Solar Power isn't Feasible!

Solar Power isn't Feasible!
This cartoon was on the cover of the book "SolarGas" by David Hoye. It echoes the Sharp Solar slogan "Last time I checked nobody owned the sun!"

Friday, June 1, 2012

Synergies for Science in Action!

Last year I had the honor of being a judge in the first annual Google Science Fair and I will return to the Google Headquarters in Mountain View CA next month to  assess a new crop of budding brilliance in the 2012 Google Science Fair. This year, however, there will an additional prize handed out to our planet's top scientific thinkers who are between the ages of 13 and 18:  The Scientific American "Science in Action Award". It will be given to one of fifteen students from around the world who submitted the results of their work in applied science designed to "make a difference".

The reason for the special  $50,000 prize for which they are competing is that this year Scientific American and Google wanted to go beyond last year's landmark recognition of student talent in the sciences and also directly reward, encourage and mentor budding researchers/innovators/inventors/engineers/practitioners who specifically oriented their investigations to address a "social, environmental, ethical, health or welfare issue to make a practical difference to the lives of a group or community, and that could possibly be scaled."

 Last week I had the honor to judge the work of these 15 dedicated young men and women whose brilliant applications of their native curiosity and formal science education  had led  to them becoming finalists in the first Scientific American "Science in Action" awards competition, and it was quite a moving experience, given their universal sincerity in helping their fellow humans -- particularly those less fortunate than them -- to lead  dignified, meaningful, healthy and environmentally sustainable lives.

It was a joy to think through these remarkable young people's projects through this process; at the same time it was very very difficult (often painfully so) to think that my judgements as a science educator/mentor could actually stand between a young person and their dreams of improving their world, for every time we select a "winner" we also are aware that this go-round we will be unable to support the work of the other nominees. And I often ask myself, when it comes to solving our biggest environmental and health challenges, how many rounds do we get? Isn't there some way to put the great science all these kids are doing into action now?

16 year old Catherine Wong pointed out in her proposal, "Engineering is applied dreaming." Her call to action -- "here's to daring to dream!"--  puts a lump in my throat every time I read it.  Similarly, 14 year olds Salkiwe and Bonkhe moved me beyond measure with their astute observation that "Winning Google Science Fair as young Swazi scientists cannot change the world; however can change the way we live in it.  Given the opportunity the project can make Swaziland a better country to live in."

 If that isn't the strongest statement of the pragmatic dreamer, who realizes the true limitations of all our best intentions, yet still  knows what the right application of intelligence and resources can do to improve local conditions, I don't know what is!

What this process made me do is come up with a fantasy for a possible "Science in Action Summer Camp". This would be a science in action prize which, rather than selecting a winner from among the group, would function to  bring together ALL the contestants to synergize their contributions in a results oriented cooperative rather than competitive forum.  I thought I might share that vision with you here!

I've been thinking about how our system is designed to reward the few, and as one of my professors at UCLA (Dr. Don Shoup)  used to say every time he gave out a prize (and I paraphrase) , "I would just like those of you who are not getting the prize to remember  that it is because of your efforts the prize winner is getting today's award -- the singularity of a rare prize implies that the majority of you will be 'the losers' in this competitive situation, yet you should all feel good because the lucky winners stand on your shoulders, for without your excellent contributions and efforts they would have no high standards to distinguish them." 

I found those to be comforting words for "the other 90%"; still , I have always found it excruciatingly difficult to judge people's work knowing that everyone comes at their work from a different starting point and that most are doing the very best they can in light of their particular history, resource limitations, opportunity constraints etc.; there is no such thing as a level playing field, and in the field of development and making a difference in ending poverty, deprivation and environmental degradation "we don't need another hero" (as the song goes!) so much as we need a team of dedicated individuals who know how to put their heads together.  

"It takes a village", so to speak.

 As a science educator I've learned that some parameters that lead to ultimate success in the implementation of a great idea are notoriously difficult to measure or evaluate.  We as teachers often can only vaguely feel when our judgements and actions can provide that incredibly valuable spark that can cause the waiting tinder of a child's mind to burst into the passionate flame of understanding and activity; often we inadvertently snuff out  a glimmer of promise whose consequences could have major positive impacts if we could only have known where and how to nudge things toward to light.

So I keep thinking of ways to make everyone a winner.

When I was a science instruction reformer in the ghettos of LA I agonized over ways to make my classrooms nurturing, judgement-free spaces and mulled over how to create reward and incentive structures that would keep people going when resources were limited but plentiful enthusiasm was much needed.

