Creative Solutions to Global Issues

In Environment, Sustainability by Carlos Espinal, INHC2 Comments

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Carlos Espinal, INHC

Executive Director at 100th Seed Project
A long time activist for social change, Carlos has been involved with many non-profit organizations and community outreach groups dealing with struggles such as police brutality and accountability, immigrant rights, homelessness, and poverty in the inner city. Always passionate about change and how so many issues today overlap he discovered the one thing that connects us all is right in front of our eyes, on our plates. In 2013 he Co-Founded 100th Seed after meeting like minds at MAMNYC. His obsession with food justice lead him to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where he learned of many different dietary theories and how to better assist people who desire a healthier lifestyle by becoming a Certified Holistic Health Coach. He firmly believes that if you want the world to change you must be the change you want to see and through his work hopes to empower others to do so.
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Everyday we are inundated and surrounded by images, news and information of how grim the state of our global community is in. Media seems to always be focused on the issues unfolding yet offer little in the way of viable solutions. Yet, the truth is there are many uniquely gifted people out there coming out with creative intelligent solutions that just never make the headlines. It is my personal belief if more of us knew about these projects we as individuals would demand change. So I want to highlight what I feel are some of the more revolutionary outside the box ideas taking shape today.

SMART Pesticides

In 2001, Paul Stamets, a world leading mycologist filed a patent that garnered the attention of pesticide executives calling it the “The most disruptive technology that we have ever witnessed.” Though this breakthrough was not given much press at the time, his TED Talk and various internet blogs kept his story and vision alive.

“The biopesticides described in the patent reveals a near permanent, safe solution for over 200,000 species of insects and it all comes from a mushroom. After what is called ‘sporulation’ of a select entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that kill insects) the area becomes no longer suitable for any insect(s) the fungi are coded for. In addition, extracts of the entomopathogenic fungi can also steer insects in different directions.” – Jeffrey Jaxen zengardener.com

A excerpt from Paul’s Patent sums up our current pesticide issues perfectly, “The use of chemical pesticides is the cause of many secondary environmental problems aside from the death of the targeted pest. Poisoning of soil and underlying aquifers may occur, along with pollution of surface waters as a result of runoff. Increases in cancer, allergies, immune disorders, neurological diseases and even death in agricultural workers and consumers have been attributable to the use of pesticides. Chemical pesticides are increasingly regulated and even banned as a health risk to citizens. Communities are increasingly in need of natural solutions to pest problems.”

We now know neonicotinoids are destroying the honeybee at an alarming rate and a 2012 study in the Open Journal of Environmental Studies Europe studies concluded, “Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%. The magnitude of increases in herbicide use on herbicide-resistant hectares has dwarfed the reduction in insecticide use on Bt crops over the past 16 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”

Even more astounding is that the implementation is essentially free since fungi can be cultivated on agricultural waste making a completely sustainable solution to counter the control these Ag monopolies currently hold on the farming system.

The Plastic Problem

As you read this millions of tons of small plastic bits are floating in patches (called gyres) throughout world’s oceans. These large gyres range in size, the most famous – the North Pacific garbage patch, is around TWICE the size of the United States!

Wildlife around the patches frequently confuse these tiny pieces of plastic for food and most meet their death from feeding on them. Those that survive return to our ecosystem as food for larger prey. However, much of the plastic seeps toxic chemicals like DDT and PCBs that eventually make their way onto our plates. Since plastic take upwards of thousands of years to decompose these gyres not only will be here for years to come but gradually increase in size year after year.

plasticinbirdplasticpollution

The solution? In a 2012 TEDx talk, a 18 year old Boyan Slant laid out his plan. Instead of going after the plastic, Boyan devised a system through which using ocean currents, the plastic would concentrate itself, reducing the cleanup time from millennia to just years. In February 2013 he dropped out of his Aerospace Engineering study to start his foundation The Ocean Cleanup.

boyanslant
According to Slant not only will his plan clean the ocean, save wildlife and prevent chemicals from entering our food supply it could also save millions for industry. Many countries lose tourism money when plastic pollution no longer make their beaches appealing. Marine vessels are also frequently damaged each year by these floating plastics. Keeping true to his entrepreneurial spirit, Slant also believes he can make millions by recycling all the plastic he collects.

