Major organizations such as the UN may have lofty ambitions to change the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily successful in representing the desires of the people when implementing action. Many people outside these transnational organizations believe not enough is being done to solve the climate crisis, and more and more, these people are taking matters into their hands.
During the last week, European climate strikers and Extinction Rebellion youth activists have traveled by motor canoe deep into the Amazon rainforest to share ideas with indigenous leaders, forest dwellers, environmental activists, and Brazil’s leading climate scientists.
The gathering in the Amazon is an alternative climate conference, one that aims to bring the global debate about climate change into the Amazon. They also want to demonstrate that Brazil can continue to play a positive role despite the country’s decision not to host this year’s official United Nations climate talks in the wake of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidential election victory.
Ebola is a deadly virus, one that has been plaguing the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) this past year. The virus has killed some 2,000 people since it broke out last year and threatens to kill many more if the outbreak isn’t quelled.
The good news is that for the first time ever, a vaccine for Ebola has been approved by European regulators and is already being used to fight the virus. Merck, the US pharmaceutical company behind the vaccine, has provided shots of the vaccine to hundreds of thousands of people in the DRC, including more than 60,000 health-care workers in the DRC and several neighboring countries.
Although several other vaccines against Ebola — a hemorrhagic fever that causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding — are in development, Merck’s is the only one that has been tested during an outbreak, in which it was shown to be highly effective at preventing infection. Hopefully, it continues to be effective and can help to wipe out the virus entirely.
Since humans aren’t the best at sorting out all the different types of waste we produce, recycling centers around the country are adopting robots that use artificial intelligence to do the sorting job better.
In Florida, for example, a sprawling recycling factory has 14 different robots that can easily distinguish bottles, cans, boxes, and many other recyclables from one another, sorting out the different materials and placing them in different areas. The robots come from AMP Robotics, a Colorado-based company that believes it can help solve the recycling crisis in America that begun two years ago after China banned imports of low-value recycling—a ban that made sense since some shipments were so poorly sorted or contaminated with the garbage that they were nearly worthless.
AMP’s robots can sort 80 items per minute, roughly twice as much as a human picker average, and can do the work more accurately. The software that runs the robots uses machine learning to recognize each object, getting smarter the more it does the task.
For those who find it worrying that robots are taking this formally human job, take a moment to consider this: it’s a job that has high turnover, particularly because it’s not a job humans want to do. Plus, if these robots can help us be better at recycling, then we should definitely not shy away from putting robots to work.
After seeing a massive boost for climate action and sustainability from the world’s finance sector during this year’s UN Climate Summit, the EU’s financing department has recently taken it one step further by adopting a new, game-changing energy lending policy.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) – the world’s development bank – has recently announced that it will stop funding fossil fuel energy projects by the end of 2021, representing a major shift of public finance towards clean energy projects.
The bank’s new energy lending policy was approved with “overwhelming” support and will bar most fossil fuel projects, including those that employ the traditional use of natural gas. Under the new policy, energy projects applying for EIB funding will need to show they can produce one kilowatt-hour of energy while emitting less than 250g of carbon dioxide, a move that bans traditional gas-burning power plants.
The new policy represents a major win in the fight against climate change and sets a new bar for what it means for a multilateral bank to be aligned with the Paris Agreement.
If you feel the presence of smartphones and social media becoming too heavy in your life, perhaps it’s time to find some new tech-free hobbies. Hobbies are a perfect way to de-stress, get creative, and take a break from your screens. Need some ideas for good activities to make a part of your life? Here are 10 to consider.
- Arts and crafts: Getting your hands busy with knitting, pottery, painting, or beading is a great way to relax and a fabulous way to make eco-friendly Christmas gifts.
- Puzzles: These games can be used over and over again and they’re a great way to stimulate your mind alone or communally.
- Reading and writing: There’s always more to learn and reading and writing can help you reflect on your thoughts or escape into someone else’s tales.
- Gardening: This environmentally friendly hobby gets you out into the fresh air and allows you to reap the rewards of sustainably delicious home-grown goods.
- Wood and metal working: Spruce up your home decor and experience a mental and physical challenge.
- Music: Taking up an instrument allows you to express yourself beautifully, impress guests, and even collaborate with other music lovers in your community.
- Knifemaking: this one may sound odd, but creating knives is a clever, somewhat primal creative outlet and will help your kitchen endeavors.
- Baking and cooking: Create delicious goods, challenge yourself to try new recipes, and share yummy treats for family, friends, and guests.
- Models: If you’re a fan of intricate details, consider model making to produce replicas of your favorite buildings, cars, or landscapes.
- Sports and games: There are endless benefits to this one. Getting outside, exercising, playing with friends carries endless benefits for your mental and physical well being.
- Enjoy nature: Enjoying the fresh air and taking in nature’s beauty is zero waste way to exercise, reflect, and relax.
