Women are essential to climate resilience in the Caribbean heres why

February 7, 2019 by  
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The impacts of climate change are felt most intimately by poor and rural women. Many women rely directly on nature for their income, and their lack of resources prevents them from shifting to alternate jobs or safer locations during disasters. However, the same factors that make women vulnerable — their connection to nature and ties to community — are also the strengths that make women critical and competent leaders in times of crises. In the Caribbean, climate experts are increasingly looking at not only at how they can include female perspectives to alleviate inequalities, but how they can empower women to lead the way toward resilience. Women and climate vulnerability According to a UN Population Fund report , “The poor are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less are women.” With men leaving rural communities to find jobs in urban areas or overseas, women in the country-side are often the primary — and in many cases the sole — caretaker and breadwinner for their families. Many women lack the freedom, flexibility and mobility to relocate or readjust their lives for work, or for safety when disasters hit. Small islands are on the front lines of climate change The Caribbean region is particularly vulnerable, with small rises in sea level and temperatures having drastic consequences ranging from flooding, severe erosion and massive die-off of coral reefs to consecutive category five hurricanes. Caribbean nations depend on natural resources for their economies — namely agriculture, fisheries and coastal tourism. With so much at stake, Caribbean leaders united to demand world leaders commit to curbing global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, arguing that the agreed upon increase of 2 degrees would be catastrophic. As small islands fight to have their struggles and solutions heard in global debates about global warming, they are also fighting for the muffled, but mighty voices of women. Women, advocates argue, are accustomed to being resilient, community-driven and goal oriented — especially when it comes to the goal of feeding their families. “In climate change decision making, when women are in control in critical large numbers, we see the emphasis placed on the social issues of housing, refugees, food , food security — in a way that doesn’t happen if women are absent,” said Dessima Williams, Grenada’s previous ambassador to the UN and Chair of the Association of Small Island States. Related: The world is close to annihilation according to the iconic Doomsday Clock Natural disasters exacerbate inequalities During natural disasters, limited resources are further diminished. Limited jobs — such as clearing roads and restoring power — are often earmarked for men. Social services, such as child care, are slow to restart, preventing women from returning to work as swiftly as their male counter parts. “Homelessness and overcrowding in damaged homes, reduced income, health problems, lack of transportation, disrupted social services and other disaster effects impact women disproportionately, exacerbating preexisting power imbalances between women and men,” wrote  Dr. Elain Enarson in her book, Women Confronting Natural Disasters: From Vulnerability to Resilience . Women are part of the solution Sustainable development experts argue that a power shift to give women decision-making authority would not only uplift women and their dependents, but societies as a whole. In fact, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s website stated, “Women’s participation at the political level has resulted in greater responsiveness to citizen’s needs, often increasing cooperation across party and ethnic lines and delivering more sustainable peace.” Recognizing the benefits of including women in decision making, the Caribbean region has hosted a number of meetings to spur discussion on including gender perspectives into climate adaptation strategies. “There needs to be dialogue, learning and listening. The power relationships determine how action on climate change is played out and the success rate of projects to deal with climate change,” Vijay Krishnarayan, director general of the Commonwealth Foundation, said at a regional meeting on the intersection of gender and climate change in the Caribbean. Related: Is the Green New Deal the all-inclusive climate plan we need? “Much more needs to be done to completely capitalize on women’s potential, requiring methods that encompass their access to education and quality training, to economic resources and financial services, and to new forms of financing,” Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Alicia Bárcena underscored at a High-Level Political Forum at the UN headquarters. The inclusion of women is not unique to the Caribbean, and leaders throughout developing nations have united to recognize the importance of sharing successful solutions across continents and then enabling women’s leadership in implementing localized projects that fit for their own communities. “A lot of women have developed micro-level adaptation approaches, indigenous solutions and traditional knowledge that are not being replicated at the macro level,” said Kalyani Raj, a representative from India during a climate conference in Paris. “We must recognize that women are not just victims, we are powerful agents for change. Therefore, women need to be included in the decision-making processes and allowed to contribute their unique expertise and knowledge to adapt to climate change, because any climate change intervention that excludes women’s perspective and any policy that is gender blind, is destined to fail.” Via Panos Caribbean Images via Shutterstock

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Women are essential to climate resilience in the Caribbean heres why

