Take the train European train rides provide scenic views The worldâ€™s most polluted cities How toxic particles in the air endanger health Underground walks A look at some amazing underground attractions
A w o r d f r o m t he G e n e ra l d i r e c t o r Print
Photo by Nada Karam
Subject: Let the sunshine in From: Pascale Choueiry Saad To: 'm be Date: 10452 lightyear
Some people say that A RAY OF SUN A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY…and that it makes people happy and the world cheerful, warmer, and brighter. Sunlight, when absorbed in moderation, happens to be one of the greatest healing remedies that is found in nature. The sun provides the energy that I need in order to exist on this Earth. It gives me a healthy, glowing look, makes my skin smooth, stimulates my appetite, and improves my metabolism. It contains the most effective, natural healing agent that can give me a lift when I feel down. It soothes my nerves and boosts my mood, leaving me with a sense of well-being. It increases the production of endorphins and serotonin in the brain, which makes me feel much better. In general, when I get enough sunshine during the day, I sleep much better at night, as sunshine increases the production of melatonin by the body. So, summer, the season of sunlight, is obviously more conducive to happiness than any other season, and it can do wonders for us. Let's throw out everything that we have heard about the evils of sunlight, and just kick back and bask in the sunshine to our hearts' content, while seizing life, chasing dreams, and doodling in between. In this issue, we take a look at some of the world’s most fascinating underground attractions, from the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky–the world’s largest known cave system–to the historic Catacombs in Rome. We examine the world’s most polluted cities, such as Mexico City and Hong Kong, and describe the devastating toll that toxic matter in the atmosphere is taking on the health of their inhabitants. Closer to home, we take a look at the ecological crisis that our country is confronting, as well as the paltry efforts that the Ministry of the Environment is making to rectify this situation. We talk with two local pioneers of eco-tourism, Karim al Khatib of Eco Village in the Chouf and Tania Nader of La Maison de la Fôret in Jezzine. Finally, we interview one of the few true ecology supporters in Lebanon, MP Samy Gemayel, who discusses his concerns for our environment and explains some of the reasons for the government’s failure to address this issue in a serious manner up until now.
8/3/2013 10:30 A.M.
A n o te t o t h e g o v e r n o r
Subject: A treasurer to treasure From: Pascale Choueiry Saad
Lebanon has historically been home to visionaries who have had a profoundly positive impact on their nation, an effect that has many times transcended local borders. This breed of people tends to be a cut above the rest – they are not afraid to take risks, they possess a distinct kind of antenna that enables them to pick up on an idea or a feeling that is out of the box. Their vision is extraordinary; it is a lens that can alter our views and even our lives. I have had the good fortune of knowing such a person. When you first meet him, a concoction of feelings builds up and brims over inside you… awe, fascination, and intimidation first come to mind. Always the charmer, always composed, it is never forced, although, flattery aside, I must say that he is a force, and one to be reckoned with. When Riad Salameh took the helm as governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank 20 years ago, he was entrusted with an unenviable task. The war cannons had fallen silent then but there was the deafening destruction of the state that had to be fully rebuilt, and at various levels. Despite surging tides of stagnation, revolutions, infighting, wars, and political ambiguity, Salameh charted his own course and steered a crumbling state towards economic stability. Since then, he has acquired somewhat of a hero status at home and beyond, having preserved the reputation of Lebanese banks during extremely trying times. Inarguably a pioneer, Salameh is a key figure of Lebanon’s enlightenment in true Adam Smithian style, and a revolutionary who introduced core changes to a dilapidated economy and state through a vision as acute as that of Karl Marx. I’m sure he would nod his head in disapproval upon reading these analogies. Humility, after all, is the trait of great men. I’m also positive that those remarks would raise an eyebrow or two from haters. Perhaps a little piece of conventional/ pop culture wisdom applies here: You don’t get to have 500 million friends without making a few enemies, do you? If I were to dig deeper and farther back, I would quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, who argues about common misunderstanding of greatness, saying that Socrates, Galileo, and Newton were misunderstood. “To be great is to be misunderstood,” says the essayist and poet. Still, it cuts
through me sometimes that some people would try to tarnish his stellar reputation because of the mere fact that he is accomplished and is a great mind. But then I remember something that U.S. Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover once said: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” Anyone who has sat down with the Central Bank governor, myself included, could tell you stories about this exceptional character, but this space won’t allow me to recount anecdote after anecdote. One of many instances that I remember was when I was in his office with a handful of colleagues discussing an environmental project, and how we were stunned by the clarity and flow of his ideas, how he answered virtually all of our queries before we even finished asking, as though he were reading off our questions list or even reading our minds. His assistant did not come in with a prepared list of facts and figures to help him out, as is the case now with most people in authority, who have an army of people filling in the blanks for them when needed. No, that is just not he. Nobody does his homework or legwork for him. He doesn’t take notes. He registers everything mentally. The thing is, at the time we were not strictly talking numbers, but concentrating on the environment, so we totally stepped out of his comfort zone. But that is just like him – he is one of those well-rounded figures that we don’t see much of anymore. That’s why I always say that he is fit for president, and he rules in more ways than one. He would, of course, brush off my suggestion with a smile. Yes, Lebanon has its own treasure trove, but I’m not referring to the gold reserves here. The above note is a humble attempt to treasure the treasurer. It is not an overstatement to say that Lebanon carries on and survives because of him and the likes of him – as few and far between as they may be. There is much to thank him for; economists and analysts will likely bring up the GDP and gross foreign currency reserves here. I would rather focus on something of added value, such as the green loan gestures and the circulars that he has passed, giving banks, businesses, and interested parties incentives for credits for the betterment of the environment. So here is a little thank you Your Excellency, for your vision, your character, and your compassion. You are, without a shred of doubt, a national treasure.
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TE A M
Saad tor Pascale Choueiri
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d d Chehab Edgar Chief Environmental Consultant
Environmental Consultants Bassam Kantar Art Directro
Hage Tannouri r Pauline
y Ja itor Jod d E y p o C Coordinator Joelle Choueiry Makhoul
or Antoine Hajj Responsible Direct
Cherine Yazbec k, Clement Tann ouri Nada Karam, Roger Ghanem, Serge Sulahian, Yousra, Bustros
Translators Jody Ja ffe, Sabine Abi Dergham
z, ex Grey, Alia Fawa Contributing Writers Al nnoury, Ta a an ntar, Di e Sara, Bassam Ka
Alin ilip N. Kurukgy, chael Campbell, Ph Mi e, ag uv Sa s me Ja Rob Lawley.
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With 17 years of experience in the environmental field, Edgard Chehab is a renowned name in local and regional green circles. He is the assistant resident representative and manager of the Energy and Environment Program of UNDP, Lebanon. He is also the advisor to the Ministery of the Environment. Beyond is lucky to have Mr. Chehab as its environmental consultant and dear friend.
Cont ribut ors
Yousra wanted to study medicine. She studied management, which bored her profoundly. She considers herself to be a self-taught person who learned and went deeper into her studies according to her passions, which are numerous. They include reading, politics, philosophy, music writing, gardening, and hiking, when she is never without her camera. Professionally speaking, she has been the assistant to two extraordinary men: Gebran Tueini and Michel Elfteriades. She avows a profound love for Lebanon, which she has crossed largely on foot, and to which she is devoting a great deal of her energy as a militant who is into everything.
A seasoned Lebanese journalist, Bassam Kantar is the founding member of the Lebanese Environment Party (LEP). Kantar frequently writes about environmental and human rights issues. He strongly believes that the free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad. Recently, Kantar won a fellowship from the Earth Journalism Network to cover the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (UNFCCC) summit, COP18, which will be held in Doha, Qatar.
Rawia Ghandour Zantout, married and a mother of 3, was born in Beirut in 1971. She grew up in the south of France where she pursued her school education at the Centre International de Valbonne and obtained her university degree in business and finance at the University of Southern Europe in Monaco. Rawia’s passion for art made her take extensive private lessons in drawing and painting in parallel with her studies. Until today, Rawia has participated in more than 12 exhibitions in Lebanon and abroad.
Clement Tannouri Diana Boudargham Tannoury
In her contributions to Beyond, Diana Boudargham Tannoury continues to push her poetic license to the next level. With a master’s degree in international communications and international relations from Boston University, Mrs. Boudargham Tannoury enjoys writing short stories and poems in the hope that her words will help raise awareness about nature’s fragility.
Clement Tannouri is an aerial photography specialist who has authored several gorgeous photography books including Cedar of Lebanon, Pledge of Eternity (2010), On Earth as it is in Heaven (2009), and Box of Moments (2007). Mr. Tannouri returned from France in 2004 to settle in his native Lebanon, where he started his own graphic design and advertising company. He has been capturing Lebanon’s grandeur ever since.
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Naturally ambitious – The environment ranks low on the “to-do list” of many a Lebanese politician. A non-issue when it comes to voting, those willing to take up the fight for a greener Lebanon seem few and far between. However, Samy Gemayel, MP for the Matn District, is one of those few, a true champion of Lebanon’s embattled ecosystems. Here, Beyond talks to Gemayel about his hopes and fears for the country’s natural environment. Words Michael Campbell
Michael Campbell: How do you view the state of the environment in Lebanon, and what are your main concerns in this regard? Samy Gemayel: We believe that the environment is the last priority on the government’s agenda, and it’s been that way for 20 years. Everything is being done at the expense of the environment. MC: Let’s take it sector by sector. What are your thoughts? Water
SG: We don’t have the basics in Lebanon. For example, wastewater treatment, or the treatment of sewage before it reaches the sea, is lacking. We have the most polluted sea in the region, because we don’t have regulations or
a recycling strategy. The sea and coast are in a catastrophic situation. The budget of the Ministry of the Environment is very small. There is no real effort being made on a governmental level. Quarries
SG: We have hundreds of quarries in Lebanon and none of them are legal, but they’re all operational. There’s real money to be made from stone in Lebanon and the profits are being used to feed corruption so that the owners of the quarries can bypass any law to which they object. In the meantime, we’re destroying our small country. Small countries the world over import their materials so that they can avoid destroying their land. We’re a touristic country, yet we’re destroying our environment. At the moment you can find quarries all over the country, even in residential areas. We don’t have the space to keep the quarries away from built-up areas, so they’re everywhere. Air Pollution
SG: From Bikfaya we can see a black layer over Beirut that’s approximately 600 meters above sea level. I
shudder to think at the damage that it’s doing within the city. No effort at all is being made to reduce the pollution. Again, there are no tax laws. There is no plan. We should be looking at regulated public transportation, in order to reduce pollution. That would put us on the right track. Unfortunately, we only have cars, many of which are using old diesel fuel. In the rest of the world there are public transportation systems with an infrastructure, including things like bus lanes, bus stops, and clear routes. Since we don’t have any of these things, the alternative might be private buses, but that system’s currently in a disastrous state. The government hasn’t bothered to organize the private sector. At the moment the private bus companies are competing with guns and knives to control the routes, while the state just lets them sort it out among themselves. The most powerful mafia in each area eliminates the competition and imposes the rules. All these buses are huge polluters, as they’re all old, un-serviced, and very bad for the environment. MC: There are various plans to rehabilitate the green spaces of Beirut. What’s your position on these initiatives?
We feel that the people in charge do not have it in their blood to fight for the country...
SG: We’re in favor of any kind of green space or reserves anywhere in the country. We have to protect what green space is left, for there are so few such areas left in the country. I believe that there’s a big role for aggressive environmental NGOs. MC: A common refrain is that the Municipality of Beirut doesn’t have the budget…. SG: The Municipality of Beirut has more money than the State of Lebanon. It could use that money for so many issues and it has the responsibility to act on so many matters, to make living conditions within the city better.
slow to act on the issues that you’ve highlighted? SG: I believe that the government and the people in charge are too busy fueling corruption, making money, protecting their interests, and promoting their political programs to do something to help the country. Nobody is afraid for the country’s environment, and we feel that the people in charge don’t have it in their blood to fight for the country, especially big political groups, groups that control several ministries. You can’t blame the smaller parties, but you can blame the big blocs.
