Marilyn is co-editor of and contributor to Life, Love, V. Her full time work is at Alchemus Prime where she integrates behavioral sciences, design thinking, biomimicry and meditation through a science-based model to develop solutions that address climate change and wellness issues. Marilyn works with a diverse range of professionals in nonprofits, universities, schools, companies, and interdisciplinary conferences to help them build resilient teams, manage change, communicate more effectively, and implement research, programs and projects for sustained positive impact. Learn more about Marilyn.
Ever feel like giving aid to developing countries is a bit elitist, paternalistic, or corrupt? Research says you may be right. What would global aid look like if it was more humble and egalitarian? Doga Makiura set out to discover just that.
Makiura is from Tokyo, and at 13 he went to study in London because he wanted to be around a more diverse group of people. After high school, he took a year off and went to Rwanda to work on a project that would empower 1.2 million people living in poverty. His motivation: “Rather than just helping them out, I wanted to go and work with them together as equals, as business partners.”
Working with a friend who ran a similar project in Bangladesh called e-Education, Makiura started producing DVDs of chemistry experiments to allow Rwandan students to learn experiments from any location. Results were encouraging: “In 2013, national exam results in chemistry increased by an average of 46% in 5 rural schools with over 700 students using DVDs from e-Education.”
Makiura hasn’t stopped there. He has gone on to work on the food supply and distribution issues in Rwanda in response to the influx of refugees from Congo:
“So I became a middleman, coordinating with agricultural cooperatives in Rwanda to understand how much surplus each cooperative or farm has, and finding out how much food the UNHCR was needing where. I went to the farms with a truck, purchased their surplus crop, and transported this food to the UNHCR refugees. The farmers now had extra income, and the refugees had more food. Win-win. The team I set up with the cooperatives work on this even when I’m not there.”
The fundamental difference in Makiura’s approach to global aid is to look for ways to honor and value people in the developing world on equal terms with people in the developed world, and to discover and implement win-win solutions that benefit the developed and developing world. This creates collaborative relationships on equal terms instead of one-sided situations that create more separation. It sounds like the future of global aid, perhaps better phrased “global collaboration,” is finally here!
TED fellow Suzanne Lee is writing a book called Fashioning the Future and in the process, investigating how bacteria can be the next generation’s clothes manufacturers, through the same process that gives us beer: fermentation. In an interview for TED’s blog, she explains that like Maya, whom we featured earlier on LLV, Lee wants to improve upon the current toxicity and environmental degradation that is associated with producing textiles. Lee has turned to fermentation as a source of fiber production.
So, if bacteria are producing clothes, you need to feed them, right? Right. Lee is exploring feeding bacteria with what they thrive on: sugar. Now, this sounds a little shaky and short-sighted at first, a bit like using corn for biofuels, which raises corn prices and disadvantages the poor when it comes to using corn for food. However, Lee is looking at agricultural waste materials that are sugar-rich to avoid spiking the price of sugar for her fermented clothes. Reduce impacts on the environment and close the loop? We approve!
Lee is interested in creating products that are highly functional. However, fermented shoes and accessories aren’t about to appear in your stores just yet, because much more work is needed to make such products competitive and fashionable.
The car, called the Kestrel, is being developed by Motive Industries Inc. with active support from the Canadian government.
Hemp lowers the embedded energy of the Kestrel, compared to the use of other materials, such as steel, which require much more energy and money to extract. Composite materials made with hemp can be stronger than steel and lighter than glass but with similar mechanical properties. The Kestrel seems sturdy and safe with an impact-resistant. It also offers a reasonably high speed of 90km or 56 miles per hour, and need recharging every 100 miles.
This isn’t the first time a car has been built out of hemp. Henry Ford had constructed them way back in the 40’s. Given the history of legal issues surround hemp, it is understandable that this versatile substance hasn’t been more widely accepted by the automobile industry. While Canada is supporting hemp, the U.S. still bans cannabis, preventing its use in many products for the food, oil, paper, textile, medicine, and of course, the automobile industry.
Despite this long-standing legal obstacle in the U.S., it’s heartening to see such a stellar car being produced by our Northern neighbors. Maybe good old competition will drive change in the courts so we Americans can enjoy sensible transportation too!
Image credit: aforero via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
Forum for the Future is a bit like us at Life, Love, V: interested in good news. The Forum works on sustainability issues, and was recently featured by Grist for one of their founding director’s books about a vision for a sustainable future. Jonathan Porritt’s book, called The Future We Made, talks about a future world in which population stabilizes at 9 billion and the economy is fueled mostly using renewable energy, among other features.
In his interview with Grist, Porritt explains his intentions:
What I’m trying to do in the book is to demonstrate to people that this innovation pipeline is bulging. There are new ideas and brilliant breakthroughs and all sorts of technological opportunities emerging on a daily basis. Which means we can free ourselves from fossil fuels, we can get incredible resource efficiency, we can learn how to manage water far more efficiently than we do now, we can turn waste into raw materials, we can deal with sanitation problems. We need that as a starting point, just to give people a sense of doability — it is doable. At the moment, too many people think it isn’t doable.
Such emphatic positivity is admirable. Porritt also emphasizes the importance of including connection to nature in education systems, and making the connections between our food and its impacts on the world; he describes these as issues he wishes we had already resolved. Porritt explains how humankinds’ food choices have put the world in a state of imbalance:
We seem to have got ourselves into a very bad place when it comes to our understanding of the importance of food, how it gets onto our plates, our relationship with the animals that we consume so thoughtlessly, and our relationship with the land that we pay no attention to at all. There are many, many people in our world who believe that that relationship between land-food-farming-health is absolutely at the heart of what a sustainable world has to mean.
