The print edition’s cover photo of the salmon run on Adams River by Leah Ramsay was taken in 2010 at Tsútswecw Provincial Park, near Kamloops, B.C. Formerly named after conservationist and author Roderick Haig-Brown, the park was renamed Tsútswecw this past June.
Tsútswecw (pronounced choo-chwek) translates to “many rivers” and the park, established in 1977, encompasses the spawning beds of the sockeye, chinook, coho and pink salmon. Every fourth year is a “dominant” run, with millions of salmon returning – 2010, when this photo was taken, was a dominant year, as is 2018. In honour of the occasion, there is a festival held at the park, called Salute to the Sockeye, which runs this year from Sept. 28 to Oct. 21.
One of the symbols of Rosh Hashanah is the fish head – “we should be the head and not the tail.” There are the themes of creation, rebirth and renewal, as well. In the run, the salmon return from the ocean to their natal stream to spawn, after which most die, their bodies providing nutrients to the vegetation and animals, and the lifecycle begins anew. This all happens in British Columbia from September through November.
“Seeing one of the peak years of the Adams River sockeye run had been a desire for many years and it didn’t disappoint,” said Ramsay. “Even non-hardcore nature nerds are impressed – it is such a huge mass of life all moving to the same goal.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presents the nuclear secrets of Iran at a special press briefing in Jerusalem on April 30, 2018. (photo from IGPO courtesy Ashernet)
It has been a year of diplomatic success for Israel, as more countries upgraded their relations with the Jewish state. This took, in general, two forms: heads of government making an official visit to Israel or Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visiting other countries; and the establishment of the embassies of the United States, Guatemala and Panama in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.
In April, at a special press conference hosted by Netanyahu, the world learned of the secret storage facilities in Iran that housed Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It is not known exactly how Israel managed to find out the location of the files, or how they were copied and brought back to Israel, but the revelations served Israel well, and the files were instrumental in making the United States renege on the nuclear agreement that President Barack Obama had made with the Iranian regime.
It was a long, hot summer in more ways than one. The latest form of terrorist aggravation was for Gazans to assemble in the thousands along the Gaza-Israel border and launch kites and balloons to which were attached flaming torches that set fire to forests and agricultural fields in Israel, causing uncountable damage and destruction. A variation of this procedure was for terrorists to attach flaming torches to lines attached to the legs of kestrels who managed to survive long enough to set trees alight in Israeli forests near the border.
In better news, this year Israel became the focus of the world’s cycling fraternity. Due to the generosity of Israeli-Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams, one of the three most important annual cycling races in the world, the Giro d’Italia, started in Jerusalem with a time trial and then took the cyclists from Haifa to Tel Aviv, with a third stage from Be’er Sheva to Eilat. All this was made possible by an $80 million donation to the federation organizing the event. It was one of the biggest sporting events ever staged in Israel and was seen by tens of thousands on television around the world.
The Jewish year opened with the announcement that one of the most outstanding mosaics ever found in Israel, from the Roman era, was going to be incorporated in a new museum in the city of Lod, where it had been found during preparations for building works. This beautiful mosaic was one of many important archeological finds in Israel in the past 12 months.
Also at the start of the Jewish year, tourism in Israel hit a new high, with the three millionth tourist of 2017 arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport in November. And, this summer, Prince William made an official visit to Israel, where he was received by President Reuven Rivlin and Netanyahu. Members of the British Royal family have been to Israel before, but never on an official visit.
As always, Israeli technology, universities and medical prowess was remarkable over the year. And, when natural disasters occurred around the world, such as earthquakes and floods, Israel was among the first to send aid.
Not all the news was good for Netanyahu, who, for a major part of the year, was being investigated and questioned by Israel Police for allegedly obtaining inappropriate large-scale benefits from businessmen – charges Netanyahu strenuously denied. Ari Harrow, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, signed a deal to become a state witness to testify against the prime minister.
The Jewish year also saw Netanyahu’s wife Sara receiving a lot of negative press. In the previous year, the Jerusalem Labour Court awarded an employee of Sara Netanyahu’s the sum of $46,000 as he claimed that she had been abusive towards him and withheld wages at times. While she appealed the ruling, it was turned down. She is now being investigated for allegedly ordering expensive meals at the prime minister’s official Jerusalem residence at government expense, despite the fact that the prime minister’s official residence employed a cook. She refutes the accusations.