For example, I’d suggest opening the Horsh Beirut to the public, but in a very strict, regulated manner with the necessary security and rules. We have to protect the only large green space in the city. It’s time to bring in an international company to manage the park with clear rules and guidelines. MC: All the above is fine, but you need to win the battle for the minds of the next generation. SG: True, but there’s no environmental education taking place among children, and the Ministry of Education really needs to move on this issue. This has to be part of the curriculum, nationwide. MC: Why, in your opinion, is the government so
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ECO ARTICLE The mere suggestion that Lebanon is an eco-friendly country is a complete delusion. Indeed, we are suffering from an overwhelming crisis in terms of ecology, despite the fact that Lebanon has been praised as the greenest country in the Middle East region. That is no longer the case.
With endless blocks of concrete, a lack of public gardens, and endangered national parks, the future looks rather grim. Even more importantly, the culture of conserving flora and fauna is nonexistent. People who litter entire areas, beaches, and the sea, should be held accountable for such barbaric, intolerable, and uncivilized behavior. Ministry of the Environment: Just talk Despite the recent advertisements produced by the Ministry of the Environment, it will take far more efforts to propagate an eco-friendly culture in Lebanon. The Ministry’s authority has been long lost, and the mere mention of its presence in the corrupt government makes it more of a laughing stock. When a fellow minister in the same government owns a concrete-producing plant in the Metn Area that has been disfiguring the distinguished mountains, ruining an entire eco-system, that’s even more damaging to the government’s reputation. I am obviously referring to Nicolas Fattoush, who managed that unlicensed factory. It has been shut down by the state, and Fattoush has claimed a $400 million compensation, which the court has granted him. Ironically those funds represent more than the Ministry of the Environment’s own budget. That’s how tragic and scandalous things are. Something must be done, or Lebanon will soon be ruing and mourning a glorious ecological past.
Philip N. Kurukgy
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URBAN RAINFALL HARVESTING: Old-fashioned values
– Beyond talked to Ziad Khayat, project manager at the Lebanese Center for Water Management and Conservation, about his organization’s attempts to reintroduce the practice of urban rainwater harvesting to Lebanon. Through a simple process, rainwater can be harvested and reused in a number of different ways and Khayat’s team is working to spread awareness of the concept and the ease with which it can be put into practice. Words alex grey
Alex Grey: Take us through the basic concept of urban rainwater harvesting. Ziad Khayat: It involves collecting the rainwater that falls on your roof, transporting that water to a storage point, and then reusing it. It can then be used for irrigation, household use, or to top up water. AG: What’s the current state of rainwater harvesting in Lebanon? ZK: Rainwater harvesting existed in rural Lebanon. Many houses collected and stored water as part of their way of life. As people started moving into cities
and living in modern buildings, the tradition was lost. Rainwater harvesting is essentially non-existent in modern Lebanese cities. AG: What are you doing to address the issue? ZK: We’re trying to make people aware of the concept. The technology is simple. All that you need are pipes connected to a storage tank, a simple pump, and additional pipes to carry the water to the house, or wherever you’re using the water. Presently we’re working with Arc En Ciel, an NGO, and two schools. The idea is to have projects in the
Rain Water Harvesting a gift of nature from the sky
Gutter Downspout Downspout Filtering Tank Access Tank/Cistem
of rainfall on a 150m2 roof area
1000L of Water
Capture it while it rains Use it when in need
schools, as they demand the most water during the winter. In addition, the students can learn about the concept and take the ideas to their parents. So, we’ve installed tanks on the roofs, a filtering system, and we are pumping the water back into the system. It can be used for irrigation and washing and cleaning, given that the water is filtered. The students are being shown the system and are being educated about it. AG: What are the education materials that you’re using? ZK: At the schools we have a presentation full of facts and figures about the issue, the amount of water that can be collected, and the uses to which it can be put. We’re going to produce guidelines for the general public, so that they can implement the system at home. We’re also taking part in shows. Recently we were at
the Beirut Garden Show, where we had a mock-up of a house with a storage system that we demonstrated to the public. AG: What are you planning to do in the future? ZK: At present the program is at the showcasing level. We haven’t secured enough funding to expand it further. However, the Ministry of Energy and Water is talking about changing the general water tariff to reflect water usage more closely. Once the new tariff comes into effect, the incentive to save water will increase dramatically. It’s only a matter of time before people will become interested in the concept for both economic as well as environmental reasons.
Lights, Camera, ACTION Student films raise awareness of green issues
– The Ministry of the Environment recently encouraged students of all ages and from throughout the country to enter a competition to highlight the plight of Lebanon’s ailing environment. Invitations were sent to every school and university in the country. Students could enter in a number of categories, from writing essays on the environment to submitting short films with an environmental theme. Beyond sat down with Omar Shami, the universitylevel winner in the short environmental film category.
Words James Sauvage
James Sauvage: How did you get involved with the competition? Omar Shami: One of my friends told me about it, and I watched the TVC, went to the Ministry of the Environment’s website, read the terms, and decided to enter the contest. My sister and I collaborated to create the piece, Our Words, Our Works. JS: Tell me about the video. What were you trying to portray, what ideas inspired it, and what form did it take? OS: Green concerns are an urgent global issue addressed by many NGOs and countries worldwide. My sister and I wanted to create something short that indirectly dealt with green issues in Lebanon. We remembered the cedar and its role in our heritage. It is on the Lebanese flag, it’s evergreen, and its presence or absence can summarize the story of all things green in Lebanon. We also included children in it, as they are the ones who will suffer in the future from our negligence. JS: What message were you trying to put across? OS: Our grandfathers wanted us to take care of green, and so they drew it in the flag to keep it as an eternal reminder. What if all things green disappeared from Lebanon? What would be left then?
JS: What are your thoughts on the competition? Do you think that the goals of the competition were worthwhile? What are your overall impressions? OS: I was honored to win. First, I’m grateful for those great people at NDU’s Chouf Campus, who supported me all the way, and felt proud to have me as a winner. However, we’re still waiting to see our prizes and the film advertised on television. JS: Would you recommend taking part in the competition to other people? OS: It’s a great way to get a message out, so I encourage others to be part of it, yes. We all need to think about our daily actions and their effects on nature. Each and every one of us can make a big difference. Nature gives without asking; a minimum sense of gratitude should require us to take good care of it. JS: Do you have any final thoughts that you’d like to express? OS: I’m thankful to everyone who made this contest possible. I’d like to thank the kids, Weam and Wael Bu Ezzedine, for starring in the short and stealing the hearts of everyone who watched them sing the anthem. I thank God for His care, Ola Shami for her great ideas and mind, and my parents for their constant support.
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A river snake in Beirut? Yes, but not the kind you imagine
B eirut R iver S olar S nake is the first solar farm of renewable energ y to be constructed in L ebanon . I t is also the first of its kind in the world to be built over a river . B e yo n d talks to P ierre E l K houry, who spearheads this project along with the M inistry of E nerg y and Water . Words Alex grey
Alex Grey: What is your title? Pierre El Khoury: I am the Director of the Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation (LCEC), which is a national organization affiliated with the Lebanese Ministry of Energy and Water. LCEC deals with end-use energy conservation and renewable energy at the national level. AG: Can you describe one of your main projects – the BRSS? PK:The Beirut River Solar Snake was created to offer a landmark project for solar energy in the country, through a national, publicly-owned company and to ultimately encourage the private sector to invest more in this energy source. The project’s first phase is to cover the river (six meters above the water) with 20,000 square meters of solar panels to generate 1 megawatt (MW). Who will build this project? PK: The company that executes the project will be required to have previous experience in the field and will have to partner with a civil engineering company. Up to 26 companies have been shortlisted to bid for the contract, and we will select the winner at the end of July. AG: How much will it cost? PK: We estimate the cost at between $2.3 billion and $3.6 million. We have a budget of $4 million from the Lebanese Ministry of Energy and Water to build the first megawatt. AG: What will be the next phase?
PK: After we reach one MW, our next goal will be to attain ten MW in five years. Ten MW can provide energy for approximately 10,000 homes and require around 6.5 kilometers of solar panels. AG: How will you finance this project? PK: We need to obtain financing from banks. In addition, money will be collected by selling electricity that will have been generated from the first one MW to EDL (Electricité du Liban). AG: What is the future projection? PK: Today in Lebanon renewable energy represents only six percent of total energy. Our goal is to reach 12 percent of total energy (the equivalent of 868 MW) by 2020. The remaining 88 percent will come from conventional energy. AG: In what other projects is LCEC involved? PK: There are many other projects in progress. We are currently accepting bids from companies to manage a wind farm project. We are also involved in the national financial model developed by the Central Bank called NEEREA (National Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Action). AG: Tell us about NEEREA PK: It offers loans to all types of private entities with 0 percent interest over 14 years. We have already exceeded $60 million in loans to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, such as efficient lighting, green buildings, hydropower, etc. This new local market is now the third national economic driver for Lebanon, after real estate and banking. 33 33
Beirut River Solar Snake - Photo (C) LCEC
– The issue of water, how it is collected, stored, distributed, and controlled, is a constant problem for the Lebanese government. It comes as little surprise then that the Ministry of Energy and Water approved a comprehensive water strategy in March 2012 that deals with every aspect of the water situation within the country. Beyond sat down with Abdo Tayar, advisor to the Minister of Energy and Water, to discuss the new strategic vision for the country’s water future.
Words Rob Lawley
Rob Lowley: Tell us about the strategy before the publication of the latest report in 2012. Abdo Tayar: There was no comprehensive strategy in place. Prior to this plan the government planned the creation of a network of dams throughout the country, but there wasn’t a concerted effort to create an all-encompassing vision. The latest strategic plan, the National Water Sector Strategy, rectifies that. RL: How was the new strategy devised? AT: It was done in a participative, consultative manner. All the stakeholders, both Lebanese and international, were invited to participate and they did. They included municipalities, ministries, NGOs, regulatory bodies, and international groups such as the World Bank, UNDP, UNICEF and more. RL: Can you explain the strategy for us? AT: We looked at infrastructure, governance, production, distribution, and wastewater. Having examined all of the above, we were able to create an overview and a plan. We created a baseline using values from 2010. We saw that the situation was bad, in terms of management of resources, network efficiency, and wastewater. We have better coverage than the regional average, but the wastewater treatment is bad. In terms of coverage, we were better than the region, more households were connected to the supply than average, but service levels were lower. Continuity of water supply is still bad. We’re at 10 hours per day, which puts us in the lower half of the regional table.
(C) Igor Kolos
WATER STRATEGY: The master plan
(c) Chase Clausen
To optimize our collection systems, we’re aiming to create additional storage systems, artificially refill acquifets, and vastly improve rainwater collection.
RL: How does the National Water Sector Strategy aim to improve things? AT: In the legal sector, we have outlined the creation of a comprehensive legal code, or a Code de l’Eau. To optimize our collection systems, we’re aiming to create additional storage systems, artificially refillaquifers, and vastly improve rainwater collection. RL: If everything goes according to plan, when should we expect to see results? AT: At present, our water supply is in deficit, and it is expected to remain so until 2016. However, given the projects that we outline in the Strategy, new capacity should come online in 2015 and capacity will grow all the way through the 2030s. We envisage a cost of around $7.7 billion spread out until the 2030s to undertake our proposed projects, to cover the current gap, and to meet the growing demand. Given that the system will improve and the fact that huge savings will be made through increased efficiency, we anticipate cost recovery in 2021 and we anticipate that the program will self-finance around that time.
