Using technology inspired by manta rays to count the plastic in our oceans

Using technology inspired by manta rays to count the plastic in our oceans

This article is published in collaboration with Futurism.
Scuba divers watch as a four meter giant manta ray visits a cleaning station just outside Hanifaru Bay of Maldives' remote Baa Atoll, August 11, 2011. Every year, hundreds of whale sharks and giant manta rays gather for their annual feeding frenzy of plankton in July and August, in the geologically unique Hanifaru Bay. For reasons of conservation, Maldives is likely to shut down Hanifaru Bay to divers, making this the last season divers can see this one-of-a-kind phenomenon. REUTERS/David Loh    (MALDIVES - Tags: ANIMALS SOCIETY ENVIRONMENT) - RTR2PTYB

There are 269,000 tons of plastic floating on the surface of the ocean, with much more littering the depths below, and its destroying ecosystems across the world.
Image: REUTERS/David Loh
Written by
Cecille De JesusProject Manager, Futurism
Friday 16 December 2016
Latest Articles

Goodbye car ownership, hello clean air: welcome to the future of transport

16 Dec 2016

A year of global terrorism, captured in one map

16 Dec 2016

4 ways to recruit and retain the best talent

16 Dec 2016

Out of Sight, But Definitely Not Out of Mind

We’ve all seen it: beaches littered with plastic trash, with some floating about in the water. As if this is not bad enough, there’s actually far more than what the eye can see. As plastic debris is weathered by sunlight, tampered by marine life, and tossed around by waves, they break down into small particles, called microplastics. And we’re not even sure where they ultimately end up, or what the full extent of their damage really is, seeing as it would take 500-1,000 years for the substance to fully degrade.

The North Pacific Ocean contains the most plastic

Image: VOX EU

In a mission to track down where the plastics go, members of Denmark-based international organization Plastic Change went to Kamilo Beach in Hawaii. The group used a Manta Trawl, a manta ray-inspired data collection device that skims the ocean surface for miles, gathering small plastic particles in a fine mesh net. They also collected water samples from different depths.

Plastic Oceans

The damage plastics inflict on global marine life is incalculable. There is an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, 269,000 tons of which float on the surface of the ocean while four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea. EcoWatch estimates that 40% of the world’s ocean surface is not even ocean anymore, but plastic debris.
According to Plastic Change, these numbers will double in the next ten years if we don’t act on it. Sustainable disposables are making their way into the market, albeit slowly. France recently announced they will be banning conventional plastics by 2020. Hopefully, more countries will follow suit.
Water is one of the most fundamental attributes that make life on Earth possible, which is why we look for signs of liquid water in other planets and celestial bodies. And for something undeniably vital to our very existence, we don’t seem to be treating it with the reverence it is owed.

Written by

Cecille De Jesus, Project Manager, Futurism

This article is published in collaboration with Futurism.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.


Contemporary home set on a limited area uses all of the surroundings carefully

Contemporary home set on a limited area uses all of the surroundings carefully

Architects: Urban Angles
Location: Windsor, Sydney, New South WalesAustralia
Year: 2016
Photo courtesy: Urban Angles


Thank you for reading this article!


Learning a language makes you more tolerant, so why aren’t more universities encouraging it?

Learning a language makes you more tolerant, so why aren’t more universities encouraging it?

This article is published in collaboration with The Conversation.
Joy Cheng, a foreign exchange student from Taipei, Taiwan, listens to her junior high science teacher at Grant-Deuel School in Revillo, South Dakota February 13, 2012. This year, 11 students from China, Thailand, Germany and elsewhere account for nearly 20% of high school enrollment, bringing cash and a welcome splash of diversity to an isolated patch of the Great Plains. Grant-Deuel is not alone. Across the United States, public high schools in struggling small towns are putting their empty classroom seats up for sale. Picture taken February 13. To match Insight USA-SCHOOLS/FOREIGN REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION SOCIETY) - RTR2Z0K8

Learning a new language may make you more tolerant towards other people.
Written by
Amy ThompsonAssociate Professor of Applied Linguistics, University of South Florida
Tuesday 13 December 2016
Latest Articles

Goodbye car ownership, hello clean air: welcome to the future of transport

16 Dec 2016

A year of global terrorism, captured in one map

16 Dec 2016

4 ways to recruit and retain the best talent

16 Dec 2016

There are many benefits to knowing more than one language. For example, it has been shown that aging adults who speak more than one language have less likelihood of developing dementia.

Additionally, the bilingual brain becomes better at filtering out distractions, and learning multiple languages improves creativity. Evidence also shows that learning subsequent languages is easier than learning the first foreign language.

Unfortunately, not all American universities consider learning foreign languages a worthwhile investment.

Why is foreign language study important at the university level?

As an applied linguist, I study how learning multiple languages can have cognitive and emotional benefits. One of these benefits that’s not obvious is that language learning improves tolerance.

This happens in two important ways.

The first is that it opens people’s eyes to a way of doing things in a way that’s different from their own, which is called “cultural competence.”

The second is related to the comfort level of a person when dealing with unfamiliar situations, or “tolerance of ambiguity.”

Gaining cross-cultural understanding

Cultural competence is key to thriving in our increasingly globalized world. How specifically does language learning improve cultural competence? The answer can be illuminated by examining different types of intelligence.

Psychologist Robert Sternberg’s research on intelligence describes different types of intelligence and how they are related to adult language learning. What he refers to as “practical intelligence” is similar to social intelligence in that it helps individuals learn nonexplicit information from their environments, including meaningful gestures or other social cues.

Language learning inevitably involves learning about different cultures. Students pick up clues about the culture both in language classes and through meaningful immersion experiences.

Researchers Hanh Thi Nguyen and Guy Kellogg have shown that when students learn another language, they develop new ways of understanding culture through analyzing cultural stereotypes. They explain that “learning a second language involves the acquisition not only of linguistic forms but also ways of thinking and behaving.”

With the help of an instructor, students can critically think about stereotypes of different cultures related to food, appearance and conversation styles.

Dealing with the unknown

The second way that adult language learning increases tolerance is related to the comfort level of a person when dealing with “tolerance of ambiguity.”

Someone with a high tolerance of ambiguity finds unfamiliar situations exciting, rather than frightening. My research on motivation, anxiety and beliefs indicates that language learning improves people’s tolerance of ambiguity, especially when more than one foreign language is involved.

It’s not difficult to see why this may be so. Conversations in a foreign language will inevitably involve unknown words. It wouldn’t be a successful conversation if one of the speakers constantly stopped to say, “Hang on – I don’t know that word. Let me look it up in the dictionary.” Those with a high tolerance of ambiguity would feel comfortable maintaining the conversation despite the unfamiliar words involved.

Applied linguists Jean-Marc Dewaele and Li Wei also study tolerance of ambiguity and have indicated that those with experience learning more than one foreign language in an instructed setting have more tolerance of ambiguity.

What changes with this understanding

A high tolerance of ambiguity brings many advantages. It helps students become less anxious in social interactions and in subsequent language learningexperiences. Not surprisingly, the more experience a person has with language learning, the more comfortable the person gets with this ambiguity.

And that’s not all.

Individuals with higher levels of tolerance of ambiguity have also been found to be more entrepreneurial (i.e., are more optimistic, innovative and don’t mind taking risks).

In the current climate, universities are frequently being judged by the salaries of their graduates. Taking it one step further, based on the relationship of tolerance of ambiguity and entrepreneurial intention, increased tolerance of ambiguity could lead to higher salaries for graduates, which in turn, I believe, could help increase funding for those universities that require foreign language study.

Those who have devoted their lives to theorizing about and the teaching of languages would say, “It’s not about the money.” But perhaps it is.

Language learning in higher ed

Most American universities have a minimal language requirement that often varies depending on the student’s major. However, students can typically opt out of the requirement by taking a placement test or providing some other proof of competency.

