glomc00 - The Global Millennium Class
Topic: agriculture & rural development | authors | business & finance | design | economy | education | entrepreneurship & innovation | environment | general | healthcare | human resources | nonprofit | people | policy & governance | publishing | reviews | science & technology | university research
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'Technology will create superteachers, not replace them' | Independent Education Today, 05 nov 2019
How healthcare organizations tackle population health strategy: 5 insights | Becker's Hospital Review, 05 nov 2019
Decline of motor industry drives global economic slowdown | Financial Times, 05 nov 2019
Personal Development Scaling In Online Education | Forbes, 04 nov 2019
Evolving Technology: Transforming a Decades-Old Approach to Healthcare | HealthTechZone, 04 nov 2019
'We Only Trust Nurses to Fix the Healthcare Crisis,' Says America | Florence Health, 04 nov 2019
The Next Hot Tech Career? Farming. | Thrive Global, 04 nov 2019
Balancing Friendship and Entrepreneurship | Entrepreneur, 03 nov 2019
Rights group: Iraq education system on brink of collapse | Aljazeera, 02 nov 2019
Tracking the Forces Threatening the World's Hottest Economies | Bloomberg, 29 oct 2019
Agriculture & Rural Development
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 14 nov 2019
Achieving global food security is a challenge that requires all humanity to participate and work together. It is imperative to improve food production and distribution, tackle environmental degradation and climate change, alleviate poverty and resolve conflicts through peaceful means. Prof. Miguel Altieri of University of California at Berkeley focuses his research on the concepts of agroecology. His group's research and publications aid in the emergence of agroecology as the discipline that provides the basic ecological principles for how to study, design, and manage sustainable agroecosystems that are both productive and natural resource conserving, and that are also culturally-sensitive, socially-just and economically viable. He explains that urban agriculture has potential to enhance food security in US cities. According to him, 'I believe that raising fresh fruits, vegetables and some animal products near consumers in urban areas can improve local food security and nutrition, especially for underserved communities.' US Dept. of Agriculture estimates that for 1 out of 8 citizens food insecurity is a near-term risk. The current food distribution system in cities of Califormia, where large population resides, requires enormous amounts of energy and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions. Prof. Altieri says, 'The food it delivers fails to reach 1 of every 8 people in the region who live under the poverty line - mostly senior citizens, children and minorities. Access to quality food is limited both by poverty and the fact that on average, California’s low-income communities have 32.7% fewer supermarkets than high-income areas within the same cities.' In the past 30 years, urban farming has grown by more than 30% in the US. Moreover, it is estimated that urban agriculture can meet 15 to 20% of global food demand. But, it is yet to be seen what level of food self-sufficiency it can realistically ensure for cities. There are limitations and challenges. According to a survey, 51 countries do not have enough urban area to meet a recommended nutritional target of 300 grams per person per day of fresh vegetables. Moreover, it estimated, urban agriculture would require 30% of the total urban area of those countries to meet global demand for vegetables. Land tenure issues and urban sprawl could make it hard to free up this much land for food production. Prof. Altieri explains, 'Although urban agriculture has promise, a small proportion of the food produced in cities is consumed by food-insecure, low-income communities. Many of the most vulnerable people have little access to land and lack the skills needed to design and tend productive gardens.' Cuban model of urban farming can be applied, where local urban farmers were trained to use well-tested agroecological methods to cultivate diverse vegetables, roots, tubers and herbs in relatively small spaces. In Cuba, over 300000 urban farms and gardens produce about 50% of the island's fresh produce supply, along with 39000 tons of meat and 216 million eggs. Most Cuban urban farmers reach yields of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) per square meter per year. Access to land and unaffordable water for irrigation are critical challenges for urban farming in US. Discounted water rates and land reforms specifically for urban farming can provide a boost to the concept. Prof. Altieri says, 'Cities have limited ability to deal with food issues within their boundaries, and many problems associated with food systems require action at the national and international level. However, city governments, local universities and nongovernment organizations can do a lot to strengthen food systems, including creating agroecological training programs and policies for land and water access. The first step is increasing public awareness of how urban farming can benefit modern cities.' Read on...
