Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bringing Books To Children

C. Coimbra photo

From First Book website:

Forty-five percent of children in the United States – more than 32 million – live in low-income households. Most of these children have no age-appropriate books at home, and the classrooms and programs they attend are woefully under-resourced. Approximately two-thirds of these schools and programs cannot afford to buy books at retail prices.

A recognized leader in social enterprise, First Book has pioneered groundbreaking channels to provide new books and educational resources at deeply reduced prices — and for free — to schools and programs serving children in need.

We provide teachers and program administrators with greater purchasing power and access to high-quality books that otherwise would not be available to them. Through First Book, educators can create enriched learning experiences for their students, and the children can enjoy an ongoing supply of wonderful new books.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Free Haircuts for Homeless

A fresh haircut can make a difference how we feel, how we look, and how others look at us.  So what if you are homeless?

Barbers and hairdressers around the world are putting their scissors and razors to work, to bring beauty to those who dwell in the streets.

Mark Bustos, spends his day off giving free haircuts to homeless men on the streets.  He posted: “Every human life is worth the same. We all deserve a second chance.”

UK hairdresser, Joshua Coombes, explained to Express & Echo: "Giving haircuts is such a small thing. It is just me going up to someone having a chat and cutting their hair; they really appreciate the gesture." #dosomethingfornothing

Australian barber, Nasir Sobhani,  recently spent a day in St. Petersburg and offered free haircuts to the Russian homeless.   According to Russia Beyond the Headlines, "Nasir Sobhani is known for spending one day a week giving free haircuts to homeless people all over the world. His first free-haircut client was a drug addict who used to wash windows outside the barber shop where Nasir Sobhani worked."

For the holiday season, "..hairstylist Mandie Barnes decided to do a good deed in the spirit of the holiday: give free haircuts to the homeless in Utah...With the help of volunteer Brook Brian, Barnes organized the event on Dec. 19 at Ogden Rescue Mission. They were able to get several experienced stylists to contribute, and help the homeless who could use a little hair maintenance. Local businesses and friends donated supplies, food, and even clothing like hats and socks," writes,

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Look for the Helpers"

A recent opinion piece in The Guardian, portrayed a vivid picture of life for refugees in a migrant camp on the outskirts of Calais along the French coastline, a 22 mile swim to the UK. Conditions are nearly subhuman, described by one reporter as "where conditions appear worse than in the slums of Mumbai, a camp that is now home to more than 6,000 people, many of them vulnerable and unwell."

With little or no governmental support, volunteers of all sorts work to provide food and basic services  at the refugee camp. One small charity, L'Auberge des Migrants, works in a hastily constructed warehouse sorting donated clothes, teach, preparing meals and other necessary but minimal services.

The Guardian opinion piece found the shard of light that could easily be buried in this human tragedy.  Excerpted from the essay:

But it’s impossible not to admire the volunteers too. For no pay, they have given up comfortable lives to build or cook or teach, to provide for people they have never met because they know that, if they don’t, no one else will. Some are young or retired, with time on their hands. Others have put busy jobs or careers on hold. But none of them had to trade comfortable lives for working in the mud and squalor of the Jungle. No one forced them to rent a van, fill it with tarpaulins or bulk packs of rice and take it across the Channel. They did it simply because they were moved by the sight of their fellow human beings in distress.

And this is what sets them apart from the governments that claim to represent them. The volunteers saw in the faces of those refugees not a problem to be addressed – or, more accurately, avoided – but people just like them. The same is true of all those who have given, and are still giving, to the Guardian’s unprecedentedly successful Christmas appeal.

Within a few hours of the Paris attacks, someone tweeted the advice they’d learned from Fred Rogers, the long-serving face of American children’s television. Don’t look at the killers. Look for the helpers. In what has often been a harsh, dark year, this ragtag, impromptu army of volunteers has been a point of light. They are the very best of us.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Seeking Compassion Trails This Winter Season

As we draw nearer to the winter Christian holiday that stresses peace and love, it seems like an opportunistic moment to help each of us, regardless of faith, to practice kindness and compassion -- even towards those that might bring us fear -- as exemplified by the current rash of Islamophobia.

The Daily Prism (TDP) acknowledges that there are wicked forces, confused persons, desperate behavior, ignorance, and those who seek power at the expense of all others.  But to lump one group of people into one basket, does not bring resolution, trust or peace to any.

Most faiths have a single commonality, and that is the search for inner peace. When we demonize an entire faith, callously disregarding those who do live to bring peace, compassion, and goodwill to others, we develop our own crusts that lessen our personal growth into compassionate beings filled with light.

Falling into anger and hate resolves nothing.

TDP often discusses taking the high road in these matters.  That is no easy task.  A personal analogy would be this editor's desire to hike trails that traverse hills and mountains, and then to have my knees  fail me. This is so personally frustrating. It's as though I can not reach the heights that I seek. And, yes, it makes me angry.

Dwelling within anger does not resolve the issue.  Taking positive action (the high road) however, does.  So, yes, it is tedious, time consuming, and at times unpleasant and uncomfortable to find a way to better those weakened and damaged bones, tissue and cartilage. But once understood and then treated with love and care, I can resume that steep hike -- even though there remains some of the negative points that slow me down. But for the joy of accomplishing that high road and the magnificent view that I can savor at the top of that trail.

With that in mind, TDP will post for the next few days, a series of ideas about how to walk away from Islamphobia, and work towards a better understanding that will enable our world community to slow down and eventually end violent radicalization of persons who mistake their need for love for a false community built on destruction.

