The cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dakota Access Pipeline, and Keystone XL Pipeline not only represents a major victory for the environment, but also for grassroots groups which spearheaded the opposition movement. Shutting down these pipelines demonstrates the effectiveness of community action from activists, volunteer residents, Tribal members, scientists, farmers and landowners, climate activists, and outdoor enthusiasts in protecting natural spaces and the health of residents.
After years of protesting, advocacy, and legal action, a court ruling determined this week that developers of both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines had failed to properly assess the impact of the projects on the environment and endangered species. Dominion and Duke, developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline also announced plans for cancellation of that project this week.
These results demonstrate not only the efficacy of activist action but also of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which protects natural spaces from development projects.
Dr. Ryan Emanuel, an environmental scientist at North Carolina State University and a member of the Lumbee Tribe in Robeson County, is one of the instrumental activists in preventing the progression of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. He provided critical research proving that the project would have a disproportionate impact on 30,000 Native American residents living in the FERC-defined study area of the project.
Chad Oba, a resident of Union Hill, Virginia, and community organizer helped found the Friends of Buckingham, which dedicated itself to defending Union Hill, Buckingham’s historically Black community, against the project.
In last month’s Optimist View, we discussed how the effects of environmental degradation such as pollution, contamination, and habitat destruction disproportionately affect communities of color. These pipeline projects are examples of environmental destruction at the expense of marginalized communities. The termination of these pipelines is a victory for the planet as well as the environmentalists and activists who collaborated over the years to achieve justice.
Telemedicine is booming during the pandemic. For simple aches, pains, and the common cold, an easy phone or video call appointment with your doctor can save you time, money, and the risk of leaving your home. But what about your pets? Fortunately, telehealth veterinary services are also here to keep your pet healthy and happy!
When it comes to virtual care for your pet, understanding the difference between telemedicine and teletriage is key. Telemedicine is used to diagnose and prescribe medication. If your veterinarian offers it, it’s a great resource, but you must have visited the vet in-person previously to be eligible. Teletriage is open to all pet owners and serves more as an emergency advice line. If your pet is throwing up at midnight and your local clinic is closed, this is the option for you.
Whichever is more applicable for your needs, remember that neither is a complete substitution for in-person visits. Most clinics are open right now with restricted hours and extra safety protocols so you can be seen if need be. If you want to explore virtual health options for your pet, here are some good choices.
- TeleVet. This app is easy to navigate and works great for people with vets in-network. Just make a profile for your pet, connect with your provider, and input a payment method.
- Virtuwoof. Similarly to TeleVet, this app allows you to connect with your vet and access help quickly. The app offers a dropdown menu of common need options and lets you connect with help in 5 to 10 minutes.
- PetDesk. This innovative app lets you not only connect with your vet but also keep track of medical records and prescriptions. This helps you not only get care, but also track regular appointment schedules, refills, and store preferences about emergency care and dietary needs.
- AirVet. This is a great option for emergency care. AirVet offers answers to pressing health questions and allows you to connect with your vet or an on-call professional for immediate care.
- Ask.Vet. This browser-only platform offers immediate advice on care for your pet in emergency situations. While it usually costs $20 a session, the company has teamed up with Royal Canin Dog Food to offer the service temporarily for free. If your pet does need emergency care, the site can give advice and help connect you with an urgent care provider.
Your pet might hate going to the vet, but with high costs and long drives, us humans aren’t crazy about it either. Fortunately, telemedicine is here to help you navigate your pet’s veterinary needs and receive timely advice on whether an in-office visit is needed or not. We’re all a bit more focused on our health these days and your pet is not an exception! This is a great tech-focused solution to get them the care they deserve.
Healing a broken bone can be a lengthy — and painful — process. One way to speed it up? Add electricity. When bones are placed under pressure, they naturally produce a small electric current that encourages bone cell growth.
Doctors have long taken advantage of this fact, using implants to deliver electrical stimulation to broken bones. The problem is that these implants often contain toxic batteries and require patients to undergo removal surgeries. Now, the University of Connecticut engineers has created an implant that overcomes its predecessors’ shortcomings, delivering electrical stimulation to broken bones in a safer, less-invasive way.
At the center of the UConn team’s creation, detailed in the journal Nano Energy, is a substance more often associated with smoothing faces than healing bones: PLLA. But rather than simply building an electrical stimulation implant out of PLLA, the UConn team decided to fashion it into a bone scaffold — something for the new bone cells to grow on. Once in place, an external ultrasound could then be used to very slightly vibrate the implant, generating a small electric voltage. After a while, the implant would simply dissolve on its own.
The UConn researchers are now trying to answer the question that’s puzzled doctors for decades: Why does electrical stimulation encourage bone growth in the first place? If they can figure that out, they’ll be able to use the information to further develop their implant, making it even more conducive to bone growth.
Calls to defund the police need to be heard by the local politicians who make city budget decisions. But the meetings where those decisions are made can be difficult to find out about, or full of confusing bureaucratic language; those who have never attended a city council meeting before may not know how to make their voice heard.
Now, a new website aims to make it easier for the public to participate in these conversations by making the budget decision-making process more transparent.
Called Reinvestin.us, the site was created by a group of allies and web developers and spearheaded by Jane Kim, who previously served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and as president of the San Francisco Board of Education. It lists clear information on what meetings are coming up and when, what specifically is on that meeting’s agenda, who the local decision-makers are, and how exactly a resident can make a public comment.
“I’ve seen it from my personal experience that the meetings where relevant budget decisions are made are often under-attended, hard to locate, awkwardly timed, and we know that there are a lot of barriers to attendance,” Kim says. She remembers Black Lives Matter activists coming into a board meeting to demand police reform but noticed that they often didn’t know what was on that day’s agenda.
When protests started after George Floyd’s death, Kim thought that maybe not enough had changed around city budgets earlier, partly because of how complicated that process is. She wanted to build a tool that informs organizers and activists about these meetings, and she reached out to web developers and some people she met while working as California political director for Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign to do so. There’s no overarching goal of Reinvestin.us besides civic participation, she stressed.
At the Optimist Daily, we recognize that real solutions require us to participate more in policymaking—that means not only voting, but also going to local government meetings and making your voice heard.
Eating a healthy diet and having noodles for dinner aren’t mutually exclusive. These days, there are many varieties of noodles that will fill you with nutrients rather than just carbs. As a nutritionist and wellness expert, Frances Largeman-Roth R.D. has tried all kinds of healthy noodles and pastas over the years. Here are her four favorites that stand out from the rest.
Chickpea-based pasta: The arrival of chickpea-based noodles a few years ago was a boon to pasta lovers everywhere. They cook like regular pasta but are gluten-free and offer more nutrients. The noodles have twice the amount of protein, more than double the fiber, and 30% fewer net carbs than your typical bowl of pasta. Brands like millennial fave Banza offer tons of variety, like spaghetti, penne, and even hard-to-find shapes like casarecce.
Whole wheat pasta: For pasta lovers who don’t need to avoid gluten but are looking for something heartier and more nutritious than traditional semolina pasta, check out a whole wheat option. Barilla has a complete lineup of whole wheat pasta (made from 100% whole grain durum wheat flour) to satisfy every craving. If you compare their whole wheat penne to the semolina version, it’s 5 grams higher in fiber and has one more gram of protein. It’s flavor is earthier than its white flour counterpart—and some people find that whole wheat pastas go better with dark leafy greens and pesto versus acidic tomato sauce, although Largeman-Roth says any dish will work as long as you balance the flavors.
Ancient grain noodles: If you’re looking for something a little different to add variety to your noodle rotation, check out ancient grain pastas. This category is very diverse and covers everything from pastas made with quinoa to ones crafted from kamut. They are often blended with other grains, like the ones from Ancient Harvest, which combine organic corn and brown rice with organic quinoa to create gluten-free rotini, shells, and other shapes. Most varieties offer around 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. Grain blends can be an easy way to try ancient grains. Ronzoni’s Ancient Grains penne blends whole wheat with quinoa, amaranth, millet, sorghum, and teff for a delicious pasta that holds up well in baked dishes and pasta salads. It’s a nutritional winner as well, with 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber in each serving.
Shirataki noodles: Unlike most types of noodles, this variety you’ll find in the refrigerated aisle instead of the pasta aisle. Shirataki are made of water, konjac flour (an Asian root vegetable), chickpea flour, potato starch, and calcium hydroxide (a preservative). Some brands are made with tofu instead of chickpea flour. While shirataki shine in the fiber department, they don’t contain any protein, so you’ll want to add some diced tofu or beans to your dish.
Germany remains one of the most coal-reliant countries in Western Europe, but that’s all set to change after a new bill was passed in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.
The bill sets the conditions under which Germany will abandon coal as a power source in order to meet climate targets. Germany will abandon nuclear energy by 2022 and coal by 2038 at the latest, and will simultaneously aim for 55% cuts in greenhouses gas emissions by 2030 over 1990 levels.
The bill, however, comes with a bit of controversy as it involves over 50 billion euros for mining and power plant operators, affected regions, and employees to cushion the impact of the transformation from coal to renewables. `While that will help utility groups, labor unions, and energy consumers to cope with the transition, green groups say the time schedule was too slow and the deal too costly for taxpayers.
Has the pandemic crushed your summer getaway plans? Although refraining from travel is best to ensure your safety and restrict the spread of Covid-19, the death of the summer holiday is still a big bummer. If you’re looking to keep some of that vacation magic alive, here are ideas for pandemic-proof “fakecations.”
- Purchase an online cooking class. Although not as glamorous as rolling pasta in Italy or dining on the French Riviera, virtual cooking classes are a fun way to pass the time and get out of your takeout food rut. With platforms like Airbnb Experiences, you can take courses from international chefs for under $30.
