SunSprite: The First Wearable, Solar-Powered Light Tracker

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What is SunSprite?

SunSprite is the first solar-powered wearable device that measures and tracks the amount of sun and light that a person is receiving. In its most basic form, it reminds you to get outside and absorb bright light, which wakes up your brain and makes you healthier!

SunSprite also syncs with its mobile app via Bluetooth Smart to give you personalized tracking updates and coaching tips based on medical science.

What are the benefits of bright light?

Dozens of scientific studies prove that the right amount of bright light exposure increases energy and focus, improves mood, and helps you sleep better. People who get their bright light report that it’s not only easier to get out of bed in the morning, but also that they don’t feel groggy when waking up. In fact, bright light wakes up your brain as well as coffee does (but without the caffeine addiction!).

One study even found that adding morning bright light to a weight control program helps reduce body fat and appetite.

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How does SunSprite work?

SunSprite uses patent-pending technology to track and record the amount of bright light exposure you receive each day. It takes these measurements and breaks them down into units friendly to you, “GoodLux.” This allows you to effectively track your bright light exposure for the first time.

SunSprite uses Bluetooth Smart to transmit your light exposure data to your mobile phone, where its app helps you analyze your patterns and learn how to optimize your bright light exposure.

Find out more at http://www.sunsprite.com
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The Plight of The Amazonian’s Indigenous

The Brazilian government is building the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River, a major Amazon tributary. Now over fifty percent complete, the Belo Monte Dam complex is designed to divert eighty percent of the Xingu River’s flow which will thus devastate an area of over 1,500 square kilometers of Brazilian rainforest and cause the forced displacement of up to 40,000 people. This project gravely impacts the land and livelihoods of thousands of riverine, urban families and communities, and indigenous peoples from several neighboring areas.

The Xingu River basin is a living symbol of Brazil’s cultural and biological diversity; it is home to 25,000 indigenous people from 40 ethnic groups. The Xingu flows north 2,271 kilometers from the central savanna region of Mato Grosso to the Amazon River. Nominally protected throughout most of its course by indigenous reserves and conservation units, the Xingu basin is severely impacted by cattle ranching and soy monocultures. Belo Monte is the first in a planned network of mega-dam projects which will pose additional devastation to an already threatened region.

A project hailing from Brazil’s military dictatorship, Belo Monte continues to exhibit the same alarming authoritarian tendencies associated with this brutal regime. To understand more about the history of this project, explore an interactive timeline, which chronicles thirty years of injustice surrounding the approval and construction of the mega-dam.

Since the initiation of construction in 2011, the city of Altamira has witnessed a massive influx of migrants, provoking a spike in criminal activities, as well as the collapse of health, education, and sanitation services. Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy set December 15th as the date to auction the construction of the massive São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam, the first in a series of large dams slated for construction on the Tapajós River, one of the Amazon’s largest tributaries. The announcement immediately provoked the condemnation of local indigenous peoples, who criticized the federal government’s failure to ensure respect for their rights, as guaranteed by the Brazilian Constitution and international human rights agreements.

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The move enflamed tensions in this precarious and remote region, while portending conflict with the region’s threatened indigenous peoples, particularly the Munduruku people, one of the largest surviving Amazonian tribes, whose territories and communities span much of the Tapajós basin.

In response to the announcement, the indigenous organization Movimento Munduruku Ipereg Ayuissued an open letter denouncing the Brazilian government’s “lies”, citing a recent meeting with high-level federal officials who promised that the dam would not proceed without a process of free, prior, and informed consultation with indigenous and traditional communities. Domestic law and international human rights agreements such as International Labor Organization Convention 169 (ILO169), to which Brazil is a signatory, require such consultations.

“We know that prior consultation should take place before any decision concerning the dam,” affirms the Munduruku statement, which demands the immediate cancellation of the auction. “Is the government throwing ILO169 in the garbage? Once again the government shows that it does not aim to dialogue with us.”