Permaculture feeds and empowers refugees in Uganda

January 18, 2019 by  
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Refugees arrive at Palabek refugee camp in Northern Uganda with the clothes on their back and what little they carried. New arrivals, many from South Sudan, receive a tarp, tent poles, a water can, a cooking pot and a ration card for enough food to make starvation a slower process. While aid agencies swarm Sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than 26 percent of the world’s refugee population, few make their desired impact. But African Women Rising (AWR) is having startling success. The organization educates women and girls in Northern Uganda, schooling them in literacy, micro-finance and agriculture . Within Palabek, the nonprofit’s lessons in permaculture may make the difference between people surviving the camp and eventually thriving in a new home or not. Seeds and tools Permaculture is small-scale agriculture designed to be sustainable and self-sufficient. AWR developed the permagarden program at Palabek “as an antidote to the widespread seeds and tools offerings of most NGOs, especially in refugee settings,” said founders Linda and Tom Cole. “There’s a seldom-challenged maxim within the humanitarian sector that if you provide a refugee with some packets of seeds and a few tools, she might translate that into a regular supply of food for the family.” But the Coles have seen this approach fail, primarily because of poor soil fertility and lack of water. Instead, AWR provides a deeper agricultural education for refugees.  “It focuses on building understanding around the basic principles of water and soil biology, and then uses a design framework to help the farmer understand the best way to capture rainwater and enrich the soil using locally available — and often waste — materials such as manure, wood ash, tree leaves and charcoal dust.” Related: Nonprofit teaches communities how to build homes out of straw, clay and soil When AWR started at Palabek, they trained about 20 people. Now, more than 6,000 South Sudanese refugee families cultivate vegetables here. The permagardeners at Palabek learn to harvest water and capture waste streams to enhance the fertility and productivity of their 30m by 30m plots. They manage existing trees , plant new ones and cultivate living fences and biomass plantings that provide materials for building, pest remedies, dry season nutrition and medicine. “This helps reduce pressures on the environment — such as the collection of fuelwood, gathering of wild foods, burning of charcoal — that will continue to worsen as time goes on, exacerbating tensions between host communities and refugees,” the Coles told Inhabitat. “Strengthening the ecological base of food systems also reduces vulnerability across time by shoring up resilience in the face of climate instability and extreme weather events.” Permagardening is not a magic solution. The refugees don’t learn it in a day. Instead, refugee farmers participate in a series of trainings throughout the growing season. Local field staff called community mobilizers regularly monitor the gardens and troubleshoot problems as necessary. Why women? The Coles founded their nonprofit in 2006 to empower African women rebuilding their lives after war. “AWR’s vision is to build social, economic and political equality for women and girls in Africa,” the Coles said. The small-but-mighty nonprofit’s programs help Northern Ugandan women to improve their lives through increased food production, natural resource management, financial security and education. Women traditionally care for children and keep households going, and therefore carry heavy post-war burdens. As Ugandan women try to feed families, they contend with financial lack and environmental challenges including deforestation , drought, erosion, water shortages and climate change . AWR works with the most vulnerable of vulnerable women: widows, formerly abducted women and girls, ex-combatants, girl mothers, orphans, those who are HIV-positive and grandmothers taking care of orphans, all of whom earn less than a dollar a day. Most have had little or no formal education and are stigmatized for their disadvantages. AWR is adamant about the women themselves being actively involved in decision-making. Before launching programs, AWR partners with community-based groups to find out what the women themselves want and need, then make plans to carry that out. “There was broad consensus that education, savings and agriculture should be the foundation of recovery,” Linda and Tom said. Once programs are up and running, community mobilizers meet weekly with program participants to monitor progress. Money is power, and so is literacy In addition to agricultural projects, AWR is the major player in adult literacy in Northern Uganda. AWR runs 34 literacy centers serving more than 2,000 adults in Northern Uganda. With literacy comes power. Nearly 50 students and staff members at the centers, dismayed by a lack of trustworthy candidates, have run for public office. Two-thirds won. AWR also runs a micro-finance program that teaches financial literacy to women. Participants learn record keeping, basic business skills and strategies for saving money, and they gain access to capital. “AWR groups saved more than $1 million last year,” the founders said. “Groups are on track to save more than $2 million this year, $0.50 to $0.75 at a time.” Related: The farmers growing food across frigid northern latitudes Within the refugee camp at Palabek, the rows of vegetables thriving in the permagardens are a welcome contrast to the bleak expanse of red dirt and a rationed diet of maize, beans, oil, sugar and salt. The permagardens also provide a symbol of hope for the future. “Most refugees arriving in Palabek have lost many of the friends and family structures that were relied upon previously for social support,” the Coles told Inhabitat.  “Apart from providing food for the family and some residual income, the most profound effect of AWR’s programs is to help rebuild those layers of social capital.  Extra food to provide to neighbors. Some small money for school fees or church offerings. Female mentors and role models.” They hope to have the same success in the intense poverty and displacement of the refugee camp as they’ve had throughout post-war Northern Uganda. “AWR began its work in one of the most aid-dependent areas of the world. We have the long-term goal of shifting this paradigm from complete dependency to one of engagement and personal capacity.” If you are interested in supporting AWR in its efforts, donations can be made here . + AWR Photography by Brian Hodges Photography, Thomas Cole and Macduff Everton via AWR