More Thoughts from the Islamophobia Guidebook

Public Domain photo by Petr Kratochvil

The following excerpts are from the Islamophobia Guidebook from the nonprofit, Charter for Compassion.

Spend time with Muslims in your community and ask them what you can do to help. Maybe hold a vigil or a public demonstration of solidarity with the faithful to show your support. Attend a service in a Mosque or other place of worship to foster understanding and invite them to your place of worship. Hold an interfaith dinner or event and invite people of other faiths and include Muslims.

Do not be silent in the face of terrorism—any terrorism. Harassment, ridicule, racism, name calling, marginalization, violence, acts of cruelty have no place in civil society particularly in holy places. It is hypocritical to pretend to be against terrorism or terrorists while perpetrating your own brand of terrorism. Do not tolerate terrorism in any form including micro-aggressions. Be clear and be vocal about the intolerance. If the offense is in writing or in the media, write a letter to the editor or go to the comment section of the website to make your thoughts known. Counter bullying where you find it on social media.  Let the Muslims in and around your community know you care, embrace and support them. Be visible.

Educate self, others and your community about Islam. Invite a speaker to give a sermon in your place of worship; request books for your library or buy and donate books that help with understanding about what Islam is; bring Islam up in a meeting and discuss how to approach prejudice in your community; practice zero tolerance in the face of intimidation or harassment.

Keep and speak an open mind. Remind those who would close their minds and hearts to others what irreversible damage has been done and what evil perpetrated in the world in the name of religion.

"We Are All Accountable to One Another"

From the Islamophobia Guidebook

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Compassionate Action Steps for Non-Muslims

C. Coimbra

From the Charter for Compassion

Compassionate Action Steps for Non-Muslims

The range can be from a simple act such as:

  • Joining Muslims in press releases and press conferences
  • When you directly or overhear an Islamophobic comment, respond with patience and tolerance and ask, “Do you know a Muslim personally?” Then, and/or invite them to join you on a visit to a mosque or to have tea with a Muslim friend so they can explore their fear or opinions with personal experience.
  • Speaking with media and having different voices heard.
  • Be active on social media and provide support which includes sharing positive stories, Joining a Muslim friend and going to a mosque or inviting them to speak at other places of worship.
  • Call or walk into a mosque and ask the Imam or office staff if you could sit down and talk, showing your support
  • Smiling at Muslims
  • Calling Muslim friends and family and letting know one cares

Respect for All Faiths

C. Coimbra photo

The following excerpts are from the Islamophobia Guidebook from the nonprofit, Charter for Compassion.

Respect the instruments of all religions whether it’s the building housing the faithful, the scriptures or holy book that is considered divinely inspired and prophetic. Consider how inflammatory disparaging someone else’s instruments, traditions, ceremonies is and how you would feel being on the receiving end of that prejudice and hatred. Speak up about respecting all peoples and all faiths whether it suits you or not, in the name of freedom of religion.

Fundamentalism in any faith is rigid and emotions run high among fundamentalists. Fear and dependency are driving forces in fundamentalism. Understand that those who espouse it are motivated by fear and the rigidity is defense in the face of fear. Fundamentalists don’t embrace change. Hating or disdain will not help someone examine their own beliefs and behavior but will serve to reinforce the behavior and make it more rigid. Most people who adopt rigidity do not recognize their unconscious motives. Listening to reasoning and finding common ground is a better response than condemnation.

Islamophobia Guides

C. Coimbra photo

The following excerpts are from the Islamophobia Guidebook from the nonprofit, Charter for Compassion.

Freedom of religion means the ability to practice one’s faith by choice openly or privately and to be free of intimidation or violence. Religions designate a holy space for the purpose of allegiance to the great mysteries or something greater than the human self. Whether it is a church, Mosque, Synagogue, Fellowship Hall, Temple, Shrine, Satsang, Native American Sweat Lodge or Longhouse or Kirtan, that space is holy and should be accorded the respect and reverence accorded a holy place.

Speak up. When someone lumps together all “Muslims” or whatever “evil group du jour” is the contemporary target, and labels and disparages them, your own group can just as easily become a target for no rational reason. Groups represent a diverse population and no one person or one behavior  represents the whole of a group. One black person does not speak for all black people. One badly behaving Asian does not represent all Asians. One white person does not speak for the whole race. There are different kinds of Catholics and different brands of Protestants.  No one religion is embraced by all people in a group. Not all tenets are embraced by all in that religion. Diversity is as common to faiths as it is to humans.

When someone slams another group or religion, that is an insult to something holy and should not be tolerated. It is important to be vocal about conversation that is offensive. Say you are offended and say why. When something is publicly offensive or comes from a place of authority, question it in a letter to the editor. Hold a meeting to discuss this with your congregation or group.

“Faith” is precisely that—something that is embraced in theory or adopted without proof. The great mysteries and religions are man’s way of explaining that which he doesn’t understand. Religion is a hypothesis, and act of faith. How do you prove God—by whatever name? It’s based on belief and faith and interpretation of scriptures considered holy. No belief or faith or person or group has the one superior or correct answer. Most deities are generous enough to embrace all peoples, even those considered “fringe.”

