How Asia’s air pollution spreads across Earth

I saw this interesting video on how Asia’s air pollution spreads across Earth. I’m posting this here because I live in Asia—and a tropical country at that! And when you watch Hollywood disaster movies from recent years, tropical countries like the Philippines almost always gets immediately wiped out when doomsday comes. Not only are we vulnerable in Hollywood, we are vulnerable in real life, as well. Case in point: Stronger typhoons in the Philippines year after year. Onday. Haiyan. What’s next?

According to this Salon.com article titled

“Frightening video shows Asia’s air pollution spread across Earth”

this video from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, taken from 2006 to 2007, shows how aerosols travel via wind patterns across the planet. This results to stronger cyclones especially in tropical countries. How? When more water condenses onto the increased aerosols, this action releases more energy and eventually creates stronger Pacific storms.

Scary.

I got my COMET GETPass already!

I got my COMET GETPass already. I figured I might as well get one since I found myself near the COMET loading station, anyway. For 20 pesos (or around 45 cents), this card will get me from Katipunan to SM North/ Trinoma for free until October 9. After that, I will have to top-up this card so I can pay for my fare.

COMET GETPass

The tap-in, tap-out system reminds me of the transport card I used in Seoul when I lived there. I used it for bus rides and for subway rides. Although this COMET GETPass can only be used on the e-shuttle, it’s a gentle reminder for me that public transportation in Manila is gradually improving.

I’m quite excited to use this card! I will support this because this is the kind of public transportation we deserve.

COMETs are coming! (E-jeepneys now in Quezon City)

Just when I was starting to live like a total hermit (with occasional trips to the nearest shopping mall, the nearest supermarket, and church), hope sprung again when I saw this article online. There are many reasons to love Quezon City in the Philippines. There’s the city’s laid-back vibe as seen in areas like the Maginhawa Street food strip, Tomas Morato, UP Town Center, and the Trinoma and SM North Edsa mall area. The country’s two best universities are housed here. And then this: eco-friendly and rider-friendly e-jeepneys called COMETs (City Optimized Managed Electric Transport) now ply the LRT Katipunan – Trinoma route!

But wait, there’s more. Thirty e-jeepneys are just the beginning. Soon, we will see more routes and more jeepneys, which will bring us an overload of good vibes:

  • An eco-friendly upgrade to the iconic Philippine jeepneys. Sure, it’s not as colorful and crazily decorated as the jeepneys we’d come to love, but that can be fixed. What’s important is that they now use lithium ion batteries which lessens too much dependence on oil. This also means (hopefully!) less transport strikes which cripple our movements around the city!
  • Safer jeepney design.  We passengers don’t have to worry about getting accidentally hit by upcoming cars on the road because the door is now located at the side of the jeepney, allowing us to board safely from sidewalks. And whenever the rains relentlessly beat the pavement and floods ensue, these jeepneys can still brave the roads, thanks to hydraulic wheels that can rise by one foot.
  • More orderly boarding and alighting, plus some creature comforts for the tech-savvy commuter. We all know that the way jeepneys (and other forms of public transportation) randomly stop at various parts of the road causes traffic. This behavior also reinforces lack of discipline among people, both drivers and passengers. It seems that a more orderly way of commuting is about to be institutionalized through the COMET. The COMET has designated stops which are actually followed from LRT Katipunan to Trinoma and vice versa. Passengers conveniently pay for the fare via a card that they tap-in when boarding and tap-out when alighting.  What’s more, this e-jeepney also housess some creature comforts for the tech-savvy: GPS and Wifi connection, flat screen TV that displays news and ads, CCTV camera for monitoring the safety of passengers, and continuous communication between the COMET command center and e-jeepney to effectively forsee and manage congestion to and from the destination. I like this a lot because it resembles my bus adventures while I was studying in Seoul. Very convenient!
  •  Better compensation for drivers. Gone are the days when jeepney drivers are unsure of how much they will bring home to their family – or if they will bring anything substantial at all. By being a COMET driver, they are given monthly salaries plus benefits. Here, drivers, passengers, and the environment wins. What’s good for one sector is also good for the others. A dream come true.

According to the aforementioned Rappler article, this is the COMET’s route. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m excited!

COMET e-jeepney route from LRT Katipunan to Trinoma, and vice versa. Taken from http://www.rappler.com/nation/69948-quezon-city-electric-shuttles-operational.

COMET e-jeepney route from LRT Katipunan to Trinoma, and vice versa. Taken from http://www.rappler.com/nation/69948-quezon-city-electric-shuttles-operational.

This morning’s interesting articles @ Environmental News Network

environmental news network logoEnvironmental News Network is a website that posts a comprehensive selection of environment-related news everyday. I’ve been a newsletter subscriber since 2010 or thereabouts, so I’ve always had interesting news to read in my inbox everyday since then.

Today I want to share two of the most interesting news items I found. Well, interesting for me, at least.