In contrast to this trend, Princeton recently announced that all students, regardless of their competency when entering the university, would be required to study an additional language.

I’d argue that more universities should follow Princeton’s lead, as language study at the university level could lead to an increased tolerance of the different cultural norms represented in American society, which is desperately needed in the current political climate with the wave of hate crimes sweeping university campuses nationwide.

Knowledge of different languages is crucial to becoming global citizens. As former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted,

“Our country needs to create a future in which all Americans understand that by speaking more than one language, they are enabling our country to compete successfully and work collaboratively with partners across the globe.”

Considering the evidence that studying languages as adults increases tolerance in two important ways, the question shouldn’t be “Why should universities require foreign language study?” but rather “Why in the world wouldn’t they?”

Written by

Amy Thompson, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics, University of South Florida

This article is published in collaboration with The Conversation.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.


Contemporary Bracketed Space House in Austin by Matt Fajkus Architecture

Contemporary Bracketed Space House in Austin by Matt Fajkus Architecture

Architects: Matt Fajkus Architecture
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Year: 2016
Area: 4.844 ft²/ 450 m²
Photo courtesy: Charles Davis Smith , Spaces & Faces Photography

“Incorporating the site’s dynamic landscape into the daily life of its residents, the Bracketed Space House is designed as a meaningfully-framed procession through the property with nuanced natural lighting throughout.


A continuous and jogging retaining wall from outside to inside embeds the structure below natural grade at the front with flush transitions at its rear facade. All indoor spaces open up to a courtyard which terraces down to the tree canopy, creating a readily visible and occupiable transitional space between man-made and nature.


The courtyard scheme is simplified by the common and private wings – connected by a glass dining “bridge.” This transparent volume also visually connects the front yard to the courtyard, clearing for the prospect view, while maintaining a subdued street presence. The staircase acts as a vertical “knuckle,” mediating shifting wing angles while contrasting the predominant horizontality of the house.”


Thank you for reading this article!


Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." 

– Clare Boothe Luce

Dancer – Sophie.Kodak 


Your kitchen and the planet: the impact of our food on the environment

Your kitchen and the planet: the impact of our food on the environment

This article is published in collaboration with The Conversation.
A shopping trolley is pushed around a supermarket in London, Britain May 19, 2015. Britain's annual rate of consumer price inflation fell below zero for the first time in more than half a century, official figures showed on Tuesday, though Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the dip was likely to be brief.

New research examines the environmental impact of the food we eat.
Image: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Written by
Stephen CluneSenior Lecturer Sustainable Design, Lancaster University
Karli VerghesePrincipal Research Fellow, RMIT University
Monday 12 December 2016
Latest Articles

Goodbye car ownership, hello clean air: welcome to the future of transport

16 Dec 2016

A year of global terrorism, captured in one map

16 Dec 2016

4 ways to recruit and retain the best talent

16 Dec 2016

The food we eat is responsible for almost a third of our global carbon footprint. In research recently published in the Journal of Cleaner Production we ranked fresh foods based on how much greenhouse gas is produced from farm to fork.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that red meat is the most emissions-intensive food we consume. But we also found that field-grown vegetables produce the least greenhouse gas. For instance, it takes about 50 onions to produce a kilogram of greenhouse gas, but only 44 grams of beef to produce the same amount.

We hope that chefs, caterers and everyday foodies will use this information to cook meals without cooking the planet.

From farm to fork

To produce our ranking, we compiled 369 published life-cycle assessment studies of 168 varieties of fresh produce, including fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, grains and nuts, dairy and livestock.

To find out how much greenhouse gas is produced in food production, we need to look at all the activities that produce emissions on the way from paddock to the regional distribution centre.

This includes: farm inputs from chemicals and fertilisers; fuel and energy inputs from irrigation and machinery for cultivation, harvesting and processing; and transport and refrigeration to the regional distribution centre.

It also includes emissions released from fertilised soils, plants and animals in fields, but doesn’t include activities such as retail, cooking in the home and human consumption.

The carbon footprint of foods

Image: The Conversation

In the case of non-ruminant (chicken and pork) and ruminant (lamb and beef) livestock, processes covered include breeding, feed production, fertiliser use, farm/broiler energy use including heating, as well as transport, processing at the slaughterhouse and refrigeration to the regional distribution centre.

For lamb and beef the main source of emissions is methane. This is due to the fermentation process in which bacteria convert feed into energy in the animals’ stomachs. Methane can contribute anything above 50% of the total for ruminant livestock.

In the case of fish, species caught offshore by longline fishing fleets and trawlers have higher values because of the significantly higher fuel consumption than coastal fishing fleets.

It is difficult to compare different life-cycle analyses as these are unique to a particular growing region, farming practice, or methodological calculation. We agree there is danger in comparing one analysis with another to make direct comparisons and concrete conclusions.

However, after comparing 1,800 life-cycle analysis results, we feel far more comfortable in generalising the findings.

There is a large variation (median values) in results between food categories and also within categories, as illustrated below:

The carbon footprint food pyramid

Image: The Conversation

Cooking with less gas

Due to different culinary and dietary requirements, it is hard to argue that you can replace beef with onions. However, it is possible to substitute red meat with other meats, or plant-based protein sources, such as lentils and nuts, that have a lower impact.

Our study can help everyday citizens gain a better appreciation of the life-cycle impacts associated with the growing, harvesting and processing of food. With this knowledge, they can better plan, shop, prepare and cook food while reducing their carbon footprint.

Spaghetti bolognaise with reduced carbon footprint

Image: The Conversation

As the world grapples with the estimated US$940 billion per year in economic losses globally as a result of food loss and waste, these data illustrate the embedded carbon impacts when food is wasted in the supply chain.

Our results could be used to plan menus for individuals and catering companies who want to reduce their carbon footprint, by selecting foods from different categories.

Limited studies are available, however, for many popular foods. This includes tree nuts such as almonds and cashews, and quinoa, duck, rabbit, turkey and kangaroo.

We need to know more about the emissions intensity of these foods as they are often presented as alternative protein sources with low emissions. The lack of published data makes emissions intensity of these foods harder to validate, and such information is critical if attempts are made to inform dietary choice for environmental purposes.

Written by

Stephen Clune, Senior Lecturer Sustainable Design, Lancaster University

Karli Verghese, Principal Research Fellow, RMIT University

This article is published in collaboration with The Conversation.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.


How to Protect the Sacroiliac Joints

How to Protect the Sacroiliac Joints

Figure 1
The SI Joint

View in Detail

For some specialists, SI pain is a mysterious phenomenon.  Learn some theories about its origin as well as practical ways to help your students prevent or treat SI problems.

If you ask a room full of beginning yoga students where their sacroiliac joints are, most will reply with a blank look that says, “I don’t have a clue.” This is a healthy response–if they don’t know where it is, it probably doesn’t hurt. If you ask a room full of more advanced yoga students–or teachers–the same question, many will immediately start rubbing a bony bump on their lower back, a couple of inches below the belt line and two or three inches to the side of the midline. That’s a pathological response; they rub that spot because it aches. And if you ask a room full of orthopedic surgeons what’s going on with these students and teachers, some will say the ache is coming from a sacroiliac injury, while others will pooh-pooh that idea and insist that the pain is from an injured disk or other spinal problem. What’s going on here?

The probable answer is that in most people (such as beginning yoga students and orthopedic surgeons), the sacroiliac joints don’t move much, if at all. Because of this, beginning students never notice them, and some doctors don’t believe that anything short of a train wreck could push them far enough out of place to cause trouble. In more advanced yoga students and teachers, on the other hand, it appears that these joints often move quite a bit, and they frequently get hurt in the process.

While there is no conclusive, scientific proof that this answer is correct, there is ample medical evidence from the non-yoga world that the sacroiliac joints can indeed move and can be a source of back pain. Regardless of the cause of the all-too-familiar “SI joint” ache in asana practice, yoga teachers have discovered some very effective ways to prevent or relieve it. Let’s start from the beginning and explore this SI phenomenon step-by-step so that you can learn to prevent or treat the problem in yourself or your students.

