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Roundup: Climate Refugees, Kickstarter, Skateistan and More

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The Next Wave: Tale of The First Climate Refugees
We were impressed and moved by the recently released film The Next Wave, a short documentary that received a Jury award at the Ninth Annual Media that Matters Film Festival. The story follows the struggle of the Carteret Islanders, some of the world's first climate change refugees. These South Pacific people have lived simple, peaceful and extremely low-impact lives without cars, electricity or running water. Now global climate change is causing the resources that sustain them to die off and disappear: by 2015, the Carterets will be uninhabitable.

Producers Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger chronicle the islanders' search for a new home in Bougainville, where they will face the challenge of gaining acceptance from war-weary inhabitants, and the task of reinventing their culture within an unfamiliar social structure. The film is a tool for fostering understanding and compassion for a sort of challenge that is becoming increasingly common in a climate changed world.

The Next Wave is an abbreviated version of Sun Come Up, a longer work-in-progress. You can watch a trailer here. (JL)


Open Course Craze
Professors at universities and institutions across the world are uploading their lectures to audio and video servers like iTunes and YouTube to provide instant access to an abundance of higher-education information. Open Courseware has been making it possible for a few years now for anyone to attend classes that were previously reserved for only those privileged enough to be able to attend the world's most prestigious colleges and universities. More and more schools seem to be catching on to the downloadable course craze, as an influx of people continue to demand to be able to listen to physics lectures in their pajamas, take notes on biology while the baby is sleeping or educate themselves on a public policy while commuting to work.

Check out the following pages to learn more.

Harvard
MIT
Berkeley
JHU
(SK)


Climate Texts Made Public
Do you wish you could read over the shoulders of world leaders as they prepare for the upcoming climate negotiations in Copenhagen?

In a sense, you can.

The UN has made the climate negotiating texts available for public viewing. Given that politicians aren't generally enthused about giving others a window into their work until they're sure that things have been cleaned up the way they'd like, open access to these texts is a pretty significant concession. See what the discussion looks like now, and you'll have a better understanding of what key players are brokering -- and blocking -- come December.

Visit the UNFCCC website if you would like to download a copy. (JL)


Kickstarter
We’re big fans of micropatronage so it’s great to see a new site like Kickstarter.com offer a stylish platform for crowdfunding ventures. Need money to make your first feature film or album? Some capital to get a small business venture off the ground? Want to try a random experiment with crowdsourcing? Submit your project to Kickstarter, choose a fund-raising goal, and wait for the verdict of your peers (it’s all or nothing — if you don’t make your goal, you don’t get any of the pledge money). Unlike in microfinance schemes, funders don’t technically get any return on their investments (beyond enjoying the art or service created), but participants can offer whatever incentives they like — anything from an advance copy of the completed work to a private concert.

It may take a while for this particular site to find its feet. Currently, project submissions are by invitation only and there’s no way to filter existing projects — if you’re looking for inventors or humanitarian campaigns be prepared to sift through a lot of “help me buy DJing equipment” requests. But the potential is great. Many musicians are already finding crowdfunding the only viable way for them to get around the music industry — while closing the distance between them and their fans — and as the existing projects indicate, the set-up could work for almost any endeavor. Crowdfunded X Prize, anyone? (Thanks to Worldchanging ally Sarah Rich.) (CB)


Biodiversity in the Built Environment
Via the South African e-Journal of Green Building, a task group from the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has issued 10 guidelines to help developers, architects, planners and building owners encourage biodiversity in the built environment. If the recommendations are adopted, UK cities may start seeing native animals like otters, falcons and bats return to the urban landscape. From the article:

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Just some of the design features which would encourage biodiversity in cities are specially made nesting bricks built into cavity walls for birds such as swifts and starlings, or ledges that mimic cliff faces for peregrine falcons which are attracted to tall buildings. Cathedrals, office blocks in Canary Wharf and Battersea power station in south London are all known to have housed breeding birds of prey.

Green corridors will allow other mammals to "commute", said Williams, and careful lighting and roosting boxes under bridges will allow Daubenton's and pipistrelle bats to inhabit areas which are usually too bright for them. ...
Paul King, chief executive of the UKGBC, said: "If done well, new developments can actually create habitats in which wild species thrive, and which we can all enjoy. Green roofs, living walls, and good old-fashioned parks and green spaces in our built environment can make us all feel happier and healthier, and give something back to nature."