Despite these problems, Binyamin Netanyahu maintains a high international profile – he has the ear of presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, for example.
As 5778 closes, Israel has the pleasurable problem of deciding how best to market the huge natural gas finds that are presently churning about below the waves of the Mediterranean Sea, well within Israel’s exclusive continental shelf.
With his photos, Liron Gertsman hopes to raise awareness of environmental issues. (photo by Liron Gertsman)
Recent Vancouver high school graduate and award-winning photographer Liron Gertsman is heading to the University of British Columbia to study biology. His main passion is taking photos of nature, particularly birds, in the hope of sparking in viewers feelings of love and awe for the environment, leading to improved conservation.
“I believe people need to see the natural world if they want to protect it, so I try to do that through my photos,” Gertsman told the Independent in an interview.
From as young as 5 or 6 years old, Gertsman spent a great deal of his spare time walking around his neighbourhood, keeping an open eye.
“Around that time, my parents gave me a blue miniature camera,” he recalled. “Right from the start, I began taking pictures of birds and nature … and it grew and grew until, when I was 12, I bought my first personal DSLR camera equipment. And, since the very start, I’ve loved birds and have been fascinated by their behaviours … and have done my best to photograph them.”
Gertsman’s love of nature does not seem to have come from his parents, who are both businesspeople. His dad is a real estate tax consultant and his mom is an accountant.
“It was a big combination of things,” said Gertsman. “A lot of it was self-learning things – reading on the internet, reading books, and there were [other] influences because the bird-watching community is very large…. I would go attend bird walks and meet people that way. My Grade 2 teacher was a really big environmentalist and created an environmental conservation club at school.”
Now that he is heading to UBC, Gertsman is not sure if he will integrate photography with research on birds, or if he will become a professional nature photographer.
“There are a lot of biologists who use photography to document their work,” he said. “They’re doing work that is hopefully going to benefit conservation and they need photographers, or they, themselves, will document their own work … to put it into a format that is easier for people to comprehend. Hopefully, I’ll get involved in some research projects – maybe over the summers – that will allow me to do things like that…. But, I’ll see what calls me more in the years to come and make a decision in a few years.”
Gertsman posts his photos on his website and social media accounts, and some have won contests. Most recently, three of his photos were recognized by the Audubon Photography Awards, winning the youth category prize and honourable mentions.
“It’s a great way to show more people your work, show them the beauty of nature,” said Gertsman. “Some of my photos have been featured, in the past, in magazines and in web articles.
“We are at a point now in the world where, if we don’t change something big … we’re going to be heading into some dark times. The environment is at a very unstable point right now. Our actions in the next little while are going to have a big impact on whether there’s going to be nature and a natural environment to live in, in the years to come.
“Everything we have as people comes from nature,” he continued. “Without nature, we can’t survive. But, it can be hard for people to understand that. It’s not a direct link. If you cut down a tree, it’s not going to have an impact on most people’s lives.”
But, on a larger scale, it matters. “So,” he said, “what I’m trying to do is, by photographing the natural world in the most beautiful way I possibly can and showing it to as many people I possibly can, I’m trying to educate the world the best I can on how incredible the environment is and how worth protecting it is.”
This past spring, Gertsman was in Israel, one of the most amazing places in the world for birdwatching, as “all the birds migrating from Africa to Europe pass through in Israel,” he said.
There are many ways people can help promote the environment, he added. “You can help me spread my message – tell your friends, share my website, follow me on social media, my Instagram. I post, almost every day, my latest pictures on Instagram. Hopefully, through that, I’ll be able to reach more people.
“It’s increasingly difficult to motivate people to do things individually, but individual action can have wide affect. When a government adds a regulation, it has an impact and, when regulations are taken away, that too has a huge impact. So, in the way we think about our political leaders, there’s something we can do as a nation there.
“But also, just on an individual scale, cutting down on driving, not using plastic straws … little things, like carpooling, things you do every day can make a big difference. And, just spreading the message of how amazing nature is, and getting out and enjoying nature yourself.”
Dalia Levy, left, and Ariel Martz-Oberlander (photos from Vines Art Festival)
“Good art is accountable to the community, raises up voices rarely heard and is vital to repairing our world.” This is a quote from Jewish community member Ariel Martz-Oberlander’s bio. It is little surprise that she was the associate producer for Vines Art Festival last year and is once again one of the artists this year.
