Tag Archives: Belgium

750,000 Begonias Bloom to Form Belgium’s Famous Flower Carpet (Photo Gallery)

Grand Place is the central square in Belgium’s capital city of Brussels.

Every two years, the plaza in front of Grand Place is planted with nearly a million flowers, creating a massive natural carpet.

This year’s carpet, assembled by 100 volunteers on August 14, contains about 750,000 flowers. It measures more than 250 feet in length and nearly 78 feet in width.

A photo of the carpet from Twitter user @cerenkenar. Click to enlarge

The carpet is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the  migration of Turkish workers to Belgium in 1964. That year, Belgium and Turkey approved an agreement allowing Turks to emigrate to Belgium as “guest workers”.

Today, nearly a quarter of a million Turks live in Belgium, and their culture has had a major effect on Belgian culture over the past 50 years.

The designers of this year’s carpet decided to celebrate their culture by modeling the carpet after the patterns found on traditional Turkish rugs, known as Kilims.

However, the flowers themselves are begonias in a direct nod to Belgium, who has been cultivating and exporting these flowers since they were brought over from the West Indies in the 1860s.

A closer picture shows the stunning detail of the carpet. Click to enlarge

Carpets from previous years have celebrated other traditions, including African and Oriental cultures among others.

Check out some of the most amazing flower carpets from past years in the pictures below. Click an image to enlarge:

(h/t Smithsonian)

Advertisements

France Is Proposing A Law Forcing Supermarkets to Donate Their Unsold Food to Charity

I often hear people saying that there are not enough resources for everyone on the planet, arguing that poverty and inequality are a natural result of scarcity (the idea there’s not enough resources to go around).

But these people fail to consider one extremely important yet rarely-discussed issue:

Food wastage is a HUGE problem in the developed world.

Click to enlarge

The World Food Organization (WFO) is the international food assistance branch of the United Nations. It is the world’s largest humanitarian organization and works to address hunger around the world.

According to the WFO, around one third of all the food produced worldwide is “lost or wasted” while it’s still fit for human consumption.

A group of 63 French Members of Parliament saw this problem as an opportunity. In late July, they proposed a new law forcing large supermarkets (those with 1,000 square metres/10,800 sq ft or moreof floor space) to donate their, “unsold but still consumable food products” to charity.

Carrefour, France’s largest supermarket chain, will be among those affected if the proposal is approved

The proposal follows a number of moves in Europe to cut back on food waste. Earlier this year, the European Union proposed a scrapping of the “best if used by” labels on foods that have long shelf-lives, such as coffee, rice, dry pasta, hard cheeses, jams and pickles.

Then in May, Belgium passed a law similar to the one that France is now proposing.

Many French supermarkets are already donating their unsold food to charities, but the Parliament members felt that more could be done to combat food waste.

The average French supermarket wastes 200 tons of food every year. The EU estimates that across Europe, around 100 million tons of food are wasted yearly.

Click to enlarge

In the United States, the issue is even more pronounced. Though cross-country comparisons can be difficult, it’s pretty safe to say that on average, the United States wastes more food per person than does any other country in the world.

According to a new study released by the USDA in February, the U.S. wasted an estimated 133 billion pounds (66.5 million tons) of consumable food in 2010.

That food is worth around $161 billion (using retail prices), so food waste is definitely an economic problem. But when you look at the actual loss of calories, you really begin to get a picture of just how much we’re wasting.

Click to enlarge. (Source: BCFN, "Defeating the paradox of food waste", 2013)
Click to enlarge. (Source: BCFN, “Defeating the paradox of food waste”, 2013)

According to the USDA’s report, those 133 billion pounds of food contained around 141 trillion calories. That’s equal to 1,249 wasted calories per person every day.

An earlier study from the USDA found 14.5% of Americans live in households that struggle to put food on the table. More than one in five American children are at risk of living in hunger.

Think of how quickly we could end hunger in America if we could use some of those 1,249 calories we waste every day to help feed these people.

Another quick graphic on the impact of food waste. Click to enlarge

In France, most people are welcoming the proposal, with the only issue being how to pay for the extra refrigerated storage containers that the charities will need to store all the extra food.

To me however, this seems like a very small hang-up. The overall value to society will be hundreds of times greater than the costs of a few giant freezers.

Globally, it is estimated that a staggering 1.3 billion tons of consumable food are wasted every year. So please stop saying that there isn’t enough to go around.

Read the original story from The Telegraph here.

These “Hero Rats” Are Saving Countless Lives By Detecting Land-mines and Tuberculosis (Video)

As a boy, Bart Weetjens loved to play with his pet rats. One thing that always stuck in his memory was the rat’s strong sense of smell and the ease at which they could be trained.

Bart recalled these skills years later as a student at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, where he was working on an analysis of the global land-mine detection problem (ie. how to find all of the unexploded mines left over from countless wars around the world).

Bart felt that rats could provide a cheaper, more efficient and more locally available solution to the land-mine problem, so he began to do early research on this concept in 1997.

Bart Weetjen, founder of APOPO, with one of his HeroRATs. Click to enlarge (Photo: Getty Images)

Bart called his project APOPO, which stands for  Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling (English translation: Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development).

The organization moved to Mozambique in 2000, where they partnered with the Tanzanian People’s Defence Force to help mine-clearing operations in that  country.

A HeroRAT sniffs out a a land-mine. Click to enlarge (Image courtesy of APOPO)

By 2006, APOPO’s HeroRATS were also fully integrated into land-mine detection programs in Tanzania. In 2010, APOPO began operations in Thailand as well.

Check out below to learn more about the HeroRAT’s mine-detection skills:

The reason that these rats are so good at detecting land-mines is that they have an extremely acute sense of smell, which allows them to easily identify the scent of TNT (after being trained to recognize it).

Early on, Bart realized that the HeroRATS’ amazing sense of smell wasn’t being fully utilized. In 2003, he entered APOPO in the Development Marketplace Global Competition sponsored by the World Bank.

His idea: using the rats to help detect tuberculosis as well as land-mines. APOPO won the competition, and in doing so received the necessary funding for their research into training TB-detecting HeroRATS.

A HeroRAT checks samples for tuberculosis. Click to enlarge (Image courtesy of APOPO)

TB is one of the deadliest diseases in the world. About 9 million new cases are reported annually, and the disease kills nearly 2 million people each year.

The HeroRATS give health workers a huge advantage over humans when it comes to detection of the disease.

A human lab tech can only process about 40 samples in a day; the HeroRATS can do that same amount of work in only seven minutes, and they often find TB-positive samples that the human technicians missed.

Check out the video below to learn more about he HeroRATS’ work in tuberculosis detection:

To learn more about the APOPO organization’s land-mine and tuberculosis detection programs, you can visit their website here.

Why Were These Cars Abandoned In the Forests of Belgium for 70 Years? (Photo Gallery)

In the forests near Chatillon, a small village in southern Belgium, lie between 100-150 dilapidated and decaying cars.

During World War II, a number of American troops were stationed in Chatillon. Urban legends claim that when the war ended, the troops being sent home didn’t have the money to ship their vehicles back with them, so they hid them in the Belgian forest.

This story is likely just a myth, though. Locals claim that the car graveyard was simply an old car dump from after the war. Whatever the real story is, the vehicles have been slowly reclaimed by nature over the past 70 years. Check out some images of the car cemetery below:

There were once four car graveyards in the Chatillon area, with as many as 500 vehicles. Unfortunately, many of the vehicles were stolen or stripped by locals, and environmental issues eventually led to the closing of the other three car cemeteries in 2010.

(h/t Amusing Planet and Bored Panda)