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Archive for the category “Environment”

Happy New Year! 2014 is already looking up for some

Happy New Year. Hope that the holidays were kind to you.

I briefly went on the National Geographic website not really looking for anything when I came across an article about Intel’s “promise” to ban “conflict minerals.” This is a HUGE first step to improving the lives of thousands of people, maybe millions. Because this can set the example for other companies that profit from  violence and instability. This announcement came from Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, who has only been on the job for six months. Is well informed about the supply chain from the mining field to the production factories, since he was in charge of all of Intel’s supply chain.

This announcement made by Mr. Krzanich represents a step in the right direction following SEC’s adoption of a rule mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which now requires U.S. companies to disclose the use of conflict minerals sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries.

I was glad to see that Mr. Krzanich’s initial reaction was to completely stop using minerals from the DRC and other surrounding areas. Which would have resulted in Intel only using minerals from conflict-free areas. But this idea was immediately disregarded by the supply chain team, do to the notion that this decision would eliminate a key source of income for local residents. So in 2012 Intel decided to only use minerals taken conflict-free areas by 2013.

The minerals that are required for the microprocessors include tantalum, tungsten, gold, and tin. Tantalum being the most important in this situation. Intel is the worlds number one commercial consumer of tantalum, so it is no surprise that it has the most power to change the market.

It took two years for Intel to follow the supply chain, from an actual electronic product to the smelters. And it can now proudly say that all the minerals in their microprocessors are conflict-free.

When writing this post I ran across Enough Project, which is an organization dedicated in fighting genocide and crimes against humanity. The have a list that was finalized in 2012 that lists all the major companies that provide us with electronics and how they rank against each other, regarding the use of conflict minerals. Intel takes the top spot on their list; you can find the list here.

Intel claims that all the conflict-free areas have been looked over by a third party. “You’re really going like a plumber into the depths of these smelters,” explains Sasha Lezhnev, policy director at the Enough Project, which works with Intel on its conflict-free sourcing. “These are highly secretive industries. They’re just not used to public scrutiny. This is just an organizational and cultural change that they in some senses have to react to.”

And just in case you were worried about the price electric gadgets increasing due to this great new step; that will not happen. Mr. Krzanich confirmed that the company decision will not affect prices of gadgets, the only results are pricey airfare and more manpower. So why did this take so long?

Below is a video put together by Intel about the Democratic Republic of Congo, the people there, minerals and much more relating to the matter.  It is a good starting point.


Below you will find a copy of the article from the National Geographic.

Photo of miners eating lunch from a communal bowl in the mining town of Pluto in Ituri Province, Congo.

Miners eating lunch from a communal bowl in the mining town of Pluto in Ituri Province.

Photograph by Marcus Bleasdale, National Geographic

Tom O’Neill

National Geographic

Published January 9, 2014

Intel’s announcement that every microprocessor that it ships will be made without conflict minerals from Africa hit both a personal and professional nerve for photographer Marcus Bleasdale.

Bleasdale has spent the past decade photographing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to bring the issue to the world’s eyes: workers, including children, toiling in brutal conditions in mines overseen by militias in eastern Congo. In October National Geographic magazine published “The Price of Precious,” which featured Bleasdale’s powerful photos dramatizing the suffering of people caught in the middle of the violent, illegal grab for minerals like tin, tungsten, and gold. They’re referred to as “conflict minerals” because of the ongoing strife between army commanders and militia chiefs over control of the mines.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said the company’s action is the culmination of years of effort to track down the smelters, more than 60 in all, that provide the company with minerals such as tantalum, tungsten, gold, and tin and then auditing them for where the minerals came from. The result is that, now, all the smelters that Intel contracts with use minerals from mines not involved in the DRC conflict.

National Geographic spoke with Bleasdale in Washington, D.C.

What was your reaction to the Intel announcement?

It was: “Wow!” I have been working closely with the Enough Project to find ways to engage companies on the issue of using conflict minerals, but I didn’t expect such a significant action. Intel is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of microprocessors. What they did is huge. It gives the effort momentum. Almost one-fourth of the smelters used by electronic companies have been audited as conflict-free. Plus, more and bigger mines in the DRC are coming on tap as certified conflict-free.