Killing in the name of religion or of a god is just morally wrong and is not sanctioned by a god in any form. The taking of a life is the taking of something holy. Followers of a faith are governed by guiding principles; every major faith, at their esoteric core, incorporates the golden rule in some form. “Treat others as you would like to be treated” is a common thread. Respect for self, others, life and land and all things holy, runs through most scriptures and is a guiding principle no matter the window-dressing.

Random Kindness on a Busy Bridge

Today's prism is a post on Facebook by a friend of mine who lives in India.  It's a random act of kindness.

Today while driving from college (SIES,Nerul) my scooty's petrol got ceased up on the highway (middle of Nerul Midc bridge). I started to walk holding scooty and kept on walking till I find a petrol pump though it was too difficult specially the heat about to overcome me.
On the way (Belapur bridge) a man on bike may be 40yrs of age found me
"Baito mein peeche se daka deta hu"
"Nai...chalega ji"
But I got worried when he said,
"aaju baaju koi pump nahi hai...taloja jaana padega"
Yeah,unfortunately there are no petrol pumps nearby.
After pushing my scooty for some distance he asked me for a bottle and I had one. He began to fill some petrol from his bike.
"Thankyou Ji"
"Chalo mein bhi aa raha hu"
We went but in between his petrol too got exhausted.
He kept bike in reserve mode and we both went to Taloja and filled the petrol.
"Ji mein bharta hu apka petrol ka paisa"
"Nai koi baat nahi" (with a smile)
He went away as he was quite busy.
I even didn't got a chance to ask his name and whereabouts.
If God is a saviour then I saw God.
‪#‎prayforworld‬ ‪#‎prayforpeace‬

Friday, December 18, 2015

Grant Funds to Counter Youth Radicalization

Public Doman photo

A Somali-American nonprofit in Minneapolis will divvy up some $400,000 in federal and private funds as part of a pilot project to counter jihadist recruitment in immigrant communities, the Star Tribune writes. Youthprise will open an application process next month for other Somali-led groups in the Twin Cities to draw funds for youth engagement and other community efforts.

The federal government is backing similar programs in Boston and Los Angeles aimed at stemming radicalization in immigrant communities. Three young Minneapolis men of East African descent have pleaded guilty to plotting to join the Islamic State in Syria, and seven others face similar charges. Youthprise President Wookie Weah said high unemployment and other challenges create "a risk of radical recruitment" among youth in the Twin Cities' large Somali community.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Goal to Plant 1 Million Trees in 30 Days

C. Coimbra photo

This is our world now.

We’re not waiting around for things to change. We’re going out and changing them. We’re not looking back at past mistakes. We’re looking forward to better choices. For our generation, apathy is death, action - the new prosperity.

As citizens of the world, we have tremendous power. What we choose to eat, do and buy shapes the future we want to see. It’s not governments, corporations or clicktivism that change things. It’s you and me and how we vote with our wallets.

We’re here to pioneer a new world. A better place where we, our children and grandchildren can thrive. Screw idle intentions and the status quo. We’re turning humanity’s greatest challenge into our most daring adventure.

We are the change.

Here's how Julien Fruchier, Republic of Change founder, pitched the idea to  the creative director at The Change Creation, a brand creation agency that works with entities who make the world better, fairer or truer.

"We're tired of waiting for politicians and big corp to take action. Following the suggestion of scientists at the UN, NASA and NOAA, we're setting out to plant 1,000,000 trees in 30 days through a very public crowdfunding campaign. Join a select group of B Corp, 1% for the Planet and Green America members as well as other stewards of the environment on this important mission."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

California Community Shows Support for Local Mosque

Holy Prophet Mosque -- Public Domain Photo by  muritala yusuf olanrewaju

Excerpted from The SLO Tribune

About 200 people gathered at the Mosque of Nasreen in San Luis Obispo on Friday afternoon eager to do something “to make sure evil does not triumph,” as Rev. Jay Perry, president of the San Luis Obispo Ministerial Association, put it.

Speaking at a rally planned to show support for the local Islamic community, Perry, pastor at the SLO Adventist Church, said, “We are here today to stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters who are increasingly coming under threat in this country. At the heart of every major world religion is the golden rule: That we must treat each other the way we would want to be treated in the same situation.”

Community and business leaders, local residents and members of other faith communities gathered in the mosque’s courtyard after the afternoon prayer had ended, some clutching homemade signs and holding them up high to face the constant stream of traffic on Walnut Street.

“These words stand for things I believe in and it seemed like a good opportunity to represent these values and support our diverse community,” said resident Will Jones, whose sign read: “Peace. Love. Compassion. Acceptance. No more fear.”

... Some members of the county’s Islamic community said they are conducting outreach and education to both Muslims and non-Muslims. They want to encourage Muslims to get involved in their communities and be productive citizens, and they want to encourage non-Muslims to reach out, learn more about Islam and have compassion for Muslims who are victims of the Islamic State.

The rally was planned after some local activists, pastors, rabbis and community members showed an interest “in coming together to support the Muslim community given the heightened hateful rhetoric against the Muslim community recently,” said Naiyerah Kolkailah, president of the Islamic Society of San Luis Obispo County. She estimates about 200 to 300 Muslims live in San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties.

Several religious leaders, a local activist and County Supervisor Adam Hill spoke at Friday’s rally.

Cynthia Lambert: 805-781-7929, @ClambertSLO

Read more here:

Saturday, December 12, 2015

An Urban Food Desert Challenger!

