Information and stories about environment.

Poverty in North Korea
Poverty in North Korea has been persistent for decades. North Korea is one of the most secluded countries in the world, both socially and economically. Since the Korean War in the 1950s, the nation has followed an ideology of self-reliance, called Juche in Korean. According to the official website of the North Korean government, Juche has three tenets: political independence, economic self-sufficiency and self-reliance in national defense. Adhering to these principles, North Korea withdrew from contact with other nations, gradually developing into the closed-off state it is today.

However, poor economic policies and the misallocation of resources have caused much of North Korea’s population to fall into poverty. One study estimates that the poverty rate of North Korea is around 60%, and another puts the percentage of undernourished North Koreans at 43%. The country suffers from chronic food shortages and has some of the worst income inequality in the world. Here are four influences on poverty in North Korea.

4 Influences on Poverty in North Korea

  1. Resource Misallocation: North Korea is notorious for its obsession with nuclear weapons and its military. The Korean War created high tensions between the country and its neighbors, leaving North Korea feeling threatened. As a result, North Korea funnels large amounts of resources into developing and maintaining weapons and the military, when it could better use those resources to fight famine and improve the economy.
  2. Environmental Collapse: To become self-reliant in food production, North Korea has employed intensive agricultural methods, using copious amounts of chemicals and cutting down forests to create farmland and increase crop yields. The loss of forests has led to erosion and flooding, costing the country much of its food supply. In addition, people chop down trees for firewood and eat wild animals to survive, leading to an imbalance in the ecosystem. With land growing less fertile, North Korea struggles to produce enough food for its people.
  3. Government Decisions: In 1995, the government cut supplies to the north of the country to provide more food for the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to garner support for the regime there. This decision hurt the regime greatly. Farmers began hoarding food and selling it independently of the state. Citizen support of the regime fell, decreasing even further when the regime used force to maintain its power. The Juche ideology backfired, as the country had to rely on international aid during the famine.
  4. Decreased Foreign Aid: During the Cold War, North Korea received Soviet aid. However, the country refused to pay its debts to the USSR, which responded by withdrawing support for North Korea. The fall of the Soviet Union forced North Korea to rely more on China for imports. In the 1990s, however, China decreased its grain exports because its own population needed the crops. In response, North Korea condemned China as a traitor. Without foreign aid, poverty in North Korea has only worsened.

These four influences on poverty in North Korea show that it is the product of ill-advised governmental decisions. Fortunately, the global community has begun to take note of the country’s struggles, and other nations are offering help. China has been the most generous donor, sending over 200,000 tons of food in 2012 and $3 million in aid in 2016. South Korea has also been generous to its neighbor, pledging 50,000 tons of rice and $8 million in 2019. The U.N. asked donors for $120 million to give to North Korea, eliciting responses from countries like Denmark, Norway and Germany. Non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross and the World Food Programme likewise commit to helping North Koreans in need. Hope remains for the people of North Korea.

Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr

Sustainability in Curitiba
Sporting a population of 1.9 million, Curitiba is Brazil’s eighth-largest city. Many also tout it as one of the greenest cities in the world, earning praise for its eco-friendly urban planning. Curitiba’s creative, environmentally friendly solutions to urban planning issues have been effectively alleviating poverty in the city. Curitiba has also done well curbing emissions and protecting the area’s biodiversity. This is a quick look at the story of sustainability in Curitiba, Brazil.

Background

Curitiba has had a long and rich history. From a “sleepy” city surrounded by farmland to a hub for European immigrants in the 19th century, Curitiba, the capital of Brazil’s state Parana, was long a cultural and economic center in the region. The mechanization of soybean agriculture in the 1940s was a turning point for Curitiba. Within a span of 20 years, the population of the city doubled, leaving Curitiba a hectic and polluted municipality. This changed in 1972 when Jaime Lerner became mayor of Curitiba and instituted his plan for a sustainable city.

