The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

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Diana Beresford-Kroeger, The Tree Whisperer

Writing this blog has exposed me to topics and individuals I’d probably never have discovered otherwise.  Sarah Hampson’s article introduces us to Diana Beresford-Kroeger, a scientific visionary who provides the “wisdom of an alternate voice in a scripted society that doesn’t always deliver on its promise.”

‘Grow, grow,” whispers Diana Beresford-Kroeger to a baby white cherry tree, which stands slightly askew behind a circle of wire mesh in her orchard.
The renowned scientist, botanist and medical biochemist bends down to look under its leaves, moving her arms in small circles as if to waft the right energy into its roots. Like a warden walking through an orphanage, she moves through the garden, where she and her husband, Christian Kroeger, a retired civil servant, have planted more than 100 indigenous and endangered species of trees.
She hugs some of the mature trees, flattening herself against their flanks in a prolonged embrace. With others, she reaches up to pull down one of their branches, and then smooths out their leaves as if inspecting the palms of their hands. She calls out their Latin names with ease, one by one, on the couple’s 160-acre property outside Merrickville, Ont., an hour south of Ottawa. Her husband follows in her wake, writing the names down dutifully in my notebook, to make sure the spellings are correct.
I have wanted to meet Beresford-Kroeger for some time, not sure what I would find. The Utne Reader named her one of its “visionaries” for 2011. I had first encountered Beresford-Kroeger a few years ago when I was writing about Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, a group cloning the giant redwoods in northern California in a bid to reforest the great carbon sequesters in other parts of the world. Beresford-Kroeger was a scientific adviser on the project. “Ah, the Druid spirit must have whispered in your ear,” were the first words she uttered to me when I explained what I was doing. But now she has a new book, The Sweetness of a Simple Life: Tips for Healthier, Happier and Kinder Living Gleaned from the Wisdom and Science of Nature  which comes out this month. It is her most accessible to date, a collection of gentle musings about silence, her root cellar, tree medicines, pets, gifts for birds, and how she cured her husband of his three-pack-a-day smoking habit.  Continue reading

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Meteorites May be Responsible for Life on Earth

The Pentagon Post features an article by Ike Miller that delves into a fascinating hypothesis of how meteorites may have been responsible for life on earth:

Scientists were surprised to find that a meteorite that landed in California in 2012 contained all the essential ingredients necessary for the evolution of life.
"Seeds for Life Found In Meteorite"
The Meteorite that exploded over California was studied by scientists at Arizona State University and was found to contain vital ingredients which can help scientists unravel the mysteries of the universe and throw some light on the evolution of life on Earth.
The meteorite, christened Sutter’s Mill was studied by a research team led by a Professor Sandra Pizzarello in ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  According to Pizzarello:
“The analyses of meteorites never cease to surprise you … and make you wonder. This is a meteorite whose organics had been found altered by heat and of little appeal for bio- or prebiotic chemistry, yet the very Solar System processes that lead to its alteration seem also to have brought about novel and complex molecules of definite prebiotic interest such as polyethers.”
The findings have huge implications as they add weight to the hypothesis that life originated in outer space and meteorites acted as seeds by depositing organic molecules which led to the evolution of life in suitable environments.


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Environmental Groups Sue to Stop Planting of GM Crops in Wildlife Refuges

Several on-line sites have posted information about a lawsuit filed by environmental groups to stop the planting of genetically modified crops in wildlife refuges:

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop planting genetically modified crops in wildlife refuges in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri.
The coalition of green groups—which includes the Sierra Club, the Center for Food Safety, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility—want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials to halt any possible damage to the lands until environmental analyses are completed.
The suit alleges that under the National Environmental Protection Act and the Refuge Improvement act, the government is required to do those studies before entering into farming contracts.Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is named as the lead defendant in the 35-page filing. Jewell’s office did not respond to a request for response to the lawsuit or details of the federal program under which the farms exist.“Allowing pesticide promoting, (genetically engineered) crops is antithetical to the basic purpose of our refuge system,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety.