Martz-Oberlander will be joined at Vines by several fellow Jewish community members: interdisciplinary artist Barbara Adler, textile artist Dalia Levy and performer and storyteller Naomi Steinberg, as well All Bodies Dance, of which Naomi Brand is a co-founder and facilitator. The multidisciplinary eco-arts festival features more than 70 performing and visual artists at parks throughout Vancouver.
According to its mission statement, Vines “is a free public event that creates platforms for local artists and performers to create with and on the land, steering their creative impulses toward work that focuses on the environment – whether a deep love of nature, sustainability or climate justice.”
“Everything I create is in relation to the land I find myself on and the times I was born into,” Martz-Oberlander told the Independent. “I create from a place of wanting to live in good relation to the land and those who have been protecting it since the beginning. I also create with the hope of telling the stories we need to bring about tikkun olam, the stories that have been buried or hidden as we struggled to survive by assimilation. Telling my stories is part of my larger work of decolonizing theatre and performance – making space for other silenced stories, and dismantling and rethinking the ways we tell stories in the first place.”
About the specific work that she will present at the festival, Martz-Oberlander, who divides her time between theatre and community organizing, said, “My piece, entitled on behalf of my body, explores living in the body after sexual trauma and touches on the intersectionality of sexual violence, PTSD, dissociation and separation from the self. The piece is also an exploration of how the settler body can live in Turtle Island, as approached through the story of my Ashkenazi diasporic and refugee ancestry.
“I am making this piece because I struggle with my place on this land, having no homeland of my own, but still being an uninvited guest. My people have been wandering for 2,000 years, and now I find myself here – my body a site of so many struggles, politicized without my permission by the forces of antisemitism, racism, nationalism, Western medicine, patriarchy and rape culture. How do I walk back into my body after being forced from it in so many ways? What does recovery mean when I’m not sure what was there before or whether I can get back there. Was there a before?
“This is the journey I invite you to go on with me – it’s going to be a wild ride.”
Levy will be presenting Connective [T]issue at Vines.
“Inspired by women’s Arpilleras [brightly coloured patchwork images] of [Augusto] Pinochet’s Chile, this knit/sewn/embroidered piece protests the Pacific garbage patch and extractive economies, like bitumen on our coast,” Levy explained. “As the same criminal mentality of supremacy exhibited under a dictatorship disappears our earth and our humanity, the piece simultaneously contrasts the powerful sources of life embedded into all of us. Representative of the underground connective channels that create the webs of mycelium our entire planetary eco-system grows from, the netting gives further conceptual insights of life woven into all DNA. With women’s traditional textile knowledge as a means to subvert and survive, the piece protests the private and normalized plunder blanketing earth and the interwoven convergence of issues in an era of global crisis.”
Connective [T]issue builds off her performance art installation at the festival last year, which was called Knit Piece, she said. “I used natural red dye from local berries to cover myself in the blood of the earth and proceeded to knit a giant umbilical cord drawing fundamental connections between humans and Mother Earth. The umbilical cord was then attached to knit anatomical hearts, and left in the park as a ‘yarnbomb’ installation. You can see a photo of one of the hearts here: permacultureartisan.com.
“Knit Piece and this year’s piece will be accompanied by a relevant sound art soundtrack to encourage further reflection,” she added.
About her work in general and how it relates to the environmental justice focus of the festival or connects to Judaism or Jewish culture, Levy said, “My work is very much focused on using the traditions of my Jewish foremothers to highlight the massive injustices of today. By reconnecting with these folk traditions that women used to pass down through generations, I am able to find a voice for myself beyond the domestic craft sphere while keeping these ingenious skills alive. My work is in protest of the extractive, discard culture embodied in consumer culture, as every inch of my work has been hand-stitched by myself from upcycled and found materials headed for the landfill. The environmental themes I work with relate directly to Vines as a vehicle for system change and awareness-raising about the destruction to our sacred planet.
“My Jewish ancestors that escaped Eastern Europe stitched their way across an ocean, escaping dictatorships that were extremely antisemitic, and began working as tailors and settling in Winnipeg’s Jewish community,” she continued. “My work is, therefore, informed by this family history that literally survived the pogroms because of our ability to stitch and make and adapt. I feel strongly that our future rests in this spirit of humble handmade [things] that is full of sustainable, ‘slow’ knowledge adaptable to climate change and a post-carbon economy.”
