Contents 

Click the title of your choice

MSDD - PUTTING PRESSURE ON PESTS

Pesticides shouldn’t be part of your diet

THE DIRT ON SOLAR PANELS

OCS Energy specializing in solar panel maintenance

ADVENTURES IN EATING: 

PUFFERFISH ADRENALINE

Observational humor; adventures in potentially deadly cuisine. 

OUR ENDANGERED OCEANS

Full length article covering ocean ecosystems the future of marine life

LOOK OUT! HERSHEY COMES!

Chocolate. Need I say more?

SEA SHEPERDS

A look into the controversial life of  Sea Sheperd Founder Paul Watson

DISCOVERING THE HORRORS OF THE GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH

Founder of Algalita Marine Research Institute describes his experience stranded amongst miles of floating, plastic debris.

THE FLINT-FACED FIRE LIZARD

Creature Feature for Monster Stew line of illustrated monsters

THE ABOMINABLE FUR MONSTER

Creature Feature for Monster Stew line of illustrated monsters

HYCRETE - CEMENT TECHNOLOGY

Company overview and development of new concrete that doesn't deteriorate due to the elements

IF LOOKS COULD KILL

A brief look at the life of the wide-eyed aye-aye of Madagascar

Putting Pressure on

Pests

Written for Ecoworld

We aren’t alone when it comes to enjoying the occasional fruit or vegetable: thousands of insect species scuttle, buzz and dig their way onto farmland to make their homes in a delicious apple or ripening grape. Unfortunately, produce isn’t as appealing with these pests nestled inside of it, even if the occasional fruit fly is just another harmless source of protein.

 

After growing in the sun for a few weeks, fruits-and the insects that come with them-are plucked from trees and piled high into trucks. While rifling through the colorful produce section, it doesn’t occur to most people that there are a few more steps involved before the year’s harvest rolls into the grocery store: 

 

A common way to destroy any stowaways is to place harvested fruits and vegetables in a chamber that is filled with methylbromide (aka Bromomethane) gas for eight hours. This poison kills any bugs it comes into contact with. Bromomethane was widely used as a pesticide on open crops and in soils until a few years ago, when agriculturalists came to realize how harmful the substance actually was.

 

To put things into perspective; Bromine is 60 times more harmful to the ozone than chlorine, and like many pesticides, exposure to the gas causes a variety of ailments in people-from dizziness and nausea to kidney failure, convulsions and death. Nobody wants a dose of pesticide with their salad. Unfortunately, many pesticides are still used to gas harvested produce before it reaches the grocery store. 

 

The solution comes in the form of a cost-effective, non-toxic pressurizing method called the metabolic stress disinfection and disinfection (MSDD) system. The name is a mouthful, but the concept is quite simple: Developed by UCDavis Physical Chemist, Manuel Lagunas-Solar, the MSDD device exposes pests to cycles of vacuum and pressurized carbon dioxide. 

 

First, air pressure is reduced by 90%. Then, after a few minutes, carbon dioxide fills the chamber. Ethanol vapor seeps into the chamber once in a while as well. (Ethanol, also known as pure alcohol, is harmless to humans in these small quantities. There is more ethanol in a shot glass of beer than there would be on the exposed fruits).

 

Any bugs, eggs and microbes trapped inside these chambers with the food can’t survive the pressure changes coupled with the ethanol mist. Making a chamber big enough for the large-scale farmer is not out of the question either. It is nice to see yet another innovative idea to cut back on our pesticide use.

 
 

Dangerous Eating -

Pufferfish Adrenaline

Hobby article written for personal blog

It’s always amazing how people will pay top-dollar for a life threatening experience. Take a puffer fish dinner, for example: A couple tiny slivers of this so called delicacy - a.k.a fugu - will cost you upwards of a few 100 dollars.

 

Eating pufferfish is a way for less active individuals to get a thrill without having to overexert themselves. There’s also the cheaper option of ‘accidentally’ swallowing a chicken-bone, but it’s not as classy.

 

When properly prepared, eating puffer fish will leave you with numb lips, a pleasant tingling sensation and feeling of slight intoxication. Ingesting Vicks Vapo-rub may provide similar results. If an amateur chef makes a few wrong cuts while prepping this puffy culinary ‘delight’, the diner won’t even get a chance to leave a tip before suffering from nausea, vomiting, paralyses, respiratory failure, coma and sometimes a less than graceful death.