Where Does it Hurt?

First, let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same thing. If you’ve been around the yoga community long enough, you have heard many yoga students complain of what they call “sacroiliac pain” or “SI pain.” If you question them carefully, you’ll find that this pain usually follows a very specific pattern (described below) that sets it apart from other types of back pain. However, you will also find some students who think they have SI pain when their symptoms don’t fit the pattern, and other students whose symptoms fit the SI pattern but who don’t call their problem by that name.

In this article, we’ll assume that pain that fits the specific pattern below originates in the sacroiliac joints or their surrounding ligaments, even though we acknowledge that some reputable people believe the pain originates elsewhere. It’s very important not to confuse what we are calling SI pain with other types of back pain, because, in most cases, the explanations and suggestions in this article simply don’t apply to students with other types of pain.

The cardinal symptom of SI pain is an ache on or around the posterior superior iliac spine (PSIS), on one side of the body only. The PSIS is the rear-most point of bone on the pelvis. In most students you can palpate it by pressing your fingers into the back of the pelvis above the main mass of the buttock, about two or three inches to the side of the center line of the upper sacrum. If you find it, you will feel a distinct, bony prominence beneath your fingers. If your student tells you that that spot, or the depression just to the inside of it, is achy or tender, while the corresponding spot on the other side of her body is not tender, then she probably has the classic SI problem associated with yoga. (Note that, although your student feels SI pain on or very near the PSIS, this bone actually lies a short distance away from the sacroiliac joint. We’ll look at the anatomy of the joint later.)

If your student does not have pain localized over either PSIS, then she probably does not have an SI problem. For example, some students will report pain localized only on the midline of the sacrum or lumbar spine. Others will report only pain that is clearly above, below or far to the outside of the PSIS. None of these pain patterns is the classic sacroiliac pattern. If your student tells you she has pain over both PSIS bones, her problem is probably either (1) not of sacroiliac origin at all (in which case most of the suggestions in this article probably won’t help), or (2) a complicated problem that may involve one or both SI joints along with other structures (in which case the suggestions in this article may or may not help).

When you find a student with classic, one-sided SI pain, she may tell you that the ache she feels over her PSIS also seems to radiate forward over her pelvic rim, possibly as far as her front groin or upper-inner thigh. She may also report pain that runs down the outside of the hip and leg. It is important to distinguish outer hip and leg pain caused by SI problems from sciatica. Sciatica is pain that follows the course of the sciatic nerve, and it is usually caused by a lumbar disk problem (see Protect the Disks in Forward Bends and Twists). Unlike sacroiliac pain, sciatic pain feels like it passes deep through in the fleshy part of the buttock and travels down the back of the thigh (on the outer side). SI pain emanates from above the buttock and travels only down the side of the thigh, not along the back of it. Also, if your student’s pain radiates all the way to her foot, she would feel sciatica between her first and second toes, whereas she would feel SI pain only on the outer edge of her foot or heel.

Most students with SI problems will tell you that long periods of sitting and most types of forward bends aggravate their pain, but this is also true for students with sciatica and other back problems. And, as with other back problems, backbends can either relieve SI symptoms or make them worse. But unlike students with other back problems, those with SI pain are often particularly aggravated by wide-legged (abducted) poses, such as Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend), Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend),
Utthita Trikonasana
(Extended Triangle Pose), Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose), and Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose). They also have trouble with twists, such as Marichyasana III (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi III), and side-bends, such as Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose). For many, the worst pose is a combination of twisting, abduction, and forward bending, namely Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose).

Let’s look at the anatomy of the sacroiliac joint to see how it can get injured and what we can do to prevent or relieve trouble there.

Sacroiliac Joint Anatomy 101

A joint is where two bones come together. The sacroiliac joint is where the sacrum bone and the ilium bone join one another.

The sacrum is located at the base of your spine. It is composed of five vertebrae that have fused together during development to form a single bone roughly the size of your hand. When you view the sacrum from the front, it looks like a triangle with its point facing down. When you view it from the side, you see that it curves, concave in front, convex behind, and that it tilts, so its top end is well forward of its bottom end. Protruding from the bottom end of the sacrum is the tailbone (coccyx).

Each half of the pelvis is composed of three bones, the ilium, the ischium and the pubic bone, that have fused together during development. The topmost bone (the one that forms the pelvic rim) is the ilium. The sacrum is wedged between the left and right ilium bones. On the upper part of the sacrum, on each side, there is a rough, rather flat surface that abuts a corresponding rough, flat surface on the ilium. These surfaces are called auricular surfaces. The places where the auricular surfaces of the sacrum and ilium come together are the sacroiliac joints.

The sacrum bears the weight of the spine. The SI joints distribute this weight so that half goes to each hip and, from there, to each leg. As gravity wedges the triangular sacrum firmly down between the inclined auricular surfaces of the ilium bones, it tends to force the ilium bones apart, but strong ligaments prevent them from moving. This wedging action and the resistance of the ligaments combine to form a stable joint.

Some of the ligaments that stabilize the SI joints cross directly over the line where the sacrum and ilium meet. Those on the front are called the ventral sacroiliac ligaments, and those on the back are the dorsal sacroiliac ligaments. Other strong ligaments (the interosseous ligaments) fill the space just above the SI joints, holding the ilium bones firmly against the sides of the upper sacrum. The normal, tilted position of the sacrum places its top end forward of the SI joints and its bottom end behind them. This setup means the weight of the spine tends to rotate the sacrum around the axis formed by the SI joints, pushing the top end down and lifting the bottom end up. The sacrotuberous and sacrospinous ligaments are ideally located to oppose this rotation by anchoring the lower end of the sacrum to the lower part of the pelvis (the ischium bones).

The auricular surfaces of the sacrum and ilium are lined by cartilage. The joint space is completely surrounded by connective tissue and is filled with a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid. Like other synovial joints, the SI joints can move; however, their range of motion is very limited. For example, trained chiropractors, physical therapists and other professionals learn to feel the PSIS tilting back slightly relative to the sacrum when a standing person lifts one knee toward the chest as if marching. This rocking action is thought to aid in walking. However, according to one anatomy text,

The sacroiliac synovial joint rather regularly shows pathologic changes in adults, and in many males more than 30 years of age, and in most males after the age of 50, the joint becomes ankylosed (fused, with the disappearance of the joint cavity); this occurs less frequently in females.¹

In other words, with age, the sacrum and the two ilium bones often merge into a single bone. This might explain why some orthopedic surgeons do not believe in SI joint injury. Perhaps they have operated on adults, seen with their own eyes that the sacrum is completely fused to the two ilium bones, and concluded that even the slightest dislocation of this joint is impossible. This may well be true in people whose joints have fused, but that leaves out the rest of us, more women than men, who, through heredity or lifestyle (including yoga), have retained mobility in our SI joints.

Feeling Out of Place

Many health professionals who have worked with yogis believe that the cause of their sacroiliac pain is excessive movement of the joint, leading to misalignment, ligament strain, and, possibly, eventual deterioration of cartilage and bone on the auricular surfaces. There are a number of theories about the details of the pathology. To understand one hypothesis about what SI misalignment means, imagine a piece of china that has broken in two. The broken edge of each piece has a rough surface, but, because they match one another exactly, you can fit the two pieces back together precisely. The bumps on one surface fit into the depressions on the other, and vice versa. When you glue the two pieces back together, all you see is a tiny hairline where the break was. But if you misalign the two pieces in any direction, the bumps on one will clash with the bumps on the other, and the crack between them will remain wide.

Similarly, the auricular surfaces of the sacrum and ilium have bumps and depressions that fit together beautifully when you align them properly but clash with one another if you shift the bones out of place in any direction. In this hypothesis, the pressure of bump on bump is the source of SI pain. If it continues over a long period of time it may eventually cause the cartilage and then the bone to deteriorate, causing more pain.

