Green Prophet Impact news for the Middle East Sun, 23 Oct 2016 04:30:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Green Prophet 32 32 Refugee architecture earns an exhibit in a NYC museum Sat, 22 Oct 2016 17:06:35 +0000

refugee shelters

New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is hosting an exhibition on refugee shelters to kickstart dialogue on the design challenges caused by humanitarian crises. Entitled “Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter”, the show looks at emergency housing in contemporary crisis zones. It is the first time a major museum has explored the plight of the world’s homeless. 

Humanitarian design is a broad category of industrial design, architecture, and engineering that focuses on improving the human experience. In the Middle East, the term was hijacked to describe structures and artefacts designed to help refugees and displaced people cope with homelessness and lack of essential services. Think it’s a boutique niche in modern design?  Think again.

refugee sheltersOne out of every 113 humans alive today is either a refugee or displaced internally in their home nation, so says the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. More than 4.8 million people have fled Syria since the onset of its civil war, and the stampede towards the borders hasn’t stopped. That’s comparable to Afghanistan, which has generated millions of refugees for decades. Turn to Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Iraq, Yemen, and understand the United Nations calculation that 65.8 million people are presently, and forcibly, removed from their homes.

These people need shelter, a specific kind of shelter that can be rapidly deployed and easily assembled with basic tools and labor skills.The MoMA exhibition assesses some iconic contemporary designs to find what works, and what doesn’t.

“This exhibition raises questions rather than tries to provide answers,” curator Sean Anderson told Fast Company. “How does architecture and design today reflect, or not reflect, these conditions of transit? In the carving up of new territories and the creation of new border systems, we begin to see how architecture plays into the spatial or geospatial ideas of identity.”

Green Prophet has written extensively on design solutions proffered to date, including 10 intriguing solutions in this 2014 post (link here). And continuing development of open-source design platforms – such as Open Architecture (formerly Architecture for Humanity) and the Open Building Institute – serve up practical, smart architecture designed by professionals and released freely for use and/or adaptation by the public with a goal of improving worldwide housing.

Designs that address the challenges of conflict and mass migration also have currency in disaster relief. Consider the looming impact of climate change on coastal communities, towns vulnerable to either severe drought or flooding, and urban areas devastated by extreme weather events. “I think with climate change we are going to see a vast influx and repositioning of what it means to be a refugee in the future,” said Anderson.  So add climate refugees to the global parade.

The exhibition includes shelters from refugee camps in Kenya, Jordan, and Turkey, as well as experimental solutions by architects such as Shigeru Ban’s 1999 paper-tube structures for Rwandan refugees and bamboo houses by Norwegian firm TYIN Tegnestue.

refugee sheltersIranian architect Nader Khalili’s sandbag shelters, seen above, are simple dirt-filled sandbags which can be hand-assembled by six unskilled laborers in a single day. “You could argue that these structures are fundamentally about materiality and the ability to move them into sites relatively quickly,” Anderson says.

Those characteristics are embedded in the IKEA shelter, seen below, which can fit into two flat pack boxes that include all components plus hardware and simple tools. Fifty units can be loaded on a flatbed truck and quickly delivered anywhere that has road access.

refugee shelters

Anderson travelled to refugee camps in Jordan, Italy and Sri Lanka to see shelters in situ, noting an absolute absence of site sensitivity.  As example, Jordan’s Zaatari Syrian refugee camp is on an open desert plateau, pummeled by sandstorms and naturally teeming with scorpions and vermin.

“What was really just eye-opening to me was the lack of imagination but also consideration of where these shelters are,” he said. “It was 120°F out and you see acres and acres of metal buildings with one or two small windows. So people can’t live in these structures during the day.” Occupants have to choose between leaving doors open for added airflow, which compromised security.

The metal cabins replaced the original UNHCR fabric tents, but residents were allowed to kep those tents – to re-purpose or sell to other refugees within the camp. “What was more intriguing to me was how [the refugees] began to manipulate and change and augment these spaces,” Anderson told Fast Company. “The most poignant moment for me was sitting for a few hours in a large tent and the man said, ‘I’m a Bedouin, I know how to build tents and I refuse to live in these metal boxes.'”

