In the last decade Americans have eaten 19% less beef then over past decades. Although they are more concerned with health, it has also had an unintended positive effect on the environment. According to research done by The National Resources Defense Council 37% of Americans cited health as well as the cost of beef as the main reasons for the increase in consumption of other proteins such as chicken and tofu. The effects of raising cattle creates greenhouse emissions. This reduction is equivalent to the emissions of about 39 million cars. Cattle feed is grown using petroleum based fertilizers. In turn the animal’s digestive system produces methane gas. Methane is 25% more damaging to the environment then carbon dioxide.
The Incas faced problems with having to take long journeys and having a food productthat would travel well and sustain them for a long time. Chuno is an Inca discovery which is still a part of the culture of the population that inhabit the area surrounding the Andes. It is essentially freeze-dried potatoes that can be stored for years. The process is simple. Potatoes are sun-dried and then frozen at night and then stomped on to remove the water and skin. Inhabitants of both Peru and Bolivia lean on Chuno, which can last for decades. When there is a long lasting drought and there is little in the way of vegetables and meat to survive this is what they lean on. Many who have tried it say it is bad-tasting and foul smelling. However, it is abundant in carbohydrates while being high in iron and calcium making it a necessity for energy, strength and strong bones when little else is available.
New technology incorporating electronics and functional inks is likely to be in our near future. Self-healing materials requiring a chemical reaction have been termed polymerization. Older experimental endeavors required an external factor such as heat and were limited to smaller tears which would take hours to complete the mending process. This new technique developed at a nano-engineering lab at the University of California in San Diego, involves a solution which includes ink made with magnetic particles. If a garment is torn the magnetic particles in the fabric are drawn to each other and close the gap in seconds.
Two electrical engineers J-C Chiao and Smith Rao of the University of Texas have developed a wind turbine that is half the size of a grain of rice. It is one of the attempts at making power outlets obsolete. It is made of a durable metal alloy and connected by tiny wires that would be integrated into an item such as a smart phone. This in turn would deliver a tiny burst of energy. Other such items in the development are solar powered fabrics and wind powered hats. The tiny turbines would make the solar backpacks a thing of the past.
There is a movement in Los Angeles to encourage beekeeping in small backyard gardens. The city council has passed an amendment to allow residents to pursue keeping their own hives in an attempt to counteract the dramatic die-off of the honeybee populations. A quarter of the bee population has been lost in the past year by U.S. beekeepers. City bees do better in backyard gardens due to the lack of pesticides and a great variety of plant species. Great news is that this movement is starting to spread nationwide.
Where do we get the rich red color that makes up some of the food we eat daily? Few people realize that it is derived from pulverized insects. Extract of the cochineal bug, a scaly insect, has been used for centuries as a colorant. It is what gives color to berry flavored yogurt, some juices, imitation crab meat and even lipstick. It was discarded in the 19th century when scientists started using synthetic substitutes. Its resurgence is the result of consumers demanding the use of “natural” ingredients. The FDA has given its seal of approval on the use of this colorant. In places like Ghana, Papua New Guinea, and Bali, termites, dragonflies and beetle larvae are a big part of their diet regiment. In the west, we have more of a psychological problem with the use of bugs in our food. But the up side is –no known side effects!
Farmers are discovering, through the use of drones, how to monitor the health of their fields. Using drones not only spares farmers the expense of hiring a plane for hundreds of dollars an hour but reduces the amount of fuel emissions. Drones equipped with NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) can give farmers a heads-up months earlier as to crop yield instead of waiting until harvest time. The devices will help farmers spot potential diseases, weeds and flooding giving them sufficient time to remedy the problem. This will alleviate the need to spray acres and acres of farmland and concentrate on just the areas that need attention. This could be a big step in bringing healthier crops to market due to the reduction of pesticide usage.
Ocean breeze will now be generating renewable offshore energy. It is a first for America and will be supplying a small island community of Rhode island. Block Island previously relied on diesel-fueled generators as a power source. The wind turbines were made possible by the combined efforts of a company called Deepwater Wind and environmentally conscious political leadership. The project is small, only 5 wind turbines, but they are capable of supplying electricity to 17,000 homes and will supply 90% of the island’s needs. At present the cost is extremely high at $300 million, it will in turn reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40,000 tons per year. Because of the constant, strong winds blowing off the water, the Department of Energy has stated that if these turbines were placed along all our strategic waterways we could supply the country with twice the amount of energy the country needs. This would greatly reduce and possibly eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels in the future.