Since strong ligaments hold together the SI joint, the only way to move it out of place with yoga is to overstretch those ligaments. So another hypothesis is that the source of SI pain is sprained or torn ligaments, rather than injury to the joint surfaces themselves. Of course, the two hypotheses are not mutually exclusive; on the contrary, it seems likely that an extreme stretch could simultaneously damage ligaments and move the joint out of alignment.

Why Me?

Why would the SI joint move excessively in more experienced yoga practitioners and teachers, but not in most beginners or other people? Obviously more advanced yogis perform more extreme stretches and repeat them over a longer period of time. But self-selection may also be a factor: a lot of people choose to start and stick with yoga because they are already naturally flexible. So, for pre-existing biological reasons (such as genetic or hormonal differences), many dedicated practitioners may have come to yoga with looser ligaments and muscles than other people, putting them at increased risk of SI instability. Similarly, the high proportion of women in yoga could contribute to the high proportion of SI problems. Women are more susceptible to sacroiliac trouble than men for several reasons. For starters, the width and structure of the female pelvis makes the SI joint less stable in women. Next, women (on average) have more flexible ligaments than men. Finally, women who have been through childbirth sometimes have SI damage because a hormone of pregnancy (relaxin) dramatically loosens ligaments all over the body and the process of childbirth puts enormous strain on the SI joints.

But clearly, we can’t blame it all on heredity, hormones, and hard labor. Yoga postures do contribute to sacroiliac problems. What causes the trouble, and what can we do about it?

Getting ahead of Yourself

No one knows for sure, but it appears that in yoga, the most common SI problem occurs when the top of the sacrum tilts too far forward on one side of the body relative to the ilium. This may happen, for example, in asymmetrical forward bends like Janu Sirsasana. Your student’s bent leg holds one side of her pelvis back while she uses her arms to pull her spine toward her other leg. The spine pulls the top of her sacrum forward on both sides, but the top of the pelvis (the ilium) stays farther back on the bent leg side, so the top of the sacrum separates from the ilium and moves in front of it on that side.

Something similar can happen when students practice two-leg forward bends, like Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), unevenly. For example, if your student’s right hamstring muscles are tighter than her left ones, when she bends forward in Paschimottanasana her right sitting bone will stop lifting before her left. This will cause her right ilium to stop tilting forward before her left. As her spine bends farther forward, it will drag the top of her sacrum along with it. This will pull the right side of her sacrum forward of her ilium, which is tilted to its maximal point, unseating her SI joint on that side and overstretching the surrounding ligaments. Meanwhile, her left ilium will keep moving forward along with the left side of her sacrum, so she won’t put undue stress on her left SI joint.

Even if she practices Paschimottanasana perfectly symmetrically, your student’s forward bending action will still stretch her SI ligaments (including the sacrotuberous and sacrospinous ligaments, which normally resist the forward tilt of the sacrum by stopping the lower end from lifting up). This will loosen both of her SI joints, making them more vulnerable to displacement in other poses. If she has loose pubococcygeus muscles (the muscles that run between pubic bone and tail bone), this may make the problem worse by making it easier for the tail bone end of the sacrum to lift up.

Once your student tilts one side (or both sides) of her sacrum too far forward, it tends to get stuck there. The sacrum is narrower in the back than in the front, so as it moves forward, the ilium bones move closer to one another. To slide her sacrum back into place, your student has to force her ilium bones apart against the resistance of the ventral, dorsal, and interosseous sacroiliac ligaments. This is especially hard because it also requires that she slide the bumpy joint surfaces of her sacrum and ilium over one another. This may be why backbending postures sometimes hurt when the SI joint is out of place (she presses bump on bump), but also why backends sometimes relieve SI pain (it feels good if she succeeds in getting the sacrum back where it belongs).

So backbends can be good or bad for the SI joints, while forward bends usually spell trouble. Postures that spread the thighs wide apart (into abduction), like Baddha Konasana, Upavistha Konasana, and Virabhadrasana II are also big time troublemakers. These poses all pull on the adductor (inner thigh) muscles, drawing the pubic bones away from one another. This action apparently pulls apart a critical portion of the SI joints (perhaps it opens the front of the joints more than the back, or opens the lower part of the joints more than the upper part). As the joints unlock, it is easier for the sacrum to slip forward out of place. Loose pelvic floor muscles may aggravate this problem because they allow the left and right halves of the lower pelvis to move away from one another more easily than tight muscles do.

If the above reasoning is correct, then combining abduction with forward bending should be especially hard on the SI joints. The evidence seems to bear this out: people with SI problems often find it puts their SI joint “out” if they bend forward in spread-leg poses like Baddha Konasana, Upavistha Konasana, or Prasarita Padottanasana.

Twists and side-bending postures can also cause trouble for people with unstable SI joints. Twists (like Marichyasana III) can pull one side the sacrum forward of the other. Side bends (like Utthita Trikonasana, Utthita Parsvakonasana, and Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana) may create a gap in the joint on one side and jam it on the other. While side bending alone is unlikely put the joint out of place, the gapping it causes can further loosen an already overstretched interosseous ligament, and the jamming it causes can further irritate misaligned auricular surfaces by pressing them harder against one another.

To round out the picture, imbalances in hip flexor muscles may also contribute to SI problems. The two psoas muscles connect the front of the lumbar spine to the upper inner thighbones. If one of them is tighter than the other, it might pull one side of the spine too far forward, pulling that side of the sacrum along with it. The two iliacus muscles connect the front of the ilium bones to the upper inner thighbones. A tight iliacus on one side could cause a different kind of SI problem by pulling the ilium too far forward relative to the sacrum.

Luckily, SI problems can be avoided. Read Practice tips for the S.I. Joint for specific asana advice that will help keep your teaching safe.

¹Hollinshead, WH. Textbook of Anatomy. Second Edition. New York: Harper and Row, 1967, p. 378.

Teachers, explore the newly improved TeachersPlus to protect yourself with liability insurance, build your business with a dozen valuable benefits including a free teacher profile on our national directory, plus find answers to all your questions about teaching.

Roger Cole, Ph.D. is an Iyengar-certified yoga teacher and Stanford-trained scientist. He specializes in human anatomy and in the physiology of relaxation, sleep, and biological rhythms. Find him at



    namaste, difficult emotions

    10 Ways to Hold Space for Difficult Emotions in Your Yoga Classes
    This post-election period offers yoga teachers a unique opportunity to find their authentic teaching voice. Yoga teacher Desi Bartlett offers some tips to guide you.

    Yoga Anatomy book cover, Leslie Kaminoff

    The Bestselling Book Yoga Anatomy Gets Update
    Leslie Kaminoff never expected his humble yoga book to make a splash in 2007. But the book, co-authored with Amy Matthews, sold out its first printing in a month and shot to Amazon’s Bestsellers…
  • LIFE

    Leslie Booker Yoga

    How a Teacher Found Her Calling
    Leslie Booker teaches yoga and mindfulness to teenagers who are incarcerated or involved with the court system.




The fourth most abundant mineral in the body is Magnesium. It certainly has significant roles when it comes to supporting general health and wellness. In fact, every cell in our body contains it and we need it for normal function of our organism.

About 80 % of Americans are deficient in it. Magnesium deficiency can actually lead to many different health problems.

The deficiency of this element can happen easier than you think, due to a number of factors, like:

  • Regularly drinking carbonated beverages
  • Consuming a lot of refined sugar
  • Stress
  • Drinking caffeinated beverages on most days
  • Drinking seven or more alcoholic beverages a week

By ensuring that your organism gets the necessary quantity of this mineral, you’ll have a lot of benefits for your body and mind.