I'm hammering out a concept now for how to formalize such a possible "youth think tank".

Coming back from Nepal off of my third Blackstone Ranch Foundation/National Geographic Expedition last week I realize that what John Richardson and  the Blackstone Ranch Foundation did for us as National Geographic Emerging Explorers starting in 2009 with their "Emerging Explorer Innovation Challenge Grant" program created a model that perhaps we might find a way of applying to the Google Science Fair/Scientific American Science in Action initiative in the future. 

What they did was to offer a $50,000 seed grant to any team of two or more National Geographic Explorers/Emerging Explorers/Fellows/Grantees who could create un-obvious but  environmentally significant interdisciplinary synergies to solve pressing problems of our time.  The challenge was to build a kind of "E-team" of experts who could apply their work and research and through the meeting of different minds, come up with radical solutions that no individual could come up with alone.

I was fortunate to be part of the first two E-teams receiving the funds in 2010 and 2011 and to be brought back into a larger team in 2012.  As an Urban Planner, working with Aquatic Ecologist Dr. Katey Walters-Anthony in Alaska, Ethnobotanist Grace Gobbo at the Jane Goodall Institute in Tanzania, Wildlife conservation film-makers Dereck and Beverly Joubert at Great Plains Conservation sites in Kenya and Botswana, Underwater archeologist Beverly Goodman in Israel, and  Mountain Institute director Alton Byers and Photographer/Last Mile project director Chris Rainier in Nepal, we pooled resources and talents across professional disciplines to come up with solution sets to pressing environmental problems that are robust because of the unique perspectives that hybridity creates.

Now, as I look at the incredible crop of young people we've just been judging for Science in Action, I'd like to propose a fantasy for how further support might be given to them and students like them in the future.  

Along with (or instead of?) a grand prize winner getting $50,000 dollars for their particular work, $50,000 could be made available, as the Blackstone Ranch has done, for the creation of a synergistic team that can put their ideas together to create a "best practice model" somewhere in the world (a showcase in Swaziland? a gaggle of ideas on display at Google? A eutopia trial baloon in Ethiopia or Uruguay?)

I see a possible role for Scientific American, Google, National Geographic, Lego, CERN, Blackstone, and myriad other funders/judges acting as science in action advocates and incubation nurturers.  We "judges" and the institutions sponsoring the initiative would be acting like "The Wizard of Oz" when, at the end of the MGM film, at the wish granting ceremony, he points out to Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion that they already have almost everything they need to achieve their goals, but are often merely missing one or two catalysts to enable their best qualities to shine through and work to their greatest effect.  We would point out that the missing catalysts can often be found in the toolkits of the other finalists.  As in the Blackstone Ranch Emerging Explorer Innovation Challenge  that would be the challenge -- identifying and putting those missing pieces together.

Science Action Synergies:  An example of how this year's group might fit together:

Here, for example,  are a few of my own ideas for what appeared to me to be some first tier synergies, points of hybridity that leaped out at me when going through all of the finalists proposals last week:

  Anjan Venkatesh (14) in India  has demonstrated  that dangerous high fluoride concentrations can not only be removed by  low cost bioadsorbents, such as those made from agricultural wastes, but that these adsorbents can be easily regenerated through the application of simple alkali chemicals ( Culhane has noted in his work in Nepal that highly alkaline KOH can be generated easily in the field using wood ash and will share this with Anjan). 

Meanwhile,  Mark Liang (14)  in San Marino, USA , has shown that hardy and rapidly growing sunflowers in a hydroponic situation drastically reduce the amount of perchlorate ions that contaminate ground water.  Meanwhile,  K. K. Tiwary, A.K.Shrivastava, S. Mishra,  and R.R.Jha, (2011) have demonstrated fluoride adsorption using sunflower plant dry powder (see

 Putting Anjan and Mark together would give a chance for Mark to supply a  bioadsorbent
for Anjan to help conquer the flourosis problem.  But to grow the sunflower (and other possible biocomposites) to demonstrate their solutions effectiveness in small holding areas where inputs like water, fertilizer and labor and space are limited,  the pair would need a low-cost hydroponic system.