Vines Art Festival is an all-ages event and, while it runs from Aug. 8 to 19 in various Vancouver parks, the main program takes place Aug. 18, 1-7:30 p.m., at Trout Lake Park. All of the festival presentations are free. For the schedule, visit vinesartfestival.com.
The value of ahavat ha’beriot, the love of God’s creations, is open to broad interpretation. The animal world, the environment, as well as other people, can all fall under this crucial tenet of Judaism.
Like positive values and most good things, of course, this is easier in theory than in practice. We all want a clean environment and a better world, but we also want the convenience of automobiles, abundant and varied food, and the panorama of disposable consumer goods that we associate with the “good life.”
Awareness is, on the one hand, the most important factor in social change. On the other hand, it can overwhelm us to learn the full scope of our impacts on the world. Leave aside the huge looming catastrophe of climate change and consider for a moment the impact of a single, almost universal item of clothing: the cotton T-shirt.
Some bumper sticker wisdom urges us to “live simply, that others may simply live.” We do not always think of our wardrobe when considering our carbon footprint. Yet, after housing, food and transportation, for many people, clothing is one of the largest expenditures. Since voting with our wallets is one important way of making change, it is worth considering the impacts of our wardrobe choices. And what we wear on our backs says more about us than merely our fashion sense. It speaks (whether we know it or not) about our views on the environment and matters like child labour and fair wages.
To this end, one might think that a basic T-shirt would be a good choice. Yet it can take up to 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton required for this simple garment, according to the World Wildlife Federation. Caring for the T-shirt over its lifespan takes further resources: each load of laundry takes more than 150 litres of water. Throwing it in the dryer (with a full load) consumes even more energy resources than the washing machine – about five times as much. Hanging it instead on a clothesline would reduce the shirt’s carbon footprint by one-third, but who remembers those? (Walk down a back lane in Vancouver a generation ago, and clotheslines snaked across almost every yard.) That few of us would be prepared to make this comparatively small shift indicates the glacial – to use an ironic term in the context – pace of human change in a time of rapid change in the environment.
Our food choices are even heavier with impacts. Researchers at institutions including the Weizmann Institute of Science calculated the use of land area, water and nitrogen fertilizer in animal food production. Potatoes, wheat and rice require half to one-sixth of the resources needed to produce pork, chicken, dairy and eggs in a calorie-for-calorie comparison. (Beef takes as much as five times the resources as chicken.)
Livestock for food are estimated to create about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions while using vast amounts of agricultural and water resources. Reducing or giving up meat consumption results in a huge reduction in resources. Producing a kilogram of protein from beef requires about 18 times more land, 10 times more water, nine times more fuel, 12 times more fertilizer and 10 times more pesticide than producing a kilogram of protein from kidney beans. But, again, many people love a steak or roast chicken and giving up these pleasures is not on the agenda.
This is not to instil hopelessness that even our simplest choices are leading to environmental disaster. Rather, it is to be aware of the power of small changes to have significant results.
We can extrapolate the outsized impacts of larger choices. When faced with the realities of carbon fuels on our environment (and health), most of us will not choose to sell our cars. But we might use them more judiciously. Or buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle. And, when it comes to making big political decisions that impact our environment and health, we might consider that, on balance, we should be moving toward investing in alternatives to fossil fuels, not pouring public or private billions into perpetuating deleterious and nonrenewable resources. We may not go cold turkey on gasoline and oil overnight, but our discrete choices should be leading incrementally in the right direction, not the wrong one.
Israelis and tourists enjoy the beach in Tel Aviv on a hot summer day. (photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90 via Israel21c)
A new study says that, by 2100, climate changes will extend the summer season in the eastern Mediterranean – an area that covers Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and southern Turkey – by two full months. Winter, the rainy season, will shorten from four to two months.
The study, published in the International Journal of Climatology, was overseen by Prof. Pinhas Alpert and conducted by Assaf Hochman, Tzvi Harpaz and Prof. Hadas Saaroni, all of Tel Aviv University’s School of Geosciences.
“Pending no significant change in current human behaviour in the region, the summer is expected to extend by 25% by the middle of the century (2046-2065) and by 49% until its end (2081-2100),” Hochman said. “The combination of a shorter rainy season and a longer dry season may cause a major water problem in Israel and neighbouring countries.”
