This Is the Only Shelter for Refugees in NYC

Edafe Okporo is the director of the only shelter in New York City that provides housing for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. He knows what it’s like to arrive in the U.S. with nowhere to go. Okporo left Nigeria seeking asylum after he was attacked by a mob because of his sexual orientation. With the hope of a better life, he came to the U.S., but soon realized he faced another battle. Refugees can undergo harsh treatment, having to navigate complex asylum law and face time in detention centers. Still, he persevered, and built a life for himself. Now, Okporo is helping others do the same.

Swimming in Toxic Water

There’s a reason no one has gone for a dip in New York City’s Newtown Creek in recent history. In Christopher Swain’s words, it’s like “swimming through a dirty diaper garnished with oil, gasoline and trash.” He’s a clean water activist who has swum over 3,000 miles in 25 different contaminated waterways across North America as a means of advocating for their cleanup. Taking a dip in these waterways does not come without its risks. Despite the precautions Christopher takes—wearing a puncture-resistant drysuit, goggles, ear plugs, etc.—he still gets sick from the various contaminants. It’s the hazards that come along with the cause, but Christopher continues to swim, all out of love for the water.

Saudi Women are Fighting for Their Freedom – and Their Hard-Won Victories are Growing

Dalia Yashar, one of the first Saudi female students in training to become commercial pilot, pictured on July 15, 2018. Her future passengers will include solo women travelers, too.  Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed

Dalia Yashar, one of the first Saudi female students in training to become commercial pilot, pictured on July 15, 2018. Her future passengers will include solo women travelers, too. Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed

Saudi women will soon be allowed to obtain passports and travel without the permission of a male relative.

This new regulation, announced by the government in early August, eases one of the most limiting aspects of the Gulf country’s “guardianship system,” which puts men in charge of their female relatives.

Saudi women will also be allowed to register marriages, divorces and births and to receive official family documents without their guardian’s approval, but they must still get permission from male chaperones to marry, leave prison and move out from a domestic abuse shelter.

Social pressure likely means some Saudi women still won’t travel without family permission. Though it became legal for women to drive in 2018, familial disapproval has kept many women off the roads.

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict interpretation of Islamic law that sees gender separation and male authority as vital to preserving a moral Islamic society. But women are much more than victims in this patriarchal regime.

As a researcher who studies women’s movements across the Middle East, I have learned that Saudi women – like any large population – are a diverse group with different opinions and experiences. They attend school, work as journalists and airline pilotsscuba dive, meet friends for coffee – and, increasingly, defy the law to expand women’s rights.

The fight for equality

Saudi women’s new freedoms are part of broader reform efforts led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to modernize the conservative Muslim country of 33 million and to alleviate international human rights concerns.

But these legal advances have come coupled with the repression of the Saudi female activists who have pushed to reform the guardianship system. Women fought for decades for the right to drive cars, and before the ban was lifted last year several activists were arrested for very publicly getting behind the wheel. Many remain in prison.

Women celebrate the end of Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers, July 24, 2018.  Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed

Women celebrate the end of Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers, July 24, 2018. Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed

Saudi women have also campaigned to abolish the guardianship system, circulating online petitions with the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian and holding workshops to educate women on guardianship laws. A woman-created app called “Know Your Rights” gives women information on their legal rights.

Saudi women even make the most of laws forbidding gender mixing in public places, I’ve found.

In the private, women-only areas of malls, parks, restaurants, schools and coffee shops, women feel free to express their independence. They remove their abayas – the long black robes all Saudi women must wear – and talk openly, without male oversight.

Some women have even called for more gender-segregated places to give women more breathing room in this patriarchal society.

Women’s education

Saudi women have been attending university since the 1970s, but their educational opportunities have grown markedly over the past 15 years.

A government-funded study abroad program launched in 2005 sends tens of thousands of young Saudi women to the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and many other countries each year.

Saudi Arabia’s first women’s college, the Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University, was founded in 2010. With room for about 60,000 undergraduate students – the world’s largest all-women’s campus – the school aims to give female students better access to male-dominated fields like medicine, computer science, management and pharmacology.

In 2015, Saudi women’s undergraduate enrollment rates actually surpassed those of men. Women comprise 52% of all university students in the kingdom, according to the Saudi Ministry of Education.

Working women

Employment rates have not followed these educational trends.

Only 22% of Saudi women worked outside the home in 2016, compared to 78% of the male population, according to the World Bank.

Still, women can – and do – work in nearly all of the same fields as men, with the exception of “dangerous” fields like construction or garbage collection. Since Islamic law permits women to own and manage their own property, ever more Saudi women see employment as the path to financial independence.

There are female Saudi journalists, like Weam Al Dakheel, who in 2016 became the first female TV presenter to host morning news in Saudi Arabia.

There are female Saudi lawyers, like Nasreen Alissa, one of only a few women to run a law firm in Saudi Arabia and the inventor of the “Know Your Rights” app.

And just over half of all teachers in Saudi Arabia are female, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Saudi women also make up almost half the kingdom’s retail workers.

Saudi journalists question then-Secretary of State John Kerry at a press conference in Riyadh in 2016.  AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Saudi journalists question then-Secretary of State John Kerry at a press conference in Riyadh in 2016. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The Saudi government has set a goal of a 30% female labor participation rate by 2030. Though gender-mixing is often prohibited in the workplace, women are a key component of the kingdom’s ongoing “Saudization” efforts to replace non-Saudi workers with a local workforce.

Political engagement

Saudi Arabia began slowly expanding the rights of women after the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks, part of a rebranding effort to counter negative views of the country as a breeding ground for terrorism and religious fundamentalism.

Women have made particular progress in politics in recent years. In a series of firsts, women were appointed as deputy education minister in 2009, advisers to the king in 2010 and ambassador to the United States in 2019.

In 2015, Saudi women were given the right to vote and to run in municipal elections. Nearly 1,000 women campaigned for seats on local councils, comprising 14% of the total candidate pool.

Saudi Arabia’s first crop of female candidates struggled to convince voters – just 9% of whom are women – to elect them. Today they hold just 20 of Saudi Arabia’s 2,000 local council seats.

Two prominent women’s rights activists, Loujain Hathloul and Nassima Al-Sadah, were disqualified from running in 2015 for unspecified reasons.

In patriarchal Saudi Arabia, the women elected face significant barriers to performing even the limited duties of their office, which include overseeing garbage collection and issuing building permits. Some must attend council meetings via video conference to avoid being in the same room as men.

These challenges have not stopped Saudi women from working – both within and outside of the political system – to change their country.

“I was never but a good citizen that loved her country, a loving daughter and a hardworking student and a devoted worker,” wrote the Saudi activist Nouf Abdulaziz in a letter posted online after her arrest in June 2018.

Even facing jail, she “wished the best for” Saudi Arabia.