Salkiwe Shongwe (14) and Bonkhe Mahlalela (14) from Swaziland. They've created an economically and environmentally viable low-cost hydroponics system using discarded materials and household and agricultural wastes that could be employed to grow  crops that have both the necessary commercial/nutritional value (sunflower seed and oil fit that bill  for example) while at the same time provide the cellulose for bioadsorption, and they have the winning "street cred" that comes from being stakeholders whose livelihoods depend on blue sky ideas matching on-the-ground realities.  But one thing Salkiwe and Bonkhe need to make their contribution to the effort work is a way to get around the extreme space and labor constraints that affect most petty farmers, particularly in places like India, due to population pressures and land tenure issues  the arable land available per capita is diminishing all the time.

Now enter Sumit Singh (14) from India, who knows this problem very well, and has demonstrated experimentally on a rooftop that, using the projection effect and an astute calculation of the angles of incident sunlight during the day, he could build vertical multi-level farming structures from bamboo, rope and clay brick that would enable Salkiwe and Bonkhe's hydroponics to be practiced with not just the 140% increase they got on the open terrain, but a 66% increase per plot on top of that. 

But wait, there is more!

These high-concept low tech agricultural systems, used now to grow crops that can benefit families in the kitchen and the market while producing bioadsorbents to help clean up community level water contamination issues, also need a source of water for irrigation, one of the scarce inputs in the regions in question. And that water needs to be stored and filtered.

Enter Ricardo and Jessica Alba Torres (17 and 15) from Bogota Columbia. They have proven that when  space is scarce, and money and materials are scarcer, effective water storage containers can be built out of a ubiquitous part of our daily  waste stream -- discarded PET water bottles.  These low cost vertical "water walls" can be built to be almost any capacity, conforming to the available dimensions of the home or farm without taking up valuable space that could be used for growing crops or storing food.  Because they are modular, the water wall units can be expanded over time as the Vertical Farming system is expanded, eliminating the need to buy and place expensive, large cylindrical water tanks. These above-ground cisterns make capture and storage of rain water, a lost resource in most arid communities, a very real possibility, and that water can be used for irrigation. But because the water walls integrate so well with the existing built environment, able to be located in hallways or against the walls of houses, they can also be used to capture and store greywater discharged and wasted from every home whenever hands, dishes, clothes or bodies are washed.  And that water can be used to irrigate the vertical hydroponic system.

Rainwater can be used directly for irrigation, and most greywater can too; but ultimately we come back to the issue of clean drinking water -- the portion of rainwater collected in the PET bottle walls that the family hopes to use for drinking and cooking must be guaranteed free of pathogenic bacteria, and any irrigation water or greywater discharged back into the environment  must be similarly safe.

Enter Katherine Zimmerman (16)  and Sabera Tulukder (15) , a dynamic duo from different sides of the U.S.  who have tackled some of the engineering issues surrounding home-scale water purification.  Given the varying climatic conditions faced by indigent farmers and slum dwellers in developing countries, both of their solutions benefit the project.  Katherine's flat panel solar water heater, under full sun, creates conditions that lead to the partial evaporation of salt water or biologically,and in some cases chemically contaminated water (providing the contaminants vaporization points are not close to that of water).  Her evaporator condensor set up increases the yields of fresh water production by over 20%.  But of course the sun isn't always shining. Here is where Sabera's innovation comes in -- her simple mechanical filter starts the purification process and then passes the water through a UVc sterilization procedure enhanced by the use of white reflective paint in simple low cost tubes.  Both systems use a photovoltaic panel for electrical energy and in the combined setup a single panel would both drive the condensor water pump on sunny days  and trickle charge the battery used to power the UVc light. At night and under cloudy conditions the UVc light would be run on battery power.  The two systems, joined together, would help to maximize the amount of water produced under a variety of conditions.  Nonetheless, household and crop demand for fresh water, and a lack of rainfall for long periods, might still put families at risk of shortage.

Mena Abdel Gawad (16) from Egypt.  Mena's research has correctly identified what is perhaps the simplest and most effective solution for constantly  providing the necessary thermal energy for year round water distillation: organic garbage.  Through simple anaerobic digestion in an easy to construct tank that anybody can build, virtually all kitchen and toilet wastes and farm residues can be turned into clean burning biogas and liquid fertilizer. And since all human activity creates a daily plethora of these wastes, the supply of biogas, while available in a fixed quantity on a daily basis, in inexhaustible in terms of sustainability (when humans cease generating organic waste it usually means they have ceased functioning, i.e. they are dead).  As Mena points out, unlike incineration or gasification, anaerobic digestion creates no smoke or toxins and turns what are often disease causing, water contaminating substances in their raw form into the very things that can purify water.