Other serious potential consequences include increased risk of brushfires, worsening pollution and altered timing and intensity of seasonal illnesses and health hazards.
“One of the main causes of these changes is the growing concentration of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere as a result of human activity,” said Hochman.
The research team is currently exploring the possibility of establishing a multidisciplinary regional centre for climate adaptation.
מדד המדינות המושחתות בעולם: קנדה במקום השמיני וישראל רק במקום השלושים ושתיים. (צילום: Cynthia Ramsay)
בימים האחרונים התפרסם מדד המדינות המושחתות בעולם לשנת 2017. המדד כולל מאה ושמונים מדינות שנסקרו, ומיקומן נקבע על פי השחיתות במגזר הציבורי, באמצעות שלושה עשר מקורות מידע משנים עשר מכוני מחקר עצמאיים ובלתי תלויים.
מהתוצאות עולה כי קנדה נמצאת במקום השמיני והגבוה בקרב המדינות הכי פחות מושחתות. ואילו ישראל איך לא לאור פרשות השחיתות הרבות שמאפיינות אותה, ובעיקר את ראש הממשלה, בנימין נתניהו, נמצאת מאחור במקום השלושים ושתיים.
להלן העשירייה הראשונה של המדינות הכי פחות מושחתות: ראשונה – ניו זילנד, שנייה – דנמרק, שלישית – פינלנד, רביעית – נורבגיה, חמישית – שוויץ, שישית – סינגפור, שביעית – שבדיה, שמינית – קנדה, תשיעית – לוקסמבורג ועשירית – הולנד.
העשירייה השנייה: אחד עשרה – בריטניה, שתיים עשרה – גרמניה, שלוש עשרה – אוסטרליה, ארבע עשרה – הונג קונג, חמש עשרה – איסלנד, שש עשרה – אוסטריה, שבעה עשרה – בלגיה, שמונה עשרה- ארצות הברית, תשעה עשרה – אירלנד ועשרים – יפן.
העשירייה השלישית: עשרים ואחד – אסטוניה, עשרים ושתיים – איחוד האמירויות הערביות, עשרים ושלושה – צרפת, עשרים וארבעה – אורגוואי, עשרים וחמשה – ברבדוס, עשרים וששה – בהוטן, עשרים ושבעה – צ’ילה, עשרים ושמונה – איי בהאמה, עשרים ותשעה – פורטוגל ושלושים – קטאר.
אחריהן במקום השלושים ואחד טיוואן, במקום השלושים ושתיים ישראל, במקום השלושים ושלושה ברוניי, במקום השלושים וארבעה בוטסואנה ובמקום השלושים וחמשה פולין.
ערים מתקדמות הופכות אשפה למשאב: ונקובר פועלת להיות העיר הירוקה בעולם
ערים רבות בעולם פועלות בשנים האחרונות לחסוך את העלות הגבוהה של סילוק פוסלת האשפה, הנוצרת בהן מדי יום בכמויות ענק. הן פועלות להפחית את כל צורות הפסולת שלהן, ולהשתמש בפסולת עד כמה שאפשר כמאשב, כך שהיא תהפוך לחומר גלם אחר. כך מדווח אתר הידען מישראל המפרסם מידע בתחום המדע והטכנולוגיה.
הערים בעולם הופכות למאוכלסות יותר וראשי הערים מחוייבים לשאת באחריות למצוא ולפתח פתרונות להרי הזבל שנוצרים בהן. הנוף העירוני הוא כיום הסביבה, שבה מתרכזים האתגרים הכרוכים בניהול חיים אנושיים מורכבים. בערים מתבזבות כמויות גדולות של אנרגיה, פחמן דו-חמצני, מזון, מים, מרחב וזמן. העירייות יכולות לפתור מספר בעיות בעת ובעונה אחת, ולהבטיח לתושבים, הפחתה משמעותית של חלק מהפסולת, תוך הפיכתה למשאב בעל יתרונות כלכליים.
כיום אין בהזרמת הפסולת למי הביוב פתרון סופי ויש להפחית מראש את הפסולת שנוצרת בערים, ולהשתמש בחלק גדול ממנה, לשימושים יעילים יותר. פעילות זו נקראת “כלכלה מעגלית”.
באתרי הטמנה האשפה של ונקובר לוכדים את גז המתאן הנפלט מהאשפה הרבה, ובחום שנוצר משריפתו משתמשים לחימום חממות בסמוך להם, בהן גדלות עגבניות. זו דוגמא טובה של יצור אררגיה חיובית מאשפה.