- Virtually tour a museum. The Louvre opened its doors to the public again this week, but most of us won’t be visiting anytime soon. Instead, take a virtual tour of the famous French cultural hub or any number of other sites. With options like The Broad in LA and the Savannah African Art Museum, there’s something for everyone.
- Stage a photo shoot with your roomies. Has quarantine dried up your Instagram content? Stage a fun photoshoot with your housemates complete with props, home-designed backdrops, and summer outfits.
- Travel the world from your couch. Virtual tours go far beyond museums. Check out this 360-degree stroll along South Beach, Florida, or this VR movie from the Japan National Tourism Organization which gives a 360-degree view across the country. Complete your travel experience with cocktails to match your travel destination.
- Treat yourself to a hotel experience at home. There’s no reason your staycation can’t be as fabulous as a five-star resort. Throw on your fluffiest robe and turn an area of your kitchen into your personalized minibar. Treat yourself to some indulgent bath products and, if you’re feeling truly pampered, buy yourself a set of new deluxe sheets.
- Create an at-home theater or concert. Put on a newly released flick or livestream a concert and dress up for the occasion! Make some buttered popcorn to complete the experience or host a dance party to go along with your favorite artist’s set.
Unfortunately, it seems the return to travel as usual is a long way off, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve your summer break. As we have discussed before, it’s important to take time off even when you’re working from the comfort of your home. On your next personal day, kick back and indulge in a relaxing staycation.
We may take our access to the internet for granted, but more than 40 percent of the global population still can’t connect to the web. With this in mind, Alphabet’s internet-beaming Project Loon has set off on a mission to overcome this digital divide, starting in Kenya.
Project Loon is a venture cooked up in one of Google’s innovation labs and is hoped to connect large sections of the global population that currently don’t have access to the internet.
Its technology involves solar-powered balloons that are fitted out with communications instruments and sent into the stratosphere, where machine-learning algorithms guide them into tight networks that provide connectivity to those on the ground below.
After a series of test runs and stints serving disaster-struck populations in Puerto Rico and Peru, the company has now deployed its high-flying communications aircraft over Kenya, where they are providing thousands of folks with an entirely novel form of internet access.
The service is not only the first commercial deployment of Loon’s balloons but also the first time such a technology has been put to use in Africa. The service area covers almost 50,000 sq km (19,300 sq mi) of central and western Kenya, with more than 35,000 unique users connected to the network so far.
And the best of it all, the internet delivered by the balloons is no slouch, with recent testing showing upload speeds of 4.74 Mbps. Project Loon expects the reliability of the service to improve as more balloons are added, though it has already shown to be capable of supporting YouTube, WhatsApp, email and web-browsing.
We’ve all been there, putting stuff off knowing all too well that it will only make our future-selves worse off. But although everyone does it sometimes, chronic procrastination can lead to anxiety, chronic stress, and less physical activity. So, what can you do to beat this oh-so-dreadful facet of the human condition? Below are five strategies that can help.
- Break down the task into small steps. Instead of thinking of the entire task, ask yourself “if I were to complete this task, what would I do next?”
- Commit to a task for just five minutes. Sometimes we procrastinate because we think a task might take a long time, but starting with a small time commitment can help you gain momentum and eventually finish what you started.
- Time-block important deadlines, and treat them like meetings. This gives you a distinct time period in which to complete a task.
- Get an accountability buddy. Ask a friend or co-worker to gently pressure you into completing a task.
- If you’re procrastinating on making a decision, limit the time you review options. It’s always good to understand options, but over-reviewing each option can itself be a form of procrastination.
As Europe aims to be climate neutral by 2050, countries like Sweden and Belgium are making real progress towards that goal by shutting down coal plants and investing in renewable energy sources. Eastern Europe, however, has been considerably slower – in part because the switch to renewables has been an expensive investment.
Now, with wind and solar getting cheaper, and with a need for robust economic recovery plans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report from Bloomberg shows how four Eastern European countries could affordably invest in clean energy, and with that investment, help bring about a green recovery for all of Europe.
Bulgaria, Czechia, Poland, and Romania are four of the most coal-intensive countries in the EU, and none of them have a defined plan on how to phase out this dirty fossil fuel. Poland in particular is the EU’s largest producer of coal, and a year ago, the country still planned to open new coal mines.
Luckily though, as the new report indicates, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected those plans, and with Poland and other European countries looking to recover from the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis, renewable energy could be the answer.
In fact, according to the Bloomberg report, a transition to renewables in these four countries could unlock 54 billion euros in investments and create 45,000 jobs.
What’s more, by transitioning away from coal and towards wind and solar – which are the most cost-effective options – the countries could actually hit bigger climate benchmarks than their respective National Energy and Climate Plans.
With the need for a green post-pandemic recovery as well as urgent action on climate change, the data from the new report provides solid evidence that the green energy transition doesn’t only make sense from an environmental perspective but an economic one as well.