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Inspiring: Healing Our Earth News Articles

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The Backyard Farmers Who Grow Food With Fog
2023-09-18, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/lima-fog-catchers-water-scarcity-irrigation/

At the highest point of Los Tres Miradores, a terrifyingly steep urban settlement with soaring views across Peru’s capital, Lima, there is a curious set of large structures that resemble a fleet of ships in the sky. They are so-called “fog catchers.” About 40 of these netted devices, made of high density Raschel polyethylene and spanning several meters wide, are lined up atop a misty mound and linked by a network of tubes that lead to storage containers. Home to a population of more than 10 million, Lima is one of the driest cities in the world. [The nonprofit] El Movimiento Peruanos sin Agua has helped install 600 fog catchers across Lima and a total of 2,000 across Peru, including in the regions of Arequipa, Iquitos and Cuzco. According to [founder Abel] Cruz, one man he supported is even able to raise 1,000 chickens thanks to fog catchers. In June, the project received a significant boost when it signed an agreement with the Mayor of Lima to install 10,000 more fog catchers in the hills surrounding the city in the next four years. The municipality ... said the project has the potential to “reforest, create ecological lungs, ecotourism and at the same time provide water for human consumption, for bio-orchards, botanical gardens, washing clothes, utensils and more.” In Los Tres Miradores, the 40 fog catchers — which were installed in 2021 — provide enough water for 180 families, whether to bathe, clean, drink (after being filtered at home) or to irrigate crops on small garden patches.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


‘This way of farming is really sexy’: the rise of regenerative agriculture
2023-08-14, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/aug/14/this-way-of-farming-is-re...

Hollie Fallick looks over Brading on the Isle of Wight, at a patchwork of fields bordered by ancient oaks. She farms with her best friend, Francesca Cooper. The friends ... are part of a growing global movement practising regenerative agriculture – or regen ag for short. “Regenerative agriculture is nature-friendly farming,” says Fallick. “It’s thinking about the health of soil, animals, humans and how they all link together.” On Nunwell home farm, which sits alongside land the pair manage for the Wildlife Trust and produces meat and eggs for their direct-to-consumer business, chickens peck away alongside belted Galloway cows, nomadic pigs graze on grass as well as kale and bean “cover crops” sown to boost nutrients in the soil. The idea is that by following the basic principles of regen ag – not disturbing the soil, keeping it covered, maintaining living roots, growing a diverse range of crops and the use of grazing animals – they can regenerate tired and depleted soil and produce nutritious food.  The work, they argue, is urgent. Up to 40% of the world's land is now degraded by industrial and harmful farming methods, according to the UN. Barnes Edwards, co-director of the Garlic Farm ... argues that regen ag farmers recognise the “hideously negative impact” of badly managed livestock farming. But they also argue “it’s the how, not the cow”, and say that cows pooing and trampling in diversely planted fields boosts soil health, micronutrients and attracts insects, birds and butterflies.

Note: Don't miss Kiss the Ground, a powerful documentary on the growing regenerative agriculture movement and its power to build global community, reverse the many environmental crises we face, and revive our connection to the natural world. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Mangrove forest thrives around what was once Latin America's largest landfill
2023-07-26, CBS/Associated Press
https://www.cbs42.com/news/international/ap-mangrove-forest-thrives-around-wh...

