Tag: Biopolitics


Eco Currency Questions

In December 2014 Radiolab had a show about Worth. The third segment discussed possibilities to put a price-tag on nature, and what this would implicate. Another interesting perspective on an eco-currency. In their own words:

“Back in 1997, a team of scientists slapped a giant price tag on the earth. They calculated the dollar value of every ecosystem on the planet, and tallied it all up: 142.7 trillion dollars. It’s a powerful form of sticker shock — one that could give environmentalists ammunition to protect wetlands and save forests. But some people argue it actually devalues something that should be seen as priceless. Then the apple farmers of Mao county in central China turn this whole debate upside down and make us question the value of understanding nature in terms of dollars and cents.”

Listen to the story here. Image via Shutterstock.

Microbial Factories

Interview: Nadine Bongaerts, Synthetic Biologist Bridging Science with Society

Nadine Bongaerts is a Dutch synthetic biologist and entrepreneur who is building bridges between science, business and society. Fascinated by engineering life at the smallest scale, she designs bacteria with new functions. In 2010, she joined a team of TU Delft students to participated in the worldwide synthetic biology competition iGEM (Internationally Genetically Engineered Machine) for which they developed DNA bricks that turned bacteria into minuscule oil-degrading cells. The work was recognized nationally and internationally and awarded with different prizes. Her current research focuses on using genetic engineering of bacteria to produce a pearl-like material with advanced mechanical properties.

Bongaerts is always looking for creative ways to share her knowledge and connect science to societal developments. This resulted in the co-founding of Biotecture (2011), a company for communication and education of Life Sciences. Since 2014, she is Global Community Director of Hello Tomorrow in which she leads a global network of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and investors to stimulate interdisciplinary collaborations that accelerate scientific findings to the market.

We recently talk to Nadine Bongaerts about the role and impact of synthetic biology, the gap between bio­sciences and society and the importance of communication to overcome the fear of new technologies.

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Recreating Woolly Mammoth DNA

Bioengineering might soon enable us to bring long gone animals back to life, à la Jurassic Park. Recently, a team of scientists at Harvard University managed to insert wooly mammoth DNA into the genome of its closest relative – the Asian elephant.

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Electricity From Plants

Imagine you are spending a nice sunny day at the park. Like all good Society of Simulations inhabitants, you want to take a picture of your friends and the amazing picnic you are having, to post it on your social networks. Bummer! The battery of your mobile phone is dead. And of course, there isn’t any electric socket anywhere near. This difficulty soon might be a problem of the past. Dutch technostarter Plant-e designs and develops products that use living plants to generate electricity.

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Using Wood to Purify Water

Clean drinking water is vital for all human beings. But unfortunately, not everybody has access to safe and uncontaminated water. 3,4 million people, especially children, die annually from water-related diseases.
There are multiple solutions to provide clean drinking water, even in very remote areas. Some are useful, but most of them are also expensive. Using wood might be the most inexpensive, accessible and simple way to clean water, so far.

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Hurricane Naming System

Since 1948 the World Meteorological Organisation has been naming hurricanes and tropical storms. “ANDREW”, “SANDY”, “IVAN”, “KATRINA”, to name a few. But what did these people do to deserve their names attached to trouble and disaster?

As climate change continues to cause more frequent and devastating storms, the people of climatenamechange.org propose a new naming system; To name the storms after policy makers who deny climate change.


Get into Buckminster Fuller

You have a choice dear reader: spend 4 seconds scanning this blogpost, or spend the full 58:10 minutes (*) watching the retro-futuristic interview with polymath & nextnature thinker avant la lettre Buckminister Fuller.

(*) We are well aware these are times of short-attention span, yet sometimes you have to immerse yourself. We actually recommend watching the video twice to obtain an optimal understanding and appreciation of the material.

children's books cities

Nature Disappears from Childrens’ Books

In an analysis of Caldecott Medal winning children’s books, sociologist Allen Williams recently discovered that depictions of nature have dramatically declined from 1938 to 2008. Looking at 8,000 images in 296 books, Williams and his team found that, early on, illustrations tended to be evenly split between natural and built environments. The balance tipped towards the human realm in the 1970s, and now, the depiction of completely natural environments has all but disappeared from Caldecott books. Characters’ interactions with wild animals declined steadily, as did the use of any animal, wild or domestic, as a protagonist.

Williams only examined Caldecott winners, so the trends he uncovered may only reflect the tastes of the librarians that award the medal, rather than accurately reflecting the publishing market. However, along with the disappearance of “nature” words from children’s dictionaries, this finding indicates that nature deficit disorder may be a top-down imposition. Why socialize kids to enjoy the outdoors when the iPad is already the world’s most compact playground?

Image via Choo Cha Handmade.

incredible shrinking man

Incredibly Shrinking Humanity

Arne Hendricks will be presenting The Incredible Shrinking Man at the Next Nature Power Show on November 5th.

Social erosion, fisheries depletion, deforestation- for the 7 billion people on earth, we’re not just approaching an era of resource scarcity, we’re already there. Except for the lucky few, food, shelter, and even water can be expensive and in short supply. We have tried to address global problems with bigger technologies and bigger laws, but what if we decided to go small? Really small. How would the world change if every human was only 50 centimeters tall?

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Get Vegetarian Teeth and Eat Less Meat

Want to live a greener life? Eat less meat. Recently the UN appealed for a radical shift in diet, to improve individual health and ease conditions affecting the global environment. Reducing meat consumption by 10% reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfortunately, humans are omnivores. Our teeth are designed to eat both meat and plants. Susana Soares and her colleagues designers and engineers of the Material Beliefs program propose to alter human teeth structures into those of herbivores, in order to become a better vegetarian.

Teeth are an essential tool for nutrition and their shape is related to diet. Herbivore animals have developed teeth structures suited to the consumption of plant material. Can our teeth structure be replaced to encourage dietary shifts that reflect social concerns?

Soon at a local dentist near you? Perhaps your government will even give you a tax cut for adopting a more sustainable veggy lifestyle? No seriously, this is bio play.

See also: Phone Tooth, Orthorexia Nervosa: the healty eating disorder.