A New Use for Earthworms

Earthworms may have a place in the ecological system of the planet, but they are not sought after creatures, safe for a few like composters or fishermen looking for bait. Now they are helping dairy farmers and have one more group seeking the benefits they can give.  The millions of gallons of water used by dairy and beef cows eventually turn to wastewater which carry animal waste, nitrates and other chemicals harmful to all, and which find their way into the groundwater which may even become drinking water. Earthworms offer a solution. They are  heavily mixed  on a bed with wood chips and shavings and as the water filters through a layer of crushed rock they eat the manure and other harmful chemicals.  The water will thus be used and filtered several times before it leaves the farm. It’s a process called vermifiltration  installed by a company called BioFiltro. The earthworms only need water and time.  And studies done by BioFiltro and by the University of Nebraska show how the worm*s can substantially reduce nitrate levels. Other filtration systems are not as energy efficient or are more expensive to use.  The two dairy farms using this process in Washington State are so pleased they hope that dairy farms throughout the US can use it.

Street Art on Asphalt

Imagine art work on the pavement’s asphalt!  That’s what the Asphalt Art Initiative is doing, it is part of Bloomberg  Philanthropies and is giving 19 European cities grants to create eye catching murals at crosswalks and near sidewalks. The idea is also to slow down traffic and accommodate pedestrians’ safety. Recent such initiatives have shown that when combined with other things called calming traffic devices, like bollards and modified curbs, that something like art on the pavement can enhance pedestrian safety. Speed at a crash prone crossroads in Kansas City was reduced by 45%. In Baltimore, the colored curbs initiated by the project, 41% of cars at a crossroads were encouraged to give pedestrians the right of way.  Cities in Kosovo, Italy and Belgium which all have better pedestrian spaces will receive one of the grants and in Istanbul and Varna, Bulgaria, murals will be painted at crosswalks and crossroads.

Janette Sadik-Kahn  a commissioner with the New York City Department of Transportation and  the current principal for transportation at Bloomberg Associates says that “Projects like this not only connect people, but make streets safer, and we encourage cities everywhere to paint their own transportation masterpieces.”  I’m for that. I hope you are too.

Vasectomy Uptick

There’s an uptick in vasectomies, not only in the number of procedures being done but also in its trending in Google searches. Alexander Pastuszak, assistant professor in the division of urology surgery at the university of Utah says that the most common reason for having a vasectomy used to be “my wife asked me to.” But since the US Supreme Court Dobbs decision it is more along the line of men taking ownership of their reproductive options. Speaking of the men seeking vasectomies, Pastuszak adds, “There’s a sense that, you know, we can’t just have sex  anymore on our terms.” The uptick, while it may have slowed some since the decision was leaked, is being felt in red states like Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and definitely in  states like Texas and Florida. While the political climate in the US does play a role, the whole idea of men taking responsibility for reproduction is being felt in other countries as well, the UK and Australia have shown an increase. In the US added to the Dobbs decision is the fear that contraceptive methods may be declared illegal, and that fear has spurred interest in vasectomies. To many in Academia, the issue of men taking responsibility for their part in the abortion debate is not enough. What we need to do they propose is a change in our thinking, a change recognizing that reproduction is a shared responsibility. How permanent is this uptick is not known or agreed upon, but what is clear is that there is the beginning of a trend recognizing that women have born the burden for reproductive issues and that men must now also  share in it.

Adoption Registry in Ireland

The plight of unwed mothers and their babies in Ireland has become notorious. Films, TV shows, books, articles, have documented the mistreatment and horrors of those institutions which were usually run by the Catholic Church. Thousands of people were affected. Thousands of mothers have wanted to know what happened to their children. Thousands of children wanted to know what happened to their mothers, what was their birth names or any information about the beginning of their lives. The Irish government has just opened an online service where adopted people living anywhere but born in Ireland can trace information about their birth. From wherever they live they can now access whatever information the state has about them, including the name of their birth mothers. The service also enables anyone with relatives lost within the Ireland adoption system to trace them, and that includes birth mothers trying to discover what happened to their children. As late as 1998 thousands of pregnant and unwed girls were sent to mother and baby homes where they were pressured to give up their babies for adoption and treated with punitive  abusive measures sometimes leading to death and lifelong traumas.

The online service opens the door to the information that should lead to healing for many. Unwed pregnancies and adoptions were shameful in Ireland, as they were elsewhere, and the service becomes a tool to put that shame behind. The US doesn’t have such a national registry, and it would be useful even in states where open adoptions are allowed.