It was once Latin America's largest landfill. Now, a decade after Rio de Janeiro shut it down and redoubled efforts to recover the surrounding expanse of highly polluted swamp, crabs, snails, fish and birds are once again populating the mangrove forest. "If we didn't say this used to be a landfill, people would think it's a farm. The only thing missing is cattle," jokes Elias Gouveia, an engineer with Comlurb, the city's garbage collection agency that is shepherding the plantation project. "This is an environmental lesson that we must learn from: nature is remarkable. If we don't pollute nature, it heals itself." The former landfill is located right by the 148 square miles (383 square kilometers) Guanabara Bay. Between the landfill's inauguration in 1968 and 1996, some 80 million tons of garbage were dumped in the area, polluting the bay and surrounding rivers with trash and runoff. In 1996, the city began implementing measures to limit the levels of pollution in the landfill, starting with treating some of the leachate, the toxic byproduct of mountains of rotting trash. But garbage continued to pile up until 2012, when the city finally shut it down. Mangroves are of particular interest for environmental restoration for their capacity to capture and store large amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide, Gouveia explained. Experts say mangroves can bury even more carbon in the sediment than a tropical rainforest, making it a great tool to fight climate change. Comlurb and its private partner, Statled Brasil, have successfully recovered some 60 hectares.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The Social Life of Forests
2020-12-02, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/12/02/magazine/tree-communication-my...

As a child, Suzanne Simard often roamed Canada’s old-growth forests. Simard noticed that up to 10 percent of newly planted Douglas fir were likely to get sick and die whenever nearby aspen, paper birch and cottonwood were removed. The reasons were unclear. The planted saplings had plenty of space, and they received more light and water than trees in old, dense forests. So why were they so frail? Simard suspected that the answer was buried in the soil. Underground, trees and fungi form partnerships known as mycorrhizas: Threadlike fungi envelop and fuse with tree roots, helping them extract water and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in exchange for some of the carbon-rich sugars the trees make through photosynthesis. Research had demonstrated that mycorrhizas also connected plants to one another and that these associations might be ecologically important. By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest — even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits. Before Simard and other ecologists revealed the extent and significance of mycorrhizal networks, foresters typically regarded trees as solitary individuals that competed for space and resources. This framework is far too simplistic. An old-growth forest is ... a vast, ancient and intricate society.

Note: If you are interested in cutting edge work on tree and plant consciousness, this long article is worth reading in full. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Star Trek's secret weapon: a scientist with a mushroom fetish bent on saving the planet
2017-12-24, CBC (Canada's public broadcasting system)
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/paul-stamets-star-trek-mushroo...

On Star Trek: Discovery, the character Lieutenant Paul Stamets is an "astromycologist" - a mushroom expert in outer space who is passionate about the power of fungi. Stamets is actually named after a real U.S. scientist who ... looks nothing like his blond-haired TV counterpart, but he's just as enamoured with fungi. Over 40 years, Stamets has pioneered methods for using mushrooms to do everything from clean up oil spills to save disappearing bees by boosting their immune systems. But he's just as excited about Star Trek's potential to inspire people to create some of the science they see presented in screen - even if it does seem a bit fantastic. So were flip phones when people first saw Spock's, he said. "What I love about Star Trek is that we can actually set the stage for science fact," said Stamets. In a 2008 TED Talk, Stamets explained how fungi can be used to "save the world" by cleaning polluted soil, replacing toxic insecticides and even treating viruses. "I'm just a messenger for the mycelium," he said, referring to the network of fungal filaments under the soil that form the largest organism on earth. Mycelium can be found in every forest, but the biggest one he knows of is a massive, 970-hectare mass - bigger than 1,600 football fields - in an Oregon forest. Stamets believes this network "communicates," not unlike a fungal internet. The filaments transfer nutrients and information, and even sabotage unwelcome plants by spreading toxins.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


The 3D-Printed Affordable Housing of the Future Will Be Recyclable
2024-01-26, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/future-affordable-housing-3d-printed-recycl...

When you imagine a 3D-printed home, you probably picture a boxy concrete structure. As 3D printing’s popularity has grown in the construction industry — thanks to its efficiency when it comes to time, energy and cost — carbon-intensive concrete has become the go-to building material. But a project in Maine has set its sights on something different: a neighborhood of 600-square-foot, 3D-printed, bio-based houses crafted from materials like wood fibers and bioresins. The aim: a complex of 100-percent recyclable buildings that will provide homes to those experiencing houselessness. In late 2022, an initiative between the University of Maine and local nonprofit Penquis unveiled its prototype — BioHome3D, the first 100-percent recyclable house. Now, the pioneering project is working toward completing its first livable housing complex. It will be fully bio-based, meaning all materials will be derived from living organisms such as plants and other renewable agricultural, marine and forestry materials. As the materials are all 100-percent recyclable, so become the buildings. The materials are also all renewable. And thanks to its natural composition, the home acts as a carbon sink, sequestering 46 tons of carbon dioxide per 600-square-foot unit. The materials for this project will mainly come from wood left over by local mills. “The wood fiber material that’s used in the mix is essentially waste wood here in Maine,” says Jason Bird, director of housing development for Penquis.

