Monthly Archives: December 2010

Ten Hopeful Technologies, Ideas, and Orgs

These are not “gifts” as such, but they do provide a kindly light amid the encircling gloom. Some folks are thinking hard, with what we hope will prove to be useful results. Here are my choices. Feel free to add your own, and to critique these if I’ve got it wrong. Chins up, and best feet forward! (All 8 of them, my fellow Octopi..)
Saltworks Technologies Thermo-Ionic technology produces sustainable energy efficient water by harnessing solar energy and heat.” As one of the looming problems is a shortage of clean, fresh water, a technology that can provide it cheaply and using only Solar would be most welcome.

Living with Lakes Centre, Sudbury: And speaking of water, here comes a brand new facility for studying it, regenerating it, living with it, in a fully biothermal and solar-conscious building with a Blueberry Roof. (Hey, the bears can’t get up there, eh?)

Global Thermostat: This is a potential game-changer. If you can attach this tech to a heat-emitting source, it removes CO2 from the ambient air, taking out two times as much as the emitting source churns out. For instance: giant internet server farms can serve as carbon-reduction engines…

World Book Night: On March 5, 2011, a million books will be given away in the U.K. and Ireland. These tiny carbon sinks will circulate through the population, impelled by a passion for reading… the gift that will keep on giving, one hopes.

Poetry in Voice: High school kids show a renewed interest in poetry out loud… The bards revive…

Forest Bathing. It is as your mother said: a walk in the woods WILL make you feel better.

Physiological Tests Confirm Therapeutic Effects of ‘Forest Bathing
We are happy to announce that JFS has started offering web videos with selected written articles on the JFS website. The video links are provided by NHK Eco Channel.

City of Toronto Biodiversity Series: We need something hopeful in Toronto. This series may not survive the city’s new mayor, nor may the birds it celebrates — other life forms being notorious pinkos, especially those dadblatted robins, and hey, if there weren’t any trees that would be the end of those pesky treehuggers — but meanwhile…

Do!Nation. This hasn’t happened yet, but it will. Let’s just say I found myself donating my organs – despite their elderly condition – live on a Quebec TV show watched by 2 ½ million people, so I can’t exactly get out of it eh? But Do!Nation will take awareness to a whole new level. Trust me. (David Cronenberg is involved. ☺ )

Electric Vehicles: From a correspondent: “Nissan has the Leaf coming this year, and GM the Volt. They are the urban way to go, if you must go by car – and electric vans are on the way as well. As you are no doubt aware, the skeptics wrongly point to the energy having to come from somewhere, but miss the fact that if you plug in at night, you are using power that is currently “wasted”. And if you don’t use your charged-up vehicle any day, you sell its juice back to the grid when need is highest, and reload again at night – I love the prospects of a million EVs acting together as a huge battery, selling power to the grid by day at peak demand time, and replacing with fallow cheap power at night…”

Longer and/or More Eyelashes. You may think this is frivolous, but try doing without eyelashes on a hot and gritty day. Help is at hand: May guard against the ravages of the dreaded
eyebrow mite

Add your own hopeful technologies, ideas, and orgs…
Any really good ideas about what to do about the huge floating island of discarded plastic in the Pacific Ocean would be more than welcome…


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Twelve Hopeful Gifts for the Holidays

Here are @ twelve hopeful gifts for the holiday season, with reasons for their hopeful qualities. Some of my choices may seem a little dire, such they also acknowledge the non-hopeful circumstances surrounding the hope, but each hopeful thing is what it is by way of its opposites, which I take to be – in general – despair, resignation, and cynicism.

First, three books:

The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society. Franz de Waal.

This leading primatologist brings us the hopeful news that we are not the purely selfish, greedy, and power-mad, as certain now obsolete theories about our essential nature have been leading us to believe. Empathy – the ability to see and feel things from another’s point of view – is a human “given.” Thus it is not (always) true that when you scratch a philanthropist you see a hypocrite bleed, not is it true that those who – for instance –risk their lives by jumping into freezing rivers to save perfect strangers are doing it out of some weird kind of self-interest. Best news we’ve had in years! Empathy has its limits, of course. But so, it appears, does ruthless greed.

The Gift. Lewis Hyde.

What better to give than a book about gifts? I keep extras of this amazing book handy at all times, to give those who need it. It distinguishes clearly between the two methods of exchange: buying and giving. Here’s the blurb: “By now a modern classic, The Gift is a brilliantly orchestrated defense of the value of creativity and of its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money and overrun with commodities. Widely available again after twenty-five years, this book is even more necessary today than when it first appeared. An illuminating and transformative book, and completely original in its view of the world, The Gift is cherished by artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers. It is in itself a gift to all who discover the classic wisdom found in its pages.”

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Not everyone might like to read about cancer over the holiday season, but on the other hand quite a few might, especially in this hopeful context. A great many of us know people who have had some form of cancer, or else we are those people. From the blurb: “… a magnificent, profoundly humane ‘biography’ of cancer – from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.” It’s a mystery story too, as generation after generation took a shot at trying to figure out what this killer was. Mr. Galen in the Library with the Black Bile?

Next, for this season of feasts, two hopeful food-centred gifts. How about a donation to:

The PEN Prison Farm Herd Co-Op (Canada). This herd consists of cows that were rescued when Canada’s federal prison farms were shut down. You won’t get a charitable donation receipt for this, but you will help in the upkeep of some heritage cows, in hope that they will one day be returned to prison farms and aid in the rehabilitation of prisoners.

Farm Forward: USA. “Farm Forward implements innovative strategies to promote conscientious food choices, reduce farm animal suffering, and advance sustainable agriculture.

Next, two bird organizations: “Hope is the thing with feathers…” Emily Dickinson.

Saving bird habitats also saves whole ecosystems, and helps indigenous peoples by preserving their traditional means of livelihood – and maintaining forests helps water management and conserves one of the big oxygen-producers on the planet.

A small one: PIBO. Located on Pelee Island, the Pelee Island Bird Observatory tracks migration through this crucial flightpath, gives tours and explanations of its work, and reaches out to kids through its educational programs. A little donation here makes a big difference.

See also Balzac’s Atwood Blend bird-friendly coffee. They got the name, PIBO gets a dollar a pound, the Smithsonian gets 25 cents for its bird-friendly certification work. Taste-tested it at our house, too!

A big one: Birdlife International. Birdlife is a large ground-up network that works with national partners in over 100 countries. It knows you can’t help birds without helping people in those habitats. Its U.S. Partner is the Audubon Society, its Canadian ones are Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada, its UK one is the RSPB. For other countries, go onto the Birdlife website and find the country partner.

See also In the Wake of the Flood, the documentary made by Ron Mann of Sphinx Productions of the book tour I did in 2009, with raising awareness and funds for Birdlife and bird life as its goal. Profits from the sale of this DVD also go to Birdlife partners.

And two for animals:

Panthera: dedicated to the survival of the big cats, a group that is very much under threat.

And of course World Wildlife. That familiar panda logo has accomplished so many things already…

And one for fishes: Oceana: “Oceana seeks to make our oceans as rich, healthy and abundant as they once were.” An uphill struggle, but a crucial one. If the oceans die, we’re in grave danger.

And one for general green gifts: Treehugger

And finally, a connection between art and healing:

Art For Healing (San Francisco); and Art For Healing Foundation (Montreal).

Both place soothing and uplifting artworks in hospitals and jails. Yes, the science is in: it does have a hopeful effect…


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