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Pop-up Befriending Kitchen unites refugees and asylum seekers in London

March 8, 2018 by  
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Merrett Houmøller Architects designed a pop-up kitchen that not only addresses social change, but is also a clever take on modular architecture with wheels. Created for RIBA’s Beyond Borders design competition, Befriending Kitchen was created to bring young asylum seekers and refugees together with weekly meals. Compact enough for mobile travel, the pop-up unit contains kitchen facilities as well as storage for folding tables and benches. Merrett Houmøller Architects’ Befriending Kitchen was born from the Refugees and Befriending Project, run by British Red Cross volunteers and staff. The new pop-up dining facility brings a colorful refresh to the project (previously run out of an office) and is decorated with bright graphics inspired by nautical signal flags. Related: IKEA’s SPACE10 lab is bringing a pop-up vertical farm to London Befriending Kitchen unpacks into two separate units that bookend a dining area made up of folding benches and tables seating up to 30 people. The kitchen facilities include a gas hob, sink, counter space, and trash disposal . The project is currently located in the courtyard of the British Red Cross’ Hackney destitution center in east London . + Merrett Houmøller Architects Via Dezeen Images © Francis Ware 2017

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World’s largest solar plant in a refugee camp opens in Jordan

November 14, 2017 by  
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The world’s largest solar plant found in a refugee camp has begun operations at the Za’atari Refugee Camp in north Jordan , near the Syrian border. The project, which cost $17.5 million, was funded by the German government and will provide power for up to 14 hours per day. The newly available solar energy at Za’atari will be used by more than 80,000 residents to charge phones, contact families outside of the camp, and power refrigeration, lights, fans and televisions. With this power comes greater security for the residents of the camp. “That allows the children to continue their studies, and also (for) the safety of women and young girls to go about. Camp life will be made much easier,” said Stefano Severe, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Jordan, according to Reuters . The new solar plant , which consists of 40,000 solar panels, will reduce carbon emissions of the camp by 13,000 tons per year and will save $5.5 million annually, which will then be reinvested back into the refugee community. Access to electricity, taken for granted in many countries, has a transformative power in the daily life of residents at a refugee camp. “When we have electricity during the day, our children can stay home, they don’t go out in this weather and play in the dust and mud,” said Anwar Hussein, a Syrian refugee who fled Damascus five years ago and has been living in Za’atari ever since. Related: SOLARKIOSK E-HUBBs put goods, services, and power back into Africa’s hands Although Za’atari may boast the world’s largest solar plant at a refugee camp , it is certainly not a unique feature. Solar energy is increasingly being used to provide power to displaced communities across the globe. For example, in nearby Azraq, an area of Jordan that once hosted magnificent wetlands that have since largely dried up, a 2-megawatt solar plant provides the electricity needs for two villages of 20,000 Syrian refugees. The Azraq plant opened in May as the world’s first solar plant in a refugee camp. Via Thomas Reuters Foundation / UNHCR Images via UNHCR/Yousef Al Hariri

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New Zealand considering special visas for climate refugees

October 31, 2017 by  
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Impacts of climate change , like rising sea levels , will likely soon force people to abandon their land . Now the new government of New Zealand is considering action. They’re thinking about creating an experimental visa category for people prompted to leave their homes because of climate change. People living on some Pacific islands could be displaced because of sea level rise, and New Zealand might help out. Climate change minister James Shaw recently told Radio New Zealand there could be an “experimental humanitarian visa category” for people from the Pacific, saying, “It is a piece of work that we intend to do in partnership with the Pacific islands.” Related: Five Pacific Ocean islands have already disappeared because of climate change Some people have already applied to be refugees in New Zealand because of climate change – and have been turned away. Radio New Zealand reported , just days before Shaw’s announcement, the cases of two families from the island nation of Tuvalu who had applied to be New Zealand’s first climate refugees , only to be rejected. The tribunal said they didn’t risk persecution due to race, nationality, religion, or membership in a religious or political group under the 1951 refugee convention, according to The Guardian . Alberto Costi, international environmental law expert at Victoria University of Wellington , told The Guardian, “The conditions are pretty strict and really apply to persecution. These people who arrive here hoping to seek asylum on environmental grounds are bound to be sent back to their home countries.” And the Tuvalu families aren’t the only people who have been turned away. Ioane Teitiota of Kiribati applied to be the world’s first climate change refugee in 2014. New Zealand’s supreme court dismissed Teitiota’s case, and he was deported. Costi expressed interest in Shaw’s idea but told The Guardian there would need to be clear guidelines – one issue would be how to legally determine whether or not a climate change refugee was able to still reside in their home country. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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First designed for Burning Man, foldable Shiftpods now shelter refugees around the world