C. Coimbra photo
Daily Table is a not-for-profit retail store that offers our community a variety of tasty, convenient and affordable foods that will help you feel and be your best; food that will keep you moving forward, not hold you back.  We provide both “grab-n-go” ready to eat meals, and a selection of produce, bread, dairy and grocery items all at prices that will put a smile on your face, and designed to fit within every budget.  Many of our items are prepared fresh daily in our own kitchen onsite.

We offer an upbeat, clean and friendly retail store environment that is open to everyone in the community.  We can offer these daily values by working with a large network of growers, supermarkets, manufacturers, and other suppliers who donate their excess, healthy food to us, or provide us with special buying opportunities.

In this way, we are able to keep prices affordable for all our customers.  Our meals are priced to compete with fast food options, making it easier for families to eat healthier within their means.  And all the food in our store is informed by guidelines set for us by a leading group of nutrition experts, which makes it easy for our customers to make great food choices.

Founded by Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, Daily Table opened its first store June 4, 2015 in Dorchester, a diverse residential community in Boston.   There are plans to open additional stores in both the greater Boston area and additional cities across the country.

Working together we can help reduce both the effects of poor eating habits caused by challenging economics, and the impact that wasted food and its precious resources has on our environment.

--From The Daily Table website

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Foundation for the Art of Poetry

In a time when the world seems to have tipped, there is a place where most any one can go, and that is to poetry.  The weaving of words with thoughts, emotions, passion and sound, is a historical means to clear the air.

A promoter of poetry is The Poetry Foundation.

From the nonprofit's website:

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience.

The Poetry Foundation works to raise poetry to a more visible and influential position in American culture. Rather than celebrating the status quo, the Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry. In the long term, the Foundation aspires to alter the perception that poetry is a marginal art, and to make it directly relevant to the American public.

Established in 2003 upon receipt of a major gift from philanthropist Ruth Lilly, the Poetry Foundation evolved from the Modern Poetry Association, which was founded in 1941 to support the publication of Poetry magazine. The gift from Ruth Lilly has allowed the Poetry Foundation to expand and enhance the presence of poetry in America and has established an endowment that will fund Poetry magazine in perpetuity. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

American Muslims Raise $100,000 for Shooting Victim Families

Huffington Post reports:

Six days have passed since 14 people were killed and 17 injured at a social services center in San Bernardino, California. And five days have passed since Muslim groups and leaders from across the nation united to help raise nearly $100,000 for the victims' families. 

Faisal Qazi, a neurologist and the co-founder of the family centered development organization MiNDS, and Tarek El-Messidi, co-founder of the Islamic nonprofit CelebrateMercy, joined forces to start the donation fund on LaunchGood Thursday, with a goal of combating hate with love. Their mission: to raise money for the families of the 14 victims killed during a shooting at the Inland Regional Center.

Groups like MECASoCal and the Islamic Networks Group, as well as prominent national Muslim leaders, put their names on the fund, which raised more than $88,000 by Tuesday evening. El-Messidi told The Huffington Post the money will go to the San Bernardino families in batches. 

5 Gifts that Give Back

C. Coimbra photo

The Giving Keys enlists those transitioning out of homelessness to engrave recycled keys that are sold and shared around the world.

Gorjana super star charm leather bracelet, $45,
50% of proceeds go to Make a Wish Foundation, helping to give hope, strength, and joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Michelle Smith for Milly and Brooklyn Decker Christmas tree ornaments, $40 each, 100% of the proceeds are donated to the Child Mind Institute that works to reform mental health care for the world's children.

RxArt Yayoi Kusama puzzle, $75, 100% of the proceeds are revinvested in RxArt's mission of improving health care facilities with fine art.

Tory Burch pom-pom key fob, $55 each, All profits beneift the Tory Burch Foundation, committed to providing economic opportunities to women and their families in the United States.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Most Generous Giving Tuesday 2015

Philanthropy Today reports:

Donors gave $116.7 million to charity on Giving Tuesday, signaling a significant boost from last year’s donation total.

The preliminary results released Wednesday afternoon by the 92nd Street Y, the event’s organizer, are based on tallies from 24 online-donation processors, including PayPal, Blackbaud, DonorPerfect, GlobalGiving, Network for Good, Razoo, and more. The Case Foundation supported the data collection and hopes this year to provide a more complete picture of Giving Tuesday philanthropy than in the previous three years.

Last year’s event brought in close to $46 million, organizers said, although that figure reflects data from only five online-gift processors. This year, those five (Blackbaud, DonorPerfect, Global Giving, Network for Good, and Razoo) reported $64.3 million in contributions, a nearly 40 percent increase.

During 2015’s giving sprint, 698,961 online donors gave more than 1.08 million gifts averaging $107.

Blackbaud reported processing $39.6 million in online donations Tuesday, up 52 percent from 2014. GlobalGiving reported a 290 percent increase over last year in new recurring donations that started on Giving Tuesday.

"It’s great to see such positive results from online donations: This is truly a cause for celebration," Henry Timms, executive director of 92Y, said in a statement. "In addition, beyond these numbers, there are offline donations not measured here — as well as the impact of volunteer efforts; campaigns that encourage acts of kindness or donations of goods (like food and coats); classroom programs that are growing the next generation of philanthropists; and regional campaigns in towns, cities, and states that generate civic pride and bring communities together around giving. All of those outcomes are equally important measures of success."