How far can we go with this?   Add
Andrew Chen (14) from Beaverton, US, to the Science in Action Heroes mix and you have a pretreatment step that can knock down microbial levels to a manageable level so families can have the choice to divert some of the solar heated water that Katherine's system creates for bathing and much of the biogas that Mena's system creates to cooking and running electric generators, lights and refrigerators.  By using permanent magnetic fields in the buckets in  the first step of Sabera's system, Mark's research makes it all the more possible to clean water with minimal energetic inputs.

By adding Mena's and Mark's and Andrew's solutions for purifying water  to those of Katherine and Sabera, abundant sterile freshwater can be produced from a variety of unpotable water sources and, because of the way the "good bacteria" in a biodigestor operate at the same time otherwise noxious or dangerous wastes can be turned into fertilizer to grow the very crops our team has been counting on for food, commerce and bioadsorption.  In addition, studies done in conjunction with the California EPA have shown that anaerobic digestion can help reduce perchlorates to harmless Chloride and Carbon Dioxide (see
Alternatives.pdf), so Mena's addition to the team can help Mark with his original concern (an issue that may not be trivial outside of California now that India and China have become space-faring nations and several African nations, like Nigeria, are launching their own satellites).

And while we are on the subject of water purification and removal of contaminants, throwing the work on bioremediation using agricultural wastes pursued by 
Geoffrey Tanudjaja (19) from Singapore  makes everything snap into place:  we use the abundant household toilet and kitchen wastes to create biogas and fertilizer, but we also have typical lawn and weed grasses to contend with, because most human habitations, being disturbed habitats, tend to favor grasses and we have since adopted these plants as domestic ornamentals which we endlessly cut and trim to maintain a pleasant environment.  These grassy wastes are not that effective in a biodigestor, but Geoffrey has shown that with a simple measured treatment of an alkali hydroxide -- the same sort of treatment that Anjan used to regenerate his biocomposites! -- grass waste can be turned into an effective bioadsorbant in its own right, helping to remove heavy metals that contaminate water (and hence keeping it out of our food as well as our water). The grass could then be gasified (as per Mena's research), turning it into an additional source of energy (for running gas generators for example) and the heavy metals recovered for safe storage, removed from the biosphere and brought into the industrial ecosphere in concentrated form.  Excess grasses not used for metal removal would simply be composted and turned back into fertile soil.

So we now turn our attention back to growing crops in the vertical farming/low cost hydroponic system that the synergy between Salkiwe, Bonkhe and Sumit.  Inevitably the desirable plants, no matter how well maintained, are going to be invaded by "pest plants" -- what we call "weeds".  This will reduce yields and lead to the temptation to turn back to expensive and dangerous chemical herbicides.  Fortunately, we have
Grace Brosofsky (16) from Buford, USA to come to our rescue!

With Grace's demonstration of the effectiveness of ecologically friendly but potent weed killing concoctions of vinegar, clove oil and d-limonene (enhanced with adjuvants such as garlic and yucca extract), all of which can be produced locally,  we now have a system in place to maintain the high yields the new best practice student agricultural and water purification and storage systems create without causing harm to the environment or the people within it.

Now, with a more or less complete and autonomous system for dealing with water, energy, food and waste in place, created through the synergies of these remarkable students, the aspirations of the communities they have helped can turn toward the maintenance and enhancement of the fine health that families will experience as their standard of living rises once freed from the scourges of water-borne diseases, toxic chemical accumulation, indoor and external air pollution, and nutritional deficiencies.

To ensure that these families receive the finest medical care available, we call in two young specialists who are well on their way to proving that with today's low cost but powerful microprocessing technologies, the promise of telemedicine and continual self-health monitoring can now be in the hands of "the other 90%".

16 year old American
Catherine Wong's and 13 year old Spaniard Carlos Vega Garcia's  contributions --  the one, an affordable personal EKG monitor built with the open-source  $30 Arduino processor and an op-amp studded bread-board, programmed by her to talk, via the open-source Amarino Android app to any cellphone anywhere, the other a LEGO NXT microcontroller based wearable shoe and wrist sensor suite that monitors body parameters and activity -- help address the issue of isolation from vital services and medical checkups that makes rural poverty so problematic. Rather than having to make expensive trips into the city to get seen by a doctor, their solutions for self monitoring and telemedicine helps "keep folks down on the farm" with their families, sending data to the bright lights of the city instead. 