TAKING A STROLL DEE P
DOWN UNDER TO SEE WHAT LIES BELOW T here â€™ s an undeniable sense of intrigue and m y stery when we think of attractions underground . Far from natural light and the nois y street level , what lurks below piques our wildest imagination and often offers us strong clues from the past. B e yo n d looks at some of the world â€™ s most interesting underground attractions and covers ground from pre - historic times up until today.
(C) Tatiana Popova
(C) View Apart
Cu Chi Tunnel
Saigon 42, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
he suitably called Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is – with more than 400 miles of interconnected passages – the world’s largest known cave system, with vast chambers and complex labyrinths.
Used during times of desperation, the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City were literally an underground village during the Vietnam War serving as the Viet Cong’s base of operation, although they harbored diseases such as malaria and were infested with stinging, creepy crawlies. Less spooky and widely used today is Montreal’s Underground City, which is literally a city spanning 32 kilometers. Used by half a million people per day, it has everything from malls,
banks, universities, and even an ice hockey arena. The famous Catacombs in Rome served as underground burial places dating back to the second century. They are filled with interesting graffiti and multiple galleries and chambers to explore. Another fascinating subterranean world is Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow, Poland which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors can find lakes, chapels, salt statues, and the world’s largest mining museum. Perhaps not for everyone are the Paris Sewers, which gives a tantalizing glimpse of the wastewater disposal system in the city, which dates back to 1370.
Wieliczka Salt Mine (13th century) is one of the world’s oldest salt mines. It has over 300 corridors and 300 chambers on 9 levels – Wieliczka, Poland
Here is a closer look at the spectacles and mysteries that lie under our feet.>>>
Mammoth Cave National Park. Worldâ€™ s longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored - Kentucky, USA
(C) Wyatt Rivard
Catacombe de Paris.
Paris Catacombs & the bones of 6 million people â€“ Paris, France
St Paul's Catacombs. The ancient Christian cemetery (catacombs) â€“ Rabat , Malta
(C) Elena Yakusheva
Derinkuyu Cave City. Cave city in Derinkuyu â€“ Cappadocia, Turkey
One of Ajloun Castle tunnels Petra, Jordan
(C) Vit Kovalcik
Ajloun Castle Tunnels.
(C) Radu Razvan
Turda Salt Mine.
Stone tunnel in a salt mine â€“ Turda , Transylvania , Romania.
The underground Basilica Cistern, built by Justinianus in the 6th century, is an important supply of sweet water for the city. Many types of fish live in the cistern's clean waters - Istanbul , Turkey
(C) Angelo Giampiccolo
(C) Marko Razpotnik Sest
A natural limestone sinkhole where people swim in the middle of the city - Yucatan peninsula, Valladolid, Mexico
(C) View Apart
Railay Beach Cave.
Entrance of a cave - Krabi, Thailand
Devetashka Cave. Entrance of the cave - Devestaki, north Bulgaria 58
Quinta da Regaleira Well The Initiation well of Quinta da Regaleira. Itâ€™s a 27 meter staircase that leads straight down underground and connects with other tunnels via underground walkways - Sintra, Portugal .
E s s e n c e
64 (C) Vibrant Image Studio
Always you Walk by me as nature weaves its beauty with flair Look up and seek the breeze that caressed our hair a lover abandoning swaying branches and ruffled leaves Carry my spirit as the world fades away
Diana Boudargham Tannoury
into memories of a once upon a day I sought you in the horizons and skies and so close to me were you amidst all the lies My heart refused you dreams and fairy tales the ones breathed in hope and innocence Toward you, their rightful master, in reverence these visions set their sails Were I to live or die, I found you In laughter and tears of despair you were always fair An angel watched over me, I always knew As far as my heart seeks the yonder the truth is only buried within our spirit Awaken it and tear the rest asunder With wings of freedom I will lift and fly away to the Earth and Moon or fall into the oceans and seas It is all the same to me and soon I will be nothing, only the eye that sees.
“The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” Kate Chopin
How PREPARED IS Lebanon FOR HYDROCARBON EXTRACTIONS? â€“ The oil and gas resources in Lebanon will present an opportunity for economic and social development for the country, yet it will not come without an impact on the environment. We talk to Assem Abou Ibrahim, head of the Quality, Health, Safety and Environment Department of the Petroleum Administration, to get a better picture of what the countryâ€™s oil and gas resources are and how the country can prepare itself for extracting them.
Words Alia fawaz
69 (C) James Jones Jr
Alia Fawaz: Can you explain the role of the Petroleum Administration? Assem Abou Ibrahim: The Petroleum Administration was set up in 2012 to manage and to support the Minister of Energy and Water and the Council of Ministers in the process of establishing the regulations for licensing and negotiating with international petroleum companies.
AF: What happens in routine and accidental damage situations? AAI: You draw up emergency response plans that address these cases. The oil companies need to have oil spill response plans that are specified in the law and further elaborated in the petroleum activities regulations.
AF: At what stage are you in the licensing round for oil companies to bid on offshore exploration? AAI: The first licensing round was approved in December 2012 and we announced the pre-qualified companies in April. We have 46 companies. We have prepared other decrees that are necessary for the bidding round, which takes place from May 2 to November 4, 2013. We should award the bids in the first quarter 2014 and we are looking at a maximum of four blocks (contracts), after which these companies can begin the exploration phase (3 to 5 years), followed by the production phase (25 years).
AF: What preventive measure can you take before you begin the extraction stage? AAI: Preventive measures and environmental policies need to be incorporated in the design of the facility. You have dischargers that are studied and approved in accordance with international standards, with cooling waters not exceeding three percent of temperature difference, which are known not to have an impact on the surrounding eco-system. In the oil and gas sector there are many good practices and good designs/ controls that are currently being implemented, and these are what we need to adopt.
AF: What are the potential environmental hazards? AAI: The environmental effects are well known and understood. The impacts can vary from air emissions, combustion engines, gas turbine, and boilers on the platform, as well as venting and flaring. Regarding flaring, many countries are following the 0 flaring policy, but this is still a need; you need to flair in order to ensure the safety of the facility. Other effects may include wastewater and discharges, hydro-testing water, cooling waters, and so forth. Lebanon is densely populated, and therefore drilling (even offshore) may have significant impact near/on shore The first measure that we implemented was to establish a 3-mile (5- kilometer) buffer zone when we designed the blocks. In addition, we have Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), which define the impacts. We do consequence modeling, to determine how any discharges or emissions will disperse and pollute.
Lebanon is densely populated and therefore drilling (even offshore) may have significant impact near/on shore
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“Talking about pollution, nobody’s holy. They who pollute have sinned against nature.” Toba Beta
Cairo, Santiago, Mexico City, Kabul, Kumasi, Ulaanbaatar, Baghdad, Lima, São paulo, Caracas, New Delhi, Mumbay, Dhobi Ghat, Varanasi, Guatemala City, Hong Kong, Malang, Yogyakarta. Java island, Brunei, Jakarta, Bandar Seri Begawan, Cambodia, Nairobi, Santiago, Mexico City, Ulaanbaatar, Kabul, Afghanista, Cairo, Baghdad, Lima, São paulo, Caracas, Venezuela, Kumasi, Cairo, Santiago, Mexico City, Kabul, Kumasi, Ulaanbaatar, Baghdad, Lima, São paulo, Caracas, New Delhi, Mumbay, Dhobi Ghat, Varanasi, Guatemala City, Hong Kong, Malang, Yogyakarta. Java island, Brunei, Jakarta, Bandar Seri Begawan, Cambodia, Nairobi, Santiago, Mexico City, Ulaanbaatar, Kabul, Afghanista, Cairo, Baghdad, Lima, São paulo, Caracas, Venezuela, Kumasi, Cairo, Santiago, Mexico City, Kabul, Ulaanbaatar, Kumasi, Baghdad, Lima, São paulo, Caracas, New Delhi, Mumbay, Dhobi Ghat, Varanasi, Guatemala City, Hong Kong, Malang, Yogyakarta. Java island, Brunei, Jakarta, Bandar Seri Begawan, Cambodia, Nairobi, Hong Kong, MalanG
W T U LL
S s ce d n ue pi eq Ra to s n . co air dds of e a s th ted ly erm f n t s o , o n fe w fe in ies es i a r i tr st hei oun cit . u t j c ed ts e d ar an ing lut tan s u se op ol ea tal vel t p oll s di api de mos f p o g c re â€™s n lu ted mo rld tion s a e ou pul th e wo tra i n r o n se y p y i t th nce d o a c el ll an s ens cia oks eir t d pe c lo th s fe n de g i n, e ond and y h n rt ivi tio . Be ty i a i B l iz rs al of ban nge qu ur e da air th eir th 75
Mexico City has significant concentrations of all major pollutants, including carbon monoxide. A cloud of smog hovers over the nine million inhabitants of the capital, and it tops Santiago for the highest amount of ground-level ozone.
(C ) Frontpage
(C ) Robert Strain
Poor water quality in Baghdad threatens to exacerbate the the transmission of waterborne diseases in the city. Fatal outbreaks of cholera struck several provinces of the country, including Baghdad, from August 2007 to December 2007. ��
Cairoâ€™s population is not only exposed to extremely high levels of particulates, but also to disconcerting levels of lead, resulting from the use of unleaded gasoline. Cairenes are also exposed to masses of smoke resulting from local famersâ€™ burning rice ashes on a seasonal basis.
(C ) Baloncici.
(C ) lebedev.
Kabulâ€™s infrastructure was built for some 500,000 residents. Refugee influx resulting from the war has led to an additional five million inhabitants, haphazard construction, and fading green spaces within the Afghan capital. Because of the use of wood-burning stoves and generators that feed on gas (to make up for electricity shortages), pollution is at high levels. Kabul residents also use unleaded gasoline, leaving the people even more vulnerable to a multitude of diseases.Â
(C ) leungchopan
Hong Kong’s level of air pollution is sky high, reaching – in some areas – the 500 bar, the highest it can possibly be on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI). The government has had to urge citizens to think twice before heading out for outdoor activities. There are excess nitrogen dioxide, excess sulfur dioxide, and high levels of ozone and carbon monoxide.
(C ) cozyta
The Harvard International Review states that two out of five of New Delhiâ€™s residents are subject to respiratory problems, mostly resulting from car pollution, while poor construction has contaminated the sewage system.Â The city capital has six times the amount of concentration of certain hazardous particles than what is deemed safe by the WHO.
(C) Jenny Leonard
100,000 inhabitants live in a 1,000,000 m2 in Favela Heliopolis, SĂŁo Paulo.
(C) Zdorov Kirill Vladimirovich
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Venezuelaâ€™s houses in poor districts.
(C) Yory Frenklakh
Architectural Chaos in poverty zones in Lima.
(C) Charles Harker
Guatemala City, mala Guate
Nearly 2 million people a year die prematurely from illness attributable to indoor air pollution resulting from solid fuel use.
The river in Java Island is one of the five most poluted rivers in the world.
(C) Donya Nedomam
n, Bandar Seri Begawa
Stilt houses in Kampong Ayer, rise above the polluted water.
(C) trevor kittelty
Ghana Vertical view of houses in Cape Coast township. Water and waste management has become one of the countryâ€™s main problems as a large percentage of the population continues to live without access to improved water or sanitation in addition to the architectural chaos.
