Publications

Water Politics


Securing Indus Waters Rights

Via Eurasia Review, commentary on Indus River water tensions: The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in The Hague has declared that they have the jurisdiction to preside over the Pakistan-India conflict over the contentious Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in the territory of Kashmir. This decision raises one of the oldest and most profound […]

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Sicily’s Drought Dries Up Summer Tourism

Via Fortune a report on Sicily’s summer drought which is so acute this year that it’s drying up lakes and forcing cities to turn away tourists because they don’t have enough water: The Italian island of Sicily might have abundant history, but the same can’t be said about its water supply. Located on Sicily’s southwest […]

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Wildcats & Black Sheep


Navigating the Crossroads: China’s Mineral Pursuit in Afghanistan and the US Concerns

Via Australian Institute of International Affairs, a report on China’s mineral pursuit in Afghanistan: As the US-led NATO forces withdrew, China stepped into Afghanistan, focusing on exploiting mineral resources, including lithium, crucial for green technologies like electric vehicle batteries. This move has raised geopolitical tensions and also concerns about the ethical trade-offs between economic development […]

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How Kazakhstan Became a Player in the Global Mineral Trade

Via the New York Times, a look at how Kazakhstan’s bounty has enriched the country and grabbed the attention of entrepreneurs scrambling to control the ingredients needed to fight climate change: Kenges Rakishev, one of the richest men in Kazakhstan, stepped off a private jet at a Soviet-era airport and hopped into the lead car […]

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Watergy Nexus


Oil Industry Tries To Escape Water Crunch

Via E&E News, a report on the petroleum industry’s water crunch: Energy companies in the U.S. are searching for new ways to manage the water they use and produce along with crude oil. The U.S. oil industry has a double-edged problem: It’s running out of fresh water in one of the most productive U.S. regions […]

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Grid Unlocked


AI and Other Tricks Are Bringing Power Lines Into The 21st Century

Via The Economist, a look at how power grids are at last becoming smarter and more efficient: The rise of artificial-intelligence (ai) data centres, with their insatiable hunger for electricity, is asking an awful lot of the world’s utilities and grid operators. On the bright side, ai can also give a fair bit back, by helping transform ancient, overloaded and dumb […]

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Seeds of A Revolution


Food Security = National Security

Via Australian Strategic Policy Institute, commentary on the link between food security and national security: Australia’s food security should not be taken for granted. The Covid-19 pandemic shows what can go wrong with it during seismic strategic challenges. January’s empty supermarket shelves across Darwin, caused by flooding, illustrate the precarious nature of food security even […]

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Land Squeeze: The Hidden Battle for Africa’s Soils

Via African Arguments, a look at how land grabbing is not just back with a vengeance. It is taking on new guises such as carbon offsets, green hydrogen schemes, and other “green grabs”: In recent years, Africa has been at the epicentre of an alarming global trend: the land squeeze. The 2007-8 global financial crisis unleashed […]

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Russian Fertilizer: The ‘New Gas’ for Europe

Courtesy of The Financial Times, a report on the over-reliance and pending constraint of Russia fertilizer on European agriculture: Europe is “sleep walking” into becoming dependent on Russian fertiliser, just as it did with gas, says one of the largest producers of crop nutrients. Nitrogen fertilisers, which are important to plant growth, are made using […]

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SynWorlds


How Generative AI Could Reinvent What It Means To Play

Via MIT’s Technology Review, a report on how how AI-powered NPCs that don’t need a script could make games—and other worlds—deeply immersiv First, a confession. I only got into playing video games a little over a year ago (I know, I know). A Christmas gift of an Xbox Series S “for the kids” dragged me—pretty easily, […]

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Gym Class VR Builds On Popularity With NBA Logos and Venues

Via Sports Business Journal, a look at how Gym Class VR is building on its popularity with the addition of NBA logos and venues: The mid-range jumper may be a lost art in the NBA game, but I sank one from just inside the free-throw line at the TD Garden, as the PA announcer called out the basket. […]

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K-pop: The Rise Of Virtual Girl Bands