More than 1.3 million tweets mentioning the #GivingTuesday hashtag were shared during the day — an increase of 86 percent from 2014. Education, the environment, animals, health care, and international affairs were the leading causes shared on social media.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Give Works of Fiction--Grow Empathy

Editor's note: Giving the gift of a book, especially literary fiction, can help develop empathy in the reader.  We have excerpted the following from The Literacy Site.

Studies are showing that readers of fiction are more empathetic towards others. By engaging with a story, readers are temporarily placing themselves in a character’s shoes, therefore, the more stories you read, the more shoes you’ve tried on. It’s a fascinating insight into the world of reading.

In 2012, Standford University did research into why this is. According to neuroscientist Bob Dougherty, “The right patterns of ink on a page can create vivid mental imagery and instill powerful emotions.”

Your brain does amazing things while you’re reading, the breadth of which researchers are still defining. And by placing yourself into the world of a great novel, you are given the chance to experience something new that could be informative in your interactions with other people.

... which books should we be reading to maximize these cognitive benefits?

The authors of another study, David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, tackled this question, but also asserted that what you choose read is important! 

Through their research, they found that readers of literary fiction receive more of the empathetic benefits of reading than those who read pop-fiction or non-fiction. The term “literary fiction” seems arbitrary, but Kidd and Castano explain that literary fiction merely denotes the level of complexity in stories and their characters (at least, that’s what it means in the context of their study).

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Beads for Hope--A Holiday Gift Idea with Purpose

Kazuri Beads. Photo by C. Coimbra

When the holiday season is upon us, we are blasted to near deafness about what we should buy--much of it useless and without purpose.  A seventeenth century clergyman, Thomas Fuller, suggested, and wisely so, that,  "A gift, with a kind countenance, is a double present."

The Daily Prism would like to add that a gift crafted by those in need, far exceeds a multi-carat diamond.

Case in point are several opportunities to purchase handmade beads crafted by African women.  At 100 Good Deeds beaded bracelets made by "vulnerable women, many HIV+, who've been trained for this work in Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Rwanda & Haiti, Bali, India and New York," according the the non-profit's website, "... gives women a way to support their families through earnings, while empowering them to also contribute to good deeds around the world."

The Good Deeds Bracelet
Each bracelet consists of 100 beads, and each time you do a good deed, you move the ring one bead closer to the button.

Another option comes from Kazuri, a bead making operation in Nairobi, Kenya.  From the website:

Kazuri was started in 1975 by Lady Susan Wood with the social mission of making work for a few women. Initially less than 10 women were employed making beads in her garden shed. As word of the beauty and uniqueness of the Kazuri beads, necklaces and earrings spread, sales increased, as did the facility, and as a result 350 people are now employed. Many more wait in the hope of having an opportunity to join the ranks of those talented people who make small and beautiful objects. Now under new ownership, Kazuri has been able to expand whilst still retaining its philanthropic roots. The workshop is still located on a portion of the farm once owned by Karen Von Blixen, of 'Out of Africa' fame, at the base of the Ngong Hills outside Nairobi.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Urban Blight Becomes Urban Farm

Women of Green Photo

Gardening isn’t just for people living on farms or in suburban neighborhoods with sprawling lawns. As more people seek to beautify their urban living environment and grow their own organic food, urban gardens are springing up around cities all over the U.S., and the world.

Detroit is taking this one step further by transforming 22 blocks of blight on the east side of the city into a massive urban farm. The 60-acre farm, which will be known as “Recovery Park,” will consist of 35 acres of city-owned property and other land purchased for the project. It will house a vast set of greenhouses and, at its 3-year mark, is expected to employ some 120 people. The project will cost about $15 million.

RecoveryPark already operates 2 urban farms where fruits and veggies like radishes, greens, and edible flowers are grown and then sold to restaurants in the city.

The city of Detroit is lined with empty buildings that often revert to the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA). Some houses go for a piddling $500 in an effort to bring young people into the fray to rebuild and revitalize the city. Many buildings, however, have little chance of being purchased and put into use.

So the idea of an urban farm beautifying the crumbling landscape, potentially providing locally grown produce to Detroit restaurants and bring jobs into an area of the country with crippling unemployment numbers could be a dream come true. Even more so when you consider that the effort is a non-profit venture that will supposedly help ex-offenders who need a second chance at life.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Olivine, Carbon Nonofibers, C02 Snow--More Third Way Technologies

Editor's Note: This is part of an excerpted series of a Yale Environment 360 interview by Richard Schiffman, with Tim Flannery, an Australian scientist and author.  He discusses how “third way technologies,” that mimic the earth’s natural carbon-removing processes could provide a critical tool for slowing climate change.


e360: Olivine is one of the most common rocks in the Earth’s crust with the ability to chemically bind with CO2 in the atmosphere. How could this be used? 

Flannery: There is a roofing company in the Netherlands that makes a paint with an olivine based rock that takes C02 out of the atmosphere directly into your roof. There are also people who are using crushed olivine as a soil amendment, absorbing C02 as the rocks decay. There are proposals to create beach sand from olivine. There are other proposals to use olivine to treat the exhaust from shipping, then put it in the sea to help take C02 out of the waters, in a similar way that seaweed farming does.

 Fuels, Carbon nanofibers, & plastics

 e360: You report in your new book that fuels, carbon nanofibers, and certain types of plastics can be made directly from C02 in the atmosphere. But these are futuristic possibilities. Won’t it take a long time to get these technologies up and running at scale? 