ALAINNA LILOIA is a Graduate Associate, Ph.D. Student at the University of Arizona.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

Misfits Market: A Cheaper, More Sustainable Way to Buy Groceries

Quirky produce doesn’t have to be thrown out

Markets typically like to display “perfect” produce. Photo by Ja Ma.

Markets typically like to display “perfect” produce. Photo by Ja Ma.

Have you ever felt excited when you found a cute mini potato in your groceries? Or marveled at a cool way that carrots grew intertwined together? Produce with quirks can be fascinating, and not dangerous to eat. However, many supermarkets have become obsessed with finding the “perfect” produce—the picture-perfect produce that customers would want to buy. Therefore, the produce that don’t fit the bill will end up as waste. 

Misfits Market is a service that simultaneously helps the world and your wallet. They collect food from farmers that would normally go to waste, and package it to sell to their customers. The customers get their produce at a markdown of up to 50% compared to regular grocery stores, while the farmers are able to make extra money. So, customers save money, farmers make money, and both Misfits Market and their patrons are working to reduce the 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide that are generated annually because of food waste. 

Misfits Market makes life easier by delivering your groceries straight to your door. You can subscribe to the Mischief Box or a larger Madness Box, that can be delivered either once a week or every other week. Misfits Market delivers to a large number of states in the US, but it is growing quickly. The produce varies by season, and is always organic. 

Additionally, their packaging is entirely eco-friendly. The boxes are recyclable and compostable, and the insulation to protect the produce from the elements during delivery is also home-compostable. Misfits Market’s website gives directions for how to compost the insulation at home. 


Check out Misfits Market’s blog to see recipes to make with their produce.



ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 

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There’s a Dark Political History to Language That Strips People of Their Dignity

Residents of Baltimore, Maryland, seen here, were the object of dehumanizing language from President Trump.  REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Residents of Baltimore, Maryland, seen here, were the object of dehumanizing language from President Trump. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Dehumanizing language often precedes genocide.

One tragic example: Extreme dehumanizing language was a strong contributor to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. As I have written, the Hutu majority used a popular radio station to continually refer to Tutsi tribal members, a minority in Rwanda, as “cockroaches.”

As support for this characterization grew among Hutus, it essentially stripped away any moral obligation to see Tutsis as fellow humans. They were just vermin that needed to be eradicated.

Students of 20th century history will also recognize this pattern of dehumanizing language in the lead-up to the genocide committed by the Turks against Armenians, where Armenians were “dangerous microbes.” During the the Holocaust, Germans described Jews as “Untermenschen,” or subhumans.

On July 27, President Trump tweeted that Baltimore was a “"disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and “No human being would want to live there.”

The Baltimore Sun charged back with an editorial headlined “Better to have a few rats than to be one.”

I’m a scholar of conflict management. This back-and-forth got me reflecting on how extreme, dehumanizing exchanges like this can escalate into destructive outcomes.

President Donald Trump.  AP/Carolyn Kaster

President Donald Trump. AP/Carolyn Kaster

Insults and conflict

The goal of my research in hostage negotiation and divorce mediation is to help police negotiators and court mediators shift out of a charged situation into problem solving.

Generally, when people respect one another they have a fairly easy time problem solving. But when one person challenges the other’s identity with personal insults, both parties forget about the problem-solving task and focus only on what I call “identity restoration,” which means trying to save face and restore personal dignity.

This shift pushes them into a charged conflict that can quickly escalate.

After all, many studies over the last several decades have reinforced the finding that a human being’s group identity is their most prized possession. People craft their identities to fit into a core group – as a member of a family, a profession or a tribe, for example – that is vital to our social standing. In some cases, such as adopting the identity of a U.S. Marine, for example, group belonging may be necessary to personal survival.

Most of the time identity challenges are fairly minor and easily ignored so that problem solving doesn’t get off track too quickly. A boss might say at a meeting, “Weren’t you supposed to have that report ready today?” A quick defense of one’s identity as a competent professional for that company and the matter is dropped and we’re back to work.

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Conflict and Escalation

When the challenges are more severe, the identity defense becomes fiercer. Voices get raised, emotions swell and people become locked in a spiraling conflict, which is characterized by a sustained attack-and-defend cycle.

Hostage negotiators and divorce mediators are trained to shift dialogue away from identity threats and into problem solving by isolating divisive issues and coming up with specific proposals to address them.

Unfortunately, if there are no controls over language escalation, and parties start making references that can be interpreted in extreme, dehumanizing terms, they may come to believe that the only way to restore their identities is by physical domination.

Words no longer work. When parties cross over this very thin line, they fall into an identity trap with little hope of escape until the violence ends.

While I don’t expect the conflict between the president and Baltimore to escalate into actual violence, these kinds of exchanges can make it more acceptable for followers to use this kind of language.

When the President encourages crowds to chant, “Lock her up,” and “Send her back” at rallies, or describes a city as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being” would want to live, it sets a climate in which using lethal, dehumanizing language seems normal. That is simply dangerous.

WILLIAM A. DONOHUE is a distinguished Professor of Communication at Michigan State University.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHING ON THE CONVERSATION.

The Threat to America that’s been Growing Inside America

While the Middle East and the border crisis get all the attention, Charlottesville and El Paso remind us that America’s worst threat is right here at home.

White supremacists gathered for the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. By Anthony Crider. CC by 2.0.

White supremacists gathered for the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. By Anthony Crider. CC by 2.0.

August 12th 2017, fresh out of my first year at the University of Virginia, I sat in front of my TV horrified, watching white supremacists marching through a place I had recently starting calling home. Headlines on every major paper ran with Trump’s quote regarding “fine people on both sides.”

When classes started in the fall, my peers and I returned to Charlottesville deeply unsettled by what had happened on our grounds. Our community was rocked to its core. However, the rest of the world quickly moved on without us.

 The past two years, this weekend has marked a time for remembrance, but also caution and fear in Charlottesville. The dates, August 11th and 12th, have become something of the towns very on 9/11, and the police presence during these two days isn’t easy to ignore. The events that took place to years ago are on our minds, however, not on the mind of the nation.  

The march on Charlottesville was the last time I saw white supremacy dominate all the major headlines, that is, until this weekend’s mass shooting in El Paso. We, as a nation, let ourselves become distracted and forgetful of a real problem that’s been growing in the heart of our country. We can point to how the nation has so eagerly embraced the narrative of the “dangerous outsider” to explain why.  

 A decade ago, the Department of Homeland Security released a report on the growing threat of right wing extremism, correctly predicting “the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.” However, this warning was not given serious merit by the Trump administration. President Trump’s transition team made it clear to the DHS that it wanted to focus on Islamic terrorism and reorient programs meant to counter violent extremism to exclusively target international threats like al-Qaeda and ISIL. These Islamic terrorist groups have stayed in the headlines, despite the fact they no longer pose a serious domestic threat. It should come as no surprise that this June the FBI reported a significant rise in white supremacist domestic terrorism in recent months.