7 Reasons You Should Get More Magnesium

-Improves sleep

Less magnesium in our body increases the risk of insomnia. Once you have balanced level of this mineral, you’ll enjoy a better night’s sleep and improved overall health. That’s because melatonin-the sleep-regulating hormone is disturbed when there isn’t enough magnesium. This nutrient also helps to control stress hormones and bring balance to our body. Stress and tension are actually two main reasons people suffer from insomnia in the first place, it gets to the root of the problem.

In one scientific study, researchers gave split participants into two separate groups:

  • one was given magnesium supplements over an eight-week period, while
  • the other took a placebo.

Those that received the supplements enjoyed a significant increase in sleep time and also had an easier time falling asleep. They also had lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, and higher levels of melatonin.

-Better digestion

It is an element that can relax our muscles in the digestive tract. It also helps to balance and neutralize stomach acid and move stools through the intestines, if you don’t get enough in your diet, you may be suffering from constipation. Taking supplements or adding magnesium to our diet is an excellent way to cleanse the bowels of toxins and have improved digestion.

-Preventing migraines

If you have problems with migraines, we don’t have to specifically tell you how painful they are. The good news is that by getting more magnesium, you may be able to prevent them. That’s because it’s involved in neurotransmitter function and blood circulation. It helps to manage migraine pain through the release of hormones known to lessen that pain and reduce vasoconstriction too, which is the constriction of blood vessels that raise blood pressure.

Research has shown that people with migraines also tend to have low levels of magnesium. Some studies have found that a dose of 200-600 milligrams a day can reduce how often migraines occur.

-Lower the risk of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a devastating bone disease that is estimated to affect over 200 million women around the world. Magnesium is necessary component for proper formation of bones. It has influence on activities of osteoclasts and osteoblasts that build healthy bone density. All that ensures that your body gets the amount it needs can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.

A higher magnesium intake has been linked to an increased bone mineral density in women, as well as men, who can also be affected by osteoporosis. A number of studies have found that preventing or even reversing osteoporosis may be possible by increasing magnesium consumption and preventing magnesium deficiency.

-Supporting heart health

It is crucial for heart health – in fact, the heart contains the highest amount of magnesium of any other organ in the body. It works with calcium to help regulate proper blood pressure levels as well as to prevent high blood pressure. When the body doesn’t have a proper magnesium balance, it increases the chances of having a heart attack too, due to severe muscle spasms.

This mineral also functions as an electrolyte, which is essential for all electrical activity in the body. Without electrolytes like magnesium, potassium, and sodium, electrical signals cannot be sent or received, and without those signals, the heart cannot pump blood, and the brain cannot function properly.

6. Greater flexibility and the relief of muscle pain and spasms

Magnesium also plays a key role in muscle contractions and neuro muscular signals. As mentioned, if you don’t get enough magnesium, the muscles can start to spasm. It helps the muscles to contract and relax, as well as enabling you to get around. Additionally, because magnesium loosens tight muscles, it’s important for flexibility too. The reduced amount of magnesium is leading to a buildup of lactic acid, that causes pain and tightness.

-Restoring the body’s pH balance

As magnesium alkalizes the body, it helps to restore its pH balance. When your body has a proper pH balance of 7.4, it can actually help stay alkaline and disease-free. It improves all aspects of health. Just some of the benefits of an alkalized body include a stronger immune system, more beautiful skin, greater energy levels, better digestion, and even fewer signs of aging as it helps to slow the aging process.

This magnesium drink also helps to support weight loss as excessive acidity in the body’s tissues can cause severe problems. When our body has too much acid, it can’t be easily processed and excreted. Therefore, the body holds onto fat as an adaptive mechanism, resulting in weight gain. Reducing acidity, therefore, helps prevent the storage of fat to aid weight loss efforts.

One of the best ways to ensure your body gets this mineral is to include this magnesium drink that you can easily make right at home in your daily diet.


You will need:

  • 1 tbsp. Natural Calm Magnesium
  • 1 glass of water
  • a squeeze of organic lemon juice
  • 1-2 packs of stevia in the raw
  • 2 ice cubes


Drop the tablespoon of magnesium into the glass of water. Stir really well until magnesium is dissolved. Add lemon juice to the magnesium drink. Then add the stevia and stir. Add ice cubes and enjoy in this homemade magnesium drink.




Half of the world’s ecosystems are at risk

Half of the world’s ecosystems are at risk

This article is published in collaboration with The Conversation.
Sawmills that process illegally logged trees from the Amazon rainforest are seen near Rio Pardo, in the district of Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, September 3, 2015. The town of Rio Pardo, a settlement of about 4,000 people in the Amazon rainforest, rises where only jungle stood less than a quarter of a century ago. Loggers first cleared the forest followed by ranchers and farmers, then small merchants and prospectors. Brazil's government has stated a goal of eliminating illegal deforestation, but enforcing the law in remote corners like Rio Pardo is far from easy.

Habitat loss is the most insidious of all threats facing land-living wildlife.
Image: REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Written by
James WatsonAssociate Professor, University of Queensland
Friday 16 December 2016
Latest Articles

Goodbye car ownership, hello clean air: welcome to the future of transport

16 Dec 2016

A year of global terrorism, captured in one map

16 Dec 2016

4 ways to recruit and retain the best talent

16 Dec 2016

Habitat loss is the most insidious of all threats facing land-living wildlife, and protected areas like national parks are one of the best ways to combat the destruction. But in research published recently in Conversation Letters, we show that in some places the pace of protected areas isn’t keeping up with the losses.

We found that since 1992, an area of natural habitat two-thirds the size of Australia has been converted to human use (such as farms, logging or cities). Half of the world’s land area is now dominated by humans.

When we looked at specific habitats (or “ecoregions”), we found that in almost half of them, more habitat has been lost than has been protected. Of developed nations, Australia is performing the worst.

This week, 196 signatory nations of the Convention of Biological Diversity, including Australia, are meeting in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss their progress towards averting the current biodiversity crisis.

While topics will vary widely from dealing with climate change, invasive species and illegal wildlife trade, a chief issue will likely be one that has been central to the convention since its ratification at Rio in 1992: how best to deal with habitat loss.

The view from space

Human activity affects the planet on a scale so vast it can be easily seen from space. Whether it’s deforestation in the Amazon, urban development in Asia, or mining in the Arctic, humans have modified Earth’s land area dramatically.

For almost all wild species on Earth, once the places they live have been dramatically altered, they are unable to survive in the long term. The number of vertebrate species extinctions has been 53 times higher than normal since 1900, and the majority of them are associated with direct habitat loss.

The best tool we have at our disposal to combat habitat loss, alongside strict land regulation, is the creation of large, well-connected protected areas, especially in places that are likely to be at risk of future destruction.

When well managed and strategically placed, protected areas work at protecting biodiversity from destructive actives such as agriculture, mining and urbanisation.

In the two and a half decades since the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, there has been a dramatic increase in protected areas. Now 15% of the land is placed under protection – an area greater than South and Central America combined.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that it may not be enough.

Half Earth

Using the latest update of the global human footprint, we discovered that while 75% of the world has a clear human footprint, more than 50% of the world’s land area has been significantly converted to human dominated land uses.

The degree of degradation varies across the major ecosystems. Some areas such as the tundra have been only slightly modified. Other ecosystems have been decimated: 90% of mangroves and sub-tropical forests have been converted to human uses.

Concerningly, since the convention was ratified in 1992, an extra 4.5 million square kilometres of land has been converted from natural habitat to human land uses. And much of this loss occurred in areas that already faced considerable losses in the past.

As a consequence, almost half of the world’s 800 ecoregions – those places that have distinct animal and plant communities – should be classified at very high risk, where 25 times more land has been converted than protected.

Forty-one of these ecoregions are in crisis, where humans converted more than 10% of the little remaining habitat over the past two decades and there is almost nothing left to protect.

 Ecoregions at risk

Image: The Conversation

These crisis ecoregions are concentrated in Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea), and Africa (Madagascar, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola). It’s crucial that we establish protected areas in these places, but conflict and corruption make them some of the hardest places for conservation to work.