Flannery: It’s still at an early stage, but all indications are that the plastic industry is set to be transformed by these technologies as we move away from fossil fuels. And the carbon fiber possibilities are just astonishing. If you want a very light, very strong material, carbon fiber is what you use. At the moment it is very expensive to manufacture. But just a month ago a major breakthrough was announced by a company that devised a way of manufacturing carbon nanofibers directly out of C02 in the atmosphere at one tenth of the production cost of other methods. As carbon nanofibers become cheaper to manufacture, they will start competing directly with steel and aluminum, both of which are very energy intensive and produce
lots of emissions. 

e360: There are already ways to take C02 directly out of the atmosphere or out of the exhaust stream from power plants. But the problem is where to safely store the captured greenhouse gas. 

Flannery: Previously, carbon capture and storage was conceived of as something that you would apply to the end of a coal powered power plant, capture the C02, and store it in bedrock somewhere near that plant. But if you put C02 under the ground, the C02 remains buoyant, the stuff is always trying to escape, to go upwards because it is a gas. In the oceans, however, things are quite different. Water pressure at two or three kilometers depth is sufficient that C02 remains stable. And if you try to bury it even in shallow marine sediments it becomes a solid on its own. 

When you think about it, the ocean floor is where most of that excess C02 is destined to reside, or most of it anyway over geological time. The C02 is absorbed into the oceans, it is turned into a carbonate on the bottom of the sea as limestone or whatever. So the idea that we should pump C02 into deep ocean sediments at 2 or 3 kilometers is really mimicking what happens over the longer term anyway and it provides a stable environment for carbon to be stored. 

 C02 Snow

e360: One of the most surprising ideas in your book is the proposal to create C02 snow in Antarctica. Could you talk about this? 

Flannery: C02 falls out of the atmosphere as snow at -75 degrees Celsius, and sometimes it reaches -90 degrees Celsius over the Antarctic icecap. So C02 is already falling as snow out of the air at times in Antarctica. The thing is it doesn’t get buried or stored anywhere. As temperatures warm, it sublimates and goes back into the air. So the proposal for the Antarctic is that you would build some big chiller boxes, say 100 yards cubed, you would power them using wind energy, which is already being used by the research stations in Antarctica for their electricity generation. You need about half the installed wind power that Germany presently has to run these chiller boxes to capture a gigaton of C02 in the form of snow. So the idea is that you would put the chiller box out, you’d cool the air a few tens of degrees, the C02 would fall out as snow, you would bury it under ice and it would stay there. That is a very exciting option. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Carbon-Negative Concrete, a Third Way Technology

Carbon-Negative Concrete. Novacem photo

Editor's Note: This is part of an excerpted series of a Yale Environment 360 interview by Richard Schiffman, with Tim Flannery, an Australian scientist and author.  He discusses how “third way technologies,” that mimic the earth’s natural carbon-removing processes could provide a critical tool for slowing climate change.

e360: Turning to the chemical third way technologies, you write about carbon-negative concrete. What is that?

Flannery: It is a kind of concrete that uses different components for the cement from conventional concrete. It doesn’t emit C02 during the manufacturing process. As the concrete sets and matures, it actually absorbs C02 into its structure. So it is carbon-negative and its manufacturers claim that it is lighter, stronger and more durable than concretes made with Portland cement. But because it is a new product, it doesn’t have a track record. No one is going to build the Brooklyn Bridge from it just yet, because we aren’t sure how it is going to stand up. But there are a lot of low-risk uses for concrete that we can begin with as we try to grow that industry. And it is incredibly important because concrete manufacture accounts for about 5 percent of global emissions.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Promise of Seaweed--A Third Way Technology

C.Coimbra photo

Editor's Note: This is part of an excerpted series of a Yale Environment 360 interview by Richard Schiffman, with Tim Flannery, an Australian scientist and author.  He discusses how “third way technologies,” that mimic the earth’s natural carbon-removing processes could provide a critical tool for slowing climate change.

e360: You are really hopeful about seaweed farming. How would that work? 

Flannery: Seaweed grows at 30 to 60 times the rate of land-based plants, so it can draw out lots of C02. One study suggests that if you cover 9 percent of the world’s oceans in seaweed farms, you could draw down the equivalent of all our current emissions — more than 40 gigatons a year — and grow enough protein to feed a population of 10 billion people. That’s a huge opportunity. 

Seaweed farms can also reverse ocean acidification. Off the coast of China, there are about 500 square kilometers of seaweed farms that are used to produce edible seaweed for the food market. They have been very well studied, and we’ve seen there that pH can rise as high as 10 around those seaweed farms. At the moment with an acidified ocean it is 8.1. You could buffer oceans and they are fantastic places for growing fish, shellfish, or prawns, just because of that buffering impact. But you then have the problem of what to do with all that seaweed. You certainly don’t want it just sitting there and rotting away. One of the proposals is that bio-digesters be used. These are very familiar to famers, the kinds of things you put your agricultural waste in and generate methane, which you can use to produce electricity. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Supporting Middle Eastern Refugees

Samaritan's Purse photo

The Daily Prism will return to the third way technologies tomorrow.  But we take this break to showcase compassionate hearts on the front line of the mass migration of peoples fleeing Middle East terror and war.

One such group is the Christian organization, Samaritan's Purse.   From their website:

Over 3.2 million Iraqis have been displaced since January 2014—the majority were forced to flee in the wake of ISIS advances. Many escaped with little but the clothes on their backs. As ISIS fighters remain in control of large swaths of their country, families are seeking refuge in tent camps and unfinished buildings, relying on the generosity and hospitality of local Christian hosts and international support.

