Uganda: Saving Youth

Saving AIDS orphans in Uganda:

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The Repair Cafe & the Fixer Movement

Sip Lattés and Fix Busted Stuff at the Repair Café

Good as new: community members with broken stuff mingle with volunteers at a Fixers Collective meeting in New York City. Photo: Vincent Lai/Fixers Collective

It says something about where we’ve come as a society that the simple act of fixing something that’s broken is considered a revolutionary act. Yet here we are. It’s cheaper and easier to buy a new toaster, lamp, printer, or chair than it is to mend the one you have when it breaks — never mind that you may already be jonesing for an upgrade.

For 80 years or so, planned obsolescence has been the dirty little engine that drives our consumer economy. Today the members of a nascent fixer movement say it’s been long enough.

In 2010 in the Netherlands, disgust with Europe’s throw-away culture led former journalist and new mom Martine Postma to stage the first Repair Café, an event where members of the community could drop by with defunct items they would otherwise have thrown away, and have them repaired free of charge by volunteer fix-it experts.

Since then, Postma’s concept has thrived. Almost 40 groups across the Netherlands have started their own Repair Cafés to date, and the Repair Café Foundation has brought in over $500,000 from the Dutch government and other sources to support its operations.

Read more at Daily Good…

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Walking with the Adivasi

Published on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 by Adbusters

Decolonize the Consumerist Wasteland: Re-imagining a World Beyond Capitalism and Communism

Here in India, even in the midst of all the violence and greed, there is still hope. If anyone can do it, we can. We still have a population that has not yet been completely colonized by that consumerist dream.(Photo: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom)

We have a living tradition of those who have struggled for Gandhi’s vision of sustainability and self-reliance, for socialist ideas of egalitarianism and social justice. We have Ambedkar’s vision, which challenges the Gandhians as well as the socialists in serious ways. We have the most spectacular coalition of resistance movements, with their experience, understanding and vision.

Most important of all, India has a surviving adivasi (aboriginal) population of almost 100 million. They are the ones who still know the secrets of sustainable living. If they disappear, they will take those secrets with them. Wars like Operation Green Hunt will make them disappear. So victory for the prosecutors of these wars will contain within itself the seeds of destruction, not just for adivasis but, eventually, for the human race. That’s why we need a real and urgent conversation between all those political formations that are resisting this war.

Read more at Common Dreams…

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Sharing is Caring, Wearing, Pairing…

Published on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 by Shareable

The Rise of the Sharing Communities

Creative Commons photo by Lobkovs

As the sharing economy picks up momentum, its reach has become global. In cities and towns around the world, people are creating ways to share everything from baby clothes to boats, hardware to vacation homes. There are also groups emerging that consciously identify with the big-picture sharing movement. These groups focus on education, action and community-building, and advocate for a cultural shift toward widespread sharing.

From neighborhood-level cooperatives to global organizations, these groups work to bring sharing into the mainstream. They see sharing as a new paradigm; a means to a more democratic society, and they understand that sharing is not a new fad but an ancient practice that technology is reinvigorating.

What follows is a far-from-exhaustive list of sharing advocacy groups around the world. There are, certainly, many others. Ideally, this list will serve as a springboard for connecting with a sharing community near you, or one that is aligned with your vision for a shareable world.

Read more on Common Dreams.

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The Gold Standard Poisons Life

ALL THAT GLITTERS ISN’T GOLD: A story of exploitation and resistance
2008 (10 minute trailer)

“All That Glitters” tells the stories of community members residing near Goldcorp’s open-pit, cyanide leaching gold mine in Honduras’ Siria Valley. Villagers discuss the grave complications they have experienced since the mine began operating — from rampant health problems to a lack of water — contesting the company’s claims that the mine has been a model of healthy development for the community and has caused no adverse effects.

THE REAL COSTS OF GOLD MINING: GOLDCORP IN HONDURAS
(2008, 9:51 minutes, English with Spanish)

In 2007, a film maker interviewed villagers near Goldcorp’s mine in Honduras about the impact of gold mining on their lives and communities. In this short documentary, people of the Siria Valley speak for themselves about the health harms and other violations they have suffered.

