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Vanuatu. The archipelago of happiness, thanks to a sustainable style of life

Culture / -

Vanuatu
© David Kirkland/Design Pics/Corbis

The Vanuatu Archipelago smiles. Numerous entities have awarded the country the label of the happiest country in the world, thanks to the quality of life enjoyed by its inhabitants and the beauty of its landscapes. The best opportunity to find out more? Come to its National Day in Expo Milano 2015!

Vanuatu is an archipelago of some 80 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, a little less than 2000 kilometers north-east of Australia. A happy land according to many different classifications, including the authoritative Happy Planet Index, which awarded it the number one spot in 2006. Happy thanks to a simple economy based on farming and tourism. The main islands are Espiritu Santu, Malakula, Éfaté ed Erromango. All bask in a subequatorial climate with warm temperatures all year round and a generous amount of rain.
 
Organic farming versus climate change
Vanuatu is indeed a happy Island State, but like many island states, it is threatened by the rise in sea levels caused by global warming. This situation has stimulated general investment in preserving the islands’ traditions and, especially, in organic farming techniques which respect the environment and represent a contribution to the reduction of climate change. The islands’ simple and sustainable lifestyle can be appreciated in the Vanuatu Pavilion inside the Spices Cluster. Its theme? “Going organic, for a better life.”
 
The Spices Archipelago
Vanuatu’s participation in Expo Milano 2015 inside the Spices Cluster is one way of showing visitors the importance of the mixtures between different cultures, histories and peoples which have come together to form the economy and the identity of Vanuatu. The country’s National Day, on October 1, is a unique opportunity to discover its festivals, such as the one devoted to Land Diving, and its breathtaking natural landscapes. And to encourage the islanders and the international community to continue the quest for an environment that is protected, happy and sustainable. 
 

Bolivia. Rituals and culture in a pre-Columbian nation

Culture / -

ND Bolivia
©-Ben-PipeRobert-Harding-World-ImageryCorbis

Bolivia, which takes its name from Simon Bolivar, “el liberador”, who liberated it from Spanish domination, still conserves much of its natural territory and its ancient traditions.

When Simon Bolivar liberated this country from Spanish colonial rule at the beginning of the 19th century, it chose a new name to honor its liberator. Despite extensive urbanization and unbridled exploitation of its natural resources, Bolivia still preserves many of its natural environments and ancient traditions and customs. The impenetrable nature of much of its territory and the closed nature of its native population have contributed to the survival of many archaic traits. Pre-Columbian culture manifests itself, for instance, in the country’s renowned pottery and woven fabric production, and in various pagan rituals, such as those which certain peoples celebrate during the Oruro Carnival, when they chew coca leaves and dance the Diablada, an archaic possession dance which has been declared an intangible World Heritage treasure by UNESCO. Music is a fundamental part of Bolivian tradition, and many ceremonies and events are accompanied by percussion and the magical Andean flutes.
 
In the homeland of corn, discovering Quinoa
Bolivia boasts an extraordinary gastronomic tradition, which over the centuries has spread across the entire planet: corn, potatoes and quinoa are just a few of the Bolivian products which have become staples of our diet. In Sucre, the constitutional capital of Bolivia, one can try Saltenas, small pies stuffed with meat, or the mouth-watering Ckocko, a dish based on ultra-hot spicy chicken, accompanied by Pisco, a local spirit, or Paceña, the typical Bolivian beer. Quinoa soup is the most popular “poor man’s dish” throughout the country, often eaten together with fish or beef dishes, or with dried llama meat.
 
A ‘poor food’ with grand ambitions
The Bolivian Pavilion is situated inside the Cereals and Tubers Cluster. Inside Bolivia’s space, visitors can examine many typical regional products and crafts expressing the spirit of an ancient people who have discovered a cereal, Quinoa, which possesses extraordinary properties. Recognized by the FAO as a highly nutritious food and easy to cultivate using organic techniques, Quinoa is the Queen of the Bolivian Pavilion. Here, this ancient but potentially revolutionary cereal is presented as a food source which could crucially contribute to global food security.
 

Goats, spiders and the bridges of the future

Sustainability / -

© Niall Benvie/CORBIS

The Future Beckons, Full of Hope and Innovation, Along with New Needs. The building industry is constantly on the look-out for new materials, the better to address the ever-more complex requirements for constructions. One solution might be provided by a combination of spiders and goats.

During the Cretaceous Period, which dates back more than one hundred million years, some of the creatures of the forest undergrowth started to evolve, developing sticky surfaces that were perfect for trapping other insects that would then provide the protein and other nutrients that they craved. Their descendants are spiders, who continue to this day to use this highly efficacious hunting technique to trap other insects, complementing their catch with nectar and pollen.
 
Cobwebs, nature’s steel
Spiders’ webs can take various forms: spiral, tangled, funnel-shaped, or tubular, to name but a few. All serve to capture the spider’s prey, and are formed from a protein that is known as silk. While bees create the same substance, moth caterpillars are the major users, using the silk to spin a cocoon around themselves when they are ready to pupate.
 
The spider’s silk, though, is rather special, not just because it is sticky and is used to trap insects, but also, and especially, because it has been proved to be as stong as the best industrial steel.
 
This explains why experiments have been going on for many years to find a way to emulate this silk for use in building construction.
 
A goat in the lab
Researchers in Utah State University have successfully reproduced what nature invented in the mists of time. Using genetic engneering techniques, these researchers implanted spider genes in a number of goats, to create a spider-goat.
 
Thes goats look and behave precisely the same as other goats, the only difference being that their milk contains the special protein of which a spiders’ web is made.
 
Extracting this protein from the goat’s milk is a simple matter. Once combined with other materials, it can be used to produce bio-steel that is seven times more durable, lighter, and twenty times more flexible than regular steel. More, this steel is stable at a temperature range of -20 to 330 degrees celsius.
 
Heading for the future
 
Scientists already have some idea as to how to put this discovery into practical use. While some see applications in new-generation bullet-proof clothing, others, in the bio-medical field, would use it to reconstruct damaged muscle tissue, but there is also consensus for its use in building bridges.
 
These bridges would be light and much easier to build, and could also be rendered eye-catching, because, the material, like the silk, from which it is derived, has maintained its ability to absorb color.
 
From the long-ago hunger of a spider, we might see engineers and fashion designers building bridges, over which our future will lie.
 
Expo Milano 2015 provides an opportunity for visitors to increase their understanding of our planet’s biodiversity.
 
Locatedin the Expo’s Thematic Area, the Biodiversity Park is designed to call attention to Italy’s outstanding qualities in terms of the environment, agriculture, and agri-food production. Visitors to the park will see how Italy’s agricultural biodiversity has evolved and is being safeguarded, their visit complemented by events, seminars, and multi-media experiences.
 

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