Sustainable Solutions

  1. Bus Rapid Transit System: One of the biggest innovations that Curitiba put in place was a bus rapid transit system. Roads with express lanes for buses, specially designed buses for quick boarding and cheap and uniform ticket prices have helped Curitiba maintain a quick, cheap and low-emission transit system. Streets that the city allocated for pedestrians only and designated bike lanes have also contributed to this.
  2. Green Space: Since the 1970s, Curitiba has planted 1.5 million trees and built 28 public parks. To combat flooding which had previously assaulted the city, Curitiba surrounded the urban area with fields of grass, saving itself the cost and environmental expense of dams. To maintain the fields, the city uses sheep rather than mechanical means, saving its money and oil while providing manure for farmers and wool.
  3. Recycling: Curitiba recycles around 70 percent of its garbage thanks to a program that allows for the exchange of bus tokens, notebooks and food in return for recycling. Not only does this protect the environment, but it also boosts education, increases food access and facilitates transport for the city’s poor.
  4. Education: Curitiba houses the Free University for the Environment, which empowers the city’s poor and teaches them about sustainability. Signs and information panels provide citizens with information about the city’s green design. Encouraging a culture of pride around sustainability and promoting knowledge helps to maintain the city’s greenness.

Population and Poverty

Not only has Curitiba’s creative urban planning helped it become one of the world’s leading green cities, but it has also resulted in poverty alleviation and population growth. Its 30-year economic growth rate is 3.1 percent higher than the national average, and its per-capita income is 66 percent higher. In the last 60 years, the population of Curitiba has increased by 1,000 percent to a staggering 2 million people due to this. With such a quick population rise and migrant population, one would expect a great deal of wealth inequality and poverty within Curitiba. Indeed, 10 to 15 percent of Curitiba’s population lives in substandard housing. However, this is a trend that Brazil’s other large cities and affordable housing plans match. The city’s above par per-capita income is also evidence of this. These numbers are likely to lower and help Curitiba continue its mission of poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability.

Ronin Berzins
Photo: Flickr

Ecobricks Turning Waste Into InfrastructureAs the population grows, environmentally-friendly building materials are becoming more and more necessary. Ecobricks are just that. Ecobricks are reusable building bricks that are made by packing clean, non-recyclables (including single-use plastics and styrofoam, which can be toxic to the environment) into a plastic bottle. The bottles are then used to build things such as furniture, walls and buildings. Ecobricks are a mechanism of turning waste into infrastructure.

Ideally, a long-term solution to protect the environment would require a massive decrease in global production and the use of single-use plastic. Ecobricks do not offer a solution to this problem; however, they are an efficient short-term solution for plastics that already exist or are currently in production. In addition to upcycling plastic, the process of making Ecobricks is far better for the environment than the brick and cinder block. This makes putting industries in developing countries a cheaper option for building material.

Ecobricks In Latin America

Communities around the world are turning to Ecobricks as an efficient and responsible option for building infrastructure affordably. Hug it Forward is an organization working in Latin America that focuses its attention on access to education and how modern consumer culture generates billions of tons of inorganic waste on a yearly basis.

The organization uses Ecobricks as a solution to both by constructing bottle classrooms with the materials. These classrooms provide safe and comfortable learning environments at a lower price than if they were to be strictly brick and mortar structures, and it is more environmentally-friendly. Hug it Forward believes that working with communities to implement these classrooms is an investment in the community’s resilience and self-empowerment.

Ecobricks in Africa

Ecobricks are building infrastructure in Africa. Greyton, a township in South Africa, is the country’s first transition initiative in an effort to address the issues many townships face as a result of apartheid and social inequalities. These issues include a lack of affordable housing and effective waste management systems. The goal of this transition initiative is to turn Greyton into an eco-village through projects like creating community gardens and banning plastic bags.

Ecobricks are a huge part of Greyton’s efforts and are being used to build schools, furniture and other necessities. At the same time, they reduce the number of non-recyclables that would make their way to nearby landfills. The township has even started a Trash to Treasure Festival, which is a music festival that increases environmental awareness. At this festival, people make, exchange and even submit Ecobricks to win prizes. After each festival, the Ecobricks are added to Greyton’s infrastructure projects, such as adding an Ecobrick classroom to the town.

Eco-Future

Ecobricks are building resources that are affordable and better for the environment. They provide attainable infrastructure for the communities that need it most. These bricks are an effective short-term solution to the abundant non-recyclables littering the planet. They are an avenue of development for communities around the world. Ecobricks are a sustainable solution that provides resources by turning waste into infrastructure.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Shipbreaking Practices
The world transports roughly 90 percent of its goods by sea. Shipping is vital to the global economy — it enables trade among people, nations and companies, but rarely does one sit back and think about what happens to these mammoth-sized ships once they reach the end of their operational life. How does one manage the waste that a 100,000-ton cargo ship creates? The answer is shipbreaking practices.

