Jul 22, 2014
Researchers working at MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering claim to have produced a sponge-like substance that helps convert water to steam using sunlight one-hundredth as bright as that required by conventional steam-producing solar generators. A composite of graphite flakes layered on a bed of carbon foam, the new material is reported to convert as much as 85 percent of received solar energy into steam... Continue Reading Sponge-like structure generates steam using lowest concentration of solar energy yet
// Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine
Jul 21, 2014
400 million people – more than the entire population of the United States – live in such circumstances in India. In spite of these overwhelming numbers, the country's current prime minister, Narenda Modi, wants all of them to have access to solar power in the next five years… at least enough to power a light bulb. Given the economic circumstances of these people, that sounds like a tall order… as long as these people believe purchasing a solar panel or system is their only option. But just as in Central America and Africa, a different business model can make solar available to India's most impoverished citizens.
We associate "pay as you go" with cheap cell phone access, but, as we've shown before, this model is working for electricity in the developing world. In India, the poor have access to energy either with wood or with diesel. Both are dirty, unhealthy, and expensive in terms of either time or money. Simpa Networks, an Indian company, sees an opportunity to provide its fellow citizens with clean electricity through a pay-as-you-go model. A simple solar system that could power a few lights and a phone charger would run about $300-400 retail, but the company can provide them to its fellow citizens "if only they could pay for such a system over time, in small, irregular, and user-defined increments."
Please read full and follow at: The post Solar Power in India: Making it Affordable for People without Electricity at Sustainablog
Jul 19, 2014
At issue is a 1977 rule that limits the total whole-body radiation dose to any member of the public from the normal operation of the uranium fuel cycle—fuel processing, reactors, storage, reprocessing or disposal—to 0.25 millisieverts per year. (This rule, known as 40 CFR part 190, is different from other EPA regulations that restrict radionuclides in drinking water and that limit public exposure during emergencies. Those are also due for revision.) "We have not made any decisions or determined any specifics on how to move forward with any of these issues. We do, however, believe the regulation uses outdated science, and we are thinking about how to bring the regulation more in line with current thinking," said Brian Littleton, a chemical engineer with EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
California City Will Fine Couple $500 For Not Watering Brown Lawn, State Will Fine’em $500 If They Do – Consumerist
In the epitome of a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation, Laura and Mark received notice from Glendora, Calif. that they'd get a $500 penalty for not watering their brown lawn… on the same day the state approved mandatory outdoor watering restrictions with the same fine for violating that attached, $500.
Why is the lawn brown? Because they're conserving water. Why are they conserving water? Because California asked them to — the state water board chairman even called brown lawns in Cali a "badge of honor."
But Mom and dad aren't communicating effectively, it seems.
"Despite the water conservation efforts, we wish to remind you that limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green," says the letter, according to the Associated Press, setting a 60-day deadline to get the brown green again.
They're not alone in the confusion, Laura adds.
"My friends in Los Angeles got these letters warning they could be fined if they water, and I got a letter warning that I could be fined for not watering," she explains. "I felt like I was in an alternate universe."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
The Largest Landfill On Earth: Plastic Garbage In The Oceans — plastic that will still be around up to 1,000 years from now.
(OilPrice, July 15, 2014):
Think about the last time you got takeout or ate at a fast food restaurant. Or the last time you bought a pre-packaged food item from a store, or drank a bottle of water or soda. Chances are, plastic was involved in all those items — plastic that will still be around up to 1,000 years from now.
Americans throw away over 30 million tons of plastic every year, of which only about 25 percent is recycled. The rest goes to landfills. Unfortunately, the largest "landfill" on Earth is actually in the North Pacific Ocean.
The "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is estimated to be anywhere from 3,100 square miles to twice the size of Texas.
You may be wondering how garbage dumped on land can make it to the ocean. Well, first of all, some garbage is directly dumped into the ocean. Secondly, as Scripps Institution marine biologist Miriam Goldstein puts it, "the ocean is downhill from everywhere;" if someone in Iowa throws a bottle into a river, it will eventually end up in the ocean. Finally, about 20 percent of the debris in the garbage patch comes from sea-going vessels and oil platforms.