How urban agriculture can improve food security in US cities
Author: Miguel Altieri
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 aug 2019
Research study, 'Onboard Evolution of Understandable Swarm Behaviors', published in Advanced Intelligent Systems by researchers from University of Bristol (Simon Jones, Sabine Hauert) and University of the West of England (Alan F. Winfield, Matthew Studley), brings development of a new generation of swarming robots which can independently learn and evolve new behaviours in the wild a step closer. Researchers used artificial evolution to enable the robots to automatically learn swarm behaviours which are understandable to humans. This could create new robotic possibilities for environmental monitoring, disaster recovery, infrastructure maintenance, logistics and agriculture. This new approach uses a custom-made swarm of robots with high-processing power embedded within the swarm. In most recent approaches, artificial evolution has typically been run on a computer which is external to the swarm, with the best strategy then copied to the robots. Prof. Jones says, 'Human-understandable controllers allow us to analyse and verify automatic designs, to ensure safety for deployment in real-world applications.' Researchers took advantage of the recent advances in high-performance mobile computing, to build a swarm of robots inspired by those in nature. Their 'Teraflop Swarm' has the ability to run the computationally intensive automatic design process entirely within the swarm, freeing it from the constraint of off-line resources. Prof. Hauert says, 'This is the first step towards robot swarms that automatically discover suitable swarm strategies in the wild. The next step will be to get these robot swarms out of the lab and demonstrate our proposed approach in real-world applications.' Prof. Winfield says, 'In many modern AI systems, especially those that employ Deep Learning, it is almost impossible to understand why the system made a particular decision...An important advantage of the system described in this paper is that it is transparent: its decision making process is understandable by humans.' Read on...
Robots Learn Swarm Behaviors, Aim to Escape the Lab
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 11 feb 2019
According to the research by Prof. Elizabeth A. Minton from University of Wyoming, Prof. Kathryn A. Johnson from Arizona State University and Prof. Richie L. Liu from Oklahoma State University, 'Religiosity and special food consumption: The explanatory effects of moral priorities', published in Journal of Business Research, people with strong religious beliefs are more likely to buy fat-free, sugar-free or gluten-free foods than natural or organic foods. The research could influence the marketing of those specialty food products. Prof. Minton says, 'Religion is the deepest set of core values people can have, and we wanted to explore how those values impacted the market choices people make. We found religiosity influenced the selection of more diet-minded foods...' The study was carried out online and included responses from over 1700 people across the U.S. Prof. Johnson says, 'Often, people make intuitive decisions about food that could require more careful thought. People might make choices based on a cultural narrative or their religious and moral beliefs, without giving measured thought to whether there is a better option.' According to the research, the moral foundation of care drives the choice of sustainability-minded food products, and the moral foundation of purity is behind the choice of diet-minded foods. Prof. Liu says, 'The findings from our work can directly help businesses promote food products to specific groups of people without potentially alienating customers by including religion.' Read on...
