Friday, May 25, 2007

Mauritius’ Renewable Energy Future

Mauritius’ policy of increasing renewable energy utilization should serve as an initiative that can be passed on to other countries that are poor in petrochemicals but rich in biodiversity.

By: Vanessa Uy

The Mauritius government program of promoting the increased utilization of renewable energy sources like solar power and biomass was driven in part by the constant rise of petrol prices over the past few years. Also, government revenue that can be saved from reduced dependence on imported petrol could be put to better use in improving the social development programs in Mauritius. As opposed to just using the said funds to allow Middle-Eastern despots to continually build-up their own military might. Contributing further to the instability in the region.

Parts of the sugarcane that’s left over after sugar production is a good source of biomass that Mauritius has in abundance. By using this biomass as a “feed” for biogas digesters can provide 25% more energy than by burning the same biomass directly in an incinerator-type power plant. Currently, 20% of Mauritius’ electricity is generated from renewable biomass systems. Also the Mauritius government are finding ways to make photovoltaic/solar powered electricity production fiscally viable whether in large industrial installations or just small domestic set-ups used to meet typical household needs. A lot is riding on the success on this program because Mauritius doesn’t have local petrol, and a 100% renewable energy source could allow the nation to develop without increasing the effects of global warming.

Jerry Falwell: A Legacy of Hate

Ever since he founded the “Moral Majority” back in 1979, Jerry Falwell probably has a dubious influence of creating a rift between Islam and the West.

By: Vanessa Uy

When Jerry Falwell passed away last May 16, 2007, all my sentiments point to good riddance. For most rational level- headed Americans, Jerry Falwell may seem no more than a minor irritation to accepted standards of civil liberties. Jerry Falwell influenced the creation of PMRC (parents music resource center) back in the 1980’s which bought us the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” stickers on our records/CDs that are still with us today. But it’s much more serious for us here in parts of South East Asia, where Jerry Falwell’s ideas are used by right wing militants- to murder Socialist/Left Wing activists from 1970’s till the present.

To me, Jerry Falwell’s legacy of his “Moral Dictum” of harassing and vilifying the non-Christian members of the human race is tantamount to “cultural genocide.” His “follower’s” utter disregard for environmental concerns brought us global warming which they claim as their right by virtue of “Anglo-Saxon Manifest Destiny.” Now doubt, Jerry Falwell is Al Qaeda’s raison d’être for without Al Qaeda many young Muslims think that they would be wiped out by people like Jerry Falwell before the end of the 20th Century.

Despite of Jerry Falwell’s passing, there are a lot of “Christian Bigots” lining up to take his place like Ann Coulter. She single handedly started a campaign of “cultural genocide” to anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the “Moral Majority’s” views. If she gets enough political power and clout, Ann Coulter would allow legislation of a law that would outlaw anthropology and shut down the National Geographic Society.

Fahrenheit 911: Did it miss by a Mile?

Once ridiculed as: “The proof that President George W. Bush piloted the plane that slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center building in September 11, 2001.” Is “Fahrenheit 911” a legitimate critique on the Bush Administration?

By: Vanessa Uy

I don’t know how many people in the United States are kicking themselves for voting Bush another term in office when the Hurricane Katrina/FEMA fiasco came out, are approval ratings a good indicator? Despite of John Ashcroft spontaneously bursting into song, Fahrenheit 911 just missed the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal by just a few months. That story could have added a “sense of legitimacy” to “Fahrenheit 911” that might convince hard core Republicans that they are betting on the wrong horse so to speak. Then came FEMA’s mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, then the sex scandals of Republican Congressmen with their pages with mounting e-mail evidence…then came Reverend Ted Haggard…

In Michael Moore’s credit, he really tried hard to tackle in presenting the evil behind relatively esoteric subjects like Halliburton that can easily hide their scandal via corporate rigmarole that can have most average citizens in need of legal assistance just to keep up. In all of this, I just wonder how many virgins did the Moral Majority/GOP sacrificed in order to postpone the arrival of Hurricane Katrina so that “she” won’t become a 2004-election issue?

Michael Moore versus the US Health Care System

After “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 911”, Michael Moore is now tackling the US health care system with “Sicko.”

By: Vanessa Uy

Using the 60th Cannes Film Festival - as a springboard- to launch his latest opus, Michael Moore’s latest documentary is no less a “scathing critique” on the US health - care system. To me, Michael Moore has chosen a very good topic with “Sicko” because the US health care system is long overdue for a long hard look.

Ever since the US President Teddy Roosevelt established universal health care for all Americans back in 1912, the lofty goals of the US health care system has been found wanting especially when it comes to results. Fast-forward to the Reagan years, it seems like Roosevelt’s “universal health care for all Americans” is more of a dream than reality. This is so because of the systems arcane bureaucracy has causes more harm- than- good. One of the excerpts of interest of the documentary is the “choosing which finger scene” where the accident victim is asked to decide whether he should choose to attach the middle finger for US$60,000 or choose to attach the ring finger for US$12,000. How can civilized people rationalize to have that kind of situation be accepted as the norm in America’s health care system?

Even though Michael Moore failed to include the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal in “Fahrenheit 911”, because the scandal leaked out-near the end of April 2004- a few months after the release of that documentary. The scandal that surrounds the US health care system probably can be dated back to the Ronald Reagan administration, inspiring songs like Metal Church’s “Fake Healer.” To me, there will probably be no other surprises in store that might suddenly emerge about the US health care system. Even 6 months after the premier of Michael Moore’s “Sicko.”

One of the points-of-contention in “Sicko” is Michael Moore comparing the US health care system with the one that is provided by Fidel Castro’s Cuba. As for anyone who’ve watched that BBC documentary about Cuba’s national health care system back in 2006. Here the BBC journalists were very impressed on Cuba’s national health care program which they described as efficient and very effective despite of operating on a budget that’s only a fraction of it’s American counterpart. And Cuba’s very good national health care system is what allowed Cuban citizens to achieve an average life expectancy that’s better than the US average despite of their national health care system operating on a “shoestring budget.”

Despite of the truth, the US authorities continue to vilify Michael Moore by placing him under arrest. This is due to some violating of some arcane law about prohibiting US citizens from traveling into Cuba or something.

11th Hour: Last Call to Stop Global Warming

With the box office success and political impact of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” will Leonardo Di Caprio’s “11th Hour” do the same.

