they continued – as the Spanish did – to exploit the land, and the people, to the point where they engaged in the use of imported slave labor of African peoples. Jamaica became one the largest exporters of sugar, rum and molasses (many indigenous Taínos were killed or died of disease as a result of the Spanish and English occupations).

During the 1830s, after slavery was abolished in the British colonies, 19th-century scientific racism fueled racial bitterness that Europeans had after losing a virtually free source of labor. The British-Jamaicans therefore looked to Europe for cheap labor. Indentured servants from Europe essentially paid their way to the New World by agreeing to work in the British colonies for a number of years – among this group of indentured servants came a group of about 350 Germans to a Jamaican plantation.

Since the 1830s, there have been Germans or “Germaicans” living in Jamaica. After a few generations of living in Jamaica, almost all of them have lost their German language and completely integrated as Jamaican people by culture, but their physical attributes look very much German (i.e., blond hair, fair skin, and freckles).

For almost half a century, Jamaica has become a popular tourist destination for Americans, Britons, and Europeans. Jamaica has been popular with Germans from the spread of Reggae music and Rastafari, which was made popular by the likes of Bob Marley & The Wailers, Burning Spear and Peter Tosh. It is not uncommon to see Germans who have an affinity for deadlocks, ganja, and eating I-tal food.

The exchange of cultural icons and interests are mutual in recent days as Jamaicans are surprisingly interested in the Germany national football team. Jamaicans love football(soccer), and support a variety of national teams, but one thing is for sure: Germany is a favorite. It is not uncommon to see that during the world Cup, Jamaicans are flying the flags of countries like Germany, Argentina and Brazil in support.

The most important relationship Germans and Jamaicans have nowadays has to do with clean energy. Jamaica has been importing costly and highly-contaminating diesel fuel in order to generate electricity. There is a new initiative to ween Jamaica off petroleum by installing solar panels and wind turbines. The German Ministry of the Environment has been working with a few countries in the Caribbean to outline a plan to make sustainable or green energy more available.

The Tourism industry, which has seen a lack of visitors to Jamaica in recent years, might get an upswing from new developments in clean energy cooperation from other countries besides Germany such as Spain and Cuba. The Grand Palladium Resort & Spa in Hanover, Jamaica is the largest photovoltaic (solar) plant on the island. This Spanish hotel boasts a capacity of 1.6MW from a solar roof-top system that uses photovoltaic cells manufactured by a German company called IBC solar, but installed by a local company called Sofos Jamaica based out of Kingston, Jamaica. The hotel expects to save about $730,000 each year in energy cost (not to mention the barrels of petroleum that will be saved). At a rate of 2.2 million kWh per year electricity production and 17,000 square meters of photovoltaic solar panels, Jamaica could essentially be petroleum free after building only about 1,000 of these facilities.

Jamaica’s neighbor Cuba has also been trying to cooperate in the fabrication and installation of solar panels in their respective island-nations (instead of buying them from Germany or China). Not only will it reduce their dependence on fossil fuels for energy, but also create job opportunities in fabricating, installing and maintaining photovoltaic cells all over the Caribbean.

Last but not least, the German Embassy of Jamaica has been making an effort to bring about self sufficiency for an educational center – an NGO in Cassava Piece, Kingston – with a donation of JM$2.1 million for the installation of German-made solar panels. A Jamaican-based company installed the German-made solar panels for HELP Jamaica! Educational Center. This system was installed in late 2012, and is probably the only NGO on the island that is powered with 100% clean energy.

With the realization of a market open to innovation to solve its energy problems, it is interesting to see how Germans and Jamaicans have at least a few things in common. Cooperation in clean energy tend to bring countries together, unlike their rivals in the petroleum industry, which tends to drive a firm wedge between them.

By. Opton A. Martin

 

H.O.P.E. for Ghana’s Economic Future Needs to be Strategically Planned for Ecological Sustainability

“Success is Limited when Extravagance Exceeds Sustainability”

Building bigger, higher and faster is not always the solution for economic, social and cultural advancement. New construction projects have to be intelligently planned with a special focus on the environment, social ecology and sustainability.

