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.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Soybeans for Hungry Afghanistan Families

Soybean varieties. Public domain photo

Nutrition and Education International (NEI) is working with local farmers to develop a soy seed market in Afghanistan. A developed seed market can ensure the access to a reliable domestic source of protein.

NEI’s mission is to establish a self-sustainable soybean industry in Afghanistan through developing a soybean full value chain; which includes seed multiplication, soybean cultivation, soybean processing, and soy market development.

The general objective of NEI’s humanitarian distribution program in Afghanistan is to assist poor families suffering from protein-energy malnutrition. NEI distributes soy products to women and children, excluding infants and children under three years of age in order to supplement their diets with a complete protein source and help prevent protein-energy malnutrition.

By 2010, NEI reached all 34 provinces and over 2,000 farmers. Farmers use harvested soybeans to nourish their families and sell the surplus to soy flour factories.

Now, in 2015, soybean consumption is becoming popular with development of widespread training and teaching.

The first commercial soybean production in Afghanistan began in 2006 when NEI imported 40 metric tons of two soybean varieties from Stine Seed Company. This company is based in the United States. Seed distribution began with 2,000 farmers in 9 provinces. The farmers received training on soybean cultivation and home use of harvested soybeans.  By 2010, NEI was able to reach 6,000 new farmers in all 34 provinces in cooperation with 600 MAIL extension agronomists who were first trained by NEI’s Technical Advisor, the late Professor Oral Myers from the Southern Illinois University located in the  United States.

--From the NEI website

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

World Giving Index for 2015

C. Coimbra photo

The World Giving Index 2015: A Global View of Giving Trends

Summary: Charitable giving increased worldwide in 2014 but fell in the United States, according to the sixth edition of a survey conducted by Gallup in more than 140 countries.

Better than 31 percent of respondents globally said they had made a charitable donation in the previous month, up more than three percentage points from 2013. In the United States, meanwhile, the proportion of people reporting a donation dropped to 63 percent, from 68 percent. Gallup’s margin of error varies by country and question, but is generally plus or minus 3 percent.

The survey provides data for the foundation’s annual World Giving Index, which is designed to measure overall generosity in each country based on three forms of charitable behavior. In the survey, individuals indicate whether they have donated money, volunteered, or helped a stranger in the past month.

Despite its 12th place rank in giving, the United States retained the index’s designation as the most generous country in the developed world, with relatively high marks in helping strangers (third place) and volunteerism (sixth place).

Worldwide, the United States stood second overall behind Myanmar, where, the report says, the traditions of the overwhelmingly predominant Theravada branch of Buddhism lead to high rates of giving and volunteerism. More than 92 percent of Myanmar survey respondents reported donating money.

Other findings:

The five countries following Myanmar and the United States on the 2015 index are: New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Burundi ranked at the bottom of the index.

For the first time in the index’s history, men were more likely than women to give money.
Only five of the G-20 countries are in the index’s top 20.

---From Philanthropy Today

  • Myanmar, the United States and New Zealand are the top three in the CAF World Giving Index 2015.
  • Participation in donating money and helping a stranger has risen this year, whilst volunteering has seen a small downturn.
  • For the first time in six years of the World Giving Index, we’ve found that men are more likely to donate money than women.
  • Behaviour in a few very large countries has significantly impacted the numbers of people giving worldwide.
  • Cultural and religious practices, as well as disruptive events, are at the root of a number of big changes seen this year.
  • Despite their highly developed economies, only five G20 countries are in this year’s Top 20, reminding us that economic prosperity does not automatically lead to a rise in generosity.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Restoring Indigenous Names to Alaskan Sites

C. Coimbra photo

During a recent walk along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Dena'ina historian Aaron Leggett pointed to an area that was devastated during the massive Good Friday earthquake in 1964. Trees and houses on a mile-wide stretch of earth had come tumbling down.

Had Anchorage consulted Dena'ina geography, he said, the bluffs facing Cook Inlet may not have seemed like such a good location for a neighborhood. The Dena'ina name for that area is Nen GhiƂgedi, which he translates literally as "rotten land."

...As an adult, Leggett began asking questions about his cultural heritage, finding geographic knowledge particularly empowering.

...This year has brought some major accomplishments for advocates of restoring indigenous names. The Koyukon Athabascan name Denali officially replaced Mount McKinley as the name for Alaska's (and North America's) highest peak. The name of Wade Hampton, a slave owner and Confederate general, was dropped from a Western Alaska census area in favor of Kusilvak, a Yup'ik name for a local mountain range. And most recently, Teedriinjik and Ch’idriinjik became the official names for parts of an Arctic river system formerly designated Chandalar.

The trend seems likely to be bolstered by the introduction last month of what is set to become the state's first comprehensive atlas of Native place names.

Researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Snow and Ice Data Center have teamed up to consolidate a dozen geographic databases into a single interactive map.