Samaritan’s Purse staff in northern Iraq have been helping these suffering families for over a year by supplying food, shelter, clean water, winter clothes, and more. 

The organization addresses the needs of

  • Children
  • Clean water, sanitation and hygiene
  • Preparing for winter
  • Restoring livelihoods

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Reforestation--A Third Way Technology

C. Coimbra photo

Editor's Note:  This is part of an excerpted series of a Yale Environment 360 interview by Richard Schiffman, with Tim Flannery, an Australian scientist and author.  He discusses how “third way technologies,” that mimic the earth’s natural carbon-removing processes could provide a critical tool for slowing climate change.

e360: You write about two categories of third way technologies, the biological and the chemical. Could you talk about the biological approach? 

Flannery: For example, reforestation is really basic. Trees are just congealed carbon dioxide. So when you plant a forest, what you are doing is you are using the power of the sun harnessed by photosynthesis to draw C02 out of the atmosphere and congeal it as living trees. You can also then take some of those plant products that you grow and turn them into a form of carbon that will last longer, that won’t rot away as quickly by converting it to biochar. Biochar is a form of charcoal derived from various plant products. You can plow it into your agricultural soils or store it somewhere and it will stay there as a mineralized form of carbon for many years. The biochar industry is still very small. In 2013 it was only producing a thousand tons of salable product, so it is an option that is yet to grow to scale.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Third Way Technologies For Planetary Health

C. Coimbra photo

Editor's Note: This is the first in an excerpted series of a Yale Environment 360 interview by Richard Schiffman with Tim Flannery, an Australian scientist and author.  He discusses how “third way technologies,” that mimic the earth’s natural carbon-removing processes could provide a critical tool for slowing climate change.

Yale Environment 360: In your earlier book, The Weather Makers, you forecasted a bleak future if we don’t change course. Yet you seem guardedly optimistic in your latest book.

Tim Flannery: I’m definitely more hopeful and that’s only happened in the last two years … One of the most heartening has been the change in public knowledge of climate change and attitudes toward it. When I wrote about climate change ten years ago I had to use a slide presentation with graphs showing the increase of C02 concentrations and increasing temperatures and all the rest. That is because back then the major impacts of climate change had not really hit yet. Whereas when I go around the world and speak now, everyone has a story about how climate change is impacting their lives. There is still a small band of deniers. But they are definitely in the minority now. Climate change is a lived experience of most people.

e360: You cite in the new book a report by the International Energy Agency saying that global carbon emissions had stopped rising between 2013 and 2014. What is the significance of this?

Flannery: That is the second bit of good news, the first being the increasing awareness of the issue. If the IEA data is correct, it’s a landmark achievement, to see global emissions from energy sources stall, and also to see the decoupling of fossil fuel emissions from economic growth. The global economy grew, but the emissions from energy sources — everything from transport to electricity production — stalled at 32.7 billion tons of emissions. That is really unexpected. Nobody thought that we would see that as early as we have.

e360: What factors have caused this leveling of emissions?

Flannery: There are two big factors. One is the incredible success of wind and solar in terms of penetration into the market. And the second has been the billions and billions of small actions that people like you and I have been doing, changing our light bulbs, making our housing more energy-efficient, cycling to work. These sorts of things have cumulatively been having a huge impact. I was skeptical whether these actions would all add up to anything. Well, they have now added up to something really huge.

e360: Why has it become necessary to develop these radical new approaches?

Flannery: We’re in a really difficult position right now. Even if we stop all fossil fuel use today, the planet is going to warm by one-and-a-half degrees within decades. The reality is we are seeing significant damage at one degree, which is near where we are now. We’re committed [by inertia in the system] to 1.5 degrees. A 1.5 degree rise is already looking like it is going to be too much. Sea level rise is going to be tremendously destructive. So the argument is that we need to do two things at once. We need to reduce emissions as fast as we can, and the second is to start investing now in these new technologies, in research and development.

e360: In your book, you talk about what you call “third way technologies.” What are these, and how do they differ from geoengineering?

Flannery: Some of them have been considered in the past as forms of geoengineering. But we need to be very careful about our language in this. I had to invent that term— third way technologies— to describe a basket of approaches that work in synergy with the planet to help reinforce the way the Earth system stabilizes itself. And they do that by drawing carbon dioxide directly out of the atmosphere and then putting it into something useful or storing it somewhere safely. So it is very much a functional distinction between geoengineering’s Band-Aid solutions and the third way technologies, which strengthen Earth’s own self-regulatory system by drawing C02 out of the atmosphere in ways the planet naturally does already, or in ways that simulate that.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Energy Drink Billionaire Pledges Fortune to Charity

For legions of truck drivers, employees chasing deadlines, and students burning the midnight oil, Manoj Bhargava’s best-selling invention, 5-hour ENERGY drink, has already been a lifesaver.

Since launching the caffeine-based power-drink in 2004, Bhargava, 62, has quietly amassed a $4 billion fortune. (Not to mention some scrutiny last year in light of controversy over the marketing of the drink.) But it’s not all about the profits: A former monk, Bhargava dabbled in a variety of odd jobs early in his career—taxi driver, construction worker, printing press operator, business manager—and seems to have gained extra empathy for the plight of the working poor.

In a new self-produced film called Billions in Change, released Oct. 5, Bharvaga has pledged to give away 99% of his fortune to charity.

