Oxitec: the bio mosquitoe killer

Oxitec: the bio mosquitoe killer

Zika, malaria, dengue and yellow fever. These are just a few diseases unleashed by stings of aedes aegypti, the deadliest creature on Earth. This particular mosquito kills over a million people every year and annually causes illness to hundreds of millions more. Demographers argue that throughout the ages infectious disease, caused by mosquitoes, claimed more deaths than all wars in history combined. Oxitec gives killer mosquitoes a taste of their own medicine To end this terror British tech company Oxitec in 2002 developed Self-Limiting Mosquitoes. These lab-grown insects, bred in Oxford and Brazil,  are sterilised and given a self-limiting gene. When the male Self-Limiting Mosquitoes –females are prematurely done away with- are set out in the wild, they mate but their offspring will never see the light of day. According to Oxitec, their method of biological control is available at relatively low costs, since mosquitoes are cheap to export. Moreover Oxitec’s ‘Operation Romeo’ doesn’t rely on chemical pesticides (to which mosquitoes by now are resistent anyway). Similar attempts at biological control have been tried with mixed success. Mosquitofish, who eat 500 mosquito larvae per day, helped the Soviets clear their Black Sea coast from malaria in the 1950’s. As a token of appreciation the city of Sochi built a monument in 2008 to honour the mosquitofish. On the other hand, when in 1925 the same mosquitofish were unleashed in Australian waters, events took a turn for the worse. The supposed to be control agents aggressively disrupted the maritime ecosystem and chased away other species who lived of mosquitoes. As a matter of fact, the  introduction of mosquitofish may have...
Jurassic Park in real life

Jurassic Park in real life

Global warming affects unexpected places. In Siberia temperatures have increased by 3 degrees in 40 years. Climate change is turning millions of hectares, an area as big as France and Germany combined, into swamps. Permafrost is beginning to thaw, causing alarming effects. Siberian cities built on frozen ground, such as Norilsk (175.000 inhabitants) and Yakustk (100.000 inhabitants), are witnessing the collapse of the foundation of their buildings because of melting permafrost. To make matters worse, billions of tonnes of methane and carbon will be unleashed into the atmosphere if the degradation of permafrost continues.  However, if it’s up to Sergei Zimov and his son Nikita, the greenhouse gasses will stay in the ground. These Russian geologists administer a 1600 ha wide nature reserve, Pleistocene Park, in which they keep the Siberian permafrost frozen using unconventional methods. With a tank Sergei crushes trees to prevent the thick forest from absorbing sunlight. Secondly, Sergei removes the thick layers of snow on the ground, allowing the frigid Siberian air to cool down the permafrost. ‘In Pleistocene Park we try to recreate a prehistoric ecosystem’, says Sergei. ‘The same one in which now extinct animals used to live 20.000 years ago. The same circumstances, the same plants, the same vegetables. I’m sure they will be able to live together.’  In his view the reindeers, musk oxen, Bactrian camels, bisons and mammoths that roamed Siberia ‘much like the nowadays savannes of Afrika’, would restore  the natural equilibrium necessary for keeping the permafrost intact. Animal hoards topple trees, trample snow and, in addition, spread manure full with nutrients which allows plants and grass to grow...
Finding peace by sharing water

Finding peace by sharing water

Just as Jewish and Arab tribes stood side by side, fighting for the troops of Mohammed, so they join forces again. Israeli’s, Palestinians and Jordanians work together at Ecopeace Middle East. This activist group, founded in 1994, initiates and supports ways to distribute water equally between Jewish and Arab communities. By tackling environmental hazards together, Ecopeace hopes to overcome political differences and to draw Israeli and Palestinian authorities closer to sustainable peace. Dealing with the environment poses a dilemma. Because isn’t control over natural resources exactly why neighbouring communities are usually in conflict with each other? Especially, one would say, when these resources are scarce, such as water in the dessert. However, according to Ecopeace director Gidon Bromberg, lack of water is not a  problem. On the contrary: ‘Israel has abundant resources of water. The country is a regional water superpower, leading in research and development of water technologies. ‘ Thanks to membrane engineering, seawater is made drinkable in desalination plants. The factory in Ashkelon, for example, provides for 70 percent of the country’s drinkable water.   On the other hand, Israel’s leadership in water management doesn’t benefit the two  million citizens of Gaza. They have to buy water from the desalination plant in Ashkelon, because 97 percent of the groundwater in Gaza is undrinkable. Other natural resources, such as the Jordan River and costal aquifers, are contaminated with raw sewages and chemical waste.   Meanwhile Ecopeace fears that the Dead Sea (to which Palestinians have no access) will be dried out in 2050.  Global warming and sinkholes have since 1931 caused the Dead Sea to decline by one...
Sending co2 gasses to bedrock

