Where There is a Will, There is a Way

by Francis P. Koster, Ed.D.

Last week I was wandering along a beachfront shopping district in South Carolina, and found an interesting antique shop.   The window contained all sorts of very old carpentry tools and ancient kitchen stuff.   

I saw an old highchair which looked identical to the one which  served me and four or five of my younger brothers and sisters before it was passed on to younger cousins.  

It was being sold as an antique! My highchair! 

As a repeat reader of my column, you know I am a student of how we can improve our society by listening to warnings about future challenges and putting in place known solutions already working elsewhere.  Focusing on what I call the basic life support systems of air, water, food, fuel, and the public health implications of how we meet those needs, I can assure you that the future is scary indeed in these areas, but the potential for protecting our families and nation is also strong if we act together in our own neighborhoods.

Seeing my highchair being sold as an antique kind of focused my thinking on another issue I have been pondering.  

One in two adult Americans does not have a will - and the number is rising.[i]  Not having a will means that the state, not you, decides who gets what.  [ii]   This means a lot of problems for your family, such as increased taxes, and delay in passing assets to the surviving family members so they can be taken care of.

As a Futurist, I have been asking myself the question “if everyone dies, and everyone knows this is coming, why on earth would they not prepare a will?”  

A will is a written legal plan about what to do at some inevitable point in the future.   

Let us be clear here.  You do not prepare a will for your own sake.  You prepare one because you care about your loved ones with whom you have shared a life, and your offspring, and their offspring.   People who prepare wills are role models to us all about how to think ahead to make the world a better place.  

Do you see the link between writing a will and being a futurist?   

Here is just one example of what happens if you don’t write a will:  Suppose you and your spouse talked about the distribution of wealth upon the death of either of you.  You both agree that in this case, the surviving spouse will get everything, and your adult kids nothing at that time, and when the surviving spouse dies, then the pot will be divided among the kids. Sound sensible? 

Not going to happen unless you write a will. 

Without a will, in North Carolina, the surviving spouse gets the first $30,000 (This includes a portion of your home equity), and one third of the rest.  The kids split the remaining two-thirds….and have no obligation to support the surviving parent.[iii] 

If you have no children, or they are comfortably fixed, you might decide to help create a better future by leaving your assets to your church, or to a scholarship fund for students studying the impact of toxics on birth defects, or even a political party.   In any of these cases, you are helping shape the future.   

Think back to the kinds of things your parents told you from the time you were in your highchair.   Over and over they told you to be neat, clean up after yourself, and take care of your brothers and sisters.

You can demonstrate this kind of value system to your loved ones by making a will – and telling those you care about that you did. Then you ask them to do the same. 

My strategy in writing this column is this: If you don’t plan to take care of those nearest and dearest to you, you will never take the necessary action to take care of other lovely people. Our next generation needs  us to step up to protect aquifers we drink from, our fish supplies from toxic contamination, the land we grow food on, and a long list of other life support systems. Writing your will is the first step.

Start by taking care of those nearest and dearest to you. Then go to my website and read how you can provide leadership to take care of their kids and grandkids.

 If you are among the one in two who does not yet have a will, get on with it...or I am telling your mom.






Cherokee Investment Partners Successfully Redevelop Brownfield Sites

with Financial Returns of Over 20 Percent

by Mary Beth Dial

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Brownfield sites are defined as “abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination”. These abandoned sites are more than eyesores for communities; they can involve many environmental risks, contribute to lost tax revenue, and negatively impact communities.

Along with environmental hazards that can be associated with Brownfield sites, such as leaks in water and gas pipes, the values of properties around these sites are lowered, economic activity is decreased, and the sites can also become hosts for criminal activities. According to the United States Conference of Mayors, there are approximately 81,000 acres of Brownfield sites occupying 21,000 sites in 232 American cities.