“In this desire for maximum visibility, maximum rationality, and organization, there is a lack then of individuality,” Anderson says. “These individuals who are moving or are being forcibly moved from various countries literally lose their identity to go into places that are for their own safety and security and become a number in a system that they don’t necessarily recognize or understand. Shelter is not an end in itself; it actually requires a close observation of the client. What are the everyday needs of these individuals? I would suggest that it’s more than just access to food and water, but they deserve a bit of privacy and a bit of humanity.” He added that paying attention to regional building styles from the displaced population’s homeland would make for stronger designs.

The show distinguishes short-term emergency shelters from long-term refugee housing. A refugee might live in an “interim” camp for many years awaiting a return home or resettlement abroad. Consider the Kenyan camp Dadabb which opened a quarter century ago. Many of the Syrians in Zaatari are now into their fifth year of residency.

“If we see camps as permanent impermanent conditions architecturally, what’s overlooked is the landscape and the very nature of how do we transform the landscape to accommodate these cities,” Anderson said. “Everyone I interviewed [at Zaatari] said they would rather have better telephone reception than better housing.”


Got some time (and tolerance of architectural hyperbole)? Tuck into the video above, and learn more as MoMA director Glenn Lowry discusses the opening of this exhibition and a second show entitled “How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior,” with curators Sean Anderson and Juliet Kinchin.

“Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter” will be on view starting until January 22, 2017.  “How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior” will be on view through April 23, 2017.

All images from MoMA website 

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40 infectious photos of wildlife comedians! Fri, 21 Oct 2016 14:41:30 +0000

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

(Photo by Artyom Krivosheev/Barcroft Images/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2016) 

Anyone with a Facebook account knows people love pictures of adorable animals. Photographers Paul Joynson-Hicks and Tom Sullam are tapping into that animal magnetism to boost support of wildlife conservation. Their second annual Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards is inciting “conservation through competition”, helped by heaps of belly laughs, and the unbelievable images are real. (Green Prophet brings you a sampler, visit the awards website to see the full portfolio.)

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

(Photo by Gil Gofer/Barcroft Images/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2016) 

It’s an upbeat photo competition about wildlife doing funny things that puts a high-beam on how much we humans truly love animals, while steering attention to how our choices put wildlife at risk. The organizers point out that nobody is perfect. We hop planes, drive cars, cook food, and use products that likely contribute to the warming of our planet. Not a stretch to see how this indirectly impacts earth’s animals, damaging habitat and affecting food chains.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

(Photo by Carolin Tout/Barcroft Images/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2016) 

The competition gives everyone a chance to do a bit for conservation, in gentle yet persuasive ways. How? The images are infectious and scream to be shared. They might spark some chat about conservation, and lead self-starters to check out the competition’s chosen charity, Born Free.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

(Photo by Angela Bohlke/Barcroft Images/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2016) 

This year’s competition featured six categories plus a special video-clip group, each focused on a specific genre – as example creatures of the air, and creatures of the sea. More than 2200 hilarious entries came in from around the world including a face-planting baby elephant, seemingly headless penguins, and a bear sprouting wings,  The gorgeous images capture perfect comic timing and convey a powerful message that we must protect their subjects.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

(Photo by Tom Stables/Barcroft Images/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2016) 

Judges revealed their shortlist of the 40 best photographs, you can see the full portfolio on the competition website. You can also sign up on that website to receive alerts on how and when to enter the 2017 competition. The winner will be announced by the end of October. Prizes include photography equipment from Nikon and a chance to join a one-week Kenyan photo-safari.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

(Photo by Brigitta Moser/Barcroft Images/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2016) 

Joynson-Hicks and Sullam each have two young sons. They say they are “extremely keen that they can experience the wild world in the same way as we have and our parents have before us. For this to happen we all have to do something; nothing mad and crazy and life changing (although that would be awesome) but a little bit here and there.” And one thing is to visit the Born Free Foundation’s website to check out what they are doing and how you can help.

