Saying It With Flowers

Last summer U.S., Russian and Ukrainian defense ministers planted sunflowers on the site of a former Soviet missile silo, celebrating the Ukraine's nuclear-free status. Little did they know that the sunflowers were also decontaminating the soil, removing heavy metals and toxins accumulating in the area.At a recent American Institute of Chemical Engineers meeting, scientists began discussing the results of using sunflowers as a cost-effective alternative to detoxifying water and soil near nuclear facilities. Scientists discovered that sunflowers floating atop water on Styrofoam rafts successfully removed toxic elements, including uranium, cesium, and strontium, from highly-contaminated waters. Using rhizofiltration (allowing plant roots to absorb the metals), engineers from Phytotech, a New Jersey-based biotechnology company, and Rutgers University concluded that sunflowers were the best candidates for toxic clean-ups.Results from field tests at a former Department of Energy uranium-processing plant in Ashtabula, Ohio and the Chernobyl nuclear accident site showed that sunflowers submerged in contaminated water decreased uranium concentrations by 95 percent within the first 24 hours, making levels lower than EPA standards.Burt Ensley, president of Phytotech, estimates that the cost of removing toxic elements with sunflowers would average $2 to $6 per thousand gallons treated including disposal costs, instead of $20 to $80 per 1,000 gallons for conventional chemical treatments.Known as phytoremediation, the process concentrates toxic metals in the roots, stalks and leaves of plants which can be easily harvested and destroyed--removing the immediate threat to the environment. "Phytoremediation offers us a way to reclaim many of our urban sites lost to toxic contamination," says Dr. Michael Blaylock of Phytotech.This spring, Indian mustard will be used to clean up a former battery recycling plant in New Jersey. If the results are encouraging, Phytotech believes plants will have a bright future as pollution fighters.CONTACT: Phytotech, One Deer Park Drive, Suite 1, Monmouth Junction, NJ 08852/(908)438-0900.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
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