Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Two Non-GMO farming innovations that show great promise

Michael Edwards & Jeffrey Green
Activist Post

By all honest accounts, 2010 has been a terrible year for traditional agriculture worldwide. Extended severe weather events have cut many crop harvests in half. Farmers are going bankrupt as crops fail, commodity prices are exploding, and millions of people more have been added to the list of those who go hungry on a regular basis. Already a record 40 million Americans are receiving food stamps at a time when the economy is a disaster and state and Federal governments are essentially bankrupt.

The near- to mid-term looks to be a time of immense hardship; yet, in times of hardship come great innovation as people are spurred from their complacency and forced to become participators in their own survival. There is an Organic Revolution taking place that is focused on self-sufficiency as the primary goal. Despite how power brokers have aimed to co-opt the movement, individuals must remain steadfast in their pursuit of living a simpler, healthier, and less-dependent lifestyle.

Our modern way of life is centered on mega-cities. This will continue, as the percentage of the global population living in, or very close to, major cities rises to 80%. It would make sense, then, that any new innovative farming system should begin here, as it will benefit the greatest number of people. Up until recently, Genetically Modified Foods have been the most prominent farming innovations, despite their obvious flaws. Now, two new farming methods show great promise for growing an abundance of healthy food on a small footprint of land, and may be instrumental in feeding a growing world population.

Vertical Farming
The first innovative way of creating food with a limited footprint by using the concept of the skyscraper in order to use plentiful vertical space to supply cities with organic produce. This new system is called Vertical Farming. According to Vertical Farming's founder, Dickson Despommier, a thirty-story building could feed 50,000 people. An estimated 165 of these "farmscrapers" would feed all of New York City -- each building with the footprint of 1 city block (approximately 1 acre). His calculations were based on a project he assigned to his students at Columbia University.

Indoor farming is, of course, nothing new, but as Despommier mentions on the Vertical Farm Web Site, "What is new is the urgent need to scale up this technology to accommodate another 3 billion people." The concept of Vertical Farming solves a multitude of problems; Verticalfarm.com lists 15 advantages. Here are some highlights:
  • Year-round crop production: 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more (strawberries for example would be a 1 acre indoor to 30 acre outdoor equivalent
  • No weather-related crop loss.
  • All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers.
  • VF virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water.
  • VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping).
  • VF converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers.
  • VF could reduce physical conflicts resulting from battles to control limited resources.
And Vertical Farming is not limited to produce; preliminary plans include chickens, ducks, geese, fish, crustaceans, and mollusks to be raised within the same building, creating one large integrated system of food production.
Vertical Farming could very well be the answer for supplying the world's growing population who are destined to go hungry if innovative solutions are not implemented quickly. The economic crisis has indeed left abandoned buildings and empty malls and houses in its wake. Think of Detroit, for example: what a great concept Vertical Farming would be in a place that has upwards of 50% unemployment, and a completely ravaged urban environment. Buildings can now be bought for pennies on the dollar, and the vast unemployment offers a ready and willing labor pool. Vertical Farming is urban revival at its most basic and needed level.


Imagine growing fish and plants together in one integrated system. This is the promise of Aquaponics. For those who would like to take a quick first step toward self-sufficiency, aquaponics might offer the least expensive, least time-consuming path to creating your own sustainable ecosystem.

Aquaponics is a full simulation of nature where fish and plants are both kept healthy and productive through a balance supplied by each in a recirculating environment. The aquaculture side offers nutrient-rich water that is provided as natural fertilizer for plants. These nutrients are normally a disposal problem for fish farmers who need to eliminate the toxic waste. On the other side, hydroponics desperately requires nutrient-rich water in order to grow in a soil-less environment, so the plants serve as a natural filter for the fish. This mini-ecosystem is surprisingly easy and relatively inexpensive to set up thanks to emerging science and technology.

The beauty is in the small scale. Just as micro-farming has taken root in urban environments, aquaponics can utilize a home aquarium, a mini garden of herbs, vegetables, or even flowers. This is known as Desktop Aquaponics and serves as a great showpiece, or as an educational microcosm of what is possible through the fusion of fish and plants. And, yet, according to Aquaponics.com it is possible to convert a backyard into a system that grows hundreds of pounds of fish and all the fruits and vegetables a family needs.

For further education, visit Growingpower.org, a non-profit organization that has been instrumental in bringing this new concept to fruition mainly in urban settings. They offer workshops in aquaponics and portable farms.