 What these young microelectronics engineers  have created also  paves the way for other innovative uses of  microprocessors like the LEGO NXT brick and the Arduino/Processing/smart phone  platforms for other varieties of monitoring and telemedicine (only the sensors and programming need vary), enabling qucik field diagnosis for diseases like malaria and AIDS for example. And, tying back to the work of our other team members, the work that this innovative group of young people can do when they combine forces can move beyond medicine -- once cheap embedded computing embeds itself in rural and slum communities through the help of these young visionaries with a sense of purpose, the "other 90%" can use these emergent technologies  to monitor and host of health and environmental issues -- from keeping close watch on plant growth and water contamination to soil moisture and climate change. 

The sky is the limit once the team comes together.

Looking toward a Science in Action Synergy Camp:

Sumit Singh wrote this poem to the Science in Action committee regarding people in need around the world:

"I sense their pain and apprehend their affliction,
Their hardships and their grievous soul,
I resolve to bring a change in their condition,
And choose their happiness as my goal."
Any would-be superhero  who chooses to tackle such hardships will face the prospect of severe disillusionment when trying to go it alone.  But, as the recent Marvel "The Avengers" film shows these young people, when people with different talents and abilities come together with common purpose and pool their energies, there is nothing they can't overcome.
My proposal would be to find a way to fund such a team to put their best ideas together in a real world trial.  

 I could imagine a $50,000 best practice synergy fund being spent in the following way:
$18,000 for the airfare to bring all 15 young people together in a single location for a one month bricolage bootcamp (assuming an average cost of $1200 per student).
$12,000 for the food and lodging  for the students (assuming an average subsidized/in-kind donation cost per student of $200/week)
$20,000 for materials to build and tweak  the integrated  best practice prototype systems during the 4 week period.

If transportation, food and lodging were to be donated, then the entire $50,000 could go to the materials needed to integrate all of the students ideas into one fully functional "world's fair" type showcase.  Or half of the money could be devoted to the synergy camp, where the systems integration phase would be done,  and the other half to an implementation phase,   bringing the students and their working models to a location that they would vote on where the community is in dire need of the very solutions they are proposing.
What they would take away would be an invaluable experience in problem solving that goes beyond borders and transcends race, religion, class, creed, ethnicity and age. They would come together from around the world to solve the biggest problems of our time and go away knowing it can be done -- by them!

What they would leave behind at the end of this "Science in Action Summer Camp" would be a permanent but  dynamic and evolving system that could be added to in future by new groups of students seeking to solve these existential issues.  The Camp would be held in a locations where it could serve as a meeting place for community members in need of these technologies.  

We could think of it as a junior version of the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan India (see where Roy Bunker has created a similar institution for rural women from around the world between 35 and 55 years old; this would be for youth between 13 and 18. My visit there in 2009 convinced me of the feasibility of this model, but as a former high school teacher I realized we need such a place for young people. 

Anyway, that is my fantasy, the fantasy that emerged from trying to judge each of these wonderful young people's projects. 

I hope at the very least it can stimulate some discussion and that the Science in Action students can get a chance to see just how important what they are doing is, and how their pieces of the puzzle might fit together!

Thanks to the folks at Google and Scientific American for  creating these wonderful platforms for young people to make a difference!


Science in Action and Google Science Fair Judge Dr. T.H. Culhane spends most of his time thinking about ways to keep civilization from collapsing and how to encourage and nurture young people who want to apply their genius and their energies toward a sustinable future.

 Personal addendum and reflections:

We at Solar CITIES will work toward realizing the dream of such an international think tank learning and implementation camp!

 My wife Sybille and I have been dreaming of such a thing for quite some time now (she was the director of a Montessori school in Egypt when we met).

We see the  creation of a place where young people from every land and background to engage in problem solving with the possibility of then travelling together to a location where best-practice models could be implemented as part of a larger effort to build capacity for sustainable development around the world.

A couple of years ago we proposed a "Green Collar Immigrant Training Program" to the German government to try and tackle the problem of out-of-work adults and youth coming in to Germany and other EU countries from Africa, Asia and the Middle East and being discriminated against and unable to enter into the European workforce. 

Our idea was to offer training to them as "environmental technology ambassadors" who would then travel back to their home/immigrant sending countries for short stints to become trainers of trainers (since they have special knowledge of their languages, cultures and conditions that most white Europeans lack). 