GOLD OR LIFE: RE-COLONIZATION AND RESISTANCE IN CENTRAL AMERICA
2011 (full-length film), http://www.caracolproducciones.org/
Trailer#1, 1:13 minutes. English/Espanol

Trailer#2, 1:08 minutes. English / Espanol

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Curitiba: the Ultimate City for People

Some statements about Curitiba from Michael O’Hare at CitiesForPeople.net:

  1. Curitiba has the highest recycling rate in the World – 70%.
  2. Curitiba has bus system that is so good that car traffic decreased by 30% while the population trebled in a twenty year period.
  3. Curitiba has the largest downtown pedestrianised shopping area in the World.
  4. Curitiba has built large numbers of beautiful parks to control floods rather than concrete canals. So many that they use sheep to cut the grass as it’s cheaper than lawnmowers.
  5. Curitiba is a city where 99% of inhabitants want to live. In comparison, 70% of Sao Paolo’s residents want to live in Curitiba.
  6. Curitiba’s average income per person has gone from less than the Brazilian average in the 1970’s to 66% greater than the Brazilian average.

BRT Curitiba

Any of these statements on their own would be impressive enough, but together? Curitiba surely must be one of the World’s most sustainable cities.

Jaime Lerner first became mayor of Curitiba in the early 1970’s (he has been mayor three times). His leadership was crucial to the changes. Curitiba did a number of things, best described here:

  1. Built parks instead of canals to reduce flooding. Also used parks to make the city more liveable.
  2. Pedestrianised the downtown area.
  3. Invented and built the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – a bus system that works like a light rail system but is 10 times cheaper.
  4. Gave people bus tokens in return for waste.
  5. Started a massive recycling scheme – all initiated by children.

Botanical Gardens Curitiba

Jaime Lerner and Curitiba have done more to influence my ideas of what to build and how to make cities for people than anyone else.

There is so much that can be said about Curitiba. I recommend watching Jaime Lerner’s excellent TED presentation Sing a Song of Sustainable Cities, watching this video and reading this article from the New York Times.

If you’re really interested there’s a great film “A CONVENIENT TRUTH: Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil” describing what happened with some fascinating insights from Jaime Lerner and other key people.

I also recommend the book “Urban Renewal, Municipal Revitalization: The Case of Curitiba, Brazil” which has some really in depth analysis.

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Take Back the City!

City finances have long been under pressure, but the Great Recession and steady attacks on federal and state spending have compounded local financial difficulties. The National League of Cities’ annual research brief, City Fiscal Conditions, documents rapid deterioration. Reported revenue declines of 2.5 percent in 2009 and 3.2 percent in 2010 were unprecedented in severity in the 25-year history of the survey. In 2010, 79 percent of cities reported cutting personnel, 44 percent cut services, 25 percent cut public safety spending, and 17 percent cut current employees’ health benefits. Expectations going forward are even more downbeat.

Hard times call for new thinking. We are going through a systemic crisis, not simply a political crisis, and the assumptions of the last three decades about the relationship among politics, social and economic programs, and the economy are now obsolete. Cities everywhere can find surprising answers to fiscal difficulties by looking to scores of little-known innovative strategies under way in diverse communities across the nation.

The economic crisis has, for instance, produced widespread interest in the Bank of North Dakota, a highly successful state-owned bank founded in 1919. Over the past 14 years, the bank has returned $340 million in profits to the state, with broad support in many cities from the business community as well as progressive activists. Elsewhere, cities from Lowell, Mass., to Berkeley, Calif., have discovered they can make better use of the millions of dollars that temporarily sit in bank accounts by choosing where to place deposits based on banks’ willingness to re-lend those dollars to meet local community development goals. This strategy can stimulate local economic development without placing new burdens on taxpayers.

Another promising direction is generating revenue through direct city ownership of land and businesses. What might once have been called “city socialism” is now commonly dubbed “the enterprising city,” with Republican and Democratic mayors alike involved in efforts ranging from land development to Internet and wi-fi services. In many cities, profits from municipally owned electric utilities also help finance other services and thus reduce the tax burden. In Los Angeles, for example, the Department of Power and Water contributes about $190 million per year to the city’s revenues.

By Gar Alperovitz in the Baltimore Sun. Read more here… His latest book is “America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy.” His website is garalperovitz.com.

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