For Porritt, resolving this dysfunctional relationship is critical to a sustainable future. We at LLV couldn’t agree more.
Image credit: dbking via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.
One out of ten Swedes is vegetarian or vegan, according to a recent poll by reputed research firm Demoskop.
Out of 1,000 Swedes interviewed, 6% self-identified as vegetarian, and 4% as vegan. In the last 5 years, interest in purchasing vegetarian products has increased by 11%.
The poll indicates that 21% of those interviewed who identified themselves as vegetarian or vegan, their choice was mainly due to animal welfare concerns, while 28% claimed that animal welfare was only partly responsible for their decision. The remaining 51% of people are likely to have made their dietary choices for sustainability, health, or religious concerns.
The poll also suggests that this trend is supported by the increasing availability of vegetarian options in major cities, including Stockholm and Skåne.
Given our previous post on how the Chinese, Taiwanese, and Israelis are embracing plant-based diets, it looks like the Swedes are in great company!
Avoid entitlement: instead, cultivate a practice of receiving life’s gifts and giving to others in ways that acknowledge how interconnected life is
Appreciate people: not just things, because showing our gratitude can uplift loved ones and strangers too
Be specific: say exactly what you are grateful for
Be grateful when it feels like you can’t: sometimes appreciating hardships can transform them
Expressing gratitude is important to maintain a positive mindset even in times of stress; some ways to express gratitude include writing thank you notes, keeping a gratitude journal, praying, and meditating. The benefits of are myriad and can improve our personal, social, professional, emotional, and physical lives. Gratitude is a priceless habit to build; time to give it a go if you haven’t already!
Image credit: Laura Manning via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution
Vertical gardens are becoming popular as more and more of the world’s population lives in urban centers. Patrick Blanc has built the world’s tallest vertical garden in Sydney, Australia, with over 450 plant types, of which 250 are local plant species. Blanc learned to make vertical gardens as a child, once he understood that plants don’t need soil; they can grow in water, absorbing nutrients while also filtering the water. According to Blanc, vertical gardens afford a more complete view of all the plants when compared to a horizontal garden. Trained as a botanic scientist, Blanc is able to match plants to their preferred climate easily; this makes him a more time-efficient vertical garden creator compared to competitors.
Offering opportunities for showcasing architectural creativity, vertical gardens can be quite beautiful. Importantly, aside from being esthetically pleasing and well suited to urban populations, vertical gardens also help in “reforesting” urban landscapes, providing fresh air and humidity. Research also shows that vertical gardens can play a role in adapting to climate change through their cooling effect in office buildings.
Image credit: SanGatchie via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
Increasingly, our connectedness is mediated by technology. I know I’m guilty of being an email and Facebook addict; this is how I connect with my parents, relatives, and friends abroad. But what about the relationships we cultivate face to face? Are they suffering? Are we tuning out of life as we flit from our smart phone to the next gadget?
Research suggests yes. And Professor David M. Levy is on a mission to do something about it. He wants to get his students to do one thing at a time, as a way of becoming more present.
Levy’s goal is to reverse the connective technology paradox. The current dilemma is that in our desire to be connected to distant people and events, we use technologies that distract us from connecting with the present moment and the people around us. Levy is using those same technologies with meditation to help his students be more present, and focus on one task at a time, even if that task uses technology. For instance, one of his assignments is to do only email for 15 minutes. For those of us who check email constantly (yes, I mean me), this is an important shift. He also has his students practice meditation in class, which, although at first awkward, eventually helps them mentally declutter.
Says Levy, “A good deal of my focus in recent years has been on exploring how to use our digital tools differently, to connect us to one another and to sources of information in deeper and healthier ways.” Amen to that!
At several children’s hospitals around the country, volunteers provide sick newborns with an essential service: cuddling. We all know the power of human touch can be life-saving, and although cuddling hasn’t been researched much, what we do know suggests that consoling infants is beneficial. Caring touch can reduce a baby’s stress levels, promote sleep, and reduce hospital stays.
Especially in a noisy, busy, and often stressful environment like an intensive care unit where mothers are dealing with medical complications or other children, it’s important that the newborns get the loving care and touch they need. It’s also critical that infants receive this loving attention in the first stages of life, so they can avoid the negative effects on brain development that can occur if they have negative experiences such as separation and stress.
Interestingly, cuddling doesn’t benefit only the babies; cuddlers report feeling happier and more fulfilled. It seems that loving human closeness is a win-win. So, the next time you’re looking for volunteer work, consider cuddling a newborn at your local hospital. You’ll both feel good!
Image credit: Weird Beard via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution
Adrian Hoppel decided he would not charge money for his website designing skills; instead he would trust clients to pay what they felt was fair. Hoppel was fed up of a system that valued hard work for the smallest fee possible, so he decided on the gifting path. He read Sacred Economics and then started offering his services as gifts.
His results have been incredible. He created 22 websites in 2012 and was paid for every one of them; in many cases he was paid more than he would have been in the traditional market system. Now that’s uplifting!
In a recent interview, Hoppel states he and his wife, who has qualifications in engineering and law but directs a nonprofit, are working things out so they can support their family of four. It’s inspiring that this couple has placed trust and doing good at the heart of their professional lives. It takes courage, hope, and aligned action — qualities we can all admire in them, and strive to better embody in our own lives.