Via BBC, a look at the rise of virtual K-pop girl bands: Since releasing their debut single I’m Real in 2021, K-pop girl group Eternity have racked up millions of views online. They sing, dance and interact with their fans just like any other band. In fact, there’s mainly one big difference between them and […]

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Roof Options


Second Green Roof Installed at Boston Medical Center

Via Green Roofs.com, a report on another green roof in Boston: This month, Recover Green Roofs celebrated the opening of Newmarket Farm at Boston Medical Center (BMC) at 960 Mass. Ave. The green roof design process highlights a critical collaboration between BMC, Recover Green Roofs, and Higher Ground Farm. Recover completed the installation in the Spring of 2024. Each organization […]

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Blue/Green Roofs: Solving Four Urban Problems In One Solution

Via AquaTech, a look at the potential of blue-green roofs: Blue-green roofs have the potential to solve four urban problems in one go: increased water collection and reuse; sustainable energy production; building insulation and thriving eco-systems.  What to do with roof space in urban environments The potential uses for rooftops in urban environments tend to […]

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The Global Buffetts


Inside A Baby Berkshire Hathaway

Via Forbes, a look at how Markel’s Chief executive Thomas Gayner has quietly turned insurer Markel into a mini-conglomerate. Meet Richmond’s answer to the Oracle of Omaha:  Thomas Gayner gets a kick out of telling the story. It was 1983. He had just graduated from the University of Virginia with a plan to return home to Salem, […]

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Constellation Software, Tech’s Berkshire Hathaway

Via The Economist, a look at a firm which many consider as technology’s Berkshire Hathaway: For older startups these are tough times. The weak recent stockmarket debuts of Arm, a British chipmaker, Instacart, a grocery-delivery group, and Klaviyo, a software firm, have dampened enthusiasm for initial public offerings. Venture capital (vc) has dried up. Data […]

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The ‘Next Warren Buffett’ Curse Isn’t Always Fatal

Via Bloomberg, interesting commentary on how many – such as crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried couldn’t survive the comparison – but others who actually invest somewhat like the Berkshire Hathaway chairman fare better: A couple of months ago, crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried was peering out from the cover of Fortune magazine above the words “The Next Warren Buffett?” Now he’s at […]

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Networked Nature


Surfing NASA’s Internet of Animals: Satellites Study Ocean Wildlife

Via Terra Daily, a look at the use of satellites to study wildlife: Anchoring the boat in a sandbar, research scientist Morgan Gilmour steps into the shallows and is immediately surrounded by sharks. The warm waters around the tropical island act as a reef shark nursery, and these baby biters are curious about the newcomer. […]

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‘Find My Friends for Rhinos’: How High-Tech Tracking is Keeping Tabs on Wildlife

Via CNN, a look at how, in Northern Kenya’s Sera Conservancy, veterinarians have been using a conservation technology tool called EarthRanger to track and monitor wildlife:

It’s early morning in Sera Community Conservancy in Northern Kenya and sunlight beats down across this expansive semi-arid landscape. Birds calling and boots crunching are the only sounds for miles as a team led by Kenyan wildlife veterinarian Dr. Mukami Ruoro-Oundo carefully tracks white rhinos — the first of their kind to be found here in Samburu County. Once common in the area, by the early 1990s Northern Kenya’s rhino population was decimated by poaching. But the country’s black rhino population has more than doubled since 1989, and by December 2022 there were 1,900 black rhinos and white rhinos in total, according to Kenya Wildlife Services. Sera Conservancy has championed the country’s community-led rhino conservation efforts. In 2015 it established East Africa’s first community rhino sanctuary with the introduction of 10 critically endangered black rhinos. Today, that number has grown to 21 black rhinos which freely roam across 107 square kilometers (41 square miles) of designated sanctuary land, and in February 2024, they were joined by four white rhinos from the nearby Lewa Conservancy. As she searches on foot, Dr. Ruoro-Oundo spots two of the female white rhinos. One, called Sarah, looks heavily pregnant but as the vet creeps closer she notices something is very wrong. Mindful of not encroaching too long on the rhinos’ territory and reluctant to intervene unnecessarily, she opts for a different approach; through a conservation technology tool called EarthRanger she can monitor Sarah’s movements in real time from a distance. Prior to translocation, each of the four white rhinos was fitted with a GPS tag in its horns and ears, which sends a real-time location to remote devices like mobile phones, or to the conservancy’s operations center, where Dr. Ruoro-Oundo is able to monitor Sarah’s location and movements. As EarthRanger’s co-founder Jake Wall tells CNN, “It’s exactly like a ‘Find my Friends’ for rhino.” Sparse internet connectivity means Dr. Ruoro-Oundo cannot get a clear signal from Sarah’s transmitter but thankfully Sarah is not alone; a female rhino named Arot has never left her side and through Arot’s transmitter Dr. Ruoro-Oundo can see that Sarah has barely moved in hours, suggesting her condition is deteriorating. By using a drone to take photos of her, the team is able to confirm that Sarah urgently needs help. “We noticed she has a fecal impaction, it was quite huge and had made the rectal and vulvar area swollen,” says Dr. Ruoro-Oundo. “She’s in a lot of pain because she could not put down her tail, and you could see she was a bit sluggish, she really wanted to spend her time lying down. So in such a case we really need to intervene for her comfort, to relieve her of the distress and the pain.” An emergency intervention is immediately put into action, led by Kenya Wildlife Services and Sera Conservancy’s management and rangers. Air, ground and additional veterinary support are mobilized within hours — potentially saving not only Sarah’s life but that of her unborn calf too. For Dr. Ruoro-Oundo, the key to safeguarding Kenya’s wildlife is a balance between community and technology. “I think you cannot separate technology from conservation in the future,” she says.” The human element can never be removed, but technology will always come to assist where we cannot reach.” A global effort Now used in 70 countries, EarthRanger’s story started in Kenya when co-founder Wall was researching elephants there. “In about 2012, we had a real crisis with poaching in Kenya, so we wanted a way that we could pick up on elephants that were getting killed, and the sign for us was that the collar stopped moving for more than about five or six hours, which is the longest sort of period that an elephant rests for,” he recalls. “So I wrote the algorithm that could work out whether an elephant had stopped moving or not, and then (the collar) would send an SMS if it had. So that was kind of the beginning.” He adds that the system has evolved quite significantly since then, and Sarah is one of 9,000 animals — including elephants, lions, giraffe, tortoises, sea turtles and 1,200 rhinos — that EarthRanger is currently tracking in Kenya alone. Wall says the system can integrate data from more than 100 different devices — “anything from elephant trackers to ear tags for rhino, to collars for lions, tail tags (for giraffes), devices that glue onto the shell of a turtle.” It can also receive information from sources such as vehicle trackers, satellites, and remote sensing alerts for things like deforestation and fire. “It’s pulling it all into one platform, where it can be readily visualized, analyzed and then acted upon,” Wall adds. “And all of that’s giving the operators and managers a bird’s eye view of the situation as it’s happening, with real-time tools.” According to the EarthRanger, all of these devices are designed to be lightweight, durable and inconspicuous ensuring they don’t impact on the animals’ natural behavior or cause them discomfort. For rhinos, Dr. Ruoro-Oundo says that attaching a tracker is the equivalent sensation of a human getting their ears pierced. Samuel Lekimaroro, a wildlife protection manager for the Northern Rangelands Trust, which includes Sera Conservancy, uses this kind of data to live-track terrestrial and marine wildlife across 6.5 million hectares. For Lekimaroro it has become a powerful tool in translocating wildlife, data collection and security operations, including identifying hotspots for human-wildlife conflict. “Thanks to EarthRanger, trophy poaching has been on a steady decline for the last five years, from a high of 120 elephants poached in 2012, to zero in the last four years in (our) member conservancies,” he says. Wall says its potential to securely collect and share data from different EarthRanger sites from across the world is revolutionary. “If organizations are doing, say, joint patrolling, or monitoring of a species, then they can also share that information,” he says. “By storing information on EarthRanger we can pull that data from different sites and combine it in ways that was never possible before. So it’s really enabling the analysis and the reporting in a way that just never existed before.”
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