Monday, December 6, 2010

Fog Harvesting

Image by: Evan Leeson/ecstaticist
Small communities in Chile, Peru  and South Africa are harvesting fog for their water needs.  Fog harvesting is an ancient technique of collecting water -- dates as far back as 2,000 years ago when people collected fog water dripping from trees.  Serious harvesting started only a hundred years ago.  The idea for a mesh fog collector probably came from observing dew on a spider web.  Apparently, humidity changes the structure of the protein fibers of a spider web creating knots in them.  The water droplets slide down the smooth part of the fiber in-between the knots and collect at the knots.

Encouraged by the success of this project,
two German conservationists, Kai Tiedemann
and Anne Lummerich, tried the same technique in
Bellavista, Peru a settlement close to its capital city Lima.  Lima gets only a few drops of rain a year but a thick fog covers the city eight months in a year. The Germans who run an NGO called the Alimón enlisted the help of the members of the community in building these meshes, planting the trees, laying the gutters and creating a reservoir/tanks for the water.  Alimón is a Spanish term for 'working together'.  This project would not be possible without the participation of the entire community.  For more on the work of this NGO click here.

The 200 people that live on the steep slopes of Bellavista had no running water and are considerably poorer than the residents that live downhill and enjoy municipal water.  They spent one-fourth of their incomes on water which was delivered to them in trucks.  Fog harvested water has very little impurities and is much cheaper. A single net alone catches about 560 liters of water.  “At the beginning,” Lummerich said, “the people from the village thought Kai carried the water uphill during the night to fill the tanks, because they couldn’t believe there was so much water.”

Funnel shaped contraptions tied to Tara/casuarina trees also collect fog water; they drip down into gutters or tiled channels and transported storage tanks.  What is wonderful about fog harvesting is that people actually plant trees and there is no threat to the environment. 

It is also heartening to know that communities bond when there is a common cause.

The fog harvesting pictures on the blog are from this National Geographic website

Update 4/7/2013: Thanks to for featuring my post on their forum!!  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cop Cuts in Camden, NJ

Camden plans to lay off half of its police officers and a third of its firefighters this fiscal year. What is to happen to this city that had the highest crime rate in the country in 2008? Although 2009 saw a little improvement, the city is still the second most dangerous place in the US. It has a population of about 78,000 and these alarming crime statistics:

Year to Date (November)
Murder 49 35 33 45 53 30
Rape 56 47 66 67 66 55
Robbery 822 702 771 781 813 690
Agg Assault 897 898 818 865 832 915
Burglary 1,159 1,020 1,178 1,128 1,218 919
Theft 2,775 2,332 2,424 2,311 2,680 2,036
Auto Theft 1,357 955 1,180 1,161 993 922
Arson 172 142 129 115 120 122

(Source:  Camden Police Department, UCR Status Report and Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs, Rutgers University)

Camden against Downtown Philadelphia Backdrop
And what of the police officers, firefighters and other city workers who will be laid off?  How will they support their families and their mortgages?  Camden depends considerably on state aid; it has no tax base to raise revenue or cover its deficit.  From 2002 to 2010, the city was forbidden to raise property taxes.  PILOTs  or payments in lieu of taxes, were approved by state appointees so that large corporations in the city did not pay much taxes.  The New Jersey state budget cuts have further crippled the city.  Since the state takeover in 2002, not much effort has been put into luring investors here; the city has now been dropped like a hot potato. Whoever comes here these days, visits the aquarium or the Rutgers University (never after dark); the glory days of Campbell Soup, Lockheed Martin and RCA have long since been erased from its memory.  All we can look forward to are days of lawlessness.  Gangs will get a firmer foothold, and people who want a better life will just move. 

Camden--Near Drop
I think the government should now think in terms of planned demolition of the city.  Urban planning to bring about urban renewal. Maybe that will provide more jobs?  Companies could be persuaded to build around the Rutgers University campus providing employment to new graduates thereby extending the safety zone in the city.  Schools hours could be extended, so children's activities could be supervised.  They would have no time for gangs and would learn a little civic sense.  Salaries are a small price to pay for the overall mental and economic health of the community. Society needs growth--maybe this is the way to help it grow.