Shipbreaking Practices 101

Shipbreaking, the process of recycling old ships so others may use them as piecemeal, is dangerous for workers and the environment. However, innovations in the field are paving a path for more sustainable and just shipping practices. Shipbreaking involves dismantling ships and selling them off in parts. The process occurs 25-30 years into a ship’s life at which point the costs of maintaining an old ship exceed those of building a new ship.

Shipbreaking is a dangerous industry for workers and the environment alike. Europe and the United States have placed heavy restrictions on the practice due to regard for social and environmental protection laws, but instead of addressing the industry’s problems, the crackdown has merely moved shipbreaking to the east. Today, an estimated 85 percent of the world’s ship recycling occurs in just four countries: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and China. 

The Human Cost of Shipbreaking Practices

 The International Labor Organization considers shipbreaking to be one of the world’s most dangerous industries. Most of the time, workers take apart ships by hand without protective gear or equipment. They do this in 40-degree heat on beaches far away from hospitals or emergency rooms in case things go awry. Most injuries and deaths occur due to general accidents like falling material and fires or exposure to toxic materials like radiation, mercury and asbestos.

It is difficult to estimate the number of fatalities since many shipyard workers are migrants. However, evaluations indicate that the accident rate lies at two in 1,000 people. Further, 16 percent of workers suffer from asbestos-related diseases. 

The Environmental Cost of Shipbreaking Practices

In addition to the cost to human lives, shipbreaking is detrimental to the environment. Much of shipbreaking occurs via beaching which is a method of ramming vessels into tidal flats, typically on a beach and stripping them of all usable materials by hammer and blowtorch. Beaching tends to be the most environmentally and socially damaging approach to ship recycling. Steel waste, oil from vessels and persistent organic pollutants enter waterways and pollute the air, killing valuable species and ecosystems in the process.

For instance, the Bay of Bengal, located in Bangladesh, is the world’s largest bay and boasts diverse marine life ranging from coral reefs and mangroves to fish spawning of vulnerable species. The Bay of Bengal is also in close proximity to one of the world’s biggest ship recycling sites: Chittagong. Metal waste that is not resellable often stays on shores, washing into the Bay at alarming rates, and thereby increasing the cadmium and copper levels in the water. This increases fish mortality and affects hatching around the port city. Waste and other pollutants put especially rare marine species at the risk of extinction.

A Better Future: Alternatives to Current Shipbreaking Practices 

Currently, the best alternative to beaching is dry-dock stand recycling. Using this method, workers safely recycle ships on a stable platform with the necessary toxic waste management systems and lifting equipment. Most ships are already built on dry-dock platforms so this method is simply giving existing docks a secondary purpose. It is a non-invasive approach to fixing a big problem. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a 10-year-old coalition of environmental, human and labor rights organizations, is making significant strides in advocating for dry-dock platform recycling methods. It has pushed through progressive E.U. laws on ship recycling standards and publishes annual data on ships dismantled globally. The publication allows investors to divest from shipping companies that engage in harmful shipbreaking practices. One such example is Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund divestment decision. Based on data that the NGO Shipbreaking Platform published, the fund decided to divest from two shipowners for poor ship recycling management in 2018.

Another potential solution to addressing shipbreaking is changing the manufacturing of vessels altogether. With an approach that is a more transformative approach, there are accompanying complications. Currently, ship transport generates 3 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions per year. Making ship design more environmental can tackle this larger issue in addition to greenifying ship recycling.

According to a 2020 study by the International Council on Clean Transportation, hydrogen could power 99 percent of container vessels traversing the Pacific ocean. More than half of those vessels would require minimal changes to make this transition happen. Government-funded organizations like Sandia National Laboratories and private companies like Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine are currently researching hydrogen-based solutions in shipping. 

Hydrogen-powered ships are likely still 10 years out in the future but investment in these ideas will fundamentally change the way we approach the manufacturing and recycling of ships globally.

Current end-of-life ship recycling practices damage the environment and harm workers in developing countries who must work under life-threatening conditions within the industry. The good news is that an alternative exists. Dry-dock shipping yards provide a safe and environmentally sound alternative to current shipbreaking practices. Changing shipbreaking practices now depend on individuals and coalitions like the NGO Shipbreaking Platform to advocate for widespread adoption.