Note: Don't miss pictures of beautiful homes built by this process at the link above. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Study finds yet another potential use for aloe plants—Natural insecticide
2023-08-24, Optimist Daily
https://www.optimistdaily.com/2023/08/study-finds-yet-another-potential-use-f...

Aloe vera unveiled a new weapon in its arsenal: its discarded peels. Previously discarded as agricultural trash, these peels are now set to become nature’s response to crop-munching pests. Scientists at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley developed a mechanism for converting this underutilized resource into a powerful natural insecticide, presenting a novel approach to pest management. Humans have already used aloe vera for a plethora of reasons. However, none of these applications takes advantage of the peel. “Millions of tons of aloe peels are likely discarded globally each year,” the driving force behind this botanical discovery, Dr. Debasish Bandyopadhyay, stated. The idea came to Bandyopadhyay after he noticed bugs biting plants at an aloe manufacturing center but leaving the aloe vera leaves alone. Based on this discovery, the team embarked on an adventure to unearth the hidden potential of aloe peels. Bandyopadhyay emphasizes the dual benefit of inventing a pesticide that avoids dangerous synthetic chemicals, which not only maintains agricultural output but also saves public health. The researchers ... extracted a number of compounds, each with its own set of properties. Octacosane stood out among these for its ability to repel mosquitos. In terms of insecticidal activity, DCM, a separate molecule, outperformed hexane extract. During this procedure, more than 20 compounds were isolated from aloe vera peels, six showing considerable insecticidal activity.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


This boat makes its own hydrogen fuel from seawater
2020-07-17, CNET
https://www.cnet.com/news/this-boat-makes-its-own-hydrogen-fuel-from-seawater/

Somewhere in the vast ocean, a little boat covered in solar panels is doing something extraordinary: making its own hydrogen fuel from the seawater underneath it. The Energy Observer uses a patchwork of different cutting-edge technologies to generate enough energy to power nine homes each day. During the day, 200 square meters of solar panels charge up the boat's lithium ion batteries. Any extra energy is stored as hydrogen, thanks to a special fuel cell that goes by the name Rex H2 (short for Range Extender H2). The Rex H2 was made by Toyota, using components from Toyota's hydrogen-powered Mirai vehicle line. The fuel cell brings in seawater, removes the salt and then separates the H from the pure H20 with electricity. When the Energy Observer began its journey in 2017, it could only produce hydrogen while stopped. That changed in a big way with the addition of the Oceanwings, 12-meter sails that improved the efficiency of the Energy Observer from 18% to 42%, to the point where it can now produce hydrogen even while sailing. One of the main benefits of hydrogen is its ability to store more more electricity by weight than its lithium ion competition. This benefit is especially useful at sea. Because fossil fuels have had more than a century's head start, we now find ourselves far beyond the point of any one technology being a silver bullet for our growing energy needs. A sustainable future will require a patchwork of new technologies, like the one powering the Energy Observer.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


How Electric Harps Are Protecting Honey Bees
2024-05-23, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/electric-harps-protect-honey-bees-from-asia...