A huge stake of that wealth will go into a design and engineering laboratory called Stage 2 Innovations. Housed in a building within his 25-acre corporate campus in Farmington Hills, Michigan, the “tinkerer’s workshop,” as he calls it, has a singular mission: to create technologies that provide a livelihood boost for people in the developing world.

To change the world, what you have to do is invent more stuff, says Bhargava in his film.

“I think most people in the United States forgot that [inventors and engineers] brought us to where we are,” he later reflected during an interview with the Huffington Post. “The wealth that has been created over the last 120 years came from guys who actually built stuff.”


Monday, November 16, 2015

Blankets of Warmth for Homeless from Inmates

Inmates at the  County Jail’s low-security Women’s Honor Farm will donate 100 quilts to local homeless shelters.

The quilts and afghans were hand-made by women inmates, who will present them to Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County officials to give to clients of the Prado Day Center and the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter in San Luis Obispo.

The Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that it offers a sewing program as a rehabilitative tool at the jail, helping inmates develop communication, social and goal-oriented skills and building camaraderie between them.

“This project has so many positive ramifications. It alleviates tension, promotes communication, develops new skills, and most importantly, they are learning what it feels like to be a value to society, to someone in need,” Senior Correctional Deputy Piotrowski said in a written statement.

--From SLO Tribune

From Hog Farm Waste to Natural Energy

ALBANY — One recipe for renewable natural gas goes: Place manure from about 2 million hogs in lagoons, cover them with an impermeable material and let it bake until gas from the manure rises. Then, use special equipment to clean the gas of its impurities and ship the finished product out.
That's the vision of one of the largest biogas projects of its kind in the US currently being installed in northern Missouri, part of a long-term effort to turn underused agriculture resources into an engine for environmentally friendly farming practices.
The joint project, involving Roeslein Alternative Energy and Smithfield Food Hogs Production, will first convert manure from hogs on nine farms into renewable natural gas, with a goal of selling it as soon as 2016. The second phase would add native prairie grasses planted on erodible or marginal farm land to the manure to increase the biomass.
Developers expect the first phase to produce about 2.2 billion cubic feet of pipeline-quality natural gas, providing an alternative energy source while also keeping an estimated 850,000 tons of methane, a major greenhouse gas, from escaping into the atmosphere. Plus, the covers mostly eliminate the odor that can permeate the area around large hog farms, reduce the amount of waste-tainted water that leeches into the ground and capture thousands of gallons of clean water for re-use.
---to read more, go to The Philippine Star

Season of Kindness Begins Today

Have you done something kind today?

Welcome to the Season of Kindness, 40 days of making the world a better place by celebrating acts of kindness large and small.

It can be as simple as holding open a door, giving a warm smile or a thank-you to someone who serves you at the coffee shop every morning.

The best part about kindness is, it doesn't have to cost a penny, but it can make a person's day better in an instant.

"A random act of kindness can be the smallest thing in the world, but it can change everything," said TODAY's Hoda Kotb.

So what are you waiting for? Join us!

The challenge for day one: Tag the kindest person you know on social media using the hashtag #ShareKindness.

Visit our calendar to unlock simple, easy-to-do kind acts, then mark off the ones you've done. Check out new stories and videos from NBC News and NBC Universal that will inspire and move you. And get involved!

Make this movement about what you can do, each and every day.

--From NBC News

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The World Responds In Solidarity to Paris

It's always a challenge to find positive words and thoughts the day after a nightmare act of violence on innocent people. The response from around the world, however, is one of care and concern for every citizen in Paris. Perhaps, these photos capture our better nature that showcases the tens of thousands who stand in empathy and compassion for the citizens of Paris, as opposed to the few (hundreds, perhaps) who vow destruction.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Foundation Offers Funds for Food & Community Revitalization

--from the Kresge Foundation
The Kresge Foundation seeks to support and accelerate local efforts that successfully use food as a platform for health, economic development and cultural expression, creating co-benefits for all – particularly low-income residents and families. We are particularly interested in neighborhood-scale projects that have been developed with strong community engagement and leadership; prioritize equity; involve multiple sectors and disciplines; and demonstrate a high degree of readiness to implement an integrated, cross-sectoral vision of food-oriented development.

This funding opportunity represents a collaborative effort between Kresge’s Arts & Culture and Health programs.

 Kresge’s Arts & Culture program seeks to help build strong, healthy cities by promoting the integration of arts and culture in community revitalization. We work across sectors with organizations committed to creating opportunities for low income and underrepresented people and tapping the power of arts and culture to re-energize communities.

 Kresge’s Health program works to enable communities to overcome economic, environmental and social barriers to health. Our work focuses both on “upstream” determinants of health such as housing, food systems and transportation, as well as on innovative partnerships that share resources and responsibilities between health systems, public health and a range of community partners to improve population health.

This funding opportunity aims to surface and accelerate the most promising initiatives that use food- oriented development as part of a comprehensive community revitalization strategy. Kresge aims to help leading-edge community food initiatives demonstrate their value and deliver multiple benefits in partnership with low-income residents.

Kresge invites proposals from organizations and collaborations leading mission-driven food initiatives in economically distressed urban neighborhoods. Kresge intends to award up to 20 planning grants of up to $75,000 each in the first quarter of 2016. Planning grants can last up to 12 months, and awardees will have the opportunity to apply for implementation funding by the end of 2016, although earning a planning award does not guarantee earning implementation funding.