 

Make sure to avoid any restaurant where you’re asked to pay in advance for the puffy experience.

 

I’m never one to underestimate how thrilling a lunch can be…I’ve had a few experiences with BBQ burgers that have practically given me an out of body experience (it may have just been a mild heart attack)…BUT I’m not sure if I want a seafood platter to be the most exciting thing I experience in my lifetime.

The Dirt on

Solar Panels

Written for Ecoworld

 

Solar panels have been the topic of thousands of articles over the past couple of years. It seems like everyone is going pro-solar, but there is one thing that few people have addressed: Dirt. Solar panels glisten in the sun after first being installed, and make any building look modern, shiny and new when viewed from above. But after a little while, these panels reflect a little less and don’t function as well. Tree branches hanging overhead drop sap onto anything below, flocks of birds leave behind a mess after spending the night overhead while dust, grime and mold adds to the layers of dirt already coloring the solar panels a splotchy brown.

 

Dirt is a major problem with solar panels, and letting it accumulate over a few months may reduce a solar panel’s efficacy by almost 25%. It is suggested that solar panels are cleaned on a regular basis, but this can be time consuming and even dangerous.

 

OCS Energy has developed a practical solution with the use of an automated cleaning system. In a recent press release, the company explains why they came up with the novel idea: “After receiving numerous maintenance inquiries from clients over the years, and seeing no practical cleaning solutions, Rich O’Connell, CEO of OCS Energy, developed the SolarWash system. The patent pending SolarWash system provides a complete solar cleaning solution including maintenance free nozzles, a web‐based interface, and a programmable logic controller (PLC). The end‐to‐end solution allows operators of large PV systems to effectively manage their resources, initiating the washing of panels without the need to schedule a maintenance crew.”

 

Buyers of solar panels often assume that the work is over after the panels are installed. Obviously this isn’t the case when cleaning crews need to be hired on a regular basis in order to keep the panels functioning properly. SolarWash isn’t exactly cheap, but it will pay for itself in under five years by eliminating cleaning costs and increasing the amount of energy absorbed by the panels. Solar panels will now really be maintenance-free with SolarWash’s fully automated fanning nozzles spraying the panels down whenever they get too dirty.

Our

Endangered

Oceans

Written for Ecoworld

A Right Whale slowly sinks to the bottom of the ocean. At 70 years old, it had survived attacks from fisherman and killer whales, but something was going to get it eventually; twenty large propeller cuts along the left side of the animal hint that the whale’s death was caused by a ship. One might think that this whale has nothing left to offer as it makes its way closer to the black abyss of the deep sea hundreds of feet below, but that is far from the truth.

 

Everything in the ocean has a purpose. Even the 90 ton whale carcass has a specific role in the spectacular deep sea niche on the ocean floor. In fact, a whale carcass is an ecosystem in itself. The decomposing animal provides a feast for scavengers such as hagfish, lobsters and sleeper sharks. A few weeks later, large amounts of sulphur seep into the environment from the bacteria decomposing the whale. This creates the perfect habitat for a variety of worms, clams and other organisms. NOAA states that “the decay of bone lipids supports remarkably dense bacterial mats, mussels, vesicomyid clams...the diversity of species found in these dense populations far outnumber local species richness in other extreme deep-sea environments”. Many worms-some only recently discovered-survive solely on the bones of animals that drift to the ocean floor. These ‘whale-fall’ specialists survive on nothing else. A ‘whale-fall’ community may survive for years on a single carcass. (Ref. BBC Science & Nature)

 

A variety of deep sea arthoropods may have already gone extinct as fewer and fewer whales found their way to the ocean floor over the years. Like everything in an ecosystem, marine animals are linked to one another. These marine food webs are described in more detail by the Scottish Fisheries and Research Services: “All&life forms, from the smallest microbes to the dolphins and whales, are part of the marine food web, a complicated network of who-eats-who, or predator-prey relationships.”

