Water Beetle Gets the Bugs Out, Is Your Eco-magazine ‘Tree-Free’?, How to Help the World’s Best Doctors Save the Lives of Millions
July 26, 2002

Water Beetle Gets the Bugs Out: A schematic of how the solar-powered Water Beetle works
Water Beetle Gets the Bugs Out
JAPAN — The world’s water supplies are not only drying up, many of them are also becoming more stagnant and polluted. The standard solution for treating putrid ponds and rank rivers has been to install submerged pipes, pumps and blowers to aerate and cleanse the water. In addition to requiring the installation of sub-surface pipes, the compressors used to power these systems can consume 7.5kW of power. The cost and complexity of this kind of treatment has limited its use.

In 1998, the Centre for Analysis and Dissemination of Demonstrated Energy Technology [CADDET,] announced that its Japanese National Team had devised a new, low-cost water filtration system that actually out-performed the old technology.

The new filtration system is the Water Beetle — a floating, solar-powered cushion that skims across pond water (yes, much like a water insect). The Water Beetle uses a screw propeller to coax stagnant water to the surface where it is sterilized by exposure to the ultraviolet light. As the Water Beetle circles its mooring bouy, the motion produces convection currents that introduce warmer water and oxygen that “activate aerobic microbes that decompose the substances causing pollution.”

The solar-powered Water Beetle uses only one-sixth the power, costs 50 percent less and performs with greater efficiency than a conventional treatment system. Water Beetles have been used to clean the waters behind the Mishiyama dam and the Tomakomai River.

Earth Island Journal began the tree-free revolution in 1994.
The Paper Project Asks: Is Your Eco-magazine ‘Tree-Free’?
USA — The US magazine industry chews its way through 35 million trees a year. In 1994, Earth Island Journal announced its Green Pages Campaign to encourage publishers of environmental magazines to use high-recycled content and tree-free paper.

In order to bring down the cost of using environmentally preferable papers, the Journal proposed the creation of paper-buying coops. It took eight years, but the concept has now become a reality thanks to the work of the Independent Press Association [], Conservatree [] and Co-op America [].

In April, Utne Reader [] became the latest magazine to take the “green pages” pledge by announcing it would begin printed on “domestically produced, environmentally sustainable paper.” Utne Reader is working with The Magazine PAPER Project to obtain 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper from New Leaf Paper [].

Concerned that only five percent of all magazines are printed on recycled stock, Nina Utne has written to other alternative press publishers, inviting them to join the PAPER Project [, (415) 643-4401)]. Nina estimates that “if all the magazines that receive this letter switch to recycled paper, we will save over 2 million trees this year!”

How to Help the World’s Best Doctors Save the Lives of Millions
GENEVA — The World Health Organization estimates that 14 million people die every year from treatable infections. The majority of these deaths occur in impoverished regions of Africa and Asia. A third of the people in Asia lack access to proven and affordable drug treatment. In Africa, half the continent faces a future of disease without access to drugs.

Drugs that could save these lives are becoming less available as large pharmaceutical companies in the rich North have abandoned research and production of drugs to treat tropical diseases in favor of more profitable drugs designed to treat non-life-threatening preoccupations of the world’s rich — obesity, diabetes, baldness, and impotence.

Médicins San Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), the 30-year-old Nobel Prize winning medical aid organization. has been providing free medical care to the poor in more than 85 countries. But their work is being compromised by the lack of access to medicines.

In the last quarter century, less than one percent of new medicines were developed to treat the five major killers of the world’s poorest people — malaria, sleeping sickness, tuberculosis, kala azar and HIV/AIDS.

“It is market forces, not patient needs, that drive the research and development of new medicines,” MSF laments, and “the world’s poor are simply not a profitable market.”

Commercial patents can put life-saving drugs out of the hands of the poor. A capsule of patented fluconazole used for the treatment of AIDS-related meningitis costs $10.50 in Kenya. In Thailand, where the drug is not protected by patent, a generic alternative sells for less than 30 cents.

Before the discovery of eflornithine, sleeping sickness was treated with melarsoprol, an arsenic compound that was so toxic it killed one in 20 patients. Eflornithine, a drug used to treat sleeping sickness, was taken out of production in 1995 because it wasn’t “profitable” enough. It was only returned to production when its manufacturer discovered the drug was effective in removing women’s facial hair.

Malaria kills as many as 2 million a year — one child every 30 seconds. The traditional treatment, chloroquine, is now effective in only 20 percent of the cases and no research is being done to find a replacement cure.

In order to remedy this situation MSF is touring the US and Europe to promote its Access to Essential Medicines Campaign. As MSF points out, the majority of R&D for new drugs “occurs in the public research institutions, universities, and pharmaceutical companies of the US. Yet these enormous resources are not being harnessed to find treatments for neglected diseases.

“The failure to address the medical needs of millions of the world’s poor requires immediate attention and concerted action. The US government should demonstrate global leadership by adopting policies and devoting financial and human resources to develop new medicines for neglected diseases.”

What You Can Do: Write Washington and contact your representatives. Demand that the US place “patient rights over patent rights” and increase federal funding to finding cures for the diseases that are killing millions of the world’s poorest people.

For more information, contact MSF: Rue du Lac 12, CAP 6090-CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland (in the US: 6 East 39th St., New York, NY 10016, (212) 679-6900, For information on the campaign, contact

For more information contact:
Contact the websites and resources in the above article.

Home | Background | News | Links | Donate | Contact Us |

(510) THE-EDGE (843-3343)
E-mail us at