Michel Costa had become a frustrated veteran of an obscure yet devastating war in Europe. The enemy: invasive Asian hornets, which had been massacring his honey bees. When Costa, a retiree and avid beekeeper, discovered a new weapon with the potential to change the course of the entire war, he was intrigued. Several companies had begun selling so-called “electric harps,” which they claimed could kill the hornets in droves by electrocuting them as they flew through. Although the harps take different forms, each one is made of some sort of large frame, which is then “strung” with conductive metal wires. These are then connected to a source of electricity, often solar panels, so that the wires conduct simultaneously positive and negative charges. When a hornet flies through, its wings touch the wires on either side, completing a circuit, and thereby delivering a fatal current of electricity. Beekeepers then place the harps around their hives in positions along the hornets’ frequent flight paths. The harps can reduce predation pressure by 89 percent — enough to give hives the chance to replenish their stores. In one study only 56 percent of unprotected hives survived through winter, while 78 percent of those protected by harps did. Harps are also cheaper than other methods for beekeepers to install and operate. Beekeepers can buy them in complete kits that cost around $300 ... as Costa did. When combined with solar panels, maintenance costs are minimal.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this about healing the Earth.


'Bees are sentient': inside the stunning brains of nature’s hardest workers
2023-04-02, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/apr/02/bees-intelligence-minds-p...

When Stephen Buchmann finds a wayward bee on a window inside his Tucson, Arizona, home, he goes to great lengths to capture and release it unharmed. This March, Buchmann released a book that unpacks just how varied and powerful a bee’s mind really is. The book, What a Bee Knows: Exploring the Thoughts, Memories and Personalities of Bees, draws from his own research and dozens of other studies to paint a remarkable picture of bee behavior and psychology. It argues that bees can demonstrate sophisticated emotions resembling optimism, frustration, playfulness and fear, traits more commonly associated with mammals. Experiments have shown bees can experience PTSD-like symptoms, recognize different human faces, process long-term memories while sleeping, and maybe even dream. Approximately one-third of the American diet, including many fruits, vegetables and nuts, relies on bees for pollination. In the past, bee research has focused on their role in crop pollination, but the work being pioneered by Buchmann and his contemporaries could force an ethical reckoning with how the animals are treated. Can large-scale agriculture and scientific research continue without causing bees to suffer, and is the dominant western culture even capable of accepting that the tiniest of creatures have feelings, too? Buchmann hopes an ethical shift will happen as details about the emotional lives of invertebrates – especially bees – are shared with the public.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Plastic-Eating Mushrooms: Species, Benefits, Impact
2022-12-14, Treehugger
https://www.treehugger.com/mushroom-that-eats-plastic-5121023

Certain mushroom species have the ability to consume polyurethane, one of the main ingredients in plastic products. Some scientists believe that these natural composters could be the key to cleaning up our planet. Mycoremediation is the natural process that fungi use to degrade or isolate contaminants in the environment. A 2020 study published in Biotechnology Reports found that mycoremediation applied to agricultural wastes like pesticides, herbicides, and cyanotoxins is more cost-effective, eco-friendly, and effective. A project using the mycelium (the vegetative part of the mushroom similar to a plant’s root system) of two common mushrooms made headlines in 2014. Using Pleurotus ostreatus, also known as the oyster mushroom, and Schizophyllum commune, aka the split gill mushroom, the team was able to turn plastic into human-grade food. The mushrooms were cultivated on circular pods made of seaweed-derived gelatin filled with UV-treated plastics. As the fungus digests the plastic, it grows around the edible base pods to create a mycelium-rich snack after just a few months. According to a study by the University of Rajasthan in India, plastic-eating mushrooms can sometimes absorb too much of the pollutant in their mycelium, and therefore cannot be consumed. If more research is performed regarding the safety aspects, however, mycoremediation through mushroom cultivation could perhaps address two of the world’s greatest problems: waste and food scarcity.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


First ever EU-wide limits for underwater noise
2022-11-29, European Commission
https://environment.ec.europa.eu/news/zero-pollution-and-biodiversity-first-e...