Thomas F. Darden, chief executive officer of Cherokee Investment Partners, along with John Mazzarino, managing director, formed the company of Cherokee in 1993 with the purpose of concentrating on assets negatively affected by environmental hazards. The company is based in Raleigh, North Carolina and raises money from state pension funds, corporate trusts, and other institutional investors to buy Brownfield properties, clean them up, and then sell them to developers. Its mission is to “transform real estate liabilities into assets to advance global responsiveness to poverty and the environment” by using a “remediate, cultivate, collaborate” approach which is designed to assist in cleanup, educate leaders, and partner with and grant to similar organizations. In 1994, they developed an advisory affiliate to manage risks, and in 1996, Cherokee’s first fund was formed. Former funds have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to use for Cherokee’s efforts ($250 million in 1998, $620 million in 2002, and $1.2 billion in 2005). One of its main goals is providing investors with an annual return of more than twenty percent, and with the profits from selling the properties once cleaned, investors receive all of their invested funds back plus all of the profit up to a ten percent return. Within that ten percent, Cherokee keeps twenty percent and the rest is then also given to the investors. With this system in place, investors, communities, and the environment all receive great benefits from the redevelopment of Cherokee’s purchased Brownfield sites.

The amount of financial burden that these sites account for is devastating when compared to the potential tax growth and job creation possibilities in their redevelopment. If cleaned and repurposed, these sites could provide between $902 million and $2.4 billion in new tax revenue as well as create approximately 587,000 jobs.

Although many of these sites undoubtedly have positive potential, the process of  receiving federal funds to restore them from organizations such as the Economic Development Administration, is tedious and often times unsuccessful due to regulations and stipulations. Also, Superfund sites (highly contaminated former industrial areas) are eligible to be placed on the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priority List; however, Brownfield sites are not.

The lack of federal support in cleaning up these Brownfield sites results in these hazardous areas continuing to impact communities.

Once Brownfield sites have been cleaned, their potential for use extends too many different amenities such as parks, schools, housing, and new businesses. Accompanying these new facilities can be job creations and training, economic stimulation and local spending, community pride, and beneficial tax revenue. The value of surrounding property also increases when the dangerous and unattractive Brownfield site is removed. Along with the added benefits, there is the elimination of environmental hazards associated with air, water, and hazardous waste. Also, the decrease in crimes, such as vandalism, arson, pollution, and drug marketing is also an extremely positive result from Brownfield cleanup. Overall, the benefits from repurposing Brownfield sites create cleaner and healthier communities. By utilizing the land that once was a Brownfield site, safer communities and rejuvenated social participation can be achieved.

Tony Duque, the Brownfield project manager at the North Carolina Division of Waste Management, thinks that “Cherokee is representative of what will be a growing trend”. Duque believes that education is the key to tackling harmful Brownfield sites and “we will see more of it”. Cherokee puts high priority in educating leaders, and the company’s vision is “a world with protected natural resources, sustainable production and consumption patterns, and no poverty”. Cherokee is currently hosting a contest called the Cherokee Challenge for teams pursuing their own environmental business, and the winner will receive $20,000 to assist in its start up. The deadline to apply was May 27, 2011, and the winning team will be announced on August 12. Cherokee strives to help make lasting impacts on environmental cleanup, and its core values to be reciprocated are stewardship, respect, love, courage, faith, and creativity. Cherokee continues to be successful in eliminating harmful Brownfield sites and supporting and encouraging others to do the same. Cherokee’s efforts provide inspiration to others who are passionate about eliminating these environmental hazards and promoting prosperous communities, which is significant since the responsibility to clean up these sites is majorly placed on communities and private organizations.


  2. Brownfield Redevelopment, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA)

For Further Reading:

  1. US Environmental Protection Agency

Photo Credits:

  1. (Brownfield site)
  2. (Cherokee Logo)
  3. (Playground)
  4. (Clean Landscape)


 Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Iron can now be Used to Clean Polluted Soil and Water

by Francis P. Koster, Ed.D. 