Australia: world expert in land clearing

While crisis ecoregions are mostly confined to the developing world, arguably the most concerning outcome of our research is that in many developed countries, like the United States and Canada, the proportion of protected areas to habitat loss is slipping.

And Australia is the worst performing developed nation of them all. Habitat loss greatly outpaced protection in 20 of Australia’s most wildlife-rich ecoregions. The most threatened ecoregions now include savannas in the southeast and southwest of Australia, and southeast temperate forest ecosystems.

Our analysis shows massive habitat loss occurred in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia during the past two decades, driven by land clearing for pasture, agriculture and urbanisation.

Australia has extremely high land-clearing rates and is the only developed nation now containing a deforestation front.

Arguably, things will continue to get worse without land-clearing law reform, but this is challenging, as shown by the recent failure of Queensland’s vegetation law changes and the poor vegetation-offset reforms in New South Wales.

Time for global action

As nations meet in Mexico to discuss their progress towards the Convention of Biological Diversity’s 2020 strategic plan, it is now time for them to undertake a full, frank and honest assessment on how things are progressing.

This means recognising that the current situation, where nations only report on protected area expansion, clearly tells half the story – and it is jeopardising the chance for halting the biodiversity crisis.

Australia must take the lead. It is time for this nation – one of the most wildlife-rich in the developed world – to account fully for both conservation gains and losses, and as such formally report on how much habitat is being destroyed. This is the necessary first step to identify ways to mitigate these losses and prioritise conservation actions in those regions that are at risk.

At the same time, all nations must recognise that the integrity of habitat within existing protected areas must be maintained, especially in those areas that contain imperilled species. Allowing activities which cause habitat loss to occur in protected areas is a backwards step for conservation, and governments must enforce their own environmental policies to stop this.

A good example is Springvale Station in Queensland, where mining is being considered within a newly purchased protected area, clearly threatening its biodiversity.

We need to change how we report on, and deal with, habitat loss, otherwise the mission of the convention – to stop the global extinction crisis – will fail.

Written by

James Watson, Associate Professor, University of Queensland

This article is published in collaboration with The Conversation.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.


Why You Should Slow Your Flow for the Holidays

Why You Should Slow Your Flow for the Holidays

If ever there was a time to slow your yoga flow and–let’s face it, take your speed of life down a notch or two–the hectic holiday season is it.

Now is the perfect time to join the slow-yoga revolution, says J. Brown of the Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, who recently wrote a provocative blog post about the current pushback against the pumped-up, power-crazed yoga styles that have gained widespread popularity in recent years. “For many, Power Yoga and hot yoga have become like that friend you initially hit it off with, but now when you hang out it just feels negative and draining,” says Brown. “Eventually, you drift apart.” The slow-yoga revolution, he says, is the antidote–like that old friend who’ll always be there for you. So, swap your go-to vigorous class for a restorative one, or simply take your emphasis off accomplishing something and be more interested in what you’re experiencing in the present moment. Then, watch as you find more joy–both on and off the mat.

See also Slow Yoga in a Fast World



    Newtown Yoga Festival

    Out There: Newtown Yoga Festival Is Still Healing Sandy Hook Trauma
    Communities across the country, take note: Since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, the Newtown Yoga Festival has set an example for using yoga to bring a community together and heal trauma.

    yin yoga shannon stephens pigeon pose

    10 Reasons to Make Time for Yin Yoga When You’re Too Busy
    Think you don’t have time to slow down? Yoga Medicine teacher Shannon Stephens makes a case for why yin yoga may be the best practice for your busiest times.

    lemonade stand

    Yoga for Kids: Kick Off Summer with a Seva Lemonade Stand
    When life gives you lemons, start a lemonade stand for a good cause.


These countries could be the world’s new education superstars

These countries could be the world’s new education superstars

Seven countries are surprise risers in the global university rankings
Image: Baim Hanif
Written by
Chris ParrDigital and communities editor, Times Higher Education
Friday 16 December 2016
Latest Articles

Goodbye car ownership, hello clean air: welcome to the future of transport

16 Dec 2016

A year of global terrorism, captured in one map

16 Dec 2016

4 ways to recruit and retain the best talent

16 Dec 2016

Build a big, strong, respected higher-education system in your country and your economy will grow.

It’s not just me saying that. A London School of Economics analysis of nearly 15,000 universities in in 78 countries has found that doubling the number of universities in a region results in a 4.7% increase in GDP per capita in that area within five years.

So which countries are the ones to watch? Which regions are best placed to exploit this link between higher-education expansion and economic growth?

It’s not an easy question to answer. But working with the Centre for Global Higher Education at the UCL Institute of Education, Times Higher Education has looked at a range of academic and economic metrics like research publication rates, higher education participation rates and GDP per head, and identified seven countries that are in prime position to succeed.

We call them the TACTICS.

TACTICS: the next global higher education powers
Image: Times Higher Education

From a higher education point of view, Thailand, Argentina, Chile, Turkey, Iran, Columbia and Serbia have the potential to outstrip the BRICS nations of Brazil, Russia India, China and South Africa – the countries traditionally identified as global rising stars.

In all these countries, GDP is below US$15,000 a head, yet at least half the youth population is enrolled in higher education. Participation grew by 5% or more between 2010 and 2014; their research output is growing from a base of at least 30,000 papers a year; and they have at least one university in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The full methodology for the analysis is available here.

Image: Times Higher Education

As THE editor John Gill explains, although these countries all boast the fertile conditions needed to bear fruit, they are far from homogeneous: each country has “a different cocktail of strengths and weaknesses”.

He points to Iran and Turkey – both intellectually rich nations, which perform well on gross higher education enrollment and boast sustained growth in participation. “Yet each faces huge political challenges. Iran is rated as having the most corrupt public sector of any in our group by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, and academic appointments are seen as being linked to ideology as much as merit.”

This is important. An analysis of data across the TACTICS shows, simply put, that higher levels of corruption correlate with lower quality research.

Turkey has its own issues. A government crackdown following the attempted coup earlier this year saw more than 1,500 academic deans forced to resign. Universities are reliant on the talent that they can attract, and the damage that this purge has had on Turkey’s reputation could badly damage its ability to attract top researchers.

In fact, every one of the TACTICS nations has issues that could, if not addressed, jeopardize the progress that could so readily be theirs.

However, if you look closely at the performance of these countries from a higher-education perspective, as we do in this analysis, then their growth really could be a defining feature of the next decade.

In their research output, university participation and performance in global rankings, these overlooked “ones to watch” are already frequently out-punching the BRICS nations. And when countries perform well in these areas, they almost always reap the economic rewards too.

Written by

Chris Parr, Digital and communities editor, Times Higher Education

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.


7 simple exercises that help remove back fat …

7 simple exercises that help remove back fat …

When it pertains to fat elimination, a lot of individuals focus on the abdominal area, legs, buttocks and arms. But a lot of us have the tendency to forget the back, most likely due to the fact that this location is more difficult to reach.

Fat that has the tendency to build up just below the bra can make our back appearance bloated and unappealing, which is extremely unattractive. Fortunately, back fat can be removed if we are willing to do the essential work.

7 simple exercises that help remove back fat ...

Regular push-ups

Push-ups are always present in nearly any workout routine. This exercise is fantastic for toning the arms, but works if you wish to get rid of the back fat. To eliminate the back fat, make sure you practice this workout properly by keeping your body directly.

Side push-ups

Lie on your yoga mat and lean on the left side so that the elbow is just below the shoulder. When you have actually taken the right position, raise your hips off the floor and flex your abdominal muscles, taking care to keep your body straight.

Aim to maintain this position for 30-45 seconds, rest, and then train your ideal side. This exercise will help you get rid of back fat in a very short time!

Physical fitness ball workout

Lie face down on your fitness ball, making sure your chest is aligned with the center of the ball. With your fingers pointing the floor and with your feet gripped, let your arms hang and aim to keep your balance.