August 22, 2017 by  
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The 70,000 people that venture each year to Burning Man in Black Rock Desert, Nevada need shelter that will protect them from the elements – and refugees around the world need them even more. Christian Weber, who has been going to the desert festival for over 20 years, decided there had to be a better way than the fragile old hexayurts that were hard to assemble. So he designed foldable Shiftpods that now provide warmth and safety for displaced people all over the world. Weber started by making his shelters for friends headed to Burning Man , not thinking he’d just started what would turn into a multimillion-dollar business. He ended up with 300 orders. So he launched his own company, Advanced Shelter Systems Inc (ASSI), in California, and from the beginning decided to donate one Shiftpod for every 20 sold. Related: Self-shaping shelters that could revolutionize emergency housing Weber designed a shelter that can fold up into one piece. Shiftpods are insulated and tall enough for most people to stand up inside. It also stands up to wind – in a recent test at John Brown University the shelter didn’t blow away until winds from a giant fan placed by the Shiftpod reached 109 miles per hour. ASSI recently started offering their Shiftpod 2.0, which weighs 64 pounds. When it’s popped open, it offers 12.5 feet by 12.5 feet by six feet and ten inches of space. Folded up, it’s 76 by 13 by 13 inches. It costs $1,499.99, but is currently on sale for $1,299. But Weber didn’t stop with festival shelters. He told Fast Company, “There’s 53.4 million forcibly displaced in the world right now because of wars and politics. A lot of them are living in shanty shacks with blue tarps, so we’re trying to create a low-cost, easy-to-ship, easy-to-set-up unit that people can live in for up to five years.” Now Shiftpods have popped up in Nepal, Japan, Ecuador, Haiti, and North Dakota, to name a few countries. ASSI now offers Shelterpods and Responsepods, both targeted for disaster relief . ASSI eventually aims to offer kits that offer more than just shelter. Every year at Burning Man, Weber’s group of campers transport their Shiftpods in a shipping container that then serves as an air-conditioned kitchen with fold-down tables. Weber’s goal “…is to set up kits for individuals to take with them that have a shelter, water filtration, and everything you need for a family of four to survive for 30 days. And to build systems for up to 1,600 people [that can be stored] in one container.” + Advanced Shelter Systems Inc. Via Fast Company Images via ASSI and Shiftpod Facebook

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First designed for Burning Man, foldable Shiftpods now shelter refugees around the world

How long US residents have to wait until the next solar eclipse

August 22, 2017 by  
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If you find yourself wanting more after yesterday’s highly-anticipated total solar eclipse , don’t fret. In just 2,422 days, or approximately seven years, another “once in a lifetime” event will occur in the United States. The total solar eclipse will take place on April 8, 2024, and its path will include cities like Dallas and Indianapolis. Technically, the next solar eclipse will occur outside of the U.S. on July 2, 2019. Only those in South American countries such as Chile and Argentina will be able to view it, however. For this reason, U.S. citizens should mark their 2024 calendars. On April 8, 2024, according to NASA , the solar eclipse will travel from Mexico to Texas, proceed through Illinois and New York, glance Maine, and then leave land in Newfoundland. Related: Trump plans to strip NASA’s earth science division, promote mission to Mars Though seven years is not a long stretch of time, a lot is expected to change by 2024. Not only will self-driving cars become more widespread, sophisticated innovations to make viewing eclipses safer and more enjoyable will likely be invented. For now, aspiring astronomers can look forward to July 31, 2018, when Mars makes its closest pass to the Earth in its orbit. NASA reports, “This is very close to Mars ‘opposition’ where the sun, Earth, and Mars line up. This happens once every 26 months and is important because Mars is relatively small and its distance from Earth varies greatly.” On that date, Mars will be 57,590,630 km from Earth. As a result, most backyard telescopes should be able to pick up its southern polar cap and a few surface features. Via NASA , Recode Images via Pixabay, NASA

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How long US residents have to wait until the next solar eclipse