Underwater noise due to human activities at sea can harm marine biodiversity, leading for example to hearing impairment and behavioural disturbances. EU experts have adopted recommendations on maximum acceptable levels for impulsive (for example from oil and gas exploration and extraction) and continuous (such as from shipping) underwater noise. The new limits mean, that to be in tolerable status, no more than 20% of a given marine area, can be exposed to continuous underwater noise over a year Similarly, no more than 20% of a marine habitat can be exposed to impulsive noise over a given day, and no more than 10% over a year. These underwater noise pollution limits deliver on the Zero Pollution Action Plan and are the first of this kind at global level. The threshold values will contribute to set limits on where and for how long marine habitats can be exposed to underwater noise. Impulsive underwater noise, such as from oil and gas exploration, occurs in about 8 % of the EU’s seas: it is particularly present in large areas of the Baltic, North and Celtic Seas, and the Mediterranean area. Maritime traffic is the main source of continuous underwater noise. With 27% of its area subject to shipping, the Mediterranean Sea sees the highest shipping traffic in the EU. This is followed by the Baltic Sea (19 % of the area). Overall, only 9% of the EU’s sea area has no shipping traffic. EU Member States will now need to take these threshold values into account when they update their marine strategies.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


'Ways of Being' Review: Whole Earth Network
2022-06-17, Wall Street Journal
https://www.wsj.com/articles/ways-of-being-book-review-whole-earth-network-11...

The artist, writer and technologist James Bridle begins "Ways of Being" with an uncanny discovery: a line of stakes tagged with unfathomable letters and numbers in thick marker pen. The region of [Greece] is rich in oil, we learn, and the company that won the contract to extract it from the foothills of the Pindus mountains is using "cognitive technologies" to "augment ... strategic decision making." The grid of wooden stakes left by "unmarked vans, helicopters and work crews in hi-vis jackets" are the "tooth- and claw-marks of Artificial Intelligence, at the exact point where it meets the earth." "Ways of Being" sets off on a tour of the natural world, arguing that intelligence is something that "arises ... from thinking and working together," and that "everything is intelligent." We hear of elephants, chimpanzees and dolphins who resist and subvert experiments testing their sense of self. We find redwoods communicating through underground networks. In the most extraordinary result of all, in 2014 the Australian biologist Monica Gagliano showed that mimosa plants can remember a sudden fall for a month. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, science and technology have been used to analyze, conquer and control. But "Ways of Being" argues that they can equally be used to explore and augment connection and empathy. The author cites researchers studying migration patterns with military radar and astronomers turning telescopes designed for surveillance on Earth into instruments for investigating the dark energy of the cosmos.

Note: Read a thought-provoking article featuring a video interview with artist and technologist James Bridle as he explores how technology can be used to reflect the innovative and life-enhancing capacities of non-human natural systems. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on mysterious nature of reality from reliable major media sources.


Mushrooms communicate with each other using up to 50 ‘words’, scientist claims
2022-04-05, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/apr/06/fungi-electrical-impulses-hum...

Mathematical analysis of the electrical signals fungi seemingly send to one another has identified patterns that bear a striking structural similarity to human speech. Previous research has suggested that fungi conduct electrical impulses through long, underground filamentous structures called hyphae – similar to how nerve cells transmit information in humans. It has even shown that the firing rate of these impulses increases when the hyphae of wood-digesting fungi come into contact with wooden blocks, raising the possibility that fungi use this electrical “language” to share information about food or injury with distant parts of themselves, or with hyphae-connected partners such as trees. Prof Andrew Adamatzky at the University of the West of England’s unconventional computing laboratory in Bristol analysed the patterns of electrical spikes generated by four species of fungi – enoki, split gill, ghost and caterpillar fungi. The research, published in Royal Society Open Science, found that these spikes often clustered into trains of activity, resembling vocabularies of up to 50 words, and that the distribution of these “fungal word lengths” closely matched those of human languages. The most likely reasons for these waves of electrical activity are to maintain the fungi’s integrity – analogous to wolves howling to maintain the integrity of the pack – or to report newly discovered sources of attractants and repellants to other parts of their mycelia, Adamtzky suggested.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


‘A treasure beneath our feet’: How the Dutch went down the toilet looking for heat
2023-11-08, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/nov/08/how-the-dutch-went-down-t...