ונקובר שפועלת להיות העיר הירוקה ביותר בעולם, מחלקת לתושבים מיכלים נפרדים לאשפה רגילה, לפסולת אורגנית (כמו שאריות מזון, ענפים וגזם), לפסולת זכוכית, פסולת נייר, פסולת פלסתיק ועוד. עיריית ונקובר שמצפה מאזרחי העיר שיפעלו בהתאם עם הפסולת לסוגייה כמתבקש, שולחת מעת לעת פקחים לבדוק שזה אכן נעשה.
מן הפסולת האורגנית העירייה מפיקה את גז המתאן, וכן מוצרים מוצקים שיכולים לשמש לדישון הקרקע. לפתרונות אלה מספר יתרונות בעת ובעונה אחת: הם חוסכים לעיר הוצאות על אנרגיה, הם מפחתים משמעותית את הצורך בהטמנת פסולת באתרי האשפה וכן הם מועילים לענף החקלאות.
Burgers made with insect protein, and no meat. (photo from Eran Gronich)
While the thought of eating insects or worms may sound outlandish or disgusting to many of us, there is growing support for doing just that.
In less than 25 years, the world will have nine billion people living on it. As things stand, there is not enough space or resources to support conventional protein production – beef, chicken, fish, etc. – for that many people. One solution that has been brought to the fore is that we can start eating insect protein. And now, the Israeli company Flying Spark is raising capital to make this a reality.
Leading the charge is Eran Gronich, a serial entrepreneur, and his partner, entomologist Dr. Yoram Yerushalmi.
“When I was looking for my next project, looking into all kinds of ideas, start-ups, etc., I came across a TED Talk in which this university professor was talking about the world having nine billion people by 2040,” said Gronich. “He was talking about all the damages of livestock farming – causing global warming, [using] 70% of growing seed, oceans over-fished…. He was saying the best solution is switching to insect consumption … and, I don’t know why, but I was fascinated. I started to learn about it…. When I realized I don’t know anything about insects, I found my partner, Dr. Yerushalmi, and together we started Flying Spark.”
They chose the larva of fruit flies to work with because it has a number of benefits, such as high values of protein, iron, calcium and magnesium. Its fat is unsaturated and, unlike some other insects, a fruit fly has no cholesterol.
The fruit fly uses less than one percent of water and land resources, has hardly any waste and 100% of the larva can be used. The lifespan of the larva is only six days and it multiplies 15 times in that time.
As it’s a vegetation-eating fly, it is a safe insect to use. No antibiotics, hormones or additives are used in the growing process, and the insect does not share any diseases with human beings.
Gronich and Yerushalmi’s project was chosen as the winner of a mass accelerator challenge in Boston. “We spent four months in Boston working on accelerating the growth of the company,” said Gronich. “We raised some money there from investors and sent it to Israel. We developed the farming and ecosystem technology around farming the larva, reducing the cost.
“In the food lab, we developed the process that’s basically taking the larva and turning it into high-quality, 70% protein powder and high-quality oil. Also, we worked on all kinds of applications and the functionality of the protein powder. We made all kinds of products just to prove the point that you can make almost anything out of our materials – bread, pasta, cereal, cakes, whatever. And, also, achieve meat replacement, even milk, with more protein than cows.”
As it turns out, the larvae will be fed by fruit surpluses, which, according to Gronich, exist everywhere. “They are in every country and also throughout the supply chain – surplus that the farmer or grocery chain has,” he said. “It’s good food, but doesn’t look so good anymore. So, we developed this formula – based on feeding software – to calculate the right percentage … to get the nutritional diet needed.”
Gronich is working with several major food manufacturers, trying out various applications, with varying degrees of success.
According to Gronich, the product is not kosher and his market is not yet in Israel, though he does have some Israeli and Jewish backers. One of his backers is the Strauss Group, which invested money and provides support with offices, labs and a lot of technical support for marketing and networking with institutions worldwide.
“For Strauss, it’s a financial investment,” said Gronich. “Strauss believes insects will be a part of the human diet in the near future and decided to invest in the best company.”
Another important collaboration in which Flying Spark is involved is with IKEA. “IKEA, eight months ago, [invited] all kinds of start-ups to apply for special programs focused on making the world a better place, especially sustainability aspects. Thirteen hundred companies applied from about 80 countries around the world; they chose 10. We were lucky enough to be one of those 10 companies. So, we started a three-month program. My partner is in Sweden right now, in the IKEA centre, and the goal of the program in the end is to have a product made from our material in the IKEA restaurant.”
Gronich is currently working on designing Flying Spark’s first production facility in Israel, with operations scheduled for the end of 2018. “Now, we are raising three and a half million dollars to build the facility, which will be in Ashdod,” said Gronich.
While selling the product to the Western world is a bit tricky, in the Eastern world or in South America, insects are eaten regularly. So, heading east with their product is an obvious choice.
As for the West, Gronich said, “Now, people from Western countries … when I’m explaining to them about the larva – about how it cleans itself and its nutritional value – people understand it. They get that it is one of the best sources of protein. If you’re comparing it to shrimp or other kinds of seafood, it looks much better. It definitely looks much better than a dead chicken. And millennials are very much aware of what they put into their bodies, and aspects of food and farming, so it’s easier.”
Flying Spark was very happy with their positive reception in Boston. There, more than 85% of millennials told them they had no problem tasting it. And, when they gave people samples, the reaction was positive.
“Now, we’re working with companies that have heard about us through PR,” said Gronich. “Multinational companies approached us and the conversations with them have all been focused on nutritional value – source of the protein, they don’t care about it…. We call it the industrial approach. We’re not serving the insect in its original form. We’re turning it into a white powder and are selling it to regular, traditional food manufacturers – and there is a need for this product.”
The World Health Organization has labeled climate change “the greatest threat to global health of the 21st century.” As a physician, it is difficult to ignore such a dramatic statement.
Climate change is real. The sea levels are rising, temperatures are increasing, more violent storms are becoming the norm. As Canadians, we are seeing consequences of climate change even more than other countries. Last year, Fort McMurray in Alberta was almost destroyed by a massive forest fire. This year was the worst year in British Columbia’s history for forest fire damage. (While climate change is not the sole cause of these events, it is known to be a contributing factor.)
Our glaciers are shrinking, as anybody who has visited the Athabasca Glacier in the Rockies can confirm. Temperatures in the Yukon and Northwest Territories are rising faster than in most other parts of the world. Traditional indigenous life in the north is being made much more difficult by the shortening of winter and the melting of the permafrost.
Climate change is also a Jewish issue. When the environment is changing so dramatically that human lives and well-being are at stake, Jewish values tell us that we must take action.
Pikuach nefesh (the saving of a life) is a fundamental Jewish principle. Climate change is believed to share some responsibility for present-day wars and loss of life, including the conflict in Syria. The World Health Organization predicts that 250,000 people will die each year between 2030 and 2050 due to the effects of climate change. Is it not incumbent upon us as Jews to try to mitigate these effects in line with the pikuach nefesh principle?
Climate change is a complex issue. Many people find it too complicated and too overwhelming, such that they are paralyzed into inaction. So what we can do about it?
In line with Jewish practice, the first response should be educating ourselves about the issues. There are many articles and books about the subject. One of the most compelling authors for me is Bill McKibben. He has written a book called Eaarth (Henry Holt and Company, 2010) in which he describes how the earth is changing, such that it is becoming a new and unfamiliar place.
Fossil fuels are the main culprits. Weaning ourselves off coal, oil and natural gas is paramount. Substituting sources of renewable energy such as solar, wind, tidal and geothermal is crucial.
On a society level, we can try to prevent further construction of oil and gas pipelines, and further development of the LNG (liquified natural gas) industry in northeast British Columbia. We can elect members of the Legislative Assembly and of Parliament who share our concerns.
On a personal level, we can drive less, fly less, use hybrid or electric vehicles, and support public transportation. We can eat less meat, as the cattle industry is a major contributor to increased greenhouse gases. We can consume less, recycle more and compost more.
Everybody can do something to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Doing nothing is no longer an option.
I take inspiration from the talmudic Choni, otherwise known as the Circle-maker.
One day, Choni was walking on the road and saw a man planting a carob tree. Choni asked the man, “How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?”
The man replied, “Seventy years.”
Choni then asked the man, “And do you think you will live another 70 years and eat the fruit of this tree?”
The man answered, “Perhaps not. However, when I was born into this world, I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather. Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees.”
