UNESCO Exploring Underwater Mayan Heritage

Guatemala is a gorgeous country with a rich Mayan history, particularly around Lake Atitlán (and the more famous Tikal). The country will now be home to a UNESCO project toking at best practices for underwater archaeology. The main idea is to work with the local population to ensure cultural sensitivity and to match that care with environmental concerns. When the practices are outlined UNESCO will expand their underwater archeology knowledge to the world’s researchers with some locations already identified.

UNESCO’s technical mission to Lake Atitlán (southwest of Guatemala) will take place in the autumn. It will be funded by Spain and will be carried out by the experts of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body of UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. María Helena Barba Meinecke, head of the Yucatan Peninsula underwater heritage programme of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History will lead the mission, which will examine the archaeological sites in the lake and propose a management plan in consultation with the local communities, for whom these vestiges are of great cultural importance.

Several submerged archaeological sites were discovered in 1996 in Lake Atitlán, the deepest lake in Central America. Among them is a Mayan villages known as Samabaj, which retains the remains of domestic structures and religious monuments. The village appears to have been built on an island that was submerged, possibly because of a volcanic eruption, a landslide or another natural disaster.

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Waterproofing Cities for Resiliency

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The last month brought a lot of rain to the city of Toronto which has led to the Toronto islands being half submerged and a temporary (and lax) travel ban to be put into effect. The rest of the city has fared slightly better. The city has slowly been improving its water management over the years by implementing green roofs and providing more green space along ravines to absorb water. That’s not enough to deal with the increased rainfall from climate change. Over at the CBC they have an article looking at effective ways that Toronto is already using and what more can be done.

Of course, the techniques used in Toronto can be applied to many other cities.

The water that makes it past collection systems or soaks through green spaces ends up in Toronto’s sewer system.

In cases of a heavy downpour, that can send a mix of storm and sanitary water into Lake Ontario, due to the city’s combined sewer system.

While the city has dedicated reserves for storm water, it has no choice but to pump the mixed sewage and storm water into the lake during extreme rainfall.

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Billionaire Shipping Magnate Sponsors WWF Research Vessel


Kjell Inge Røkke made billions from running a shipping company and now he wants to give back to the very thing that made him wealth – the high seas. He has committed to giving away most of his fortune to better the world, and he just announced his donation to WWF Norway. His donation is specifically going to a research vessel that will provide scientists a great way to research the oceans. What’s more is that the same ship will be able to remove 5 tonnes of plastic from the ocean everyday!

Røkke, a former fisherman, said the oceans “have provided significant value for society” and directly to him and his family.

“However,” he noted, “the oceans are also under greater pressure than ever before from overfishing, coastal pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification, and one of the most pressing challenges of all, plasticization of the ocean. The need for knowledge and solutions is pressing.”

“The REV will be a platform for gathering knowledge,” Røkke told Business Insider. “I would like to welcome researchers, environmental groups, and other institutions on board, to acquire new skills to evolve innovative solutions to address challenges and opportunities connected to the seas.”

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Get Water from Air by Using a Windtrap

desert and stars
In Frank Herbert’s book Dune the inhabitants of a desert planet collect water using giant “windtraps,” now we can do the same on earth. Researchers at MIT have built a prototype, which can be easily scaled up, that can capture a lot of water from even the driest of places. Basically, air is filled with moisture and when it flows through the wind collector it comes in contact with a slightly charged surface that sucks the water right from the air. The amount of power needed is negligible, which means that the device can run using only solar panels.

The researchers built a small prototype water collector that contains a thin layer of MOF powder. The powder absorbs water vapor until it is saturated.

“Once you achieve that maximum amount,” Wang says, “you apply some type of heat to the system to release that water.”

And when the water is released, it collects in the bottom of the prototype.

There are other compounds that can suck water from the air, zeolites for example, but Wang says it takes a significant amount of energy to get these materials to release the water. Not so with a MOF device. “The amount of energy required is very low,” she says.

In the prototype, the heat needed to drive the water out of the MOF comes from ambient sunlight — no external power supply is needed.

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Thanks to the Flea!

A Water Bottle to Help Others Drink

In too many places around the world potable water is hard to get, and a recent fundraising campaign is trying to change that. Brita teamed up with Me to We to sell a water bottle that will help pay for a drinking well in rural Kenya. It’s key that the bottle they’re selling is reusable – not one of those one-off disposable bottles.

Bottled water is a ridiculous commodity in places where tap water is drinkable, like Canada. If you regularly drink bottled water in communities with drinkable tap water – please stop buying bottled water! It’s not as well regulated as tap water and it’s insanely wasteful. The Globe and Mail published a great article outlining the troubles of bottled water and the culture around drinking it.

Today is world water day and it’s about time to commit to stop drinking water from an inefficient source.

So instead of throwing money at a wasteful bottle of water get yourself a reusable one you can fill from a tap.

The statement bottle, on sale starting March 1st is part of Brita® Canada’s continuing partnership with WE, an organization that brings people together and gives them the tools to change the world. Their joint pursuit of sustainable change shows through initiatives like Filter for Good™ where every purchase of a Brita specially-marked ME to WE product supports a borehole in Irkaat, Kenya, which provides the community of more than 1,800 with access to clean water.

According to the United Nations, over 80 per cent of wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused and 1.8 billion people get their drinking water from a source contaminated with feces which puts them at risk of contracting disease like cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. Globally, unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene kill 842,000 people in a year.

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