commentary

Superhumans Among Us: People with Abilities Beyond Belief
March 21, 2008 12:34 PM -

He's run a half-marathon in the Arctic Circle region — in bare feet. He's been entombed in ice for 72 straight minutes. He's swum 80 meters beneath a layer of ice. He's climbed partway up Mount Everest, clad only in a pair of shorts. This man is known, unsurprisingly, as The Iceman. And no, he's not a new character on Heroes — he's a 48-year-old Dutchman named Wim Hof, who has the ability to control his body's temperature through an ancient form of meditation known as Tummo. Though Tummo is normally practiced only by monks, Hof has mastered the art form to such an extent that he never feels cold, even in sub-zero temperatures that could cause severe hypothermia, or even death, should us normal people attempt such stunts.

Reforming the approach to 'demand-driven' research
March 21, 2008 12:28 PM -

An evaluation of Dutch-funded research programmes in developing countries raises questions about the concept of local "ownership". Anyone interested in learning more about the possibilities and limitations of demand-driven research — in which research programmes are determined by those who will benefit from their results — should look at the recent experience of Dutch organisations that fund research in developing countries.

Bike Park Planned for New York City
March 21, 2008 12:26 PM -

We all know it's way easier on the environment to ride a bike than to drive a car — not to mention, a few miles of cycling each day might finally take off those extra ten pounds you put on over the holidays. And best of all, biking is absolutely free — no gas prices or bus tickets to worry about. To us, it sounds like the perfect transportation situation.

Landless and exposed to the elements
March 21, 2008 12:19 PM -

Uganda’s Batwa communities have been marginalised for decades. Now they are struggling to cope with extreme weather conditions, and want better homes to protect them from storms and landslides. Among the posh office premises of the Red Cross Society and the court of adjudicature on Muchingo hill, in Uganda's western district of Kisoro, are ramshackle houses in which a community of Batwa people live.

Could Wal-Mart (And its Bad Labor Practices) Revive the Labor Movement?
March 21, 2008 12:15 PM -

Referring to Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. as a "successful business" is like calling the Pacific Ocean a "large body of water." Since its founding in 1962, Wal-Mart has come to be recognized as a marketing phenomenon, a retailing juggernaut, an icon, a household word around the globe.

Can India Improve Energy Efficiency as Its Economy Booms?
March 21, 2008 12:07 PM -

In India, new building codes, appliance eco-labels, and conservation contests are all bringing energy efficiency to the national agenda. Some citizens have even adopted an energy-conscious pledge—“Saving electricity is my national duty”—agreeing to switch off appliances and use energy-saving light bulbs. But beyond the rhetoric, India’s efforts to improve energy efficiency have been slow and often frustrating, analysts say.

Throwing Polar Bears a Lifeline
March 21, 2008 11:50 AM -

A trio of leading environmental groups joined together again last week in filing suit against the federal government for missing the legal deadline—it passed more than two months ago—to make a final decision on whether to afford the polar bear protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The three groups—the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace—contend that polar bear populations are threatened due to the global warming-induced break-up of the Arctic sea ice that serves as their habitat during the crucial summer feeding season. Several leading scientists concur that the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer within a half-dozen years. And a recent U.S. Geological Survey report predicted that two-thirds of the world’s remaining polar bears would likely be extinct by 2050, including all polar bears within the U.S.

Billboards Never Looked So Good
March 21, 2008 10:45 AM -

One medium that lends itself well to the use of discarded materials are bags - handbags, totes, backpacks, attache bags, wallets. I have seen an incredible array of bags made entirely from, or at least incorporating trash, or what would one day surely be bound for landfill but for this creative re-fabrication. Some of my favorites are one of a kind, few of a kind or one-of-a-kind pieces. Lately, billboards have been getting a lot of mileage in the eco-accessories world.

Do You Know What Toxic Chemicals Lurk in Your Clothing?
March 13, 2008 12:24 AM -

You know that if you eat that sugar-filled cookie, it might spike your insulin, and if you put on cosmetics with chemicals in them, they will probably end up in your blood. But have you ever thought twice about putting on your favorite T-shirt, or snuggling into your cotton sheets? A growing number of parents are demanding organic cotton clothing and diapers for their babies. Many don't stop with clothing, but have furnished their homes with organic flooring or carpeting, organic mattresses, organic linens, organic window coverings etc. Are they fanatics or do they have scientific evidence to support their lifestyle changes?

Pushing for 'Fair Food' on Campus in the Land of Hog Factories
March 13, 2008 12:19 AM -

Last year, a bunch of students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill got tired of the industrial dreck served up in the cafeteria. They discovered that the landscape around them was producing some amazing, chemical-free meat and produce and set about figuring out how to get some in school dining halls. Led by seniors Sally Lee and David Hamilton, they declared themselves FLO Food (FLO = fair, local, organic), and began negotiating with Campus Dining Services in earnest. CDC took them seriously and negotiated respectfully, but a key gap in understanding between the two groups quickly emerged.

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