 President Trump’s rhetoric has also turned American’s attention away from the alt-right matter at hand, and turned our attention to what he would call an “infestation.” Searching through theTrump Twitter Archive, I failed to find one mention of domestic terrorism, white nationalists or the growing menace they pose to our country. After all, why shouldn’t Trump protect his loyal voter base? It’s no secret that white nationalists are Trump supporters; alt right leaders have even been spotted at his rallies.

President Trump says immigrants “infest” our country. Via Twitter. June 19, 2018.

President Trump says immigrants “infest” our country. Via Twitter. June 19, 2018.

The president has protected these terrorists by turning the national discussion elsewhere -the southern border. As a result, liberals have kept themselves busy investigating the disgusting conditions of border control centers and “children in cages,” while conservatives call for further border restrictions. These leaves no one time for anyone to wage war against the real domestic threat --white supremacy. 

Trump denounced “racist hate” Monday after the shooting this weekend. He blamed violent video games, mental health and, ironically, internet bigotry from prompting the Dayton and El Paso attacks. He failed to make mention of any real action that might be taken against white supremacist terrorism, let alone endorse gun law reform. 

 Had the attackers been Black, Hispanic or Middle Eastern, the White House would surely be taking extreme action. However, just like during the aftermath of Charlottesville, nothing serious is being done to combat alt-right violence. 

 Now,in light of the two year anniversary, I can’t help but wonder if our country truly took notice of the event that shook our little community two years ago. I still pass by the street where Heather Heyer was killed by a domestic terrorist who drove his car into a crowd of people two years ago. The street, now named Heather Heyer Way, remains adorned with chalk writing, flowers and crosses dedicated to her memory. How many more memorials must we lay in El Paso, and the rest of the world, before we address the white supremacist threat?  






EMILY DHUE is a third year student at the University of Virginia majoring in media. She is currently studying abroad in Valencia, Spain. She's passionate about writing that makes an impact, and storytelling through digital platforms.

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Puerto Ricans Unite Against Rosselló – And More Than a Decade of Cultural Trauma

People wave Puerto Rican flags as they attend a rally to celebrate the resignation of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló in San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 25.  REUTERS/Marco Bello

People wave Puerto Rican flags as they attend a rally to celebrate the resignation of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló in San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 25. REUTERS/Marco Bello

Puerto Ricans wrote a new chapter in their history on July 24.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló finally resigned after 12 days of massive protests in Puerto Rico, as well as protests abroad, that demanded his resignation; all the protests used the hashtag #RickyRenuncia.

The beginning of the protests can be traced to the release by Centro de Periodismo Investigativo of 889 pages of a Telegram chat transcript that exposed offensive and unethical comments made by the governor and his inner circle.

But the chat was only the latest blow. A series of natural and human-made disasters have caused turmoil and trauma in Puerto Ricans’ lives, including the more than decade-long recession that started in 2006; the financial crisis and subsequent enactment of the PROMESA law in 2016that reinforced Puerto Rico’s colonial status; and the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

Rosselló’s corruption further compromised the post-disaster recovery of Puerto Ricans, many of whom continue to suffer personal and cultural trauma.

Whereas personal trauma “involves a wound and the experience of great emotional anguish by an individual,” by cultural trauma, we mean what sociologist Jeffrey Alexander says “occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways.”

The chat’s transcript served as a catalyst for Puerto Ricans to come together in indignation.

Personal and cultural trauma

Together, we have been studying Puerto Rican activism, the diaspora’s political ideologies and migration, particularly in Central Florida, for many years.

After Hurricanes Irma and Maria, approximately 159,000 to 176,000 Puerto Ricans moved to the continental U.S. This major movement is expected to continue, with an anticipated 14% of the island population leaving over the next two years.

We wanted to understand the conditions under which post-disaster Puerto Rican migrants successfully integrated into continental U.S. society, and the challenges they face. We will soon begin a two-year study on how those leaving the island after the hurricanes have fared in Central Florida.

Data we have collected already suggest that post-disaster migrants continue to experience personal trauma and stress long after the immediate disasters passed.

Some Puerto Ricans not only lost family members or everything they owned, but, even a year after impact, many in Puerto Rico still lacked access to basic necessities such as potable water, warm food, shelter, medicines, and electricity.

Of the 19 Puerto Ricans we have interviewed so far, as well as over 100 surveyed, many were deeply impacted by Hurricane Maria and its aftermath. For those in our sample who lived on the island during the hurricane but have since moved to Florida, many felt traumatic loss in leaving their homes and families behind to survive the slow recovery.

Many told us that they lost their jobs, suffered health problems and, upon migration, faced racism and downward occupational mobility in the continental U.S.

Members of the diaspora also experienced personal trauma during the days and weeks after the hurricanes, not knowing about the status of their loved ones in Puerto Rico.

One of the Puerto Ricans we interviewed, John, explained the agony he felt in the aftermath of the storm waiting to hear from his father in Puerto Rico: “I talked to my dad the night before it was supposed to hit and he said he’ll call me as soon as he can. And then I didn’t hear from him for a couple days, so it was definitely stressful,” he said.

His father finally called; John said, “That was one of the most important phone calls I ever received… I cried because I was just excited to hear from him.”

In recent years, the totality of personal traumas Puerto Ricans have faced, including the recent chat scandal, amount to an arc of cultural trauma.

A man walks past a sign that reads ‘You are finally leaving. Ricky resign. Thanks Puerto Rico for resisting’ on the street that leads to La Fortaleza, the official residence of the governor of Puerto Rico. REUTERS/Marco Bello

A man walks past a sign that reads ‘You are finally leaving. Ricky resign. Thanks Puerto Rico for resisting’ on the street that leads to La Fortaleza, the official residence of the governor of Puerto Rico. REUTERS/Marco Bello

Resiliency and resistance

Puerto Ricans told us that they have used a range of coping mechanisms to contend with their challenges. Some of the main coping strategies to deal with personal trauma were connecting with family and friends for support; finding solace in their faith; trying to adapt to new daily routines; and trying to secure a job to provide for their families.

All of these resilient acts bring meaning to their sacrifices and losses. Our interviewees are actively recreating their homes, whether in Puerto Rico or elsewhere.

We see the current collective protests as acts of resistance to their cultural trauma. The protests have brought about a sense of group solidarity that has strengthened cohesion among the people of Puerto Rico, regardless of where they are geographically. These protests also signal that Puerto Ricans are actively reconstructing a more democratic society.