Born Free Foundation is an international wildlife charity founded by Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers and their eldest son following Bill and Virginia’s starring roles in the classic film Born Free. The Foundation promotes wild animal welfare and compassionate conservation, working to save animal lives, stop suffering, and protect rare species. They also work to end captive animal exploitation, phase out zoos and keep wildlife in the wild.



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Sustainable casino gaming – a modern reality? Sun, 16 Oct 2016 06:48:30 +0000


Our focus on the news is all about responsibility and sustainability here at Green Prophet and we’re always interested to see something that bucks a trend in an established industry, demonstrating that real steps are being taken towards sustainability in an area that you may not expect.

One such industry is casino gaming, spanning land based, online and mobile action. One of the best things that a casino operator can do nowadays in terms of putting forth a positive image is to shout about their sustainability plans and many of them do just that. Fortunately, it is more than just a public relation exercise and many big brands are going out of their way to continue to offer their core services and games while also caring about the environment.

Sustainability at Land Based Casinos

The most obvious candidates for improvements are land based operators. While the first thing to come to mind is the large casinos in Las Vegas, complete with all of their neon lights and sprawling buildings, they are far from being the only ones to make a contribution to overall sustainability within the industry.

One of the core steps being taken is perhaps the most obvious one, that being a reduction in the amount of electricity used. The big casinos are all about providing an entertainment experience and lighting, bold games and other power hogs have always been a core part of this. However, the gaming industry has long been particularly receptive to the idea of making a change rather than sticking to what they know, and great strides have been taken.

Some casinos, especially in Vegas, are so brightly lit that they can easily be seen when coming in to land and recent technological advancements have ensured that it is possible to achieve the same effect in a much more environmentally friendly way. Something as simple as using eco-friendly bulbs to achieve the same effect is one that many casinos have worked towards and the slot machines themselves now often come with energy ratings in many markets in the same way as a refrigerator or any other electrical item. An environmentally conscious casino manager will take this into account when choosing games and so it makes perfect sense for the manufacturers to make their cabinets as efficient as possible.

The industry has even made reductions and changes to materials used as part of day to day operations. Some could argue that the end goal here is as much about efficiency as sustainability, but even incidental savings are something worthwhile.

Paper receipts and loyalty cards are increasingly being replaced by electronic alternatives, vastly cutting down on waste, and even playing cards, which can last less than a day in busy casinos, have now switched to production using recycled materials. While one deck of cards may not sound like much, when you consider just how many cards are played through on any given day, the savings are more impressive than they may seem.

Responsibility at Online and Mobile Casinos

The practice of delivering an online or mobile casino gaming experience may be vastly different to its land based equivalent, but the benefits to the operator and of course to the environment itself are massively important. These casinos offer gaming from a central location, and many of the best online brands and casino apps make use of servers that work in accordance with their own eco-friendly policies. One of those sites is App Casinos. Cloud based solutions, for example, are not only extremely secure but can also reduce server costs and operational expenses. When housed in an environmentally friendly location, power costs are lower and the player experience is by no means negatively affected.

The responsibilities of interactive gaming operators extend further than this too and promoting responsible gaming can be every bit as effective as reducing a carbon footprint. One operator that goes out of its way in this manner is Mr Green with its Green Gaming policy – perhaps the most outstanding corporate responsibility scheme in the industry right now. A dedicated section of their site covers limits, assistance and everything else to position it as one of the most experienced brands around. It also certainly helps that they are behind some of the best online games and one of the most enjoyable mobile casino apps in the industry, always ranking highly when it comes to mobile casino reviews.

So, while the gaming industry may seem to be all about the profits, they are also at the cutting edge of providing an environmentally friendly service. This bodes well for future developments in all industries and those that enjoy a dabble in offline, online or even mobile gaming can do so safe in the knowledge that they can do so without worrying about jeopardizing their personal eco-friendly goals.

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The White House Garden gets support to endure from Burpee seed company Thu, 13 Oct 2016 09:13:53 +0000


Michelle Obama has made America’s gardening great and she’s now laying down roots so the gardening tradition will continue even after her family leaves the White House this January. Obama created the garden in 2009, and made sure to expand it twice so it will be hard to plow under by the next family. She’s expanding and improving it so it will endure, along with the American values of gardening to discourage obesity, and get kids outdoors.