“This decision is another enormous blow to the indigenous right to consultation, just as we’ve seen with the Belo Monte dam,” said Maíra Irigaray of Amazon Watch. “President Rousseff’s administration’s disregard of Brazil’s traditional populations is shameful.”

The announcement of the São Luiz do Tapajós dam auction comes on the heels of an escalating controversy over the ambitious Amazon dam-building plans of the Rousseff government. Recent mega-dam projects – such as Belo Monte on the Xingu River, and Santo Antônio and Jirau on the Madeira river – have been plagued by major construction delays and massive cost overruns, in addition to serious socio-environmental impacts that have been left largely unmitigated by dam-builders. Suspicions of corruption within the dam industry have been heightened by a recent scandal involving Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobão, accused with grafting kickbacks from the state oil company Petrobras, which he oversees.

Find out more at http://www.amazonwatch.org

Ancestral Healing Through Our Community

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When we consciously relate to our ancestors, it can be a tremendous source of healing, guidance and companionship. It can help us to relate more positively in our communities. Making it a daily ritual to honor the people who have come and gone before us is so important for any kind of spiritual work. It opens the door to a part of ourselves we haven’t yet healed or acknowledged. Even if you do not know anything about your lineage or blood family, try to find the place inside yourself to honor those who have come before you. Honoring our ancestors includes not only our blood relatives. We can draw upon strength of anyone who has come before us to inspire or influence. Writers, artists, healers, activists, etc.

Now is the time to strengthen our bonds within our communities. When people come together with a common intention or purpose, we can make huge changes and empower one another. There are many forms of community and many ways to come together for a purpose. Find a way of connecting that works for you.

We’re in a time where the news is full of scarcity, violence and corruption. How can we make room for abundance and call in the wisdom of our ancestors? What can we do personally to support and strengthen our own community? How can we stand up for those who are not being heard? For the people who are struggling everyday just to survive and for their basic rights. For those of us who have more choices and have more options, how can we show up even more for those people whose voices aren’t heard?

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Pop-up Park Bench Shelters: Helping The Homeless

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Trying to stop the homeless from taking shelter on the street by placing strategic spikes in the ground might be absurd, but the attitude isn’t unique. (After all, forcing the homeless out of cities before major global sporting events could even be called something of a tradition.) Last year, one advertising agency decided to point out something even more absurd: The fact that people have to sleep on benches in the first place.

In 2013, Canadian firm Spring Advertising approached the RainCity Housing and Support Society, a local shelter and advocacy organization in Vancouver, with an idea for modifying bus stops and park benches. Instead of trying to discourage the homeless from sleeping on them, they’d welcome them to stay.

As a result, the creatives ran a campaign with park benches that folded out like airplane tray tables into miniature shelters. By day, one version of the benches read, “This is a bench.” But at night, the dark revealed a different message: “This is a bedroom.”

Rob Schlyecher, Spring’s co-founder and creative director, explains that the campaign was intended to draw attention to the lack of housing and mental health resources for Vancouver’s homeless population. The city has a particular problem with homelessness because it’s the one of the few areas in Canada that doesn’t freeze in the winter, he notes.

But Schlyecher also has a very realistic sense of where the campaign falls in the spectrum of housing solutions. It’s a small action, he says, part of a program the agency has run since its inception, called “strange acts of kindness.” This year, Spring is forgoing awards ceremonies and donating the money that would have been spent on travel to local charities instead.

“The advertising industry doesn’t really give a lot back to the community, and we felt like we wanted to change that,” Schleyer says. “We’re not doing very much. We’re not Mother Theresa. We just feel that when we’re not using our skills to sell products we’d like to use them to help people.”

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The BIQ: World’s first algae powered building

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Does it make sense to power buildings with algae? That’s the question that arises with the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) building, in Hamburg, Germany, which has now been operating for more than a year.

