Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pesticide News

The newest editions of two of AqueousSolutions' papers are available for download from the Aqueous website, on the Resources page: Pesticide Use in Thailand and the US: Ecological and Human Health Effects, and Agrichemicals of Concern in Northern Thailand.

These docs are jam packed full of all kinds of factoids, tid-bits and statistics you don't wanna know about the insane degree to which we're poisoning ourselves and our environments with toxic agri-chemicals.

Some highlights from the reports:

At latest count, out of the 58 pesticide products we've identified as commonly used in Thailand and in our region here in the north around Pun Pun Farm in particular...

32 are moderately to highly acutely toxic to humans
14 are possible human carcinogens, and 9 are known human carcinogens
15 are cholinesterase inhibitors (indicating neurotoxicity)
19 are suspected endocrine disruptors
8 are reproductive or developmental toxins
30 are classified as "Bad Actors" by the Pesticide Action Network
and 19 represent known or potential threats to groundwater contamination.

Our big emphasis at AqueousSolutions is to develop drinking water purification systems that are DIY (Do-It-Yourself) and affordable to most people in the world. Well check this out:

A 1988 report estimated that nearly one-half of the ground water and well water in the United States is or has the potential to be contaminated by pesticides. A 1992 report calculated that if monitoring and cleanup activities were carried out in the US such that all pesticide-contaminated groundwater were cleared of pesticides before human consumption, the total cost would be approximately $1.8 billion annually.

I'll have to run some number and do some back-of-the-envelope calculations before I can say this definitively, but the chances are very good that our designs for cheap, DIY water filtration systems could provide safe water for folks in the US for way, way, way less than $1.8 billion a year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ecological Monkprints

Recently I gave a talk to a class of monks taught by my friend Joanne at Muhachulalongkorn University, Chiang Mai campus called:

"The Footprint of a Monk: Sustainability and living the good life in Thailand and around the world"

It was a blast! The monks were super into it.

Now all the monks are stoked to come out to Pun Pun and learn adobe building and organic gardening.

As part of the talk we watched this short film, The Story of Stuff. It's really excellent. You should watch it right now!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bamboo - plant of a jillion uses

Here's a new one: the bambulance...a bamboo ambulance in Kenya.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Taking issue with micro-lending

Another of my controversial essays has been published on Brave New Traveler and is stirring up quite a discussion.

It looks at the concept of micro-lending, which has become a kind of fad in development circles in recent years. The basic idea is to give small loans to people in the "developing" world to encourage them as entrepreneurs.

It sounds nice, and like I say it's a popular thing to talk about today. But the evidence is not so clear about the benefits of micro-lending. Globalization critic Helena Norberg-Hodge of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, for instance, has remarked that on the whole, micro-loans have not been effective for alleviating poverty; rather they have encouraged more migration from the country to the cities (which is to say the slums).

Have a look at my essay, which the BNT editors have entitled Hand-up or Handout? The Case Against Micro-loans and register your comments in the burgeoning discussion.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Bamboo Olympics

Pi Jo scored a humongous load of free bamboo the other day. We had a helluva good time unloading the truck and throwing the poles into the pond. (Soaking in water preserves the bamboo.)

We had a contest to see who could launch the huge poles the furthest. It was the Thai version of the Scottish Highlanders' caber-toss. Of course Pi Jeni won, since he's got Lahu Hill Tribe Power! The regular Thais just can't hang with the hill tribers, let alone a skinny West-By-God-Virginia HillBilly like me.

Anyway, once the poles were all in the water the real fun began sorting out the pile so that the poles could all be at least partially submerged. Thanks to Pun Pun Intern Tai Power Seef for photographing our antics...

Pi Krit displaying some bamboo balancing skills.

Michel mastered the float.

The kids watch the fun.

See more of Tai's amazing photography at her website.

Give the gift of safe drinking water this holiday season

Our drinking water supplies are under threat.

The heavy application of chemical pesticides now practiced in agricultural zones around the globe has caused serious damage to ecosystems and constitutes a grave threat to human health. Exposure to pesticides can cause diseases of the endocrine and reproductive systems, neurological disorders, and cancer, among a panoply of other poisonous effects.

Nowhere is the threat to human health posed by pesticides more pronounced than in 'developing' countries such as Thailand and India, where lax or non-existent regulations permit the intensive application of many chemicals deemed too hazardous to human health and the environment for use in the West. In Thailand, for example, poisonous agrichemical runoff has contaminated over 86% of surface waters – waters that serve as the main source of drinking water for most of the rural population.

At AqueousSolutions, we're developing rugged, elegantly simple, low-cost water filtration systems that can be constructed using locally abundant materials by just about anyone, just about anywhere in the world to reduce the threat of exposure to hazardous agrichemicals in drinking water.

Currently we're working with several communities throughout Asia to deploy and monitor a number of prototype drinking water filtration systems, while our research team is performing laboratory experiments to test the effectiveness of different system designs. Our aim is to make freely available the experimental datasets, design specifications and other technical how-to information that will aid people worldwide in designing and building their own water filtration systems.

At AqueousSolutions, we strongly believe in putting the power to ensure drinking water safety into the hands of households and communities, in effort to promote a significant measure of local self-reliance in meeting this most crucial human need.

Aqueous is run by a committed all-volunteer staff, and is currently funded 100% out of our own pockets. Therefore, any donations we receive translate directly into significant advances in our projects.

This holiday season, as an alternative to the usual frenzy of shopping and consumerism, please consider supporting our work to help communities throughout the world ensure the safety of their drinking water by making a tax-deductible donation.

Your contribution makes a huge difference:

• A donation of $25 can purchase parts, tools and other equipment for constructing treatment systems.

• A donation of $50 provides for one germicidal ultraviolet lamp unit, a critical part of the water purification system that neutralizes biological contaminants such as waterborne bacteria.

• A donation of $100 provides for the installation of one full treatment system, including a charcoal filtration unit for removing pesticides and one germicidal ultraviolet UV unit for biological decontamination. One such system can provide safe drinking water to a community of up to 30 people.

• A donation of $250 provides immense support for offsetting the t and research expenses incurred by our all-volunteer staff. For example, one round-trip airfare from the US to Thailand costs over US$1,000. Currently, all of Aqueous' research and field work is funded 100% out-of-pocket.

Feel free visit our website - - to learn more about our research and projects.

Please send your tax-deductible donation by check made out to:

"ISEC/AqueousSolutions" (N.B. "ISEC" stands for the International Society for Ecology and Culture, Aqueous' parent 501-C3 organization and fiscal sponsor.)


PO Box 9475
CA 94709 USA

You may also donate by PayPal through our website, though currently we are unable to offer tax-deductible status to donations received this way.

Thank you for your support!

– the AqueousSolutions team