Rethinking the Food Crisis and Solutions

If you look past the awesome CGI special effects and mind-boggling time dilation shenanigans of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, you’d remember that the basic premise of the film is that the Earth is dying and no longer able to produce food for humans.

 

Scene from Interstellar

Scene from Interstellar

Food crisis is a real global threat.  But it’s a lot more complicated now than what sociologist Thomas Malthus worried about back in 1798.  Back then, his theory is that food production won’t be able to keep up with the exponential growth of population.  Today, lots of other factors are contributing to food shortage.

Climate change is the biggest of them: crops are at the mercy of rising temperature, drought and floods.  Also, heavy fertilizer use has messed up the natural chemical balanced of soil.  Land that should have been used for growing crops are being devoted for growing corns for biofuel.  Even our endless …

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To LEED or Not to LEED | The Case for Anti-LEED

Last month, architect Steve Mouzon made the case for Anti-LEED in a post at ArchDaily.

To LEED or Not to LEED

To LEED or Not to LEED

At first glance, Anti-LEED sounds like an outright bashing.  There’s that prefix anti after all.  And we all know LEED is no stranger to criticism and challenges, being the premier green building standard all over the world for the last two decades.  Up until now, LEED’s main detractors—the various chemicals, plastics, and lumber industry whose building materials just don’t comply with LEED’s ever more stringent standards—are still complaining.  Instead of finding ways to make their products safer and more sustainable, these companies band together, get backing from a few politicians, and plot ways to ban LEED in several states in the U.S.

But Mouzon admits …

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How Our Dependence on Palm Oil is Killing Our Rainforest, the Orangutans, the Tigers, and the Planet

Next time you’re in the supermarket, check out the list of ingredients of every product on the shelf. Whether it be bread, pasta, toothpaste, chewing gum, soap, shampoo, detergent, cosmetics, chocolate, ice cream, biscuits, peanut butter, instant noodles, and many, many others—one thing is in common among them: they all contain palm oil.

We've become dependent on the oil of these red palm fruits.  (Photo courtesy of SFGate)

We’ve become dependent on the oil of these red palm fruits. (Photo courtesy of SFGate)

In fact, almost half of all processed foods being sold today lists palm oil as their ingredients.

Currently, Malaysia and Indonesia are the top producer of this oil. The world depends on these two countries for all its palm oil needs, so that all those abovementioned products and many more can be smoothly and happily manufactured. The big problem is that palm oil’s use is so widespread that big corporations are actually clearing rainforests to make way for new palm plantations.

In the ‘80s, Indonesia was …

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Addictive Substances and Their Environmental Impact

While we have used addictive substances recreationally for more than 10,000 years, wide scale use of alcohol, coffee, tobacco and drugs has only come about in recent centuries. Commercial production of these substances has made them available to more people, which not only places us at risk of addiction and associated health problems, but also has a significant impact on the environment. While some growers are taking action to produce coffee and tobacco more sustainably, this is not universal, and illegal drug operations give little thought to the destructive consequences of producing the likes of marijuana, opium and cocaine.

Environmental Impact of Opium Production

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Biomimicry in Architecture | Building According to Nature’s Prinicples

These days there’s a big focus on buildings that work just like nature.

It’s the next logical step to sustainability—not simply being concerned about locally-sourced materials or non-toxic ingredients or carbon footprint, but making sure, too, that buildings work in accordance with nature’s various principles.

 

The Watercube in Beijing is inspired by soap bubbles. Not exactly biomimicry in the purest sense, but the inspiration from nature is there.(Image from Arup.com)

The Watercube in Beijing is inspired by soap bubbles. Not exactly biomimicry in the purest sense, but the inspiration from nature is there.(Image from Arup.com)

For many years now, scientists and engineers have been drawing on nature for inspiration.  From iridescent butterfly wings to sticky plant burrs, from hydro-efficient sharkskin and humpback whales to a kingfisher’s aerodynamic beak.  What they’ve found out is that when it comes to fine-tuning things to perfection, Mother Nature is way ahead of us.

This fine-tuning is called evolution.  Plants and animals are the way they are now because their ancestors had slowly and painstakingly evolved for billions of years through the process of natural selection.

It’s still an ongoing process.  But as it is, evolution can already be mined for its

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