The Republic of Ghana is a country whose ancient and modern history is something to be proud of: the ancient kingdom of the Ashanti, whose rich language, history and culture formed an empire that mined and traded gold with merchants from North Africa and the Sudan; the independence movements of African nations, where Ghana was at the forefront of self-governance post-colonization and Pan-Africanism ; and its growing sectors in telecommunication and tourism puts it at the top of the list as one of the most stable and friendly places in Africa to live, work and visit.

It seems like recently,  at least for its metropolitan dwellers, that parts of the Republic of Ghana are rapidly converting into an African Silicon Valley in that there is cultural emphasis and economic investment in the field of information and communication technology.  A new project currently in the works is called HOPE City, which is to be built close to the region of Accra, the coastal capital city of more than 2.2 million people.

HOPE (Home, Office, People, and Environment) is a current project for a technology park that has a goal to house 25,000 people,  offer employment opportunities to about 50,000 people, and construct the tallest building in Africa. Construction of HOPE City began in 2013 and has plans to include schools, restaurants, a university, a hospital, tech centers and more.

With a price tag of about $10 billion, this ambitious project can be a complete success not only if it all goes according to plan, but if it is ecologically sound. One important factor that owners, developers and urban planners often forget to include in their blue prints are aspects of ecological sustainability.  HOPE City is an excellent place to display how an African based and African-owned entrepreneurial enterprise can empower the skilled, educated and eager millennial generation in investing their time and energy to making their homeland truly great.

Ghana is a perfect place to continue this ICT revolution in that it has a lot of benefits many other countries in that region of West Africa do not share:

>RLG Communictions is a state-of-the-art Ghana-based tech company that makes laptops, computers and mobile phones.

> Ghana is engaging in government transparency to reduce corruption.

> The Akosombo dam in Ghana produces a lot of  hydroelectric energy for Ghana and for export.

> Ghana is a relatively stable democracy with an ever diversifying economic system: minerals, petroleum, ICT, agricultural goods, tourism, research and  manufacturing.

> Its rich culture, use of local languages and English, can help it relate it to its neighbors and their economies.  Nigeria for example could benefit from a fellow West African technology and logistics hub to build upon their own economy by trading and diversifying.

The 2020 vision for Ghana includes rapid industrialization in all industries in order to propel it into the 21st Century as a stable and technologically advanced democracy. A few things to beware of would be an excessive waste of natural resources, income inequality, and the suppression of freedom of speech. All of these factors can hamper socioeconomic growth in a place where the plight of Sub-Saharan Africa could be completely turned around.

Although Ghana has been experiencing growth from the extraction of hydrocarbon fuels, they should make it their philosophy to power HOPE City from sustainable and renewable energy sources by installing wind turbines and solar panels nearby.  In addition to energy needs, proper recycling and urban architecture must be conducive to pedestrian traffic in order to reduce dependence on personal vehicles (include a commuter rail in the project?). New structures should also adapt the idea of including rooftop and vertical gardens. The leaves of trees and plants reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, while helping to maintain a lower temperature anywhere from 3ºC   to 11ºC  by a process known as transpiration. Reducing the temperature by a natural process  reduces the energy needed to cool structures, and provides an ecological environment that adds to the livability factor of a new human development.

Income inequality should be tackled by providing living spaces that are as I mentioned before, friendly to pedestrian traffic. A sprawling, ever-expanding cityscape, where personal vehicles are necessary for obtaining necessities (food, clothes, medicine, hospitals, schools, etc.) is not sustainable. As we are currently seeing in the United States, one of the most developed countries in the world, that urban sprawl is one of the causes of income inequality, crime, and poor health.

Freedom of speech, expression, religion, assembly, and the freedom to promote digital and print media, are probably the most important aspects of evolving a state socioeconomically and culturally. New ideas need to be diffused unhampered by repressive forces in order to influence more people to do better than their predecessors. The government of Ghana will have to allow for people to freely and openly criticize, protest, and demonstrate without fear of repression.