“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” ~ Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Time to think about the kids - Pediatric surgeon Zaki Ghorayeb talks to Beyond about the effects of pollutants on children and how our mindset must change to tackle the deeper issues. Words alia fawaz
Alia Fawaz: Tell us why children are most vulnerable? Zaki Ghorayeb: A fetus or a child is very vulnerable to any form of toxin–be it cigarette smoke, X-rays, pollution, etc., –as it can impact the level of DNA mutation. The cells of “growing” people are vulnerable during the stage of cell division. For example, a child that was exposed to high levels of pesticides can develop cancer later on in life, whereas if this exposure occurs in late adulthood it has significantly less impact. Likewise, a senior citizen can be exposed to high levels of X-rays and this will have little impact on his health. AF: Has any study been conducted in Lebanon? ZG: The World Health Organization (WHO) has conducted a study in Zouk, where there is a large thermal electricity generation plant in the midst of a populated, residential and commercial area. It was found that children who lived in the vicinity had significantly higher levels of asthma and other respiratory-related problems than other children. AF: What about the pollution? Pollution is not necessarily what we see. While we see the exhaust fumes from cars, indoor pollution can be more toxic. In densely populated cities, such as Paris for example, indoor pollution can be 20-100 percent higher than here – especially if residents don’t open enough windows and receive enough sunlight. Most pollen and dust – which are not visible and do not have any
odor–have a significant impact on human health as well. Usually what we don’t see and don’t know is most toxic. This is why sampling and tests need to be carried out on a regular basis. AF: How can we eliminate toxins in our daily lives? Above all, it does not suffice for us to simply declare that something needs to be banned. For example, we know that pesticides are harmful if they come in direct contact with people over time. Ultimately they get washed away with the rain and end up in the water supply. However, we need them; after all they were created to increase food production in order to supply a growing population. So we need to find pesticides that are not harmful, such as beetles that eat the smaller pests. This is an example of how we need to start thinking about these issues. The solution is to not ban anything outright, but rather to exercise moderation in its usage and integrate it in a less toxic way. AF: However, most people are not in a position to make these changes ZG: Yes, these are issues to be resolved by the decisionmakers, but the rest of us should know the consequences. We should listen to other opinions, be more informed and open a constructive and informative debate–only then will be able to move in the right direction. Once we have the right information and facts, we can make informed decisions about sustainability.
ARE YOU SWITCHED ON TO THE DANGERS?
– Beyond speaks to expert Jessica Obeid, an energy engineer at UNDP-CEDRO, who sheds more light on these omnipresent bulbs. Words alia fawaz
nergy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are increasing popular, but they emit ultraviolet rays. Typical fluorescent lamps, including CFLs, emit very low levels of UV. Skin cells can only be damaged when they are within very close range of a CFL bulb. According to a leading clinical professor of dermatology at NYU, most people work in offices within five feet of the long, standard fluorescent light bulbs. Over the course of a typical work year (2,000 hours) you would receive the equivalent of merely around 20 minutes of street sun exposure in NYC during September. Mercury in CFLs CFLs can also be a health hazard if broken, as mercury vapor is released. CFL bulbs contain up to five milligrams of mercury, about 1100/th the amount in a thermostat or dental amalgam, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If a CFL is broken, open the windows and leave the room for 15 minutes. Wear gloves and dispose of the waste in a sealed plastic bag. LED lighting, which is designed to ultimately replace CLF’s, apparently contains lead, arsenic, and other dangerous substances. They are toxic only if there is chronic and excessive exposure to these materials.
According to U.S. federal standards, the only LED lamp that tested hazardous was a low-intensity red LED, which emitted lead at levels exceeding regulatory limits. Currently, LEDs are not classified as hazardous, and the counter claims still needs to be carefully studied before coming to conclusions. Research is still underway to reduce the concentration of metals in LED products. Blue light in LEDs is hazardous The effect of LED’s blue light causes “toxic stress” to the retina. Exposure to high amounts of blue light can be harmful to the eyes. Blue light is not only present in LED lamps, but also in electronic devices such as TVs, cell phones, tablets, and lap tops. Research has proven that the lens inside the eye and the pigment in the back of the eye offer some protection against blue light, especially during daylight hours. Consumers can choose lights with warm Correlated Color Temperature and they should avoid gazing directly into a light box of blue (or even white) LEDs for longer than 100 seconds. Consumers must also avoid blue lights at night Consumers should be aware of how to dispose of broken lamps. Open the windows to allow fresh air into the room. Then use gloves to pick up the waste and vacuum afterwards. Will CFLs and LEDs be further modified? Manufacturers of fluorescent lighting products are working to reduce the amount of mercury content in CFLs. LED manufacturers are working to reduce the concentration of metals in LED products. OLED (Organic light-emitting diode) lighting is developing. The future of energy-saving lighting promises to be safer and more environmentally friendly.
(C) Broker / Rex Features (C) Jeff Blackler / Rex Features
Various Energy-saving bulbs.
(C) Terry Harris / Rex Features
Various Super Energy efficient LED lightbulb with tungsten and low energy ones behind.
TP24 3 watt led Lamp Winner of the Best low energy product 2013 at the interiors UK Birmingham by the LIA (Lighting Industry Association).
THE SILENT KILLER â€“ An environmental disaster with far-ranging health concerns is blighting the land around Chekka. Asbestos resulting from the activities of cement companies in the region is causing a creeping sickness among residents. Asbestos is a very dangerous carcinogen. According to Pierre Abi Chahine, president of the Committee for the Protection of the Environment in Chekka, asbestos has caused the deaths of between 700 and 1,000 Lebanese. The government appears unwilling to pursue the case. Here Abi Chahine talks to Beyond about Lebanonâ€™s silent killer. Words James Sauvage
James Sauvage: Tell us about the current situation in Chekka. Pierre Abi Chahine: Chekka is diseased. There are five companies, four of which are cement factories and one of which produced asbestos. The asbestos company was closed down in 2000 as a result of our pressure, but the material is still there, and it is causing lung cancer as well as mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that attacks the lining around internal organs. JS: How did the situation come about? PAC: The asbestos company, Eternit, was originally established by Stefan Schmidheiny, a Swiss who was recently convicted in an Italian court for poisoning workers through asbestos exposure. Eternit was a part of the Holcim Group. Holcim sold the company to a Lebanese called Pierre Abboud. He exploited it for four or five years and then he ran away. Since then the government has reclaimed it, but it hasn’t cleaned up the site. Every week in Chekka two people die because of the asbestos. I have a list of people who have died; until now I have 700 names. JS: You’re trying to claim compensation for the victims. What are you doing to achieve this? PAC: I have contacted the government more than once, and requested that it at least clean up
the material, which locals have used among their buildings and homes. The government says that this isn’t a priority. How is it not a priority, when there are 700 deaths, 700 widows, and 5,000 orphans? The current president of Holcim personally replied to me, saying “We’re sorry about the situation and the deaths, but we can’t do anything about it.” JS: So, what are you doing at present? PAC: We have asked the Swiss embassy to take action, because one of its citizens is involved. Nothing has happened. However, we can win by legal pressure, as in Italy, where a class action lawsuit won compensation of 20 million euros for its municipality, and 30,000 euros for each family affected. JS: Are you still pursuing this in Lebanon? PAC: In 1990 I opened the case, and no one gave me the time of day, but now people are listening more because the results are becoming obvious. The government is not going to do anything. JS: How can concerned Lebanese reading this article get involved? JS: The best thing that the Lebanese can do is to bring awareness to the situation, by covering it in the media. We need reporters and lawyers. We place pressure on the government by writing articles.
“A shroud of dust now covers the beautiful Earth, wonder when we respire in the fresh air of verdure.” Soumya V.
Beyond T he
e g Ed T
he fabulous, extreme sport of rock climbing is certainly not for the faint-hearted or just everyone for that matter. Rock climbing is about having control and courage with exceptional strength of mind and body. You either crave it or avoid it entirely – with no room for anything in between. It offers an adrenaline rush that not many other sports can match, while testing one’s endurance and fitness on vertiginous levels. It is both an individual and social sport, in which the element of danger whets the appetite for adventure. This sport takes you to a new level of awareness of the natural world around you, exposing you to breathtakingly beautiful places on our planet. Seeing these tall wonders of nature up close is certainly an eye-opener, and once you reach the summit you are really on top of the world both physically and mentally – a sensation that you will never forget and never regret. While there are lots of risks to be taken, the rewards are plenty. Brave climbers and daredevils have attempted near-vertical granite walls, icy ascents slopes, sandstone spires, volcanic domes, and hanging limestone cliffs. The modern-day “Spiderman”’ clearly has an obsession for scaling massive chunks of rocks and making it back down again, only to repeat the adventure later on in another perilous challenge. Beyond brings you breathtaking glimpses of some of the best climbs from around the globe, proving that it’s a wonderful place to be if you dare to go there!.
of rock clim
Mountain climbing in National Park Retezat, Romania
(c)Â Rechitan Sorin
w o n d e r s 105
Biela valley rocks climbing in Saxon, Switzerland
Climbers on a rock face in the Avon Gorge in Bristol, England
(c) charles taylor
Dolomite valley with climbers on the rocks, north-eastern Italy.
â€œThe mountains were his masters. They rimmed in life. They were the cup of reality, beyond growth, beyond struggle and death...
...They were his absolute unity in the midst of eternal change.â€?Â
(c) Tyler Olson
(c) Paolo Sa
Above Lake Devero, Northern Italy
(c)Â Greg Epperson
(c) Rechitan Sorin
Climbing Koenigsjodler Ridge, in Austrian Alps –Austria
“A question from when I was a little girl that I can answer only now: Are rocks made, or are they born? Answer: Rocks are.”
Benjamin Moser, Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector
“No Guts, No Glory!”
(c)Â Greg Epperson
Europe â€™ s unforgettable train journey s
In todayâ€™s fast-moving world, train rides are often perceived as old-fashioned and a waste of travel time. However, the time spent between two destinations can be an exhilarating experience with many sights and sounds to savor, thus making the trip itself a destination. Whether gaping out the window at the wonders of nature or enjoying fine dining in a restored lastcentury dining car, rail travel in Europe is truly a memorable experience with undeniable charm.
n Norway the Flam Railway route from Flam to Myrdal is a spectacular journey with fantastic views of nature. You can see breathtaking snowclad mountain peaks, two spectacular roaring waterfalls, and deep green valleys throughout the 12-mile ride. For a pure luxury train ride, the Transylvanian Odyssey from Budapest to Istanbul is unbeatable, thanks to the Danube Express, a private train dubbed the â€œHotel on Wheels.â€? In Switzerland The Chocolate Train from Montreux to Broc is both a sweet and scenic journey, where you can stop for Gruyere cheese and Nestle chocolate right in their
factories. For an exhilarating, speedy ride try the Intercity Express (ICE) from Munich to Nuremberg, which can reach speeds up to an impressive 320 kilometers per hour - yet inside, the train is quiet. If you like a bit of drama on board, try the Venice Simplon Orient Express; the sleeping cars have been restored to their original 1920s art deco sophistication. Then there is the epic Trans-Siberian route, taking you from Moscow to Vladivostok, as part of the longest railway line in the world.
Lauterbrunnen-in the Swiss Alps starting point for train tours in the Jungfrau region
(c) Alexander Chaikin
Jungfraubahn on its way up to the Jungfrau mountai.
Alpine Express â€“ France Alpine Express passing bridge at St. Gotthard Pass.
(c)Â Alexander Chaikin
(c) Rechitan Sorin (c) cherylyoung
London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) ‘Princess Elizabeth’ – UK
Rocky Mountaineer canadian tour, Canada
(c) Rechitan Sorin (C) i4lcocl2
(c) Rechitan Sorin
Alpine Express on the way to the alps
Jungfrau Bahn descending from Kleine Scheidegg. – Switzerland
Glenfinnan Viaduct, head of Loch Shiel â€“ Scotland
Corinth Railway, Greece A boat passing the channel in Corinth, near Athen.
(C) Mikhail Markovskiy
The Flam Railway, Norway
Mountain railway view in Bergen â€“ Norway
Train tracks for the Mount Floyen Funicular
Natural tunnel of love formed by trees â€“ Ukraine
(C) Verkhovynets Taras
“If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.”