That is why journalists and participants have compared these recent protests to the “Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques” (All of Puerto Rico with Vieques) movement that aimed to remove the U.S. Navy from using the island of Vieques – part of Puerto Rico – for military exercises, particularly, the “Paz para Vieques” march on February 21, 2000. Back then, these collective actions aimed to hold the U.S. government accountable for the damages caused by the bombings in Vieques and the poor health of its residents. The protests were successful in removing the navy, although Vieques residents are still battling in court for reparations and clean-up.

Research shows that these types of group political actions can help to foster a process of collective healing, notably when the objectives are achieved.

While the Telegram chat was the latest shock in an arc of cultural trauma afflicting Puerto Ricans, we think that Puerto Ricans have demonstrated powerful acts of resilience in rebuilding a hopeful future for Puerto Rico. A simple hashtag – #RickyRenuncia – represents resistance against more than a decade of struggles, yet it is only the beginning of what is to come.

ELIZABETH ARANDA is a Professor of Sociology at the University of South Florida.

ALESSANDRA ROSA is a Postdoctoral Scholar in Anthropology and Sociology at the University of South Florida.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION.


Without School, A ‘Lost Generation’ of Rohingya Refugee Children Face Uncertain Future

A Rohingya refugee girl sells vegetables in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Access to education is extremely limited in the camps, and most children — particularly girls — receive little to no formal education, Aug. 28, 2018.  AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

A Rohingya refugee girl sells vegetables in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Access to education is extremely limited in the camps, and most children — particularly girls — receive little to no formal education, Aug. 28, 2018. AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

The boy’s eyes lit up when he talked about his dream of becoming a doctor.

Seven-year-old “Mohammad” – not his real name – is a Rohingya Muslim from Myanmar. I met him at a learning center at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in early July 2019.

After sharing his aspirations, Mohammed quickly remembered reality.

“I know my dreams will never come true,” he said with a faint smile.

Refugee crisis of global proportions

Mohammed is among the more than 700,000 Rohingya who have taken refuge in Bangladesh after an ethnic cleansing campaign of rape, killing and torture by the Myanmar military in mid-2017. They joined the more than 200,000 Rohingyas who had previously fled Myanmar’s brutal efforts to rid the Buddhist-majority country of this marginalized Muslim minority.

Of the newly arrived Rohingya, three-quarters are women and children, according to the United Nations.

In a noteworthy humanitarian gesture, the Bangladeshi government has given refuge to these persecuted people. Aided by Bangladeshi community organizations, various UN agencies and other international donors, the Rohingya have been receiving shelter, food, clothes and basic health care since the massive exodus in 2017.

This essential care, which cost an estimated US$920.5 million in 2019represents a gargantuan global effort. Still, the resources are woefully inadequate.

Most Bangladeshi refugee camps are overcrowded and, as a result, unhygienic. Residents survive on the absolute bare minimum of nutrition and other necessities. Monsoon rain, cold and landslides are everyday threats for these Rohingya, as I’ve witnessed firsthand during my visits to Bangladeshi camps in 2017 and 2019.

It is a dismal existence for all. But it is the plight of the roughly 500,000 Rohingya children living in limbo that strikes me as bleakest.

Concerns of a lost generation

Research shows that future of refugee children grows more imperiled the longer they remain out of school.

In many countries that host substantial refugee populations, including Turkey, Lebanon and Uganda, the United Nation’s refugee agency and the United Nations Children’s Fund ensure children receive a quality, full-time education, either at the camps or in nearby public schools.

Even so, just 23% refugee children worldwide are enrolled in secondary school, according to the UN’s High Commission on Human Rights. Just 1% attend university.

Because Bangladeshi authorities have not granted the Rohingya official refugee status and consider them instead “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals,” the roughly 500,000 Rohingya children in the country have no access to a formal education. Rohingya children are not permitted to attend Bangladeshi public schools.

The United Nations Children’s Fund and its partners offer Rohingya refugees aged 4 to 14 two-hour daily lessons on Burmese, English, math and life skills at about 1,600 learning centers located at the camps. These classes keep about 145,000 Rohingya children – or about 30% of the Rohingya youngsters in Bangladesh – occupied for part of the day but do not provide the kind of formal education that will allow the children to work toward a high school degree and enter the job market.

The camps offer no schooling at all for Rohingya refugee adolescents aged 15 to 18.

English-language exercise books at a UNICEF-supported ‘learning center’ at one of the Kutupalong refugee camps in Bangladesh. Rubayat Jesmin, Author provided

English-language exercise books at a UNICEF-supported ‘learning center’ at one of the Kutupalong refugee camps in Bangladesh. Rubayat Jesmin, Author provided

Some teenagers, mostly boys, have turned to madrassas, or Islamic learning centers, where they can receive a religious education.

The remaining Rohingya children who attend neither UNICEF classes nor madrassas are simply left to fill their own day. At the Rohingya camps, I saw boys working in shops, playing cards or sitting idle at all hours of the day.

When I asked Mohammad what he does when he is not in school, he told me that he “takes care of his family.”

“I play with the other kids, too,” he added with a grin.

Adolescent girls, I learned, are often kept at home by their parents because of the Rohingya’s conservative social and religious norms.

The camps can also be dangerous for girls. Human traffickers have been known to target young Rohingya women, promising them jobs outside the camps. Girls face other forms of violence and human rights abuse at Bangladesh’s camps, too, including child marriage.

Bangladeshi camps for the Rogingyas are typically overcrowded, unhygienic, muddy and prone to landslides. Rubayat Jesmin, Author provided

Bangladeshi camps for the Rogingyas are typically overcrowded, unhygienic, muddy and prone to landslides. Rubayat Jesmin, Author provided

Rohingya repatriation

Growing up in unstable conditions, with no possibility of study, Rohingya children like Mohammed are at risk of becoming a lost generation.

Their limbo may not last forever. In response to heightened international pressure, Myanmar in November 2017 agreed to take the Rohingyas back starting November 2018.

However, their return was postponed due to protests by the refugees, who feared conditions in Myanmar was not yet safe. The United Nations and other international refugee services have also voiced concern about sending the Rohingya back, saying there was no indication that the Myanmar government had punished the people responsible for the crimes in Rahkine state, nor agreed to give the Rohingya citizenship.

Considered foreigners in both Myanmar, their native country, and Bangladesh, where they’ve sought refuge, the Rohingya Muslims are the world’s largest stateless people.

While the negotiations for their repatriation continue, a generation of traumatized Rohingya children wait for their futures to begin.






RUBAYAT JESMIN is a Doctoral Student at the College of Community and Public Affairs, Binghamton University, State University of New York.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION


Enter Kenya’s Rose Oasis

Some of the best roses in the world bloom in Kenya. While the country is widely known for its scenic national parks and wildlife reserves, it’s also a major flower producer. Winnie Gathonie Njonge is the production manager at Nini Flowers, which sits on the shores of Lake Naivasha. She knows all there is about growing perfect roses and oversees the harvesting of 300,000 to 450,000 a day. “The ultimate goal of growing roses is to make other people happy,” she says. It brings her joy to know the roses she cultivates are sent to the United States, Japan and other countries, spreading love and beauty all over the world.