Since environmental knowledge is embedded in Native place names, the atlas could become a tool for researching Alaska’s “biocultural diversity,” according to the National Science Foundation’s grant description.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Recognizing Holiday Diversity in Schools

C. Coimbra photo

Excerpted from Fusion

In most public schools around the U.S., classes are cancelled for Christian holidays like Christmas and Good Friday, while students of other faiths have to choose between going to class and celebrating their own holy days.

That’s not the case in New York City.  Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that public schools would be closed next year for Lunar New Year, a major holiday in Chinese and Korean culture. New York schools also cancel classes for the Jewish holidays Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah and the Muslim holidays Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.

Advocates say recognizing these days is important in respecting the city’s diverse religious communities...

Lunar New Year, celebrated in January or February and is the biggest holiday of the year in Chinese and Korean culture. (It’s a cultural holiday, not a religious one.) In China, where people traditionally go back to their hometown for the holiday, it’s the occasion for the largest annual human migration in the world...

...The San Francisco and Tenafly, N.J., public school districts also give students off for Lunar New Year, while schools in Cambridge, Mass.; Paterson, N.J.; and Dearborn, Mich. and other cities close for Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr. But of the 25 largest school districts in the U.S., New York by far recognizes the widest range of holidays...

...In part, the decision to recognize religious holidays has to do with numbers. Closing schools during Muslim holidays “was about inclusion and respect for a very large, burgeoning faith community in New York City,” Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, told Fusion. “One out of every eight public school students in New York is Muslim…so in a population of 1.1 million students, that’s a lot of students.” Some schools in Muslim neighborhoods would have up to half of their students not show up on the holidays, she said.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Seeking Justice for Kenyan Women

Proscovia Amukowa and Lindy Wafula, Leading Ladies Club

Editor's Note:  The Pollination Project is a favorite resource for this blog. Here is one of the nonprofit's most recent posts:  

In rural Busia, Kenya, women are gathering to share experiences and information on issues ranging from human rights to dignity of women. The Leading Ladies Club was founded when Liz, a young girl from the community was raped and women came together to march the streets seeking justice. The voices from the rural village were heard in the major cities and soon an online movement sparked with the hash tag #justiceforliz, resulting in the prosecution of the offenders.

Proscovia Amukowa is working to bring together women and offer trainings on leadership skills for greater representation and understanding within their respective families, government organizations and other social institutions. As Proscovia has grown, she has become more aware that the voices of women are often silenced and undermined, especially when issues of rights and inheritance are of concern. Deeply rooted in the culture and religion is the idea that women are second to men, submissive and thus overlooked from opportunities compared to their male counterparts, such as access to education. Together with her mentor Lindy Wafula of Women’s Institute Center of Excellence, they will plan on monthly trainings for women that center on leadership, enterprise development and networking among others.

“The most important need is to identify and celebrate women doing exemplary work in the community. For these women are the heroes that girls find admirable.”

To Learn more about the Leading Ladies Club, follow them on Twitter.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

This Changes Everything

Editor's Note:  Recently, in a discussion with three scientists, they shared a rather dismal view of our planet's future as they watch the current collapse of eco-systems. The story below, from the film's website, brings a positive view of how we can make positive changes now.

C. Coimbra photo

Filmed over 211 shoot days in nine countries and five continents over four years, This Changes Everything is an epic attempt to re-imagine the vast challenge of climate change.

Directed by Avi Lewis, and inspired by Naomi Klein’s international non-fiction bestseller This Changes Everything, the film presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond.

Interwoven with these stories of struggle is Klein’s narration, connecting the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there. Throughout the film, Klein builds to her most controversial and exciting idea: that we can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.

Over the course of 90 minutes, viewers will meet…

Crystal, a young indigenous leader in Tar Sands country, as she fights for access to a restricted military base in search of answers about an environmental disaster in progress.

Mike and Alexis, a Montana goat ranching couple who see their dreams coated in oil from a broken pipeline. They respond by organizing against fossil fuel extraction in their beloved Powder River Basin, and forming a new alliance with the Northern Cheyenne tribe to bring solar power to the nearby reservation.

Melachrini, a housewife in Northern Greece where economic crisis is being used to justify mining and drilling projects that threaten the mountains, seas, and tourism economy. Against the backdrop of Greece in crisis, a powerful social movement rises.

Jyothi, a matriarch in Andhra Pradesh, India who sings sweetly and battles fiercely along with her fellow villagers, fighting a proposed coal-fired power plant that will destroy a life-giving wetland. In the course of this struggle, they help ignite a nationwide movement.

The extraordinary detail and richness of the cinematography in This Changes Everything provides an epic canvas for this exploration of the greatest challenge of our time. Unlike many works about the climate crisis, this is not a film that tries to scare the audience into action: it aims to empower. Provocative, compelling, and accessible to even the most climate-fatigued viewers, This Changes Everything will leave you refreshed and inspired, reflecting on the ties between us, the kind of lives we really want, and why the climate crisis is at the centre of it all.