â€œVisual pollution is more poisonous than any other pollution because it kills the soulâ€?. Friedensreich Hundertwasser
Beirut, July 13 , 2013 In the absence of a comprehensive strategy for solving the transportation problems in the City of Beirut, the Municipality of Beirut is reverting to projects that were designed decades ago, without re-evaluating their usefulness at the current time, or improvising specific projects that negatively affect the remaining locations where citizens are still enjoying minimum conditions of quality of life in the city. Since the scheme general guideline for the transportation network (Master Plan) in the years 19951997, neither the Municipality of Beirut nor any of the relevant authorities have made any progress in the development of public transportation. That is why nowadays only two percent of
transportation depends on the public transportation that is available,
whereas it should not be less than 25 percent of the movement in the city, as stipulated in the Master Plan. Rather than offering alternatives to individual transportation in Beirut and decreasing the is expanding the road dependency on private cars, network arbitrarily, and is searching for new places to be converted into parking lots, often
the Municipality of Beirut
the expense of the remaining green spaces in the city.
The Civil Coalition for the Protection of the Jesuit Garden demands the withdrawal of such a plan, whatever may be the forecast capacity of the parking lot that the Municipality of Beirut plans to build under it, and asks the Municipality of Beirut to stop wasting its time with unsustainable plans and to expropriate necessary areas outside of the neighborhood of the Jesuit Garden or at its limits. The popular opposition to the destruction of the Jesuit Garden was clear from the first moment, and what we are witnessing today is a normal reaction. The people of the Jesuit Garden and all Lebanese won't accept anymore to witness another of their public rights being infringed upon, as is the case with regard to water, electricity, and public transportation, with which the public authorities have failed to fully provide them. We ask the Municipality of Beirut not to touch the Jesuit Garden but rather to do what it did in the case of the Sanayeh Garden, when it withdrew the project and bought another piece of land on which to build the parking lot.
The roads around the site are for internal use. They cannot be widened. They cannot accommodate any more cars, as these roads will always have one lane. The Council of the Municipality of Beirut is requested to find a solution for this dilemma, which is the shortage of parking spaces, in which it should apply the following principles: the principle of a "regional approach," the principle of "seamless (easy) mobility," in addition to the principle of
"decentralized parking lots" that are unified for each individual neighborhood.â€? The Municipality of Beirut must immediately examine general, detailed plans for the entire region, from Saint George Hospital, to Geitawi, passing through Rmeil Street until we reach Charles Malek Avenue, as these neighborhoods overlap.
This proposed parking lot project will inevitably violate the
rights of the citizens to the minimum conditions of quality of life in the city. As for an immediate and direct solution to the problem of parking in this area, the Municipality of Beirut should purchase appropriate spaces where they are available. The Civil Coalition for the Protection of the Jesuit Garden, which includes associations, environmental experts, environmentalists, and representatives of the people, and other members of civil society, affirms that all
the residents of this neighborhood totally reject the execution of the parking lot project or the construction of any other facilities underneath the Jesuit Garden, contrary to what Bilal Hamad claimed two weeks ago in Sanayeh Garden.
The Coalitions calls upon the Municipality of Beirut to rehabilitate and improve the ring roads, sidewalks, and the outer wall around the garden, with the maintenance, rehabilitation, and better preservation of the Byzantine mosaics, toilets, etc.
we shall not let this draft project pass,
but we are Let it be known that open to discussing all proposals for improving the park, on the basis of maintaining its unique character and cultural heritage, as well as its educational, and recreational features, commensurate with the requirements of visitors.
You are elected by the people, and your duty is to serve and meet the legitimate demands of the citizens, and not to make decisions that are wrong and unsustainable and that might harm them or threaten their existence. Signed by: Nahnoo, Green Line, Greenpeace, â€‘Association of the protection of the Lebanese Heritage, Respect Lebabon and the Neighborhood of Jesuit Garden.
Photos Roger Ghanem
A LEBANESE ARTIST MAKES A BIG IMPRESSION
After studying art in Europe and in Lebanon, Rawia Ghandour Zantout sets out on her own.
awia Ghandour Zantout was born in Beirut in 1971. In 1979, she fled war-ravaged Lebanon with her parents and settled down in the French Riviera. Rawia attended school at the Centre international de Valbonne and took private painting lessons as well. In 1999, she returned to Lebanon and took painting courses with artists Helene Karam and Oumayma Soubra.
>>The stairs painting, Acrylic, 110X60cm
Influenced by ecology In 2007, Rawia began doing paintings with ecological themes for BankMed. Her works were printed in lithography and distributed to 25,000 customers of the bank. They included The River Houses, Nature and Greenness, and The Baaklin Falls. Rawia has participated in several local and international exhibitions. On May 25, 2011, she inaugurated her first solo exhibition, Gardens & Flowers, at the Rochane Gallery.
The Lilac field. Acrylic, 135X115 cm
Faqra painting. Acrylic, 110X90 cm
“Let me, O let me bathe my soul in colors; let me swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow”. ~Khalil Gibran
Water lilies, Acrylic 125X170 cm
GREEN HAVEN There’s really no such thing as an eco-friendly five-star resort; everything is a compromise between creature comforts and their impact on the environment. Ecotourism doesn’t mean just lowimpact buildings and activities. It can also include urban renewal aspects through the employment of local people and the marketing of local produce. Here, Beyond talks to two of Lebanon’s eco-tourism pioneers, Karim al Khatib of Eco Village Lebanon, on the Damour River in the Chouf, and Tania Nader of La Maison de la Forêt in Jezzine. Words Michael Campbell
Michael Campbell: Tell us about your projects. Karim al Khatib: We’re giving people a chance to stay in nature, in a clean environment, eat organic food and juice, swim in a clean river, that’s all. People don’t stay in regular rooms: They live in wood houses, in or among the trees. The houses shake with the wind, and you can hear the birds. There’s no noise. It’s a completely clean form of tourism. Everything’s built using green architecture principles, real green architecture, not like what is found in Beirut. We only use the materials that we have in the area, so we’re building with mud, bamboo, wood, and stone. MC: La Maison de la Forêt is a communal project developed as a Public-Private Partnership. We’re working on the ecotourism infrastructure around Jezzine. We’re offering many services and involving the local people, getting them to work within the system and helping them to distribute their produce through our network. MC: Give us an overview of what you’re doing. KK: We offer an introduction to environmental education to schools. All of our visitors receive talks and information on ecology, biodiversity, and renewable energy. They get to see that there is an alternative to the way that we live at the moment, that we don’t necessarily need to take electricity from the government, or to rely on our generators. We also have a restaurant where we offer a buffet and have accommodation, 15 rooms in total, divided between cottages and tree houses. And, of course, there’s the river–a great, clean, river. TN: We’ve developed many activities, and we’re working with the locals. We’ve developed nine hiking trails that reach 17 villages. The aim is to eventually
reach all the villages in the region. We also have activities such as rappelling, canyoning, climbing, donkey trails, and zip lining, to name just a few. We offer accommodation in lodges and tents. However, we also link with local guesthouses and hotels through the region. We provide booking facilitates for local accommodation and restaurants. Essentially we’re a small self-supporting industry. MC: Why are you doing this? What do you see as the most important aspect? KK: It’s important to show people what’s possible. We’re showing people that it’s possible to have an amazing time without the help of anyone; it’s possible to make electricity; it’s possible to enjoy silence. You don’t need to hear the noise of a generator, or worry about a lack of water, or a power cut. TN: It’s not just La Maison de la Forêt. It involves a plan and program for working with the local municipalities to really improve the prospects of the region. Another aspect is the local women who are producing things at home, such as cookies, or regional food. We can help them distribute and sell their produce throughout the country. Everything we use in our products and services come from Jezzine. At present we’re directly connected to around 42 families. Yes, it’s about ecotourism, but it’s also about helping people.
Milky white and blue water of the Blue Lagoon, geothermal baths in Iceland
(c)Â vincenzo Bernardi
"We have too long treated the natural world as an adversary rather than as a
life-sustaining gift from the Almighty. If man has the genius to build, which he has, he must also have the ability and the responsibility to preserve."
â€” Gerald R. Ford
â€œNo Guts, No Glory! â€?
Tamima Dahdah: â€œI know the place. Do you know that it's covered by rainwater in
winter? It looks like a large peaceful lake and when it dries back, seeds grow again
so fast that it's a continuous miracle! If I were a botanist I'd live there.â€? photo by Serge Sulahian
A P e r f e c t G et a w a y
wit h t he
Kroum Ehden A beautiful escape in the midst of Lebanon’s wilderness with unsurpassed customer experience
July 2013, Beirut – Lebanon: Introducing
Lebanon’s finest mountainous escape – Kroum Ehden. With magical views of exquisite nature in a truly unique boutique resort situated in the beautiful village of Ehden, Kroum Ehden offers luxurious accommodations, chic restaurants, and magnificent event spaces making for an unforgettable experience and creating memories for all of its guests. Carefully designed with all types of guests in mind, Kroum Ehden offers a true Lebanese experience through its various facilities with a unique rhythm for life, fun, leisure, and relaxation. Kroum Ehden embodies traditional style suites that are designed with a modern twist to have guests feel as if they were at home. Fashioned as the fusion
of purity and comfort of traditional village houses, “Le Lodge Terrace Rooms & Suites” consist of six Terrace Rooms with a heated infinity lazy pool, four one-bedroom suites and one Royal three-bedroom suite with their private heated lap pool, jacuzzi, and sundeck. “Le Beach” encompasses two large swimming pools with cascade waterfalls and over 200 beach beds, and provides a large and versatile entertainment venue for people who are looking to relax and unwind as well as those who want to enjoy a loud party ambiance. “Le Beach” is strategically designed so that families can enjoy their time with their children in one swimming pool, while singles and young couples could meet and mingle in the other pool.
This unique boutique resort introduces the local Ehden culture through a truly exceptional culinary experience, offering native food recipes specially prepared by the local women of Ehden. “Le Matbokh” is laid out in a garden atmosphere offering local cuisine, which includes the mouthwatering traditional Kebbeh straight from the oven as well as delicious desserts. To top it all off, Kroum Ehden’s personnel see it as their duty to see to their guests every need and desire. “Kite, Le Lounge” is Kroum Ehden’s event venue, and is set to open in the near future. Guests will have the chance to enjoy events, live music shows, and DJs in the luxury of their lounge. Whether guests are looking to enjoy the company of their friends over a few drinks or looking to have a good party, “Kite, Le Lounge” is the place to be, offering a unique blend of casual chic where a fun night is guaranteed. In addition, the hotel is eco-friendly; Kroum Ehden grows its own products on-site, has its own lake, has more than 2,000 fruit trees, and has planted over 5,000 coniferous and deciduous trees, all to help keep the environment and experience as healthy and natural
as possible. Furthermore, this boutique resort ,which is in close proximity to Ehden Natural Reserve, aims to implement solar-powered technology that reduces energy and therefore helps the environment. Make sure you book your beds for Le Beach’s LET GO journey, which was launched first with Let Go Journey V.01 on Saturday July 13. A memorable music and entertainment experience, organized by Kroum Ehden, for its guests’ amusement and happiness. Every week offers new international and local appearances. All these venues mentioned above are only one phase of Kroum Ehden’s six-phase plan. Phase 1, which includes Le Lodge, Le Matbokh, Le Beach and Kite, Le Lounge, takes up only 12,000m2 of Kroum Ehden’s 142,000m2. Every year, this state-of-the-art resort is going to unravel one phase, keeping all of its guests on their toes for what is to come next… Watch this space. For more information about this press release, please contact:
Karina Assaf, TRACCS, 01/572001/2, Karina.firstname.lastname@example.org Dania Cherry, TRACCS 01/572001/2, email@example.com
LADDERS: A green game Words Rob Lawley
n an innovative approach to environmental education, the National Ozone Unit, with the help of UNDP and UNEP, has created a board game for children and adults alike, titled Ozzy Ozone Snakes and Ladders, in an attempt to make learning about the issue of ozone depletion fun and accessible for everyone. Players roll a die and move along the board, where each square contains a question or fact about ozone depletion and the health concerns associated with it. If you land on a snake, you slide down to a lower level. If you hit a ladder, you go up. Beyond recently spoke to the head of the National Ozone Unit, Mazen Hussein, about his hopes for the game. Rob Lawley: Tell me about the concept behind the game. Mazen Hussein: The National Ozone Unit’s role is to raise awareness, as well to work with industry to phase out ozone-depleting substances and consumption throughout the country.
themselves from the sun. It’s an interesting game, and the whole family can play it at the same time. We’ve made some tools for kids before, but this is the first game to target a wider age group. RL: When did the idea come about? MH: We started working with the general public in early 2000 and every couple of years we would create new tools to give to them. This game was designed quite some time ago, but we lacked the resources to print many copies. This year we have the resources to produce 10,000 copies. RL: Where are the games going to be distributed? MH: The games are going to the schools and industrial companies, specifically employees with children. We’re trying very hard to spread the distribution in a large number of sectors and communities.