Kate McGinn
Photo: Wikimedia

Hydropower Dams
A once thriving area for fishing and agriculture, the Mekong River Delta sports a dramatically different look than it did just a century ago. The river, historically wide and abundant, is characterized by large jigsaw puzzles of cracked earth where water has dried up and emptied villages where fishermen once thrived. The place has recently seen a mass exodus, with a million people resettling from southwestern Vietnam alone in the last decade.

Harmful Effects of Hydropower Dams

The region has long been one of the world’s largest inland fisheries, supporting 60 million Cambodians, Vietnamese, Thai and Laotians. It provides Vietnam with 50 percent of its food and 23 percent of its GDP, and Cambodia with 80 percent of its protein intake and 12 percent of its GDP. However, over the last couple of decades, hydropower dams have emerged along the river, threatening local communities and ecosystems while creating large amounts of renewable energy.

According to a UNESCO report, dams on the upper Mekong have resulted in a 70 percent reduction in sediment in the delta. By 2040, estimates determine that these and future dams will block 97 percent of the sediment that moves down the river. This sediment is critical for both rice production and fish life in the Mekong. The loss has been devastating.

Hydropower Dams are Detrimental to the Environment

Even with the detriment to rice production and fishing in the area, the lower Mekong region may still see more hydropower dams. Several countries have created plans to use the area for power, and not without reason. Estimates have determined that dams in the region should be able to produce 30,000 megawatts of electricity, which would be a massive boost to the power capacity of the lower Mekong.

Dams are also an opportunity for foreign investment and could be a huge boost to the GDP of these countries. In fact, the Mekong River Commission’s initial studies estimated that countries in the region could gain $30 billion from dam development, though more recent studies suggest that the area could lose as much as $7 billion from this construction. Despite this, the Mekong River Commission has advised a postponement on the building of these dams until it can further evaluate the risks, and because of the inequitable effects of building the dams, which would likely benefit urban elites while hurting rural farmers and fishermen.

Are there Positive Effects?

Some argue that the presence of these dams may have positive effects on fishing and rice production in the area due to an increased flow of water during dry seasons as dams release water, combatting the effects of drought. Whether this makes up for the loss of nutrient-rich silt and fish life is debatable. However, farmers have recently resorted to using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which can be potentially harmful in the long-run, to boost their crop production.

Though it is unclear whether or not countries in the Lower Mekong Region will continue their plans to build hydropower dams, it is certain that farmers and fishermen will continue to suffer as long as the delta is victim to the already present dams in China and the effects of climate change. However, on a lighter note, there has been a recent increase in international aid and development to the Lower Mekong Region, as well as an effort to maintain biodiversity and create sanctuaries for fish and new fish reserves. Hopefully, these countries will manage to balance the poverty-alleviating industrialization that comes with hydropower, and a shift to industrialized agriculture with the interests of rural farmers, fishermen and biodiversity in the region in mind.

– Ronin Berzins
Photo: Flickr

enewable Energy in BrazilRenewable energy in Brazil is nothing new. For decades, the country has been a leader in producing some of the world’s largest quantities of ethanol, an eco-friendly fuel source for vehicles. Recently, Brazil invested in expanding their renewable energy sources by creating huge wind power plants and high-tech solar panels. This lowered the nation’s carbon emissions as well as creating countless jobs for citizens. With fewer fossil fuels being burned, air pollution becomes minimal, resulting in a healthier, happier way of life. Here are 5 facts about renewable energy in Brazil.

