What it is: A documentary by a Dutch couple who traveled to Nepal with their 9-year-old daughter to find a way to do some humanitarian projects and contribute to environmental protection. They documented the work of NGO Foundation for Sustainable Technologies (FoST) and its founder, Sanu Kaji Shrestha, whose primary work involves providing training and locally-appropriate, low-cost green tools such as solar cookers to Nepali women.
Why it's Cool: This is a great grassroots media project documenting one instance of on-the-ground efforts to address local issues in appropriate ways. Also a great story of one family's personal and cross-cultural experiences.
Excerpt: [FoST provides] training and employment opportunities through projects designed to create micro-enterprises in sustainable technology. [In] the briquette making training, they learn what type of waste they can use, such as waste paper, saw dust, rice husk, bagasse, grass, leaves, agri- and forest residues. They are also taught how to process the waste...On the final day the women receive an easy briquette business explanation, they get lessons in basic marketing, simple bookkeeping and possible business plan making.
What it is: A new release from the Ecology Center -- the first ever consumer guide to chemicals in cars, with descriptions of chemicals and a search engine that allows users to look up particular makes and models of car.
Why it's cool: This is a great way to learn the backstory on what's inside your car -- an ecological nutrition label of sorts for assessing the contents of the air and materials in your vehicle, and guide potential car buyers towards smart purchase choices based on toxicity.
What It Is: A Changemakers competition awarded to the best idea for a socially entrepreneurial project could help battle corruption.
Why it Matters: Because corruption is a major global problem, making more difficult solutions to all the other problems we face, and while some great proposed solutions exist -- from spreading tools for transparency to paying leaders to eschew corrupt practices -- we need new and better solutions for rooting it out.
Particularly worth a look is this mosiac of innovative solutions, which describes some of the barriers to ending corruption (cynicism and apathy, lack of accountability, few vehicles for participation) and a few of the existing projects which aim to overcome those barriers in various ways (empower citizens, shame and prosecute corrupt leaders, etc.).
Operative Quote: "However you define or experience it, corruption is a disease that infects and impoverishes society. From the "lubricating" corruption of everyday bribe seekers among traffic police, hospital caregivers, permit administrators, customs agents, or prison guards—little by little grinding down those who need their services and approvals—to the 'venal' corruption of self-interested political 'kleptocrats' emptying entire national coffers, corruption is a poison that eats away at communities and institutions to devastating effect. 'Business as usual' is all too often replete with access for some, dead ends for many, and tortuous alleys of shady dealing that affect us all. ... The World Bank estimates that the cost of corruption represents about seven percent of the annual world economy, roughly $2.3 trillion. This is a staggering amount ... a figure that is larger than the entire federal budget of the United States government ($2.2 trillion)."
Title: A World Without Waste
What It Is: A well-written feature from the Boston Globe, exploring one of our favorite ideas, that of creating a zero waste economy.
Why it Matters: Because zero waste is a standard worth aiming at, and we are woefully in need of better ecological standards these days. (There's another reasonably good piece on the concept here.)
Operative Quote: "With its faint ring of the incredible, zero waste is in some ways still more of a buzz phrase, a branding concept for a big idea, than a reality. ...But the idea it's selling is a vital one, challenging businesses not only to think about what is in their trash but also to rethink their definition of what trash is. As William McDonough and Michael Braungart wrote in their eco-design manifesto, Cradle to Cradle, that stuff we throw away 'is just the tip of a material iceberg . . . contain[ing] on average only 5 percent of the raw materials involved in the process of making and delivering it.' As Chalfan puts it, 'Recycling doesn't change what's already there. We have to rethink how products are made in the first place.'"
What It Is: News of a new program to encourage farmers in Malawi to plant varieties of trees which capture nitrogen, fertilizing the soil without petrochemical-based fertilizers. 200,000 farmers will get free seeds and training.
Why it Matters: Because Jeff Sachs (a smart guy with whom some here at Worldchanging vehemently disagree...), thinks fertilizer trees are one of the best bets for achieving the Millennium Development Goal of cutting global hunger in half by 2015
Operative Quote: "Fertiliser trees are varieties of shrubs that capture nitrogen from the air and transfer it to the soil, a process known as nitrogen-fixing. This restores nutrients and increases crop productivity — with potential to double or triple harvests. The trees can be interplanted with crops for 1-3 years before being cut and left to decompose, providing fuel and more fertiliser."
What It Is: An online mapping/modeling application which shows where carbon is being released and where it's being absorbed.
Why it Matters: Because tools which let us better comprehend the planet on which we live can reveal to us the invisible flows around us, opening up new pathways for understanding and changing our ecologically-unsustainable practices.
Operative Quote: "A simple analogy for this approach is your monthly check-book: by looking at your bank statement you know exactly how much money you have in your account on the 1st day of a new month. The challenge is to reconstruct the sum of income and expenses since the last month that matches your total exactly. ...By measuring carbon dioxide frequently... and at many places on Earth, CarbonTracker can break down the budget even further, and thus keep track of uptake and release for many places on Earth."
This Friday night roundup is excellent! I must have missed previous roundup entries.