University of Wyoming News:
UW Researcher: Religion Affects Consumer Choices on Specialty Foods
Author: Chad Baldwin
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 oct 2018
Sustainability is evolving into an essential component of fashion and design industry due to environmental concerns. The Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator (BF+DA), a Pratt Institute (US) initiative, is a hub of ethical fashion and design, providing resources to design entrepreneurs, creative technologists and professionals to turn ideas into businesses. Debera Johnson, founder and ED of BF+DA, also established the Center for Sustainable Design Strategies at Pratt Institute and has been integrating sustainability into art, design and architecture programs. She says, 'There are really three things that we're focused on doing. First - redefining the fashion industry around the environment and society...Second - we have production facilities open to designers. Our goal there is to be a local resource for sustainable production and to help educate designers about how to implement strategies around efficiencies and sustainable supply chain...The third and probably the newest part of what we're doing is becoming a research and design center for the integration of technology into smart garments and functional textiles - and, most importantly, with the idea of sustainability alongside it.' Regarding consumer perceptions, she says, 'Consumers need to decide whether they're more interested in saving pennies or saving the environment. Products that are quality are going to cost more. We just have to decide where we stand...At BF+DA, transparency is a big piece of how we do storytelling...' Regarding coming together of technology and sustainability, she says, 'The digitalization is one of them. I also think that biotech is creating really interesting materials in laboratories and not farms...Then you also have things like blockchain to help with traceability...And there's also nanofibers.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 aug 2018
Apparel production is generally linked to environmental issues like water and air pollution, alongwith the land, water and pesticide use related to growing natural fibers. But now research points at the source of another problem created by apparels made wholly or partially from synthetic textiles. Microfibers, a type of microplastic, are shed during normal use and laundering, and remain in the environment similar to plastic packaging that coats so many of the world's beaches, and they bond to chemical pollutants in the environment, such as DDT and PCB. Moreover, the textiles from which they are shed are often treated with waterproofing agents, stain- or fire-resistant chemicals or synthetic dyes that could be harmful to organisms that ingest them. Also, microfibers are being consumed alongwith food and drink. Research review (Microplastics in air: Are we breathing it in? - Johnny Gasperi, Stephanie L. Wright, Rachid Dris, France Collard, Corinne Mandin, Mohamed Guerrouache, Valérie Langlois, Frank J.Kelly, Bruno Tassin) published last year shows that microfibers suspended in air are possibly settling in human lungs. Research led by Richard C. Thompson from the University of Plymouth (UK) in 2004 (Lost at Sea: Where Is All the Plastic? - Richard C. Thompson, Ylva Olsen, Richard P. Mitchell, Anthony Davis, Steven J. Rowland, Anthony W. G. John, Daniel McGonigle, Andrea E. Russell) documented and quantified the occurrence of microplastics in the marine environment. Research by Mark Anthony Browne, one of Prof. Thompson's graduate student, published in 2011 (Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Woldwide: Sources and Sinks - Mark Anthony Browne, Phillip Crump, Stewart J. Niven, Emma Teuten, Andrew Tonkin, Tamara Galloway, Richard Thompson) found - (1) Samples taken near wastewater disposal sites had 250% more microplastic than those from reference sites and the types of microplastic fibers found in those samples were mainly polymers often used in synthetic apparel, suggesting the fibers were eluding filters in wastewater treatment plants and being released with treated effluent (which is released into rivers, lakes or ocean water). (2) A single polyester fleece jacket could shed as many as 1900 of these tiny fibers each time it was washed. Another 2016 study by researchers from UC Santa Barbara in US (Microfiber Masses Recovered from Conventional Machine Washing of New or Aged Garments - Niko L. Hartline, Nicholas J. Bruce, Stephanie N. Karba, Elizabeth O. Ruff, Shreya U. Sonar, Patricia A. Holden) has shown far higher numbers - 250000 fibers. Rosalia Project, a nonprofit focused on ocean protection, led a study of microfiber pollution across an entire watershed (from the mouth of Hudson River all the way to where the river meets the Atlantic in Manhattan). Rachael Z. Miller, group's director, was surprised to find that, outside of samples taken near treatment plants, there was no statistically significant difference in the concentration fibers from the alpine region to the agricultural center of New York state to the high population areas of Manhattan and New Jersey. This suggested to her that fibers might be entering surface waters from the air and from septic system drainfields in rural areas without municipal sewage systems. According to Textile World, demand for polyester has grown faster than demand for wool, cotton and other fibers for at least 20 years. And by 2030 synthetics are expected to account for 75% of global apparel fiber production, or 107 million tons. All textiles, including carpeting and upholstery, produce microfibers. So do commercial fishing nets. But due to the frequency with which apparel is laundered and the increasing quantities of clothing being purchased throughout the world (thanks at least in part to the so-called fast fashion trend), apparel is the microfiber source on which researchers and policy-makers are focusing attention. Krystle Moody, a textile industry consultant, says, 'Outdoor gear is heavily reliant on synthetic textiles due to their performance profile (moisture wicking) and durability.' Jeffrey Silberman, professor and chairperson of textile development and marketing with the Fashion Institute of Technology at the State University of New York, says, 'Price is the big driver behind the use of synthetics in textiles. A poly-cotton blend is generally far