Farmers in India use WhatsApp to sell organic produce

Farmers in India are now using WhatsApp to network with customers. Santhosh Kittur and Abhijit Kamath, for example, grow pesticide-free vegetables using traditional farming techniques. But they have a very modern method of advertising their produce: an 80-member WhatsApp group that receives updates and photographs of the farm.

Members of the group can message Kittur and Kamarth to reserve specific vegetables. “First preference is given to the members of the group. The system has worked well for us, even financially,” Kittur commented.

The trend of using WhatsApp to connect farmers to customers is a result of rising demand for organic produce in India. An October report by the Agriculture Ministry exposed that the amount of vegetables, fruit, meat, and spices treated with pesticides over the legal maximum level had almost doubled since 2009.

“It is very hard to find chemical-free vegetables. We had stopped using cabbage, cauliflower, and brinjal [eggplant] after learning about their high chemical content,” said customer Shraddha Bagi. “When these farmers [Kittur and Kamath] supply fresh and safe vegetables right at our doorsteps, we should definitely encourage them. It’s come to such a point where we eagerly wait for their produce.”

WhatsApp has exceeded its role as an advertiser to become a support system for farmers. Over a hundred farmers from different villages are part of the group named Baliraja, which serves as a forum for the farmers to share advice and connect with experts.

“Farmers’ queries are getting answered quickly,” said the coordinator of another agricultural WhatsApp group.

Article via: Mashable, 11 February 2016

Photo: Woman Laughing with Hoe, Purna Wildlife Sanctuary by Adam Cohn  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Natural gas leak leads to criminal charges

Over 100 days after the beginning of a natural gas leak near the the Porter Ranch neighborhood, criminal charges are being brought against Southern California Gas Company. Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has filed charges due to failing to immediately report the natural gas leak at its Aliso Canyon facility to proper authorities, her office announced Tuesday. Southern California Gas Company is being charged with four misdemeanor counts: three counts of failing to report the release of hazardous material from Oct. 23 to Oct. 26 and one count for the discharge of air contaminants starting Oct. 23 through the present, according to the complaint.

In late November, 58,000 kilograms of methane per hour have been leaking into the atmosphere due to the breach. Since then, the natural gas leak has released emissions equivalent to burning more than 862,000 gallons of gasoline.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and can leak almost anywhere in the supply chain. Methane leaks like this, are a contributing factor to climate change and the overall warming of the environment. Figures from 2007 showed that there are about 400 underground methane storage sites like Aliso Canyon (Southern California Gas Co. current major leak), and these storage facilities are poorly regulated. There’s little federal oversight of such facilities, and the state is not consistent with enforcing regulations. This lack of oversight creates opportunities for such large leaks to go unnoticed and in this case, unaddressed for so long. Souther California Gas Company say that the leak will finally be stopped by late this month, but the methane will linger in the atmosphere, most likely for decades.

The gas company could be fined up to $25,000 a day for each day that it failed to notify the California Office of Emergency Services and up to $1,000 per day for air pollution violations.

“It is important that Southern California Gas Co. be held responsible for its criminal actions… We will do everything we can as prosecutors to help ensure that the Aliso Canyon facility is brought into compliance,” stated District Attorney Jackie Lacey in a written statement.  “I believe we can best serve our community using the sanctions available through a criminal conviction to prevent similar public health threats in the future.”

Arraignment for the company is set for Feb. 17 at the Santa Clarita Branch of the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Article via fivethirtyeight.com, 3 February, 2016; Daily News, 2 February 2016

Photo Demonstrating On The Leak by Greenpeace USA [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Keep it in the ground movement tries to postpone oil and gas auction

On December 10th the U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to hold an auction for parcels of land in Michigan and Arkansas. The purpose? Leasing by the federal government of publicly owned lands to private companies, often resulting in drilling for oil and gas.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, the American public collectively owns nearly 650 million acres of public land and the fossil fuels beneath it. It also owns more than 1.7 billion acres of Outer Continental Shelf lands that also contain oil and gas resources.  The government holds these auctions regularly, but the upcoming auction on December 10th conspicuously coincides with the final days of the U.N. Climate Summit in Paris.  As a result, the Keep it in the Ground movement is trying to pressure President Obama to cancel this auction.

