The COVID-19 virus and the Environment:

The coronavirus is a global health problem and imposing strict quarantine measures but at the same time has it been good for the environment? What impact is the pandemic having on our atmosphere. Scientists are recording huge reductions in air pollution from greenhouse gases, especially in nations such as China and Italy because of the restrictions placed on industry. Most of their information is from what is being observed from satellites. There has been a substantial drop in nitrogen oxide levels in areas of the world that rely heavily on industry. Concentrations of NO2 are down to 35% from 50-60%, depending on the area, from a year ago at the same time. Working at home has reduced vehicular traffic. It shows how economy and environment are tightly woven. There are reports from Venice that you can actually see through the waters in the canals. Of course, this does not mean that the quality has improved only that debris has been allowed to settle. All this as a result of no boat traffic. How strange that a pandemic is showing us what changes we need to make to live healthier lives.

Let Them Eat Steak…

Gallaghers Steak House, a 93 year old institution, in mid-town Manhattan was forced to close as a result of the virus. The owner had to make a decision on what to do with its perishable meats as well as all the special cuts that take 28 days to age. Mr. Poll decided that he would treat first responders to his choice meats. His chief chef, Alan Ashkinaze, prepared and wrapped orders for firefighters and police to pick up as a way to say thanks. All in all, 4,000 to 5,000 lbs. were given away that Friday at a cost of $50,000.

Aquafaba…

Eggs are one of the foods vegans choose to eliminate as part of their diet. As a result, foods such as meringues, angel food cakes and souffles are foods that they must also do without. There has been no way to duplicate the consistency of egg whites until now. Goose Wohlt, a software engineer from Indiana, has developed a meringue made from the liquid within a can of chickpeas. In combination with sugar, it whips up to a consistency similar to egg whites. “Aquafaba”(which is the name of Mr. Wohlt’s company) is derived from the Latin meaning water and beans. The consistency can be used in everything from purees, pancakes, and in the future, mayonnaise. Egg whites are 90% water and about 10% protein. Whipping unfolds the proteins and allows air bubbles to be trapped which gives it height and lightness. Chickpea water is a mixture of protein and starch which also has the ability to trap air and slow down collapse of the mixture. The water from chickpeas which was discarded in the past, has replaced the use of protein powders, starches and gums as an emulsifier. These food items were previously used to replicate the texture of egg whites. Hummus, which is produced from chickpeas, is extremely popular in America. Until recently gallons and gallons of the liquid from the cans was discarded. Now vegan companies are hooking up with companies that produce hummus and are buying this liquid by the gallons.

Bricks? Living Concrete?

Scientists have developed a way of transforming sand and gelatin to useable construction material through the use of microorganisms. This gooey mixture can be transformed to a solid mass by infusing it with living bacteria which can then continue to reproduce copies of itself. These bricks will in turn absorb greenhouse gases as opposed to releasing them. The University of Colorado Boulder’s division The College of Engineering and Applied Science developed this process by working with a type of cyanobacterium. When exposed to daylight, these organisms absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide while releasing calcium chloride. This is the same component found in seashells and cement.  Initially, this structural scaffolding of sand and gelatin is allowed to set in a mold.  The cyanobacterium, after being heated, is allowed to grow and fill in the gaps forming a solid structure. To reproduce the bricks all that is needed is to split a brick, add more gelatin and sand to the mold and allow the bacterium to grow again and fill in the cracks. The process can make it extremely easy to build in areas where resources are scarce such as installations in the desert. The process requires photosynthetic bacteria, sunlight, water and CO2. Producing cement requires burning fossil fuel which increases greenhouse emissions at a rate of 7% worldwide. More work has to be done to improve the resilience of these bricks since they do better in a more humid environment. It is also possible that different strains of bacteria have the power to sense their environments, different pH levels as well as different toxins in the air.

https://www.cell.com/matter/fulltext/S2590-2385(19)30391-1?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS2590238519303911%3Fshowall%3Dtrue