cheaper than a cotton one, but doesn’t look or feel appreciably different to most consumers. The motivation is to get natural-like fibers and still be able to get a price point that people are willing to pay.' Katy Stevens, sustainability project manager for the outdoor gear industry consortium European Outdoor Group (EOG), says, 'Initial research suggested that recycled polyester might shed more microfibers. Are we doing the right thing by using recycled polyester that might shed more? It has added a whole other big question mark.' Other studies have found microfibers in effluent from wastewater plants (Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW) as a Source of Microplastics in the Aquatic Environment - Fionn Murphy, Ciaran Ewins, Frederic Carbonnier, Brian Quinn), in the digestive tracts of market fish (Ingested plastic transfers hazardous chemicals to fish and induces hepatic stress - Chelsea M. Rochman, Eunha Hoh, Tomofumi Kurobe, Swee J. Teh), throughout riversheds (Mountains to the sea: River study of plastic and non-plastic microfiber pollution in the northeast USA - Rachael Z. Miller, Andrew J. R. Watts, Brooke O. Winslow, Tamara S.Galloway, Abigail P. W. Barrows) and in air samples. Two separate studies released in March 2018 revealed that microfibers are found in bottled water sold all over the world. And a study published weeks later revealed that microplastic - chiefly microfibers - were present in 159 samples of tap water from around the word, a dozen brands of beer (made with Great Lakes water) as well as sea salt, also derived globally. Although most research has focused on synthetics textiles, but Abigail P. W. Barrows, an independent microplastics researcher who has conducted numerous studies on microfibers, says, 'Natural fibers such as cotton and wool, and semi-synthetics such as rayon should not be totally ignored. While they will degrade more quickly than, say, polyester, they may still be treated with chemicals of concern that can move up the food chain if the fibers are consumed before they degrade.' The study she led in 2018 (Marine environment microfiber contamination: Global patterns and the diversity of microparticle origins - Abigail P. W. Barrows, Sara E. Kathey, C. W. Petersen) found that in the surface water samples collected globally while 91% of the particles collected were microfibers, 12% of those were semi-synthetic and 31% were natural. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 23 jun 2018
Food waste is a global concern and innovative solutions are needed to overcome it. Recent data from National Resources Defense Council found that the average American throws out 400 pounds of food a year, meaning that up to 40% of food grown on the farm bypasses the fork and ends up in a landfill. Globally, impact of food waste can be seen in terms of lost resources, wasted water (70% of fresh water is consumed in agriculture), increased levels of climate-change-producing gases, and diverted food that could contribute to alleviating hunger. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) - It is estimated that annually over 60 trillion gallons of water are used to grow food that is ultimately wasted; Roughly 1/3 of the food produced for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tons - gets lost or wasted, representing nearly US$1 trillion. The cost of producing, harvesting, transporting, and disposing of this food isn't just financial - food waste accounts for about 8% of global climate pollution, more than the nations of India or Russia. According to one report, food waste throughout the US accounts for more than 60 million tons of waste, which translates into US$ 160 billion of produce and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), represents over 21% of all waste in landfills. Adequate government policy alongwith solutions from for-profit and nonprofit sectors can successfully tackle this challenge. Sherri Welch, writing in Crain's Detroit, highlights two food-box subscription companies that sell produce and other food that retailers won't touch in the Detroit market. One is the Baltimore-based Hungry Harvest; the other is Toronto-based Flash Food. They are both for-profit companies. Denver's We Don't Waste is a nonprofit working on similar lines. Other nonprofits are working with hunger relief organizations and give their customers the option to buy a box of imperfect produce and donate it to a family in need. Phillip Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan, says, 'At this point, I think we are all working together to feed hungry neighbors, reduce waste and lessen the impact on the environment.' Other solutions include processing food waste as bioenergy. In the Pacific Northwest, Impact Bioenergy develops and manufactures bioenergy products that allow communities and commercial food waste generators to lessen their environmental footprint and conserve local soil resources while also reducing their waste disposal and energy costs. Policy approaches can also play an important role to shift the amount of food entering the waste stream. A May 2017 paper published by Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic looks at the 2018 Farm Bill as a portal for changing the national conversation on food waste by integrating strategies and initiatives to support diversion efforts. Policy is a major focus on ReFed, one of the nation's leading nonprofits dedicated to addressing food waste. One of their initiatives in partnership with the Food Law and Policy Clinic is the US Food Waste Policy Finder, a tool that provides research on current food waste policy. Another promising approach is to incorporate the reuse of food that has been rejected by the conventional market into social enterprises. DC Central Kitchen is a job-training catering social enterprise that buys food seconds from farmers and uses that produce in the meals it serves to students in schools and catering event guests, even as the nonprofit also addresses the cycle of hunger. According to ReFed's 'Roadmap to Reduce US Food Waste by 20 Percent', an estimated 15000 permanent jobs could be created through policy initiatives alone. 'Wasted! The Story of Food Waste', a documentary produced by the late Anthony Bourdain, offer a glimpse of ways that nonprofits can expand their missions and collaborate with others to reduce food waste while improving the health and well-being of those in need. Read on...
