Author: Lake Toba

Evening Focus: Water Security, Part 4 – Case Study: Guinea Worm Disease (Introduction)

Today we will examine a case study of a waterborne parasite: Dracunculus medinensis, (a.k.a. Guinea Worm). Wednesday we will conclude with a discussion of efforts to eradicate this disease. (More) Guinea Worm Disease (Introduction) According to the World Health Organization: Guinea worm disease is a debilitating and painful infection caused by a large nematode (roundworm), Dracunculus medinensis. It begins with a blister, usually on the leg. Around the time of its eruption, the person may experience itching, fever, swelling and burning sensations. Infected persons try to relieve the pain by immersing the infected part in water, usually open water sources such as ponds and shallow wells. This stimulates the worm to emerge and release thousands of larvae into the water. The larva is ingested by a water flea (cyclops), where it develops and becomes infective in two weeks. When a person drinks the water, the cyclops is dissolved by the acidity of the stomach, and the larva is activated and penetrates the gut wall. It develops and migrates through the subcutaneous tissue. After about one year, a blister forms and the mature worm, 1m long, tries to emerge, thus repeating the life cycle. For persons living in remote areas with no access to medical care, healing of the ulcers can take several weeks. This can be further complicated by bacterial infection, stiff joints, arthritis and even permanent debilitating contractures...

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Evening Focus: Water Security, Part 3 – Sanitation

Water Security includes Sanitation – the ability to maintain freshwater quality so that it can be safely used for human purposes. This week we consider important issues affecting sanitation. (More) In developed countries, we take for granted access to clean water. We expect that water in the tap is drinkable (though many Americans have turned away from tap water in favor of bottled water). We take for granted that we can safely bathe, that our showers will not sicken us with disease or toxins. We understand that our waste water is properly handled. Our sewage is transported away from our habitats whether home or place of work to processing centers where it is cleaned to various federal, state and local regulation, and then reintroduced into the environment “somewhere else.” When we cook, wash our dishes, bathe or flush our toilets, we see wastewater disappear and think nothing further of it. That ability to ignore sanitation is a true luxury. It is a luxury because the vast majority of humans do not share in that facility. It is a luxury for us too, because even a hundred years ago, most Americans did not enjoy this ability. In fact, the need for public sanitation, as an important part of the infrastructure of civilization has been “known” and forgotten many times in history. Name practically any great civilization, and you name a...

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Evening Focus: Water Security, Part 2 – Freshwater

Understanding water security requires understanding where water is found around the world. This Evening Focus discusses how water is distributed globally on a macro level. (More) Previously we defined Water Security including the requirement that people have “the ability to reliably access clean potable water”. The ability to do so is directly correlated to the distribution of freshwater around the world. People who live in temperate environments or in areas with high rainfall such as the equatorial jungles of Africa, South America, and portions of Asia have a much easier time accessing water than those who live in arid or desert environments such as the deserts of Africa, Southwestern U.S. or the Middle East. This difference in availability creates regions of the world with endemic scarcity. People who live in these parts of the world in essence face a chronic poverty of water. Like all poverties, this creates circumstances that limit economic growth, create health problems, and cause war. Where is the water? It is perhaps not surprising that water on Earth is primarily saltwater. In fact, more than 97% of water on Earth is saltwater. Only about 2.5% is fresh. The bulk of freshwater on Earth is locked up in glaciers and the planet’s icecaps. This water is generally inaccessible to people and provides limited value. Only about 31% of Earth’s supply of freshwater is not in ice....

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Evening Focus: Water Security – A Human Right

On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declared that “Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights.” (More) The General Assembly affirmed with this statement that water security is a prerequisite to human happiness and necessary for all other human rights. On the face of it, that statement seems obvious, but the idea is one which we are not accustomed to thinking of. What is water security? Water security is the ability to reliably access clean potable water in sufficient quantity and with sufficient ease to facilitate a comfortable standard of living. According to UNESCO: Water security involves protection of vulnerable water systems, protection against water related hazards such as floods and droughts, sustainable development of water resources and safeguarding access to water functions and services. My Introduction to Water Security A few years back I took a class in Hydrogeology. We had a lab experiment where we tracked our daily water consumption for seven days. For that lab, I took samples of water flow from various faucets and the shower head at my residence using a measuring cup and a stop watch. For each sample I turned the faucet or spigot as I usually would. I then put a measuring cup under the flow of water for ten seconds and logged...

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Furthermore! – Recycling Electronics: Thank You Best Buy!

I recycled some electronics today at Best Buy. An iMac. Three printers. A wireless phone. A 17″ Sony Trinitron. A scanner. A clock radio. A bathroom scale. All of it given over to Best Buy for recycling. You can learn about their recycling at their FAQ. All in all its a great feeling to know that something I’ve used for years, sometimes with frustration, sometimes with satisfaction, has at the end, not been turned into rubbish in a landfill, where toxic metals would leach into the ground water, or where precious metals such as copper or gold would be lost, or where plastics that can be turned into new plastics are wasted or where a perfectly good consumer electronic could be repaired is otherwise lost. According to Best Buy:  The products are removed from our stores through third party logistics, consolidated and then delivered directly to one of our contracted recycling partners. The recyclers will then determine if the product can be repaired, repurposed or recycled. Using various technologies our recyclers dismantle the electronics, separating out various commodities (Plastics, Glass, Metals, etc) which are repurposed into new products or delivered to a specialized recycler to be further processed and repurposed. The extent to which all of the commodities of any electronics can be recycled will depend on the composition of the unit. To ensure all products collected for recycling through...

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