For more on urban biodiversity, read Emily Gertz's article, For the Birds. (JL)

Image source: Intel
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The Future of Webfront Retail? Intel and Microsoft have developed several versions of new kiosks to help bricks-and-mortar retailers offer online-style convenience within their four walls. This could be the future self-service experience: scan yourself in, try clothing (or product) on a digitized photo of yourself to see how it looks, add it to your virtual cart, and pay at the kiosk with cash, credit or even your cell phone. Since you're in a store, however, you can walk out that day with your purchases.

These kiosks are designed to help traditional stores compete in an increasingly virtual world, but we think that the technology would complement other innovations in a system that could reinvent retail entirely. It's a souped-up version of the kiosks used in Nau's webfront stores, and could pair well with elegant delivery systems to create a more efficient, less energy intensive process for connecting people with the stuff they want. (JL)


Skateistan: Kickflips in Kabul
In Western mainstream media, most young Afghans are portrayed in a particularly negative light. And likewise, in Afghanistan, most young people only hear negative things about the West and Western culture. Working to create a positive voice for both sides is Skateistan, the first co-educational skateboard school in Afghanistan. Founded in 2007, the school offers boys and girls between 5 and 17 years free skateboarding lessons and so much more.

An excerpt from the video:

Aside from skateboarding, Skateistan aims to teach children solid life skills and help with social interaction. The kids are just very keen to get involved with something. It wasn't necessarily the actual skateboarding, but focusing on an activity, giving them something to do that is positive. At the moment in the media, there isn't anything positive written or spoken about Afghanistan. You only hear negative stories about America, about oil, about Taliban, about war. So Skateistan is trying to create something positive in Afghanistan. There doesn't seem to be any animosity about this being a Western Sport...It's very important to have fun. Skateboarding is just pure fun. It's noting else. It's just pure fun...fun is really important. Skateistan aims to encourage this.

Architecture for Humanity and Nike recently announced that Skateistan will be the first recipient of their GameChangers fund. According to Architecture for Humanity, Skateistan will use the funds to build Kabul’s first indoor skate park at Ghazi Stadium. Australian firm Convic Design will contribute to the design for the outdoor area around the facility and the indoor skate park will be built to international standards by IOU Ramps from Germany. Construction began last week, and is expected to be completed by fall 2009. (SK)

Majora Carter on "Asset-Based" Solutions
Worldchanging ally Majora Carter recently spoke with the American Society of Landscape Architects about her "asset-based development group". An excerpt from an interview that's worth reading in full:

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Planners, infrastructure engineers, politicians, and even social service agencies often look at areas or groups of people -- I think they like to call them "populations" -- as problems that can be solved with this or that action. It usually involves taking money from somewhere and putting it where an expert says it's needed. It is undoubtedly never enough, and it engenders a sense of competition from whomever feels it's being taken away from the "problem" that they want to solve.

If you let folks put the pieces together properly, some of the problems become assets. For example, storm water run-off is a big "problem" that engineers like to pour loads of concrete and build ever expanding treatment plants for. It has also been identified that people who live in areas where unemployment is prevalent often suffer from a lack of greenery in their lives. Studies show that it affects their sense of community pride, air quality, and self-esteem, school performance, and property values.
It turns out that trees, open green spaces, and green roofing do wonders for storm water management and take the burden off of a typical combined sewage system. These things also address the lack of greenery problems listed above, and it takes people to do the work. There are many examples like this, and they usually boil down to choosing the more labor intensive options out there because they help solve our poverty problem. When you start putting people first, many of the "problems" that others are trying to solve start to evaporate.
(JL)
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Comments

Hi Oliver from Skateistan here. Few typo's and factual errors in final 2 sentences in the Skateistan article. Better would be "According to Architecture for Humanity, Skateistan (spelling mistake of our name in original) will use the funds to build Kabul’s first indoor skate park at Ghazi Stadium. Australian firm Convic Design will contribute to the design the outdoor area around the facility and the indoor skate park will be built to international standards by IOU Ramps from Germany. Construction started last week and is expected to be completed by fall 2009.

If anyone needs any more info please contact me oliver@skateistan.org or +93 796 571 356
All the best from Kabul!


Posted by: Oliver Percovich on 6 Jun 09

Factual errors corrected. Thanks, Oliver! Might want to send AFH a message about the design firm as well.


Posted by: Sarah Kuck on 6 Jun 09

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