The garden started at 1100 square feet to more than double in size at 2800 square feet. It has walkways, wooden tables and benches. A stone reads: “White House Kitchen Garden, established in 2009 by First Lady Michelle Obama with the hopes of growing a healthier nation for our children.”

A new endowment by the seed and home gardening company, W. Atlee Burpee Company, and The Burpee Foundation will keep Obama’s dream alive. While there is no White House law that must keep the garden alive, Burpee’s latest $2.5 million donation will ensure that it is tended to and thrives into the future, as Michelle has intended as a legacy to her husband’s time in Office.

Burpee Seeds, officially W. Atlee Burpee & Co., is a seed company that was founded by Washington Atlee Burpee in 1876.

burpee vintage-burpee burpee-seeds

According to Venelin Dimitrov, a senior manager at Burpee, regardless of who moves into the White House, Michelle’s garden can live on: “The idea is to preserve the legacy left by First Lady Michelle Obama,” he tells Green Prophet.

Dimitrov, a specialist in flowers, helped create the special seed blends that were donated for distribution at U.S. national parks.

Honey bees are on a swift decline, and Monarch butterflies are now considered endangered. By encouraging people to plant flowering plants, we can ensure that pollinator food such as fruits and many vegetables that will continue to feed us into the future.

Dimitrov says that it’s also about historical preservation to have a garden in the White House: “Most of the Founding Fathers were farmers and gardeners and it’s a neat idea to have a garden in the White House similar to President Jefferson’s garden in Monticello” where he grew more than 300 varieties of plants.

Thomas Jefferson's food garden at Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson’s food garden at Monticello.

“If we had established it 100 years ago, every president could have left their mark. Now it has been started by Mrs. Obama and can be there for every Administration after the Obamas. It would be neat to see, 100 years from now, how the garden evolves,” he says.

The mission is to get people up, moving and gardening; but Dimitrov holds off giving us the list of what the White House Kitchen Garden is growing, saying we shouldn’t try to mimic what’s being grown there, since every region and state has different species and varieties that work best locally.


White House Garden, 2012. Planted: Mustard Greens, Dill seed, and five varieties of potatoes, including red Sangre, purple fingerlings from Peru called Purple Sion; Mountain Rose, Red Thumb and Canola Russet.

The point is that if our leaders set an example, the people will follow.

There is diabesity and obesity and “from a gardening point of view we would like to see people broaden their horizons by getting outdoors and growing plants.”

What’s exciting to grow? Dimitrov says that exotic fruits such as figs are becoming popular with Americans, as are jujubes and goji berries. There are lots of new fruit that are grown in tough climates around the world. These work well in the US as they are used to drought and do not require a lot of maintenance.


President Obama shows off the Kitchen Garden.

There are traditional vegetables that are high yield and low maintenance, such as cucumbers and melons. Urban farmers with little space should try their hands at vining plants such as peas, pole beans, and tomatoes.

Do garden Jujitsu

Dimitrov says: “It’s like garden Jujitsu. Use plans to fight the elements to your advantage. Use plants for shade if you are exposed to heat — there are excellent tomato species, such as ‘Heatwave II’.

Urban Farm School teaches you how to grow food in your city.

Urban Farm School teaches you how to grow food in your city.

“Morning Glory flowers provide plenty of shade, helping to cut down on energy bills. Even hyacinth bean; let them climb up, creating beauty to your porch, patio or roof, and an impact on your air conditioning use.”

Dimitrov says Burpee cultivates varieties of seeds that grow well in small spaces to give you great output with little requirements in terms of water and attention.

Want to know what to plant? “Bush bean, ‘Beananza’ in your balcony box, tomato, ‘Patio Princess’, cucumber, ‘Spacemaster’ or small okra, like ‘Baby Bubba’, may look tiny, but they can really bring a lot of food to the table,” Dimitrov adds.

Go to to cultivate your next meal and family project.