In Romania, 500 Days of Silence Mark Movement Against Corruption

For citizens of tiny Sibiu, Romania, “watchful eyes” nestled in the city’s roofs have become a symbol of ongoing protest.

Houses with eyes in Sibiu. lucianf. CC BY 2.0

Houses with eyes in Sibiu. lucianf. CC BY 2.0

Each day at noon, in the picturesque little city of Sibiu, the red-shingled roofs and the protestors silently assembled in the streets send the same message to the corrupt government of Romania: We are watching you.

Visitors to Sibiu take note of the standard Central European attributes: the quaint, historic architecture, punctuated by the Gothic Lutheran cathedral, whose steeple looms high into the sky; the houses clinging to the bank of the river Cibin, which winds lazily down from the main waterway of Olt. But they are likely to do a double-take upon noticing the ever-watchful Sibiu eyes—narrow windows rising up from the city’s roofs, giving the impression of a perpetual half-lidded gaze. Originally designed to ventilate attics where meat, cheese, and grain were stored while keeping the harsh sunlight out, the eyes have become a potent symbol of Romania’s anti-corruption movement—specifically, a grassroots organization called V Vedem din Sibiu, or “we are watching you from Sibiu.”

V Vedem din Sibiu came about in December 2017, when the government moved to shift judiciary statutes in a way that was widely regarded as tightening state control over judges and undermining the National Anticorruption Directorate. The attempt further inflamed tensions ignited at the beginning of the year, when the ruling Social Democrat party (PSD) decriminalized a range of corruption offenses, triggering Romania’s most sizable street protest since the fall of communism in 1989. The emergency ordinance—which, among other stipulations, dropped charges of official misconduct in cases where the financial damage did not exceed 200,000 lei ($47,000)—passed at 10 p.m. local time; by midnight, more than 10,000 infuriated citizens had taken to the streets in the capital of Bucharest, and around 10,000 in other cities across Romania.

Anti-corruption protesters in Bucharest. Paul Arne Wagner. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Anti-corruption protesters in Bucharest. Paul Arne Wagner. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Corruption is considered a serious problem in Romania, and the country’s fragile political state is exacerbated by its status as one of the European Union’s newest and poorest members, leaving citizens concerned for their rights and constantly at the ready to mount a protest. In the years and months since the events of 2017, Romania has seen ongoing organizing against corruption and in support of judicial independence, and the government has endured criticism from the European Commission, the U.S. state department, and the centrist president and National Liberal Party leader, Klaus Iohannis, who has made strong calls for governmental transparency. In January 2018, approximately 50,000 Romanians marched towards parliament in Bucharest, waving flags, contending with riot police, and raising raucous chants of “Thieves!” And in August of that year, up to 100,000 members of the Romanian diaspora descended on Bucharest to protest the PSD—an event that took a violent turn when police deterred marchers with tear gas and water cannons.

Anti-corruption protesters in Bucharest. Paul Arne Wagner. CC BY 2.0

Anti-corruption protesters in Bucharest. Paul Arne Wagner. CC BY 2.0

Relative to the chaotic, overwhelming tableau of the ongoing demonstrations in Bucharest, the soundless walkouts occurring daily in Sibiu present a stark contrast. This July, the Sibiu protesters commemorated their 500th day gathering in the city center, sacrificing their lunch breaks or school recesses to stand in silence outside the headquarters of the PSD. “Those 15 minutes every day, it is like a flame that never goes out,” said Ciprian Ciocan, one of the founders of V Vedem din Sibiu, in an interview with The Guardian. “Somebody knows that there are still people in Sibiu, no matter whether it rains or snows or whatever.”

Ciocan posts live videos of the protests on V Vedem din Sibiu’s Facebook page, where they reach more than 20,000 followers. During the events of December 2017, allies from around the world sent in more than 68 versions of the Sibiu eyes—scrawled on walls and scraps of paper, carved into sand at the seashore, inscribed with branches laid on fresh snow, from Berlin to Chicago to Kuala Lumpur. Though the initial tide of eyes has slowed, the page continues to share media coverage of the protests along with its regularly scheduled live videos. The “about” section defines the sit-in as a form of protest, stating, “We are protecting the values and principles in which we strongly believe, the state of law and the independence of Justice.”

Sibiu. Camelia TWU. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sibiu. Camelia TWU. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In May of this year, under pressure from the EU and overwhelming dissent from Romanian voters, the PSD abandoned some of its most controversial measures. Even more devastating for the party was their loss of seats in European Parliament elections and the departure of the PSD leader, Liviu Dragnea, who was jailed on May 27 and is expected to serve a three-and-a-half-year sentence for corruption.

Despite small steps in the right direction, however, citizens remain on high alert. “There are many other dangers,” Bianca Toma of the Romanian Centre for European Policies told The Guardian. “There are still things to be undone and it’s a matter of fact, not just [making] statements.” And in Sibiu, the ongoing protests have had little impact on the PSD, whose workers drew the blinds when sit-ins began and issued a statement accusing the activists of “aggressive” behavior. Still, like clockwork, citizens will keep turning out in the streets, and the watchful eyes will keep gazing from Sibiu’s rooftops, waiting for a day when Romanians at home and abroad can live without fear of corruption.







TALYA PHELPS hails from the wilds of upstate New York, but dreams of exploring the globe. As former editor-in-chief at the student newspaper of her alma mater, Vassar College, and the daughter of a journalist, she hopes to follow her passion for writing and editing for many years to come. Contact her if you're looking for a spirited debate on the merits of the em dash vs. the hyphen.










Dynamic Duo: How a Lawyer Couple is Paving the Road for LGBTQ+ Rights in India

Section 377 under the India Penal Code hungover LGBTQ+ lives for years, criminalizing their very existence to exist. Lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju fought to change that—and won. 

Pride flag in New Delhi, India. Nishta Sharma. Unsplash.

Pride flag in New Delhi, India. Nishta Sharma. Unsplash.

Since 1861, when India was under British colonial rule, there was a section of the India Penal Code that crimilized homosexualtiy as it was “against the order of nature”. In 2013, protestors fought for the code to be recognized as unconstitutional in the eyes of the law, but in a historic case titled Suresh Kumar Koushal vs. Naz Foundation, the Bench stated “We hold that Section 377 does not suffer from… unconstitutionality and the declaration made by the Division Bench of the High Court is legally unsustainable.” Although they would not mark it unconstitutional, the Bench also stated, “Notwithstanding this verdict, the competent legislature shall be free to consider the desirability and propriety of deleting Section 377 from the statute book or amend it as per the suggestion made by Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati.” To put in more simple terms, the Bench wanted to redirect who made the decision, and stated the matter should be decided by Parliament, itself, not just the judiciary. 