Will this film change everything? Absolutely not. But you could, by answering its call to action.

Businessman Bequeaths Estate to Help the Blind

Excerpted from a KQED report:

One morning last year, Bryan Bashin sat down to check his email. One peculiarly short note caught his attention.

“A businessman has passed away. I think you might want to talk to us,” it read.

Bryan directs a nonprofit in San Francisco called the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, so he gets a lot of email about donations. But this one felt different. It came from a group of lawyers handling the estate of a deceased businessman, Donald Sirkin.

When Bryan and the LightHouse’s Director of Development, Jennifer Sachs, checked the LightHouse’s donor database, they found no record of him. Don Sirkin had never donated to the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired before, or used its services.

And yet, in his will, Don Sirkin had left almost his entire estate to the LightHouse, with no explanation.

In the end, the gift totaled over $125 million, more than 15 times the LightHouse’s annual budget. Bryan believes it’s the largest single gift ever given to a blindness organization.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Suicide Survivor's Plea: There is Hope

Editor's Note: This is a post that a friend posted on his Facebook page.  It is a real post by a real person. The Daily Prism understands the challenge for many persons who suffer through the holiday seasons. Please read this post, and share with those who may require some extra help.

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Three years and a few months ago I woke up in a emergency room to the tortured eyes of my sweet mother after trying to kill myself.

I hate to bring this up every so often because - trust me - I am not trying to draw attention to it, and not looking for sympathy or likes or "Oh Davey, we're so glad you made it." I'm bringing this up because, well hell - it's my duty to remind you guys ‪#‎dontgiveup‬.

I bring it up now because we are heading into that season where loneliness can crush you like a tidal wave. To those who are doing well - keep your eyes open - vigilantly. A simple invite to Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner may well turn someone's whole life around.

To those of you hurting, to those who feel you've lost everything - I know how that is and I know how you feel. I just want you to know ‪#‎thereishope‬. I lost family, friends, respect - everything...oh so rather publicly. I know you feel like you cant fight this anymore, I know you feel like there is no way it is ever going to turn around - that is a lie. #dontgiveup - PLEASE.

There is an ocean of caring amazing people in this world who would love to help you, even if they don't know you. If you need one friend, start with me. 24/7 - 365

If you are on the edge, call me.  (Editor's Note: Please message The Daily Prism for the phone number.) I've been there. I may not be able to get back to you right away, but I will contact you as soon as possible.

You want to hear my story, I'm on open book. Am I success story, hell no - I am just a recipient of benevolent grace and friends with hearts the size of Jupiter.

You matter. Your needed. It will get better.

...and for fuck sake there are people out there who will LOVE you back to health, to life no matter who you are. You have NEVER gone so far that you can't come back. #dontgiveup.

Thanks for listening - I'm rooting for you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Seven Steps Toward Peace

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This book excerpt is from Peace Is the Way by Deepak Chopra.

The approach of personal transformation is the idea of the future for ending war. It depends on the only advantage that people of peace have over war-makers: sheer numbers. If enough people in the world transformed themselves into peacemakers, war could end. The leading idea here is critical mass. It took a critical mass of human beings to embrace electricity and fossil fuels, to teach evolution, and adopt every major religion. When the time is right and enough people participate, critical mass can change the world. Can it end war?

There is precedent to believe that it might. The ancient Indian ideal of Ahimsa, or non-violence, gave Gandhi his guiding principle of reverence for life. In every spiritual tradition it is believed that peace must exist in one's heart before it can exist in the outer world. Personal transformation deserves a chance.

This program for peacemakers offers a specific practice for you to follow every day, each one centered on the theme of peace.

1. Sunday: Being for Peace
Today take five minutes to meditate for peace. Put your attention on your heart and inwardly repeat these four words: peace, harmony, laughter, and love.

2. Monday: Thinking for Peace
Today introduce the intention of peace in your thoughts. Take a few moments of silence, then repeat this prayer: “Let all beings be happy, loved, and peaceful. Let the whole world experience these things.”

3. Tuesday: Feeling for Peace
Today is the day to experience the emotions of peace. The emotions of peace are compassion, understanding, and love.

4.  Wednesday: Speaking for Peace
Today, the purpose of speaking is to create happiness in the listener. Have this intention: Today every word I utter will be chosen consciously. I will refrain from complaints, condemnation, and criticism.

5. Thursday: Acting for Peace
Today is the day to help someone in need. Help can take many forms. Tell yourself: “Today I will offer help without asking for gratitude or recognition.”

6.  Friday: Creating for Peace
Today, come up with at least one creative idea to resolve a conflict, either in your personal life or your family circle or among friends. Intend to create trust and eliminate hidden hostility and suspicion—the two great enemies of peace.

7.  Saturday: Sharing for Peace
Today, share your practice of peacemaking with two people. As more of us participate in this sharing, our practice will expand into a critical mass, reaching many instead of a few.

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