Author

Luna Reyna

Browsing

By 2050, the amount of plastic in the sea will weigh more than the amount of fish. Along with this estimate by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there is an estimated 150 million-metric tons of plastic waste currently circulating the ocean merged with an estimated 8 million-metric tons added every year, according to the Ocean Conservancy. That is the equivalency of emptying a garbage truck of trash into the ocean every minute.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that plastic really became popular, but it’s a wonder how we ever got along without it — at least that is what manufacturers would love you to believe. It’s versatile, strong, inexpensive, and because of these redeeming qualities, is now used in everything from your toothbrush to life-saving medical equipment. Even your car and the airplane you took to visit family recently have plastic.

There is no denying that plastic has made modern life more comfortable in many ways. But combine its cost-effectiveness with over-consumption, littering, and pollution — and we’re facing an astronomical cleanup. To do this, scientists are turning to robots. These robots and their creators aspire to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of cleaning our oceans.

MEET OUR TRASH ROBOTS

IBM MICRO SEA-LIVING ROBOTS

IBM is leading with a unique way of addressing our growing plastic waste problem. IBM built autonomous 3D microscopes embedded with artificial intelligence and placed them in the ocean to study plankton. This enables scientists “to see life on a scale where a human hair is as big as a tree.” according to IBM Research Editorial Staff. Plankton are highly sensitive to water quality, and just so happen to be at the bottom of the vast oceanic food chain. Through learning what is harming these sensitive creatures, scientists can determine what will continue up the food chain and harm others.

With the combination of IBM engineer Simon Bianco’s autonomous AI microscope and Tom Zimmerman’s lensless microscope, which works much like the ones in cell phones, the two hope to, “gain a better understanding of how the ecosystem operates, to better manage the health of the environment.” This approach by IBM is an important reminder that all things — big or small — are connected.

SEAVAX ROBOT VACUUM

“Big problems call for big solutions,” boasts the SeaVax website as they present the world’s largest vacuum cleaner. Bluebird Marine Systems LTD have created a 144-foot-long autonomous machine that will suck up plastic solids and microplastics. Their approach to cleaning up the millions of tons of pollution is a bit more tangible than IBM’s approach. The robotic vacuum, or robovac called SeaVax, can carry up to 150 tons of plastic in the cargo hold. The SeaVax is equipped with solar panels and two wind turbines that create the power needed for the electric pumps and filters to do their work.

Unfortunately, the SeaVax needs additional funding to continue the development of the prototype. The unintentional capture and death of small marine life is also a concern with the Seavax. At this point, Bluebird Marine Systems claims that the final SeaVax system will automatically shut down when marine life is detected and come complete with an alert system if any marine life is in danger.

TOC FLOATING BUOY

Founded by a then 18-year-old Boyan Slat in 2013, The Ocean Cleanup (TOC) has been focused on The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (TGPGP), the patch of ocean garbage now estimated to be twice the size of Texas.

TOC’s design is rather simple with a 600-meter-long floater that is intended to keep plastic from going over and a 3-meter-deep skirt that keeps plastic from going underneath. The length of the floater imitates a coastline and is moved naturally by the current, allowing it to pick up plastic as it goes. Imagine a high tech pool noodle with a skirt below it to catch plastic below. TOC’s grandiose goal is to clean half of the TGPGP in as little as five years and have estimated that with fleets of their systems 90 percent of ocean plastic could be removed by 2040.

TOC’s systems are autonomous with solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors, and satellite antennas making for a seemingly efficient system with the least amount of potential for disruption of fish and marine life or for collisions with passerby’s vessels. Unfortunately, none of these cleanup efforts are an exact science. There is no model for this type of cleanup and to TOC’s dismay, their first system catches the plastic but does not retain it and needed repair within four months.

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

Recovery of the plastic and its particles is much more difficult than anyone had anticipated, but all of these innovators can agree on one very important thing, prevention is key and we should all strive to use less plastic. Water is planet Earth’s most precious resource and it is becoming the most threatened. The drive behind IBM’s efforts is the reality that 50 percent of Earth’s population will be living in areas of water scarcity in 10 years and monitoring that is imperative to the survival of many species, including ourselves. It is through continued innovation, education and actively reducing consumption that we will prevail.

If you want to do your part in helping these innovators change the world, donate to:
http://www.blue-growth.org/Charity/Donate_Donations_Backers_Supporters.htm
https://www.theoceancleanup.com/support/

Isabelle Kohn, also known as “Dear Ibby” often fields questions such as, “Dear Ibby, The guy I’m seeing is so into anal, but I hate it. What should I do?” to “Dear Ibby, All I want to do is wear my girlfriend’s clothes while we fuck …” and even “Dear Ibby, Can I tighten my vagina? Do kegels really work?”

Kohn’s sex advice column defies the norm as it’s informative, thoughtful, and often comical.

It was meant to be humorous and helpful at the same time. So much sex information is conveyed with seriousness or alarm. I felt like a more lighthearted approach might make it easier for people to connect with what is often a difficult and confusing topic.

Kohn explained

Sex education is imperative to gaining the knowledge necessary to make healthy decisions about sex and sexuality. It contributes to fostering healthy relationships and managing personal sexual health. Unfortunately, only 24 states and the District of Columbia require sex education. Of those 24, only eight mention consent or sexual assault and according to a study done by Public Religion Research Institute on 12 percent mention same-sex relationships.It’s no wonder that so many adults seek out candid advice from knowledgeable women like Isabelle Kohn.

Isabelle Kohn is a journalist, editor, sex educator, sex coach, and the ingenious mind behind the advice column, “Dear Ibby.” “Dear Ibby” was a unique way of allowing adults who didn’t know whom or how to ask for advice to ask questions about their bodies and desires, or their partner’s. “I’m deeply interested in the mind-body connection, the transformative power of kink, and giving voices to more marginalized expressions of sexuality,” Kohn told us. For readers, the advice column was an affirmation that their questions or concerns were valid and that they were not alone in feeling naive to certain aspects of sexuality, consent, and dating.

Kohn quit doing “Dear Ibby” for Rooster Magazine, but has continued her work as a sex educator. Kohn and Bryn Roberts have started sex-ed pop-up dinners called “Eating Out” where they procure a house to host an intimate, family-style meal. “Oh my god, they’re so fun,” Kohn emphasized. “It’s a hybrid sex-ed pop-up dinner where we plan the menus around various themes like BDSM, aphrodisiacs, anal sex — any sexual topic can be made into a pop-up event, really.” Roberts makes a nutritarian meal from foods chosen specifically for how they might enhance a sexual or sensual situation. During dinner, the health benefits of the meal are discussed and afterwards a workshop around the dinner theme is taught by an expert in that field. A recent BDSM brunch included a spanking and impact play demonstration by Kohn’s mentor, Jamila Dawson, an interdisciplinary sex therapist. “The whole thing is meant to facilitate discussion and help sex-positive and sexually curious people build community and make connections. It’s very educational, but it’s also an entirely novel way to consume sex-positive information,” Kohn explained.

Kohn has also created a safe space for her orgasm classes in the same truly affirming and supportive atmosphere. These classes are open to all genders and orientations, and are completely no contact — with yourself or others. “We go over anatomy, communication, masturbation, self-empowerment, practical skills, toys, and the cultural context in which orgasms take place,” Kohn explains. Although she would like to do more hands-on training one day, these classes are strictly educational.

Creating a safe space for sexual understanding and having instruction that is inclusive is important, Things like communication, consent, and self-empowerment are things everyone can benefit from, regardless of how they identify.

Kohn detailed, “It’s really helpful to learn about your own body and bodies that are different from your own. The more you know, the more effective communication and consent you can have, and the more passionate and intimate an exchange can be. Everyone likes different things, so having a more diverse audience — especially one that feels open to discussing their own sexualities, preferences, and vulnerabilities, benefits everyone.”

“In general, the more diverse your classes can be in terms of gender, race, age, ability level, socioeconomic status, religion, and so on, the better and more valuable education you get.” Kohn explained by giving us a few examples, “There was one class I taught where a cis man had no idea that there was an internal portion to the clit.” Another time, “a femme person was totally floored that you could use cock rings to make someone with a penis last longer in bed,” and “There was another where a guy talked about how he never felt like he had the opportunity to give consent in sexual interactions.” These types of discoveries, and the fostering of open communication around healthy sexuality, are crucial to relationships that are guilt and shame-free.

Unfortunately, not all of those who come across the necessary work that Kohn does are as impressed, but she couldn’t care less. “I block them then never think about it again,” she says. Kohn’s confidence in her own expertise leaves no room for trolls. “The internet is full of idiots and people who get off on trying to make you feel like shit, and I don’t have time for that. If someone doesn’t know me or is clearly coming from a place of insecurity — which most people who troll you are — why would I care what they have to say?” Kohn has even gone as far as creating a handy guide on her Medium account called: “Be The Internet Troll You Wish to See in The World.”

Isabelle Kohn’s career as a sex educator has benefited so many. She has unapologetically written about topics like female sexual pain, which often goes unheard and ignored by their partners and the medical system. Along with Joan Price, a 74-year-old senior sex expert, she pressed the importance of senior sexuality — which gave us all less anxiety about old age and reminded us that “sex has no expiration date.” Whether it is her unique classes, her exceptional writing, or simply her knack for suggesting just the right sex toy you’re looking for, Kohn’s witty sex-positive voice is the kind of transformational cultural awareness necessary for a sexual revolution in the sea of naive or oppressive garbage. “Sex is not a one-size-fits-all game,”

Kohn explains,

It can’t be summed up in a listicle, or understood from a single class alone. There’s no such thing as universal “good sex” because “good sex” means something different for everyone. It’s a completely subjective, beautifully diverse, and constantly fluctuating thing. Navigating it in your own life is all about how to make things work for you, not what other people think works for them.