In 2016, the case was revisited by three Court members and they decided to pass it on to a five-member court decision. It was not until a year later when the LGTBQ+ community of India saw results. In 2017, in the Puttuswamy case, the Court ruled that “The right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to the citizens of this country by Article 21” - a historic decision which overruled a previous case that said there is no right to privacy in India. The Court also found that “sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy. Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual. Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform. The right to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.” Essentially, they condemned discrimintion and give validity to the rights of the LGTBQ+ community. 

It wasn’t until September 2018, though, when the Court ruled “in so far as it criminalises consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex” in the Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India  case. According to an article in the Guardian, chief justice Dipak Misra stated that “Criminalising carnal intercourse under section 377 Indian penal code is irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary”. Misra goes on to say “Social exclusion, identity seclusion and isolation from the social mainstream are still the stark realities faced by individuals today, and it is only when each and every individual is liberated from the shackles of such bondage … that we can call ourselves a truly free society.” 

 Now, a year later, two lawyers who worked on dismantling Section 377 came out as a couple. In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju announced that they were a couple. Ms. Guruswamy stated that they fought so hard because "That was when [they] decided that [they] would never let the LGBT Indians be invisible in any courtroom". 

The couple’s decision to come out was met with raved support, one user on Twitter congratulated them and added, “Personal is indeed political”. Which is true - queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere because to fight for the rights the community deserves, the community must do it as a unit, rather than individually.

Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju’s accomplishments are not limited by the strides they have made with Section 377, but also with the visibility they have given to the LGBTQ+ community - in India and across the world. They represent the strength and power the LBGTQ+ community has when they preserve despite the setbacks.






OLIVIA HAMMOND is an undergraduate at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She studies Creative Writing, with minors in Sociology/Anthropology and Marketing. She has travelled to seven different countries, most recently studying abroad this past summer in the Netherlands. She has a passion for words, traveling, and learning in any form.

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In Turkey, Academia Reckons with Ongoing Effects of Brain Drain

Following a post-coup crackdown by President Erdoğan, the Turkish intelligentsia is under continuous siege.

Faculty of Political Sciences, Ankara University. Fæ via Wikimedia Commons; originally by SALT Research via Flickr.

Faculty of Political Sciences, Ankara University. Fæ via Wikimedia Commons; originally by SALT Research via Flickr.

For some professors, the change occurred overnight, and with no warning: One day, they reported to work as usual, taught their classes, and returned home safe and secure. The next, they were met outside the gates of their university by swathes of security guards threatening them with tear gas, who informed them that their careers had been terminated, effective immediately. Such sudden and shocking occurrences reflected the overall timbre of 2017 for Turkish academics—hundreds of whom found themselves purged from their jobs in what they described as an officially sanctioned “intellectual massacre.”

The purge was precipitated by the failed coup of July 2016, which resulted in more than 260 fatalities and spurred President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to declare a three-month state of emergency. During that state of emergency and in the ensuing months, hundreds of academics from more than 20 universities lost their jobs without notice—the result of drastic action by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which chose to detain, arrest, and fire thousands of public-sector workers in various different fields rather than pressing charges on those responsible for the coup attempt.

According to Erdoğan, the responsible party was Fethullah Gulen, an exiled cleric and former ally who the authorities claim infiltrated supporters into professions all over Turkey as part of a large-scale takeover scheme. Gulen denies having any part in the plan, and many purged academics said they had nothing to do with Gulen’s movement and were unsure how they ended up on the official hit list. Turkey’s Official Gazette describes the banned academics as having “suspected links to terrorist organizations and structures presenting a threat to national security,” but those accused hold a contrasting view: “It is a project to silence all dissident voices within the academy,” Murat Sevinc, who was fired from Ankara University’s Political Science faculty, told Reuters. “The government has seen you can silence 100 academics by firing only one.”

One commonality among many of the academics was their membership in a movement called Academics for Peace, or “Barış için Akademi syenler.” Of the 330 fired in October 2017, 115 had signed an Academics for Peace petition titled “We shall not be a party of crime,” which took a stand against violence in the mainly Kurdish provinces of Turkey. The signatories immediately faced demonization in the pro-government media and condemnation by Erdoğan.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. U.S. Department of State.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. U.S. Department of State.

As of March 2017, the total count of purged academics was above 7,300. Those affected were not only deprived of their jobs but also banned from taking other jobs in any public or private institutions, robbed of retirement rights, and even suspended from traveling. Certain universities and departments were particularly hard-hit—for example, the Faculty of Political Sciences at Ankara University, Turkey’s oldest collegiate institution and one comparable in prestige and rigor to France’s Sciences Po. The departments of journalism at Ankara and at Istanbul’s University of Marmara were also decimated. Emre Tansu Keten, a casualty of the purge at Marmara, told Vocal Europe, “I am simply proud to be in the same list along with my senior colleagues who are thrown out because of the opinion they expressed.” Students, though not the primary victims of the situation, were nevertheless left reeling with the realization that their universities were mere shadows of the places at which they had enrolled.

The purges of 2017 were hardly the first shockwave to ripple through Turkey’s academic sector in recent years. In the past few decades, Turkish academic life has frequently been tumultuous, with intellectuals embroiled in military takeovers, secular/religious tensions, and leftist/nationalist battles. Following the start of European Union accession talks in 2004, however, fresh influxes of funding allowed Turkish institutions to construct modern research labs, encouraging students to study in Turkey rather than in the United States or elsewhere in Europe.

That progress, some academics suggest, is now in jeopardy. Following the coup attempt and subsequent crackdown, the trend of intellectuals returning in Turkey took a sharp U-turn, with liberals, secularists, and the intelligentsia fleeing the encroachment of religious nationalism. Between the signing of the Academics for Peace petition in 2016 and the end of 2017, nearly 700 Turkish academics applied to the New York–based organization Scholars at Risk to be relocated to a safer position. Historically, many such applications have been successful: In the five years preceding 2017, approximately 17,000 Turkish nationals came to Britain, 7,000 to Germany, and 5,000 to France.

For academics remaining in Turkey, opportunities for rebuilding their careers are slim, and rewards for their work few and far between. In 2018, the more than 2,000 individuals who make up Academics for Peace finally received recognition in the form of the Courage to Think Defender Award from Scholars at Risk, which applauded the group for their “extraordinary efforts in building academic solidarity and in promoting the principles of academic freedom, freedom of inquiry, and the peaceful exchange of ideas.” Scholars at Risk went on to acknowledge the tenuous state of academic affairs in Turkey, writing, “The nomination is a specific recognition of Academics for Peace’s solidarity work, and at the same time a general recognition of the current pressures on all scholars, students and higher education institutions in and from Turkey.”