The game is part of our work to raise awareness about ozone depletion. The concerns about ozone depletion, such as the damage that it can cause to people, animals, and plants are clear. The game attempts to bring awareness of this to children and families.
RL: What feedback have you received and what are your plans for the future? MH: People are telling us that it’s really interesting. The only drawback is that the game is only used when there is a group of people. As a result of this feedback, we’re thinking of starting an online project, so that people can play the game anywhere, and we can always update it.
RL: Why a game? MH: We’ve carried out many awareness campaigns about ozone depletion, especially around summer time, when the sun is very strong and ozone depletion is a real issue. We’re trying to send a message to the Lebanese about protecting
In the future we’re going to work on electronic games. We’re not going to produce another physical game. Mobile and online games are the way to go, but they are very expensive and we need the support of the industries with which we are communicating.
SPLENDID iSOLATION The eco-hamlet of Mon Village features eight self-contained houses, all replete with environmentallyfriendly features and clustered around a communal swimming pool. Featuring water storage tanks, generators, and heating equipment, each house is completely self-reliant. Mon Village is at once both green and luxurious. Developer Philippe El Khazen talked to Beyond about this fantastic new project.
Words Alex Grey Photos Philippe al khazen
Alex Grey: What’s it called and where is it? Philippe El Khazen: The project is called Mon Village. It’s located by a small town in Keserwan, 1,200 meters above sea level. The village has no service station, it’s isolated, quiet, and it’s from all the main roads. It’s my village. Nobody dared to develop there, as it’s so far from Beirut. It’s not trendy, like Faqra. I decided to make a collection of independent houses with small gardens sharing a swimming pool and access paths. They’re all completely selfcontained. Many Lebanese miss that. It’s a niche in the market and there’s not much competition. AG: Where did the eco aspects come from? PK: I wanted to include more environmental aspects than we have, but the Lebanese like their creature comforts, so I couldn’t go to the extreme. Stone buildings are a Lebanese tradition and the roofs are also traditionally-styled. I kept the stone, so there are no steel structures and the rooftops are green roofs. The stone is double-layered, so you lose ten degrees of heat in the summer and gain ten degrees in the winter. You don’t really need AC in the summer and it’s easier and cheaper to heat in the winter. The stone is from local sources.
It’s very challenging because the materials aren’t always available and it’s very costly, which reflects on the price. AG: What have people been saying about Mon Village? PK: People are very interested in green aspects, and Mon Village, all eight lots, was completely sold before the paperwork was completed. I was amazed. It’s not a prime location and people must love the idea of solitude. The entire project should be finished by the end of October. AG: Given the success of Mon Village, what are your plans for the future? PK: We’re considering executing more projects, even more eco-friendly than this one. I’m working on two things, one of them is over six times larger than Mon Village, but we’ll expand it slowly and see what we can do. It’ll be overlooking a dam, so it should be stunning. We’re going to stick with stone and green roofs, but we’ll also be striving to reduce energy and maintenance costs.
The roof reaches all the way to the ground and collects rainwater and snow. We have huge underground storage tanks. It functions as natural water harvesting. AG: Tell us about the design aspects. PK: We wanted the project to merge with the environment; we didn’t want to see manmade cubic forms sticking out of the ground. So, the slope of the ground continues through the roof, and it looks like a natural extension of the ground.
Philippe al khazen
Panorama of the location
SYRIA CRISIS PUTS LEBANESE ENVIRONMENT AT RISK
12,000 goats have crossed into northern Lebanon from Syria, bringing with them the added threats of overgrazing, land degradation, and potential desertification
Words BASSAM KANTAR
n June 7, 2013 the United Nations launched a record $5.2-billion aid appeal to fund operations in Syria and neighboring countries during 2012. It also marked a more than threefold increase from the $1.5 billion that the UN had previously had said that it needed to cover operations this year. The UN has so far received $1.0 billion out of that sum. In the latest appeal, the world body said that a total of $3.8 billion was needed to help Syrian refugees who have spilled across the country’s borders to escape fighting in their homeland. Migration trends The overwhelming majority of the refugees have fled to neighboring Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan, which are struggling to cope with the influx of refugees. The total number of refugees is expected to swell to at least 3.45 million by the end of this year, according to the UN appeal A recent assessment by the FAO of the impact of the Syrian crisis on food security and agricultural livelihoods in neighboring countries found that it had become extremely difficult for Lebanese farmers to sustain their livelihoods. Those most affected along the border are the poorest and most vulnerable to begin with. Many Syrian farmers have relocated to the Lebanese side of the border, first seeking refuge in Mashari Al Qaa or other regions. Some came empty-handed, others brought animals with them, and some have rented abandoned farms. According to the FAO, hundreds of cows, as well as 12,000 Syrian mountain and Shami goats have crossed into northern Lebanon, bringing the added threats of overgrazing, land degradation, and potential desertification. Adding more stress to the land, shepherds who used to spend the summer on the Lebanese side and winter on the Syrian side, where it is dryer, have not been able to travel to Syria for the last two years.
Potential diseases Before the Syrian crisis, agricultural inputs, such as vaccinations, farm machinery, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, animal feed, and medicines were heavily subsidized in Syria. Veterinary services in Syria have deteriorated because of the conflict. Animals coming from the Syrian market are not subject to any control, and some are not vaccinated. Without proper checks, the increasing amount of smuggled agricultural commodities from Syria also significantly increases the risk of animal and plant diseases, including Foot and Mouth Disease and PPR, a viral disease also known as goat plague, the two most common transboundary animal diseases in the region, as well as the spread of plant pests. The last outbreak of a transboundary animal disease in Lebanon occurred before the Syrian crisis in March 2010. Since then, the Ministry of Agriculture has been able to contain the threat. Lisbeth Albinus, humanitarian policy officer at FAO in Lebanon, said, “There is a sincere worry… that we will have another outbreak of these or other transboundary diseases in Lebanon.”
The overwhelming majority of the refugees have fled to neighboring Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan
The price of politics Growing tensions in a resilient economy Words BASSAM KANTAR
ccording to the World Bank, the domestic political standoff combined with an escalating Syrian conflict hampered economic growth in 2012, and they are projected to continue doing so through the first half of 2013. The World Bank estimated that economic growth in 2012 decelerated to 1.4 percent because of a weak second half of 2012, following a downturn in the security situation. On the demand side, a robust increase in government consumption buttressed the growth slowdown in 2012, while private consumption remained weak because of the uncertain security situation. On the supply side, the sharp deceleration in the services sector, notably tourism, drove the growth slowdown. Provided that the political and security situations improve in the second half of 2013, growth is projected to reach 2.3 percent in 2013. Potential risks to growth The major fiscal expansion that took place in 2012 is creating fiscal challenges for 2013, particularly in the context of a promised increase in public salaries. The fiscal expansion, measured by the change in the central government’s primary fiscal balance, reached a staggering 4.6 percent of GDP in 2012. The overall fiscal deficit reached 9.4 percent of GDP in 2012. Slightly more than a third of the rising deficits were driven by a sharp decrease in revenue, in part as the result of a new VAT exemption on diesel. The remaining twothirds were due to a rise in expenditures stemming from increased wages and salaries (following a large cost-of-living adjustment) and transfers to
the electricity company. Slow growth and rising deficits combined to reverse the downward trend in the debt-to-GDP ratio, which reached 134 percent at the end of 2012. In 2013, under current policy, the fiscal deficit should remain relatively unchanged (as a ratio of GDP). Increasing public-sector employees’ salaries could weaken the economy Amid uncertain growth prospects and shrinking fiscal space, the government’s initial decision to significantly increase public sector employees’ salaries is raising significant challenges. While the cost of living increase aims to offset the erosion of real wages over time, the change in the structure of salary scales is not accompanied by a similar structural revision of tasks and efficiency of public sector employees. At the macro-economic level, the overall increase in wages could weaken the Lebanese economy through the return of unsustainable debt dynamics, pressures on the peg, lower economic growth, and increased unemployment. Introducing revenue measures would reduce these negative impacts but would lower resilience to shocks and impede the use of counter-cyclical fiscal policies. Reforming the pension system would further reduce the negative impact, but such reform cannot be separated from the need for strengthening social safety nets.
AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID
On June 26, 2013, empty tables are seen in a restaurant on the Corniche Beirut, with a sea view of the capitalâ€™s landmark Pigeonsâ€™ Rock. The Corniche used to be crowded with tourists mainly from the Gulf states at this time of the year. War in Syria, sectarian clashes, governmental instability, and half a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon have all contributed to the decrease in the number of tourists who are visiting the country.
Did You Know that... Fact
Can we trigger an avalanche just by yelling? This is a myth. Sound propagation will distort the air: Its molecules compress or dilate along a wave moving in the same direction as the sound. When it reaches the snow, it continues to propagate and deforms the snow as well. However, all of the snow layers don’t have the same characteristics. When a sufficiently powerful wave arrives, the most unstable layers are deformed and may “fall down,” bringing down with them the snow pile that covers them. This is called an avalanche. The Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research Weissfluhjoch/Davos compared the power of the pressure wave generated by different sounds. It discovered that in order to trigger an avalanche, a minimum sound pressure of 200 to 500 pascals (Pa) was needed. The human voice is capable of developing a maximum sound pressure of two Pa, which is tiny. In fact, with just 20 Pa, an airliner taking off at 60 meters from a snow cover would not have the least chance of triggering an avalanche. However, a supersonic aircraft (which flies faster than the speed of sound) would reach the critical threshold.
Why does wet sand become dry around your feet? This is because your body weight causes a distance that is measured by the Reynolds number. The latter gives a measure of the ratio of inertial forces to viscous forces, and consequently quantifies the relative importance of these two types of forces for given flow conditions. You can easily observe this phenomenon at the seaside, at low tide. Every time you push your feet on the wet sand, a clearer line surrounds it, as if the water were sucked out under your footprint. Intuitively, we would expect the opposite: When we walk on a wet sponge, the water drains out of it. In 1860, the physician Osborne Reynolds managed to explain this phenomenon. The sand is made of grains and contains interstices between the grains. At low tide, the to and fro movement of water compresses the sand to the maximum: The sand grains are perfectly arranged, and hence the space between them is minimal. Under the pressure exerted by the foot, the grains spread, and therefore, the spaces between them increase. In other words, the sand dilates. The water present all around the foot is sucked up to fill the void, as if in a kind of “water inflow.” Consequently, this almost dry sand line surrounds your feet.
30 Facts That You Should Know About Nature and Animals Fact
Should I believe granny’s saying: If birds fly low, expect rain? Granny was right. When rain is about to fall, the atmospheric pressure decreases. The air, which supports flying birds and insects, is less dense, and therefore has a decreased carrying capacity. Insects, which are less powerful than birds, can hardly overcome this fall in pressure. What is their solution? They fly low, almost skimming the ground, where the air pressure is higher. This is what the insects do, and, indirectly, what the birds also do. In fact, when the rain falls, swallows start to fly low because they hunt the insects that are near the ground.
