Finally Good News

Size of Wales

“The next step for organizer Hannah Scrase is to increase the level of forest protection to the size of Europe”

It’s nice to see news about grassroots organizations that manage to deliver tangible results and do it with equal parts mirth and moxie. The BBC’s environmental analyst, Roger Harrabin, has written a piece detailing a charity whose whole modus operandi was to help decrease deforestation in Africa and reclaim their country’s name as a positive societal yardstick. Tired of reading in the press about areas of deforestation equaling the ‘size of Wales,’ Welsh environmentalists decided to take proactive measures to correct the analogy – now they can proudly claim that they raised £2m in three years to protect over two million hectares of forest.

This is a testament to positive ‘spin doctoring’ and a resolute desire by the public to get involved in a charity that communicated its idea with a light touch. The Size of Wales campaign resulted in “more than £1m gathered from the public, and that has been match-funded by a Cardiff-base charitable trust, the Waterloo Foundation.” It’s also amazing to see how much can be achieved with this amount of money.

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Amanda Palmer

English: Amanda Palmer Live 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After reading repeatedly about Kickstarter and this new era of creative philanthropy, it’s interesting to see how the mechanics of such coin-in-cup operations are continuing to develop. The music industry has seen an unprecedented shift in business in the last fifteen years, attempting clumsily to keep up with technology and the public’s desire for immediate (and free) music via downloads. The industry’s indecision has also created a burgeoning DIY propensity amongst artists and also the desire on behalf of the public to fund them. The fact that said public doesn’t actually want any tactile or physical evidence of their expenditure is even more baffling – they just want to give!

There have been several recent cases that are quite extraordinary; one concerns the Kickstarter drive of musician Amanda Palmer, who in reaching out to the public to help finance her tour, ended up receiving $1m in donations and then proceeded to not pay the musicians in her band! On a more humanitarian (and Hollywood) level, CNN recently featured an article about a homeless man who found an expensive diamond ring in his coin cup, proceeded to save it and give it back to the lady who unwittingly left it with him. Read the rest of this entry »


Huawei and Microsoft have teamed up to offer a bespoke Windows phone, running exclusive African-created Apps, in an initiative called 4Afrika

Connecting rural parts of Africa to the Internet is changing lives dramatically – helping healthcare providers with location analysis, weather information for farmers and teaching children in ways previously unimaginable. Countries like Kenya have been seeing the benefit of frontline technological advances for several years, and the developments keep coming. Recently the BBC reported that Huawei and Microsoft have teamed up to offer a bespoke Windows phone, running exclusive African-created Apps, in an initiative called 4Afrika. This programme should ultimately see millions of people with smartphones in the next few years.

Another aspect to 4Afrika, and potentially more beneficial, are the new advances enabling the unused ‘white spaces’ of the wireless spectrum used for television broadcasting to be set aside for remote Internet connectivity. This will be solar-powered and a much more consistent and powerful connection for online use. Read the rest of this entry »

David Miliband

David Miliband (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Former UK foreign secretary and brother of Labour party leader Ed Miliband, David Miliband is leading the charge on saving the world’s oceans. It’s encouraging to see the proactive, heartfelt stance being taken in a bid to raise awareness for the plight of the high seas – as over fishing, sea-floor mining and “rogue engineering” are threatening the planet and making, according to Miliband, the recent financial crisis look like child’s play. The new organization, which Miliband will lead in a non-profit capacity, is called the Global Ocean Commission, and will “try to fashion practical solutions that are an environmental win and an economic win, and with a commission which is avowedly across north-south, east-west, rich-poor divides.” This commission’s aim is to help preserve and regulate the high seas, long been an outlaw frontier due to human being’s inability to reach and navigate the deeper waters – but, the last twenty years have seen an unprecedented encroachment on marine life. Read the rest of this entry »

Plastic Bags

Plastic Bags (Photo credit: Urban Woodswalker)

It dawned on me when I was buying fruit in a local grocery store, how unnecessary plastic bags were for the apples and oranges – just to collect them for the checkout – at which point everything else was to be bundled in plastic. And so this thought of ludicrous wastage found a friend in the unlikely place of a new BBC series online, called 60-Second Idea. This is a simple format whereby philosophers, scientists, psychologists, and in this instance, historian David Abulafia, posits an idea in one minute that could change the world.

Abulafia simply outlined how everything we are surrounded by, and use, is constructed, at least in part, by plastic. This is killing the oceans as it’s not broken down, and creating landfills the size of countries. But, the crux of the idea was for the planet’s inhabitants to “stop using anything plastic for one day a year,” as a way to think about our unconscious actions and their impact. Would this solve the world’s problem? Of course not, but it would help to illustrate how we are enslaved by our habits and the ‘tools’ of our everyday lives. Just as there is a blackout day when everyone across the globe is supposed to not use electricity in the evening, this is the equivalent for a substance, and one that is unmanageable and hugely overused. Read the rest of this entry »

Hong Kong

English: Full view of Kowloon and Hong Kong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s amazing to how the Arab Spring uprisings throughout North Africa and the Middle East are continuing to have repercussions throughout the world. The role of technology, of course, cannot be underplayed in these events – social media has been a valuable conduit and meeting place to spread this contagious notion of Democracy. And before the cynics get to the point of ‘what do you do now, once you have freedom?’ (a whole other argument), it’s thrilling to see the demands that citizens are beginning to make of their national businesses and governments.

China, and more specifically the semi-autonomous principality of Hong Kong, is now in the midst of pro-democracy fervour; raising a stout middle finger to the national powers in Beijing. The reason for this is the legislature election, and it follows weeks of protest at the government’s “plans for mandatory patriotism lessons,” according to the BBC. Read the rest of this entry »

The great outdoors

Lunch outdoors_20120201 (Photo credit: csmramsden)

The BBC recently ran a lengthy report on an interesting and hugely beneficial public-inclusive science project called the Open Air Laboratories (Opal). This was a five-year effort (although they hope to continue) whose aim was to get the public “outdoors and involved in scientific research.” It worked, and involved over 500,000 people and 25,000 surveys.

Although data collection – concerning the surrounding local and area wildlife –was an objective to the project the main impetus was “just to get people out and enjoying the outdoors, ” said Dr. Linda Davies, Opal project director. This has proven to be a big hit with the public and one that is arguably necessary now more than ever. There seems to be a big disconnect between our lives and that of ‘life outside,’ namely nature and the environment; it’s as if many of us believe we’re renting a room from nature, like a hotel, and don’t actually live in the same house with ‘it.’ Read the rest of this entry »

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