Quick Update from the Eco-Fair 2007

XelaTeco spent a majority of the last week presenting their products in Guatemala City at the Eco-Fair in the neighborhood of Cuatro Grados Norte. The fair was a success, bringing together national NGO’s focused on recycling waste materials and improving the environment through eco-tourism and reforestation efforts.

Xela Teco displayed models of two types of bio-digestors and a model of the new stove design, along with a Powerpoint presentation describing their vision and displaying photos of past projects. Maricela and Natalia had the chance to speak with prospective clients as well as other NGO’s, and made important contacts for future projects.

It was great to see so many people dedicated to improving the environment and it was really beneficial to be reminded that we are part of a larger community of hard-working visionaries.

Up on the Roof! Stove Demos at AIDG Guatemala

Rosaura and Lorenzo

We have been busy cooking up on the roof of the AIDG office in Xela (which incidentally is resembling and office and workshop space more and more each day!) With the company of Rosaura and Lorenzo from La Florida and Clarita and Katrina from Associacion Pop Atz‘iak (see http://www.popatziak.org) we have been cooking up some real Guatemalan delights!

Cooking on the stoves not only gave us the opportunity to practice our hand at making tortillas and cooking them on the plancha (work top) of the AIDG stoves (an essential quality of a Guatemalan improved stove is that it is suitable for cooking tortillas), but it also gave the women an opportunity to check out the different stove designs currently offered by XelaTeco. This way the women will be able to make informed decisions over which stoves will best suit the needs of their communities.

Interestingly they both picked different stoves. Rosaura preferred the rocket combustion chamber stove. Tests performed by Liakos over the last few weeks show this stove is much more efficient (around 65%) than the other designs currently offered by XelaTeco. The stove uses smaller pieces of wood and the combustion chamber is considerably smaller than other designs, however Rosaura felt it was “vale la pena” (worth the effort) of the extra work to reduce the workload in collecting wood and to preserve the forests around La Florida for their children. XelaTeco will install the stove in the community house in early December with the help of labor and materials provided by the people of La Florida.


Conversely, Katrina, Womens Project Manager at the Associacion Pop Atz’iak (who work with communities all over Guatemala) has decided to propose to the Junta Directiva (Board of Directors) of the organization that they install the ‘Mynor’ or ramp design stove in their association building. This stove has a larger combustion chamber, and the fire needs less maintenance, however consumes more firewood than the other design. Katrina decided this was most appropriate as they cook for large groups at meetings, workshops and women who come to make artesanias, therefore they have less time to spend cutting wood and maintaining the fire.

In both communities the installations will replace open fires and also serve as demonstrations, we plan to hold workshops, inviting women to come and learn about improved stoves, deforestation, respiratory health and why they are designed the way they are. They will also all have the opportunity to cook traditional food on the stove and provide valuable feedback for future XelaTeco designs.

Pedro and Natalia

We have also been doing a spot of cooking over at XelaTeco, where Beau and Pedro have started testing the new metal rocket combustion chamber stove they have been working on together. The stove looks fantastic and is heating up really well, using very little wood. So we cooked some tortillas and beans to celebrate!

The stove will also be tested in a number of communities with which we are collaborating on stove projects. Not only is the design considerably cheaper than those we have currently, but it is portable, flexible (we plan to offer various accessories such as wood storage / drying, shelves and potentially a water heater) and can be pre-fabricated at XelaTeco.

[tags]Guatemala, stoves[/tags]

2007/2008 Human Development Report focuses on Climate Change

Climate change is now a scientifically established fact. – HDR 2007/2008

Image The UNDP just released its annual Human Development Report. This year, the focus is climate change.

From the report:

What we do today about climate change has consequences that will last a century or more. The part of that change that is due to greenhouse gas emissions is not reversible in the foreseeable future. The heat trapping gases we send into the atmosphere in 2008 will stay there until 2108 and beyond. We are therefore making choices today that will affect our own lives, but even more so the lives of our children and grandchildren. This makes climate change different and more difficult than other policy challenges.

Read the Report: Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world [pdf]

Thanks, Steph.