In a country that boasts one of the world’s highest literacy rates, the arrival of the new central library in the capital of Finland last year was a kind of moon-landing-like moment of national bonding. The €98 million facilities, whose opening in December 2018 marked the centenary of Finnish independence, has since been widely celebrated internationally as a model reimagining of these critical pieces of social infrastructure.
Designed by Finnish architecture firm ALA and dubbed Oodi (“ode” in Finnish), the three-level structure is a kind of spruce-clad monument to the principles of Nordic society-building. It’s a space for old and new residents to learn about the world, the city, and each other. Its design reflects that lofty mission.
The ground floor is an extension of the public square outside—a space for meetings, free events, and informal gatherings, with a cafe, theater, and various public amenities. On the second level, a series of flexible rooms provide a host of au courant attractions and borrowable—3-D printers and power tools, sewing machines and music rooms and maker spaces. Language classes are offered for migrants; gamers get VR-equipped computer rooms. Patrons can even borrow season tickets for Helsinki’s popular professional basketball games.
Only on the topmost level—in a soaring, light-filled space Laitio calls “book heaven”—will one find actual volumes for readers, a 100,000-book collection that’s in very high demand. In fact, Finns take out more than 15 books a year from the library, which is 10 more than the average American. Perhaps if we dedicated as much money to public buildings such as the library, people would feel more inclined to take out books from the library.
Thrift shopping is regaining popularity among hipsters on the search for a vintage value or those taking a stand against the environmental impact of fast fashion. These unassuming second-hand stores can be treasure-troves for collectors and creative shoppers alike. For low-income kids, they can also be an outlet for creative expression and fashion freedom in a world where brand names all too often take center stage.
Jade Wilson turned to thrift shopping to discover her sense of style after years of being bullied because she could not afford expensive name brand clothing. For her, thrift shopping opened up a world where she could explore and afford to express herself the way she always wanted to.
To bring this creative outlet to others, Wilson connected with five kids in Durham, North Carolina via social media and gave them each $20 to explore the joys of thrifting. Throughout the process, she interviewed them about what they thought to be their best qualities and how they wanted to express those. When asked what she wants people to know about her and her style, Alazia, age 14, said, “I want people to know that I’m bold and confident. I want to be out there. And I’m not afraid of anything.”
Across the United States, areas that were previously bloody battlefields are being turned into memorials and parks to recognize the violence that took place there and to offer a new purpose of life and recreation for these places.
There are 25 national battlefield and military parks in America which draw visitors intrigued by their historical significance and natural beauty. These parks serve as what scholars Smallwood and Lookingbill call places of “collateral value.” These are areas previously used for violence that are now repurposed for recreation, wildlife conservation, and pollution reduction.
For example, the land where the Battle of Gettysburg took place receives millions of visitors each year. Abroad, the trench warfare site of WWI in Verdun, France is now 25,000 acres of regenerated forest and Germany has turned the remnants of the Iron Curtain into conservation areas and trails which make up the European Green Belt initiative.
Using these sites of great historical violence as conservation and regeneration areas not only serves to protect the environment but also serves as a symbol of healing and remembrance by repurposing these lands as areas of peace.
As the quest to find a viable planet-friendly alternative to plastic continues, a bioplastic made of organic fish waste has landed its UK designer a prestigious international award and a £30,000 prize.
Lucy Hughes, a graduate in product design from the University of Sussex, scooped the James Dyson award for her biodegradable and compostable material known as MarinaTex. The bioplastic is strong, translucent and flexible, making it a possible alternative for single-use packagings such as bags and sandwich wrappers. Unlike current materials used for these purposes, it breaks down in home food-waste or compost bins, and its key ingredients are fish scales and skin — waste products that MarinaTex saves from ending up in the landfill.
The annual award scheme aims to challenge young people to “design something that solves a problem” and is open to students and recent graduates in product design, industrial design, and engineering. Hughes sought to tackle the problems of environmentally harmful single-use plastics and inefficient waste streams by harnessing fish offcuts to create the eco-friendly plastic alternative.
When it comes to fighting climate change, environmental lawyer Durwood Zaelke calls attention to the importance of actions that have immediate positive effects on climate change. He believes in the ‘quick fix’, the type of actions that try to solve problems as directly and efficiently as possible.
To slow climate change as best as possible, Zaelke is targeting air conditioning units. By making our cooling systems as efficient as possible, we can mitigate at least half a degree of global warming.
As told through his video narrative linked below, environmental protection became a deeply personal issue for Zaelke as an undergrad at UC Berkeley. His advice for the next generation of climate activists is to “keep your anger, keep your frustration, keep your demands high.”
Zaelke was instrumental in getting 197 parties to adopt a climate treaty in Rwanda called the Kigali Amendment. The treaty focuses on refrigeration adaptations such as eliminating HFCs which contribute to ozone depletion and global warming. While the U.S. White House has not ratified the treaty, the US industry is adopting these cooling technologies to significantly reduce their emissions. Air conditioning reform shows how small changes can have big, immediate effects on climate change.
Zaelke is ready to pass the environmental torch to the next generation, but his influence on this critical issue shows how one person can have big effects on climate protection as well.