There are so many players in this; it is so complex. Conflict minerals are not like diamonds that are relatively easy to source. We need a tracking system.

It must be gratifying to know that your photography has played a role in creating public pressure for such an action.

Let me say that an individual photograph can have a powerful impact. But the real power is what you do with it and whom you partner with. By working with Human Rights Watch, beginning in 2004, my work hit a nerve and was instrumental, for instance, in making a Swiss company stop buying Congolese gold.

What has the response been to your photos in our October issue?

The response has been massive. I have been surprised by how many people were not aware of where the minerals in their cell phones and computers and other electronics came from. I know the article will also engage industries, and there are hundreds of them that use these minerals.

I have also been amazed by the reaction to “The Moment,” a page in the back of the magazine with a photograph of a child’s funeral at the St. Kizito orphanage in the Congo. As a result of that picture, tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the orphanage have come in, from donors ranging from a media company in L.A. to a law firm in Oslo where I recently spoke. Every cent donated has been spent by the orphanage for the children.

Why do photographs have this potency?

With every conflict it is very difficult to show the enormity of the suffering. You have all these statistics, 4.5 million people killed, 30,000 women raped. To get through to people you have to show individuals touched by the conflict. That’s how you engage people, how you shock them to maybe change their behavior. I want to repeat, though: It’s difficult for photographs to do this work on their own. You need an advocacy group to partner with who can knock on the doors of Congress and corporations. This advocacy work is as satisfying to me as taking a photograph. (Related: “Marcus Bleasedale on Shock and Change.”)

It sounds like a personal brand of photojournalism.

Objectivity is important to me. But when you face such horrific suffering and you know that it’s fueled in great part by [the] conflict minerals industry, you want it to stop; you are human and say it has to stop.


For those who hope for a better world. This should be a sort feel like a step in the right direction.

Again Happy New Year



What do you think about lab-grown meat?

I recently stumbled upon a video about Google’s Sergey Brin and his support for the first lab-grown hamburger patty. I have mixed feelings about this because on one hand, I know what the environmental and social consequences are as a result of current and previous demands for meat consumption.  The current production of meat requires 70% of the earths air-able land, 70% of the antibiotics produced and not to forget that meat consumption is one of the leading producers of methane gas. The current global meat consumption is much higher than current meat supply. So at face value I see that lab-grown meat production could be a positive thing.

On the other hand, I have questions that cannot be answered today. For example, we have no idea what the long-term consequences are for consuming lab-grown meat; if there are any at all? Who will have rights, if there are rights, to produce meat? How will the meat reach the poorest? Will meat production be regulated, if so how do you regulate it? Will communities be responsible for producing meat based on their community needs? These are the types of questions I have.

Below is a video featuring Sergey Brin and others, in support of the lab-grown hamburger meat. This video(1) was posted on August 5, 2013.

The next video is on the same topic of course but the video makes me feel like, ‘the hamburger is now made.’ Even though the videos(2) were posted  on the same day, August 5, 2013.

The video below is Al Jazeera’s coverage on this topic. I added this video mostly because of environmentalist,  Kirtana Chandrasekaran’s comment towards the end of the video. Video was posted on August 5, 2013.

Last but not least we have a video which features the taste test of this new lab-grown hamburger. The female critic is Australian nutritionist, Hanni Rutzler and the other critic is a professional food critic named Josh Schonwald. The other man sitting there you might recognize from the other video, is Mark Post and he is a member of the team responsible for the production of this lab-grown hamburger. Video was posted on August 6, 2013.


One of the Few Existing Gems of San Francisco has a Half-Life of 365 days

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During my cool down at Kimbell.

On Saturday mornings, I have the luxury of heading down to the local sports and activities field, called

Kimbell. There I spend a good two hours playing the beautiful game of football (soccer in America). It really is a privilege. But what makes my Saturdays even more special is what I get myself into after football. 2013-05-18 13.30.11

Almost six months ago, I came across (in my opinion) one of the coolest and brightest gems in the city of San Francisco. This Gem, is  The Free Farm Stand, located around Gough  and Eddy St. This farm which I would argue has its own ecosystem, dips down in the earth, can easily by overlooked; It took me two attempts to find it. And it is only about two minutes from where I play football.