This week, as we are sitting in the sukkah, let us contemplate the fragility of our planet, and strive to make the earth a more secure place for our children and grandchildren.
Larry Barzelaiis a Vancouver-based family physician, who has a special interest in geriatrics. He administers the annual Public Speaking Contest organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver. He is a member of the board of CAPE (Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment).
Biofeed’s Nimrod Israely, top centre, with mango growers in Karnataka, India. (photo from Biofeed via Israel21c)
Shortly before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel in early July, Indian diplomats in Israel heard about a revolutionary no-spray, environmentally friendly solution against the Oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis) made by Biofeed, a 10-employee ag-tech company. They invited Biofeed to be one of six innovative Israeli companies meeting with Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The company’s founder and chief executive officer, Nimrod Israely, who has a PhD in fruit-fly ecology, told the two leaders that Biofeed’s product can protect Indian farmers against fruit flies like the Iron Dome system protects the people of Israel against missiles. The Oriental fruit fly has been decimating 300 fruit species in India and in 65 other countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas and is considered to be the most destructive, invasive and widespread of all fruit flies.
Biofeed’s lures, hung on trees, contain an organic customized mix of food, feeding stimulants and control or therapeutic agents delivered by a patented gravity-controlled fluid release platform. Attracted by the odour, the fly takes a sip and soon dies – without any chemicals reaching the fruit, air or soil.
The launch of Biofeed’s first-in-class attractant for female Oriental fruit flies results from 15 years of development of the core platform and more than a year of development and testing in Israel and Karnataka, India. Mango farmers on four Indian orchards saw an overall decrease of fruit-fly infestation from 95% to less than five percent.
“We were hoping to bring a solution that will replace spraying and increase productivity by 50%,” Israely told Israel21c. “I am excited by the results, demonstrating the future potential for some farmers to bring about 900 times more marketable produce to market.”
One farmer in the Biofeed pilot explained that previously he had used a trap that attracted only male fruit flies, with limited success. “If you cut 25 fruits, we were getting only one good fruit; 24 were infected,” he said.
K. Srinivas Gowda, president of the 70,000-farmer Karnataka Mango Growers Association, wrote in a letter presented to Modi and Netanyahu that he “would like to have this [Biofeed] technology implemented to all the mango farmers through the government of India. This technology can be used to develop pest-free zones in the mango-growing belts in India.”
The pilot project started after Biofeed won a Grand Challenges Israel grant last year from the Israel Innovation Authority and the Foreign Ministry’s international development agency, Mashav.
“We don’t have the Oriental fruit fly in Israel. However, until now there was no solution for this problem. So, we took the challenge and chose to focus on India,” Israely said. The company worked with Kempmann Bioorganics in Bangalore to carry out the trial.
Biofeed’s products are used in many Israeli fruit orchards against the Mediterranean fruit fly and other common pests, including the olive fruit fly and the peach fruit fly (Bactrocera zonata).
“Bactrocera zonata is the number two pest in India. There are three main pests in India, so now we’ve given, within two years, a solution for the two most devastating fruit flies in India and in other parts of the world,” said Israely.
“We are the only company in the world with a solution for those two pests and both solutions are harmless to the environment,” he added. “We estimate the annual market potential of these two pest segments to be well over $1 billion.”
The Biofeed platform is effective with as few as 10 units per hectare and for a period of nearly a year before the dispenser needs replacing.
Biofeed, founded in 2005, also has a formula targeting mosquitoes that bear viruses such as Zika.
“Evolution has given insects an elaborate sense of smell, which they utilize to find mates, food, egg-laying sites and more,” Israely told Israel21c last year. “The company has developed a liquid formula that ‘knows’ how to tie different kinds of smells to other materials, as the need arises. The result is a special ‘decoy’ that draws the target insect through smell. The decoy is slow-released from a device over the course of a year. The insect is drawn to the decoy, feeds off it and dies shortly after.”
Headquartered in Kfar Truman, Biofeed sees the future of agriculture in developing countries such as India and China.
“We want to bring something that is extremely easy to use: you don’t need tractors, you don’t need to remember to spray once a week, you don’t need to put yourself in danger with sprays, there’s no safety equipment. This is something that can make a dramatic change in agriculture and human health,” said Israely.
Israel21cis a nonprofit educational foundation with a mission to focus media and public attention on the 21st-century Israel that exists beyond the conflict. For more, or to donate, visit israel21c.org.