Keep it in the Ground is a movement of environmental organizations that are aiming to slow climate change by keeping remaining fossil fuels in the ground, instead of available for burning and drilling. The participating organizations include large groups such as 350.org, CREDO, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Greenpeace USA. The movement has been successful in getting the support of seven Democratic senators, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. These senators have introduced the Keep It in the Ground Act which came after organizations associated with the movement sent signed a letter addressed to President Obama urging him to stop new federal leasing of fossil fuels.

Jason Kowalski, U.S. policy director at 350.org, has criticized the president for allowing federal leasing auctions to continue while rallying other nations to fight against climate change. “Here we are, negotiating a climate treaty in Paris, and the core point of this treaty is keeping fossil fuels in the ground,” Kowalski told Mashable. “In the midst of that, we’re holding an auction, and the government itself is selling fossil fuels to the highest bidder?”

Obama has cited the need to keep some fossil fuels unburned, and on Nov. 6, he rejected the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a landmark decision seen as a major victory for environmentalists. “They’ve been bragging about it in Paris,” Kowalski said. “…but it’s really hypocritical to be bragging about the Keystone decision in Paris and at the same time be selling fossil fuels to the highest bidder in Washington, D.C., during the final days of negotiations.”

If Obama does not cancel the Dec. 10 auction, groups associated with the Keep it in the Ground movement are planning to hold a rally and press conference outside of the auction site on that date.

 

Article via Mashable, 3 December 2015

Photo: FERC Protest via A Jones [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Startup helps off-grid communities purchase clean energy

Globally, off-grid villages have few reliable energy sources. People throughout the world rely on solar products donated from non-profit organizations—which are not guaranteed indefinitely—or resort to purchasing expensive and unclean energy like kerosene, due to a lack of investment capital for cleaner energy. Angaza, a San Francisco startup, seeks to facilitate the purchase of clean energy by off-grid communities at affordable rates.

Angaza has a Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) system in which a person can make a small down payment of under $5 to take a pico-solar device home. The solar device has a meter that measures energy usage against the original payment, and shuts off automatically when the paid amount of energy has been used up. At that point, the user can make a mobile payment to reactivate their device, or sign up for a weekly payment of roughly $1-$2 until they pay it off (in usually under a year).

Angaza’s initial target region is West Africa, where a majority of adults own mobile devices. USAID is funding Angaza’s field research on the PAYG system in rural Tanzania. Angaza will also be partnering with SunnyMoney, the top distributor of pico-solar products in Africa. Angaza collects a percentage of transaction fees as well as licensing fees from manufacturing companies that use its embedded technology.

CEO Lesley Marincola completed her B.S. and M.S. at in Product Design and Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, then went on to work on Amazon Kindle’s design team.

Article via TechCrunch and USAID, 23 October 2015

Photo: Solar Energy via itstonyhaha [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


US Oil & Gas Take On Sharing

US oil & gas industry establishes information sharing center (InfoSecurity, 26 June 2014) – As part of a voluntary effort, the oil and natural gas industry is launching the Oil and Natural Gas Information Sharing and Analysis Center ( ONG-ISAC ), dedicated to protecting critical energy infrastructure from computer-based attacks. The ONG-ISAC will serve as a unified, central reservoir of cyber intelligence and a virtual pipeline that facilitates the secure sharing of vetted, actionable and timely cyber intelligence to members. “Cyber-based attacks are one of the fastest-growing threats to America’s infrastructure,” said David Frazier, chairman of the ONG-ISAC, in a statement. “ONG-ISAC will help our industry to quickly identify and respond to threats against refineries, pipelines and other distribution systems that serve US consumers and businesses. It also will provide industry participants a secure way to share information and stay connected with law enforcement agencies.” An industry-owned and operated organization, the ONG-ISAC will facilitate the exchange of information, evaluate risks, and provide up-to-date security guidance to US companies. Participants can submit incidents either anonymously or with attribution via a secure web portal; circulate information on threats and vulnerabilities among ONG-ISAC members, other ISACs, vendors and the US government; provide industry participants with access to cybersecurity experts; alert participants of cyber-threats deemed ‘urgent’ or ‘elevated’ in near real-time, within 60 minutes; coordinate industry-wide responses to computer-based attacks; and ensure compliance with all antitrust and federal disclosure guidelines.

Provided by MIRLN.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/sheelamohan.