Haydarpaşa campus of Marmara University. Fikricoban. CC BY-SA 3.0

Haydarpaşa campus of Marmara University. Fikricoban. CC BY-SA 3.0

On the ground, academics across the country continue to participate in protests, boycotts, and sit-ins at various universities, while a donation fund supports victims of the purge. As of early 2017, Ankara’s “Street Academy” hosted public lectures on Sundays, extending a special invitation to workers and oppressed communities. Funda Şenol Cantek, one of the throngs of fired academics, expressed her defiance to The Advocate: “the government should worry more now that they expand academia to the streets.” Similarly, Sevilay Celenk said of the occasional lectures she holds in public parks, “We took these dismissals as an opportunity to push the limits and bring university together with the streets.”

In June 2019, the body politic of Turkey elected an opposition candidate as mayor of Istanbul, interrupting two decades of control by the AKP. Nevertheless, reported the New York Times, “something about this era under Erdogan has still felt different, more lasting, as if the continuing existence of the A.K.P.’s repressive policies will permanently impair otherwise resilient, historic institutions.” That feeling doubtless stems in part from the uncertain futures facing vast swathes of Turkey’s once-resilient academic sector: As of spring 2019, the legal proceedings concerning 501 members of Academics for Peace remain ongoing. And at the universities, absence is keenly felt. Inside Ankara’s Faculty of Political Science—known as the Mulkiye—walls once plastered with leftist posters are now smattered with a sparse assortment of Turkish flags, the Times described. Certain subjects, such as Foucault and queer theory, have been wiped from the schedule. Master’s and doctoral courses have been canceled, and at the once-lively film society, the showing of films has been banned altogether. Thus, the effects of the purge linger on: in the hallowed halls of universities, in the leafy parks and city streets, and in the hearts and minds of Turkish learners and teachers around the world.

TALYA PHELPS hails from the wilds of upstate New York, but dreams of exploring the globe. As former editor-in-chief at the student newspaper of her alma mater, Vassar College, and the daughter of a journalist, she hopes to follow her passion for writing and editing for many years to come. Contact her if you're looking for a spirited debate on the merits of the em dash vs. the hyphen.

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This Surgeon Has Restored Sight to 130,000 of Nepal’s Blind

Dr. Sanduk Ruit is an ophthalmologist on a mission to restore sight to Nepal’s blind. He is the executive director of the nonprofit Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Kathmandu, Nepal, and has operated on more than 130,000 patients. He has adopted innovative surgical techniques for cataracts and often travels to perform operations, walking up to seven days hauling surgical equipment to reach patients who live in Nepal’s most remote villages. Why does Dr. Ruit do this? He lost family to treatable diseases and knows what it’s like not to have access to healthcare.

Why Stores and Restaurants are Ditching Plastic Straws

Single-use plastics like straws can harm the environment. Photo by Marco Verch C.C. 2.0.

Single-use plastics like straws can harm the environment. Photo by Marco Verch C.C. 2.0.

You may have noticed that the beverages you’ve been ordering at your favorite coffee shop or restaurant have not been accompanied by plastic straws. Chains as big as Starbucks and establishments as small as neighborhood cafes have been finding creative substitutes to plastic straws, or are just getting rid of them altogether. 

What’s so bad about straws? 

Straws are just one example of wasteful single-use plastic. Hundreds of millions of tons of plastic are produced each year, and a large portion of that plastic ends up in the ocean. It seems like plastic straws is an interesting place to start in the crusade against single-use plastics. However, for an able-bodied person, avoiding plastic straws is an easy way to start reducing plastic use. 

How are things changing? 

Some restaurants have tried to be more conscious about their straw usage by not automatically putting a plastic straw into each beverage. Some establishments will wait for their customers to ask for a straw instead of serving it to them. 

Other establishments—like Starbucks—have developed a new plastic lid that looks like a sippy-cup so that customers can sip their drinks without needing a straw. However, cups like these are difficult for those who aren’t able to pick up their drinks and bring them to their mouths. A straw is literally the only way for some people to drink on their own. 

Therefore, better solutions may be composter-approved paper straws, like Aardvark straws, or reusable glass or metal straws. 

While finding alternatives to plastic straws can make a substantial impact, it should just be the beginning of a global campaign to reduce single use plastics. Hopefully, there will be future campaigns to reduce plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, or single-use containers. 





ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 

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Adapting Cities to a Hotter World: 3 Essential Reads

Keeping cool in Brooklyn.  A. Katz/Shutterstock

Keeping cool in Brooklyn. A. Katz/Shutterstock

Heat waves can be deadly, especially when they combine high temperatures with elevated humidity levels that make the air feel even hotter. The impacts can be especially strong in cities, which often are several degrees warmer than nearby rural areas due to the urban heat island effect. These three articles from The Conversation’s archives describe steps that communities can take to adapt as climate change makes heat waves more frequent and intense.

1. Offer many cooling options

Emergency cooling centers are one way to mitigate the effects of heat waves, but cities need to do more. Nick Rajkovich, assistant professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, has worked with planners around Cleveland to understand how they prepare for hot weather. Strategies there include planting more trees and shrubs, which provide shade and cool the air; weatherizing buildings with window shades and light-colored, reflective materials; and preparing emergency kits for power outages that include food, water and radios.

Most importantly, in Rajkovich’s view, different agencies and organizations need to talk to each other and plan together so they can take complementary steps.

“In Cleveland, preparing for extreme heat events has brought professionals together and encouraged overlapping approaches because no single strategy is foolproof,” he observes. Officials “should pursue multiple solutions rather than looking for one ‘best’ option.”

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2. Focus upgrades on vulnerable neighborhoods

Many types of green infrastructure can help neighborhoods withstand the impacts of severe weather. For example, permeable paving and rainwater harvesting are two tools for managing flooding and reducing stormwater runoff.

Notre Dame University climate scientist Ashish Sharma has researched use of green roofs, covered with drought-resistant plants, to cool hot urban areas. In a study in Chicago, Sharma and his team determined that low-income neighborhoods on the city’s south and west sides would benefit most from installing green roofs because doing so would make them less vulnerable during blackouts:

“When temperatures spike in cities, electricity use rises sharply making it hard for utilities susceptible to power outages. When the lights go out, critical services such as drinking water, transportation and health care can be jeopardized. And poorer people, whose neighborhoods tend to be the hottest, can be the most at risk.”

By lowering rooftop surface temperatures, green roofs keep buildings cooler. This would enable residents to reduce their use of air conditioning, saving them money and easing strain on the local power grid during peak demand periods.

3. Design streets for a changing climate

Most U.S. city streets are designed with a focus on the needs of drivers, and sometimes far in second place, pedestrians. But Anne Lusk, a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, calls for “designing green streets for bicyclists, pedestrians, bus riders and residents who live on transit routes, as well as for drivers.”