Once you are ready to begin your own endeavor, take a look at BackyardAquaponics for full systems information. The great news is that for less than $2,000 you can begin taking the step toward self-sufficient food production . . . no matter where you live.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blinded by the laser light

National Post · Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010

In this occasional feature, the National Post tells you everything you need to know about a complicated issue. Today: Nick Aveling shines a light on laser pointers after the arrest yesterday of a Calgary man accused of pointing a laser at a police helicopter.

Q I thought we were over this.

A Not even close. The novelty of laser pointers disappeared long ago, but their dangerous use continues to flourish. Yesterday's incident aside, a perusal of recent headlines turns up an Edmonton man found guilty of "creating a hazard to aviation," a U.K. teenager who burned the surface of his eye causing permanent damage, and an incorrigible Vancouver Canucks fan who spent the better part of 60 minutes aiming a laser pointer at the eyes of Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, pictured. Meantime, the situation appears to be getting worse. According to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, an average of six planes have been targeted by laser pointers every day this year. In 2008, that number was closer to three. Here in Canada, 101 incidents have been reported in 2010, compared to 108 in 2009, said Transport Canada.

Q What kind of person would do such a thing?

A Likely a young one, said University of Toronto psychology professor Jennifer Tackett. "It sounds like something that would fall under the domain of standard delinquency, adolescent pranks," said Ms. Tackett, who does research in the area of aggression and juvenile delinquency. "For some teenagers, it's an issue of impulsivity and difficulty with regulating their behaviour. For others it's stimulation seeking: doing it because it feels exciting at the time and not thinking through the consequences." The need among teens to feel accepted by peers is another major driver of delinquent behaviour, she said.

Q Sure, laser pointers are annoying. But they've never actually caused a plane crash, and the Flames won 3-2 that night. Are they not, for the most part, benign?

A Less and less so, depending on where you do your shopping. Laser pointers available at chains such as Staples and Best Buy are capable of pointing out a pie chart, but not much else. Astronomy stores such as Toronto's Efston Science carry heavier artillery, useful for pointing out constellations and other celestial phenomena. The biggest gun there can pop a balloon, said a store employee. But by far the most powerful portable laser pointer on the market is the Spyder III Pro Arctic, pictured, a product so dangerous it has been described as the world's first lightsaber (so often, in fact, that George Lucas threatened to sue). Health Canada does not warn specifically against the Spyder III, which can set skin on fire, but it does urge common sense in dealing with laser pointers in general. "Never look directly into the beam," for example. Increasingly bright and powerful beams pose a growing risk to pilots, said Patrick Murphy of the International Laser Display Association, based in Florida, that is pushing for stricter controls.

Q Lightsabers are illegal, right?

A Not in Canada. The Hong Kong company that produces the Spyder III ships to the country, while the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control warns that "no [federal] regulations controlling the importation and sale of laser pointers have been established." An employee of Efston Science said the store refuses to sell even its most harmless laser pointer to anyone under the age of 18, despite being legally allowed to sell its most powerful to a child.

Q So what's being done?

A Not much. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control recommends restricting the use of laser pointers to the type intended for board meetings, not long ago duels in a galaxy far, far away. But there is no legislation aimed at tightening regulations. Said Mr. Murphy of the laser display association: "The main analogy I would make is with a knife. You use knives in the kitchen, you use them for a million different purposes, but once a knife gets really long like a sword or it becomes hidden like a switchblade, that's when you start to regulate." The maximum penalty for those convicted of pointing a laser at an aircraft, under the Aeronautics Act, is a $100,000 fine, five years imprisonment, or both.

Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/What+Blinded+laser+light/3411855/story.html#ixzz0x6sXpijq

Meet The YouTube Stars Making $100,000 Plus Per Year

There are 10 independent YouTube stars who made over $100,000 in the past year, according to a study done by analytics and advertising company TubeMogul.

From July 2009 to July 2010, TubeMogul used their viewership data to estimate the annual income for independent YouTube partners, which they define as anyone who is not part of a media company or brand.

Here's how they got their estimates:

  • Revenue only comes from banner ads served near content (we ignored pre-roll or overlay since we can't easily isolate by publisher).
  • Since YouTube banner ads have a two-second load delay, we estimate 2.59% of viewers click away before an ad loads based on separate research.
  • Ads were served near all videos that loaded (since there are partners, this is generally true).
  • CPM for the banner ads was $1.50 (Google auctions a lot of this inventory off; we rounded this 2009 estimate down to be conversative).
  • YouTube is splitting ad revenue with partners 50-50.

Basically, take their views from the past year, assume a few don't stick around long enough for an ad to load, divide that number by 1,000, multiply by $1.50 and divide that number in half.

Conservative estimates? Sure. But with that math, you get a pretty decent estimate of how much these YouTube celebrities are making from just the banner ads on their channel. So, without further ado, here are the highest earning YouTube stars!