Raise your arms so that your body forms a Y and maintain this position for 15 seconds. Do two sets of 12 repetitions every day to burn the back fat.

Lunges with dumbbells

You require a space where you can move around and an approximately 4.5 to 7 kgs dumbbell. Spread your legs at a range equal to the width of your hips, bend your knees and do a couple of lunges.

A little lean forward and bend your upper body till it is parallel to the flooring. Hold the dumbbell ahead and support your hip on the wall to keep your balance. Raise the dumbbell to your shoulder height then do 10 to 15 repetitions. Back fat will not trouble you for long.

Side dumbbells raising

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and spread your legs at a distance equivalent to the width of the hips. Bend your knees and move down so that your legs form a 45 degree angle with the floor. Keeping the dumbbells parallel to the floor, at the same time raise them up to carry level, then lower them into the start position Do two sets of 12 repetitions.

” Pet face to the ground” Yoga position.

This yoga position will involve the entire body, specifically the back muscles (consisting of the trapezius). To try it, you’ll need an area where you can walk around.

Kneel and push your hands on the floor. Press your heels, keeping your arms lined up with the body. If you are rather flexible, your feet can stay with the flooring. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.

Cardiovascular exercises

These workouts are really useful if you want to get rid of excess accumulated fat (consisting of fat back). You have to sacrifice no greater than 30 minutes each day to practice them.

Aim to walk, do running, running, jump rope, go biking (normal or elliptical), swim or just do aerobics once a week. As you increase the exercises strength, you will burn significantly more calories, and the outcomes will be significantly more satisfying.




 建立於 2016/12/15




高壓電場,圖片作者:Terry Kearney。(CC BY-NC 2.0)















Climate-Resistant Beans Could Save Millions

Climate-Resistant Beans Could Save Millions

Reprint |   | Print | |En español
Heat-tolerant beans at CIAT. Beans and other pulses are called superfoods of the future due to their vast geographical range, high nutritional value and low water requirements. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

Heat-tolerant beans at CIAT. Beans and other pulses are called superfoods of the future due to their vast geographical range, high nutritional value and low water requirements. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

CALI, Colombia, Dec 6 2016 (IPS) – A global food watchdog works around the clock to preserve crop biodiversity, with a seed bank deep in the Colombian countryside holding the largest collection of beans and cassava in the world and storing crops that could avert devastating problems.

On a mission in Peru in the 1980s, Debouck narrowly escaped capture by guerillas.

Plants are the vital elements in our ecosystem that clothe us, feed us, give us the oxygen that we breathe and the medicines that cure us. But one in five of world’s plant species are at risk of extinction.

According to a report launched by experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in May, the biggest threats are the destruction of habitats for farming – such as palm oil production, deforestation for timber and construction of buildings and infrastructure. Global warming is also expected to reduce the areas suitable for growing crops.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 75 percent of the world’s crop diversity was lost between 1900 and 2000.

“We do not [even] know what we have, and we are losing what we have. Why not try to correct that a bit?” Daniel Debouck of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia told IPS.

Seed bank head Daniel Debouck at CIAT, Colombia. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

Seed bank head Daniel Debouck at CIAT, Colombia. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

Only about 30 crops provide 95 percent of human food energy needs, according to FAO. Dependency on a few staple crops magnifies the consequences of crop failure.

Botanists are already taking extreme measures to save those plant species deemed useful. Some 7.4 million samples are in seed banks around the world, but huge gaps exist.

Way up north, in the permafrost, 1,300 kilometers beyond the Arctic Circle, sits the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a so-called doomsday bank buried in the side of a mountain. Within the enclosure sit more than 860,000 samples, representing 5,100 different crops and their relatives.

And located among green sugarcane plantations near Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, a seed bank with the largest collection of beans in the world is housed in a former meat quality lab. The seed bank preserves some of humanity’s most important staple crops and contains over 38,000 samples of beans in all shapes colors, and sizes. Varieties developed at CIAT feed 30 million people in Africa. Every September there is a major shipment to Svalbard to keep copies at the seed bank there.

Beans can grow despite very tough conditions. They are cultivated everywhere except for the poles and infertile deserts. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

Beans can grow despite very tough conditions. They are cultivated everywhere except for the poles and infertile deserts. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

The 300 scientists and support staff at CIAT have a mandate from the UN to protect, research and distribute beans and cassava, staple foods for 900 million people around the world. Altogether 500,000 materials have been distributed so far. After the war in Rwanda, CIAT put seeds back in the hands of farmers.

“The seeds from the Americas are absolutely critical for food security in Africa. Without cassava and beans, people would not manage,” Debouck told IPS.

The researchers have garnered seeds from around the world for their seed bank. On a mission in Peru in the 1980s, Debouck narrowly escaped capture by guerillas.

“But we came back with 300 varieties of popping bean and increased the CIAT collection significantly,” he said.

The popping beans can be prepared without cooking. It is enough if they are heated on a hot surface. This could be important in areas where fuel and kitchen facilities are lacking.

The seed bank also stores beans that can offer climate-friendly options for farmers struggling to cope with rising temperatures.

In the basement of an old lab near Cali, Colombia, there are 38,000 samples of beans stored in minus 20 degrees Celsius. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

In the basement of an old lab near Cali, Colombia, there are 38,000 samples of beans stored in minus 20 degrees Celsius. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

The heat-tolerant beans developed by conventional breeding by scientists at CIAT are crosses between the modern kind and the tepary bean, a hardy survivor cultivated since pre-Columbian times. Beans that can beat the heat could be essential to survival in many regions.

“The heat-tolerant beans may be able to handle a worst-case scenario of a temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius. Northern Uganda, southeast Congo, Malawi, and the eastern Kenya are not bean producing areas now because of the heat there. But what we have at present at CIAT could expand the bean production there,” Steve Beebe, a senior bean researcher at CIAT, told IPS.

The new findings would not have been possible without CIAT’s seed bank containing wild varieties and related species of the common bean.

Only 5 percent of the wild relatives of the world’s most important crops are properly stored and managed in the world’s seed banks, according a study published in March by the online journal Nature Plants.

Debouck says there is lack of education around food.

“We think we have food security but we are tremendously vulnerable. If the U.S. would experience drought and Europe would have excessive rains, we would all be in trouble,” Debouck said.

Agronomists used to act as a liaison between farmers and agricultural scientists. But during the last 20 years, many agronomists have disappeared and today mostly for-profit agribusiness firms reach out to farmers, according to Debouck. The companies are often interested in selling agrochemicals, he said.

Bean researcher Beebe pointed out that beans and other legumes are self-pollinated plants and seed need only be sold once.

“That is why the industry is not that interested in promoting them,” he told IPS.


世界最大豆類種子庫 非洲3000萬人生計都靠它

世界最大豆類種子庫 非洲3000萬人生計都靠它

 建立於 2016/12/16




種子銀行。CIAT(CC BY-SA 2.0)
種子銀行保存了植物的野生近緣物種。圖片來源:CIAT(CC BY-SA 2.0)




斯瓦爾巴全球種子庫(Svalbard Global Seed Vault)位在北極圈以北1300公里的凍原中,號稱是種子界的諾亞方舟,其中儲存了86萬件樣本,共5100種不同作物與近緣物種。

保種保「命」 從豆開始

位於美國哥倫比亞鄉間的糧食監察組織「國際熱帶農業中心」(International Center for Tropical Agriculture , CIAT)是致力於保護作物生物多樣性的種子銀行,擁有全世界最大的豆類和木薯種子庫,其保存的作物有天可能用來救命。



種子銀行。CIAT(CC BY-SA 2.0)
各式各樣的種子保存在零下20℃的CIAT基因庫中。圖片來源:CIAT(CC BY-SA 2.0)

保種不容易 耐熱豆類如今派上用場

研究人員從世界各地採集種子存入種子庫。CIAT成員Daniel Debouck在1980年代一次任務中,驚險從游擊隊的手中逃脫,帶回300種四季豆品種,大幅增加CIAT的庫存。四季豆不用煮也可以吃,只要在高溫表面加熱過,對缺乏燃料和廚房設備的地區而言特別實用。



「耐熱豆有機會在升溫4°C的環境下生存。北烏干達、東南剛果、馬拉威、東肯亞現在都不產豆,因為太熱。但CIAT儲存的豆類可以讓這些地方再度產豆。CIAT資深豆類研究人員畢比(Steve Beebe)說。

種子銀行的研究人員研發出耐熱的豆類品種。圖片來源:CIAT(CC BY-SA 2.0)






Fish have evolved to survive toxic waste that would normally kill them

Fish have evolved to survive toxic waste that would normally kill them

‘Unfortunately, most species we care about preserving probably can’t adapt to these rapid changes’


A species of fish has evolved remarkably quickly so it can live in rivers and seas contaminated with highly toxic pollutants that would normally kill them, scientists have discovered.