War Dance [Trailer]

Trailer 2
War/Dance Trailer #2
2min 31 secTrailer 1

Duration: 7min 36sec

Set in Northern Uganda, a country ravaged by more than two decades of civil war, WAR DANCE tells the story of Dominic, Rose, and Nancy, three children whose families have been torn apart, their homes destroyed, and who currently reside in a displaced persons camp in Patongo. When they are invited to compete in an annual music and dance festival, their historic journey to their nation’s capital is also an opportunity to regain a part of their childhood and to taste victory for the first time in their lives.

A particularly liked this review from New York Magazine:

[War Dance] directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, centers on children in a remote refugee camp in northern Uganda. They have seen, in many cases, their parents hacked to death, their villages destroyed. They are still surrounded by carnage. In the course of the film, they rehearse for a national music-and-dance festival in the south, where they’ll compete against bigger and better schools—schools in which everyone isn’t an orphan. There are too many competition docs these days (Spellbound opened the floodgates) with built-in cliff-hangers and manufactured inspiration. But the suspense in War/Dance transcends the quest for the big prizes. For these kids to sing and dance with all their hearts, they need to go to a place in themselves that should be closed down forever. The glories of War/Dance are torturously won, and all the more glorious for it.


[tags] war dance, Uganda, trailer, Africa [/tags]

Promoting Sanitation in Bangladesh [World Bank, YouTube]

Building latrines, et al was the easy part. Getting community members to change behavior en masse was another matter entirely. The end results are great, but goodness social marketing (like any other type of marketing) is a manipulative undertaking.

Duration: 9min 44sec

Awakening – Total Sanitation in Bangladesh – Part 2
Awakening – Total Sanitation in Bangladesh – Part 3

[tags] World Bank, Bangladesh, sanitation, video [/tags]

This Week’s Top 10 (11/18/07-11/24/07)

  1. Bangladesh’s cyclone: Yet another calamity from the Economist

    THE heinously overcrowded patch of delta that is Bangladesh found itself in a painful and familiar position on Monday November 19th. The country is struggling to cope with the aftermath of a natural calamity—in this case cyclonic winds that tore across the southern coastline four days before, killing several thousand people.

    The government estimates that over 3,000 people have been killed, although many afflicted areas are still out of reach to rescuers. The Bangladeshi Red Crescent society predicts that the toll will climb above 10,000. The government also estimates that around 3m victims of the storm will need feeding and rehousing.

    See also: Cyclone Sidr: A hurricane by any other name from How the World Works

  2. New York Manhole Covers, Forged Barefoot in India from NYTimes

    NYC Manhole Covers

    Definitely view interactive video.

    NEW DELHI — Eight thousand miles from Manhattan, barefoot, shirtless, whip-thin men rippled with muscle were forging prosaic pieces of the urban jigsaw puzzle: manhole covers.

    Manhole covers manufactured in India can be anywhere from 20 to 60 percent cheaper than those made in the United States, said Alfred Spada, the editor and publisher of Modern Casting magazine and the spokesman for the American Foundry Society. Workers at foundries in India are paid the equivalent of a few dollars a day, while foundry workers in the United States earn about $25 an hour.

    The men making New York City’s manhole covers seemed proud of their work and pleased to be photographed doing it.

    NYC Manhole Covers

    Thanks Megan.

  3. China On Pace To Become Global Leader In Renewable Energy from The Sietch

    China will likely achieve-and may even exceed-its target to obtain 15 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020, according to a new report released by the Worldwatch Institute.

  4. …and the flip side.
    Coal Creates Legacy for China’s Past, Future from World Changing

    Acid rain and air pollution, mainly from the burning of coal, have contributed to the degradation of more than 80 percent of China’s 33 designated World Heritage sites, according to the Associated Press.

    But China’s rising energy demand isn’t just leaving its mark on the country’s heritage. Every 30 seconds, an infant with birth defects is born in China, according to Jiang Fan, deputy head of the country’s National Population and Family Planning Commission. The rate of birth defects nationwide has soared 40 percent in the past five years, from 105 defects per 10,000 births in 2001 to nearly 146 in 2006.

    Birth defect rates are highest in the northern province of Shanxi, an area that is also home to some of China’s richest coal resources.