By: Vanessa Uy

Another “environmental opus” coming you’re way via the 60th Cannes Film Festival. I just hope that the hype generated by these two environmentally conscientious works doesn’t downplay the seriousness surrounding the issue of climate change and/or global warming. I haven’t yet seen “11th Hour” in it’s entirety, but the trailer suggest it’s about those pro-Bush/pro-Republican climatologists who kept the proof of global warming from reaching the policymakers on Capitol Hill. The film is a very thorough explanation of the world’s policymaker’s current mad-dash to formulate laws to lessen the impact of global warming. Even my friends who served during the 1991 Operation: Desert Storm predicted that by the year 2000, cars will be run by something other than gasoline as they witnessed first hand the carnage caused by the industrialized world’s lust for petroleum.

Germany: Spearheading the Solar Future

Lately, Germany’s pulling all the stops in an attempt to make solar energy use mainstream.

By: Vanessa Uy

Either by legislation or innovation, Germany is going solar with hopes that her neighbors gain the initiative to do the same. In the innovation front, Oliver Schultz, a 31 year- old German physicist from Freiburg’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Research had developed a photovoltaic solar cell whose efficiency is greater than 20%. This is much greater than existing off-the-shelf solar photovoltaic cells. By using multi crystalline structured silicon photovoltaic cells, Oliver Schultz was able to coax the cells to have an efficiency rating greater than 20%. This type of silicon crystals are much cheaper to manufacture because the purity issue is not very critical when compared to the majority of photovoltaic solar cells in current use. There’s one disadvantage though, multi crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells are high temperature sensitive which could become a problem during fabrication stage – especially if you want to maintain the consistency of it’s high-efficiency characteristic.

Recently, Oliver Schultz has developed an improved low temperature manufacturing and fabrication process for multi crystalline silicon solar photovoltaic cells. These new “class” of multi crystalline silicon cells have efficiencies approaching close to 30%. These crystals - were recently evaluated by independent US laboratories, and their efficiency claims are substantiated. If these new - generation of multi crystalline silicon solar photovoltaic cells gain widespread use, the “carbon footprint” of industrialized nations would further be reduced.

Beyond the Rhetoric: The Philippine Anti-Blast Fishing Campaign

No longer the “toothless law” it once was, will the Philippine anti-blast fishing law work this time around?

By: Vanessa Uy

Ever since the post World War II economic reconstruction period, blast fishing – a fishing method that’s all but outlawed throughout the civilized world – gained notoriety here in the Philippines. It seems like anyone who can cobble up an ammonium nitrate based IED (improvised explosive device) is “good to go” for blast fishing, despite of the possible fatal injury to the fisherman and the long term damage that’s inflicted to our fragile coral reef systems. Even after years of illegal blast fishing, studies revealed that the seas surrounding the Philippine islands – especially in the Visayan region – are deemed more bio diverse than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. According to Nygiel B. Armada a FISH fisheries manager, the Visayan seas contain more than 26 tons of fish per square kilometer. Despite of this apparent abundance, marine resources –like fish- need to be managed to maintain sustainability. Illegal fishing methods like blast fishing threaten the sustainability of our fish stocks. The damage caused by blast fishing goes beyond the crater formed by the explosive device, ultra-fine coral fragments created from the resulting blast can smother the surrounding coral bed causing long term damage that can drastically affect the local fishing industry.

Recent anti-blast fishing campaigns- especially those being spearheaded by Jojo de la Victoria and Tony Oposa are seen by local environmental pressure groups as a long-awaited “White Knight” that will eliminate the problem of illegal fishing in one fell swoop. While setting up patrols to police the relatively lawless Visayan seas. Jojo de la Victoria and Tony Oposa’s program of penalizing perpetrators to the full extent of the law, market denial of fish caught by illegal means coupled with an educational campaign explaining to the communities dependent on the fishing industry the follies of blast fishing. Their program proved to be very effective because blast fishing seems to have vanished almost overnight. Unfortunately, this angered the lawless elements that are involved in the illegal blast fishing industry.

Sadly, Jojo de la Victoria was assassinated in a desperate attempt by the organized crime elements involved in the illegal fishing industry to stop the very successful anti-blast fishing campaign that he and Tony Oposa had started. The anti-blast fishing campaign was not daunted by the murder of one of the founders. Instead, it gained the much- needed impetus to stop blast fishing once and for all. Bantay Dagat patrols with the help of NBI personnel equipped with M-16 rifles conduct raids on known blast fishing hot spots/strongholds, and confiscating paraphernalia used for blast fishing. At the same time educating these communities that blast fishing can deprive them of their livelihood by destroying the coral reefs that fishes need to spawn.

Unlike the Marcos-era Bantay Dagat of yore, which are no more than mere rhetoric aimed to please the local and international environmental pressure groups. The campaign established by Jojo de la Victoria and Tony Oposa is more likely to succeed and last because the police action is backed by an effective educational campaign. As Tony Oposa said on the environmental effects of blast fishing: “another blast is one blast too many.”

Friday, May 18, 2007

Is Zimbabwe a Threat?

Is Zimbabwe qualified to head the UN’s Sustainable Development Program, or are the European Union’s concerns groundless?

By: Vanessa Uy

In May 4, 2007, Zimbabwe was elected to head the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Program via “Secret Ballot.” This made Francie Nhema, Zimbabwe’s environment minister very magnanimous in victory. But there are lingering questions on how Zimbabwe could head this UN program when President Robert Mugabe’s flawed land reform policy has transformed the country from “Africa’s Breadbasket” to a country whose agricultural system can hardly even feed her own people. And for the first time, the US Government showed concern on Zimbabwe’s human rights violations and the Mugabe regime’s treatment of the political opposition. US State Department’s Dan Reifsnyder voiced his concerns over Zimbabwe’s ability and qualifications to run the UN Sustainable Development Program. The British Government and the European Union have always been mindful of Zimbabwe’s human rights record of the past three years or so. Is President Robert Mugabe another Idi Amin in the making? Only time will tell.

Once upon a time, the former British colony called Rhodesia changed her name to Zimbabwe back in 1979 to assert her newly acquired freedom and sovereignty. In 1980, Robert Mugabe was elected president. That’s right people, he’s been running the country since that time. My “dogs-of-war” buddies have viewed Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe –at the time- as a model for African self-determination. But 20 or so years later it’s as if Zimbabwe has fallen from grace. President Mugabe’s heavy-handed approach to quell the political opposition has been criticized by the EU for a number of years now. And President Mugabe’s greatest folly is the expulsion of “white farmers” from their own farmlands. These lands were given to native Zimbabweans with no industrial- scale farming expertise. This policy has decimated Zimbabwe’s agricultural industry since then.

It’s good that the US Government finally gave a damn about this issue and voiced their criticisms over the Mugabe Regime. In the last 4 years, it seems like only 10 Downing Street gives a damn about the course of action President Mugabe takes. It seems that the policymakers on Capitol Hill are willing to overlook one more of Africa’s problems, like they did back in April of 1994.

Al Gore in Bio Fuel Row

Al Gore, the man who brought the urgency of global warming to the world’s policymakers is now caught in a bio fuel controversy.

By: Vanessa Uy

Anti global warming crusader Al Gore has angered the environmental activists in Argentina last May 13, 2007 due to his relatively culturally insensitive introduction of bio fuel industry in Argentina and the rest of Latin America. Gore’s program of promoting bio fuel production to the rest of South America. Has the intent of lessening their dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Unfortunately caused an- uproar on Argentina’s environmental groups that sparked a series of loud demonstrations, burning of the US flag and chanting of anti- US imperialism slogans. The concerns of the Argentina’s environmentalist were warranted though.

Ever since the Argentina’s government started a program of producing ethanol from locally grown sugarcane. Even though the quantities of ethanol produced is for Argentina’s own domestic use, local sugar prices soared and the mono- culture created by the hundreds of hectares of sugarcane fields are a crop failure disaster waiting to happen. This can get much worse though if most Americans just substitute bio fuel like they waste petroleum based fuels. Energy conservation should be an integral part of every program if the industrialized world wants to reduce their “carbon footprint.”

Poorly conceived bio fuel production methods not only create mono -culture problems, this also increases the retail prices of staple foods in most of South America. If the US Government plans to use the whole of South America to grow the bio fuel quota needed to run their wasteful lifestyle, this could be seen as another form of US imperialism in the region. More importantly, the deeply held pre-Columbian beliefs and culture that recently began to assert despite of more than five centuries of European Christian hegemony failed to quell about the Native Latin American peoples reverence to their food crops. This is the main reason why they oppose the large- scale production of bio fuels using staple food crops. Even Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves and Cuban President Fidel Castro are now up in arms in opposition to this latest incarnation of US imperialism. Looks like Al Gore should have consulted Body Shop’s Anita Roddick first before launching such a venture.

Climate Change Threaten German Beer Festival

The effects of climate change are more insidious than we presently realize; even beer is threatened by global warming.

By: Vanessa Uy

If you think that global warming can’t possibly affect those traditions-no matter how trivial-that we hold dear, then you’re wrong. When spring arrived early in the heart of Europe this year, most Germans greeted the strange phenomena with much rejoicing and fanfare. But a warmer climate could threaten a much- loved German staple: beer. Whether you believe that the ancestral home of beer is Germany or Ancient Egypt, you should be concerned on how global warming and climate change can affect your cherished “brew.” The type of barley that is used to brew traditional German gourmet beer has not weathered very well to Europe’s increasingly warmer climate. Looks like ski resorts are not the only casualty of global warming.

A decline in barley harvest was noticed in Germany during the past few years. There was also a noted decline in the general health and well being of the kind of barley that is traditionally used in preparing German beer. Where this leads to can only be assessed by on going research on the warming climate’s effects on the barley crop.

Compounding the threat of climate change on Germany’s beer culture is the European Union’s heavy-handed approach in granting financial subsidies. The EU hand these out like their going out of fashion to farmers who comply to their current mission du jour. Crops that can be used to produce bio fuels like the rape plant whose rape seed oil can be easily converted to bio diesel are heavily subsidized. This “free-money” diplomacy can easily make small-scale German farmers to choose “favored” crops as opposed to barley.

Evangelical Christians and Al Qaeda: 21st Century Axis Powers

Have you ever wondered why Osama Bin Laden never specifically vilifies Evangelical Christians? Are they consolidating power like what Hitler and Mussolini did? Take a look at my musings to find out why.

By: Vanessa Uy

That May 14, 2007 BBC news broadcast of Dr. Thomas Ice of Liberty University probably brought a sense of disbelief to millions of BBC’s “level-headed” viewers around the world. While the other million or so was sent on a mad dash to write their own “Techno Thriller” novel to rival the best of what Tom Clancy has offered to date. Does anyone agree with me that the BBC’s news story on Dr. Ice is a good springboard to write a good fictional story? The one that comes to mind is about people like Dr. Ice initiating events that would lead to an all-out nuclear exchange that in our present reality seems indefinitely postponed by the Grace of God and Her Infinite Wisdom.

Did you remember a while back when the Bush Administration invaded the sovereign country of Iraq in search of WMD? A few months afterwards, there was a growing interest on the exploits of the “Baghdad Sniper” who targets American soldiers with impunity via a Dragonov sniper rifle. Dragonovs are basically Kalashnikovs modified to have a much longer range and improved accuracy. Have you noticed that most of the “Baghdad Sniper’s” victims are Mexican or/of Latino descent, and the “white” people who got shot are either Jewish or/of Eastern European descent especially those whose family name ends in “S-K-Y.” The kind of people who are often vilified by “Evangelists.”

Have you ever wondered: Why Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell or any other famous Evangelical religious leaders never got vilified by Osama Bin Laden and/or Al Qaeda? The similarities of their religious ideologies are quite uncanny. They both reject the relevance of rationality and cultural diversity to their religious teachings. They go out of their way to keep women subservient by any means necessary. And the most curious quirk of all: their belief that their “God” only chooses a particular race to be granted salvation. The Evangelical “God” chooses the white Anglo-Saxon race. While Bin Laden/Al Qaeda’s “God” favors Muslims of Arabic descent. They have an unhealthy fixation of rationalizing men’s “rights” to abuse women if it suits their fancy. Looks like half of humanity will be doomed if this “Religious Madness” is allowed to escalate even further.

Are Evangelical Christians Killing Mother Nature

The proof is provided via BBC’s World Service broadcast on the 14 of May 2007. Looks like people like me are not “that-kind-of-crazy” anymore.