Solar Roadways

smokestacksLets face it in this day in age we are slaves to fossil fuels. Like it or not almost everything we do directly or indirectly is tied to poteroleum usage. And its taking its toll on our planet, with the increase of greenhouse gasses, air pollution to our cities and of course global warming. The political talk across the nation on our environmental impact would have you believe things are up for debate but sadly it isn’t. We’ve caused reprehensible damage to our planet depleted resources at an unbelievable pace and through all this energy demands keep increasing. What are we to do? Thankfully the last few years has seen a peek of interest in clean energy namely solar. Yet, many concerns still keep the average consumer from taking the leap but what if there was a solution on a much larger scale?

solarroad

solarroadways

“Solar Roadways is a modular paving system of solar panels that can withstand the heaviest of trucks (250,000 pounds). These Solar Road Panels can be installed on roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, bike paths, playgrounds… literally any surface under the sun. They help pay for themselves primarily through the generation of electricity, which can power homes and businesses connected via driveways and parking lots. A nationwide system could produce more clean renewable energy than a country uses as a whole (http://solarroadways.com/numbers.shtml). They have many other features as well, including: heating elements to stay snow/ice free, LEDs to make road lines and signage, and attached Cable Corridor to store and treat stormwater and provide a “home” for power and data cables. EVs will be able to charge with energy from the sun (instead of fossil fuels) from parking lots and driveways and after a roadway system is in place, mutual induction technology will allow for charging while driving.” – IndieGogo


The project started in 2009 when Scott and Julie Brusaw received a contract from the Federal Highway Administration to build the first ever Solar Road Panel prototype. After successful completion of the Phase I SBIR contract, we were awarded a follow-up 2-year Phase II $750,000 SBIR contract by the Federal Highway Administration beginning in 2011. With this award, a 36-foot by 12-foot prototype parking lot (108 prototype Solar Road Panels) was built and then tested under all weather and sunlight conditions.

Production costs lead the Brusaws to crowd funding where they became one of IndieGogo’s most succesful campains ever! So much so they were invited to be a part of IndieGogo’s InDemand program enabling them to continue raising funds for their incredible work.

They now have several potential public pilot projects shaping up in Sandpoint, Idaho just minutes away from their new facility. These include:

  • Amtrak train station platforms
  • Sandpoint Airport (parking areas and tarmac)
  • Sandpoint Welcome Center parking lot
  • Animal shelter parking lot
  • Sandpoint downtown city sidewalks

Later this year they will be installing as many projects as they can in the hopes of ironing out any kinks and being able to bring Solar Roadways everywhere. We’ll keep you posted!

Comments

  1. This article is spot on! Solutions are there. The key is getting the mushroom/fungi implemented. And as I’m writing this I’m already considering direct action methods of getting this the attention it deserves!

  2. 1) The fungi idea is good, but it’s not revolutionary by any means as there are already chilli-pepper based organic pesticides out there. The problem is the multi-trillion dollar petrochemical industry and how much money they put into promoting dangerous chemicals (the also own and control the pharmaceutical industry).

    2) again the plastic idea is great but it’s not going to solve the issue (which actually includes a broad range of toxic petrochemicals such as lubricants, cleaners, cosmetics etc). In terms of a real long-term plastic solution, bioplastics are the future. Why try and clean up toxic plastic which lasts thousands of years when you can just make it non-toxic and fully biodegradable in the first place? Then you don’t have to worry too much if this guys boar misses any (which it absolutely will, of course).

    3) solar roadways are an awesome idea but dollar is not sustainable because of the raw resources it demands (very toxic chemicals used in the photovoltaic panels and also huge amounts of the scarce mineral lithium for the batteries needed to store energy at night). Geothermal only requires water as an input and has steam as an output, no expensive and toxic chemicals and/or finite resource extraction, and if we tapped less than 1% of the earths potential we would have enough clean renewable energy to power the earth for the next 4000 years at today’s level of technology (according to an MIT report conducted about 10 years ago).

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