5 Facts About Renewable Energy in Brazil

  1. Brazillian winds can create up to 500 gigawatts of energy. Wind power is one of the ways renewable energy in Brazil is thriving. Wind power plants across the country create about 10 percent of all renewable energy used domestically. The production of wind farms is beneficial in more ways than just environmental. The turbines built along the coast create new jobs for the community while keeping city air cleaner than a coal power plant. Because of how large and powerful the turbines are, they boost the local economy while creating an overall better way of life.
  2. Globally, Brazil is the second-largest producer of hydroelectric power. As of 2018, renewable energy accounts for nearly 80 percent of all domestically produced energy in the nation. This means that after China, Brazil produces more hydroelectric power than any other country in the world. Around 65 percent of renewable energy comes from hydroelectric dams primarily along the Amazon River Basin. During times of drought or long heatwaves, other forms of renewable energy in Brazil supply the country with power. This includes solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal power, ethanol and biomass.
  3. All gasoline in Brazil contains ethanol. Ethanol is a common vehicle power source for renewable energy in Brazil. The country began creating ethanol in 1975 during the oil crisis. In 1976, Brazil launched the Fiat 147, introducing the world’s first mass-production of a completely ethanol-powered car. Since then, it became a normal fuel option for all drivers. Oxford University describes the nation’s sugarcane-based ethanol as “the most successful fuel alternative to date.” Currently, all gasoline in Brazil is a blend of between 25 to 75 percent ethanol, as required by law since 2007. It is also common for some cars to run on ethanol exclusively.
  4. Brazil has the world’s first sustainable biofuels economy. Support for renewable energy in Brazil continues to boost the nation’s economy. Hydroelectric power from the Amazon River Basin brings huge energy surges across the country. When drought occurs, the solar panels and wind turbines provide a reliable power source. In 2008, investors all over the globe declared Brazil as the world’s first sustainable economy powered by biofuels. As the Earth’s population grows, so does the demand for electricity. Without a sustainable method of generating electric power, the supply for coal becomes limited. Once thought of as a necessity only during war, coal rations are increasing internationally, leading to power shortages.
  5. As renewable energy in Brazil becomes more technologically advanced, investors are taking note. This is notable, especially in the wind energy sector. Wind turbines are cheaper and faster to produce than hydroelectric dams. Wind power is also more reliable during heatwaves or seasonal droughts. A U.S. International Trade Administration report shows that by the end of 2020, investment in Brazillian wind power will be just over $24 billion. This huge increase in funding will continue to boost the domestic economy and is expected to set a trend for other world leaders.

Renewable energy in Brazil continues to be an example on the world stage. Through sheer numbers alone, the South American country has proven that investment in sustainable, natural power sources are economically viable and eco-friendly. Almost the entire country is powered by wind, hydroelectric, solar and ethanol sources. This trend is expected to continue as the demand for sustainability grows internationally.

Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

Air Pollution in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is a country that is largely dependent upon its production of oil. However, this oil and urban activities in Saudi Arabian cities are responsible for air pollution in Saudi Arabia. Air pollution impacts everyone, but it often hurts the poor the most since they tend to not have access to proper medical care when air pollution makes them sick. According to estimates, about 20 percent of people in Saudi Arabia live in poverty. Saudi Arabia should be able to improve the living conditions of both its impoverished and impoverished people by reducing its air pollution. Saudi Arabia has put forth a policy to improve air quality nationwide and has worked in one of its polluted cities in an attempt to improve air quality.

Ambient Air Standard

The type of air pollution that Saudi Arabia deals with is ambient air pollution. Ambient air pollution includes multiple types of pollutants, many of which are harmful. In 2012, Saudi Arabia put the Ambient Air Standard into place. The purpose of this standard is to reduce the number of harmful pollutants that contribute to air pollution in Saudi Arabia. The standard provides a basis for the maintenance and restoration of ambient air within Saudi Arabia. This action that the government of Saudi Arabia put into place should be beneficial to the people of the country because it will provide cleaner air due to the fact that it will restrict the amount of emissions companies emit.

Cleaning Up Dammam City

Regardless of how bad the air pollution in a country is, cities tend to always be hot spots for air pollution. The Saudi Arabian City of Dammam is one such city where air pollution is a severe problem. Urban activities such as running cars cause pollution in Dammam. Recognizing this, governmental authorities in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia developed plans to reduce the air pollution that these urban activities created. For example, the General Department of Traffic used periodic vehicle inspection stations in order to improve the mileage emissions that the cars created. The General Agency of Roads made plans to pave new roads, fix existing ones and construct tunnels and bridges to improve the flow of traffic.

These changes had positive effects on reducing air pollution in Saudi Arabia. There was a decline in volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and particulate matter among other forms of air pollution. For example, carbon monoxide in industrial areas fell from above 16 parts per matter to almost two parts per matter. Volatile organic compounds in industrial areas fell from almost 0.8 parts per matter in 2010 to slightly above 0.2 in 2015. The data that the Journal of Taibah University provided shows that governmental officials’ action in Dammam has been working.

Air pollution in Saudi Arabia continues to be a problem for its people. However, the Saudi Arabian government has made some improvements to the quality of air, especially for the people living in Dammam.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda
From piles of discarded plastic, solutions arise. Sustainability is the work of the dedicated, passionate leaders of the Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda. In Kamwokya, an area with 10,000 residents in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala, Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda develops innovative projects that improve the lives of impoverished residents while solving environmental pollution.

The Borgen Project interviewed CEO and Ghetto Research Lab Founder Patrick Mujuzi, who creates jobs and a better future for ghetto youth in the slums of Kamwokya. His dynamic vision for Ghetto Research Lab entails re-purposing plastic while creating a positive environment. He hopes to unite people worldwide to build an understanding of the need and impact of GRL’s work. He hopes that each person will understand their role in eliminating plastics from the environment.

Ghetto Research Lab undertakes an incredible range of projects, which people can study for replication. The garbage of others becomes its scientific tool. It turns what would otherwise be waste into urban farming opportunities, building materials and a sense of community. As a research lab, it learns by doing and through trial and error, not with the advantage of advanced equipment. Here are some of Uganda’s Ghetto Research Lab’s projects.

Support of Ghetto Youth

Ghetto Research Lab transforms the lives of young adults by nurturing their social development and creating job opportunities. One hundred and seventy youth currently work with GRL. Participants learn to forge a positive path, gain life skills and receive support. The number of participants continues to grow. Mujuzi refers to this work as “positive living and rehabilitation.”

Plastic Management

Ghetto Research Lab creates plastic bricks by stuffing collected plastic bottles with discarded polyethylene bags, referred to as kaveras. These bottle bricks create buildings and serve the dual function of removing this waste from their environment. Local residents make extra income packing the bricks. Many plastic bottles (25,000) make up one building, each stuffed with 200 plastic bags, removing five million plastic bags from the environment.

Anther project includes creating pavers out of the discarded plastic by melting it and adding sand. GRL also develops compostable toilets in plastic bottle brick structures that provide a sustainable sanitation solution.

Urban Farming

Ghetto Research Lab practices several types of sustainable, urban farming including aquaponics which is the combination of conventional aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaponics reduces fishing from polluted waters while providing good nutrition, improving the overall health of residents.

Hailey Bruce, the Aquaponics Administrator, has been with GRL for three years. When The Borgen Project interviewed him, it learned that he raises tilapia, catfish and vegetables, including cabbage and spinach, and that GRL members eat and sell crops. Bruce believes that aquaponics is a sustainable food security solution because it is accessible, affordable and holds the potential to generate income and create jobs without harming the environment.

GRL practices animal and poultry rearing, raising rabbits, goats, sheep and chickens. The sale of meat helps to fund GRL’s endeavors.

GRL grows vegetables such as tomatoes which it grafts and breeds. It plants them using sack gardening which avoids ground pollutants. Additional crops include lettuce, cucumbers, beets and strawberries. It also engages in food value projects, collecting unwanted seeds from fruits such as papaya and avocado from nearby markets. It cleans and dries them in the sun, pounds them into a powder and mixes them into a nutritious drink. Next, it packages the drink and distributes it to people at risk of malnutrition. It also makes organic manure, pesticides and liquid soaps.

Technology, Art and Design

Through its technology department, Ghetto Research Lab works on renewable recyclable energy projects such as harnessing wind turbine electricity and the development of solar heaters. It created a machine that people run on to produce and store energy to be able to use electricity in nighttime hours when it would not otherwise be available.

GRL also engages in art and design projects such as painting and beautifying the buildings that people create from the bottle bricks.

Film, Media and Storytelling

In addition to GRL’s sustainability, technology and food security projects, it engages young people through a storytelling and film production center called the Ghetto Media Lab. The Borgen Project spoke with Media Lab Administrator Edris Adams, who is a Ugandan filmmaker and produces documentary films for the Ghetto Media Lab. These films have the impact of building skills and empowering young people with the ability to create social change in their lives. The collective talent and inspiration produce impactful stories.

Edris Adams would like the world to hear the voices of ghetto youth. He would also like for the ghetto conditions to change for the better. He hopes for an increased understanding of poverty in Uganda. Adams aspires for everyone to engage in the battle against plastic and to encourage the planting of trees for an environmentally sustainable future. Everyone has stories and through sharing and learning, they can work to make not only the slums of Kamwokya a better place but also the world.

Patrick Mujuzi would like to see continued collaboration between Ghetto Research Lab and those interested in learning about it. In addition, he would like for GRL to become more commercial, but its limited space is an obstacle. Mujuzi sees that skill sharing with young people around the world holds potential. Ultimately, he would like to see plastics and polyethylene as things of the past.

With its hands-on success of projects and its willingness to work through trial and error, the Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda can be a model for results. GRL would like to become more established in its endeavors. Hopefully, it will have continued opportunities to educate others on its successes.

– Susan Niz
Photo: Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda

The EcoHealth Alliance

Today’s world is burdened by diseases that scientists and medical professionals are actively attempting to cure. Poorer countries are subject to these infections as unsafe living conditions, a lack of strong healthcare systems and shortage of resources are all factors of such environments. However, a new field of study, ecohealth, has allowed new organizations to improve their understanding of diseases. Ecohealth is a study of the ways in which the Earth affects human health in various environments. Organizations such as the EcoHealth Alliance have taken this field further to tackle pandemic issues in our world today.

The EcoHealth Alliance

The EcoHealth Alliance is a global, environmental health nonprofit organization that is dedicated to protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease. The Alliance formed when the Wildlife Trust and the Consortium for Conservation Medicine merged. After its inception in 1971, the Wildlife Trust worked to protect the planet’s wildlife. It later added conservation medicine when the connection to health and the environment became more evident.

The Consortium for Conservation Medicine was established in 1997. It had a similar focus on the healthy relationships between living organisms. Together, the organizations rebranded and created the EcoHealth Alliance. This rebranding allowed the organization to focus on local conservation as well as conservation medicine and the relationship between human health and the environment. EcoHealth Alliance has become a leader in preventative work of pandemics in “hotspot regions” of impoverished countries and in global conservation efforts.

The EcoHealth Alliance’s One Health Approach

The EcoHealth Alliance has a unique “One Health” approach that combats issues through different disciplines of thought. One Health consists of engaging with experts in many different disciplines to use their combined knowledge to solve problems that are larger than any single one of their respective areas of expertise. One example of how the Alliance is using One Health is through its work with the Rift Valley fever.

The Rift Valley fever is placed sixth on the World Health Organization’s list of priority diseases. This disease has a very low profile in comparison to others, such as Ebola, because it has only ever been observed in Africa and the Middle East. However, this disease is just as detrimental to those it infects, and there is a high likelihood of it traveling to the Americas.

The Rift Valley fever is spread through mosquitos. Mosquito bites infect livestock in the area. The infection has been recorded to kill “100 percent of infected young animals and 30 percent of adults.” This disease may also impact humans, whether it has traveled through mosquito bites or ingestion of affected livestock. It can result in mild flu-like symptoms as well as symptoms similar to Ebola.

How does One Health help?

The Rift Valley fever would be impossible to understand without the multidisciplinary approach that One Health entails because of the numerous factors surrounding the disease. Veterinarians understand how livestock is affected while parasitologists study the virus’s qualities and individual components. Economists research the impacts of outbreaks on society. Geologists study the conditions that allow the disease to thrive while anthropologists study the human behaviors surrounding the outbreak.

There is still much unknown about this disease as it disappears altogether between outbreaks. This lack of understanding makes it difficult to figure out the potential ways to protect people and animals. In response, the EcoHealth Alliance has formed a coalition of national and local partners in South Africa to improve prevention, detection and reporting policies surrounding this fever in people, livestock and wildlife.

The EcoHealth Alliance is the leading organization using the One Health approach. Hopefully, many organizations will follow to remain competitive. This organization’s procedures have brought together scientists from different backgrounds. It helps them to collaborate and tackle the importance of pandemic prevention in the interconnected landscape of the world today.

Adya Khosla
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts ABout Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Public health outcomes and economic status both rely greatly on a nation’s sanitation infrastructure. Sanitation encompasses the regular, efficient and safe collection and disposal of waste, whatever its source. Improper procedures and insufficient waste management facilities have led to poor sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but recent efforts show promising improvements. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. The political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina divides waste management responsibilities among different levels of governance. Responsibility for environmental policy, including sanitation policy, lies with both the federal government and the two political entities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic Srpska, but not with the cantonal and municipal governments. The two entities and their constituent cantons formulate laws and regulations for waste management, while these two levels of government work share the responsibility of designing management strategies with municipal governments.
  2. At the federal level, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (MoFTER) oversees and manages international initiatives and accords that involve the political entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the enactment of the Law on Ministries and Other Bodies of Administration of BiH in March 2003, MoFTER’s role also includes ensuring that the political entities follow basic environmental standards. As a result, the political entities do not have absolute power when it comes to environmental policy, with MoFTER acting as a harmonizing and coordinating force.
  3. The country’s two political entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, both suffer from a severe lack of operable wastewater treatment plants. Only two of Republika Srpska’s 64 municipalities have treatment facilities. Though the country improved biological treatment processes in 2009, the quality of these methods declined the following year.
  4. In 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina produced approximately 1,243,889 tons of municipal waste. This quantity measures out to an estimated 354 kg per year and 0.97 kg each day. Landfills received 952,975 tons of waste that year, a 1 percent decline from 2015. Public solid waste transportation disposed of approximately 920,748 tons of waste in 2016, a 0.1 percent reduction from 2015. The vast majority of waste in the country came from markets, street cleaning and other public sources. Packaging waste made up only 1.9 percent of waste in 2016, and household waste only constituted another 3.6 percent. Recreational areas, such as gardens and parks, generated only 2.8 percent of waste. Mixed municipal waste made up all of the remaining 91.7 percent, more than 844,000 metric tons.
  5. Registered local landfills serve as the endpoint for the majority of publicly-collected waste, but rural areas with little access to public collection services discard their waste in the far-more-common illegal landfills which do not follow sanitation standards. There are only 43 registered landfills in Republika Srpska and 44 in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but nearly 590 known illegal landfills. In legal and illegal dumping alike, the separation of hazardous and non-hazardous materials rarely occurs, posing a significant problem for public health in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  6. The unsafe conditions in a residential landfill in the city of Mostar, in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, provoked protests in 2019. Although it has existed since the 1960s as a landfill for household waste, recently it has allowed companies to dump dangerous waste products and sewage treatment sludge. Locals deeply concerned by news that the waste might contain hazardous toxins called PCBs prompted Mostar authorities to initiate an investigation.
  7. Despite some legislative efforts to follow the EU’s environmental standards, garbage pollutes Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rivers. The civil war in the 1990s resulted in the neglect of the country’s waste management infrastructure. A scarcity of recycling facilities has led to trash islands that now clog the country’s rivers. Locals report that organizations remove an estimated 800,000 tons of trash from the Drina river alone every year.
  8. In 2018, public waste utility KJKP Rad announced the planned construction of a recycling facility for electronic and electrical waste in Sarajevo, the country’s capital. The facility will also accept the city’s solid waste, construction waste and even soil. A hall containing presses and conveyor belts will process the waste brought by Sarajevo locals. Though electrical and electronic waste collection companies already exist, KJKP Rad’s new facility will be the first in the country to recycle waste deposited on site.
  9. In October 2019, the Sarajevo Canton Assembly discussed the creation of a waste incinerator as a solution to the canton’s waste management issues. Though the facility’s construction cost approximately 122.8 million euros, the incineration of waste would not only improve sanitation but also efficiently generate energy for the city. This prospective facility would greatly relieve the burden on the Smiljevići regional waste management center and would be one more step toward improving Bosnia and Herzegovina’s waste management and sanitation.
  10. International attention is also being directed at sanitation problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An initiative to improve the country’s waste management infrastructure with support from the Swedish development agency SIDA and the World Bank began in 2016 and offers several strategies to improve the system. Proposed policies include the design of a more feasible data-reporting system, expanding the trash collection fleet, designing and implementing better organized and less expensive waste collection systems, ensuring greater stakeholder involvement in waste management initiatives, improved communication with citizens, implementation of environmental taxes and even tariff reform. With additional time and data, authorities hope that these strategies will improve sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since gaining independence in the 1990s, sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has remained a problem. Public health hazards that also threaten economic stability emerged from the neglect that comes with political upheaval. Nevertheless, efforts made to address current shortcomings, such as the construction of new recycling and incineration facilities, herald a brighter future for sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr