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Archive for the ‘Social’ Category

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 »

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 »

Gandhi

Gandhi believes in “Being the change you want to see in the world”

Our collective desire to accumulate and consume seems more prevalent than ever. The notion of success, money and ‘stuff’ has been fostered since the days of capitalism’s founding father, Adam Smith, began espousing his economic theories in the 18th century. The world now is, of course, a very different place but we can see that the maxim of ‘more is more’ is firmly rooted in much of the western world’s psyche. So, it’s refreshing to see a new breed of philanthropist emerging in the last decade – using wealth as a tool for social betterment. In short, it has become trendy to leave the world with nothing left in your account because you’ve given it all away. And this is a good thing.

This Zen-like stance has been propagated and loudly trumpeted by some of the biggest financial players in the world – Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Charles Feeney. The latter has had an interesting interview with the New York Times, and elaborated on his Buffett-esque philosophies and giving nature. Like the Midwestern values of Buffett, this billionaire flies coach class, wears unostentatious clothing and has been donating his billions to good causes – “medical care, education, criminal justice advocacy and peace-building initiatives,” since the early 80s, according to the article. Read the rest of this entry »

Honey Making Money

Honey Making Money

Much has been reported on the global plight of honeybees. Their diminishing numbers make for worrying reading – far from a ‘cutesy’ environmental issue that is open to ridicule by politicians and moneymen, this phenomenon is directly tied to our species’ livelihood. The fact is that scientists don’t know why bees are disappearing (climate change, pollutants etc.), but their importance societally is undeniable – almost 80% of what we eat in the EU is pollinated by honeybees. So, with this in mind, a recent BBC Future piece showcased how the burgeoning telecommunications industry in East Africa is joining forces with farmers to help cultivate honey and make more money.

“For the past twelve years, Kenyan social business Honey Care Africa has developed its innovative ‘Business in a Beehive’ model that has allowed low-income farmers to easily earn more money by producing honey,” so writes Jonathan Kalan for the BBC. And what a fortuitous time to be cultivating this lucrative trade which, much like coffee, finds the planetary demand far outstripping supply. Smartphones are playing a vital role in this project as well; allowing farmers and suppliers to keep abreast of production, pricing and distribution. This honey network is made even more opportune by the fact that it allows customers, through central databases, to find out where their honey is coming from and who produced it.  Read the rest of this entry »


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