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Chefs’ dream garden grows in the middle of Manhattan at Farm.One Thu, 13 Oct 2016 07:09:19 +0000

Rob Laing, the founder and CEO of Farm.One.

Local, real food (#realfood) is more than a rage. It’s the new everything in food. After decades of eating shipped-in waxy veggies, greens and fruits, consumers and chefs are demanding a new kind of food. Vegetables and fruits that are local, and full of flavor. We want food with high oil and vitamin content that looks out of this world. Food that is pesticide-free.

The problem with these demands is checking all the boxes. How in the world do you grow local, fresh, tasty and diverse foods in cities like New York City where good food is more than in demand, it’s a way of life?

Going big by growing small


Farm.One a new urban farm startup located inside the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, has a bold new idea. Instead of going “big” as its predecessors have done, this vertical farming company has done the opposite by growing small.

Farm.One CEO and founder Rob Laing (pictured below, and very top) came from the startup world “merry-go-round”. After founding a successful VC-backed startup, he wanted to change gears. While taking chefs classes in LA Laing discovered on outings to the farmer’s markets that new flavors are transitory. No chef in the world can build a menu around a herb, spice, flower or microgreen that has a season of only 2 weeks: Laing’s idea? Build chefs dream gardens near their restaurants so unique, fresh food can be available year round.


How do they do it? With technology: Farm.One uses a special space age cultivation technique called hydroponics to grow unusual fresh herbs and plants indoors, using highly controlled processes to perfect flavors and indulge what their local chef customers desire. The company is working with a dozen local restaurants already on private orders, and offers home chefs a weekly herb and flower discovery box for only $15 a week.

Hydroponics means growing plants on water, with added nutrients and lighting. It’s also called controlled environment agriculture, greenhouse ag, or vertical or urban farming. There are lots of ways you can do it, with larger farms like Brightfarms, Gotham Greens, Farmed Here, and Aerofarms gaining notoriety for their plant factories that grow monocrops like lettuce or spinach.

Farm.One takes another angle: “we want to grow interesting crops, stuff you can’t get anywhere else –- for chefs,” Laing says.


He explains: “If you’re a farmer and you’ve got something good like a unique herb that you grow for 2 weeks of the year, you can’t share it with chefs because they build menus around special ingredients and recipe development. Sometimes chefs take months perfecting a texture and flavor.


Growing hydroponic garlic chive, mint, red-veined sorrel.

“New York has a crazy climate and then it’s hot. Its lack of local farmland and dense population means chefs end up buying basil from Israel, which is crazy. I decided that there could be an interesting niche. I don’t want to be the biggest and I don’t want to buy commodity crops.”

How does Farm.One work?

Like renting server space on a server farm: chefs work with Farm.One to determine what they want on the menu, and pay a set fee for regular deliveries, always within a hyper local 15-minute bike ride to their restaurant. Or direct orders can be placed via the website where 150 herbs, greens and flowers, some rare, can be grown to order.

Laing wants every chef in Manhattan to have a kitchen garden (like the White House!), but most “probably don’t have space or expertise on how to grow themselves. They can rent space with us and we will manage the garden for them,” he tells Green Prophet.

Yield and variety will be determined by the restaurant.


Chefs and partners visit the Manhattan farm, Farm.One

“Some chefs,” Laing notes, “want to have secrecy and I am happy to go down that route. We can keep it ninja for these chefs. We could grow something unique to them, in a particular size or in a particular flavor. And introduce new tastes to people, like wasabi arugula,” he points out.

If you want in on the new flavors, but are still an aspiring chef (at home) Farm.One also has a fresh herb subscription box which will provide you weekly flavors of pesticide-free herbs and greens –– among 150 varieties grown. All cycled to your Manhattan-based home.


While most of us don’t have a Manhattan zip code and can’t enjoy the benefits of Farm.One, we can be inspired and start growing our own at home. A trip to the local hydroponics shop for growing equipment and some heirloom seeds should satisfy some basic urges.

For more inspiration on what New York chefs want? Look to Farm.One’s catalog.

Laing’s top 7 pics of new herbs and plants for chefs to grow are:


1. Papalo – Central Mexican herb, used in sandwiches known as cemitas in central Mexico.



Bronze fennel on white background



2. Bronze fennel – At a young age has a sweetness to it. Not rubbery or chewy.



purple-ruffles-basil3. Purple Ruffles Basil  – Ruffled and jagged purple leaves, with a strong aroma of anise.




4.  Nepitella – a Tuscan herb which has disappeared from a lot of recipes. Has beautiful tiny pink flowers.



sheep-sorrel5. Sheep’s sorrel – Sour and intriguing herb, very hard to find






6. Minutina (Erba Stella) – Italian salad leaf, shaped like grass but succulent and crunchy.



pluto-basil7. Pluto Basil – small, highly-fragrant leaves, perfect for garnish



Check out subscription options at Farm.One

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Climb Mount Kilimanjaro with Oola’s modesty-wear for Muslims Sun, 09 Oct 2016 09:48:37 +0000


Amid news of France’s overturned ban of the full-body “burkini” swimsuit, Playboy and Women’s Running magazines featuring women in hijab for the first time the hijab is turning heads and making headlines. The hijab or face-covering for Muslim women needs to be comfortable and sport-relevant says Qatar-based founders of Oola Sportswear. They just launched an Indiegogo campaign that not only celebrates modest activewear such as comfortable head coverings and workout suites, but they bring much-needed athletic wear technology to the segment.


The Oola team launched a campaign Oola Sportswear: Activewear That’s Got You Covered on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo on Sunday morning (the start of the week in Qatar, where the team is based). With a goal of $15,000, the campaign offers elegant, functional, loose-fitting activewear and sports hijabs that finally make outdoor sports accessible to women who prefer coverage with their workout gear.


Most women’s sportswear is tight, short, low-cut, or designed in short-sleeved-only options. For women who value modesty out of personal values or religious practice — such as those of the Islamic, Orthodox Judaic, Coptic Christian, or other faiths — finding athletic wear that performs and comes in desired styles is a tiring hunt.

Good activewear, depending on the sport, is quick-drying, breathable, and/or water-repellent. Coming across attire that is made of suitable sports fabrics and enables a woman to stay covered fashionably in comfort is all too uncommon.

Experiencing this struggle themselves, Oola co-founders Haya Al Ghanim and Amina Ahmadi decided to design activewear that has all of the above. “While we were training for a Mount Kilimanjaro hike, we really wanted to train outside, but we were really struggling to find something to wear that was appropriate for training outdoors,” says co-founder Amina. “We knew at that point that we wanted to do something about it, but it was the experience of Kili itself that brought Oola to life. We made up our mind that we were going to go back home and do something about it.”

More about Oola Sportswear

Oola Sportswear is a modesty-inspired fashion brand that provides loose-fitting, contemporary activewear for women who prefer more coverage for outdoor activities. Our vision is to promote a healthy lifestyle by making outdoor sports accessible for our clients.


Oola believes that every woman possesses the strength to push boundaries, redefine limits, and overcome challenges. Equipped with the right tools, a woman can unlock her potential, achieving goals that may have seemed unreachable, enjoying experiences that seemed limited, and inspiring communities around them. Oola provides activewear that will enable women to push their fitness goals and challenge their limits. To plant a seed of empowerment is all it takes to lose one’s inhibitions. Oola is that seed.

Support Oola here!

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City mapping for refugees locked in a concrete jungle Sat, 08 Oct 2016 20:02:44 +0000

green-balloon-lebanon-2Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have been living in a concrete jungle for decades. Unlike the tents and temporary conditions of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have put down roots. More than 400,000 refugees live in a labyrinth of concrete structures, built one on top of the other.

It’s a mess, but volunteers now plan on making some “green” sense out of the madness.

Claudia Martinez Mansell has launched Citizen science in a refugee camp on Kickstarter to collect funds to help her create maps of the Bourj Al Shamali refugee camp.

We’ve participated in balloon mapping projects in the West Bank. The notion goes like this: how can we save or better a situation or environment if we don’t know what’s there? A low-cost to build accurate maps is by sending weather balloons up above the city, with an always on camera taking photos from multiple directions. These images can later be sewn together to create a comprehensive map.