 

Ultimately the whole system is dependent on the amount of inorganic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus fixed as organic matter by some of the microbes and phytoplankton as a result of photosynthesis. Phytoplankton and bacteria are eaten by the micro – and larger zooplankton which in turn are eaten by krill and fish, and ultimately by the marine mammals. Fish-eating seabirds also participate in this food web. Countless animals are affected with the death of one species. (Ref. Scottish Fisheries & Research Services)

 

Fascinating organisms are found everywhere, even in the vast expanses of the deep sea where life seems impossible. “One study of a deep-sea community revealed 898 species from more than 100 families and a dozen phyla in an area about half the size of a tennis court. More than half of these were new to science,” explains Nasa’s SeaWiFS website. (Ref. NASA Ocean Planet Overview)

 

Unfortunately, with the increase in pollution, fishing and cargo boats, the largest mammals on earth, not to mention all the other marine species, have to pay the price by association. Just a change in the levels of oceanic bacteria will effect everything in the food chain.

 

Before anyone can honestly care how important it is to protect marine habitats, one needs to appreciate the vast quantities of marine life that exists in the ocean. It is hard for some people to relate to something they never see. However, it makes sense that the vast expanse of water and its inhabitants, covering 70% of the planet, affects us all.

Most marine animals are found near coral reefs. These colorful underwater forests naturally spring to mind with the mention of scuba diving or underwater life. Conservation International, one of the world’s largest organizations dedicated to habitat and species conservation, describes these habitats: “Coral reefs are constructed by living plants and animals, primarily corals that surround their small anemone-like tentacles in a hard skeleton that forms much of the reef structure.

 

They generally occur in clear, tropical or semi-tropical seas to a depth of approximately 100 meters (328 feet). Coral reefs fringe approximately one sixth of the world’s coastlines and are the biologically richest of all shallow-water marine ecosystems. They support as many as 1 million species of animals and plants, but only a small fraction have been described. Among the best known groups are at least 5,000 species of fish, over 10,000 species of mollusk and more than 800 species of reef-building corals.”

 

Corals are not only important to fish. Reefs are important to the human population for a wide variety or reasons: For one,  they are a food source. A majority of people make their living fishing near coral reefs and an even larger part of population enjoys eating some of the catch. Unfortunately, “If current trends of over-fishing continue, and we deplete fisheries as fast as we are, then this food source will eventually run out,” explains Brian Huse, Executive Director of the Coral Reef Alliance –   a non-profit organization dedicated to sustaining Coral Reefs, ” scientific evidence shows that 90% of top predators in the ocean are now extinct because of over-fishing – predatory fish include anything salmon sized and above&all the way through sharks&On the other hand, killing off the grazing species of fish at reefs allows algae to build up, which in turn kills the  coral.” With 30% of oceanic fish making their home near coral reefs at one time or another, reefs are essential in maintaining a healthy fish population and many of the fish maintain the coral in return. Sustainable fishing is a must.

 

Corals aren’t only a food source. “There is also a clear connection between tsunamis and storm events having a much greater impact on eroding coast lines than healthy ones,” Huse continues to explain; “Healthy reefs protect coastlines from the damage of massive waves. During the recent tsunami in Indonesia, for example, coastlines protected by reefs and mangrove forests remained intact and experienced much less impact than coasts that did not have reefs [to defend against oncoming waves].”

 

Pollution is a major threat to the ocean. Pollution comes in many forms and shapes, but most have one thing in common: Almost all ocean pollutants stem from land based human activity. Waste produced on land eventually finds its way to the ocean. It is not uncommon to find beaches littered with plastic bags and bottles that finally came to rest on shores. Rivers carry dirt, oils, sewage and chemicals out to sea. Garbage also finds its way to ocean. Seeing plastic bags floating around the water instead of fish is not a pretty sight. Washed up garbage on the sand will definitely ruin a nice beach vacation. With many third-world countries relying on tourism for income, it is important to maintain the ocean and beaches in as pristine a condition as possible.

 

Chemicals are constantly absorbed by the ocean. Chemicals have a drastic effect on fish populations and the fishing industry. Chemicals absorbed by animals at sea will also harm the human population that consumes them. Mercury is a chemical now commonly found in larger predatory fish such as tuna and shark. The Food and Drug Administration explains how this chemical finds its way to sea: “Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and also can be released into the air through industrial pollution. Mercury falls from the air and can accumulate in streams and oceans. Bacteria in the water cause chemical changes that transform the mercury into methylmercury. It is this type of mercury that can be harmful to unborn babies and young children. Fish absorb the methylmercury as they feed in these waters. Methylmercury builds up in the  tissue of some types of fish and shellfish more than others depending on what the fish eat.” (Ref. U.S. FDA)

 

High levels of mercury can poison the human body, have adverse effects on the nervous system and prevent a baby from developing normally in the womb. This is just one of the harmful chemicals that are actively absorbed by the ocean. Those of us who enjoy the occasional tuna salad sandwich or swordfish steak have been absorbing natural and industrial chemicals from the meat for a few years now (Thankfully, it has not been proven harmful in occasional small doses, but it certainly can’t be healthy).

 

Another chemical pollutant is carbonic acid. Atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by the ocean and reacts with the seawater to form carbonic acid – this makes the ocean more acidic and intolerable to a variety of species. The shells of living mollusks have even been known to dissolve in very acidic areas of the ocean. The Royal Society, an independent scientific academy based  in the UK and commonwealth, states that “sea creatures such as corals, shell fish, sea urchins and star fish are likely to suffer the most because higher levels of acidity makes it difficult for them to form and maintain their hard calcium carbonate skeletons and shells. For example, even under the ‘low’ predictions for future carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, the combined effects of climate change and ocean acidification mean that corals could be rare on tropical and subtropical reefs, such as the Great Barrier Reef, by 2050.” (Ref. U.K. Royal Society Scientific Academy)

 

Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas that impedes the escape of heat into outer space, thereby causing temperatures to

rise-this is called global warming. In recent years, global warming has changed ocean environments. Since even the slightest fluctuation in ocean temperatures and chemical balances effect marine life, CO2 absorption is a major problem. NASA explains that “Through global warming, the surface waters of the oceans could become warmer, increasing the stress on ocean ecosystems, such as coral reefs. High water temperatures can cause a damaging process called coral bleaching. When corals bleach, they expel the algae that give them their color and nourishment. The corals turn white and, unless the water temperature cools, they die. Added warmth also helps spread diseases that affect sea creatures.” (Ref. NASA Global Warming Worldbook)

 

The Royal Society explains that “emissions of carbon dioxide from human activities over the past 200 years have already led to a reduction in the average pH of surface seawater of 0.1 units and could fall by 0.5 units by the year 2100. This pH is probably lower than has been experienced for hundreds of millennia and, critically, at a rate of change probably 100 times greater than at any time over this period.” Most man-made CO2 is inadvertently released with the use of fossil fuels in power generators and transportation vehicles.

 

Some poisons are intentionally released into the water. Cyanide or pesticides are released in designated areas known to harbor fish and the stunned fish are scooped up in nets and sorted. Even though the poisons don’t always kill the fish, they destroy smaller organisms including the coral reef building animals. Huse expresses his concern over losing coral reefs within our lifetimes: “By most scientific estimates,” Huse explains,”we’ve already lost 20-30% of all coral reefs. If we continue to impact the ocean like we are, another 50% of coral will die off within the next decade.”

 

Obviously over-fishing and pollution will always be a problem. The solution lies in limiting activities that harm the ocean even though the problem will never be completely eliminated. Certain fishing techniques are devastating to marine environments and often unnecessary: ‘Blasting’ is an example; This technique involves bombs that are detonated at sea in the hopes that the fish killed with float to the surface for easy collection. Bottom trawling destroys massive amounts of deep sea ecosystems killing the habitats of the animals they are fishing for. It is fishing practices like these that need improvement.

 

Controlling the amount of gases released into the atmosphere poses a more difficult problem. The good news is that there IS a potential solution. “Two effective techniques for limiting CO2 emissions would be (1) to replace fossil fuels with energy sources that do not emit CO2, and (2) to use fossil fuels more efficiently,” explains NASA, ” Alternative energy sources that do not emit CO2 include the wind, sunlight, nuclear energy, and underground steam. Devices known as wind turbines can convert wind energy to electric energy. Solar cells can convert sunlight to electric energy, and various devices can convert solar energy to useful heat. Geothermal power plants convert energy in underground steam to electric energy.” (Ref. NASA Global Warming Worldbook)

 

Fossil fuels are a limited resource as it is and research is currently underway in the hopes of finding alternative (and more environmentally friendly) fuel sources. Until research comes up with less expensive alternative fuels, fossil fuels will continue to be used as the world’s primary energy source.

 

A few years ago, the idea of an animal surviving the intense pressures of the deep sea was inconceivable. Today, it is a known fact that animals manage to survive at such depths. In fact, the deepest fish on record was found at 27,460 ft (8,370 meters) below sea level. Unfortunately, with current trends in pollution and deep sea fishing, many species may become extinct before they are even discovered! It is important to protect existing marine habitats, not only to protect a major resource of everything from food to tourism to coastal protection, but to ensure the survival of the creatures that make the world such a fascinating place.

 
 

Look Out!

Hershey Comes!

Personal Project

If you like chocolate, and there is a 99.9% chance that you do, then you’ve probably enjoyed a few Hershey’s candies in the past year. Even if you’re not a chocolate fan, the dozens of colorful candy wrappers staring back at you while you walk through Safeway, Century theaters, Shell gas stations or 7-Elevens, seduce your taste buds with their promise of giving your mouth something to be happy about.

 

Almost every popular candy item (conveniently placed at an 8 year olds eye level in almost all locations) from Twizzlers and Reese’s, to Almond Joys and Ice Breakers, is manufactured by Hershey’s. 

 

This confectionary giant wasn’t always a success, though. In fact, the first time Milton Snavely Hershey tried to manufacture candy in New York, he failed miserably. Not one to give up so easily, he took one more stab at the candy business in Pennsylvania. 

 

After making his first fortune manufacturing caramel, there was no stopping him: Hershey’s success began with the development of the trademarked “Hershey’s Kiss”, which became an instant sensation. Then came the Goodbars, the Hershey’s Syrup, the Chocolate chips, the Krackel Bar and many more. The candy mogul now produces over 40% of the Nation’s chocolates and boasts over $1,500,000,000 in net sales per quarter. 

If parents get tired of suing McDonald’s for causing childhood obesity, they could easily make a target of Hershey’s.

 

Part of the reason Hershey’s reigns over its competitors is because:

1) they are many of the last items customers see during check out (impulse buys)

 

2) their candies are cheap (typically costing less than a dollar)

 

3) their product list covers an impressively wide range; from gums, to licorice to finer chocolate 

 

Not only that, but they own the rights to one of America’s most popular candy: the Reese’s peanut butter cup.

 

Candy Making Isn’t All Just Fun and Games 

 

Unfortunately, even candy companies have many challenges to face when it comes to maintaining a business. Hershey’s, Mars Inc ,and Nestle have been racing each other for the biggest bite of the snack market for years, and with so many different types of products inundating the market, Hershey’s has many other candy producers to compete with. 

 

For example, customers who splurge on a candy bar once in a while, may want to indulge in something fancier, made by an independent chocolatier who specializes in only a few candy bars rather than buying the ‘lackluster’ twix bar. And there are A LOT of other candy bars to choose from.

Often, a company’s success is also part of its undoing. Hershey’s is THE target of competitors whose main goal is to sway customers into thinking that Hershey’s products may be inferior. Sometimes, to overcome this issue, companies simply buy each other out: Nestle has contemplated the purchase of Hershey’s to put it at the No.1 mark in the chocolate making world. Fortunately for Hershey’s, their trust controls 80% of voting shares and has effectively blocked any takeover. Not only that, but when you have millions invested in a company, one simple flub in the stock exchange could lose the company a lot of investors, and a lot of a money.

 

Kraft and Cadbury are the main competition at the moment, especially since their plans to merge would make them another candy monopoly. They would be able to use their giant scale to undercut the price of their competition. Kraft and Cadbury wouldn’t be as affected by fluctuations in sugar and cocoa prices like their Hershey’s counterpart who solely focuses on sweet products that need those imports.

 

Global Growth Issues and Marketing Plans

 

There is no arguing that Hershey’s is comfortably nested in the U.S market. According to Time Magazine “Hershey isn’t going to disappear. The U.S. might be a slow-growth market, but it’s the biggest market in the world,” says Mogelonsky.

Sea Shepherds. 

Protecting Their Flock

Written for Ecoworld 

 

Almost ten years ago, Time Magazine proclaimed Paul Watson one of the major environmental heroes of the 20th century

During the 1970s Watson was part of numerous Greenpeace campaigns against whaling, but he always felt that these placid confrontations made little difference when it came to saving whales. Some of these graceful animals even died from attacks with Greenpeace Zodiacs swarming around whaling vessels.

 

According to Watson’s biography, everything came to light in 1975 when he was forced to watch a sperm whale die a few feet from his boat after it had been harpooned by Russian hunters. The point of being there was the save the animals, not witness their deaths.Watson didn’t mesh well with Greenpeace and felt that more extreme measures were necessary for actual results, but his strong opinions didn’t win him any favors: He ended up expelled from the board of directors when he was 27, with only a single vote opposing the decision – his own. 

 

Watson used this opportunity to found the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society which, unlike Greenpeace, uses more aggressive tactics to stop whaling. This doesn’t come without a price, though, and Watson has found himself in jail on charges ranging from attempted murder to intentionally sinking a ship. Sea Shepherd admits to sinking at least ten ‘pirate’ whaling ships since 1979 and it is no surprise that a few nations have labeled this group a terrorist organization.

 

If nothing else, the current exploits of the Sea Shepherd is excellent television and it is now part of a more controversial reality TV show airing on Animal Planet. This show, adequately titled ‘Whale Wars’, aired a few months ago and already has millions of devoted fans. 

 

Laws have been set into place to ban whaling, but it remains an issue in countries where whale meat has been a staple for centuries. Japan is one of the major players in the Whale Wars game. Every part of the whale is valued in one form or another by the Japanese, and it is hard for an entire nation to accept a law that interferes with ancient traditions. 

 

Japan has tried to find loopholes to allow whaling, such as painting ‘Research Vessel’ on the side of obvious whaling ships, but even these boats seem to turn around when confronted with Watson’s ‘terrorist’ ship. It will be interesting to see how much of an influence organizations like Sea Shepherd have on the environment where politics have failed. Many people feel that they give environmentalists a bad rap, however it is hard not to respect a man who has given up everything to save a species he cares for deeply.

Discovering the 

Horrors of the 

Great Pacific 

Garbage Patch

Written for Ecoworld

While racing towards Los Angeles from Hawaii on his yacht, Charles Moore decided to stray from the typical route and take what he thought would be an easy shortcut through the North Pacific gyre. 

 

Expecting to see nothing but calm shimmering water in one of the most secluded regions of the ocean, Moore was shocked to find himself surrounded by mounds of garbage instead. For almost a week, Moore would walk on deck just to stare at sun-bleached toys, ropes, cups, and eerie shadows of plastic bags floating underneath the waves.

 

The North Pacific Gyre, noted for calm stable waters, and circular undersea currents, is calculated to contain over 100 million tons of trash. After its discovery in 1997, the area was dubbed the Eastern Garbage Patch by oceanographer, Curtis Ebbesmeyer. During the late 1980’s, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had speculated that huge quantities of debris were trapped by ocean currents. 

 

They explained that these masses of garbage would continue to accumulate where currents flowed around in circles, creating an effect similar to a vortex by trapping the garbage inside. 

 

The North Pacific gyre had been mentioned by NOAA, but didn’t receive much attention until Moore sailed through the area during the 1997 Transpac competition. It was no surprise that Moore, having grown up by the ocean and raised by an avid sailor, founded the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in 1994. 

 

This organization, based in Long Beach, California, started out studying the ocean’s chemical and bacterial properties, but their focus changed after Moore discovered the seemingly endless plastic soup during his unforgettable race.Algalita quotes Moore on the subject: “there were shampoo caps and soap bottles and plastic bags and fishing floats as far as I could see. Here I was in the middle of the ocean, and there was nowhere I could go to avoid the plastic.”

 

Scientists estimate the swirling mass of plastics and debris is two times the size of Texas. In fact, the Pacific gyre has now separated into two ever increasing patches known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches (combined, they are called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch). This oceanic dumping ground is now a major spot for studying the effects of plastics on marine life. Eighty percent of the trash floating in the patch is plastic. These plastics are slowly broken down into little pieces by the streaming sunlight and corrosive saltwater. 

 

Over time, these plastic chips will degrade to the size of dust particles which can easily become ingested by zooplankton. The effects of this on the entire marine food chain could be catastrophic. Even now, part of the ‘sand’ we find on the popular shorelines is composed of eroded plastic pieces mixed in with the natural crumbled coral and volcanic rock.

 

Algalita is one of many foundations dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. One can hope that the growth of these giant garbage patches may be slowed down with the foundations’ restoration projects and outreach programs. If the garbage proves to be even more difficult to eliminate that previously thought, at least their constant research on the effects of plastics and contaminants on marine environments will be better understood. This is the first step for finding a solution. Unfortunately, we live in a world where almost everything is disposable, and it will take some time for that to change.

 

The Flint-Faced

Fire Lizard

Creature Feature for Monster Stew

 

Many people like their steaks rare, their hams juicy and their chicken cooked…but not looking like a black chunk of steaming charcoal. 

Fire Lizards enjoy raw meat, but they can only savor a bloody filet for a few seconds before it roasts, sizzles and ultimately burns to a crisp in their fire pit of a mouth. Most Fire Lizards eventually learn to eat as quickly as possible so they aren’t left with the bitter aftertaste that comes from a burned roast. Their eating habits are comparable to oyster lovers opening their throats up as wide as possible to allow the tasty bivalve (aka slimy, snotball) to slide straight into the stomach.

 

These smaller dragons are fairly rare since they were almost hunted to extinction hundreds of years ago. Their shimmering green skin made excellent boots and their stomachs-once cut open-could be used to roast marshmallows for up to 3 weeks! Fire Lizards lend themselves perfectly as bbq pits, especially since their digestive juices are embarrassingly weak, and it makes a better marinade than anything else. 

 

Fire Lizards were known as “knight’s lunchboxes” since the hunters would often get rewarded with a perfectly marinated, smoked feast inside the guts of mature animals who had learned to swallow their kill quickly. 

Fun Fact: Dragon meat is inedible, but it lends a nice spicy flavor to anything that gets cooked in it. In fact, skillets and pots lined with dragon meat virtually last forever, and the unique, mouthwatering flavor that comes with it will make anyone into an instant chef! 

The Abominable

Fur Monster

Creature Feature for Monster Stew

 

Many people like their steaks rare, their hams juicy and their chicken cooked…but not looking like a black chunk of steaming charcoal. 

Fire Lizards enjoy raw meat, but they can only savor a bloody filet for a few seconds before it roasts, sizzles and ultimately burns to a crisp in their fire pit of a mouth. Most Fire Lizards eventually learn to eat as quickly as possible so they aren’t left with the bitter aftertaste that comes from a burned roast. Their eating habits are comparable to oyster lovers opening their throats up as wide as possible to allow the tasty bivalve (aka slimy, snotball) to slide straight into the stomach.

 

These smaller dragons are fairly rare since they were almost hunted to extinction hundreds of years ago. Their shimmering green skin made excellent boots and their stomachs-once cut open-could be used to roast marshmallows for up to 3 weeks! Fire Lizards lend themselves perfectly as bbq pits, especially since their digestive juices are embarrassingly weak, and it makes a better marinade than anything else. 

 

Fire Lizards were known as “knight’s lunchboxes” since the hunters would often get rewarded with a perfectly marinated, smoked feast inside the guts of mature animals who had learned to swallow their kill quickly. 

Fun Fact: Dragon meat is inedible, but it lends a nice spicy flavor to anything that gets cooked in it. In fact, skillets and pots lined with dragon meat virtually last forever, and the unique, mouthwatering flavor that comes with it will make anyone into an instant chef! 

HYCRETE 

Cement Building 

Technology

Company Overview written for Ecoworld

 

When it comes to making improvements, it is always a good idea to start with the basics. The fundamental part of any city, road, or building is concrete. By reducing the amount of energy needed to build, and by simplifying the components of the concrete, CO2 emissions are reduced while the whole building process is made more efficient.

 

Voted a GoingGreen winner and covered in numerous publications ranging from Time Magazine to Gizmag, Hycrete is a company at the forefront of cement technology. Hycrete has been manufacturing products in New Jersey for 40 years, and had already made a significant impact to the building industry by bringing a class of rust inhibitors to the market in the 1950s. 

 

Its more recent claim to fame-waterproof cement technology-was developed in the mid 90’s when Michael S. Rhodes, one of Hycrete’s key inventors, developed the unique moisture and corrosion blocker. Rhodes’ accomplishments are impressive: He has worked with NASA to develop solid rocket fuels and improve the heat shield of the Apollo series. The inventors’ interests are varied, however, and don’t stop there: Rhodes was also involved in creating products for the military, such as protective foams for submarines. 

 

At Hycrete, it was time to develop a product to shield one of the most used building materials on earth-Cement-from the elements. The main problems associated with cement are corrosion and cracking. Hycrete describes the issue in their data sheet: “Conventional concrete absorbs water and dissolved salts through a network of capillaries and cracks. [This water weakens the cement and may cause rusting to any steel piping or internal structures. Also, water runoff is often an issue] 

 

Hycrete Elite’s hydrophobic properties shut down the capillary wicking action that carries salts to the reinforcement layer and transforms concrete into a waterproof construction material. Unlike external membranes or coatings, Hycrete Elite provides real time protection as it is mixed into concrete to provide integral waterproofing and corrosion resistance.” Being waterproof, cement mixed with hycrete elite is perfect for rooftop gardens, parking lots, erosion control etc.

 

Waterproofing cement the ‘old-fashioned’ way is a major environmental issue: A popular approach is to line the entire structure with a waterproof membrane. The problem with this membrane is that it is typically composed of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are non recyclable, so when this cement needs replacing it is simply tossed into a landfill. 

 

Almost half of the building materials sitting in landfills are made up of this kind of cement. The soap like properties of hycrete, on the other hand, follow the ‘cradle to cradle’ philosophy and break down when returned to the soil. By being mixed into the cement rather than sprayed on top of it (though this is an option with other hycrete waterproofing products), the cement is recyclable and can be reused. 

If Looks Could Kill

 

In Madagascar lives a creature with a complection so eerie that that the local Malagasy and Sakalava people believe it to be a symbol of death. The menacing omen comes in the shape of an aye-aye: Its piercing orange eyes, bony fingers, large incisors and bat-like ears definitely give this nocturnal primate a unique appearance. 

 

Some tribesmen go so far as to claim that the aye-aye will sneak into your home at night and use its slender middle finger to pierce your heart. 

 

These beliefs couldn’t be further from the truth: The creature that the local villagers are so petrified to come across spends most of its time searching out grubs, nuts, nectar and fruits rather than people to condemn to death. Unfortunately, superstitions associated with the aye-aye result in the animal being killed on sight. 

 

It doesn’t help that the aye-aye is almost tame when compared to other wild animals: Aye-ayes are known to walk right up to naturalists and into busy villages, raiding farms for coconuts, mangoes or lychees. This makes them an easy target for individuals who want to avoid the curse by killing the primate. In Gerald Durrel’s short novel, “The Aye-Aye and I”, Durrel describes how a wild aye-aye fearlessly crawled onto his shoulder and proceeded to gently probe the inside of Gerald’s ear in search of a tasty bug. Finding nothing, the aye-aye simply clamored back up into the trees with what is described as a disappointing grunt. Naturalists once claimed the species to be extinct in the wild. Thankfully this is not the case, but aye-ayes are still a threatened species. It is disappointing to find an animal killed simply because of a superstition. 

 

The aye-aye displays a unique foraging behavior when searching for its preferred food: It will tap at trees with its finger and use echolocation to find any grubs hiding underneath the bark. Once found, the aye-aye will rasp away at the wood with its teeth and insert the specially adapted middle finger into the larvae’s burrow to pull it out.

Ancient beliefs are still strong in various parts of the world and it can be a hindrance to attempts at preserving a species. It is a huge challenge working with cultures in third-world countries. Politics are always complicated, but it needs to be done. Ideally, everyone benefits in the end.

 

With their habitats shrinking, unlucky aye-ayes stumble into local villages more and more often.  When found, the harmless animals don’t make it out. Hopefully villagers will eventually realize that no aye-aye has ever singled out a person to die.

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© 2018 by Daniela Muhawi

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