  5. How Chocolate Can Save the Planet from NPR

    Chocolate is a wonderful thing, but how can it help combat global climate change? Cacao trees — the source of chocolate — grow well in rainforests, and rainforests store carbon. So researchers are working to help preserve the forest and to grow more chocolate.

  6. Climate wars threaten billions from the Guardian (UK)

    A total of 46 nations and 2.7 billion people are now at high risk of being overwhelmed by armed conflict and war because of climate change. A further 56 countries face political destabilisation, affecting another 1.2 billion individuals.

    via Digg Environment

  7. Mexico City Aims for Water Self-Sufficiency by 2020 from Treehugger

    The top environmental official in the Mexico City government, Martha Delgado Peralta, said recently the city was launching a new water sustainability policy to guarantee self-sufficiency and supply for future generations. The target is ambitious — to reach self-sufficiency by 2020 — and the government faces many serious hurdles.

    The pressures on the water system are such that the city’s burgeoning population now extracts water from its aquifers more than twice as fast as they are replenished. As a result, the city is sinking on top of the aquifer that supplies it. It has fallen nearly 30 feet in the last century and drops as much as 15 inches a year in some areas.

  8. How to Recycle Practically Anything from E-magazine
  9. Polar Bears for the South Pole? Biologists Debate Relocating Imperiled Species from Der Spiegel

    If this were the Onion, the next sentence would be “The Penguins are Toast. Nom, nom, nom”.

  10. After the Caudillo from the NYTimes

    Bona fide examples of poetic justice in politics, where the innocent are vindicated and the wicked get their just deserts, are about as rare in real life as they have been commonplace in popular culture, dating at least as far back as “The Count of Monte Cristo.” And yet to the extent that such things do occur, the political triumph of Michelle Bachelet, the current president of Chile — and the first woman in South America who can be said to have earned the title on her own merits — has been just such an event. The woman who was, as a 23-year-old medical student, briefly imprisoned along with her mother by the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and whose father, Air Force Gen. Alberto Bachelet, was tortured and died in military custody in 1974, is now Chile’s chief of state — while the dictator died, his reputation in tatters, shortly after she took office.

Popular Science's Best of What's New 2007 is heavy on the green

Popular Science magazine recently released its “Best of What’s New 2007”. While green tech has its own separate category, many winners in other categories definitely had a green tinge as well. Here are a few:


Chevy Volt

Chevrolet Volt Concept: The plug-in revolution is coming
Electric hybrid that “will manage a 40-mile round trip on electricity alone”.

Honda i-DTEC Diesel: Green[er] diesel without the upkeep (I had to add the “er” in there)

Honda’s new Intelligent Diesel Technology (i-DTEC) engine will be the first diesel that meets toughened 2009 emission standards in all 50 states without carrying urea, saving you that extra annual trip to the dealer.


SunPower Tracker: The most efficient solar panels in the world

This year, SunPower installed 70,000 solar panels, producing 15 megawatts over 140 acres, at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, the largest installation in North America. About a quarter of those panels will use SunPower’s new solar cells to convert the sun’s rays into electricity at 22 percent efficiency, the highest of any commercial solar cells yet.

Marine Current Turbines SeaGen: Making energy while sparing dolphins

The blades of the first commercial tidal stream turbine, the 134-foot-tall SeaGen will spin about 12 times per minute—too slow to injure passing sea life—and churn out 1.2 megawatts, enough to power 1,000 houses. The first turbine should go online this month in the Strangford Narrows near the coast of Northern Ireland.

Home Tech

NatureMill Automatic Composter: Indoor compost without the odor

After a year of stinking up his kitchen, Russ Cohn finally figured out how to turn trash into fertilizer without the rotting stench. His NatureMill pumps fresh air into a basket that rotates organic waste at evenly timed intervals while maintaining a temperature of 140ºF. The heat, air and agitation destroy the compost-munching microbes responsible for emitting stinky methane.

For a lot less than the $300 that this composter will cost you, let Martha Stewart show you the way.

via EcoGeek

[tags]popular science, chevy, volt, hybrid, compost, honda, cars, solar[/tags]