A new method of detoxifying polluted industrial waste water has been successfully used in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Ohio and Florida. It has removed toxic materials, heavy metals, fertilizers and pesticides in 1/5 the time that other, more expensive processes take. Rather than the typical solution relying solely on microorganisms to treat waste produced by chemical, material and pharmaceutical companies, [1] researchers have developed an alternative solution: iron.water

In conjunction with Lehigh University and Tongji University in Shanghai, Dr. Wei-xian Zhang has done breakthrough research on industrial waste water filtration. Dr. Zhang, a civil and environmental engineer, concluded his research on the use of iron to detoxify pollutants in industrial waste water. [2]  With Dr. Zhang’s research, “using nanoparticle technology, a $20-million clean-up project could cost $5 million or less.” [3]  Rather than pumping the contaminated water out and treating it, this new method injects the 100 to 200 nm iron-based nanoparticle directly into the groundwater. When this comes into contact with water or soil contaminated with carcinogenic solvents the particles convert these hazardous chemicals into harmless hydrocarbons and chlorides often found in table salts. [4]  This method is successful with cleaning up toxic materials, heavy metals, fertilizers and pesticides in about a tenth of the time a traditional clean up would take. [5]  Paul Osimo, vice president of Lehigh Nanotech, says Zhang’s nanoparticles can clean up a hazardous waste site in under a year when traditional methods would take 10 to 20 years to remediate. [6]  The project has successfully been used in the Taopu Industrial District of Shanghai as well as the United States in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Ohio and Florida.

To get an idea of the scale for which this research is needed, consider this: there are more than 1500 sites on the United States superfund list [7], [8] and yet less than a third have been cleaned in the past ten years. [9]  At least 288 sites pose a potential to harm people due to human exposure or contaminated groundwater migration, and the Center for Public Integrity found that 20 percent of Americans live within 10 miles of these uncontrolled Superfund sites.

A traditional clean-up would have the contaminated water pumped out, treated, then returned at normal groundwater levels. What’s worse is the process takes anywhere from 50 to 100 years to complete. [10] The cost for such a clean-up depends on many factors for example the type of contaminate or the level of contamination. The recent situation in Buick City Michigan could cast up to $3.7 million to clean up just a portion of the contaminated soil and groundwater [11] and totaling up to $19.5 million [12] for the total site clean-up.  

For more information regarding the research and results by Dr. Zhang please refer to the National Science Foundation’s Office of Legislative and Public Affairs and Dr. Zhang’s publication of his research found in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research.




[1] From an article by Eideard Green future for scrap iron in reducing pollution November 7, 2008 at 2:00 pm

[2] From an article found on InTech called Scrap iron goes green published November 6, 2008

[3], [4] An article published by Rossin College of Engineering & Applied Science

[5], [6] Published by Lehigh University P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science Resolve an Online Magazine, A huge” breakthrough” Volume 2, 2008  (citing Better World Report)

 [7] A Superfund site is “a toxic waste site that falls under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program. After public awareness grew about heavily polluted areas like Love Canal, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (also known as Superfund law) in 1980.”

[8] EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency), 2003. Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).

[9] The article Nanoscale iron particles for environmental remediation: An overview by Wei-xian Zhang was published in Journal of Nanoparticle Research 5: 323–332, 2003. Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

[10]  August 24, 1998

[11] Article by Melissa Burden published in Flint Journal, Michigan September 23, 2009, 12:21PM

[12] Article by Melissa Burden Buick City cleanup cost: $19.5M published in Flint Journal, Michigan Thursday, September 24 2009$19.5M%20AND%20date(all)&p_field_advanced-0=&p_text_advanced-0=(Buick%20City%20cleanup%20cost:%20$19.5M)&xcal_numdocs=20&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&xcal_useweights=no

Image: federico stevanin /

Recycling Pharmaceuticals Avoids Problems

Collection of unused pharmaceuticals reduces water pollution and lowers risk of misuse.

by Jon Rhodes

Every day, 2,500 kids age 12 to 17 abuse a prescription painkiller for the first time [1] and about one-third of all U.S. drug abuse is prescription drug use. [2] Among 12- to 17-year-olds, girls are more likely than boys to use psychotherapeutic drugs nonmedically. 70% of teens who abuse prescription drugs admit to easily obtaining the drugs for free, primarily from friends and relatives.

A program was conducted in Salisbury North Carolina in late October of 2009 to attempt to collect unused and unneeded prescription drugs using volunteers and public drop off locations. “70 pounds of pills were collected (weighed after they were removed from the bottles), 20 pounds of needles, 87 pounds of over-the-counter meds (liquids, etc.) and six huge bags of empty medicine bottles.” [3] That is a total of 157 pounds of medicine not entering into the water system or being misused. This helps prevent access of unused or out dated medicines. It eliminates one’s own home as a resource for drug abuse. 