The panels are 0.78 inches thick and cover about 200 square meters in total. They’re filled with algae from the Elbe River and pumped full of carbon dioxide and nutrients. When sunlight hits the 129 “bioreactors,” photosynthesis causes the microorganisms to multiply and give off heat (the water goes to about 40 degrees C). The warmth is then captured for heating water or storing in saline tanks underground, while algae biomass is harvested and dried. It can either be converted to biogas, or used in secondary pharmaceutical and food products.

A prototype building, BIQ is being monitored by the Colt Group, which hopes to market the system, created by Splitterwerk Architects and Arup. Wurm says they’re pleased so far. “It’s producing more heat than we thought,” he says. “We optimized the performance after introducing a new set of pumps at the beginning of the year.” Surveys show the people in the 15 apartments are also content, as well they might be. They have no heating bills and plenty to show off to visitors.

Algae power has the additional advantage of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere, though the amounts involved are not huge. Wurm says each square meter of panel reduces emissions by eight tons a year, which includes two tons sucked up in the green gunk and six tons left unproduced by generating energy using dirtier methods. The building currently reduces overall energy needs by 50%, and Wurm says 100% is achievable. Combined with solar panels to power the pumps and heat exchangers, the building could be completely self-sufficient.

Wurm says we’re likely to see the first full-blown commercial applications on data centers, which of course are particularly energy hungry, and require a lot of cooling. That’s another advantage of algae: it provides natural shading as it absorbs sunlight.

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PitchAFRICA: Kenyan Rainwater Harvesting

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DEMONSTRATING A NEW FORM OF ARCHITECTURE, EVERY BUILDING ON CAMPUS, INCLUDING DORMS, CLASSROOMS, AND A SOCCER STADIUM, COLLECTS CLEAN RAINWATER IN AN AREA WHERE CLEAN WATER CAN BE HARD TO COME BY.

When it rains, most buildings shed the water away. But for the last 10 years, two designers have been working on perfecting a new form of architecture that does the opposite: Waterbank buildings harvest and store as much rainwater as possible.

A new school campus in Kenya based on the design will collect 1.5 million liters of water a year–more than enough to provide water for all of the students and support garden plots in a region where clean water can be hard to find. Every building on the campus, from dorms and classrooms to a soccer stadium, is designed to harvest water and channel it into underground storage.

Though Kenya’s climate is semi-arid, the architects say there is enough rainfall each year for the population. “Many people who don’t have access to clean water, and this is true in Africa, are living in regions where it’s raining at least 600 millimeters per year,” says Jane Harrison, co-founder of PITCHAfrica, the nonprofit that designed the new buildings. “And that’s a very strange fact. The issue, of course, is that the water evaporates and it’s erratic, so people don’t have it when they need it.”

The architects are taking a different approach than many water nonprofits. “A lot of focus tends to be on the problems of water being solved by technological solutions,” says Harrison. “But one of the big factors with water is social. The idea that there needed to be a social approach–a community approach to water–was important to us.”

When the project first began in 2004, the architects had the idea to combine water collection with soccer–since soccer brings communities together. “I think the more we began to look at Africa, the more we began to think about the incredible power that football has there,” Harrison explains. “It really does cross over many social differences and brings a large and diverse audience together. And we felt that if you could couple that kind of energy and attention with the huge need of water, it would be powerful.”

In 2010, the team built a prototype of a water-harvesting soccer stadium during the World Cup. For the last four years, they’ve been working on bringing the architecture to life in Africa, and experimenting with creating different types of community buildings, since they quickly realized that the design could work well with more than stadiums.

First to be built was a four-classroom school in Laikipia, Kenya, which was named the “Greenest School on Earth” last year. With careful planning, it was possible to build for the same cost as a typical rural school of the same size. The new campus built this year replicates that project at a much larger scale–and includes the team’s first actual soccer stadium as part of the design.

Next year, the nonprofit hopes to release Waterbanks OS, an open-source operating manual that explains how to design, build, and use a Waterbanks building–including how to manage water supply in the dry season so the water doesn’t run out.