We take maps of our towns and cities for granted, and applications like Google Maps has made us more aware and curious about locations far away.

But such maps don’t provide the resolution needed to give answers like: where should we build an urban garden? A playground for children? Recycling centers? How is power and water distributed through the city, if at all?



Mansell, who’s been connected to the refugees for 2 decades reasons that when the citizens can make where they live, they can analyse, improve, green, and take charge of their environment.


The Kickstarter campaign is looking to raise $12,500 for:

1. The completion and production of the map of the camp, building on several months of self-funded balloon-mapping that have already been carried out.

2. Funding the remaining transportation costs associated with bringing a few mappers to speak about this project at events in the United States.




We like the idea, especially because we already see urban farms dotting the horizons of the refugee camps. Support the campaign here on Kickstarter. We did.

Read here about the bigger initiative.

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The hijab takes on chess and gambling Fri, 07 Oct 2016 09:52:31 +0000


America’s chess champion will not agree to wear a hijab, the modest head covering endorsed by religious Muslims, in order to participate in the 2017 Championship being held in Iran next year. She has decided to boycott the dress code that she must cover her hair.

Whether or not women can play chess at all in the presence of men without a head covering isn’t the only issue barring women and people in general for playing chess. Strict adherents to Muslim law believe that chess is a form of gambling and should not be played at all. Chess has been largely banned in Iran over the last few decades. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia banned it this year. In other Muslim countries like Turkey you’d be hard pressed to find men not playing checker or chess.

Semitic religions in the Middle East have long considered gambling to be prohibited but it is in these very places where some of the biggest casinos and software companies that enable gambling have been created. The Middle East is fraught with mixed messages and double standards and those that go against the norms often do because they are operating with “protection” or outside the law. Or they simply don’t care.

It used to be common, when there were better relations between Israel and their Palestinian neighbors, that visitors to Israel could easily go to West Bank locations like Jericho for a taste of Middle East casinos. For western tourists, playing poker in the Middle East can be considered big fun even though it causes misery to those who lose. Hence the prohibition by religious clerics. With so many double standards at play, you get a taste of why the Middle East appears to be in a massive mess.

Consider: environmental researchers in countries like Israel and Turkey may be very progressive but getting any laws enacted, and polluters fined is an uphill battle that government-funded prosecutors must face with few resources and tangible threats in hand.


Americans are not free from the double signals endorsed by law makers. There is a lot at stake when it comes to online gaming and gambling. Now we are not taking positions on the US election but consider that Donald Trump’s primary financier is Sheldon Adelson, who is Jewish. Worth billions thanks to Las Vegas casinos he owns, and married to an Israeli, you can see how far traditional religious law has taken him. He does argue and fight however against legislation in the US to allow online gambling platforms to proliferate. Adelson warns that online gambling can be dangerous to children.

It can also be dangerous to his existing cash flow.

We know readers here are mostly based in the US and the UK. But there are also plenty of online casinos accessible from the Middle East. Some turn to the UK’s many casino sites, such as the British – Vegas William Hill. The proliferation of gambling sites has covered the globe thanks to an Israeli company called Playtika which was just sold to a Chinese bidder for more than $4 billion dollars. Playtika is considered a competitor to gaming companies such as Farmville creators Zynga. In the social gaming or gambling world there is little division between playing games and gambling for money.

I am okay with gambling if you are okay with throwing away money. Not okay if you are betting on gambling to make your dreams come true. Only hard work will make that happen. Not the luck of the draw.

We will be watching the news on chess playing and hijab unfold. What do you think? Should women playing in Iran be forced to participate in local dress customs?

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Algae returns as fuel for our future Thu, 06 Oct 2016 18:12:23 +0000

arabs, jews, algae, Kibbutz Ein Shemer, Eco-Greenhouse, agriculture, biofuels, wastewater treatment, food, medicine

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have revealed how microalgae produce hydrogen, a clean fuel of the future, and suggest a possible mechanism to jumpstart mass production of this environmentally-friendly energy source. Their results have been published in back-to-back studies in Plant Physiology and Biotechnology for Biofuels.

