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Ronald Parker
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Ronald Parker

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For decades, desalination was seen as a pipe dream: so costly in terms of energy that it could never be useful. Reverse-osmosis was hailed as a possible change, but the problem of "biofouling" -- basically, bacterial growth in the filters requiring constant chemical cleaning -- made it impractical. But a few years ago, this problem started to get cracked, and now Israel is doing something previously unthinkable: running a net surplus of water.

To give you some context for this: In 1948, Israel was more than half parched, nearly-uninhabitable desert. The steady northward spread of the desert had been greatly accelerated by Ottoman deforestation, and the whole ecosystem verged on collapse. David Ben Gurion, the first president, made it his crusade to make the country green: "There will be bears in the Negev (desert)!," he would famously say. This meant everything from aggressive water conservation across the country, to research in water technologies, to a steady program of reclaiming the desert, with schoolchildren routinely going out in large groups to plant trees.

Today, I can barely recognize the country of my childhood; as you go south of Jerusalem, miles and miles which I remember as barren deserts are now lush forests and farms.

But this was almost lost in the past decade, as powerful droughts -- the same droughts which triggered the Arab Spring -- have ravaged the Middle East. The Kinneret (also known as the Sea of Galilee) saw its water level drop terrifyingly, year after year, close to the threshold where osmotic pressure would fill it with salt and destroy it as a freshwater lake. The Dead Sea was shrinking into a giant mud puddle, and we talked about it meeting the same fate as the Aral Sea, now just a memory.

The rise of modern desalination has changed this calculus completely. Because it doesn't rely on boiling or similar processes, it's energy-cheap. It's maintainable, and while it requires capital outlays in the way that building any large plant does, it doesn't require astronomical or unusual ones. This makes it a technology ready for use across the world.

There is one further potential benefit to this: Peace. Water is a crucial resource in the Middle East (and elsewhere!), far more scarce than oil. It's needed not just for humans, but most of all for crop irrigation, as droughts destroying farmland have been one of the biggest problems facing the region. The potential for desalination to change this creates a tremendous opportunity for cooperation -- and there are nascent signs that this is, indeed, happening.

At an even higher level, relieving the political pressures created by lack of water, and thus lack of working farms, could have far more profound effects on the region as a whole. Even before the recent droughts, things like the steady desertification of Egypt's once-lush Nile Valley (a long-term consequence of the Aswan Dam and the stopping of the regular flooding of the Nile) were pushing people by the million into overcrowded cities unable to support them. Having farming work again doesn't just mean food, it also means work, and it means a systematic reduction in desperation.

Desalination looks to be one of the most important technologies of the 21st century: it's hard to overstate how much it could reshape our world.

Via +paul beard 
One of the driest countries on earth now makes more freshwater than it needs
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Ronald Parker

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Ridiculous. Just ridiculous. After a full year of selling a non-compliant Type-C phone, +OnePlus follows up with their OnePlus3 that ALSO doesn't support USB host in the correct way according to the Type-C spec. The OnePlus 2 shipped with a noncompliant cable, and their "otg" mode was noncompliant such that official C device adapters would not work, and so is the OnePlus 3, apparently.

They simply haven't learned how to build a phone properly.

Thanks +GTrusted for the scoop.

Folks, avoid OnePlus's phones if you want a phone that actually works with peripherals in the growing USB Type-C ecosystem like thumbdrives, for goodness sake.

#USBC  
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Ronald Parker

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The smoggy cities of India are suddenly looking a lot greener, with just under 50 million trees having been planted in India in a record-breaking attempt t
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Ronald Parker

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"Are these my people?"
 
Long but really interesting article.
NOTE: Wow, I wrote this piece anonymously and privately and did not intend for anyone else to actually read it. It was a way for me to vent…
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Good thing you have free will.
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Looking South from the summit of Mount Diablo.
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yes, I saw it. looks awesome

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Ronald Parker

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I said put your phone away.
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Playing music clears my head, moves my body, and purifies my soul.
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