EDITION: December 2020 - February 2021

Ibiza Optimista - We are good news!

Jet-Pack for rescue missions

A new jet-pack flying suit, that looks like something from the movie ‘Iron Man’, is perfect for emergency wilderness search operations. In a recent test in England, the jet-pack’s inventor Richard Browning completed in a few minutes a rescue search that would normally have taken several hours on foot.

Flying at a height of between three and six metres he zoomed over the hills and scaled England’s third-highest mountain in just eight minutes. The suit has a top speed in excess of 130kph, and is technically capable of reaching high altitude, but for safety purposes it is flown much lower. It is propelled by three micro jet engines, with one on each arm and one on the back. Browning says: “All the manoeuvrability comes from your own balance and coordination. If you point the jets down you go up, and if you flare them out you go down. It is very safe as you only fly at a height where if you fell you would be able to recover.” Browning founded the aeronautical company Gravity Industries in 2017 to pioneer a “new era in human flight”. He has done over 100 test flights in 30 different countries, and emergency response missions are just one of the areas that his company is actively pursuing. “We are just scratching the surface in terms of what is possible to achieve with this technology.” 

Air bubble traps plastic waste

A simple yet highly effective solution for trapping plastic pollution has been unveiled in Amsterdam, and it is powered by… bubbles! The Great Bubble Barrier has the potential to divert more than 80% of waste in the city’s canals before it reaches the North Sea. In addition, it does all of this without affecting marine life or recreational activities on the water. Here is how it works: A long perforated pipe runs diagonally for 60 metres across the bottom of the canal. Compressed air is pumped through the tube creating a wall of bubbles that catches the debris. The natural water current helps to push the waste to one side and it is then trapped in a rubbish platform on the side of the canal.

One of the inventors of this technology is Philip Ehrhorn, who is a German naval architect and oceanic engineer. He got the inspiration for the Bubble Barrier from studying the way a water treatment plant works. “If you can guide plastic to one side, then you can do it in a more directed way in a river.” His challenge was to make the barrier strong enough to catch almost all plastic while still not interfering with the canal or the marine life. Now the system is operational and it runs 24 hours a day in Amsterdam.

Women world leaders promote well-being

A refreshing stance on world politics and leadership is coming from a new wave of powerful women. Among them is the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir, who is standing up for the planet and also urging governments to prioritize the happiness and well-being of their country’s citizens over money and the economy. She says that the forefront of government policy should be social justice, economic security and protecting the environment. These should be the top priorities for all nations of the Earth, and not simply a list of goals as to how they can support their economies.

Katrin’s policies are in unison with two other progressive women leaders: Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Ms Sturgeon made headlines during a TED Talk when she called for modern economies to make mental health, childcare, parental leave and green energy part of their priorities. All of these female leaders are calling for an agenda that is more focused on the well-being of their citizens, and a system of economic growth that is inclusive. These three extraordinary women are part of a movement to change the traditional (male) way that world leaders think, and they are a breath of fresh air in these turbulent times. 

Gifts and Good Times for the Holidays on Ibiza

Here on Ibiza the celebrations of Christmas and the Three Kings are a time for giving gifts, and the shops on Ibiza have just about everything one could imagine to show our appreciation for the wonderful people in our lives. Children are of course the first ones on Santa’s list, and from toddlers to teenagers they will be expecting something special. For the youngest there are wonderful toys, dolls and games of all sorts to delight them. Some of the older children might want sports equipment like a new tennis racket, a football or even a bicycle, while others are yearning for techno gifts: smartphone, X-Box, etc..

For the adults on your gift list the choices are endless. Those who are into fine food might love a good bottle of wine, champagne, exotic chocolates, special teas, designer olive oil from Ibiza or a lovely basket of mixed gourmet delights. More personal gifts range from luxurious body oils & creams to scented candles, silken scarves, a beautiful bouquet of flowers or just about anything you can imagine. If you are having trouble deciding then a gift certificate to a store, or for a spa day is always a good idea.

The holiday season is of course a wonderful time for celebrations with friends and family at the many restaurants on Ibiza that stay open to serve you from Christmas right through the Three Kings on 6 January. Whether you are planning a family gathering, a company’s year-end celebration, a night out for New Year’s Eve, or a romantic dinner for two, the restaurants of Ibiza offer numerous choices of cuisine and ambiance for all tastes and all price ranges. You will be warmly welcomed with delicious food in Ibiza Town, Santa Eulalia, San Miguel, Santa Gertrudis, San Antonio, San Jose, and all points in between. So if you are looking for a memorable holiday dining experience, you need look no further than the excellent array of restaurants that we have right here on our beautiful island.

Massive new public lands in US

A new law in the US will designate over 500,000 hectares as nationally protected wilderness. Another provision of the law will ban mining practices on an additional 150,000 hectares of land that surrounds two existing national parks, and will increase the protected areas of six other national parks. This greatly expands an existing program known as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Since its creation over 50 years ago, this program has supported more than 42,000 state and local projects throughout the US. The LWCF is also important for the nation’s booming outdoor recreational economy, which generates over €850 billion annually and supports 7.6 million American jobs.

According to Jamie Williams, President of the Wilderness Society: “This marks an overdue but critical victory for America’s most important conservation funding program, and for protecting our wild lands. It helps to conserve our land and water for today and for future generations. It’s encouraging to see the new liberal Democratic majority in Congress immediately passing this legislation that had previously been blocked for years by the conservative Republican party.”

Donation to study compassion

Banking billionaire Denny Sanford (US) has donated €100 million to the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) for the scientific study of empathy and compassion. This gift was inspired by a private meeting that Sanford had with the Dalai Lama. “I have great respect for the work and teachings of the Dalai Lama, whose interest in the intersection of science and faith is deep and profound,” Sanford said in a statement. “I have had the opportunity to see how grace, humanity and kindness can change people and the world. This gift extends that vision.” Mr Sanford’s net worth is over €2.5 billion, and he aims to give it all away before his death.

The research funded by this donation will focus on how to cultivate empathy and compassion in medical professionals. Professor William Mobley, associate dean of neuroscience at UCSD, summed it up this way: “People talk about compassion, but almost no one has ever studied how it exists in the brain. We want to find the scientific data that validates the immense power of compassion. Once we identify and understand its biological underpinnings, we can use that knowledge to teach empathy to new doctors, and most importantly, to improve healthcare for everyone.

Water consumption falls on Ibiza

A silver lining of the Covid-19 crisis has been a great improvement in Ibiza’s perennial problems of water shortage. Measurements at the end of the summer showed that water consumption had fallen greatly compared to recent years, and this was obviously because of the great reduction in tourism.

Ibiza has two sources of fresh water: aquifers (underground lakes) and water produced through desalination plants. The aquifers are supplied by rainwater, and the level of these water reserves is measured every two months. The low points are at the end of each summer when there has been little precipitation, and consumption is at its peak due to tourism. Ibiza has historically recovered from its long dry seasons during the wetter, less busy autumn and winter. However, the increase in tourism consumption over the past 15 years has depleted the aquifers to such an extent that the natural rainfall is not enough to refill them.

To help remedy this there are three desalination treatment plants that supply fresh water to the island. This takes the pressure off of the aquifers, but their levels still go dangerously low at the end of each summer... but not this year. The director of Water Resources of the Balearic Government attributes the much lower consumption to the decrease in tourism this summer due to the epidemic. Normally there is a “drought alert” for low aquifer levels starting in May, but this year that has not happened. This should allow our aquifers to be fully restored this winter.

New tests for Covid-19

One of the ways that we can get more control over the spread of Covid-19 is to have simple tests that give rapid results. The most common test is the PCR, but it is very intrusive and takes days to get a result. Many new tests are being developed and Yale University (US) created SalivaDirect which is simpler, faster, cheaper, and less invasive than the PCR. To take the test you merely spit a small amount of saliva into a cup, and you can get the results within 24 hours. It has been used by sports teams and schools in the US since September 2020.

Ben-Gurion University in Israel has developed a test that uses the breath to detect Covid-19 in less than one minute. This hand-held device captures tiny particles from the breath on a chip which is then read on a spectroscope. Within a minute you can tell if someone is carrying the virus. It is designed to be installed at ports and other busy places with each device able to process breath from over 4,000 people every day.

Another new test called BinaxNOW can give results in 15 minutes without the need for a lab. It is inexpensive and uses similar technology as a pregnancy test. The patient gets a nasal swab which is inserted into the Binax card, and a coloured line appears if they are positive for Covid-19. The test is made by the Abbot health care company, and they say that it correctly diagnoses an infection 97% of the time.