The research was led by Dr. Iftach Yacoby, head of TAU’s renewable energy laboratory, and Rinat Semyatich, Haviva Eisenberg, Iddo Weiner and Oded Liran, his students at the School of Plant Sciences and Food Securityat TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences.


Researchers in the past believed that algae only produce hydrogen in the course of a single microburst at dawn lasting just a few minutes. But Dr. Yacoby and his team used highly sensitive technology to discover that algaeproduce hydrogen from photosynthesis all day long. Armed with this discovery, the team harnessed genetic engineering to increase algae‘s production of this clean energy source 400 percent.

Increasing algae‘s output of hydrogen

Laboratory tests revealed that algae create hydrogen with the assistance of the enzyme hydrogenase, which breaks down when oxygen is present. The researchers discovered effective mechanisms to remove oxygen so hydrogenase can keep producing hydrogen.

“The discovery of the mechanisms makes it clear that algae have a huge underutilized potential for the production of hydrogen fuel,” said Dr. Yacoby. “The next question is how to beef up production for industrial purposes — to get the algae to overproduce the enzyme.”


Some 99% of the hydrogen produced in the US comes from natural gas. But the methods used to draw hydrogen from natural gas are toxic — and wasteful.

Answering the need for clean energy

“I grew up on a farm, dreaming of hydrogen,” said Dr. Yacoby. “Since the beginning of time, we have been using agriculture to make our own food. But when it comes to energy, we are still hunter-gatherers. Cultivating energy from agriculture is really the next revolution. There may be other ways to produce hydrogen, but this is the greenest and the only agricultural one.

“The world burns in just one year energy it took the earth over a million years to produce,” Dr. Yacoby continued. “We must stop being hunters and gatherers of energy. We must start producing clean energy — for our children and for our children’s children.”

Dr. Yacoby is now researching synthetic enzymes capable of increasing hydrogen production from microalgae to industrial levels.

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Surf rising sea levels in a WaterNest home? Thu, 06 Oct 2016 18:03:33 +0000

floating homeRemember that quirky Yael Mer inflatable dress that could save your life when disaster strikes? These floating homes go to the next level: Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on the Caribbean. Would the damage be less devastating if you lived in a floating home? Perhaps, but you’ll have to serve up more than pretty renderings to lure me aboard.

Italian architect Giancarlo Zema has designed an eco-friendly floating dwelling called the WaterNest 100.  The 100 square meter units are made of up to 98% recycled materials including its aluminum frame and laminated timber cladding. Sixty square meters of rooftop photovoltaic panels provide about 4 kWp of clean electricity, enough to power the needs of a one-bedroom dwelling or office function.

floating home

The interior of WaterNest 100 can accommodate a bedroom, bathroom, living room, dining area and kitchen. It can also be configured as an exhibition space or workspace. Large windows and skylights provide ample daylighting, and open air balconies maximize waterfront views while also allowing for an efficient system of natural micro-ventilation, minimizing the need for mechanically conditioned air.  So far so good, if this was This is the Architecture 101, the basics of decent residential design

floating homeThe units are available through EcoFloLife, a London-based business specializing in the design and construction of eco-friendly floating homes. Their website states, “The world around us is becoming increasingly chaotic and conformist…ongoing climate changes and the resulting sea- and river-level rises force us to ponder on the eco-sustainability of our housing choices.” Fair enough, but how do these floating homes actually work?

floating home

The 12 meter diameter units can be positioned along rivers, lakes, bays, atolls and calm sea areas. The EcoFloLife catalogue provides top-design eco-friendly furnishings that complement the design and meet most contemporary needs.

floating home

The world around us is becoming increasingly chaotic and conformist, requiring fully eco-friendly and recyclable housing units, which allow us to live in complete independence and in harmony with nature, while respecting and admiring it. The ongoing climate changes and the resulting sea- and river-level rises force us to ponder on the eco-sustainability of our housing choices. EcoFloLife is committed on the topic of environmental sustainability with its floating and eco-friendly residential units.

Images via EcoFloLife website 

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