I read an article in the Smithsonian magazine about Dasia Taylor, a high school student from Iowa that received an award for her research in creating color-changing sutures to detect infections by using beet juice. Her project idea came after she read about “smart sutures” which involves coating the sutures with a conductive material that can detect changes in the wound by the changes in electrical resistance. I don’t understand exactly how that works without a picture or video because I tend to be a visual and experiential learner, but that’s not what’s important here. What’s important is that these technology-based sutures capable of relaying the information to smart phones or computers are not cheap, nor are the materials to make them.
While Dasia was reading about these sutures, she thought about the racial equity work she does in her community and how universal something like wound care is. As part of her research, she found that in some African nations up to 20% of women who give birth by cesarean section develop infections at the surgical site. So how do you make sutures that can detect infections without smart technology?
Dasia’s solution was to look for something that could measure the Ph difference in the skin. Healthy human skin is naturally acidic at around pH 5. Infections raise the pH level to around 9. Many fruits and vegetables change color at different pH levels making them natural indicators for different pH levels. Red beets (Beta vulgaris) ended up being Dasia’s best candidate. While her research isn’t perfect yet, she was able to demonstrate that it works and that vegetable dyes can be a viable, low cost solution to wound care.
More works needs to be done, but I’m bringing this to your attention because it illustrates some important realities.
You can’t have racial or social justice without environmental justice (and vice versa) due to economic and resource disparities throughout communities, countries, and regions.
Technology will not save us. It can help in many ways but looking to technology as our first response to everything is both arrogant and irresponsible.
I’m currently researching the question: Can capitalism be Green?
I’m currently settling on the answer: Cloudy with a chance of sun.
Our current capitalistic systems of commerce are not green and never will be if they remain as they are. We must reject the fallacies of “trickle-down economics” and “companies being able to police themselves.” It’s like leaving a toddler alone with a cake. Why would you think that’s a good idea?
Here’s the sunny part though, I think if we breakdown capitalism at the particle level, we can reconstitute it into a true Green economy. We are the particles. We are the grains of sand that can change the color of the beach. We make economic-based decisions everyday by what we purchase and organizations we choose to support. I think true radical change has to come from us, the people. We need to change our behaviors. We need to choose to be Nature-led, Social Justice minded people and societies every day. New patterns and pathways take time for our minds to adjust. When I first started using reusable bags for the grocery store, I would forget a lot. I didn’t give up and I kept trying to do better until the new pattern became the norm and I rarely forgot them. By the time the Pandemic hit it was hard to leave my reusable bags in the car. We knew so little about the Covid-19 virus in the beginning though, but I wasn’t willing to risk my safety or the safety of others around me. I kept the single-use bags I was getting and when it was considered safe to do so I recycled them. Here in the U.S. we have special containers at the store specifically for recycling clean, dry plastic grocery bags.
More needs to be done though. We need to make bigger advances faster. How? How can I/we be a part of those advances? I believe we need the thoughts, experiences and imaginations of everybody, every age, every perspective to find innovative solutions. We need to be excited about working towards common goals. I think an innate part of us seeks to be part of something greater than ourselves. We are after all social creatures.
This High Schooler Invented Color-Changing Sutures to Detect Infection | Innovation | Smithsonian Magazine
32 Weird, Crazy, but True Beet Facts | Fact Retriever
Green economy | UNEP – UN Environment Programme
“Beetnik” – This is a play on words. The real word “Beatnik” was a nickname for “the Beat Generation.”: Beat Movement | Encyclopedia.com
Give me thoughts, or just your favorite Beet recipe, either will do!
I pressure cook beets with orange juice and add it to green salads with walnuts and goat cheese. Yum!
4 thoughts on “Mind the Gap, Beetnik”
Terrifically interesting on two levels; however, the “beets” is what interested me most simply because it was such a new idea. Truly fascinating about infections following Caesarian births – if there were a simple test, like beet juice; how great would that be.
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Thank you for your comment, Mary! I didn’t like beets until my late twenties. I also like that they make a great natural dye color that you can color-fast using vinegar.
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I love your thoughts, and agree completely. We ARE the particles. And like you, I hesitated to use my reusable bags during the early part of the pandemic. I feel like I’m reading the words of a kindred soul.
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That’s so sweet of you to say, Lisa! I really appreciate! I’m shy, but also passionate about the things I believe in. It leaves me feeling rather awkward most of the time. 🙂
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