First is an article titled “Why It’s Important to Rinse Recyclables. It’s interesting for me because  it’s common sense to rinse recyclables for sanitary and health reasons, but it’s not always done. An article like this is a great reminder why it’s important. Among the reasons cited here are efficiency (it makes sorting recyclables at the recycling plant easier and faster), health and sanitation (you wouldn’t want to attract yucky molds and pests anywhere near your recyclables, right?), and higher income (the cleaner the recyclable, the higher the grade and consequently, the price).

But for me, the most important reason for rinsing recyclables is the health and sanitation aspect of it. We recycle to limit waste and unnecessary consumption, but more often than not, the health and sanitation aspect is forgotten. It shouldn’t be. It should go hand in hand. A healthy environment means having healthy people around, as well.

This is also the reason why I believe that reusable eating utensils (spoons, forks, plates) is better than disposable plastic utensils–to a certain extent. That is, reusable eating utensils is better as long as these are rinsed and kept well. After all, what’s good about using earth-friendly things if they are not clean and sanitary enough for human usage, right? Who wants disease with their burger and fries, right?

Second is an article titled “Disc or Download: A Virtual Energy-Savings Debate”. This one talks about how carbon footprint in consuming video games is surprisingly more efficient when you buy the Blu-ray version of the game rather than downloading it online. The common way of thinking is that it’s more environment-friendly to download it, because Blu-ray entails energy consumed from the production of the disc itself plus transportation costs. But a systematic study by the Journal of Industrial Ecology proved otherwise.

So those are new stuff I learned today. Hope you also learned something new from these, too! Happy reading!

BMW ECO PRO Screensaver

Most of us are online all the time. This means that our computers, of course, are also turned on all the time. Consequently, we consume energy–lots of it, with all of us put together.

Want to save energy and the environment, as well? There’s an app for that. BMW has partnered with Antics Studios (www.anticsstudios.com) and Naga DDB to create an app that turns off your computer whenever it detects you’re not using it (after around 10 seconds or so), and intelligently turns it on again once your computer’s webcam recognizes your face.

This app, when installed in every new computer, will supposedly help the world reduce CO2 emissions by 50,000 kilos and save over 50 million US dollars in energy consumption.

Visit this link to learn more: http://bmw.com.my/com/en/insights/technology/efficient_dynamics/phase_2/downloads/eco_pro.html

Note: I got my info from a press release sent by Antics Studios, Malaysia.

Najeon chilgi for techies

One of the wonderful things about watching Korean TV dramas is that you see a lot of beautiful things. Take, for example, those delicately designed jewelry boxes that are as precious as the jewels inside them.

Feast of the Gods (screen grab)

A scene from Feast of the Gods

Or those intricately patterned cabinets that give off a soft sheen.

Moon that embraces the sun

A scene from Moon That Embraces the Sun

So much so that no matter how handsome and regal King Lee Hwon’s (Kim Soo-Hyun) royal body looks in The Moon That Embraces the Sun, you can’t help but be distracted with OTHER beautiful things.

A scene from Moon That Embraces the Sun: King Lee Hwon

A scene from Moon That Embraces the Sun: King Lee Hwon

Or maybe that’s just me. I’m too old to be a fangirl, anyway.;-)

But I digress.

These OTHER beautiful things, I learned, are called najeon chilgi. `Najeon” means mother-of-pearl, and “chilgi” refers to lacquerware.

Check out Korean online gift shops and you’ll see najeon chilgi jewelry boxes, hand mirrors, key holders and business card cases. The  abalone shell, from which najeon chilgi is made from, is prized by Koreans for its bright colors and light reflections. This iridescence comes naturally from the inner lining of abalone shell, which contains transparent crystals of calcium carbonate.

Moon that embraces the sun - table

A scene from Moon That Embraces the Sun: King's luxurious table

Najeon chilgi makes a fine heirloom of sorts because each piece is strong enough to last for thousands of years, thanks to the lacquer which is resistant to heat, acid and humidity.

Najeon chilgi in Korean dynasties

You know what makes Korean drama viewing more fun? Spotting najeon chilgi in various scenes and guessing which dynasty the najeon chilgi properly belongs to. Geeky, I know. But that’s precisely why I’m Organic Geek.

So here’s what I mentally take note of:

Mother of pearl lacquer ware became popular in Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The dynasty’s artisans made najeon chilgi one of its major artistic contributions, aside from celadon ceramic ware and metal works. In fashion during the time were mother of pearl designs depicting flowers such as chrysanthemums and peonies, exotic plants such as the arabesque “Tang Plant” pattern, and abstract designs. Designs favored were intricate and overly luxurious, which was characteristic of the era. People from the Goryeo Dynasty surely loved luxury, and made it a point to display their wealth and status by owning objects of desire.

Even the Sung literari in China admired and acquired najeon chilgi from Korea. Historical records show that Seo Geung, an envoy from China during the Sung Dynasty, praised the najeon chilgi and deemed it “valuable enough because it is extremely exquisite and elaborate” in his book An Illustrated Book of Goryeo.