Airbnb plans to house 100,000 refugees in the next five years heres how

June 7, 2017 by  
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Shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump issued a ban on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries, the founders of Airbnb announced a bold plan to provide short-term housing to 100,000 refugees over the next five years. Until recently, no one knew how exactly how that feat would be accomplished. Today, however, the company announced that it will connect seven nonprofit organizations devoted to assisting those who are fleeing their homelands through a new Open Homes platform. After the ban was issued, the three founders of Airbnb championed the hashtag #WeAccept and said, “To help people around the world facing displacement, we’ll work with our community of hosts to find not just a place to stay, but also a place to feel connected, respected, and a part of a community again.” For months, employees and volunteers have used a highly inefficient system to connect nonprofit organizations with volunteers through emails, phone calls, and spreadsheets. “Dozens of man hours to settle one family in one place,” Airbnb cofounder Joe Gebbia told Fast Company . “Highly inefficient and highly unscalable.” Now that the process is automated, a total of seven nonprofits may easily connect with volunteers to provide short-term housing to refugees who are in need of a secure, safe place to stay. Some of the organizations that have partnered with Airbnb include the International Rescue Committee , Singa Quebec , the Inland Refugee Society of British Columbia, and SolidarityNow. After volunteers sign on to the Open Homes platform, they’ll be able to specify the cause they would like to donate their room or home to. Nonprofits that seek to set up a family or an individual with temporary housing will then be able to view lists of potential volunteers. Related: Sweden lists entire country on Airbnb because ‘roaming should be free’ This isn’t the first time Airbnb has partnered with home owners to help displaced individuals. After Hurricane Sandy left thousands of people stranded, Airbnb launched a platform which now connects people in need with short-term shelter. To date, the company’s efforts have placed 1,900 people worldwide – including around U.S. cities such as Dallas, New York , Oakland, and Sacramento. Additionally, 290 refugees have found short-term housing since the beginning of 2017. Considering 65 million people are still displaced, this number is quite low. However, Airbnb is optimistic many more people can be assisted through the Open Homes platform. + Open Homes Via Fast Company Images via Pixabay

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Airbnb plans to house 100,000 refugees in the next five years heres how

German architecture students and refugees build a beautiful timber community center

February 22, 2017 by  
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Architecture students from Germany’s University of Kaiserslautern teamed up with 25 refugees to build a timber community center for a refugee camp in Mannheim, Germany. Completed as part of the “Building Together—Learning Together” program, the 550-square-meter structure breathes new life into the bare-bones surroundings with a beautiful new gathering space. The design/build project prioritized ecological and cost-effective design without compromising construction quality. The timber community center was created in response to the desolate conditions of the Mannheim refugee camp located on the former American Spinelli Barracks. To aid in the refugee crisis , 18 architecture students teamed up with 25 refugees to design the new building, from concept to final build. The students lived at the refugee camp and worked intensively for six weeks from mid-August to the end of October to realize the project and help teach their new coworkers basic building skills and German. Related: Self-shaping shelters that could revolutionize emergency housing The community center is made almost entirely of lightweight untreated timber , with the larger components prefabricated in a hangar of the former military facility and later assembled onsite. The main walls are clad in Douglas fir while the latticework walls are used as structural support, allowing for natural ventilation and light while also creating a beautiful dappled play of light and shadow. The center wraps around a small garden courtyard as well as a large outdoor events space. Built-in seating is arranged around this area, shielded from the elements by a two-meter-wall canopy and partitions. The center also includes a pair of storerooms that can be adapted for different uses in the future. + Atelier U20 Via ArchDaily Images © Yannick Wegner

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Earth, air and fire inspire deep green interior of Ecuador’s twisted tower

February 22, 2017 by  
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Design firm Arquitectónica transformed an 18-story tower in Quito, Ecuador into a slender urban sculpture that twists upwards to meet the sky. The building’s animated exterior is matched by a deep green interior designed by Marcel Wanders , and belongs to a larger scheme comprising four major developments conceived in collaboration between leading experts in real estate development, industrial design and architecture. The architects achieved the twisting shape of the tower by displacing the floor plates, generating the impression of movement. Nestled between two orthogonal buildings, the Oh Residences introduce an element of playfulness and surprise to the neighborhood. Related: Marcel Wanders Unveils Plant-Sprouting Swing for Droog The interior design, inspired by Ecuadorian flora and fauna , offers diverse spaces that reference three classical elements–earth, air and fire. The areas referencing earth use authentic natural materials , while sensations of serenity, softness and tranquility dominate the spaces where air is the main motif. Contrasts that combine crafts, patterns and colors mark the spaces with fire as the thematic guide. + YOO + Marcel Wanders + Arquitectónica + Uribe & Schwarzkopf

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