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Mohsen Namjoo Stirs Things Up

Jon Pareles introduces us to Mohsen Namjoo and his music in The New York Times:

The songwriter Mohsen Namjoo stirs things up in Iran. Mr. Namjoo…plays the setar, a long-necked lute, and is steeped in Persian classical and literary traditions. But in Iran, where Western music was banned in 2005, Mr. Namjoo decided to fuse Persian music with rock and jazz and to sing — in a voice that can push from the nuances of Persian improvisation to the rougher attack of the blues — about the conditions facing his generation: unemployment, repression, violence. Though he was not allowed to perform in public or licensed to sell CDs, his music spread in private events, on the black market and via YouTube and radio. Continue reading

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Resnick Sustainability Institute’s “RESONATE” Awards Focus on Paradigm Shifting Work

The Resnick Sustainability Institute at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has announced that it has established an award that will honor cutting-edge work that addresses some of the hardest problems in energy and sustainability. The award winners will be announced in the Spring of 2014.

The Resnick Sustainability Institute’s “RESONATE” Awards will focus on innovative, paradigm-shifting work from individuals at an early stage in their careers, whose ideas are worthy of significant, widespread recognition. This work can be from many fields including science, technology, economics, public policy, or others. The intent of the awards is to draw attention to the innovators making significant strides in some of the grand challenges facing humanity, within the context of achieving global sustainability. These include meeting the world’s energy needs sustainably, providing water and food for a growing world population, cleaning the environment, improving people’s access to the natural resources they need to live a productive life, and others. Continue reading

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Farm Workers Get Help To Be Their Own Boss

Kirk Siegler featured a piece on ALBA Organics on Morning Edition at NPR.  You can go here for the broadcast.  Although ALBA concedes that not everyone will make it, this still gives migrant farm workers an opportunity to become their own boss.  Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Northern California’s Salinas Valley is often dubbed America’s salad bowl. Large growers there have long relied on thousands of seasonal workers from rural Mexico to pick lettuce, spinach and celery from sunrise to sunset. Many of these workers seem destined for a life in the fields. But a program that helps field workers, like Raul Murillo, start their own farms and businesses is starting to yield a few success stories.
Murillo leases a 3-acre strawberry farm from a cooperative called ALBA Organics. It trains longtime workers in organic farm management and helps with things like fertilizer and irrigation tools. Continue reading

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Water Injection Could Trigger Major Earthquakes

Geothermal plant near Calipatria, California

Natalie Starke reports on a new study in The Guardian that suggests injecting water for geothermal power or fracking can lead to larger earthquakes than previously thought:

Pumping water underground at geothermal power plants can lead to dangerous earthquakes even in regions not prone to tremors, according to scientists. They say that quake risk should be factored into decisions about where to site geothermal plants and other drilling rigs where water is pumped underground – for example in shale gas fracking.
Prof Emily Brodsky, who led a study of earthquakes at a geothermal power plant in California, said: ‘For scientists to make themselves useful in this field we need to be able to tell operators how many gallons of water they can pump into the ground in a particular location and how many earthquakes that will produce.’
It is already known that pumping large quantities of water underground can induce minor earthquakes near to geothermal power generation and fracking sites. However, the new evidence reveals the potential for much larger earthquakes, of magnitude 4 or 5, related to the weakening of pre-existing undergrounds faults through increased fluid pressure.
The water injection appears to prime cracks in the rock, making them vulnerable to triggering by tremors from earthquakes thousands of miles away. Nicholas van der Elst, the lead author on one of three studies published on Thursday in the journal Science, said: ‘These fluids are driving faults to their tipping point.’

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Sacramento’s farm-to-food bank serves 100% locally grown produce

A number of food banks in California are working to deliver more fresh produce to their clients.  The Sacramento Food Bank is a leader among them.  They used to be “one of those standard food distribution centers where bags of processed foods, carbohydrate-laden government commodities and day-old breads and sweets were bagged and handed to people who stood in line for hours to get it” until their new CEO, Brent Blake noticed the people in the line where getting fatter and fatter. “I realized we were killing them.’’

Young set out to remake how the food bank operated.