Dutch sewage waste is being seen as a reliable heat source for millions of homes that the government wants to be unhooked from the country’s gas system by 2050. Lieven de Key, a housing corporation in Amsterdam, is planning what is believed to be the first sewer warmth project that will tap into a main district sewage pipe to warm 1,600 existing social and student homes. “We have a photo of the street covered with snow, and the manhole covers all without snow,” says Jeroen Rademaker, the project leader. “Even when there’s snow in the winter, the sewer is warm. Warm sewage water flows 24 hours a day and we should capture it. This can happen wherever there is a big sewage pipe.” “The warmth comes from showers, the toilet, wastewater from washing, from the dishwasher, from the washing machine,” says Postuma. “Together it all gives, throughout the year, a temperature between 15 and 18 degrees. And we are going to make a bypass around the main sewer, put a heat exchanger around it and bring it to the houses in insulated pipes. We place it in an electric heat pump, and the water is heated up to 60 or 70C – medium temperature.” The heat exchanger transfers that source heat from the drain to a working fluid that can be transported to the buildings without needing to circulate the actual sewage waste. Then the blocks’ heat pumps, fired by solar energy, can amplify that heat in the opposite way to the workings of a refrigerator.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The scientists coaxing back nature with sound
2023-05-19, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20230519-the-sound-recordings-used-to-coax...

Beyond human hearing, a cacophony of natural clicks, whistles and hums pass all around us, linking billions of living beings in networks of sound. Mother whales whisper to their young so predators can't hear them. Bees emit unique buzzing signals to distinguish threats from specific predators. Turtle embryos synchronise their collective moment of birth by making sounds through their shells. And unknown fish species buzz to one another in the depths – their very identities one of nature's countless sonic mysteries. What if tapping into these sounds could allow us to not only to learn more about the natural world, but actually help to begin healing it? An emerging appreciation for the biological importance of sound has led to new strategies for environmental conservation. From microscopic larvae lost at sea to birds that travel hundreds of miles from home, conservationists are now starting to use the sounds of nature to guide them back to where they belong. "Sound is so important," says Cheryl Tipp, curator of wildlife and environmental sound at the British Library. "In the natural world, it's used in mating displays, in territorial disputes, as alarm signals." For humans trying to support nature, meanwhile, sound can be used to identify new species, monitor populations and assess the health of ecosystems, she says. There is now a growing interest in the use of sound to accelerate habitat restoration itself, by coaxing certain species to certain locations using their very own sounds.

Note: Listen to a fascinating interview with biologist and innovation consultant Janine Benyus, who explores the power of biomimicry, a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies used by natural systems and species alive today. Benyus proposes that biomimicry can solve some of the gravest of societal and environmental problems by discovering how nature has already solved some of these challenges.


From seawater to drinking water, with the push of a button
2022-04-28, MIT News
https://news.mit.edu/2022/portable-desalination-drinking-water-0428

MIT researchers have developed a portable desalination unit, weighing less than 10 kilograms, that can remove particles and salts to generate drinking water. The suitcase-sized device, which requires less power to operate than a cell phone charger, can also be driven by a small, portable solar panel, which can be purchased online for around $50. It automatically generates drinking water that exceeds World Health Organization quality standards. The technology is packaged into a user-friendly device that runs with the push of one button. Unlike other portable desalination units that require water to pass through filters, this device utilizes electrical power to remove particles from drinking water. Eliminating the need for replacement filters greatly reduces the long-term maintenance requirements. This could enable the unit to be deployed in remote and severely resource-limited areas, such as communities on small islands or aboard seafaring cargo ships. It could also be used to aid refugees fleeing natural disasters or by soldiers carrying out long-term military operations. “This is really the culmination of a 10-year journey that I and my group have been on. We worked for years on the physics behind individual desalination processes, but pushing all those advances into a box, building a system, and demonstrating it in the ocean, that was a really meaningful and rewarding experience for me,” says senior author Jongyoon Han, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


The all-female patrol guarding Ecuador's Amazon Rainforest
2024-05-07, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20240503-the-indigenous-women-fighting-min...