The technology could work in many parts of the world, the designers say, including places that seem too dry and those that actually do get plenty of rainfall, but struggle with pollution. “This is surreal, but we’ve now been approached by organizations working in the rainforest in Peru,” says Harrison. “These are communities who do not have access to clean water because of what’s been going on in the rainforest. Our relationship to water is very skewed. I think part of our larger mission is to start to draw attention to that.”

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Disarm – Turning Weapons Into Instruments

Pedro Reyes uses sculpture, video, and performance to explore the boundaries between the individual and the group, between ordinary experiences and extraordinary moments of interaction. His socially engaged practice seeks alternative methods to restore a peaceful society through pedagogy and participation.

He wants people to think about the availability of guns in the United States, and the impact that has in Mexico. At the University of South Florida in Tampa, he recently held a series of workshops and a performance, using theater to encourage a discussion about guns. It’s called “Legislative Theater,” a style of performance pioneered in Latin America in the 1960s to influence social change.

In Tampa, Reyes called his project “The Amendment to the Amendment.” Specifically, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms. Reyes asks his actors and the audience to consider if there are possible changes that might improve the amendment

Reyes believes art should address social issues like gun violence, even when they’re difficult and controversial. “We have to be allowed to ask questions,” he says. “If you are not allowed to ask questions, you are not free.”

Reyes also addresses the issue of gun violence in another way, by using guns themselves. His first project began in 2007 in the Mexican city of Culiacan. As part of a campaign to curb shootings, the city collected 1,527 guns. He used them to create art.

“Those 1,527 guns were melted and made into the same number of shovels,” he says. “So for every gun now, there’s a shovel. And with every shovel, we planted a tree.”

Find out more at http://www.pedroreyes.net

The Street Store: Hang Up and Help Out

The Street Store: Hang Up and Help Out

The world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free “POP-UP clothing store” for the poor, found entirely on the street and curated by you. The Street Store is a unique concept which allows people from all over Cape Town to drop off clothes and shoes that they no longer need. Then, set up in an innovative ‘on-the-street-shop’, these clothes will then be available for the homeless and disadvantaged. A store made just out of posters. It’s where you “hang up” donated clothes and drop shoes into “boxes”, and then the homeless help themselves.

To get involved and implement The Street Store in your own community, find out more at http://www.thestreetstore.org

Cultural Conditioning and the Importance of Critical Thinking

Cultural Conditioning and the Importance of Critical Thinking

A person’s culture is a collective of beliefs, methods, way of life, and social perspective which a person acquires in their mind. We’ve been conditioned since the day we were born by religion, educational systems, government, corporate advertising and media in an attempt of socialization. We make moral judgments all the time and these are largely influenced by cultural conditioning. Hasty moral judgments are deeply ingrained blocks to thinking critically, for the values upon which they are based typically are imparted very early in our lives, well before we can seriously examine them and the belief systems they spawn. Thus, before we’re mature enough to think intelligently about subjects of religion, race, sex, and politics. As a result we tend to acknowledge what supports our acquired moral value systems and to ignore or dismiss what does not. We wall ourselves off from disclosure contrary to our preconceptions, thereby purchasing security at the price of insight and understanding.

The exposure of conditioning and cultural programming in which an individual receives to form their perception then creates the parameters of their thoughts, motivations, and ultimately their behavior; essentially limiting the practice of true free will. A mind that is largely free of cultural conditioning is one which uses methods of analysis, evaluation, validation, and integration on all information being presented. This type of mind does not typically respond to events or information based solely on cultural programs, but yet seeks verification, establishment of context and evaluation of underlying influences. A free mind challenges reason, often in opposition of information at face value.

Cultural conditioning will always be apart of the foundation of an individual’s social architecture. It’s important as a community to begin to promote and instill in our future generations the values of self awareness and critical thinking in attempt to breed optimal leaders to excel and supersede the unimaginable barriers of current society. Encouraging true self assessment into the natural process of thinking is a critical component in development of one’s self. Being capable of relying less on the experts outside our ourselves, and more on the greatness within to promote the establishment of genuine independent thought and self-empowerment.

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