For-Profit and Nonprofit Firms Devise Creative Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Author: Derrick Rhayn
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 nov 2017
EDIT (The Expo for Design, Innovation & Technology), the 10 day event held in Toronto (Canada) showcased art, installations and projects, focused on innovation and design to build a sustainable future for the world. It included talks from David Suzuki, Ian Campeau (A Tribe Called Red), among others. Here are 5 selected ideas and innovations - (1) Prosperity For All: Curated by Canadian designer Bruce Mau, the main exhibit juxtaposed Paolo Pellegrin's photos of devastation throughout world, with people and inventions that are helping to combat issues such as famine, refugee crisis, smog and more. It highlighted Smog Free Project (Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde's smog free bike that works to purify the air around you while you ride), The Ocean Cleanup (Boyan Slat's creation that intend to remove 50% of the trash found in Great Pacific Garbage patch in just 5 years) and many more. (2) Art With Purpose: Dennis Kavelman, an artist and tech investor, collaborated with the Digital Futures team at OCAD University (Canada) to create a piece of work inspired by Andy Warhol. Expiry Dates works in two phases - It compiles answers from an online questionnaire, measuring your life expectancy against a myriad of points such as your fitness level, whether you smoke, if you're married and more. Then you sit for a self-portrait, which you attach to a QR Code with all your data. In a few minutes your heartbeat appears on the big screen, taken from a reading from your eye, and then your portrait appears along with your predicted date of expiry. Another piece of the installation, titled That's Not Very Many, uses a magnetized digital board to break down those days in months. (3) The New Housing: Living sustainably means looking at where we live and providing affordable housing for all. Exhibit included Mickey Mouse's Home of the Future that was a fully functional shipping container created by students at OCAD. The One House Many Nations home was created by grassroots organization Idle No More, that seeks to provide affordable housing based on traditional indigenous ideas, and consists of two modules that link together, one dubbed shelter and the other service, that can be pieced together based on the family or individual's needs as well as the landscape in which they live. (4) The Future Of Fashion: Fashion Takes Action's Design Forward award was given to a sustainable fashion label Peggy Sue Collection (founded by Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks), a line of eco-friendly cotton and denim. (5) Waste No More: Keeping in mind the concept of feeding many with minimal impact, Waterfarmers created an on-site aquaponics exhibit to show how fish waste can be used to fertilizer food. The idea is to utilize water that is housing fish to then fertilize plants, providing protein and vegetables in a sustainable manner. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 mar 2016
Food wastage is becoming a substantial cause of concern around the world. France recently passed laws to restrict throwing away or destroying food and UK's biggest retailer, Tesco, pledging to give all leftover food to charities. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website (fao.org) - Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year, approximately 1.3 billion tonnes, gets lost or wasted; Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries. Governments, food chains and retailers, charitable organizations and social enterprises, need to come together to find ways to restrict and minimize food waste and make substantial part of it available to where it is required most. Following are some valuable suggestions - (1) Logistics: Efficient coordination between supermarkets and charities is essential. Supermarkets shouldn't just dump food at charities. Elaine Montegriffo, CEO of SecondBite, says, 'It is not just having enough trucks and storerooms...Some organisation has to take responsibility for coordinating donations so the right food reaches people in useable condition.' (2) Education: Create awareness about food labels and other specifications among consumers. Ronni Kahn, CEO of OzHarvest, says, 'Consumers need to understand what date marks mean.' (3) Food consumed at home should have minimal losses and consumer buying and eating behaviors need to be transformed. (4) Growing