By: Vanessa Uy

At first, it’s kind of hard for me to tell if this is legitimate news broadcast or one of those Tom Clancy novel-made-for-TV-type things. As every Tom Clancy fan can attest the character driven nature style of his works, this particular BBC news broadcast made Dr. Thomas Ice of Liberty University look and act like the “main villain” on “The Sum of All Fears.” Dr. Thomas Ice unabashedly expressed his views on a legitimate news broadcast that Global Warming and other environmental concerns of recent times are just “Hollywood-left-wing-propaganda.” Is Dr. Ice trying really hard to throw out of the window the concerns of the majority of “Rational Americans” want to achieve. The “Rational Americans” want to tell the rest of the world that not all Americans are not egotistical narcissists who want all of the planets natural resources only for themselves. Maybe, Dr. Ice doesn’t want all of America to be environmentally conscious because this is an important stepping stone in establishing a meaningful dialogue between the Islamic World and the West.

Even before the post- September 11, 2001 backlash, the impoverished peoples of the Islamic World has been left “holding the bag” so to speak due to the insensitive energy intensive lifestyles of the more-money-than-sense-Evangelical-Christian-powers-that-be making self-serving policies on Capitol Hill. Even though they are still a minority, they can easily trick Rational Americans like they did in the 2004 US Presidential Elections. The Evangelicals doctrine of greed, exploitation and unbridled materialism are one of-if not the- main reason of the proliferation of misery and suffering in the Islamic World. And I’m beginning to wonder why Osama Bin Laden didn’t specifically mention these people on his “Fatwah.”

Methane Hydrate: A Blessing or a Curse

A huge reserve of methane found under the sea could ease our current energy problems, or send our planet into a runaway greenhouse effect.

By: Vanessa Uy

Studies show that the amount of methane hydrate that’s currently found under of all the Earth’s oceans is probably twice as large as our current reserves of other fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas combined. Even though all of this methane hydrate has the danger of escaping into the Earth’s atmosphere increasing the effects of global warming, it also has the potential of easing our current energy shortage. Also, methane is the cleanest carbon based fuel in current use.

The mysterious phenomena of deep-sea methane hydrate deposits, is being currently under investigation by marine geologists all over the world. Methane hydrate can also be found in the permafrost layer of the soil in Arctic regions, but deep-sea deposits are more concentrated therefore more economical to mine. Methane hydrate is made up of frozen water or ice that contains large amounts of methane gas trapped in its crystal structure. The chemical process of hydration also contributes to the relative stability of methane hydrate crystals. On extremely rare occasions, methane hydrate fields can suddenly out- gas in huge eruptions. This could explain why some ships mysteriously sank without a trace in the Bermuda Triangle, even on calm weather conditions.

Chemists, geologist and other scientists have now joined forces to study of methane hydrate crystals from its stability aspect to the economics of harvesting it as a source of methane fuel. Certain deep sea beds are now being studied whether the relatively high water pressure of the deep ocean or the relatively low temperature of just a few degrees above freezing are factors that affect the occurrence of methane hydrate crystals.

One of the few research vessels that’s currently studying the phenomena of methane hydrate deposits is the Hamburg-based Meteor. Meteor is a German science vessel that is specially equipped with an autoclave corer that can reach 2000 meters below to extract the methane hydrate seam. This autoclave corer enables her to maintain the ambient water pressure that surrounds the methane hydrate deposits-usually 180 bar- as these samples are brought to the surface to be collected. Then the other samples of methane hydrate are stored in a cryogenic fluid like liquid nitrogen for further analysis in land-based laboratories.

Marine Geologist Gerhard Bormann of Marum Bremen University with a team of chemist and engineers run the research ship Meteor. They are currently involved in the feasibility study of mining methane hydrate from the ocean’s dept without exacerbating the effects of global warming by allowing the methane to leak into the atmosphere. Japanese scientists are also involved in formulating efficient and economical ways of extracting deep-sea methane hydrate deposits.

By melting methane hydrate crystals in the lab, scientists found out that the “frozen” methane expands to 160 times its volume as a gas. Even though by weight, a typical piece of methane hydrate crystal is just made up of 10 to 15 percent methane by weight.

Friday, May 11, 2007

On Line Social Money Lending Networks

Ever since Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for proving the fiscal viability of lending money to the poor, are the on line counterparts just as effective?

By: Vanessa Uy

My grandfather’s present financially secure status was due to some big-hearted soul who took a chance by lending him some money as capital for a business start-up. This is just one of the success stories/testimonials that extol the virtues of money lending. But more often than not: Does it help more than it hurts? When Mohamad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his “Banking for the Poor” program. Many of the urban poor in the slums of Bangladesh were very grateful for receiving the much needed start-up money / small business loan, thus getting them out of “the red.”

On the web, you can do your own DIY banking with the help of “” This is one of the pioneering on line money lending sites, which started operating in England that lends money that is payable on the client’s own terms. A myriad of testimonials on Zopa’s website already professed that they benefited Zopa’s easy to pay terms. Since then, Zopa probably served as a vital lifeline to the majority of England’s “blue collar” population. Despite the risks of phishing, ID theft, and the proliferation of illegal key logging software that continually compromises on line security or just due to the relative lawlessness of the world wide web. “” still manages to provide material gains to their investors while offering a helping hand to those in need of extra cash. James Alexander CEO of Zopa says that his company has enough safeguards to minimize the risks.

If you want to help someone in a poor country to start his or her own enterprise, you should check out Kiva. Kiva is an on line social money lending site that allows you to sponsor an entrepreneur from a third-world country for as little as US$25. What I liked very much about Kiva is that they have a very good “transparency factor.” Thousands of charity cases, which have passed Kiva’s evaluation, are listed on their website. The short video clips contain individual business proposals. If you choose to invest, the maturation period of the loans are usually 6 to 12 months. And you, the investor are contacted via e-mail on your investment’s progress. One of Kiva’s success stories is Angel, a bicycle repairman from Rome, Bulgaria. Angel got booted out of the local bicycle repair shop in which he was previously employed due to “financial restructuring.” With Kiva’s helping hand, Angel now runs his own bicycle repair shop. With additional investments, you can help him expand his business and help to lessen the unemployment problem of his hometown.

The Computer and Hi-Fi Convergence

For as long as I can remember all of my audio buddies subscribe to the idea that computers are computers and hi-fis are hi-fis, and never the twain shall meet. Technological progress and environmental issues are conspiring to change our views.

By: Vanessa Uy

This week, BBC’s Click featured a story on the computer industry’s efforts to improve the sound quality of their offerings. To me, this is a long time coming. Even if the computer industry only focus their R n D funds on surround sound, it’s still okay with me. The good news is that the computer industry reached a consensus that any form of data compression is detrimental to sound quality. To us audiophiles, this ranks with the world community’s consensus on the realities of global warming and climate change. From a telecommunications engineer’s standpoint, our current internet infrastructure is presently the most efficient way to send digital multimedia data. It also has the potential to better itself in all aspects of quality as time goes on. Is the computer industry’s concept of high definition (HD) sound means just acceptable sound quality to us hardened audiophiles? Look at Sony’s SBM (super bit mapping) technology, we (the audiophile community) even wholeheartedly embraced it despite a failed promise in making CD sound as good as vinyl LP. All of this could kick- start a renaissance to most of the consumer electronic industry, but first let’s take a look back.

Back in September 1996, Audio magazines Corey Greenberg wrote a somewhat controversial article titled: “Shut the Hell Up Geeks” which was deemed offensive by the Personal Computer/internet enthusiasts at that time. For better or for worse, this article is only one of the few instances when the feud between audiophiles and computer enthusiasts got journalistic coverage. This feud, to me is even bigger than that between Bon Jovi and Metallica, which started in 1989 and reverberated throughout the Rock world till this day. I read Corey Greenberg’s article about three years ago, right about the time when I became interested in the audiophile universe. At this point in time, PCs came with CD “burners” as standard. And every time I copied/cloned a consumer grade original CD to CDR, the clone always sound inferior to the original. This only serves to prove that Corey Greenberg is right in pointing out the computer industry’s ignorance about the concept of sound quality. Note: I used Lunachicks CDs as a test case for copying. Their not locally released here. As Quentin Tarantino said back in2004 on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: “It’s not piracy when you copy/clone music or movies of mine that is not locally released in your neck of the woods.”

In a few years since then, the computer industry has started to see the light – albeit slowly- on the merits of good sound quality. Creative, the company who brought PC audio recording to the masses with their “Soundblaster” has started a concept called Xfi or extreme fidelity. If this succeeds, the audiophile community can now buy the latest PC audio recording/playback systems in confidence knowing that ills like listening fatigue will be a thing of the past. Creative’s audio guru Darragh O’Toole, speaks out against the practice of data compression and its detrimental effects on digital audio sound quality. Data compression’s most obvious manifestation is the muted transients on recordings full of percussive sounds like cymbals and drums. I’m just glad that Creative: which is primarily a computer company supported Darragh O’Toole’s ideas instead of censuring. I wonder if Creative’s senior staff: are now composed of people who lived through the vinyl LP heyday and are nostalgic for the good sound quality for a consumer medium that it represents.

The 64,000dollar question is: “Why should we audiophiles – as a whole – give a damn?” If you live in a country like the Philippines, where the Estrada administration single-handedly bankrupted every specialist shops like mail order music stores with very good insurance coverage during the late 1990’s. Then the answer is a big resounding “yes.” Our local audiophile community is now feeling the guilt to that “preaching-to-the-choir movie” An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore. To us its very over indulgent to hop to a plane to Hong Kong, just to buy locally unreleased albums/CDs by Lunachicks. Even though in the last three years I’ve planted about a thousand trees, I still choose to keep my carbon footprint as low as humanly possible. If this audio renaissance/convergence or whatever between the computer industry and the audiophile community is for real and not just a public relations stunt to patronize audiophiles and musicians. Then I may yet buy my first internet downloaded album (I’m a Luddite-by-choice due to its present unacceptable sound quality). And in energy terms, this might only cost me a few watts from my photovoltaically charged batteries.

Computer Therapy for Dyslexics

Now, treating dyslexia could only be a mouse click away courtesy of a concerned parent and a computer program of his own design.

By: Vanessa Uy

A decade or so ago, personal computers and surfing on the web were seen by conservative right wing Luddites as detrimental to the intellectual development of children. Now, the humble PC might serve as an important tool to cure the most prevalent form of learning disability: dyslexia. Dyslexia on average affects 7% of children around the world. The jury is still out on the exact cause, but current research points out to genetic markers that alter the brain’s biochemistry. This makes dyslexic children’s progress in their reading and writing skills a little more difficult than average.

Dybuster, a multimedia computer program designed to serve as a therapy for children with dyslexia. Originally developed by Markus Gross of ETH Zurich for his own dyslexic child. After achieving good results with his own child, Markus Gross did a “field” trial of Dybuster to a group of kids afflicted with dyslexia. On 20- minute sessions each day at home, the kids did their hands-on trials to the various skill levels of the Dybuster. When the kids go back to school the next day, a follow-up and evaluation of any changes to their rate of learning progress is done.

Dybuster shows statistically good results even after just 3 months of regular use. Positive training effects can be ascribed to the program say’s the educational experts evaluating Dybuster. The kids who tried out Dybuster fell in love with the program’s ease of use and the “fun factor” that it provides. Most of all, the kids are very grateful to the improvement in their reading and writing skills.

The beta version (trial edition) of Dybuster could even run on a relatively old PC on Windows 98, the type of computer commonly donated by aid agencies to schools in poor communities. So Dybuster could help lots of dyslexic children here in the Philippines.

A Better Honduran Agricultural Reform

A farsighted 1992 reforestation effort that protected a region of Honduras against the brunt of 1998’s Hurricane Mitch. Will this make other Honduran farmers choose sustainable development?

By: Vanessa Uy

Hurricane Mitch is probably one of the worst storms that has able to hit Honduras in the past 100 years. The storm’s high death toll was caused primarily on the heavy rain’s effect on most of Honduras’ hillside slopes weakened by slash and burn farming methods. Illegal logging also made these slopes prone to landslides even on hurricanes of lesser strength.

But in some regions of the country, landslides with their accompanying death toll didn’t happen. Thanks to the 1992 reforestation efforts in Limpira and an educational campaign explaining the follies of slash and burn farming methods. Programs that introduce progressive agricultural techniques like crop diversification. Also by allowing trees to act as shades and windbreakers for cornfields lessens the rate of water evaporating from the soil thus minimizing the amount of water used for irrigation. The locals called it “Kisengual” farming technique in honor of the pre-Columbian tribal identity of the region. The Kisengual farming technique allows the farmers to increase their corn harvest. This allows them to use the surplus corn to feed their chickens and cows as opposed to buying commercial feeds.

Introducing the concept of bio-diversity to our agricultural practices makes it sustainable. This also allows small- scale farmers the hands-on experience of organic farming, agricultural products free from harmful chemicals and at an affordable price

Isn’t Overpopulation a Problem?

Various interest groups still insist that overpopulation is not a problem, are they waiting for cheap kalashnikovs for a speedy resolution?

By: May Anne UY

In 2006, ecologists around the world reached a consensus that the current human population has an “ecological footprint” equivalent to 1.2 Earths. This means that we need another fifth of planet Earth in order for each and every one of us humans to live comfortably and prosper. Population/birth control programs are tried and true (i.e. most humane) methods of controlling our numbers but religious zealots seem to continue to have increasing clout over legitimate governments in our supposedly rational 21st Century.

Back in 1798, the English cleric Thomas Malthus influenced public thought on population and food supply via an essay that still exerts controversy till this day. Malthus predicted that people would always multiply faster than their food supply/means of production and populations would be “kept equal to the means of subsistence by misery and vice.” In modern terms, the restrictive factors at work are – primarily – the starvation and pestilence that threaten underdeveloped nations. But advanced nations, benefiting from developments Malthus did not appreciate, such as birth control and farm technology, produce more food that they can use.

Ah birth control, a very humane and effective solution against food shortage and environmental destruction. Except that in poor and depressed parts of our planet, the Catholic Church seem to be the be-all end-all policymaker/clout-meister when it comes to family planning / birth control. Your Holiness, its 2007 not 1407. You hide behind the Crimen Solitationis law like an American Soldier uses the Posse Comitatus law to justify half-assed jobs. If the Catholic Church/Vatican really care about the well being of these people and their “Canon” doesn’t allow them to support birth control, then how about manned space travel/ space colonization? Sadly, their political view on this idea is hopelessly bunkum. Remember what the Catholic Church did to Giordano Bruno and Galileo 400 or so years ago. In our recent past, I never ever heard or saw Pope John Paul II or any high ranking Vatican official urging then US President Ronald Reagan or the NASA Administrator at the time of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster to “stay the course.” Is this proof that the Catholic Church doesn’t support existing manned space programs and/or will not support space colonization programs in the future? This could be the most viable solution to the overpopulation problem that’s killing our planet.

It’s now election season here in the Philippines, electoral candidates are now vying to be elected for their various electoral positions. Along with environmental concerns, overpopulation is an issue that’s probably on the way bottom/unimportant cache on the list of problems to be tackled by our politicians and policymakers elected or otherwise. Is this due to the Catholic Church’s apparent illusory hegemony over our government, God only knows? To me, the problem of overpopulation is long overdue to be discussed in an erudite and rational atmosphere by our policymakers and government officials. It’s the primary/root cause (take your pick) of poverty here in the Philippines. Despite the 10% economic growth attributed to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s policies, the population grew by 25% during the same period. How can you share the wealth under such conditions? If our country doesn’t exert a concerted effort to solve our overpopulation problem soon, conditions similar to that which started the genocide in Rwanda back in April of 1994 will be upon us by the year 2012. I hope that you have already stocked your share of black market Soviet-era weaponry as a stop gap solution.

Vietnam’s Mangrove Restoration Program

The Vietnamese Government’s pro- active approach to disaster prevention is an ideal model that should be followed by her neighbors.

By: Vanessa Uy

Over the past 30 years, climate disasters like floods, droughts and hurricanes have increased three- fold. This trend concerns Vietnam, which climatologists had found out to be one of the countries most vulnerable to natural disasters. The reason for this is that most of the Vietnamese population and agricultural industries are cited in coastal areas that are only a few feet above sea level.

In 1994, Vietnam’s Red Cross adapted a pro-active approach to against storm surges by launching a program of mangrove tree reforestation and management. Existing mangrove forests in parts of Vietnam are well known for their ability to protect low lying rice fields against tidal surges caused by increasingly powerful storms. The root complexes of these mangrove trees buffers the forces exerted by storm waves and extend the useful lives of the earthen dikes that for years served as scant protection to these vital agricultural areas.

Mangrove tree reforestation also benefits Vietnam’s fishing industry. The fishes, shrimps, prawns, and crabs that populate the coastal areas now have an increased number of secure spawning areas to rear their young. Despite these benefits, mangrove roots can easily be damaged by careless fishing practices. So mangrove fields should be designated as a no fishing zone. Illegal harvesting of mangrove trees for firewood and charcoal production is also a problem. Since Vietnam has a very long coastline, the program still has quite a long way to go in order for all coastal communities to reap the benefits and receive increased protection against storm surges.

Despite the programs documented successes, there was no mention of the effects of defoliants used by U.S. Armed Forces back in the late 1960’s. Chemical defoliants like “agent- orange” were used to reveal the camouflaged positions of the communist rebel fighters. In 1975, the publication of the three- year investigation of the 17-member National Academy of Science’s Committee on the Effects of Herbicides in Vietnam released their report in February of that year. Their major conclusions: The military use of herbicides may have had ill effects on the human population of the then South Vietnam and inflicted long-term damage on the country’s environment and supplies of timber. The “Committee’s” findings on the effects on the local vegetation were considerably more definite in comparison to the effects on human health. Coastal mangrove forests “suffered greater damage than any other type of vegetation.” Even where they were sprayed only once, they were destroyed. Time for total recovery of the mangrove forests: “at least 100 years.”

Thirty years on, Vietnam’s mangrove forests seems to be thriving. To what extent does the past herbicide and defoliant use affect the mangrove reforestation program, nobody knows? Maybe, we just got lucky that mangrove forests are more resilient than we thought they are.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Thames River Threatens London

No, this is not an episode of Dr. Who. But a portent on what could happen to London if the global warming trend continues.

By: Vanessa Uy

The Thames Flood Control Barrier, the Jewel of the British Crown when it comes to flood defence is quite an engineering marvel. Ever since her Christening by Queen Elizabeth II back in 1982, this flood control barrier was once believed not to require any upgrades until 2030. But the various threats brought about by climate change had now called that into question.

As far back as recorded history can remember, the Thames River had brought prosperity to London. The river made possible for England to achieve superpower status in the last 200 years by providing easy access to all of the world’s oceans. But if climate change has its way, the Thames could turn London into an underwater city.

Back in January 21, 1953, a terrible flood caused by the North Sea storm surge wreaked havoc on the village of Jaywick. Many people lost their lives as a result not to mention the property damage. This terrible disaster was the Thames Flood Control Barrier’s raison d’être.

But many experts have criticized the British Government’s reactive approach to disaster mitigation. These experts are suggesting to the policy makers to adapt a more proactive approach to disaster mitigation. Like upgrading the Thames Flood Control Barrier in response to the projected trend of climate change. Even then, this didn’t stop the on going housing development on the Thames Gateway Region and being earmarked as a prime real estate location. Even though this area is designated as a flood plain during storm surges, and the expected sea level rise will probably ruin every homeowner’s property value.

Mercury Rising

An almost forgotten relic of World War II has become a ticking time bomb, threatening the island of Fedje in Norway with a large- scale ecological disaster.

By: Vanessa Uy

When the German u-boat U-864 was torpedoed by the British Royal Navy operating near the waters of the island of Fedje (pronounced feyah) during World War II, the act generated repercussions that extends to this day. Recently declassified World War II era documents provided by the United States Government reveals the true mission of U-864. U-864 was transporting 60 metric tons of the toxic liquid metal mercury to imperial era Japan to jump- start her own nuclear weapons program.

In recent years, campaigns to raise the U-864 and salvage her toxic mercury cargo to avoid an ecological disaster that may come sooner rather than later. Interest groups like the Citizens Initiative Raise U-864 are pleading the international community for assistance since salvaging the tons of toxic mercury trapped in a sunken World War II era submarine under 700 meters of water requires tools and expertise that the local government of Fedje just don’t have.

The local inhabitance are quite fearful of the environmental contamination that amount of mercury can cause. Anyone familiar with the term “minamata disease” may have an idea about this. “Minamata disease” was named after a place in Japan, were a factory illegally dumped toxic chemical wastes mostly composed of mercury compounds into the local waterways. The locals eat the fish found in these waters not knowing the extent of the contamination. Many die due to the toxic effects of mercury and many children are born with malformed limbs. The illegal dumping was not immediately halted since it happened just a few years after World War II. Japan was under rapid industrialization, environmental concerns just has to take a back seat. I hope Fedje won’t become a 21st Century Minamata.

Fruity Biogas Variant

A variation on the domestic biogas system that uses rotting fruits as the biomass to be digested may serve as a viable alternative to petroleum based cooking fuels.

By: Vanessa Uy

A conventional biogas system that uses cow manure as a biomass or starting material for methane generation is somewhat hard to maintain for everyday domestic use. Why? Because to achieve continuous methane generation, conditions in the biogas digester must be met like the optimum temperature, the absence of oxygen or anaerobic conditions and the steady constant supply of biomass/ organic material to be converted to methane.

In principle, biogas digesters produce methane by mimicking the workings of the stomach of ruminant animals like cows. As of late, herds of farmed cattle are blamed for contributing to global warming since they emit so much methane gas which is more than 4 times as effective a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Since methane can be used as a cooking and heating fuel, it’s better to use it as such than allowing it to be released into the atmosphere.

A novel biogas system being tested in Pune, India that uses rotting fruits and vegetable peels/trimmings might serve to overcome this problem. Developed by a firm called ARTI or Appropriate Rural Technologies Institute, this biogas digester is compact and is ideal for urban applications where cow manure or other animal wastes are scarce. This biogas generating system consists of 3 main parts: the gas/methane output accumulator at the top, the main digester in the center where the rotten fruit or vegetable peelings enters, and lastly the bottom-part where the slurry/effluent of the biogas digester exits. As a bonus, the slurry/effluent can be used as a free organic fertilizer.

The business end of this biogas digester is a type of bacteria that originally dwells in the stomachs of ruminant animals like cattle. A substantial amount of these bacteria is expelled by the cow and can be found in fresh cow manure. The ARTI biogas system only uses the cow dung as a starting material. Since the ruminant stomach bacteria is not fussy about what it is going to digest as long as sugars are present, rotting fruits and vegetables are an almost perfect “biomass meal” for the bacteria. Beside the biogas system’s compact size, it can also be scaled up for increased biogas/methane output in communal situations.

As a viable alternative to purchasing tanks of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), biogas digesters demands more attention than a sundial. Rotting fruits and vegetables should be mashed up and mixed with water to the same consistency as a cow does to grass or other vegetation that its eating as “food” for the biogas system. This should be done regularly like once a day or the bacterial colony responsible for methane production in the digester will die out.

China’s Coal Dilemma

China has recently been building coal- fired power plants at a rate of one a week, does this make the country at risk for more powerful typhoons?

By: Vanessa Uy

Diminishing crop yields due to shifting rainfall patterns in rural China’s urban migration rate has increased in the past few years. This urban migration demands an expedient improvement of China’s urban infrastructure namely electricity generation. This is reason number one why the Chinese Government is building coal- fired power plants at a rate of one a week to meet the rising energy demands. China can afford this since they have an abundant supply of coal, but are there any hidden dangers?

If China's many coal-fired power plants keep on dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it can only exacerbate the effects of global warming. And a warmer planet would not be of China’s best interest because it can result to more powerful typhoons. It’s a well-known scientific fact that typhoons get their energy from the heat stored in the ocean water. The warmer the ocean, the more powerful the typhoon. And since most of China’s urban centers are not very far from the world’s sea- lanes. They could expect flooding caused by storm surges. Surely, an environmentally friendly solution must be sought.

The Inconvenience of Nuclear Power

Despite nuclear fission’s promise as a power source that doesn’t exacerbate our planet’s greenhouse effect, we need to take a step back and focus on safety issues.

By: Vanessa Uy

Of all the incidents that fuel the passions of anti-nuclear activists, there’s none greater than the incident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station of April 26, 1986 that changed the entire world’s views on nuclear energy. Unknown to most of the world, the incident at the GKSS Nuclear Research Center in September 12, 1986 serves as a reminder to all of us the issue of safety on the commercial applications of nuclear power. Located in the Elbmarch Region of Schleiswig-Holstein along the Elba River near Hamburg has been dubbed as “Germany’s Chernobyl” due to the increased incidence of childhood leukemia in that region 4 years after the September 12, 1986 incident. A nearby nuclear facility, Krümmel Nuclear Power Station was later ruled out as the source of the radioactive contamination in Schleiswig-Holstein.

The two nuclear facilities are somewhat convenient scapegoats as the main cause of the “leukemia clusters” but there are evidence supporting this. Back in the late evening hours of September 12, 1986 eyewitnesses saw an eerie looking fire coming from the GKSS Nuclear Research Center facility which was described to be changing colors from blue to green to yellow.