It is the break of dawn in the Serena community, in the middle of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Elsa Cerda, a 43-year-old indigenous Kichwa woman, brews guayusa leaves – a native plant from the rainforest – in a pot. It marks the start of the Guayusa Upina, a ritual performed by Amazonian indigenous peoples before beginning their daily activities. This tradition is more than a routine; it's a spiritual connection to their ancestral roots. As the first rays of light begin to filter through the tree canopy, a diverse assembly of 35 women, ranging from 23 to 85 years old, arrives one by one at the ceremony. The group goes by the name of "Yuturi Warmi". Their role as Amazonian guardians involves safeguarding the territory from pollution and preserving the land and rivers from activities that jeopardise biodiversity – such as deforestation and mining operations. The women undergo regular training sessions, with younger women teaching older members how to operate these phone cameras and drones. Each patrol involves a rotation of members, particularly the younger ones, who primarily patrol the land, ensuring continued presence and surveillance. The women do not carry any weapons, relying instead on their collective presence to act as a deterrent. In the event of witnessing illegal mining activities, the women prioritise non-violent measures such as contacting the authorities and gathering evidence.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this about healing the Earth.


Plastic-eating bacteria can help waste self-destruct
2024-04-30, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-68927816

Scientists have developed a "self-digesting plastic", which, they say, could help reduce pollution. Polyurethane is used in everything from phone cases to trainers, but is tricky to recycle and mainly ends up in landfill. However, researchers have come up with a sci-fi like solution. By incorporating spores of plastic-eating bacteria they've developed a plastic that can self-destruct. The spores remain dormant during the useful lifetime of the plastic, but spring back to life and start to digest the product when exposed to nutrients in compost. There's hope "we can mitigate plastic pollution in nature", said researcher Han Sol Kim, of the University of California San Diego, La Jolla. And there might be an added advantage in that the spores increase the toughness of the plastic. "Our process makes the materials more rugged, so it extends its useful lifetime," said co-researcher, Jon Pokorski. "And then, when it's done, we're able to eliminate it from the environment, regardless of how it's disposed." The plastic is currently being worked on at the laboratory bench but could be in the real world within a few years, with the help of a manufacturer, he added. The type of bacteria added to the plastic is Bacillus subtilis, widely used as a food additive and a probiotic. Crucially, the bacteria has to be genetically engineered to be able to withstand the very high temperatures needed to make plastic.

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the Earth.


Watch these hungry waxworms eat through plastic and digest it too
2024-04-24, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20240419-the-worms-that-eat-through-plastic

At first glance there's nothing particularly remarkable about waxworms. The larval form of wax moths, these pale wriggling grubs feed on the wax that bees use to make their honeycomb. For beekeepers, the pests are something to swiftly get rid of without a second thought. But in 2017 molecular biologist Federica Bertocchini ... stumbled on a potentially game-changing discovery about these creatures. Bertocchini, an amateur beekeeper, threw some of the waxworms in a plastic bag after cleaning her hive, and left them alone. A short time later, she noticed the worms had started producing small holes in the plastic, which begun degrading as soon as it touched the worms' mouths. The worms were doing something that we as humans find remarkably difficult to do: break down plastic. Not only that, but the worms appeared to be digesting the plastic as though it was food. Bertocchini and her fellow researchers began collecting the liquid excreted from the worms' mouths. They found this "saliva" contained two critical enzymes, Ceres and Demeter – named after the Roman and Greek goddesses of agriculture, respectively – which were able to oxidise the polyethylene in the plastic, essentially breaking down that material on contact. Bertocchini is now chief technology officer at bioresearch startup Plasticentropy France, working with a team to study the viability of scaling up these enzymes for widespread use in degrading plastic.

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