J500 Media and the Environment

Pigs of an African Past by alyv

Nabombe Silangwa doesn’t understand why Americans use the term “pigsty” to describe a dirty room. She doesn’t get the phrase “to eat like a pig” either.

“Where I come from, pigs are the cleanest animals we have on a farm,” she says.

cute-pig1For Nabombe, pigs were the pride and joy of her family’s small farm in Zambia.

She describes pigs as “neat freaks,” as obsessive compulsive. She says they won’t eat food if it’s touched anything but their snouts, and that their living quarters are divided – one corner for food, another for waste.

How far the “civilized world” has digressed.

According to an article by Jeff Tietz for Rolling Stone, pigs on American factory-farms have slightly different living conditions:
• Pigs can’t move.
• Pigs can’t breathe.
• Pigs can’t wash.
• They stand in their own feces – that is until it drops through a 1-foot hole along with anything else that might fit (placenta, piglets, syringes).
• They die of infections from the small quarters and their diminishing immune systems.
• Their stench assaults the nostrils of residents several miles away.
• Their feces creates pink pools of toxins, which bring death to any who dare come near.

Rather than a cherished member of the family, as they were on Nabombe’s African farm, pigs held in factory farms are a threat to the lives of any organism in the vicinity, including humans.

Neighbors of one factory hog farm – a Smithfield Foods farm in North Carolina – say they can’t leave their homes some days because the odor is too overpowering. Many residents continue to collapse from the stench, and few homes can mask the smell.

Pigs in America are an emblem for the dirty, the foul, the uncivilized, the wretched. And why should they be any different? We made them that way; we gave them the reputation we so ardently abhor.

My friend Nabombe doesn’t understand America’s portrayal of the pig.

I wish I didn’t either.

Something about this seems too dramatic; I’ll let you be the judge. Personally, I would recommend putting this one on mute. The pictures do tell a compelling story.


Thanks to the University of Western Ontario for the picture.

Thanks to You Tube for the video.


I’m Tired of Being Pleasant by mackenzies09

Diarrhea is never a pleasant subject. For those of us with access to clean water supplies and basic medications, it’s usually nothing more than unpleasant. But for the more than 2 million children who will die of diarrhea and related diseases this year, it is much more than unpleasant.

I will never get over the fact that so many children die from something that is so easily preventable and treatable. I want to scream! Why is this happening? The two maps shown below represent the areas of the world with the poorest water sources and the most cases of childhood diarrhea. They look awful similar to me.

Poor Water

Poor Water

Childhood Diarrhea

Childhood Diarrhea

Diarrhea is most often caused by a lack of clean drinking water and poor personal and food hygiene. It can easily be treated with a re-hydration solution with sugar and salt additives. But families must have access to the solution and they must understand how to use it as it can take up to 24 hours of constant use to work.

Breastfeeding can be one of the easiest ways to prevent diarrhea in babies. Unfortunately, companies like Gerber and Nestle have been pushing expensive formula in underdeveloped nations for decades. Mothers often mix contaminated water into the formula making every meal a toxic one for their infants. The viral, bacterial and parasitic causes of diarrhea have now become a major ingredient of baby’s meal.

Systematic waste removal is another solution to the messy situation. Doctors studied the epidemiological effect of a public service project that increased household access to city-run sanitation in Salvador, Brazil. The goal of the project was to increase sewer coverage from 26 percent to 80 percent. After comparing the number of diarrhea incidents in 1997 to those in 2004, it was found that cases were reduced by 22 percent.

Warning: bad pun here: It’s time to sh*t or get off the pot. I do not want to make light of such a serious issue, but now is when we need to put pleasantries aside and do something. There are a lot of ways to get involved.

You can join the Nestle Boycott (they might make more products than you imagine), you can donate to Engineers in Action, or even join Engineers Without Borders-University of Kansas (KU students of all majors are welcome).


maps courtesy of worldmapper.org