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Posts Tagged ‘water’

A bit ironic, don’t you think?

Three weeks ago, the World Bank organized three public hearings to discuss the Red-Dead conduit, a plan to import water into the rapidly waning Dead Sea from the Red Sea in the south. Over the last 30 years, the Jordan River (the Dead Sea’s primary source of water) has been diverted for agricultural use. These diversions, along with naturally occurring evaporation, are reducing theDead Sea by as much as one meter a year.

The project is expected to cost around $15 billion. On the surface, it seems like a viable option, one that could even exist as a peaceful symbol of cooperation between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. But Hannah Doherty, in an article titled, “Can the Dead Sea Be Brought to Life?“, points out that the Red-Dead conduit might not be the most sustainable option:

By introducing water of a different density and composition to the Dead Sea, however, engineers may drastically alter the very thing they are trying to save. The Dead Sea is rich in calcium, while the Red Sea is rich in sulfate; mixing the two could create a surface layer of gypsum. New algae growth might also change the buoyancy of the water and alter its blue water to appear red. These critical changes could damage the tourism industry in both Israel and Jordan.

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As an alternative to the diversion project, environmentalists and local geologists propose rehabilitating the Jordan River. According to Dan Zaslavksi, a former Israeli water commissioner, regenerating the flow of the river to bring water to the Dead Sea will cost no more than $800 million, substantially less than the $15 billion estimated for the Red-Dead plan, Al Jazeera reported. Critics also suggest reforms in the chemical industries on both sides of the sea.

I encourage you to read the full article and am curious to see what the course of action will be.

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Going green should not be scary. I feel like so many people are intimidated by the vastness of the ecological movement, of sustainability, of the color green. In his TED conference talk, “The paradox of choice,” Barry Schwartz explains how too many choices can paralyze us from making a decision. I learned the same theory from my marketing professor in college, who explained why psychoeconomics is so important to businesses. Given similar conditions between two grocery stores, for example, the store with 15 varieties of chips will ultimately attract more business than a store with 75 varieties. Interesting.

These days, it’s overwhelming how many articles and people and blog posts and news stories are giving us ways to go green. Perhaps it is this inundation with information that is holding so many of us back from actually making the choices. Where do we begin? In What About Bob, one of my favorite early 90s comedies, Bill Murray, the main character, uses the mantra “baby steps” to help sort out his life. It worked for him, and it can work for us. Do some research, but not too much at first, and pick one or two changes that you can stick with. This is much more manageable than trying to green the world all at once. Below are my four suggestions, all of which not only reduce the oft-cited carbon footprint but are also economically justifiable (they will save you money!):

1. Stop buying bottled water.

A chilled plastic bottle of water in the convenience-store cooler is the perfect symbol of this moment in American commerce and culture. It acknowledges our demand for instant gratification, our vanity, our token concern for health. Its packaging and transport depend entirely on cheap fossil fuel. Yes, it’s just a bottle of water–modest compared with the indulgence of driving a Hummer. But when a whole industry grows up around supplying us with something we don’t need–when a whole industry is built on the packaging and the presentation–it’s worth asking how that happened, and what the impact is. And if you do ask, if you trace both the water and the business back to where they came from, you find a story more complicated, more bemusing, and ultimately more sobering than the bottles we tote everywhere suggest.

I understand that bottled water is convenient, but seriously folks, it’s a scam. You are paying for something that you have access to already (at least in a handful of the developed countries). If you want to read more about the industry and its negative effects on the environment, check out “Message in a Bottle. If you are looking for a stylish, eco-friendly water bottle to get started, check out www.mysigg.com.

2. Change all your light bulbs in your home/office to CFL.

Sitting humbly on shelves in stores everywhere is a product, priced at less than $3, that will change the world. Soon. It is a fairly ordinary item that nonetheless cuts to the heart of a half-dozen of the most profound, most urgent problems we face. Energy consumption. Rising gasoline costs and electric bills. Greenhouse-gas emissions. Dependence on coal and foreign oil. Global warming.

The product is the compact fluorescent lightbulb, a quirky-looking twist of frosted glass. In the energy business, it is called a “CFL,” or an “energy saver.” One scientist calls it an “ice-cream-cone spiral,” because in its most-advanced, most-appealing version, it looks like nothing so much as a cone of swirled soft-serve ice cream.

CFL – meaning compact fluorescent lamp – lightbulbs are the way to go. They emit the same amount of light as regular bulbs but use 75-80% less energy. To learn more, check out “How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Change the World. One. And You’re Looking at it.”

3. Spend less time in the car.

If you have not heard already, China, in preparation for the August Olympic Games, recently put into effect an even-odd license plate law that will help lessen the effects of traffic congestion on the environment. While we probably couldn’t get away with something like this in America, damn it’s a good idea. Sure, I’m a bit upset that gas prices are so high, but hopefully this will force us all to change our habits. Carpool. Bike. Take the bus! I highly recommend WalkScore.com, an interactive map that grades your location based on how many common services – grocery stores, libraries, schools, etc. – are within walking distance. When I lived in St. Louis, I used the site to find nearby bars and even came across a used bookstore that I never knew existed.

4. Start an indoor/outdoor garden.

You don’t have to become a locavore, but cultivating a few plants is a good idea. Indoor plants absorb toxins and can create healthier living spaces, while outdoor plants can yield fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables that can spice up your cooking. Check out The GRS Garden Project to see how growing your own food requires little labor but can help offset the rising cost of food.

I challenge you to discuss these suggestions with your local Jewish community. Urge your synagogues to use CFL lightbulbs and sponsor a community gardening project. It’s a lot easier than you think. The evidence is overwhelming. In the face of too many choices, sometimes we need a little guidance to take action.

Please send any success stories to pitaronpark [at] gmail.com!

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Taglit-Birthright Israel, what an amazing experience. Any qualified candidate for this program is an absolute fool if they don’t take advantage of it. There are so many different types of trips that cater to different preferences (anything from Orthodox-based to outdoor inspired biking ventures) that it’s almost silly. Please, go if you can.

This post is actually a follow up to something I wrote a few months ago titled, “Is Tel Aviv a Sustainable City?“. While I was traveling I kept a close eye out for signs of sustainability across the country. After looking at my notes (scribbled throughout my tattered Moleskine), it looks like my report is fairly optimistic. Talking to our tour guide, I learned that even though the “green movement” hasn’t quite hit Israel yet, the framework is certainly there. The country, through it’s remarkable technological resources and innovations, continues to draw in solar and energy-related companies, and it seems as if it’s only a matter of time before a tipping point sends Israel to the forefront of the sustainable movement.

Two particular things I noticed:

1) Many of the places that we stayed have toilets with two options for flushing. The smaller button produces a water flow just great enough to flush liquids, while the larger button, well, it gets rid of the bigger stuff. I had quite a fun time experimenting with both! It seems like this technique saves a lot of water, which in Israel is certainly a concern. The Sea of Galilee, which supplies roughly 30% of Israel’s water, is drying up more and more each year. Israel, the founder of drip irrigation – which saves a significant amount of water – is definitely ahead of the game when it comes to water conservation. I haven’t heard about this toilet technique anywhere else in the world…have you?

2) Strewn throughout the country are several large recycling areas for plastic bottles. The bins, usually placed on street corners, are supported by Aviv Recycling Ltd. The site explains that up to 50 such constructions exist in a given municipality. I saw another web address on the outer label, but the site is completely in Hebrew. Can any of our readers, or other authors, translate this (http://www.ela-el.com)?

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