Perfume of rain Rainwater itself doesn’t have an odor. The so-called rain scent, which we smell at the beginning of a gust of rain, is actually released from the soil on which the rain falls. In dry climates, we cannot perceive the smell of the fragrant molecules that remain pinned to the ground, attached to the thin particles of the surface. However, the raindrops – while falling – make the fragrant molecules become suspended in the air. These molecules then travel to our nostrils, where they are captured by olfactory receptors. The geosmin, a molecule produced by the soil bacteria and of which the characteristic odor is a musty smell, is particularly gifted for this phenomenon. On the one hand, the detection threshold of geosmin through the human nose is very low: diluting only one drop of it in an Olympic-sized pool is enough to produce a perceptible smell. On the other hand, this molecule is hydrophobic, so that as soon as the first raindrops crash to the ground, a large quantity of geosmin is released. Apart from geosmin, there are a vast number of other fragrant molecules released by the rain: grass cuttings, bitumen, diesel oil, etc. The evaporation, hence the smell perception, stops when the soil is saturated with water and then resumes right at the end of the rain shower. In hot climates, the phenomenon is intensified and the smell is more strongly perceived. It is no wonder that summer rain seems more fragrant than winter rain.
>> Did You Know that...
Plants do talk, but instead of using words, they communicate via clicking sounds. Biologists used ultra-sensitive microphones to test roots of corn plunged into water, and they discovered that the roots were emitting clicking sounds at a rate of 220 Hz, which is inaudible to humans. When they reproduced these sounds with loudspeakers, they surprisingly found that the roots turned towards the sound, as if they had “heard” it. They performed another experiment to confirm their findings, but this time with fennel. In fact, fennel emits chemical substances that hamper the growth of neighboring plants and can even kill them. In order to counteract this effect, biologists locked up the fennel in an airtight box. The chili seeds located nearby should have grown normally, but they started to grow faster than usual, as if they had identified the presence of an enemy and were ready to face an imminent chemical attack. The biologists hypothesized that if the chili hadn’t been able to chemically detect its enemy, then it had certainly heard it…. It is still unclear how it happened. Frantisek Baluska from the Botanical Institute of the University of Bonn said: “Of course, plants don’t have ears, but some cells in the roots may be specialized in listening, just as the statocyte cells are specialized in perceiving gravity.” He even went further: He thinks that plants emit sounds to poll their environment, “just as bats use ultrasounds.” He added that “the roots emit a clicking sound, and the way by which it returns to them informs them about the nature and geology of the soil.” In this way, plants gather precious information about the soil through which they will force themselves to grow.
Are plants talkative?
Can we sleep with green plants? Yes, having green plants in our bedroom is safe. When the light is turned on, plants absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and release oxygen. This is called photosynthesis. At night, plants actually consume oxygen (O2). However, their consumption is minute: 0.009 ml of O2 per one square centimeter of leaves per hour. The person lying next to you consumes 12 to 15 liters of O2 per hour of sleep. A bedroom with dimensions of 4 x 4 x 3 meters contains 10, 000 liters of O2. If your bedroom were airtight, if you never let in some fresh air, and if your ficus had one square meter of leaves, it would need 11, 111 hours to consume all of the oxygen, that is, 462 days! Last September, an English biologist locked himself for 48 hours in an airtight room of 30 cubic meters. The 160 plants that were locked up with him were the only source of oxygen. This experiment, which was reported by the BBC, was designed to remind us about the key role of photosynthesis.
Are pigeons really dirty? The Rock Dove, or city pigeon, is no dirtier than other birds, thanks to its behavior: It grooms itself every day. Its only problem is that it grows up in an urban environment that is more polluted as compared to the rustic environments of its cousins. However, unlike dogs, the Rock Dove feeds only on grains, never on excrement, because its organism can absorb only sugar and starch. Some cases of a bacterial disease, chlamydiosis, have been reported at farms, but they are extremely rare. Citydwellers are safe, unless they manipulate, like pigeons, the contaminated bird droppings. Cases of allergy from poultry dust and dander are more frequent. They might even develop into pulmonary edema or respiratory distress. However, to reach this point, frequent contact with pigeons is needed. It is not enough to mingle with them in the street or on the balcony.
Do trees really suffer from city noise? Yes, but not all trees do. For three days, researchers focused their cameras on 120 pinyon pines (Pinus edulis) that were exposed to approximately 90 decibels that were emitted day and night by wells for natural gas extraction. The result was as follows: Scrub Jays, seed-dispersing birds that bury the pine seeds to snack on later, avoided the trees located next to the wells. In contrast, the mice that are used to feeding on the seeds without giving them a chance to germinate were more numerous. At the end, scientists found that the number of young pine shoots was four times less in the noisy areas. However, one manâ€™s garbage is another manâ€™s treasure: The hummingbirds were the most abundant birds on the flowers that had been exposed to the heaviest noise. When the Scrub Jay was obliged to escape from the noise and fly away, it freed them from a predator that takes on their baby birds. Hence, for some flowers, such as the scarlet trumpet, the noise increased the probability of pollination.
>> Did You Know that...
Fact Can a plante drive
you to suicide?
This is what is said of the leaves of Dendrocnide moroides, also known as the gympie gympie. This Australian shrub inflicts an intense pain upon the people who touch it. It even drove an officer to shoot himself in the head during World War II. The gympie gympie is equipped with a formidable weapon: the tiny silica hairs that cover up the leaves and fruits. At the least contact, they penetrate the skin and release a neurotoxin that triggers pain, itching, and burning, which sometimes lasts for years. The only efficient cure, recommended by the website of the State of Queensland where this shrub grows, is: removing the hair of the affected area by hot wax as soon as possible. Even at a distance, its volatile hairs may trigger allergic reactions, sneezing crises, or even nose bleeding.
Is it possible to kill a man with apples? It is theoretically possible. Apple seeds, also known as pips, contain a cyanogenic sugar compound that turns into “cyanide” poison once it is metabolized by the body. If you ingest a sufficient quantity of it, it will block the oxygenation process of your body cells and cause a state of fatigue, a drop in blood pressure, some heart disorders, or even coma and death. In practice, it appears to be difficult to reach a lethal dose of 0.5 mg per one kilogram of body mass: Indeed, it would require at least 350 grams of seeds to kill a 70-kilogram man. The bitter almonds that are found in apricot or peach stones contain stronger concentrations of cyanogenic sugars. Bruno Mégarbane, a physician at the Lariboisière Hospital in Paris, said: “Poisoning cases are regularly reported, particularly in kids. Twenty to 40 seeds are enough to constitute a dangerous dose for an adult.”
Who wants to put us on hallucinogenic mushrooms?
What happens if I get an I.V . injection of coconut water?
Medicine (La médicine psychédélique, Paris, 2009), says: “The beneficial effects are felt after a few hours in OCD and depression cases. Mushrooms don’t create a physical dependence and there are no more cases of suicide or psychotic access unless they are taken with antidepressant drugs. The pharmaceutical industry demonizes them because it has no interest in allowing efficient and easily obtained molecules to be available on the market.” The fact remains that French law classifies hallucinogenic mushrooms among narcotics and forbids their use. Moreover, the psilocybin that is used during clinical trials is skillfully measured and extracted in a controlled environment. Chambon says, “In the next ten years or so, French scientists will realize the potential of these substances.” So will we have prescription-only mushrooms soon?
American researchers want us to eat hallucinogenic mushrooms. These mushrooms had been banned in their laboratories since 1963, when a Harvard professor tested their effects on his students. However, studies were resumed in 2006 and the results were stunning: In addition to producing a “mystical experience,” hallucinogenic mushrooms were proved to be effective against the antidepressant-resistant depressions, obsessivecompulsive disorder (OCD), and severe neuroses. All of this thanks to psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound that exists in some mushrooms such as the psilocybe genus of mushrooms. Psilocybin is capable of modifying the brain’s biochemistry on a long-term basis. It can even boost the growth of neurons in brain cells that have died following depression. Olivier Chambon, psychiatrist and author of Psychedelic
There is nothing to be afraid of; it might even save your life. Young green coconuts have airtight shells. Hence the liquid that is stored inside is sterile. During World War II, physicians already knew that the composition of coconut water is similar to that of blood plasma. Indeed, they used it in intravenous injections for wounded British and Japanese. In 1954, a study revealed that coconut water contained too much potassium (a diuretic), which stimulates dehydration. Nevertheless, in case of hemorrhage, coconut water can restore the volume of liquid in the body in order to guarantee that the heart pumps blood properly.
>> Did You Know that...
What are they good for? Larvae can clear necrotic tissue from our wounds. If it weren’t so disgusting, this larva would be a star at hospitals. Just put it on a wound, and it will clear from it the dead tissues that are home to bacteria. In Northern Europe, scientists pack these larvae in small sterile bags containing sets of ten insects, and the bag holes are large enough to enable the larvae to slip their mouthparts through them and secrete the enzyme that destroys the necrotic tissues. Its hooks (in blue) just help it catch hold. Once it becomes an adult, it will turn green and start to fly: It’s the Lucilia sericata fly. Helping us to understand insomnia Observed here through an electronic microscope, these two-year old larvae are transparent. From a
scientist’s point of view, they are a godsend: There is no need to dissect them, and their neurons can be observed in vivo. Since they share 85 percent of their genes with humans, they serve as excellent specimens for studying human diseases such as narcolepsy (sleep disorder). At adulthood, they bear black and white stripes and swim in the Asian freshwaters. These larvae are those of the Danio rerio, the zebrafish.
How many viruses do we inhale every minute? When resting, we inhale 10, 000 to 240, 000 viruses. When we exert a physical effort, this figure increases quickly: an adult participating in a long-distance race or climbing a slope on a bicycle breathes in ten times more air than he does when he is resting. Hence, he can inhale up to 2.4 million viruses per minute! This estimation is based on a study that was conducted at the University of Seoul in 2012. Researchers placed a trap for microorganisms in three locations of the country: a residential district of the capital, a forest, and an industrial area. Thanks to the filters that were capable of trapping microbes with a diameter of less than one micrometer, they collected 1.7 to 40 million viruses per cubic meter and 860, 000 to 11 million bacteria. Moreover, while studying their respective DNA, scientists realized that more than 50 percent of these microbes were not listed in any database. Indeed, we have no idea about their effects on the body, and we don’t know how to eradicate them.
Spiders and Butterflies
WHO HAS THE BRAIN IN THE LEGS? The Mysmena spiders of Costa Rica. Although their body is the size of a pinhead, they build complex cobwebs and have a giant brain. Hence, their central nervous system tends to overflow into their legs. It even occupies 25 percent of the spider’s volume in some species!
... THE EARS ON THE TIBIAS? The Colombian grasshopper Copiphora gorgonensis. In order to capture the highfrequency sounds issued by the males, the female grasshoppers of this species have developed an auditory system that is as complex as ours: a membrane that captures the air vibrations (the equivalent of our eardrum), a flexible plate that sends vibrations (our ear bones), and sensory cells that soak in a fluid (our cochlea). The entire system is not set on their heads, but on their shinbones.
Twin Iinsects: Possible or not?
… AND THE TONGUE AT THE TIP OF THE LEGS? The butterflies. When a female butterfly is seeking a corner to lay its eggs, it taps the plant with its feet to pierce the cuticle and taste it from within. In fact, it tastes the leaf to check if the place will suit the future caterpillars. Hence, the taste receptors of butterflies are located at the edge of their legs, on the sensory hairs called touch sencilla. In short, butterflies taste with their legs.