As time goes forth one can only hope and imagine what a techno-ecological revolution could bring to not only the people of Ghana, but to all those in West Africa whose skills and entrepreneurship could propel themselves beyond what no other has done before.

 

By Opton A. Martin

Are Reparations Still Relevant? Who Deserves it and When is It Acceptable?

 The controversial topic that debates whether or not monetary reparations are justifiable for people of African descent in the 21st Century.

It might be too late for some reparations, but not soon enough for others.

The question of whether or not European and American governments should give reparations for slavery to people of African descent in the form of money or land comes from a few different sources: African-Americans (in all of the Americas); Haiti, for declaring their independence in 1804; and the people of the continent of Africa, for the European Scramble for Africa.

Every region of the world has experienced epic tragedies that involved the massive loss of human life in the most inhumane ways possible. In order to recuperate from past injustices of human culture, sovereign nations have been trying to readjust their societies in order to prevent dissent, violence and mass-murder, but when profits are to be made from chaos, consolidation of power, and human exploitation, morality takes a dive, and unethical laws are written in order to protect the ruling class from future prosecution.

Using the logic of those in favor of reparations, there are a myriad of historical events in which those who had suffered, or their descendents, should also be given compensation for their suffering: The Nigerian Civil War, the Colonization of the Americas, Rwandan Genocide, Genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, and Bosnia are just a few examples of people being singled-out because of their religion or race, and subjected to imprisonment, forced labor and death.

Reparation activists worldwide point to the fact that other peoples have been offered reparations by governments for forced labor, genocide, confiscation of lands, and for losing an armed conflict (war reparations). West Germany paid $35 billion to Israel between 1953 and 1992 in an attempt to pay for subjecting the Jewish communities to forced labor, “apologize” for the rise of Nazi Germany, and for how they were brutally and systematically round up, forced into concentration camps, tortured, and killed. They were stripped of all their assets, wealth, and above all, were subject to genocide as part of a fascist, anti-Semitic ideology.

African-American reparation activists point to other examples of reparations like the Native-American community and their inclusion in the U.S. Government’s policy of establishing Indian Reservations and paying out millions of dollars to compensate for 19th Century Manifest Destiny land grabs.

Reparations for people of African-American descent: Should it be a reality? The answer is, it should have been, but now it is too late. Those who had lived through slavery, or at least their children, were going to be honored a small compensation for their labor in the form of property ownership, one of the pillars of capitalism, but the U.S. Government at the time had a history of breaking promises not only to Native-Americans, but African-Americans as well. Considering that the British and U.S. Governments had broken over 500 treaties with Native-Americans over profitable and valuable land, African-Americans were also denied what was promised, especially those promises that were made after the American Civil War during what historians refer to as the Reconstruction Era.

40 acres and a mule was an agreement met between African-American ministers, abolitionists and Union General William T. Sherman, who promised to some 40,000 freedmen land and seafront property, which was confiscated from the Confederates. Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15, which occurred shortly after the American Civil War, was a way to punish the South for their attempts at succession, attacking the Union, and to break the link holding the finances between southern slavery and the Confederacy (not because of 250 years of chattel slavery). The 400,000- acre strip of land from South Carolina to Florida could have changed almost everything about modern American society and race relations in terms of education, culture, equality, and wealth in the African-American community.

The reason why so many people, black and white, are against reparations is that there is a cultural and temporal disconnect with previous generations in that Americans do not want to be held accountable, and are generally ashamed for their ancestors’ actions. Most importantly, in terms of the U.S. economy, the methodology of calculating and paying out 250 years worth of labor to descendents of Africans and African-Americans is culturally complex in that people will always contend whether or not some people of African descent deserve remuneration or not.

Whether or not reparations should be paid out, it will never happen because there are conflicts between American culture and economics. The majority of Americans are against reparations. The idea of giving a minority group of people ¨free money¨ because of a past injustice might not have the effect one would think from a cultural point of view.