Sending co2 gasses to bedrock

Ever men of nature, the Icelanders developed CarbFix. In this industrial process Reykjavik engineers capture carbon gasses, dissolve them into water and inject them under ground. 1000 meters below surface carbon dioxide turns into rock.  Carbon mineralisation already takes place in nature. This process, however, takes over hundreds of years during which carbon gasses still escape to the atmosphere. The Icelandic approach, followed by the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant since 2014, not only speeds up CarbFix to a period of months. Also, it prevents gas leakages because carbon dioxide is pre-emptively dissolved into water, before sending it in depth. ‘For this method to work, we need  a lot of water’ says geochemist Sigurður Gíslason of the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences: ’We need 25 tons of water to dissolve one ton of CO2.For this reason CarbFix projects are running close to the coast lines of India, Saudi-Arabia, Indonesia, Japan and New Zealand. Regions with little rainfall, such as the centre of India, are more challenging areas.’ The same goes for transportation if co2 sources are not located close to basalt ground. While Iceland is blessed with abundant basalt soil – the main ingredient for CarbFix – only few places have the same geological composition.. ‘However as the ocean floor is covered with basalt, new research is focussed on capturing co2 through the use of seawater for storage. The experiments we are doing are very promising.’ At the same time Sigurður maintains a realistic view on the SDG’s in 2030:’CarbFix is not going to be a silver bullet, but it will be another tool to fight global warming.’...
Het Nederlands van Peter de Grote

Het Nederlands van Peter de Grote

Stóel, vál, appélsín, trap, artisjók, abrikós, pérsik, matrás, brandspójt, achtersjtéven. Voor wie dacht dat hij geen Russisch kon spreken, heeft nu toch al aardig wat woorden onder de knie. Vooral dankzij tsaar Peter de Grote (1672-1725) zijn Nederlandse woorden in het Russisch verzeild geraakt. Peters hervormingsdrift bracht in Rusland een sociale en culturele revolutie teweeg, waarbij talloze buitenlandse leenwoorden ingeburgerd raakten in het Russisch. Met name uit het Engels, Duits en Frans, maar ook uit het Nederlands, dat daarbij ook fungeerde als tussenstation voor deze talen en het Russisch. Peter nodigde veel Nederlandse scheepsbouwers uit naar Rusland te komen en zij introduceerden nieuwe scheepstermen. De Russen namen nauwelijks de moeite deze woorden te russificeren, want het leven aan boord was al niet gemakkelijk. Om geen avária op te lopen, had de matrós zijn handen vol aan het lichten van het ánker, het bijhouden van de juiste kóers en het schoonmaken van het kámbóez. En dan moest hij nog zorgen dat zijn brjóekie niet afzakte bij het zien van een naderende sjtorm. Gruwelen van etiquette Op jonge leeftijd trok de tsaar incognito, maar met een groot gezelschap, door de Noord-Europese landen. Hij wilde een coalitie smeden tegen de Ottomanen. Daarnaast hoopte hij van de Europeanen te leren hoe hij zijn land moest moderniseren. Op bezoek bij de Europese vorstenhuizen gruwelde Peter van formele plechtigheden en bij chique gelegenheden ging het herhaaldelijk mis. Terwijl hij zich aan de etiquette probeerde te houden door niet al te dronken te worden, compenseerden zijn metgezellen zijn gematigde houding ruimschoots. Daarbij moet worden aangetekend dat hun losbollige gedrag nog niet eens in de buurt kwam van...