Granted, the century's still young, but this could be a big one.
Dave Pollard points to GizMag's posting on the LifeStraw:
Pollard: Gizmag describes a new invention with no moving parts and using no electricity that could save tens of millions of lives per year, the lives of people who now die from preventable water-borne diseases that are caused by overcrowding and lack of sufficient money and infrastructure to treat water properly.
GizMag: The most prolific killer of human beings in developed countries is the automobile, followed by a host of diseases resulting mainly from an indulgent lifestyle. Millions of people perish every year because they simply don[base ']t have clean water to drink....The aptly-named LifeStraw... is a personal, low-cost water purification tool with a life time of 700 litres [^] approximately one year of water consumption for one person... that could become one of the greatest life-savers in history. It is a 25 cm long, 29 mm diameter, plastic pipe filter and purchased singly, costs around US2.00.
Got that folks? Clean water for a year for two bucks! Clean water for the four billion of us at the bottom of the pyramid for $8b a year. (Or just the billion or so of us without access to safe water supplies.) Peanuts, in the scheme of things. Less than 1% of the 2002 (pre-Iraq Ware) global military budget. (Other stats from our Sense of Proportion Department, courtesy the World Bank: Gross National Income, globally, 2002: $31.7 trillion US (31.5 x 10^12); high income counties, $25.6 T, middle income, $5.06 T, low income countries, $1.07 T) (See also Progress to the International Development Goals)
So: who's going to make it happen. Well, maybe all of us -- if we all start flooding all of our governments (elected representatives, agency heads, etc) with the GizMag posting, and ask them to allocate a pittance of our tax money to getting LifeStraw manufactured (with economies of scale that could bring the price down further?) and distributed world-wide.
Bonus: GizMag article also points to 'brief technical rundown' at MedGadget, 'the internet journal of emerging medical technologies.' The gist: 100 micron filter, 15 micro filter, iodine-impregnated beads, and activated carbon. The biggest parasites will be taken by the pre-filter, the weakest will be killed by the iodine, and the medium range parasites will be picked up by the active carbon. The main interest to everyone is the killing of bacteria, and here our laboratory reading tells us that we have a log. 7 to log 8 kill of most bacteria. This is better than tap water in many developed countries.
Perfect? I'm sure not. Issues with iodine (though OTOH there's nutritional iodine deficiency) and carbon, but certainly outweighed, at least in the short term, by knocking back death from water-borne diseases. Not helpful with Giardia, which is caused by an iodine-resistant organism with 5 micron spores. Challenges of manufacture, distribution, local production and end-of-life disposal, but no doubt solvable.
But on balance this rates a 'Wow.'