Reparations for the people of Haiti: Should it be a reality? The answer is yes. The Haitian Revolution that resulted in the declaration of independence from France in 1804 came with extreme consequences. France demanded that Haiti pay 90 million gold francs for the loss of slaves and the French side of the island Hispaniola, which was called St. Dominique at the time, or risk another French invasion. From 1825 to 1947 Haiti continued to pay its “declaration of independence debt” to France, which was estimated to be more than $20 billion. Decades of economic warfare by the international community; the coup d’ état, which was suspected to be supported by the U.S., France, and allies; and the 2010 earthquake, which killed 100,000 civilians or more, were all recent events that have further crippled the sovereign nation of Haiti. At the very least, Haiti’s external debt was cancelled amidst the devastating earthquake, and $9 billion was giving in relief efforts, but it still falls short of the $20 billion that was extorted from Haiti post-independence.

Reparations for the people of Africa: Should it be a reality? The answer is yes, but not in the form of a simple payout. Reparations will come only in the form of true socioeconomic development. But first, bribery, corruption, and theft of capital must be identified, exposed, and dealt with in a way that prevents net wealth from leaving the continent.

An obvious, but not popular solution to corruption and embezzlement is transparency. Being able to track the flow of money between companies, governments, and banks will better inform the public of how their labor is paid, taxed and redistributed. To prevent government leaders from funneling money back to the U.S. or Europe, limiting the amount of money one can have in foreign bank accounts could help. However corrupt dictators may seem to the Western world, there are always enablers (Westerners) who permit this collusion of foreign aid by giving Africa money with one hand, while robbing with the other.

During the past few decades, government-to-government aid has not worked at all for economic development on the continent. Although the continent receives about $50 billion in aid each year, it is estimated that $1 trillion is stolen each year.  Most of that money ends up right back in Europe, the United States, and island tax havens. One of the best ways for economic development is to stop foreign aid as Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo describes in her critique of decades of failed policy.

“A constant stream of “free” money is a perfect way to keep an inefficient or simply bad government in power. As aid flows in, there is nothing more for the government to do — it doesn’t need to raise taxes, and as long as it pays the army, it doesn’t have to take account of its disgruntled citizens. No matter that its citizens are disenfranchised (as with no taxation there can be no representation). All the government really needs to do is to court and cater to its foreign donors to stay in power.”

Economic development cannot occur if local markets are flooded with free goods that could be produced locally. Agriculture and manufacturing take a big hit when products are routinely sent to Africa. One might think that it is generous to do so, but it effectively puts local companies out of business. Moyo offers another simple example of how foreign aid is having a reverse effect.

“A Western government-inspired program generously supplies the affected region with 100,000 free mosquito nets. This promptly puts the mosquito net manufacturer out of business, and now his 10 employees can no longer support their 150 dependents. In a couple of years, most of the donated nets will be torn and useless, but now there is no mosquito net maker to go to. They’ll have to get more aid. And African governments once again get to abdicate their responsibilities.”

In order to properly gird these concepts into the theme of reparations I must say that foreign aid to Africa does not count as reparations. The scramble for Africa by European powers in the 19th and 20th centuries absorbed all but two (Ethiopia and Liberia) sovereign states into their empires, and the amount of wealth that was stolen by declaration of war against indigenous people continues to this day with the extraction of minerals and precious metals and the round-the-clock coup d’états that occur with the help of Western interests. The exigency in which raw materials are extracted from the continent to be sent to manufacturing plants in the European Union, China, U.S.A. and Russia, leave very little to be circulated within the continent – the flow of raw materials needs to be diverted inward.

The best kind of reparation high-income nations can give to Africa is to offer something tangible like renewable energy in the form of wind turbines and solar panels to help with their energy crisis. Combining the aforementioned with proper water irrigation systems and desalinization plants are also other true forms of economic development in which all citizens could eventually build upon and stabilize their societies. Only then will much of the conflict areas soon turn into places with cultural standards in which subsisting on foreign aid and pity will be a thing of the past.

 

By Opton A. Martin