Short Takes: News From All Over

Still Harvesting the Wind
By Tony Makepeace, Outpost
Black mesh screens towering over misty Nepalese mountaintops may be the next great innovation in supplying clean drinking water. The screens, which resemble huge volleyball nets, channel moisture from dew and fog to neighboring communities and schools for use as drinking water. According to the FogQuest organization, which has similar projects everywhere from Guatemala to Eritrea, one test project in Nepal was able to harvest 500 liters of drinking water in only 12 hours. No word yet on any possible environmental impacts from stripping the moisture from the air, but so far the technology has been hailed as a ‘huge success.’ — Bennett Gordon

Precision Biochemistry Tracks DNA Damage in Fish
By Staff, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Taking on the unfortunate roll of the canary in the coalmine, fish are now helping scientists determine the effects of pollution in water through DNA analysis. Researchers from three institutions and the University of Maryland examined the slippery-finned inhabitants of the Duwamish River, which runs through Seattle and is listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘Superfund list’ for containing multiple contaminants. The biomarkers found on the creatures’ gills and livers will serve as ‘a direct measure of the impact of contaminants on fish populations,’ and may help construct new strategies to counteract pollution. — Kristen Mueller

Dressing for Disaster
By the Yes Men and Studio Orta
Anti-corporate pranksters the Yes Men recently struck again, donning the roles of Halliburton suits hawking ‘SurvivaBalls’ that would spare corporate managers from the disastrous effects of global warming. These ‘huge inflatable orbs’ are designed to protect their wearers ‘from natural or cultural disturbances of any intensity or duration.’ Each comes equipped with a ‘food reprocessor,’ defense units, and the ability to suck power from ‘any living creature.’ The satirical, udder-shaped get-ups are strikingly similar to the more serious, high-fashion line of wearable shelters Lucy Orta has designed since 1992 as ‘a response to situations of human distress and unsuitable social environments.’ The ‘Habitent,’ a silver tent with a protective hood jutting from the head hole at the top, is just one of the creations in her ‘Body Architecture’ collection. — Kristen Mueller

The PARK(ing) Project
By Karl Rosengarth, Dirt Rag
Combining protest art with urban activism, San Francisco’s Rebar group developed a pedestrian-friendly use for city parking spots. Instead of leasing metered-spaces to dock SUVs, Rebar sacrificed its collective pocket change to transform a couple of city parking spots into an urban oasis. By covering the concrete spaces with a plush, grassy sod adorned with a cozy, wooden bench and small tree for shade, organizers re-appropriated private auto ‘real estate’ as a temporary public green space. The success of this original PARK(ing) project back in November 2005 can be duplicated in any urban setting thanks to a downloadable ‘How To’ .pdf manual on the Rebar website. — Evan Noetzel

By Staff, Worldmapper
Worldmapper has charted new territory with a series of world maps based on information sets that would otherwise languish in the dustbin of obsolescence. The project — a collaborative effort of researchers at the University of Sheffield and the University of Michigan — resizes given countries based on information such as population, births, and the origins and destinations of refugees, making whole continents appear wizened and distended in turns. Artfully produced, the maps look like the work of a precocious child, but say far more than a child ever could. (Thanks, WorldChanging.) — Nick Rose

Bodies of African Immigrants Pile Up Around Sunbathers
By Peter Popham, The Independent
It has become commonplace in the waters surrounding the southern Italian town of Lampedusa to see boats packed with African immigrants. The immigrants embark with hopes of reaching mainland Italy, but their boats usually arrive with the dead and dying. Yet, to the Italians who summer there, the horrific scenes barely register. As one vacationer put it: ‘We don’t even see them. We have nothing to do with them.’ — Nick Rose

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