Other communities are also conducting such collections. In March 2009 the Charlotte - Mecklenburg Police Department and the NC State Bureau of Investigation, in conjunction with seven Harris Teeter locations in Mecklenburg County performed a community service called Operation Medicine Drop. The purpose of the operation was to provide the community a safe, reliable way to dispose of unused or out dated medicines.

There are some financial advantages to communities which have programs such as Operation Medicine Drop. In the long run, this can help prevent community members from developing addicting habits. “A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) calculates that the average cost for treatment of alcohol or other drug addiction in outpatient facilities was $1,433 per course of treatment in 2002 and that residential treatment cost $3,840 per admission. For outpatient methadone treatment, the 2002 cost was $7,415 per admission. ‘Treatment is a bargain compared to expenditures for jails, foster care for children, and health complications that often accompany addiction,’ said SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie.” [4]

A second advantage of this program is the prevention of incorrect disposal. There are many cases where people throw old medicines down the drain. “A recent investigation by the Associated Press found a whole host of pharmaceuticals-including antibiotics, pain medication, anti-depressants, sex hormones, heart and blood pressure medicine-in the drinking water supplies of more than 40 million Americans,” said Donna Lisenby from Watauga Riverkeeper. A study conducted by Appalachian State University concluded that 60-65% of male hognose and white suckers were being influenced by pharmaceutical estrogens (birth control and estrogen supplements). [5] There is concern among scientist that these chemicals are impacting human sexuality as well. 



[2] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[3] Perry, Robin, Salisbury Post. Operation Medicine Cabinet a Success. Tuesday, October 27, 2009 Web. Dec. 8 2009. <>

[4]SAMHSA Report Shows Cost of Addiction Treatment<> source from JoinTogether Online

[5] Riverkeeper. Saving Our Kids and Rivers From Drugs: Operation Medicine Cabinet will launce for the first time in the High Country on October 3, 2009. October 2nd, 2009 Web. Dec. 8 2009. <>


Waterless Urinal Conserves 45,000 Gallons Annually

 by Jonathan Kennedy

A single waterless urinal can save up to 45,000 gallons of water each year when compared to usage of “waterflushed” urinals. There are approximately 8 million urinals installed in the United States alone. Assuming an average of 2 gallons per flush, the total potable water usage by urinals is approximately 160 billion gallons each year. [i] If all waterflush urinals in the United States were placed with dry urinals, enough water would be saved annually to supply the populations of San Francisco, Charlotte, Seattle, Atlanta, and Portland combined (based on 2000 census data and average per capita usage of 150 gallons per day).


Toilets and urinals are still flushed with potable water and it is estimated that up to 20% of the available drinking water in the world is flushed down the drain. [i] Urinals that do not require a flush after use present an opportunity to conserve unnecessarily wasted water. 

Waterless urinals which are designed to drain urine without the need for flushing have now hit the market. A small liquid chemical trap is usually incorporated into the design that allows urine to drain quickly, but prevents odors from rising through it. In almost every other way, waterless urinals are similar to conventional urinals. They look, function, cost and require about the same maintenance as conventional urinals yet they save thousands of gallons of water per year. 

Thousands of waterless urinals are now in use in commercial and federal facilities. These existing dry urinals save millions of gallons of water annually. [ii] For example, the STAPLES Center has recently replaced 178 flush urinals with waterless types. This equates to an estimated savings of over 7 million gallons per year. [iii] The Rose Bowl installed 259 waterless urinals that save 130,000 gallons of water on game day alone. That is the same amount of water that is consumed by six people in a year. [iv] 

Nearly 97 percent of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2 percent is locked in ice caps and glaciers. Only 1 percent is left for all agricultural, residential, manufacturing, community and personal needs, as well as other freshwater-dependent species. Demand for water is doubling every 20 years, outpacing population growth twice as fast. On a worldwide basis, 1.3 billion people do not have access to clean water and 2.5 billion lack proper sewage and sanitation. According to estimates, demand for freshwater will exceed the world’s supply by over 50 percent in less than 20 years. [v]



[iii] []

[iv] []

[v] Lohan, T. I. (2008). Water Consciousness. Independent Media Institute