This delicate piece of land is run by one the coolest people I have met in SF: Mr. Tree. Yes, his name is Tree and

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Meet: Mr. Tree. I just put my phone in his face, stopped him in his tracks and said, ‘smile.’

he spends a lot of his time gardening and providing Free food to people who need it. I remember one of the Saturdays, Tree had told me that the garden produces thousands of pounds of produce every year and the plot of land is not that big, it is about half a block, I would say. Imagine how much food would be produced if there was a local garden on every block. But the garden includes a greenhouse, a composting area, an office, a tool shed, a labyrinth and a huge variety of plants. The farm is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10:00 am to around 2:30 pm. It is open to anyone who is willing to get their hands dirty. The farm provides free food, on site every Saturday between 1:00pm to 2:00pm and on Sundays from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm at Parque Ninos Unidos: 23rd St & Treat Ave.

I remember my first time there, I had the task of taking out old lettuce and plants so that something else could be planted in place, washing newly harvested produce and composting. While I was working, the sun was shining and I was surrounded by snails (I have never seen so many snails in SF), earwigs, earthworms, birds, etc. Remember I grew up interacting with nature so I felt right at home but at this time I am a more mature person who makes the effort of relocating a snail instead of throwing salt on it. Or trying not to smash and ant instead of forcing it into a battle with another ant. I can happily say I now care for animals instead of just trying to satisfy my urge for amusement, via their life.  The people there are really cool, a handful of people  consistently show up but throughout my time there I have met many nice people.

I am currently trying to spend as much time as I can there because it will only be there till the end of the year (about 196 days). I am so upset that there is nothing we can do. The city will probably build housing where the farm is now. Some people would say, ‘good,’ but I bet there will still be people on the streets. Nonetheless the rest of the time we have there means a great deal to us (gardeners and volunteers) and to the people on the receiving end of our work.

You can find Mr. Tree at this email: and he has a website:

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Welcoming Sign at The Free Farm Stand

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Nice place to chill

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Aerial View

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Path down to the greenhouse, office, shed, eating area and endless possibilities.

I hope that you have already or will found/find a gem like this in your life.


Why Your Plate Should Look Like the Rainbow!


If you ask someone why they think they should  eat their fruits and vegetables? I bet they will reply with, “because it is GOOD for you.” As children so many of us are told to eat our vegetables because it is, ‘good for us,’ but we are not told what, ‘good for us,’ means.

For me,’good for us/you,’ means the cycle of life. Growing up I have had the luxury of interacting with nature. In the sense that my backyard was my playground. You know everyday my brothers and sisters had a target animal that we played with, from lizards,  to monkeys, to ants, to chameleons, to birds, to bees, to rabbits, and so I can go on forever. But this playground also included a garden, at an early age I was exposed to the beautiful cycle of life. Which allowed me to grow up appreciating how nature serves us and how we serve mother earth. So the answer that I prefer when someone asks why should they eat their fruits and vegetables. Is that, “it is the cycle of life.”

Just like you and me plants get sick, have diseases, parasites, nasty bugs and suffer from oxidative stress. Yes, it is a very interesting idea that plants are constantly fighting off some nasty invader. The idea that there is more to plants than water and soil is foreign to many but it does not have to be. We eat fruits and vegetables so that our body can use the same phytochemicals that plants use to survive for our benefit. Phytochemicals are not officially considered essential for life but I beg to differ. Because we eat fruits and vegetables because our bodies need phytochemicals to function efficiently.

The are many different types of phytochemicals. In the nutrition world phytochemicals can be grouped into different colors: Green, orange/yellow, blue/purple, red and white. Fruits and vegetables that have the same pigment have the similar phytochemicals. Our bodies uses these different phytochemicals for different reasons. For example carotenoids(this is why carrots are orange) found in carrots are good for your eyes but they also have anticancer properties.

The is so much information surrounding vegetables and nutrition but for this post we will keep it a bit more broad.

Below is a quick video featuring Dr. Weil.

“…you know they are just great, I just eat em.”

Haha, he is too funny.

“you want to eat a variety of vegetables across the color spectrum.”

The cycle of life: Dr. Weil tends to the vegetables in his garden and in return the garden provides him with wonderful food.

You do not have to search far and wide to find beneficial foods.


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