Atlantic killifish taken from four sites on the United States’ east coast were found to be up to 8,000 times more resistant to a complex mix of chemicals such as dioxins, heavy metals, hydrocarbons and other substances.

The researchers sequenced the genome of nearly 400 killifish and found they had managed to adapt to their new environment.

This was because they had a high degree of genetic difference between individuals, which is a distinct advantage when the environment changes dramatically.

So when the pollution became too much for some fish in the four sites, enough killifish were able to cope – because by chance they had genetic traits that enabled them to do so – to maintain a viable population.

However the researchers cautioned that most animals would not be able to evolve fast enough to cope with such sudden changes.

Professor Andrew Whitehead, of University of California, Davis, said: “Some people will see this as a positive and think, ‘Hey, species can evolve in response to what we’re doing to the environment’.

“Unfortunately, most species we care about preserving probably can’t adapt to these rapid changes because they don’t have the high levels of genetic variation that allow them to evolve quickly.”

The killifish were taken from New Bedford Harbour in Massachusetts, Newark Bay in New Jersey, off Bridgeport in Connecticut, and the Elizabeth River in Virginia which had been heavily polluted since the 1950s and 1960s, the researchers reported in the journal Science.

The fish’s genes were then compared to other killifish taken from unpolluted areas nearby, enabling the scientists to discover how they had evolved to cope.

Killifish are not a source of food for humans but are eaten by other marine species.

The researchers suggested there should be more research into the genes which protect against pollution, saying this might help explain why some humans and other animals are more affected by it than others.

“If we know the kinds of genes that can confer sensitivity in another vertebrate animal like us, perhaps we can understand how different humans, with their own mutations in these important genes, might react to these chemicals,” Professor Whitehead said.

George Gilchrist, programme director at the US National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology, which helped fund the study, said the research had found just one molecular pathway had enabled the killifish to tolerate normally lethal levels of pollutants.

“This pathway may play a similar role in many animals exposed to pollutants, with slightly different adaptations in response to different toxicants,” he said.


耐得住8000倍戴奧辛污染? 科學家定序鱂魚基因探秘

耐得住8000倍戴奧辛污染? 科學家定序鱂魚基因探秘

 建立於 2016/12/16


近期一篇《科學》期刊的研究指出,大西洋鱂魚(Atlantic killifish)演化速度之快,已經適應某些原本會致牠們於死地的毒素,並可以生存在高度污染的河流和海域。


大西洋鱂魚。圖片來源:Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program(CC BY-NC 2.0)

基因變異度高  有助適應環境劇烈變化



加州大學戴維斯分校教授懷海德(Andrew Whitehead)說:「有些人會把這看成好現象,但不幸的是,大部分我們要保育的物種無法適應快速變化,因為牠們的基因變異程度沒有高到可以快速演化。」


鱂魚。Brett Albanese (Georgia DNR – Wildlife Resources)(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
大西洋鱂魚是其他海洋物種的食物。圖片來源:Brett Albanese/Georgia DNR – Wildlife Resources(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

生存機制? 「敏感」基因挺過致死污染



美國國家科學基金會是這個研究的資助者之一。美國國家科學基金會環境生物學部門計劃主任吉爾克里斯特(George Gilchrist)說,這個研究發現,在分子的層次上,鱂魚如何適應致死程度的污染。







搶救二仁溪支流三爺溪 南市府將展開重金屬總量管制

搶救二仁溪支流三爺溪 南市府將展開重金屬總量管制

 建立於 2016/12/15





南市以「銅」為標的  進行河川總量管制



強力稽查  三爺溪「鉻」超標漸改善




輔導中小型業者遷入工業區  集中管理



生活污水不容輕忽  以水質淨化場、污水下水道因應







顛覆剩食印象 「扌合生態廚房」創意再造零浪費美味

顛覆剩食印象 「扌合生態廚房」創意再造零浪費美味

 建立於 2016/12/16




Pick Food Up扌合生態廚房創辦人黃尹宣。攝影:陳文姿

每一種剩食  背後都有一段故事

七年級的黃尹宣大學唸的是昆蟲系,研究所是海洋生物相關,意外走上廚師一途,最關心的還是食物跟生態。隨後,她到義大利攻讀慢食碩士,回台後創辦Pick Food Up扌合(讀音:手和)生態廚房,推廣剩食運動。剩食與格外品(食物分級後難以賣出的產品)都是她製作甜點常見的食材。






讓剩食重返光鮮  是挑戰也是趣味




剩食考驗著廚師的創意。剩食/格外品+正品=美食。圖片來源:Pick Food Up扌合生態廚房



剩食因為不能預知食材品項和數量,廚師得時時創新菜單,巧思更上層樓。如圖中三色鹹蛋糕,下層是番茄橄欖,下層是紅椒大蒜,夾層是菱角榛果餡泥。 圖片來源:Pick Food Up扌合生態廚房

剩食運動正起步  商業化仍有困難




台灣對於剩食的想像仍停留在「快壞掉的食物」,推廣上仍有一定難度,只能少量經營。圖中馬齒莧酥派,使用的麵粉、起司、無毒地瓜、橄欖油都是格外品。圖片來源:Pick Food Up扌合生態廚房



水果綠茶使用的綠茶、蜜蘋果、金棗、四季橘、跟鳳梨罐頭都是格外品。圖片來源:Pick Food Up扌合生態廚房
一場從前菜、主餐、甜點、到飲料的剩食饗宴,是樂趣還是考驗?就看你怎麼想。圖片來源:Pick Food Up扌合生態廚房





《電業法》初審過關! 四大爭議、八大重點總整理

《電業法》初審過關!  四大爭議、八大重點總整理

建立於 2016/12/15

立院經濟委員會今通過《電業法》修正草案。96條文中,最後保留四條送黨團協商。主席管碧玲表示,希望能在1月18日前送院會二、三讀。 雖然全面自由化是長期追求的理想,但為加速綠電先行,這次無法一步到位。不過,《電業法》有84%的條文已50年未修,這次大幅修訂,也算歷史上很大的一步前進。


四條文未達協議 留待黨團協商


1. 電業管制機構層級未定:行政院下設獨立機構或經濟部指定機構?


2. 電價及費率?  訂定方式未定


3. 家有12歲以下兒童電費優惠?條文未定


4. 核廢料退出原住民地區?時間表未定


達成協議92條  八大重點


1. 立法通過後1~2.5年開放綠電發電業與售電業。立法通過後6~9年台電完成切割。





3. 納入電力排碳係數,增加再生能源比例。






6. 學校、社福、交通維持優惠電價,優惠由目的事業主管機關買單






20161215 電業法初審過關


Previous Older Entries

【◎心靈研磨坊 - 曼陀羅藏◎】

《心靈研磨坊 ─ 身心體能極限的突破,放慢步調,邁開腳步,輕鬆地悠遊著....》

%d 位部落客按了讚: