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Solar cooking grows even more popular in Sacramento and around the world

Recently, on July 19, 2104, Sacramento had a solar cooker festival in Land Park. (Solar Cookers International: Convention.) You may wish to check out this You Tube video taken in Land Park, Sacramento, from the Solar Cooking Festival. Or checkout the SCI Solar Cooking Festival in Sacramento's Land Park from July 19, 2014 posted by Julie Greene on YouTube on July 29, 2014, "SCI Solar Cooking Festival."

Solar cooking grows even more popular in Sacramento and around the world,
Photo by WPA Pool/Getty Images

Or see the website of the US Ark of Taste. It's a catalog of over 200 delicious foods in danger of extinction. The act of cooking on a solar stove, here in Sacramento, or anywhere else in the world saves on your electricity and fuel bill because you're using the amplified power of the sun to cook your food. And solar stoves are easy to make. You can check out sites such as "How to Make a Solar Cooker - Solar Cooking." Even a child can build a simple solar stove. See the website, "Build A Solar Oven | Science Project for Kids - Home Science Tools." And it's great for a school science project.

Solar ovens help prevent deforestation while storing energy from the sun. Some areas have nothing that can be burned as fuel but dung. Other areas are hazardous to walk for miles to find wood, and still other areas are mostly sand and dust. And on another note, By promoting and eating Ark products you can help ensure they remain in production and on the world's plates. For example, you can make an effort to save one cherished food product at a time. If you want to save on your electric bill, Sacramento's summer includes a lot of sunlight, all the way through October. So a solar cooker/stove/oven in an outdoor place doesn't take up a lot of space. You use sunlight to cook your food. And some solar stoves, solar ovens, or solar hot plates can reach high temperatures. See, "How to Make Your Own Solar Cooker - Solar Cooking - Free Crafts."

In countries where cooking can kill, trying to promote safer stoves, preparing a meal in some of the world's poorest rural areas can turn an ordinary activity into a deadly chore. Animal dung and crop scraps often fuel the indoor fires used for cooking. And before any food fills a hungry belly, thick black smoke fills a family's lungs.

Pneumonia and other acute respiratory infections kill about 1 million people a year in low-income countries, making them the top cause of death in the developing world and the greatest threat to children's lives. Makeshift stoves belch much of the polluted air leading to those illnesses. About 75 percent of South Asians and nearly half the world's population use open-fire stoves inside their homes.

"The smoke is asphyxiating," says Grant Miller, according to the June 11, 2012 news release, "In countries where cooking can kill, trying to promote safer stoves." Miller is an associate professor of medicine at Stanford University working on ways to get people to buy – and use – cleaner, safer stoves. "It burns your eyes and you can't stop coughing."

Governments and humanitarian organizations have urged people to trade their traditional stoves for safer models, many of which have chimneys that funnel smoke out of a home. But the switch from dangerous stoves has been slow to come, even though most people using them know they're harmful.

Miller and his colleagues are studying what's behind the reluctance and what can be done about it

They suspect much of the problem rests with the widespread approach to clean cookstove conversion, which focuses on educating people about the appliances' health hazards and offering new models at a low cost. Their most recent findings, "Low demand for nontraditional cookstove technologies," published online June 11, 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, boil down to this: Clean and modern cookstoves don't have features people want. And until they're redesigned, people are unlikely to bother with them.

"People don't think of cookstoves as health technologies," says Miller, an associate professor of medicine and a Stanford University Health Policy faculty member at the university's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Miller is the senior author of the PNAS paper, which published online June 11.

People want to save time and have better fuel efficiency when it comes to cooking

"They don't think respiratory illness is the biggest health problem that they have," he explains in the news release. "And when you ask them what they want from a stove, they talk about saving time and having better fuel efficiency. They're not talking about smoke emissions."

In the first of two studies, Miller – joined by Yale researchers and Lynn Hildemann, a Stanford University engineering professor affiliated with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment – surveyed about 2,500 women who cook for their families in rural Bangladesh.

Nearly all of the women use traditional stoves, and 94 percent of them said they know the smoke from their stoves can make them sick. But 76 percent said the smoke is less harmful than polluted water, and 66 percent said it wasn't as dangerous as rotten food.

"People know their cookstoves are bad, but they don't think cookstoves are the most important problem they face," Miller says, according to the news release. "They'd rather spend their money fixing those things and getting their kids into a good school than buying a new cookstove."

When asked what features are most important in a stove, the women talked about things that could save fuel costs, cooking time and the hassle that goes into collecting fuel

"A very small percent said reducing pollution was important," Miller says, according to the news release. The researchers then tried to assess more directly how Bangladeshis value new stoves. They offered 2,200 customers across 42 rural villages the opportunity to buy one of two models – one boasted improved fuel efficiency; the other had a chimney to reduce exposure to indoor smoke.

At the market prices of $5.80 for an efficient stove and $10.90 for the chimney stove, less than a third of customers ordered either model. And when the stoves were delivered a few weeks after the orders were taken, a very small number of families actually went through with the purchase of either model. Large randomized discounts increased customer interest in fuel-efficient stoves, but did little to raise purchase rates of chimney stoves.

"A big implication is that the health education and social marketing approaches aren't going to work," Miller explains, according to the news release. "You need to get inside the heads of the users and figure out what they really want and value – even if unrelated to smoke and health – and then give it to them."

The lead author of the PNAS paper was Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, an economist at Yale. It was co-authored by Yale researchers Puneet Dwivedi and Robert Bailis. Their work was supported by the Freeman Spogli Institute's Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment, and the International Growth Centre.

Another recent study shows pollution levels in some kitchens are higher than city-center hotspots

Researchers from the University of Sheffield's Faculty of Engineering measured air quality inside and outside three residential buildings with different types of energy use (gas vs. electric cookers). They found that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in the kitchen of the city-centre flat with a gas cooker were three times higher than the concentrations measured outside the property and well above those recommended in UK Indoor Air Quality Guidance. These findings, "Experimental Investigation of Indoor Air Pollutants in Residential Buildings," are published online in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Indoor and Built Environment.

"We spend 90 per cent of our time indoors and work hard to make our homes warm, secure and comfortable, but we rarely think about the pollution we might be breathing in," says Professor Vida Sharifi, according to the June 14, 2012 news release, "Study shows pollution levels in some kitchens are higher than city-center hotspots." Sharifi led the research. "Energy is just one source of indoor pollution, but it is a significant one. And as we make our homes more airtight to reduce heating costs, we are likely to be exposed to higher levels of indoor pollution, with potential impacts on our health."

The study, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC INTRAWISE Consortium), compared a rural house with two flats, one in Sheffield city centre and the other in an urban location next to a busy road. The rural house had an electric cooker while both flats used gas appliances. Samples were taken outside and inside the properties, from each kitchen, over a four-week period.

The researchers, Professor Sharifi, Professor Jim Swithenbank and Dr Karen Finney, focused on pollutants known to have a detrimental health impact, particularly on the elderly and people with respiratory or cardiovascular problems: carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and solid particles small enough to penetrate into the lungs (2.5 microns in size or smaller, known as PM2.5).

Cooking in urban European countries is about particle concentrations, but in rural tropical countries where the sun shines most days of the year, it's about finding and affording fuel with which to cook food or boil water

The average particle concentrations measured by the research team in the kitchens of both flats with gas cookers were higher than the levels set by the government as its objective for outdoor air quality in both London and England. There are currently no set guidelines for safe levels of particles in the home.

Professor Sharifi says, according to the news release, "Concerns about air quality tend to focus on what we breathe in outdoors, but as we spend most of our time indoors, we need to understand more about air pollution in our homes. There is very little data on emission rates from different appliances or acceptable standards on indoor pollutants. Although ours was just a small study, it highlights the need for more research to determine the impact of changing housing and lifestyles on our indoor air quality."

It's an entirely different situation where the sun shines most days in third world countries where fuel is not easily obtained. That's when solar stoves can come into use without constant smoke and particle concentrations from cooking polluting the air

Imagine what it's like to have no electricity or running water, anywhere in the world and need to cook your food. But there's no fuel, no wood, no dried animal dung to use as fuel, and not enough dry grasses. All you might have is the blazing sun. And for that you could use an affordable or free solar cooker. That way, you'd use the sun's rays to cook your food. One way to begin is to look into the viability of Solar Cookers International.

Have you checked out the website for your city's chapter of Slow Food USA ®? How can you get started using green health trends to help fight AIDS locally and nutritionally at little cost to you? You could begin by checking out the site and programs for Slow Food USA ®.

Solar Cookers International (SCI) featuring zero carbon cooking launched an online campaign, Nov. 24, 2009 with a video where people could make a donation that allowed SCI to provide one of the neediest families on earth with a Solar Cookit system and necessary training. Check out the video at the Solar Cookers International (SCI) website.

Two billion of the world’s poorest people cook on open fires

During the past few years, climatologists have discovered that the toxic “black carbon” smoke from these fires is one of the planet’s leading causes of global warming. It is also the most easily avoidable. Solar cooking is a simple, safe way to cook food without needing to acquire and burn fossil fuels. You may wish to check out, "Fighting AIDS by Farming," by James McWilliams, The Atlantic.

Think sustainability if you live in an area where the sun shines long enough for your food to cook. Sustainability and nutrition solve some of the AIDS/HIV problems locally and around the world. You may wish to check out websites such as "In Africa, Fighting Aids by Farming," "Slow Food USA ®," and "US Ark of Taste."

Here's how sustainability works

Farming can solve many problems related to AIDS/HIV. For one example, see the article, "In Africa, Fighting Aids by Farming." Babies born to HIV-infected mothers can be HIV-negative with the proper treatments. But for the treatments to work correctly, nutrition has to be adequate.

Locally in your neighborhood, you can fight HIV/AIDS by local urban farming/produce gardening among city streets or in rural areas. Inexpensive-to-build solar cooking stoves complement local produce farming by using the sun instead of earth-based fuel to cook food. For more information, See Solar Cookers International.

World hunger and nutrition is connected to the HIV and AIDS epidemic that has reached almost every corner of the world. Only three years ago surveys found that AIDS was responsible for 2 million deaths, including 270,000 children.

AIDS and HIV connects to the topic of nutrition in places such as South Africa where hunger is persistant. Distribution of food is not what it should be. Conditions are poor and the infection rate is 12%, but some experts find cause for optimism. See the Dec. 1, 2009 Atlantic Wire article, "Optimism Despite Grave Challenges on World AIDS Day," by Max Fisher. In the USA, hunger also creeps into school lunch programs for the needy.

Solar cookers are one 'green' way of using prevention to increase sustainability

And prevention begins with clean water, healthy food,and sustainable urban farming. What helps prevent AIDS is often the overlooked need of solar cooking stoves and rooftop or other urban farming methods, clean water, and medical care.

The problem starts with hunger. Up the road are the blood transfusions contaminated with viruses, the children born with AIDS from infected parents, the dirty needles, and other societal causes of AIDS. At the root of the tree of infection lies hunger.

The world needs a sustainable plan, not bypassing local governments for temporary treatment that lasts a short time. Prevention comes first, and the first step to prevention points to solving the hunger problems, the clean water issues, and solar cooking stoves.

All these methods that begin with nutrition also begin with local ownership. If local governments around the world and in the USA won't help, then who will be responsible and step up to deliver services? Who's monitoring and evaluating programs?

Nutritionists say you fight AIDS and other diseases by local farming

See the Atlantic Magazine article, "James McWilliams looks to Rwanda." Local farming and urban farming on a family by family basis gets results. Back here in the USA we have organizations such as Slow Food USA ® or the Slow Foods International movement in other countries. If we look overseas, scientists report that most HIV patients around the world, and in the USA don't have access to enough nutritious food.

No one tells patients that the HIV and AIDS treatment medicines won't work unless the patients eat a healthy diet. The biggest problems to be solved with AIDS and HIV treatments is how to help malnourished people. Who's telling patients that the drugs aren't working because they and their children are not eating a good diet? Do the patients know what they should be eating, what's a healthy diet in their part of the world, according to their own cultures?

And who's watching the watchers, monitoring and evaluating the programs, and reporting results? So to solve this problem, you start with urban and local farming for better food. In the USA, you start with local urban areas turned into urban gardens that apartment dwellers can turn to for growing vegetables and fruits, especially putting greenhouses on urban lots so vegetables can be grown all year round.

If you travel from third world countries to urban inner cities in the USA, a lot of people have no access to fresh fruits. Some have never seen the healthiest vegetables or learned to like the taste. Is it because babies are being fed teeth-rotting sugar water to keep them from crying when hungry or malnourished?

HIV and AIDS patients around the world are suffering from a nutrition gap. How many teenagers after high school are going around the world before starting college being activists by starting local farming collectives for HIV-positive patients? You can go to Rwanda or work in your own neighborhoods.

Are there empty lots, house of worship or school lawns, or other unused patches of dirt in your neighborhood?

Or you can go to your own inner city and start local farming collectives on empty lots, if you get permission from the empty lot owners. If you approach apartment complexes, ask the landlords whether you can start an urban farming garden in the backyard of an apartment complex.

You don't have to travel far. Some gardens can be on the grounds of the apartment complex. Others have roof gardens, if the roofs can bear the weight of soil and vegetable farming.

The big problem to solve regarding sustainability and health trends is to bridge the nutrition gap using local means

You can start or join a Slow Food project or a local farming collective today to serve HIV-positive people in any urban area of any town in the USA or abroad. It's all about nutrition through agriculture. It's an initiative you can take to go greener.

In other countries, people with HIV/AIDS are marginalized. They're discarded and thought of as not being able to grow their own food to have a healthier diet. But projects that exist, for example, in Rwanda, Africa, have shown that people are growing their own food, getting treatment for their HIV and AIDS conditions, and even making money selling surplus vegetables and fruit. They've learned that the HIV and AIDs medicines won't work well enough to help them if their diets are not nutritious.

A report released in October 2009 by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNAIDS found that 42 percent of people in the developing world who carry HIV now have access to life-extending medications. So who do you turn to? You could start with nonprofit groups such as Slow Food USA ®. Or you might research the Clinton Foundation and the Gates Foundation.

Maybe you'd like to research the big pharmaceutical companies for the cheap distribution of AIDS drugs in poorer nations. They do reduce prices for the poor in various countries that need drugs for treatment of AIDS and HIV.

You could read magazine articles on how much money has been promised but not yet delivered for global AIDS? Who has enough money now to create a Global Health Initiative centered around women or kids, people with disabilities, individuals and families in need of food, or anyone?

If no one steps up to the plate with money, the cost-efficient solution to the AIDS/HIV problem might start more cheaply, with everyone touting urban farming, helping those in their neighborhoods, locally as well as overseas showing women how to do local urban farming--gardening, not by growing roses, but by growing produce for food.

The first farmers ten thousand years ago, probably were women who already were gathering roots and fruits, beans and greens in the wild, and while at home caring for the children, began to notice seeds sprouting as they sat on the ground.

Even the first pregnancy test among ancient peoples focused on urinating on wheat and barley seeds. If they sprouted, the woman was supposedly pregnant, based on then unknown hormones in human and animal urine that causes seeds to sprout sooner than with water alone.

So if women were probably the first gatherers and farmers, and if nowadays women are dying from AIDS at greater numbers than men, one solution is to get women back to local farming, whether in the ten-foot-square backyard of an apartment complex in an inner city anywhere in the world, or in agricultural areas.

Health also is a nutrition-related issue that can be helped by local agriculture

Who wants to start or work with an exiting Global Health Initiative centered around women? Health also means taking one more step in the fight against AIDS/HIV that is linked to issues of not having adequate nutrition for treatments to work properly.

One solution is to provide renewable resources in any way you choose. In a world of scarcity, violence goes down when there's no more fighting over fuel, food, or access to healthcare. That applies to local neighborhoods in urban areas, rural enclaves, and well as villages in far-away locations. Maybe it's time to help fight AIDS/HIV with Slow Food USA® projects or an attitude of caring and taking an interest in the numerous links to projects focusing on green health and sustainability regarding nutrition and prevention of hunger locally and around the globe.

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