Caption: The Five Main Ocean Gyres
The garbage patch forms in the North Pacific gyre, one of five main ocean gyres worldwide: North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Indian Ocean. These gyres are created when the jet stream goes one way and the trade winds go the opposite way – creating a huge, gently swirling circle. On the outside of the circle, the currents move around, but the inside remains calm, making it the perfect place for debris to accumulate.
In the case of the North Pacific gyre, pretty much everything that falls off the west coast of North America and the east coast of Asia will most likely end up in there. While the North Pacific garbage patch is the largest, each of the five gyres has its own accumulation. In fact, the trash from all five gyres put together covers 40 percent of the world's oceans.
So what exactly are these oceanic garbage patches? Well, first let's be clear as to what they're not. Contrary to popular myth they are NOT huge floating trash islands. The patches are made up of millions of small and microscopic pieces of plastic. The patches won't show up on satellite and if you were to take a boat through them, you might not even necessarily notice the plastic floating in them. So does that mean we don't need to be concerned? Nope. The fact that the debris is so small means that cleanup is nearly impossible. As Goldstein explains, you'd basically have to clear-cut the upper layer of the ocean to remove it all.
Caption: Don't be fooled. This photo often accompanies stories about the garbage patches, but it was actually taken at Manila Harbor. The real pieces of oceanic plastic garbage are typically smaller than your pinky fingernail.
So the pieces are too small to easily clean up – that might make it seem as though they're too small to do much damage, but that's far from correct. Some of the plastic remains in large chunks and many animals and birds become entangled in them and die every year.
The plastic pellets are small enough that birds and fish mistake them for food. This is especially disastrous for birds – the plastic stays in their stomachs, keeping them from eating anything with nutritional value and causing them to slowly starve to death. For fish, whose digestive systems are much different, the effect of eating the plastic may not be so catastrophic, but scientists are still trying to understand the extent to which ingesting these plastic pellets is effecting marine life, but for some, like the albatross below, the deadly effects are clear.
Caption: Dead albatross with a stomach full of plastic debris
Credit: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Please read more from source:
Some creatures have actually been granted a boon by this massive plastic soup, but don't feel too cheerful about that. The plastic has created a surface for small creatures like water insects, barnacles, small crustaceans and invertebrates called bryozoans. These creatures would normally not make it to the middle of the ocean, so their presence will change the ocean's ecosystem. Especially in the case of barnacles and bryozoans – they have caused considerable damage to other ecosystems they've invaded.
And it's not just about ecosystems in the middle of the ocean – the surface the plastic provides could enable these creatures to travel to places they've never been before, for example, their introduction to the Pacific Northwest islands' coral reefs could be a real problem.
So what can be done? The most important thing is for people to be aware. As biologist Goldstein puts it, "It really is an issue that effects everybody, but that's great because that means that everybody can help."
Using fewer plastic products would help, as would more recycling of what we already use. There are also scientists who are working to make plastic products from renewable products. According the Science channel, starches, cellulose, soy protein, vegetable oil, triglycerides and bacterial polyesters all contain polymers that can be processed to produce biodegradable plastics.
Even so, reducing the amount of new plastic dumped into the ocean won't get rid of what's already there. For that monumental task, The Ocean Cleanup – a group of oceanographers, marine biologists, recycling experts and engineers — is raising money through crowd funding to launch a massive cleanup effort.
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By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.
Is dilution really the solution to pollution — especially when it's nuclear waste that can stay radioactive for 100,000 years? A four-member expert group told a federal joint review panel it is.
The panel is examining an Ontario Power Generation proposal to bury low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste from the Darlington, Pickering and Bruce nuclear plants in limestone at the Bruce site in Kincardine, beside Lake Huron. According to the Toronto Star, the experts reported that 1,000 cubic metres of contaminated water could leak from the site, although it's "highly improbable." But even if it did leak, they argued, the amount is small compared to Lake Huron's water volume and the quantity of rain that falls into it.