less food: Ms. Montegriffo says it's counterintuitive but if producers and retailers were not throwing away 1/3 of the food produced, the cost of producing it would drop. If supermarkets did not over-order food, their costs would reduce. (5) UK's model of collaborative understanding and commitment, between environment ministry, sumpermarkets, manufacturers and packaging companies has been effective and can be emulated. (6) Denmark's model with an organization buying surplus food from other supermarkets and selling at discount can also be helpful to reduce food waste. (7) Legislative measures can be considered and that should evolve with deliberations among various stakeholders. A number of organizations in Australia, for example retailers like Woolworths and Coles, and charities like OzHarvest, SecondBite and Foodbank, are currently working towards achieving minimal food wastes through the following 6 methods - (1) Reasonable and achievable long-term targets through diverse strategies like food donations, commercial composting, fertiliser, electricity production and animal feed. (2) Using food charities. (3) Buying ugly fruit and selling at cheaper rates. (4) Supermarkets are ordering less by using supply chain technologies and ordering systems. (5) Good incentives: Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt introduced an incentive for businesses to reduce food or garden waste in landfill. (6) Talking about food waste and seeking collaborative solutions through participation from wide array of public and private organizations. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 17 feb 2016
There is an established relationship between built environment and human health. It is important to understand how architectural design, interior design, building technologies and materials etc, interact with external natural environment. Health-centric design approaches are now being utilized for built environments like hospitals, schools, office spaces, homes etc. Urbanization is another aspect that has public health related consequences. According to the study, 'Walls talk: Microbial biogeography of homes spanning urbanization' (by Jean F. Ruiz-Calderon, Humberto Cavallin, Se Jin Song, Atila Novoselac, Luis R. Pericchi, Jean N. Hernandez, Rafael Rios, Oralee H. Branch, Henrique Pereira, Luciana C. Paulino, Martin J. Blaser, Rob Knight, and Maria G. Dominguez-Bello) published in journal Science, certain aspects of a house's design could have an influence on the types of microbes found inside, with more urban homes separating humans from the outdoors and keeping out the environmental microbes we once evolved to coexist with. Researchers speculate that these changes may be having impact on public health. The study focused on four communities of Amazon Basin with similar climates and outside environment, but with different levels of urbanization. Prof. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello of NYU School of Medicine, 'We humans build the environments we live in and spend most of our time (in), and these may be very different to the natural environments. Very little is known about microbes of the built environment.' According to Prof. Graham Rook of University College London, who was not part of the study, 'There is increasing evidence that exposure to microbial biodiversity from the natural environment is important for health.' Prof. Humberto Cavallin of University of Puerto Rico's School of Architecture, comments, 'As we move from rural to urban...houses become more isolated from the outside environment and also become more internally compartmentalized according to the function of the spaces.' Prof. Jean Ruiz-Calderon, a biologist at University of Puerto Rico and lead author of the study, says, 'The results of the study reveal that microbes from house walls and floors differ across habitations. With increasing urbanization, houses contain a higher proportion of human-associated bacteria...and decreasing proportions of environmental bacteria...walls become reservoirs of bacteria that come from different sources depending on the use of the spaces.' Prof. Dominguez-Bello adds, 'We are in environments that are highly humanized, and therefore a lack of ventilation and high concentrations of human bacteria may...facilitate human-to-human transmission of microbes.' Prof. Ruiz-Calderon warns, 'As we alter our built environments in ways that diverge from the natural exposures we evolve with, we need to be aware of the possible consequences.' Read on...