In 1991, the Leukemia Action Group was established and with the help of the local government of Schleiswig-Holstein and some benefactors raised 5 million euros in funds to investigate the extent of the radioactive contamination of the region. Soil samples were collected around the area then send to be analyzed in various European laboratories accredited with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). The soil samples show the presence of strange microscopic metallic beads that doesn’t occur naturally in the region. The readings of the soil for ionizing radiation were five times above normal levels. Household dust particles taken from low traffic parts of the house like attics were collected around the Schleiswig-Holstein region. After being analyzed, the presence of transuranic elements like plutonium and americium were detected.

Some government officials point the source of the contamination to the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant incident. But the experts later concluded that the mysterious metallic beads found near the GKSS Nuclear Research Center are core fragments from a fission reactor and can only be found in the immediate vicinity of a serious nuclear accident since they are too heavy to be carried by the wind. To this day, suspicions of a cover up / conspiracy persists on the true extent of the accident.

Politics Killed Coco Diesel

While California has been very conducive to bio fuel producers thanks in part to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, can the same be done in the Philippines?

By: Vanessa Uy

Various transport unions and interest groups here in the Philippines are telling public transport drivers not to use coco diesel because they are no more than just a public relations campaign by unscrupulous politicians. The various interest groups also cite the reasons not to use coco diesel is that manufacturers contribute very little to the local economy and they are not alleviating our growing unemployment problem. These “crony coco diesel plants” might just as well be a good place to launder ill- gotten pork barrel funds of corrupt government officials.

Coco diesel manufacture is not new here in the Philippines. Back in the early 1990’s, feasibility studies are done on the large- scale manufacture of coco diesel. Although projects like these are well backed by altruistic aims, in truth they are undertaken in the behest of influential politicians as a public relations stunt to appease visiting dignitaries especially ones from the IMF or the International Monetary Fund.

I hope that during election season, environmental concerns should not be taken lightly when we decide for the betterment of our country. Or are the majority of our politicians already under the control of multinational petroleum companies. Do these politicians would rather maintain the status quo, than to legislate laws that would genuinely help bio fuel manufacturers and to grant these manufacturers a much needed tax brake to make bio fuels fiscally competitive with petroleum derived fuels. That’s why I’m currently reluctant to nominate any bio fuel manufacturer here in the Philippines to that Shell sponsored World Challenge program unless these companies exercise transparency in their dealings.

Game Consoles Surfs the Web

They’re not just for playing video games anymore. The latest generation of video game consoles allows you to go to the web and even download the latest video games.

By: Vanessa Uy

By the time you read this, probably all video game consoles hitting the shops this summer will have web surfing capability. I’m coveting these “toys” for their high- resolution graphics and on shoot ‘em up games, where the tech guys finally learn how to make bullets fly the way “Mother Nature” intended, but our priorities may vary.

Nintendo’s Wii can download additional games from its own web site, so going to and fro to the computer shop might become a thing of the past. Microsoft’s XBOX LIVE web site supports the XBOX 360. The XBOX video marketplace web site is already available to US subscribers. More “mature” XBOX 360 users/owners can download your old favorite movies from the 1990’s via the sites back catalogue. Sony’s PS3 is also on line capable with it’s T9 predictive keyboard (an ergonomic nightmare for anyone over 25 years of age). The PS3’s open- network internet- browser can download movie trailers, a majority of which unsurprisingly produced by Sony Pictures/ Sony Media Corporation. As always download speed is slow via standard ISP lines. But I can safely conclude that this represents the serious attempts of the major video game console manufacturers to make their latest machines way better than their previous incarnations. By adding the ability to a new generation of video game consoles to go out into the wild blue yonder of the web may justify their somewhat exorbitant asking prices. I wonder how much of a price premium does it entails to make one of these babies sound as good as a Linn LP12 Sondek turntable.

Farewell to “Scotty”

James Doohan, the actor who played “Scotty” the gruff engineer of the original 1960’s Star Trek series whose funeral service almost befitting a starfleet personnel.

By: Vanessa Uy

James Doohan passed away 2 years ago, yet his funeral service: which was held last April 27 is similar to one might expect in a Gene Roddenberry-esque Utopian Future 200 years from now. James Doohan’s ashes will be blasted into space. His widow, Wendy Doohan was on hand of the launch button after delivering a eulogy.

James Doohan’s dedication to making Gene Roddenberry’s creative vision possible still continue to inspire Star Trek fans around the globe. Together with William Shattner who played Captain James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy who played the half human half vulcan science officer named Spock and the rest of the cast of the original Star Trek series made possible a new breed of science fiction TV series. Like the British Dr. Who sci-fi serials, Star Trek relied more on well honed story plots than whiz-bang special effects. This is probably the secret to Star Trek’s success.

At present only a handful of people had space burials, and these prestigious group eerily resembles the “Founding Members” of a Gene Roddenberry-esque Utopia. Like Frank Zappa, the late 1960’s Rock musician known for his unique songwriting skills. Most “Trekkies” I know are also Frank Zappa fans. The 1960’s psychedellia guru Timothy Leary whose life and personality resembles an ancient Vulcan philosopher/character created by Gene Roddenberry. While the ultimate in space burrials goes to the lunar geologist and astronomer Eugene Shoemaker, whose ashes are rocketed to the moon.

A Hotter France

A majority of French citizens view the 2003 Paris heat wave as a definite sign of global warming, but some politicians think it’s a load of hot air.

By: Vanessa Uy

As the 2003 Paris heat wave claim the lives of the elderly, it sparked a national crisis over the governments apparent inaction to mitigate such a tragedy. Even the neighboring countries have criticized the French government’s poor planning and pitiful response when faced with such a tragedy. Even the installation of air conditioning units on old people’s homes will only exacerbate the effects of global warming on a later date.

Global warming is also wrecking havoc on the French ski resorts especially in the Pyrénées Region. This stop- gap measure of using a battalion of energy hungry snow machines will only exacerbate the effects of global warming in the long run.

Several promising solutions include adopting a “greener” architecture both figuratively and literally. A number of environmentally conscious French citizens had upgraded the thermal insulation of their homes to save heating bills during the winter. This also has another positive effect of lessening the amount of heating fuel to be burned thus minimizing carbon dioxide emissions. Also rooftop gardens can have a cooling effect especially during the summer months. Plants like bamboo has a very effective cooling effect on its surroundings. The electricity saved can also lessen the “carbon footprint” of individual homes.