If the materials were instead buried in Canadian Shield granite, any leaking waste would be diluted by active streams and marshes, the experts claimed: "Hence, the volumes of the bodies of water available for dilution at the surface are either immense (Great Lakes) or actively flowing...so the dilution capacity is significant."
Others aren't convinced. The Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump group has more than 62,000 signatures on a petition opposing the dump. Many communities around the Great Lakes, home to 40-million people, have passed resolutions against the project, including Canadian cities Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Kingston, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor and more, and local governments in the states of Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Ohio. The United Tribes of Michigan, representing 12 First Nations, is also opposed.
Michigan's Senate recently adopted resolutions to urge President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Congress to intervene, and for the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Commission and all Great Lakes States and Ontario and Quebec to get involved.
According to Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, burying such highly toxic wastes in limestone next to 21 per cent of the world's fresh water "defies common sense." The group's website notes, "There are no precedents anywhere in the world for burying radioactive nuclear waste in limestone. The repository must function to safely contain the nuclear wastes for over 100,000 years. No scientist or geologist can provide a 100,000 year guarantee." The Great Lakes are only 12,000 years old!
On top of that, retired Ontario Power Generation research scientist and chemist Frank R. Greening wrote to the review panel stating that OPG has "seriously underestimated, sometimes by factors of more than 100" the radioactivity of material to be buried.
Greening says the company acknowledged his criticism but downplayed its seriousness, which he believes raises doubts about the credibility of OPG's research justifying the project. "Their response has been, 'Oops we made a mistake but it isn't a problem' and that really bothers me as a scientist," he toldKincardine News. "It is rationalizing after the fact."
phys.org/ Feeding a growing human population without increasing stresses on Earth's strained land and water resources may seem like an impossible challenge. But according to a new report by researchers at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, focusing efforts to improve food systems on a few specific regions, crops and actions could make it possible to both meet the basic needs of 3 billion more people and decrease agriculture's environmental footprint.
The report, published today in Science, focuses on 17 key crops that produce 86 percent of the world's crop calories and account for most irrigation and fertilizer consumption on a global scale. It proposes a set of key actions in three broad areas that that have the greatest potential for reducing the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture and boosting our ability meet global food needs. For each, it identifies specific "leverage points" where nongovernmental organizations, foundations, governments, businesses and citizens can target food-security efforts for the greatest impact. The biggest opportunities cluster in six countries—China, India, U.S., Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan—along with Europe.
"This paper represents an important next step beyond previous studies that have broadly outlined strategies for sustainably feeding people," said lead author Paul West, co-director of the Institute on the Environment's Global Landscapes Initiative. "By pointing out specifically what we can do and where, it gives funders and policy makers the information they need to target their activities for the greatest good."Please continue reading from:
Generating renewable electricity at home or commercial buildings is becoming increasingly viable. WindStream Technologies has installed what it says is the world's largest wind-solar hybrid array on an office roof in Kingston, Jamaica. The array is expected to generate over 106,000 kWh annually... Continue Reading "World's largest" hybrid renewable energy project unveiled in Jamaica // Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine
Jul 18, 2014
In part, it's because of the high-quality forests on Borneo, the world's third-largest island, an incredibly biologically diverse landmass that is divided between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, and is one of only two remaining habitats for orangutans. Between 1980 and 2000 more wood was harvested from Borneo than from Africa and the Amazon combined, for example.
This logging can take place because many areas of the island are not protected, or their protections are not well enforced. Protections are "often inadequate or are flagrantly violated, usually without any consequences," the environmental group WWF noted. Illegal logging has also become a way of life and source of income for many communities, they added.
Many areas of Borneo are also perfect for growing palm oil plantations, and as demand for this oil has increased--especially in the last decade--more land has been cleared for this purpose. About 10 percent of the entire island now consists of single-crop monocultures such as these plantations, according to the study that documented the deforestation, published in PLOS ONE.
The study documented forest loss by using satellite images, which can gauge by how much light is reflected what type of vegetation exists over an area. The study was done in part because deforestation isn't well-documented by local governments, and some statistics kept by the Indonesia, for example, are highly suspect, underestimating forest loss, the authors wrote. Borneo also has large coal deposits, as well as abundant minerals--including tin, copper, gold, silver, coal, diamonds--which are increasingly being mined, and land developed to allow for this activity.
In semi-related and less depressing news, a new species of ground squirrel was recently discovered in Borneo, which breaks a record for tail size and may eat deer's hearts. Please read full and follow at: Popular Science
Jul 17, 2014
These documents are also available on the WSU Energy Program website at http://www.energy.wsu.edu/BuildingEfficiency/EnergyCode.aspx#Solar
Climate scientist Tim Barnett says that the water situation in Las Vegas "is as bad as you can imagine", and he believes that unless the city "can find a way to get more water from somewhere" it will soon be "out of business" .. Rob Mrowka of the Center for Biological Diversity believes that the city of Las Vegas is going to be forced to downsize because of the lack of water...
According to Accuweather, "more than a decade of drought" along the Colorado River has set up an "impending Southwest water shortage" which could ultimately affect tens of millions of people.
Farmers in California are allowing nearly half a million acres to lie fallow this year due to the extreme lack of water.
Things are so dry in California right now that people are actually starting to steal water. For example, one Mendocino County couple recently had 3,000 gallons of water stolen from them. It was the second time this year that they had been hit.
National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt says that this is "the worst drought we probably have seen in our lifetime".
Please continue reading from: Via Michael Snyder
Although nobody got sick from the smallpox discovery, it was an unsettling mistake for what were supposed to be some of the most secure labs in the world. Since then, there's been a lot of activity—and a few new revelations—at the U.S. agencies that deal with deadly pathogens. Here's the rundown:
Scientists determined some of the 60-year-old forgotten smallpox vials contained virus that was still "alive" enough to reproduce. This means that if other facilities around the world also have forgotten smallpox samples—a likely scenario—those may also be alive enough to cause illness.
Top leadership at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention learned that CDC workers had accidentally shipped virulent H5N1 to another federal lab. Prior to the smallpox incident, lapses in lab procedures meant dozens of CDC workers could have been exposed to anthrax.
No one has fallen ill from any of these mistakes, but they are serious and troubling.
The CDC temporarily closed its flu and anthrax labs. It also temporarily stopped shipping certain pathogens.
The National Institutes of Health plans to reconvene the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which hasn't met in almost two years.
A House of Representatives committee questioned CDC Director Tom Frieden about the agency's recent security lapses. Frieden said that the CDC needs to improve its "culture of safety."
The CDC revealed that federal scientists had discovered 327 vials of decades-old, forgotten samples labeled as pathogens such as dengue, influenza, Q fever and rickettsia. The samples were discovered in the same area as the forgotten smallpox vials. All the vials were well sealed and free of leakage.
Please read full and follow at: // Popular Science - New Technology, Science News, The Future Now
Jul 16, 2014
But one company is still taking a nice, cold gulp of the state's dwindling water reserves: Nestlé is bottling water in the midst of California's drought.
The Desert Sun reports that amidst the worst drought in memory, a Nestlé bottling plant located on the reservation of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians is exempt from local water agencies and doesn't have to reveal how much water it is pulling out of the ground. It produces large quantities of Arrowhead spring water as well as purified water sold as Nestlé Pure Life. The company has refused tours of the plant. Read More via // Mic
Super Controversial Blacklight Power is Promising World Changing Energy New Physics Magic ... This time for real ? ... instead of what looks like decades of fraud
Since then, they realized that the greatest energy output of the process comes in the form of intense light. And with modern photovoltaic technology, they will be able to convert that light directly to electricity with an even grater power density. Some modern PV systems are able to absorb 1000x focused sunlight. The technology is developed and ready to go, after four decades and trillions of dollars.
Dr. Randall Mills has done an interview, claiming that his company is garnering sales of $40 billion. He is claiming that he will lease the equipment to providers. There will be another demonstration on July 21.
Randell said that the engineering firms they are consulting with say that there are no engineering obstacles to marry the Blacklight system with photovoltaics, but that all systems are Go. All the different engineering problems are covered, including light angle, emission from electrodes, heat dissipation and transfer, and material handling. "This thing is meant to be", is their assessment. They are extraordinarily optimistic this will roll out quickly.
They promise power for 0.1 cents per kwh.
Read more »// Next Big Future
Thermoelectric material Tetrahedrite costs 6 to 36 times less but can achieve up to 10% heat to electricity conversion instead of 2.5%
Scullin says that other thermoelectric materials have typically achieved about 2.5 percent efficiency in cars, but tetrahedrite could reach 5 to 10 percent efficiency. "These aren't incremental improvements," he says. "They're really huge improvements that make really significant impact."
Ali Shakouri, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University, says that tetrahedrite has promise because it doesn't require the expensive up-front manufacturing that other materials require. "I think that's kind of quite unique in thermoelectrics," Shakouri says. "People look at so many materials, but the starting point has always been pure materials that they synthesize together."
California-based Alphabet Energy plans to begin selling a new type of material that can turn heat into electricity.
Read more »// Next Big Future
The restrictions would ban wasteful outdoor watering, such as sprinkler water that runs onto the sidewalk or street. Hosing down sidewalks and driveways would also be banned and washing a car would require a shut-off nozzle on the hose. Maximum penalties could reach up to $500, enforceable by any public employee empowered to enforce laws, including local water agencies. Warnings and escalating fines would likely be the more moderated approach. If the restrictions prove ineffective or the drought worsens, tougher restrictions could be considered.
The board estimates that the proposed restrictions could save enough water to supply more than 3.5 million people for a year, about nine percent of the state's population.
Please continue reading from: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/15/3460161/california-mandatory-water-restrictions/
Jul 15, 2014
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
The empty weight of an F-35 jet is 32000 pounds. At $1300 per ounce this $670.8 million.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, fifth-generation multirole fighters under development to perform ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions with stealth capability. The F-35 has three main models; the F-35A is a conventional takeoff and landing variant, the F-35B is a short take-off and vertical-landing variant, and the F-35C is a carrier-based variant
It is not a gold plated military program... it is pure solid gold.
Read more »// Next Big Future
Please continue reading from: More Than $20 Billion Annually In Government Subsidies For Oil
inside Climate - The U.S. increase follows two years of declines, and dampens hopes that the world's largest oil guzzler was permanently reining in its appetite for crude. The nation's oil use rose by 400,000 barrels per day to a daily draw of 18.9 million barrels; China's oil consumption grew by 390,000 barrels a day, to 10.8 million barrels a day, according to the BP figures released last month.
Jul 13, 2014
Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler has confirmed that a combination of chemicals were released in the area of the park's wave pool which combined to make chlorine gas.
The park is looking into the incident, Roesler said. At least 50 people were evaluated, some of which were individually hosed down in the Michigan's Adventure parking lot.
One witness in the park said she "got a splash of chlorine" and started coughing while finding it difficult to breathe. Other witnesses reported burning lips.
Multiple ambulance and fire officials responded to the scene as well as a Hazardous Material Response Team (Hazmat) just after 4 p.m.
Please continue reading from: Source: Mlive.com [edited]
The finding represents a significant escalation of the known dangers of the insecticides and follows an assessment in June that warned that pervasive pollution by these nerve agents was now threatening all food production.
The neonicotinoid insecticides are believed to seriously harm bees and other pollinating insects, and a two-year EU suspension on three of the poisons began at the end of 2013. But the suspected knock-on effects on other species had not been demonstrated until now.
Peer-reviewed research, published in the leading journal Nature this Wednesday, has revealed data from the Netherlands showing that bird populations fell most sharply in those areas where neonicotinoid pollution was highest. Starlings, tree sparrows and swallows were among the most affected.
At least 95% of neonicotinoids applied to crops ends up in the wider environment, killing the insects the birds rely on for food, particularly when raising chicks.
Please continue reading from: Guardian
Please continue reading from: F-35 Spending Could Buy Every Homeless Person A Mansion
Markets are "more optimistic" about future supply, the energy watchdog said in its July report on Friday, as it predicted that global demand was set to climb to 1.4 million barrels a day (mb/d) in 2015, from 1.2 million mb/d in 2014.
But it warned that geopolitical uncertainty would remain very much in focus for the year ahead.
"The global economy is still expected to gain momentum in 2015. Supply risks in the Middle East and North Africa, not least in Iraq and Libya, remain extraordinarily high," IEA said, making its first forecasts for next year.
"The risks associated with the 2015 forecast are particularly high. Notably, geopolitical uncertainty in Iraq, Ukraine, Libya, Nigeria and Venezuela bring with them macroeconomic uncertainty."
Please continue reading from: CNBC
Jul 12, 2014
Death in America is largely a foodborne illness. This video exposes the way we die, and what we can do about it.
DESCRIPTION: Death in America is largely a foodborne illness. Focusing on studies published just over the last year in peer-reviewed scientific medical journals, Michael Greger, M.D., offers practical advice on how best to feed ourselves and our families to prevent, treat, and even reverse many of the top 15 killers in the United States.
Jul 11, 2014
Critics say Agent Orange could damage the environment and create health concerns, but EPA appears to be leaning towards siding with the chemical company, Foran writes. "The agency has already unveiled a proposal to greenlight the chemical compound, and is expected to make a final decision as early as this summer. The debate hinges on two questions: Does Dow's weed whacker carry any of the health risks of the wartime weapon? And, long term, would the pesticide create a bigger problem: a new generation of stronger, even harder-to-kill superweeds?"
Dow says its product won't be tainted with the cancer-causing contaminant like the Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War, Foran writes. "But testing conducted by an Agriculture Department researcher using samples collected in the mid-1990s showed that the chemical that plays a starring role in Dow's product can still contain contaminants similar to those found in Agent Orange. The study concluded that there was a 'need for more investigation into possible human health effects.'" (Read more) // The Rural Blog
France and Sweden show you can use more energy and be richer if you use hydro and nuclear power While Germany and USA use coal and natural gas and tell others to use less
The Swedes get to use even more energy than the French but Sweden has combined hydro and nuclear power that is even higher than the French ratio of nuclear energy.
Energy use per capita by country is tracked by the World Bank.
Emissions per capita by country are at wikipedia.
Germany and USA are richer per person and use mainly coal and natural gas and tell others to use less energy and emit less.
Read more » // Next Big Future
Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter, reports that in 2007 a bipartisan Congress "overwhelmingly adopted an updated Renewable Fuel Standard that calls for 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol to make up the largest of a 36-billion-gallon biofuel target by 2022. Underscoring that optimism was the decision by Congress to cap corn ethanol's annual contribution at 15 billion gallons in 2015 and beyond." (Agri-Pulse is subscription only, but a free trial is available by clicking here.)
"The dramatic reduction of carbon emissions offered by fuel from corn stalks or agriculture residues when compared to gasoline and the availability as an almost limitless source of feedstock led Congress to establish an upward progression of cellulosic ethanol targets under RFS," Agri-Pulse writes. But the Environmental Protection Agency kept revising its cellulosic ethanol targets, lowering numbers from an original target of 1.75 billion in 2014 to only 17 million gallons. Blenders have still called the target number excessive, and EPA data shows that as of early June, less than 30,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol has been produced this year.
But production could increase at a rapid rate, with two more facilities expected to be up and running in Iowa by the end of the year, Eller writes. DuPont Danisco is building a $225 million cellulosic ethanol plant near the town of Nevada, Iowa, that "plans to make 30 million gallons of ethanol annually from corncobs, husks and stalks, known as stover." Poet-DSM is building a $250 million cellulosic plant in the northwest Iowa town of Emmetsburg and plans to produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually. (Read more) // The Rural Blog