Saana Hellsten / USA

Our current society is very diverse and full of individuals who do not fit into the norms and stereotypes that society has given them. The border between male and female gender identities has become blurred and gender roles are less defined. Packaging design is our first interaction with a product and it currently perpetuates gender stereotypes. Designing gender-neutral packaging will encourage gender equality and will create a more sustainable world.

Egyptian Walking Onion offsets going out for swap.

These perennial top-setting onions (Allium ×proliferum) were first documented in Europe in 1587: they are a hybrid of the Common Onion (Allium cepa) and Japanese Bunching Onion (Allium fistulosum), which has occured independently on a number of occassions, resulting in a number of different cultivars. The moniker ‘Egyptian’ is attached to them, because there is a theory that some were brought to Europe by nomadic Romani people (who were often mistakenly called Egyptians).

Walking Onions have long been cultivated in Japan, where they are called ‘kitsune negi’ (‘foxy’ or ‘mysterious’ onion). A few cultivars were brought to Canada by early French colonists (which is why they are sometimes called “Canada Onions”), and from there, they were distributed around North America, and back to Europe. [Source]

I’ve been doing a bit of research into the stories behind the cultivars in my possession:

cv. ‘Amish’: “An heirloom red topset from the midwest, this one from just south of the Amana colony in Iowa.” Read more

cv. ‘Catawissa’: “A Catawissa, Pennsylvania, nurseryman by the name of F. F. Merceron (little is known about this individual) engaged in improving the tree onion for commercial purposes. His strains are somewhat different from the others because they send up topsets from topsets, creating the image of plants growing out of plants. He developed three distinct strains of tree onions, a red variety (which I have), a white, and a yellow. Alexander Watson mentioned these strains in passing in his American Home Garden (1859, 159), noting that by then the onions were already being sent in large quantities to northern markets from Bermuda and the South.” Read More

cv. ‘McCullar’s’: A white topsetting cultivar that produces pea-sized topsets. Read more

cv. ‘Mortiz’: “Moritz Egyptian, a maroon-colored variety from Missouri.” Read more

There are dozens of other cultivars floating around, and since they are not commonly sold in greenhouses of cultivated commercially, I’d hazard a guess that there are hundreds more that have been passed down through generations of gardeners. If you have seen them in cultivation, odds are it was in somebody’s grandmother’s yard.

They are among the first onions to grow in spring, rising even through light snow cover. In winter and very early spring they are cultivated primarily for their greens, however the topsets can be eaten raw, fried, pickled, or used as pearl onions, depending on their size.


#alliums #history #botany #plant breeding #hybrids #perennial vegetables #heirloom vegetables
Fishing nets biodegrade so they don’t pollute the sea

Fishing nets are typically made of nylon or other synthetic plastics. The problem with this is that when they break, they’re often simply abandoned, polluting the ocean and harming its wildlife. In the past we’ve written about Bureo Skateboards, a project that’s cleaning up ‘ghost’ nets from the coast of Chile and turning them into skateboards. Now a Spanish design student has created Remora, a sturdy fishing net that breaks down safely if it gets lost or abandoned. READ MORE…

Fergal O’Brien of IBEC weighs in on rural sustainability/development. He doesn’t weigh in with much though: 

  1. Ambition
  2. A Strategic Government Plan
  3. Another Strategic Government Plan
  4. Ambitious Investment

Right. Combining this with Kathy Sheridan’s typical (probably) well-meaning but utterly flawed piece today, it’s clear to see a lack of belief in local control of local issues.

O’Brien’s suggestions are vague at best - the closest we come to an actual idea is an increase in manufacturing, as long as we have the “right cost base”. It’d be lovely if Irish export manufacturing was to flourish again (or for the first time?) in rural Ireland but this seems highly unlikely, for several reasons. We can’t compete with cheap labour elsewhere without slashing wages hugely and we can’t slash wages because we already have a very unbalanced low-wage/high-cost economy. We also can’t compete with the likes of Germany or somewhere for high-tech manufacturing, because rural Ireland doesn’t have the skilled/experienced labour force required to do that on any kind of scale, nevermind the infrastructure (internet, phone coverage, water, roads, etc) to support it. 

Overall, O’Brien is basically advocating a top-down approach to target direct investment to under-nourished parts of the country. It seems to me like there’s no point being ambitious if you haven’t based that vision on any kind of lived reality. There’s no point dreaming up plans for how rural Ireland could be if you don’t actually consider how it is, and why it is how it is. 

Sheridan’s article is almost more pernicious, because it uses the way local TDs are forced to attend to constituents individual needs as a mask for the way those same constituents are robbed of all other political agency in their daily lives. By centralising all power in the Oireachtas, people have no choice but to use their TD to get medical cards or to secure funding for a school or whatever. It’s corrupt, sure, but they way things are, what other option do people have?

As someone who grew up in Brian Cowen’s constituency, it’s easy to see the impact that having a local Taoiseach can have on services in the area. Both of the schools I went to were able to expand/rebuild (after I’d left) only because of Cowen. He might have had a hand in larger follies, but those schools would still be too small and falling apart if he hadn’t intervened. The same goes for TDs who secure medical cards - it’s obviously not right, but who else can people turn to? 

There’s a huge lack of agency there, which breeds bitterness, apathy and corruption. People have increasingly little say in the way their lives and communities are treated, largely because every issue is considered a national issue, with decisions made by people who are (physically, mentally) further and further away. This is why the EU directive on turf harvesting is so hated. 

Yes, it’s terrible that Charlie Flanagan can’t give his speech on his work in the North to his constituents without being reminded of local potholes, but why is he the only one who can do anything about it? Why aren’t the council doing something about it? Why should people care about what he’s doing in the North or in China, when problems at home are naturally going to be far more pressing for the people who voted for him? 

Sheridan has lately been spinning an angle that suggests we don’t hold our politicians to account, with the inference that all our troubles are of our own making. (Who exactly the “we’ is in this equation is typically ill-defined.) But as we’ve seen recently, the only acceptable way to hold a politician “to account” in this country is to not vote for them. Anything more and it’s anarchy. People have been stripped of almost all other power and so it makes sense that people will leverage that vote against their direct needs and the needs of their locality, their daily life. 

O’Brien and Sheridan both miss the point here. The latter advocates a sacrificial forgetting of “local issues” in favour of the greater common good of “national issues” (talks in the north and trade with China?), while the former effectively sidelines local government in favour of another centralised “plan for rural Ireland”. Both of these ideas would continue the stripping of power, democracy and agency from people who are “outside politics”. 


Over the past four years, the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation have literally built a strategy to keep three proposed oil and gas pipelines from crossing their land. Concerned about the environmental damage a leak could cause on land they’ve never given up, they’ve constructed a protection camp to block pipeline companies. As opposition to the development of Alberta’s tar sands and to fracking projects grows across Canada, with First Nations communities on the front lines, the Unist’ot’en camp is an example of resistance that everyone is watching. 

Watch: How Europe is greener now than 100 years ago

Within the last 100 years, Europe has experienced two World Wars, the end of communism, the emergence of the European Union and a series of other transformative political and economic developments. A team of scientists has now been able to visualize the impact of historical events in maps that show the growth and decline of settlements, forests and croplands.

The map, shown above, is the result of a research project led by Dutch scholar Richard Fuchs from the University of Wageningen. Besides regional political and economic trends, Europe’s landscape was shaped by several larger developments of the 20th century, according to Fuchs.

The following maps preview some of the affected regions which we will explain and show in detail throughout this post.


#maps #gif #land #Europe

Advocating For Glow-in-the-dark Roads With Vincent Van Gogh

A glow-in-the-dark bike route inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” debuted this week in the Netherlands. It’s part of a larger vision to illuminate infrastructure with solar energy captured during the day.

The kilometer-long “Van Gogh Bicycle Path” is located in Eindhoven, its swirls composed of thousands of glow-in-the-dark stones embedded in concrete (along with some guiding LEDs fueled by solar panels). It’s the latest component of the Smart Highway project. Led by Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde’s Studio Roosegaarde with Heijmans Infrastructure, the goal is “to make smart roads by using light, energy and road signs that interact with the traffic situation.”


Chemists create rewritable paper

Yadong Yin’s lab at the University of California, Riverside has fabricated a rewritable paper that is based on the color switching property of commercial chemicals called redox dyes.

The dye forms the imaging layer of the paper. Printing is achieved by using ultraviolet light to photobleach the dye, except the portions that constitute the text on the paper. The new rewritable paper can be erased and written on more than 20 times with no significant loss in contrast or resolution.

“This rewritable paper does not require additional inks for printing, making it both economically and environmentally viable,” said Yadong Yin, a professor of chemistry, whose lab led the research. “It represents an attractive alternative to regular paper in meeting the increasing global needs for sustainability and environmental conservation.”

See the paper in action here:

[read more at UCR Today] [paper] [Photo credit: Yin Lab, UC Riverside.]