Trees and cycle tracks would be central features of these streets, configured in ways that make pedestrians and cyclists feel safe from automobile traffic. The trees would serve as barriers while cooling neighborhoods and absorbing air pollutants. And well-designed bike paths would remove cars from the road, reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

In surveys, respondents told Lusk that designs with trees and bushes between cycle tracks and the street best blocked their view of traffic, lessened their feeling of being exposed to pollution and made them feel cooler. Lusk also spotlights ways to offset climate-related stresses on trees, such as redesigning street drainage systems to direct water to trees’ roots.

JENNIFER WEEKS is a Environment + Energy Editor at The Conversation.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

5 Ethical Clothing Brands to Enhance Your Wardrobe

Green Garb for any Occasion

Collecting trash at one of United by Blue’s organized clean ups. Photo provided by United by Blue.

Collecting trash at one of United by Blue’s organized clean ups. Photo provided by United by Blue.

When we think about consumer ethics, our minds don’t normally turn to clothing. We think about reducing plasticware, consuming less red meat, or maybe purchasing an electric car or a bike. However, the production of clothing can involve unfair pay, a lot of waste, and consumption of energy. If you’re looking to add to your wardrobe, try buying your clothes from one of these brands: 

United by Blue’s Albright Rain Shell. Photo provided by United by Blue.

United by Blue’s Albright Rain Shell. Photo provided by United by Blue.

To Outfit Your Outdoor Adventure- United by Blue 



Based in Pennsylvania, United by Blue is more than just a sustainable clothing company. While they use the greenest materials—like recycled polyester and organic cotton—they also act as community organizers. United by Blue sells women, men, and kids’ clothing—for outdoor adventures and just lounging around—as well as accessories and camping gear.  For every garment sold, United by Blue has pledged to remove one pound of trash from natural environments. They do this by organizing waterway Clean Ups in cities around the country. Check out their website for tour dates. Put on a pair of their comfortable off-trail pants, roll up your sleeves on your flannel button-down, and get to work. 


Price Range: most items around $30-100, coats and outerwear $100-200


MATTER’s 2016 Jumpsuit. Photo provided by MATTER

MATTER’s 2016 Jumpsuit. Photo provided by MATTER

2. For Classic Clothes all Year Round- MATTER

There’s a reason why MATTER’s clothing is so uniquely beautiful: the designs are based on ancient and traditional heritage patterns. Design isn’t the only thing MATTER borrows from the past. MATTER takes a “hybrid” approach to their production process. They use the work with artisans who use their traditional means of textile production, while incorporating more sustainable modern means of production in order to make the clothing economical. Additionally, MATTER does not operate on a “fast-fashion” model that produces new lines every season. They take their time to produce their clothing, in order to leave time for their meticulous production and reduce their waist. They make dresses, pants, tops, and scarfs. So, you can wear your MATTER garment any time of the year. 


Price range: Most items $50-150 

People Tree floral dress. Photo provided by People Tree

People Tree floral dress. Photo provided by People Tree

3. For a One-Stop Shop- People Tree

From dresses, to underwear, to workout clothes, UK brand People Tree has sells it all—fair trade of course. They use sustainable materials like organic cotton, natural dyes, and TENCEL™, a fibre derived from wood pulp. People tree tries their hardest to reduce waste—they even repurpose their scraps to make handmade tags for their clothing! 


Price range: $50-150

Jumpsuit from ABLE’s Spring 2019 Collection. Photo provided by ABLE.

Jumpsuit from ABLE’s Spring 2019 Collection. Photo provided by ABLE.

4. From Jewels to Dresses- ABLE

ABLE makes ethical and beautiful clothing: for women, by women. You can sleep easy after wearing their beautiful jewelry, fun handbags, trendy shoes, and cute dresses, because ABLE publishes their employees’ wages. Many of their factory workers are struggling to make ends meet, so able posts their prices to encourage other companies to do the same—increasing accountability and ethical production. 


Price range: $25-$150

Outdoor Voices store in Austin, Texas. Photo provided by Outdoor Voices.

Outdoor Voices store in Austin, Texas. Photo provided by Outdoor Voices.

5. For Your Workouts- Outdoor Voices

In addition to using sustainable, recycled, and organic materials Outdoor Voices also makes sure to use ethical production. They make men and women’s workout attire with a mission to encourage people to get outdoors. Shop their comfortable leggings, jackets, running gear, and swimwear for your next sweat session. 

Price range: Most items $50-80 


More brands are moving towards a more sustainable and ethical mode of production—this is the trend we should be seeing more of on the runway. 





ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 

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INDIA: Piplantri - Where 1 Life Creates 111 Lives

How a village leader changed the perception of women in India, one tree at a time

Girls connecting with the trees in Piplantri. Photo provided by Piplantri Village.

Girls connecting with the trees in Piplantri. Photo provided by Piplantri Village.

Every time a baby girl is born in Piplantri, India, the village gathers together to plant 111 trees in her honor. The custom began a couple of years ago, when former village leader, Shyam Sundar Paliwal was forced to ponder the fleetingness of life after his daughter tragically passed away at a young age.

Piplantri and other villages in the area were facing two crises that greatly affected the quality and value of life. One issue was social: a high rate of female infanticide. Traditionally, female births were considered a burden on the family. The parents of a girl are expected to provide a dowry to her husband’s family, which can be a big financial undertaking. Additionally, daughters were married off well before the age of 18, before they could obtain an education. 

Piplantri and its surrounding villages faced environmental hardships as well. The villages in the Rajasthan area are suffering from deforestation with the increase of marble mining. 

Paliwal decided to confront these issues with a plan that can be broken down into three words: “Daughter, Water, Trees.” 

To counter the pessimism around the birth of a baby girl—and improve the lives of the daughter and her family—the village raises money for a “trust” every time a girl is born. The family is to contribute one third of the fund, which is set aside until the girl turns 20. This alleviates the problem of the financial burden of a dowry. 

In order for the family to receive the money, they must sign an affidavit agreeing not to marry their daughter until she is of the legal age of 18 and has received a proper education. 

To solve the deforestation problem, the village gets together to plant 111 trees in the girl’s honor. As a part of the contract, the family agrees to take care of those 111 trees. Hopefully the trees will help the spread of water along the land. 

And the scheme gets even better. The fruit trees being planted were beginning to attract a lot of termites. In order to prevent infestation, the villagers planted many aloe plants to protect the trees. The villagers can harvest and sell the aloe—which has incredible healing benefits—and make a profit, to even further improve their quality of life. 

Although Paliwal is no longer the leader of the village, the tradition continues. Now, teachers report that there are just as many girls enrolled in school as boys. And, the village is lush and green with the hundreds of trees planted. 

Other villages are following suit. The nearby village of Tasol is trying out Piplantri’s eco-feminist village model.










ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur.