Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Prezi on Community Mapping

Here is a link to a prezi that we gave on Community Mapping.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


A UN special envoy visited the United States in February 2011. Catarina de Albequerque made several recommendations about access to water and sanitation as a human right. The UN report has many striking paragraphs and sections; typical phrases and descriptions for the developing world, not so typical for our California home.

As usual, the human right to water was the most popular theme. It went to Sacramento and in  2012 was passed as Assembly Bill 685 guaranteeing the human right to water. That was a successful bill,inspired by Dr. Albequerque's visit and a political movement of water access folks.

Despite all the energy around drinking water, there wasn't much ground gained for the  human right to sanitation. There are still many California residents who do NOT have access to functioning sanitation. The UN report recommends placing the human rights to water and sanitation equally at the center of policy formulation.

As topics go, water is always more popular than sanitation. The UNMD goal for water is met for most nations while many have not met the sanitation goal. I saw this popularity first hand in the Haiti disaster response where most first responding NGOs focused on water while leaving millions without any place to deposit their feces. Clean water advocates need to keep this trend in mind. Drinking water is important, but drinking water is also contaminated by feces. Sanitation should be addressed before water disinfection.

My reason for writing this note is to focus on one important quote from the UN report:
"In the United States, it is often the poorest and the most marginalized groups that lack access to sanitation. Without proper sanitation, human excreta contaminate drinking water sources, with severe public health implications." 
This is true for the Eastern Coachella Valley, some parts of the Western Coachella Valley and other areas with wastewater infrastructure built to accommodate temporary homes and not the multi-family living quarters that use the infrastructure.

This is also true for the homeless of urban California. Tim in Sacramento calls himself the "Sanitation Technician". He maintains rudimentary latrines for homeless people and says that he is motivated by the women.  He hauls the sewage himself with his bicycle. I expect a similar situation is here in Loma Linda and San Bernardino. We have a homeless population close to what exists in Sacramento.  I wonder if anyone is doing what Tim does.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Balloon Mapping workshop on Loma Linda Campus

We had  five people participate in the first balloon mapping workshop on Loma Linda Campus. Many people asked "what are you doing?". Nobody seemed to threatened by the process. One major strength that Balloon Mapping has over Aerial Mapping with a quadcopter/RC plane is that balloon mapping is participatory. Everyone has a role in these community mapping workshops. There is a line to hold, a route to scout, photos to take or the public relations required for the many questions.  Aerial mapping with an RC powered device is less participatory as much of the technology is considered to be "hands off".

The camera was set for shooting a photo every two seconds for a good 30 minutes.  We used a canon 260sx with the KAPUAV lua loaded in the CHDK software. I then used Microsoft ICE to throw a few pictures together.  Here is a stitched photo of the LLU Globe (click the photo to zoom in).  More will come later.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Balloon Aerial Mapping BRIEF WORKSHOP

From http://publiclab.org/wiki/kite-balloon-hybrid

A NEW Community Mapping Approach : Balloon Mapping
DATE/TIME: 10/29/14 - 0800 
LOCATION:  Evans Hall turnout in Loma Linda University off of Anderson
24785, Stewart St. Loma Linda, CA 92354
Meet by the Loma Linda University sign in the grass. My grey truck will be nearby.

Balloon (and Kite) photography is a participatory technique used to acquire aerial photographs and qualitative data from participants. It is a fun outdoor activity that takes a little planning and produces a lot of images. It has been used to document contamination from the BP oil spill, neighborhood environmental health issues, urban development issues and many other topics.  The unique thing about balloon mapping is that it requires a team approach and is therefore a qualitative method. Researchers can acquire lots of relevant information from the planning and organizing phase; these facilitate conversations, explanations and justifications for why you would want to photograph sometime from the sky. The most important component of this method is that it is participatory and it generates many different types of data that can be used to advocate for communities.

This first workshop is setup to simply introduce the idea and test fly a balloon with a camera attached. We will meet at Loma Linda University and then travel to a nearby mapping location that doesn't have a lot of obstacles for the tethered balloon.  Come along if you want to collaborate with us on using this method. We will fly some custom designed Mylar balloons and introduce everyone to the general technique. It's really easy!  Later workshops will take the data and generate maps, fly a drone for aerial photography and explore some other techniques.

8am: Meet on the grass and organize transportation to the mapping site (My truck has 6 seatbelts)
8:15am: Travel to the site and prep the equipment and talk to everybody.
8:30am: Fly the ballon
9am: return to LLU

Contact me with any questions:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Balloon mapping in Peru

We wanted to use a balloon to do aerial mapping rather than a drone. Before the Peru trip we assumed that a tethered weather balloon would be more sustainable than using a drone for aerial mapping which can include a downward facing camera gimble.

Mario Melgar students at Laguna Chacas with an aerial mapping weather balloon.

PRE-TRIP hypotheses:
My hypotheses of why a balloon would be preferable to using a quadcopter equipped with a downward facing camera:
  • Inexpensive: helium is the largest expense at about $40 for one balloon.
  • Less accident prone and less costly if an accident happens. 
    • If I crash my quad-copter, the cost could be a few hundred dollars. A balloon won't crash and if something happens, the string will break and you have to go hunt for it.  
  • Faster planning. You just need a balloon, camera and helium.
  • The outsider excitement and alarmist perspective may vary:
    • A community response to what we know as a "DRONE" has some fear associated with it. 
    • This perception changes for a group of people walking around with a balloon on a really long string.  
  • It's a participatory approach that any group can successfully complete in an afternoon or early wind free morning. 
  • It integrates well with other participatory approaches.
Two LLU MPH students walking with a windblown aerial mapping balloon. 
POST-TRIP Perspectives:
Our trip to the rural Laguna Chacas allowed us to work with local high school students and local college students with a participatory approach where we used qualitative methods such as problem trees, free listing, community mapping, biodiversity monitoring.  The community balloon mapping integrated well with the community mapping and transect walks.

Here are some shots of the Laguna Chacas mapping process:
All of us trying out the weather balloon

A possible cause for eutrophication of Laguna Chacas. This may contribute more nutrients then the fish farms. 
Some community mapping at the high school before the balloon mapping.

I'll update this topic as we develop some more trips and the actual map pictures. Currently I have a weather balloon outing planned for some community mapping around S. Cal.

I didn't get a chance to go to the MP this year, but there was a nice billboard at the Airport...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Still room for more: Sanitation-Access Research.

In the last few years there has been an upswing of infection control research within the context of US healthcare. The APIC and other groups are starting to accumulate an enviable amount of fun environmental microbiology field based studies. Scientists are evaluating contamination and health risk of curtains, hands, linens, gowns, tap water and anything else that you can find in a US hospital. My favorite are the copper hand washing sinks.  Those are deluxe!

The biggest source of global fecal contamination still appears to be largely unstudied. A recent editorial in Lancet Global Health discusses this. Stephen Luby states that we still do not have enough data to generate sufficient evidence about the relationship between sanitation and health. He says that this is true because of the wide variety of pathogens, climate, environments, cultures and individual behaviors.  The Luby PDF is here.  More research is certainly complicated but also necessary. I find this promising.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A green grocery bag ban?

Here is a report that summarizes the reusable grocery bag ban trend that is hitting the US for the past 4 years. The article is written by the reason foundation, a libertarian institute in California. The article summarizes many points developed by a lifecycle assessment on plastic bags, a report developed by the UK's environment agency.

That lifecycle assessment has many scientifically valid studies that the average grocery shopper never encounters. The Reason Foundation's report summarizes many of the findings.  

Here is a useful table that details most of the bags available for users.  If I had to choose, I would use the cotton bags simply because they are washable, bleach-able and easy to disinfect.  All the others don't hold up well in the Washing machine. There is fabric technology that integrates disinfectants for infection control scenarios. That would also be an interesting choice.