 We conducted a training  test with a Nigerian-German friend, Paul Chido Iwunna,  who has been working in a factory in Germany for the past 13 years since immigrating from Port Harcourt Nigeria, and who joined Solar CITIES because of a shared dream of improving conditions in the world.  He came to our own backyard in Germany on weekends to learn to build biogas systems, solar hot water systems and treadle pumps out of local materials.  We  then  traveled with him to Nigeria, stayed with the former president (Obasanjo) who helped us to  do workshops around the country and then we traveled to Paul's mother's home and did some building there and at the home of some relatives. During that trip,  President Obasanjo told us, "there are so many Africans in diaspora who could be motivated to spend some time back in our countries if they got the right training; one of the problems is that as they assimilate to European or American or Australian culture the children forget their roots or stop feeling they have any responsibility to their parent's home country.  So we have this terrible brain drain..."

What we see in the Google Science Fair in general and with Scientific American's Science in Action in particular is that not only is there a widespread desire on the part of youth everywhere to engage with world problems, but very often the children of immigrants, like 15 year old  Sabera Tulukder, do indeed make trips back to places like her father's Bengali village, and want to apply what they are learning in science class in wealthier regions to solving the dire problems of poverty that their families went into diaspora to overcome.  So the Science in Action kids are already engaged in reversing the "brain drain" that President Obansanjo has been fighting.  

A Science in Action camp could be the kind of "green collar training program" which Obama successfully launched in the U.S. with the Resources and Recovery act (I participated in some of the solar training on the West Coast) and which we proposed to the Germans, but with youth as the leaders, and a new way to conceive of summer youth service and "gap year" or "wanderjahr" "travel with a purpose".   

Imagine a month long summer sustainability camp that ended with the students traveling together for an additional two weeks to a location (like Sabera's father's village in Bangladesh or Bonkhe's family village in Swaziland, with Salkiwe and Bonke or Sabera acting as proud ambassadors to the other students (and their parents? teachers?) on a trip to implement the experiments they created at the camp "for real world field testing".  

The follow up would be guaranteed because the kids would have a vested interest in keeping in touch with and monitoring the results in their own relative's homeland and this would make all the difference since most development aid projects fail because the "foreigners" can rarely get back to the location of their "peace corps" type experience and don't have long-term cultural/linguistic/emotional ties to the area they were "assisting".  So Science in Action, truly put into action by these committed young people, could solve an enormous number of serious development issues.

Ah, truly the sky is the limit!

Of course it could take years to put together the right sources of funding for an enduring mission of this sort "on the ground", so in the meantime we will link the students up  via Google Plus and use as much "virtual reality" as possible to lower the transaction costs of collaborative engineering.

 Social media really is the  medium of these youth, so we as adults can help by really amping up the value of the connectivity, using our social and political and financial and institutional networks to endorse the generative genius of our youth around the world, harvest the great ideas they come up with, help mix and match young people and ideas that might work well together,  and guide them toward fruition.   Through proper use of social media and traditional media  students should come to  feel that every time there is a new crop of young people and ideas recognized by Google and Scientific American their own "family" of solution providers grows, a family they can turn to to help bring their "difference making ideas" into  focus and into practice.

It is my contention that through this process, as education itself changes and adapts to the new technologies that are emerging,   we will  end up creating a very active "virtual" science academy that would be very well attended by people from all walks of life (particularly girls and underserved minorities who have traditionally been excluded from quality science education) and this sort of virtual science in action academy will serve the highest of goals, helping humanity to finally realize our Millenium Goals --   eliminate poverty and most diseases and restore the balance of our ecological systems. 

 In this on-line academy we could implement the "sustainable development simulator" game engine that we've nicknamed "Sustainable Google Earth" which we've been discussing on this blog so that real experiments in healthful living, water purification,  ecological restoration and clean energy creation could be modeled in a universally accessible virtual space for input by all stakeholders (for those unfamiliar with what a "Sustainable Google Earth" might look like, imagine Google Sketchup and Google Earth with Sketchy Physics and a host of Havoc Physics algorithms that enable 3D science to be done collaboratively in a virtual copy of a village -- much more real than "second life", much more fun than any fantasy  MMORPG --  before committing the resources to building real things.)

There is a lot we can do in the virtual world.  Meanwhile, because getting these ideas out of our heads, off of the computer screens and into the real trouble spots in the world is the goal of all this, we can support these amazing young people by finding ways to find the resources they need and committing them to build the real things that will do real good.

And that would be a wonderful way to put  "science in action", don't you think?


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