Yes, I swear, I have a true twin! But which one? I could never tell…. It is possible for there to be twin insects, but only in some species. With regard to syrphids for example, these parasitoid wasps lay their eggs in the larvae of other insects. The same fetus can yield 200 perfectly identical larvae. Knowing that each wasp can lay eggs a hundred times in its lifetime, the twins that are disseminated in nature are estimated in the tens of millions. The twinning also exists among certain aphids, in cockroaches, and in saga pedo, a large grasshopper that lives in the south of France. Females of the saga pedo practice parthenogenesis: They produce gametes that will generate grasshoppers that are identical to their mother without copulating with any male. Since the females clone themselves, males are no longer needed! In any case, biologists have never discovered males of saga pedo in France.
A serial killer cat: Possible or not? It is possible: Thirty percent of cats are repeat offenders. Even when a cat is well fed, it kills at an average rate of two animals per week, which means more than 100 per year! To make sure that that’s true, one just needs to attach a mini-camera to a cat’s collar and spy on it. American researchers have realized that the loot that is returned home is just the tip of the iceberg, because the pre-eminent murderers eat or leave 77 percent of their victims on the spot: mice, birds, lizards, etc. According to the American Birds Conservancy, cats countrywide are probably killing more than four billion animals per year, including 500 million birds. In 1894, scientists discovered a new species of birds – the Stevens Island Wren (or the Lyall’s Wren) – on a small island in New Zealand, thanks to a cat. The cat used to bring dead specimens to its master, a lighthouse keeper. However, by the time the birds were examined at the London British Museum, the cat had already exterminated the last specimens.
What happens when you look at this cat? When you look at this cat, your dexterity and concentration capacities are increased. What is the proof? After viewing images of a kitten, students at Hiroshima University scored better results than other students in the “Doctor Bilibili” game, the Japanese equivalent of the original “Doctor Weirdo,” which consists in removing little bones that are located in the body of a plastic patient without touching the walls. The students who were emotionally affected by the images of kittens concentrated better on the game! In another test, they had to point out, as fast as possible, how many times a certain number appeared among a series of 40 numbers. Here also, the “kitten effect” worked and improved their performances by 15 percent. The activated cerebral mechanism is still unidentified, but looking at cute kittens gives us the desire to approach them and study them in greater detail. In brief, we will want to focus on them, and this focus will last for three minutes after we have seen the image of the kitten. Don’t worry. If you aren’t a cat person, you can still watch a dog!
Nest swiftlet, wild swallow
The price of one kilogram of the edible nests of swiftlets (wild swallows) is 3,000 euros. In Vietnam, this nest made of the bird’s saliva is a very popular dish that is known for its fortifying qualities. Hence, the difficult harvesting of these nests along the cliffs is justified by the high price that they fetch. The nests are nicknamed “the white gold.”
What will happen if the sewer rats disappear? If the sewer rats disappear, our cities might collapse under the refuse. According to Pierre Falgayrac, engineer and author of Rats and Men (Les rats et les hommes, Le Rheu, France, 2013), the 3.7 million Parisian rats devour more than 925 tons of rubbish every day. In fact, these common rats – also known as city rats – play a key role in the urban eco-system. If the rats disappeared overnight, disorder would ensue. Without them, refuse would ferment and bacteria would proliferate. In addition, by moving around and digging tunnels, rats prevent the narrowest inlets from being blocked up. Omnivores with a carnivorous tendency, rats feed in our garbage and on our sidewalks. Large colonies of rats live in sewers, under restaurants and food facilities, whereas the ground below business districts and offices is deserted. “We have no reason to fear an animal that has always lived close to us,” argues Pierre Falgayrac. He adds: “A rat is never aggressive, unless it feels threatened. Moreover, the Romans used to see them as commensal animals that eat at the table with men without causing them any harm.”
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How do quill-covered animals mate?
How do whales mate?
They can only mate when the male has the complete consent of the female: Rape doesnâ€™t exist among porcupines. If the female is not really willing to mate, it will raise its quills as it does to ward off enemies, so woe to the tactless male! When a female is on a tree, the male besieges it by sitting on a branch below. It gets rid of the potential suitors, and then uses its best seduction technique: spraying the female with urine. This is part of the courtship. The male splashes the female with a strong stream of urine that can reach the female from a distance of two meters. This shower lasts for a few hours, and if everything goes well, it will trigger the estrus, during which the female is in heat. Indeed, it relaxes the muscles of its quills and the act of mating then proceeds normally as in all mammals.
Whales mate quickly. While their courtship and seduction maneuvers may last for weeks, the act of mating itself lasts a maximum of 30 seconds, when partners use their fins to hug each other. As the females ovulate only once every year or even once every two to three years, depending on the species, males had better not miss the chance. With regard to right whales, males harass the females in heat, while the females will swim on their back to escape the ceaseless assaults! However, the males watch out for the right moment when the female will be obliged to turn onto its tummy to come to the surface and breathe. As for the gray whales, males act in pairs: While one of them serves as an assistant, helping to keep the female close to the mating male, the latter mates the female. Since this moment is rarely observed, the mating of whales remains quite a mystery for biologists.
Donâ€™t be afraid to appear ridiculous. In order to seduce the females, a rutting camel starts to chase them by shaking its mouth and lips. It belches, sniffles, produces bubbles with its saliva, and drools until its muzzle is covered with a white foam. If nothing happens, it regurgitates oral mucous membranes, inflating them like a balloon. This is the gulla: a deep pink sack, which is often mistaken for a tongueâ€“ flabby, puffy and drooling from its mouth. If all of the previous antics have not seduced the female, the male becomes aggressive: He bites the female and gives her headbutts until she gives up.
How to seduce a she-camel?
Why do mosquitos say Bzz? Mosquitoes say bzz to seduce females. This sound that results from the rapid flapping of the wings has always been annoying. In fact, it is a real sexual parade for the Aedes aegypti mosquito (the yellow fever mosquito that can spread dengue fever). Normally, females flap their wings at the rate of 400 flaps per second, whereas males make up to 600 wing beats per second. These numbers may vary according to their age, health status, and the geometrical shape of their wings. However, an American study revealed that when a male and a female approached to within two centimeters of each other, magic happened: In just a few seconds, their wing beats matched up to attain the rate of 1,200 flaps per second. However, a previously fertilized female maintains its basic rate, and only available sexual partners start to vibrate in unison.
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Sex-starved flies will hit the sauce. Place the drosophila (a small fly) males in the presence of previously mated females. By dint of being rejected repeatedly, jilted males will draw comfort by opting for alcohol-laced food. Biologists who conducted this experiment also discovered that the brain of satisfied males contains a large quantity of neuropeptide substance P, a molecule that is lacking in the brain of frustrated males. The human brain contained a similar substance, the neuropeptide substance Y. In fact, a man may avoid resorting to alcohol by maintaining a constant level of this substance. Sex-starved flies have unknowingly opened an avenue of research into treating human alcohol abuse.
What happens if we deprive a fly of sex?
Why do hyenas laugh? They laugh in order to identify themselves: By means of this quick succession of sounds, hyenas inform their congeners about their age and rank in the pack. These are key pieces of information, because spotted hyenas are organized in very hierarchical groups. According to a researcher from the French city of Saint-Ă‰tienne, the older the animal is, the louder is its laugh. The laugh of the dominant hyenas is more monotonous: It always repeats the same note. When they are in competition to obtain food for example, these laughter â€œcrisesâ€? allow every hyena to adjust its behavior according to its rank, and thus to maintain the equilibrium in the pack.
Is it possible for your dog to do bodybuilding?
It is theoretically possible for a dog to do bodybuilding because dogs have the same muscle fibers as men. Nevertheless, they won’t have a bodybuilder’s look. We are talking about the Bully whippets, a race greyhound with a gene mutation. The gene in question is myostatin, which usually regulates muscle growth. If the two samples of genes are mutated (homozygous dog), we will have a type of muscular hypertrophy that will incapacitate the dog during a race. However, if one gene is mutated (heterozygous dog), it will boost the dog’s performances on the greyhound tracks. This defect is rare: Out of 146 dogs tested in the United States, we found only two homozygous whippets and 20 heterozygous ones. According to the few studies that have been conducted, dogs didn’t seem to suffer from this abnormality.
Why do wet dogs shake? Wet dogs shake because it costs them ten times less energy than leaving the water to evaporate naturally. For example, for a 27-kilogram Labrador, evaporating 500 grams of water requires burning 20 percent of its daily calorie intake, whereas shaking itself after a bath enables it to evacuate more than 70 percent of the water in just three seconds. In fact, the shaking rotation generates a centrifugal force, and when this force exceeds the power that links the water droplets to the fur, these drops are ejected to the exterior. Bears, ewes, cats, rats, and other fur-bearing animals use the same technique, but each animal regulates its oscillation frequency according to its own size: The smaller the animal is, the faster it should shake. For example, a Labrador shakes at the rate of five oscillations per second, while a cat shakes at nine and a mouse at 30. To calculate the oscillation frequency of your dog, weigh it, lift it at – 0.22 of power and increase the result tenfold.
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Why are cockroaches invincible? They can remain in apnea for 45 minutes Cockroaches don’t have lungs. They breathe in the air through their spiracles, orifices located on their abdomen. When the weather is hot and dry, they can just close the spiracles to avoid dehydration. This advantage might help them to withstand global warming, while other species will die. They have acrobatic legs When a cockroach runs on a shelf and gets to its edge, it doesn’t need to slow down or play tricks to go underneath: the hairs located at the tip of its legs will cling onto the shelf, enabling the cockroach to jump in the air and pull itself under the shelf in less than 130 milliseconds. Indeed, a cockroach has the same speed as a bungee jump. They can detect the slightest movement Their abdomens are endowed with cerci, appendages equipped with a sensory silk that detects the least movement in the air. Therefore, it is very hard to crush cockroaches: They feel the shoe coming well before it beats down on them. They can live with no head Their head is not indispensable to them. Decapitation is fatal for mammals for many reasons, including hemorrhage. However,
the pressure of hemolymph (insect blood) is very weak in cockroaches and their neck closes again by coagulation. Without a head, mammals cannot breathe, move, or eat. But a cockroach does not breathe through its mouth, and does not need its head to move because its “brain” is spread in the nerve ganglia along its body. A cockroach can fast for many weeks. Once beheaded, it can stay “alive” for many weeks. Only thirst manages to finish a cockroach off! Its body can slip everywhere Cockroaches have wax-covered bodies that enable them to slip into the thinnest cracks without scraping their shells. This is useful because any scratch will be a home to bacteria. Female cockroaches lay 100,000 eggs per year In some species, only one coupling is enough to fertilize the female cockroach for its entire life. Hence, it will be able to produce eggs without going to the trouble of seeking another male. A trick question How do cockroaches manage to climb the ventilation shaft? A- Their hairs cling on the wall crevices B- They have suckers at the tips of their legs
WOULD A WHALE SHARK SWALLOW YOU? Yes, you can enter the mouth of a whale shark if it belongs to the large specimens, with a mouth that is 1.5 meters wide. During your visit, you may explore the 3,000 teeth that line its oral cavity, but your tour stops here. It is impossible for you to end up in its stomach. Philippe Mota, a biologist who has already visited the mouth of an anesthetized whale shark, says, “Despite its large mouth, it has a very small esophagus.” According to the estimations, it only measures 10 to 15 centimeters, just enough space to allow food – plankton, krill, and other small fish – to pass. Hence, the largest fish in the world is nothing but a huge seawater filter. Every 15 or 20 seconds, it sucks in a mouthful of water, closes its mouth, and expels the water through its five pairs of gills that act as a sieve. In fact, these
filter-feeding whales have mucuscovered comb-like gills to hold the small prey. In order to ingest its daily food, the whale shark filters up to 2,000 tons of water on the spot. It swims with its mouth wide open or in a vertical position, and makes suction movements to generate a whirlpool and suck up the plankton. “I have swum many times before mouths of whale sharks, and I may say that when they see a swimmer getting closer, their first reaction is to close their mouths,” explains Mota. “However, if they let a swimmer in, they will soon spit him out,” he adds.
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