He and his staff forged partnerships with local farmers, most of them organic, and upped the amount of fresh produce to more than half of clients’ food allotment. Then knowing that most of them live in food deserts without transportation to grocery stores and the region’s many farmers’ markets, they moved distribution sites to about two dozen neighborhood schools and churches they visit once a month.
Just like at farmers’ markets, the produce is laid out on tables, and clients can ‘‘shop’’ for fresh carrots, kale, tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, squash or whatever else is in season. Background music lends a festive air, and informational booths offer clinics on smoking cessation and health screening.
The number of families served has grown from 8,000 to 20,000 over the two years since it has taken off.

Now the Sacramento Food Bank, under the directorship of Young and his crew is setting out to create the nation’s first farm-to-fork food bank using 100 percent local growers.

Young hopes to open new markets for local farmers as clients buy more healthy food. He believes a true farm-to-fork movement must include socioeconomics groups not inclined to shop at farmers markets or Whole Foods.
‘A community is better off if farm-to-fork includes folks who struggle to put nutritional food on the table,’ Young said.

If you are interested in learning more about the Sacramento Food Bank and how it has helped its clients improve their lives, Tracie Cone’s article can be found here.

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How Products Get Named

Excerpted from Dr. Ong’s article The Poetry of Brand Naming in Business World On-line:

In “Famous Names: Does it matter what a product is called?” (The New Yorker, Oct. 3, 2011), John Colapinto reports that product proliferation has made creative brand-naming a growing necessity. In 1980, fewer than 10,000 hi-tech trademarks were registered in the USA; 30 years later, the number topped 300,000.

Colapinto’s piece centers on Lexicon, a California- and London-based boutique firm founded by David Placek in 1982 on the premise that a distinctive brand name confers a competitive edge. What to call a two-way device that sends and receives email wirelessly? EasyMail? ProMail? MegaMail? In the digital revolution’s early days, consumers were chary about getting excessive email; it would raise blood pressure. “Megamail,” connoting an avalanche, was out. Lexicon employs two linguists in-house and consults 77 others around the world to screen for unintended cross-linguistic gaffes (such as Chevy Nova, which means “no go” in Spanish) and unconscious resonance of particular sounds (which imply meanings across multiple languages: “p” uses the lips, and is slower and more luxurious than “t” which uses the tip of the tongue; “b” sounds even more reliable).

A Lexicon project begins with free-association Mind Maps on a board — diagrams of brainstormed words branching out from a central theme. For the two-way device, teams worked on “things that are natural,” “fresh,” and “enjoyable.” The creative process plays with stimuli that may seem irrelevant to the problem at hand. Someone wrote the word “strawberry.” Placek drawled out the word, found it too slow-sounding for an instantaneous technology. Someone else wrote “blackberry,” which pronounces faster and has two “b’s.” Choosing among hundreds of options comes down to a combination of instinct, abstract reasoning, and client idiosyncrasy. In this case, the client decided that fruit lowers blood pressure, black is the color of hi-tech devices, and the gadget’s oval keys look like a blackberry’s fleshy drupelets. BlackBerry (both b’s capitalized), launched in 1999, is now the best-selling smart phone.


Dr. Ong teaches marketing management and literature at De La Salle University (DLSU). The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administration. – See more here.

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San Francisco leading the way with sustainability development program.

San Francisco is, again, ahead of the curve in working with California’s sustainability guidelines to establish a program to reduce water consumption, reduce waste and enhance community-scale energy resources.  Architect News  reports on a new tool called Eco-Districts that will help them get to their goal:

To aid in the fulfillment of these goals, the program is implementing a tool called  – a community of property owners, businesses and residents within a neighborhood that collaborate to develop and initiate sustainable development projects in their area.  Using a set of performance metrics, neighborhoods can shape their projects with custom strategies for their community.

The Eco-District is fundamentally a community-driven development that has the potential to achieve the smart growth of sustainable ideas but also build local urban identity and enforce a sense of place among its residents.  The Eco-District movement has already taken shape in Austin (TX), Boston (MA), Seattle (WA),  Washington DC, and Portland (OR) in various degrees of development.  San Francisco’s adoption of this tool will help drive the successes of the Sustainability Development Program with a focus on holistic approaches of neighborhood development and support with environmentally conscious improvements. Continue reading