Najeon Chilgi art from the Goryeo Dynasty is distinguished through the techniques it employed in producing their mother of pearl lacquer ware. The first technique consisted of using tiny mother of pearl pieces called ‘threads’ which are inlaid one by one to form the actual design. The second technique consisted of using wires, silver, bronze and brass together with the mother of pearl. The third technique was the use of treated tortoise shell pieces in combination with the mother of pearl.

jewelry box

A scene from Feast of the Gods: Jewelry box

This blatant display of luxuriousness was a huge contrast to the Joseon Dynasty, where najeon chilgi began to adapt the Confucian aesthetics and value of simplicity. Thus, designs began to reflect the austere lifestyle advocated by Confucian teachings, as exemplified by the natural designs prominently seen in Joseon era najeon chilgi—blossoms and bamboo, flowers and birds, animals and plants, human figures and Chinese characters.

So if the design looks lavish, it’s probably from Goryeo. If it’s simple, it’s probably from Joseon.

Korea’s rapid economic development and modernization during the first half of the 20th century affected the production and popularity of najeon chilgi. The art enjoyed a revival in the 1960s and 1970s when Korea’s economy began to pick up again. But since then, lifestyles have been Westernized and the najeon chilgi is now a thing of the past. Or is it?

A technological twist

Sure, a najeon chilgi jewelry box will make any girl feel like a queen. But the geek in me, I realized, is far happier with this:

najeon chilgi USB

A najeon chilgi thumb drive I got as a souvenir from an academic forum.

I like it because it’s pretty and practical, keeping my “jewels”—digital copies of academic journals and drafts of my writings—safe and portable. The stylish design is a definite plus. I find that the Korean alphabet design reflects my geeky pursuits, too.

Beautiful and functional at the same time, lending the centuries old art of najeon chilgi a technological twist is a very fitting transformation for today’s modern girl. And because Korea has mastered the art of najeon chilgi and high technology, I sure hope to see more najeon chilgi gadgets in the future–cellphones, laptops, tablet computers, digital cameras….

References:

A mobile phone, slowly dying, is lovely

Photo by Me.

First, it stopped registering and saving phone numbers in the Calls menu. Weeks later, it was the screen turning all white, and then flickering on and off. But removing the batteries for some time before putting it back on did the trick. For now. Clearly, my phone is showing signs of age and is about to say sayonara to me.

I’ve had this since 2007. Back then, I liked it for it’s 3G capability and it’s price–just around PHP10,000.

Since then, many other phones came out in the market with bells and whistles like touchscreens, wi-fi capability, built-in social networking apps, high quality cameras, and a lot more. But I refused to ditch my phone just yet, simply because it was still serviceable. It still made calls and texts–basic things I do everyday on my phone. So there was no need to buy a new one right away.

But now, my phone, while still useful, is slowly dying. And I deem it a lovely thing. This means I can now officially start the search for a new phone. I gotta be prepared. It’s just a matter of time before it conks out, after all.

Off the top of my head, these are my dream features (aside from calls and texts, of course):

1. Wi-fi capability

2. MP3 (for my language study)

3. Video and still camera (for my travels and for impromptu shots)

4. High built-in memory capacity (to store everything)

5. Double SIM

6. Solar powered batteries

7. Kindle-like capabilities (I can dream, can’t I?)

LG’s Cookie Pop phone is solar-powered

LG Cookie Pop might be of interest to those looking for a green phone. Aside from being an affordable touchscreen phone (priced at Php 9,990) equipped with a 3-megapixel camera and social networking functions, it also showcases a host of green features, foremost of which is its solar cell powered battery cover. With this, users can utilize the sun’s energy to charge their phones in the absence of a normal charger. This, of course, also saves on electricity, which is a good thing since our collectively energy consumption is the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a National Geographic documentary I watched before.

Other green features of the LG Cookie Pop phone are:

* It does not contain any polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and is made free of BFR (brominated flame retardants) and CFR (chlorinated flame retardants) almost up to 99.9 percent

* When using the accompanying charger (not the solar powered battery cover), the phone beeps when fully charged to signal to the owner that it’s time to unplug it, thus saving energy

* It is equipped with Eco-tree and Eco-calculator which tracks how users have reduced carbon emissions by charging through the solar cell battery

* The packaging is made from recycled paper and uses soy ink for printing

There are other phones in the Cookie range, such as the LG Cookie Wi-fi and the LG Cookie Ultima, but these don’t have a solar cell battery. I wonder why, since a solar cell battery is a good thing. Any answers, LG?

PEMSEA Visit

This giant globe at the PEMSEA lobby teaches you about the East Asian seas.

Last week, my fellow graduate school student Jessica and I visited PEMSEA, or Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia, for our project for our Development Communication class. We interviewed Ms. Anna Rita Cano on PEMSEA’s communication strategies and programs. We’re supposed to analyze and assess its strengths and weaknesses, after which we’re supposed to give our recommendations. I know a half-day visit isn’t enough to give a comprehensive picture of an organization, or even to critique it, but we will do our best.

What preoccupied me and Jessica while waiting for Ms. Cano were the magazines at the lobby, as well as the giant globe detailing the water currents around East Asia’s waters. Switching the lights on and off and looking at the lines and arrows where water is supposed to be was a learning experience in itself.