The Washington Post:
The hidden health consequences of how we design our homes
Author: Chelsea Harvey
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 07 aug 2015
UN 'Millennium Development Goals' will now be replaced by a set of development objectives termed as 'Sustainable Development Goals' in September'2015. These include ending poverty, reducing child mortality and tackling climate change. Recent report by the 26-member Scientific Advisory Board to UN Secretary General points out that Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) can help alleviate poverty, reduce inequalities, increase income and improve health. The report further highlights that countries with strong and effective STI systems invest upto 3.5% of their GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Thus governments have to set up a sufficient national minimum target investment for STI and achieve development. Specific investment areas that scientists recommended are - alternative energy solutions, water filters that reduce pathogens at the point-of-use and nanotechnology for health and agriculture. According to the report, 'A better informed and educated society would help establish policies that help long-term well-being over decisions that favour short-term economic and political interests.' According to the UNESCO website, UN Secretary-General's Scientific Advisory Board (2014) includes the following scientists - Tanya Abrahamse (South Africa); Eva Kondorosi (Hungary); Susan Avery (USA); Sir Hilary McDonald Beckles (Barbados); Joji Cariño (Philippines); Rosie Cooney (Australia); Abdallah S. Daar. (Oman); Gebisa Ejeta (Ethiopia); Vladimir Fortov (Russian Federation); Fabiola Gianotti (Italy); Ke Gong (China); Jörg Hinrich Hacker (Germany); Maria Ivanova (Bulgaria); Eugenia Kalnay (Argentina); Reiko Kuroda (Japan); Dong-Pil Min (Republic of Korea); Carlos Nobre (Brazil); Rajendra Kumar Pachauri (India); Shankar Sastry (USA); Hayat Sindi (Saudi Arabia); Wole Soboyeyo (Nigeria); Laurence Tubiana (France); Judi W. Wakhungu (Kenya); Ada E. Yonath (Israel); Abdul Hamid Zakri (Malaysia); Ahmed Zewail (Egypt). Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 23 may 2015
According to a recent report by US Department of Agriculture, nearly 58000 high-skill agriculture-related jobs, requiring at least a bachelor's degree, are expected to open up between 2015 and 2020. But the report estimates that during the same time period fewer than 36000 qualified grads in related fields of study will enter the workforce. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack comments, 'Not only will those who study agriculture be likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation, they will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses some of the world's most pressing challenges. These jobs will only become more important as we continue to develop solutions to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050.' 46% of the jobs in agriculture will have management and business orientation. Moreover 27% of the new high-skills jobs will require a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education. As per the data mentioned in the report for 2012-13 school year, female graduates outnumbered men in agriculture and life sciences, forestry and veterinary programs in US. This shows that women are better prepared for employment in agriculture sector which is becoming more high-tech and high-growth. In a 2014 interview with US News, Claudia Ringler, the deputy director of the International Food Policy Research Institute's environment and production technology division, said 'Improved land management strategies are very important - that includes no-till, precision agriculture and integrated soil fertility management. You need a mix of technologies and approaches.' Read on...
US News & World Report:
STEM Skills a Necessity for 27 Percent of New Agriculture Jobs
Author: Andrew Soergel
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 19 sep 2014
According to a report from the International Panel on Climate Change, climatic factors like heatwaves, drought, and unpredictable rainfall patterns are already adversely affecting the yields of staples like wheat and maize. Moreover World Bank's Dr. Jim Yong Kim predicts that food shortages could lead to 'food wars' within the next 5 to 10 years. But jackfruit, native to India and grown extensively in South & South-East Asia, may come to the rescue and provide a solution to the depleting food supply in future. Biotechnology researcher, Dr. Shyamala Reddy, from University of Agricultural Sciences in Banglore, India says, ' It can provide so many nutrients and calories - everything. If you just eat 10 or 12 bulbs of this fruit, you don't need food for another half a day. It is rich in potassium, calcium, and iron, making it more nutritious than current starchy staples.' According to Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank, which works on sustainable agriculture, 'It is easy to grow. It survives pests and diseases and high temperatures. It is drought-resistant. It achieves what farmers need in food production when facing a lot of challenges under climate change.' While Nyree Zerega, a researcher of plant biology at Chicago Botanic Garden, points out that, 'The down-market reputation of jackfruit is unwarranted. In addition to its high nutritional value, the fruit is very versatile. The seeds, young fruit, and mature varieties are all edible.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 18 jun 2014
As with any other business, innovative technologies hold a promise to transform the ways agriculture and farming are pursued by bringing better efficiency and economy. According to James Andrews of Farmers Weekly, 'Farming is becoming increasingly technical and high-tech machines allow farmers to be more accurate, decrease wastage and boost productivity and their profits margins, which are increasingly tight these days.' The recent survey of British farmers by Farmers Weekly provides list of top 10 favorite technologies - (1) GPS Steering Systems (36% votes): Guides tractors in straight lines to save seed, fertilizer & fuel; (2) Robot Milking Machines (19% votes): Save farmers time & give cows the freedom to be milked when they want; (3) Smartphones (13% votes): Used by farmers to communicate, check soil depth, register animals etc; (4) Combine Harvester Yield Meters (5% votes): Monitor, display & record grain yield; (5) Cow heat detection devices (5% votes): Increase pregnancy rates; (6) Driverless Tractors (2% votes): Not yet commercially available but could save farmers time; (7) Aerial Drones (2% votes): Used to spot weeds, calculate fertilizer needs and scare pigeons; (8) Electronic Ear Tags (2% votes): Identify domestic livestock; (9) Farm Management Software (2% votes): Used to manage all aspects of a farm; (10) Robot Livestock Feeders (2% votes): Save farms money & consistently feed a herd. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 apr 2014
A team of economists, Esther Duflo & Abhijeet Banerjee (both from MIT) and Arun Chandrashekhar & Matthew Jackson (both from Stanford), in their research paper 'The Diffusion of Microfinance', explain the effects of providing information first to the well connected people on the popularity of socially beneficial programs. They termed this new measure of social influence as 'diffusion centrality'. Researchers examined the spread of microfinance in India through word of mouth and found that when socially well connected individuals were the first to know and gain access to these programs it increased the participation by 11%. The surveys for the study were mainly conducted in the select villages of the state of Karnataka in India. The study also found that participants in the microfinance programs are more effective in dissipating information to others - 7 times more than those who know about the programs but not participating. The research can be utilized by microfinance institutions and nonprofit poverty alleviation groups to evaluate the most effective methods to introduce and implement such programs in local settings. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 18 feb 2014
Nitrogen, the largest component of air, is the essential requirement for crop growth but most of it is provided by fertilizers. The only exceptions are some legumes that can absorb nitrogen directly from air with the help of bacteria. Professor Edward Cocking of University of Nottingham is now developing an innovative technique, termed as N-Fix, to put a nitrogen-fixing bacteria into the cells of plant roots that would fulfil its nitrogen requirement from air. The research has critical implications for agricultural practices. According to Dr. Edward Cocking, 'The world needs to unhook itself from its ever increasing reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers produced from fossil fuels with its high economic costs, its pollution of the environment and its high energy cost'. The first European Nitrogen Assessment (ENA) launched in 2011, mentions the cost of damage caused by nitrogen across Europe as 70-320 billion Euro while the benefit of using nitrogen fertilizers in European agriculture is only 20-80 billion Euro. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 11 dec 2013
Global food security, farming associated livelihoods and farming methodologies are important issues around the world. There are competing economic and political ideologies trying to gain acceptance when it comes to the very sensitive agricultural sector. One of the sensitive issue of the present time is that of GM (Genetically Modified) crops and use of biotechnology and genetic engineering in food production and processing. The main issues of concern are related to their effect on human health and the natural environment. The article deals with the GM food and technology debate and its politicization in UK. Eight European countries (Poland, Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, and Bulgaria) have banned GM crops. In 50 countries around the world including Australia, Japan and most European countries GM crops production is either totally banned or there are extremely tight restriction on GM crops production and products. Read on...
Genetic Engineering, Biotechnology and the Future Of Humanity
Author: Colin Todhunter
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