The Possibility of a International Environmental Court

Science professors and organizations are making the case for an international green court, which would fill in gaps in the existing environmental legal order.

Climate change is an existing problem. Scientists are coming up with solutions for keeping Earth habitable, including a possible international environmental court. Gerd Altmann. CCO.

Climate change is an existing problem. Scientists are coming up with solutions for keeping Earth habitable, including a possible international environmental court. Gerd Altmann. CCO.

It’s time to face scientific facts: the world is getting warmer. The five hottest years on record have all been within the last decade. Europe went through a massive heat wave this summer. Temperature changes increase the possibility of extreme heat, drought, floods, and subsequent poverty for thousands of millions of people. Climate change is a legitimate issue, seen especially by extremes in weather patterns, and scientists are pondering possible solutions beyond what is already being done.

Using previously created organizations as inspiration, one idea two scientists have suggested is a climate-based version of the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to the Huffington Post. The main problem is that the current environmental protections (which vary by country) are not enforced by any international agency, and they are failing to cope with the sheer scale of the global problem.

The 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day is less than a year away, and though the idea of getting the court up and running by then probably isn’t possible, soon afterwards would be, if initiative was taken. In 1972, the UN Environmental Programme was created, which coordinates environmental activities and assists countries with creating policies. Subsequent concerns and opinions about the environment from all corners of the world were necessary to bring attention to the problem at the time, but didn’t protect the planet on their own. Countries are now directed to measure their activities, but there isn’t any international organization in place to monitor the loopholes globally when looking at every country’s policies and activities. 

According to the Huffington Post, the International Bar Association and the Coalition for an Environmental Court have also suggested a international environmental court. The World People’s Conference recommended a similar idea, a International Climate Justice Tribunal.

One question the court would need to sort out, if organized, is which charges would be in the scope of the court. Other challenges include different priorities for developed and developing countries, discerned unenforceability of international law, and global cooperation, according to the Inter Press Service. Keeping an open mind when organizing the international green court should help solve problems before they arise. An open forum setting with understood standards should be ideal, as opposed to a criminal court setting. In a similar sense, both the state and non-state clients should be allowed to raise cases for the court. Considering the complexity of the issues likely to come up, the judge or judges assigned should be specialized and capable. Clients should, of course, be found accountable for the decisions of the court. Clear language is necessary as well. If holding states completely accountable seems too positive, then adding sufficient stakes should make it work on a international scale. 

An international green court should be able to harmonize with existing environmental regulations, provide justice to a broad range of people, create workable solutions for maintaining international standards, and build trust among the global community. Therefore, the forum should be able to start overcoming climate inaction, and enforce that progress for the international group through agreed-upon standards.







NOEMI ARELLANO-SUMMER is a journalist and writer living in Boston, MA. She is a voracious reader and has a fondness for history and art. She is currently at work on her first novel and wants to eventually take a trip across Europe.


Palestine Launches Global Mental Health Network

Palestinian health workers started a network to help Palestinians with emotional well-being, as they have among the highest rates for anxiety and depression due to the ongoing conflict with Israel.

The Palestinian people have exceedingly high rates for anxiety and depression. Health professionals recently began a network to help combat these disorders. Hasty Words. CC0.

The Palestinian people have exceedingly high rates for anxiety and depression. Health professionals recently began a network to help combat these disorders. Hasty Words. CC0.

Palestinian health workers recently launched the Palestine-Global Mental Health Network, in order to assist with their people’s emotional well-being and assert their professional stance. 

Palestinian people have among the highest rates for anxiety and depression, in large part due to the continuous strife between Israel and Palestine. Unexpected raids in the middle of the night, checkpoints, teargas, and jailed young children all contribute to a profound sense of hopelessness and despair. For example, young men who seek out mental health services often explain that they think of looking for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to create a confrontation in the potential hope that they’ll be killed, according to Mondoweiss. Suicidal ideation, depression, trauma, and anxiety are undoubtedly high conditions in most people. 

This network was partially launched because of a meeting held in Tel Aviv toward the end of June for the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. The location was impossible to get to for Palestinian professionals who wished to attend, due to restriction of movement. Last year, a petition was circulated by the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network, with support from the Jewish Voice for Peace and UK-Palestine Mental Health Network, asking that the location be changed, but the petition was not answered. 

The launch for the Palestine-Global Mental Health Network was held at the Palestinian Red Crescent’s headquarters in al-Bireh. The Palestine Red Crescent Society is involved in health care in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It collaborated with the Palestinian Social and Psychological Syndicate and the Arab Psychological Association as well. 

Over 150 Palestinian health professionals attended from various cities, including Gaza, Haifa, Ramleh, and Jerusalem, among others. UK and U.S.-based Palestinian professionals joined through video-conferencing. The network plans to assist Palestinian people, regardless of geographic location, and promote mental health, social justice, and human dignity among people in general, and Palestinians in particular. A major goal is to augment Palestinian resistance to violence. More generally, this network will cooperate with others in the U.S., the UK, and Belgium to strengthen their programs and establish similar organizations.

The speeches addressed specific topics, as well as general thoughts on why an organization like this is necessary. In the closing session, a task force was created that would organize a paper explaining the network’s opening strategies and general framework. A separate committee was commissioned to carry out projects and plans agreed upon at the conference.

Another branch for the same organization also recently begun in Belgium. Their overall goal is also to make known the effects of occupation on the mental health of the Palestinian people. Activities include conferences, panels, and trips for international co-workers to visit Palestine and meet with other professionals, among others, according to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. The networks in Belgium, the U.S., and the UK generally work independently, but occasionally collaborate on ideas, strategies, and campaigns.

Mental health workers have an important role to play in the continuing struggle between Israel and Palestine, and these collaborating networks show that they intend to assist as best they can.





NOEMI ARELLANO-SUMMER is a journalist and writer living in Boston, MA. She is a voracious reader and has a fondness for history and art. She is currently at work on her first novel and wants to eventually take a trip across Europe.

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Here’s Where the 2020 Presidential Candidates Stand on Climate Change

Each of the Democratic hopefuls has made environmental justice a priority. Here’s who stands out in the search for a greener future.

Climate change protesters. Michael Gwyther-Jones. CC BY 2.0

Climate change protesters. Michael Gwyther-Jones. CC BY 2.0

On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, signaling to the international community that the United States was backing down from the fight against climate change. Just over two years later, at the 2019 G20 Summit in Japan, Trump indicated his disdain for the essential mission of that fight: “We have the cleanest water we have ever had, we have the cleanest air we have ever had,” he claimed of the United States, adding that wind power “does not work” because it has to be subsidized.

Particularly coming from a president who has described climate change as a hoax, such a statement represented a disheartening and dangerous attitude toward environmental issues for concerned citizens across the country. As 2020 and the possibility of a new POTUS approaches, such voters will be parsing policy proposals to determine—among many other salient issues—who stands the best chance of mitigating climate change. Below are stances on climate change from a few Democratic candidates who stand out in the crowded political landscape.

Jay Inslee. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Jay Inslee. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Jay Inslee (Governor of Washington)

Inslee’s name is practically synonymous with the battle for a greener future: He has made climate change a key plank of his campaign platform, and has released four extensive climate plan proposals, each outranking his competitors in length and depth. Part one addresses clean energy in electricity, cars, and buildings; part two is a 10-year, $9 trillion investment plan; part three discusses foreign policy; and part four recommends stemming the flow of fossil fuels from the United States. Together, the four segments speak to a whopping 41 out of 48 components in the rubric put forth by leftist think tank Data for Progress, which in 2018 created one of the first blueprints for the Green New Deal—the clean energy–based economic stimulus package championed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. As of now, Inslee’s plan lacks proposals to curb waste, increase antitrust enforcement, establish a universal basic income, or found a public bank, but the governor has promised more to come.

Inslee on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “Victory is the only option against climate change, because without victory there is not survival.”

Polling numbers: 0.4 percent.

Bernie Sanders. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Bernie Sanders. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Bernie Sanders (US Senator, Vermont)

Given that Sanders hails from the Green Mountain State, it’s no surprise that going green is high on his political agenda. In the Senate, he has introduced carbon-pricing legislation and pushed for the Democratic Party to embrace a carbon tax, but his stance on climate change can be traced back to well before he was elected senator in 2006: Videos are available from 30 years ago of him discussing the issue. During his 2020 bid, Sanders has been enthusiastic about the Green New Deal (also an unsurprising development, given that Ocasio-Cortez worked for Sanders during his 2016 campaign). In April, he released his climate platform under the heading “Combat Climate Change and Pass a Green New Deal,” citing upgraded public transit, a ban on fracking, and an end to fossil fuel exports as key tenets. Yet despite his long-running push for improved environmental policy, Sanders’ proposals fall short of some more specific and nuanced iterations put forth by competitors like Inslee.

Sanders on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “Not alone, and not, certainly, just by doing what has to be done in the United States.”

Polling numbers: 14 percent.

Elizabeth Warren. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Elizabeth Warren. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0


Elizabeth Warren (US Senator, Massachusetts)

Rather than releasing policies focused narrowly on climate change, Warren has taken a different tack, addressing the issue through the lens of public lands, the military, and domestic industrial development through three distinct proposals. And running through each of these manifestos is the thread of Warren’s policy centerpiece: getting money out of politics and out of the hands of massive oil conglomerates. Her latest proposal, which is also her longest, fleshes out some of the tenets outlined in the Green New Deal, suggesting a Green Industrial Mobilization that earmarks $1.5 trillion for low-carbon tech; a Green Marshall Plan that encourages foreign countries to buy American clean energy tech; and a Green Apollo Program that invests $400 billion in energy research and development over a decade. Taxing wealth and corporate profits would provide funding for the ambitious plans, which have led Greenpeace to place her as tied with Sanders in its climate scorecard.

Warren on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “I believe that the opportunities for the next president are enormous. We can show worldwide leadership.”

Polling numbers: 13.8 percent.

Kamala Harris. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Kamala Harris. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Kamala Harris (US Senator, California)

Harris has supported and co-sponsored the Green New Deal, but her 2020 bid has otherwise made limited mention of climate justice. Past actions, however, show at least some commitment to the issue: As San Francisco’s district attorney, she established an environmental justice unit, and as attorney general, she launched an investigation into Exxon Mobil to see whether the company lied to shareholders and the public about the risks posed by climate change. During her time in Congress, she joined with five other senators to file a brief on behalf of San Francisco and Oakland in their climate damages lawsuit against fossil fuel companies, pointing to massive spending by the industry to quash climate concerns and influence lawmakers.

Harris on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “There’s no question that the next president has within her capacity to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Polling numbers: 15.2 percent.

Joe Biden. Chad Cassin. CC BY-SA 2.0

Joe Biden. Chad Cassin. CC BY-SA 2.0

Joe Biden (Former Vice President)

As part of his lengthy legislative career, Biden has the distinction of being among the first to introduce a climate change bill in the Senate: the Global Climate Protection Act of 1986, which called for an EPA national policy on the issue. In concert with President Obama, Biden built a notable record on climate change, particularly with the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2016 and the initiation of auto fuel economy standards that slashed emissions levels. Nevertheless, Biden has faced scrutiny for missing crucial climate votes earlier in his career—including the 2008 Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, regarded as the strongest climate change bill to reach the Senate floor. Despite his support of the Green New Deal, Biden initially put forth a “middle ground” approach to environmental policy in the early days of his 2020 run. Facing subsequent criticism from activists and lawmakers, including Ocasio-Cortez, he replaced that suggestion with a proposal that aligned more closely with those of his competitors, and which allocates $1.7 trillion in federal spending to climate policy over the next decade.

Biden declined to be interviewed on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change.

Polling numbers: 26 percent.

Cory Booker. Anne White. CC BY-NC 2.0

Cory Booker. Anne White. CC BY-NC 2.0

Cory Booker (US Senator, New Jersey)

Climate change is far from the hottest-button issue for Booker, who tends to focus instead on topics like gun control, racial justice, and health care. Still, he was one of the first legislators to support the Green New Deal, has voiced support for a price on carbon, and has pointed to nuclear energy (which supplies more than one-third of New Jersey’s power) as an alternative to fracking. And while such moves may be largely tactical, Booker has pledged not to take fossil fuel money in his presidential bid as well as publicizing the fact that he is a vegan.

Booker on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “It’s not going to be one person in one office—it has to be a movement, a renewed commitment in our country and across this planet.”

Polling numbers: 2.2 percent.

Pete Buttigieg. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Pete Buttigieg. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0


Pete Buttigieg (Mayor of South Bend, Indiana)

As the youngest candidate in the race at just 37, Buttigieg has a personal stake in the matter of climate change, given that his generation is one of the first to substantively feel its detrimental effects. “It just gives you a very different relationship to political decision makers and decision making,” he told The Atlantic on dealing with environmental justice as a millennial. Like most of his competitors, Buttigieg has endorsed the Green New Deal, and the climate platform he released in May describes full implementation and a 100% carbon-free society. That could include a major role for the rural communities in his native Midwest: At a town hall in June, he described how improved soil management could help mitigate the climate crisis.

Buttigieg on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “This is a generational project. It’s going to have to be a national project.”

Polling numbers: 5.2 percent.














Beto O’Rourke. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Beto O’Rourke. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Beto O’Rourke (Former US Representative, Texas)

On May 1, O’Rourke became the first 2020 candidate to release a comprehensive climate plan, which defines a binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the U.S. economy by 2050. Unlike Inslee’s target of 2045, however, this goal raised the ire of some environmental groups, who asserted that O’Rourke should have aimed for as soon as 2030. And although O’Rourke signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge two days after issuing his platform, he accepted more than $550,000 from oil industry sources during his Senate bid against Ted Cruz—the second-highest number among the candidates after Cruz.

O’Rourke on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “It’s going to take this entire country, and it’s going to take this country leading the entire world.”

Polling numbers: 2.4 percent.



At a point in the race where the strength of actual policy proposals is often eclipsed by intangible factors like electability and charisma, voters still have a while to wait before realistic options for environmental justice begin to coalesce. Until then, temperatures will keep ticking up, waters will continue rising, and communities in the United States and across the globe will keep hoping for a leader with the power to reverse the inevitable.




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.




Digital Nomads: Connecting to Wifi and Communities Around the Globe

With an uptick in digital nomad lifestyles and coworking tourism, how are digital nomads positively or negatively impacting the world?

Remote Year Kahlo group volunteering in Bogota, Colombia with former partner, TECHO, a Latin American organization that seeks to overcome poverty through the help of locals and volunteers. Photographer and CC Travis King.

Remote Year Kahlo group volunteering in Bogota, Colombia with former partner, TECHO, a Latin American organization that seeks to overcome poverty through the help of locals and volunteers. Photographer and CC Travis King.

Birds sing melodically against the white-washed backdrop on a sunny Greek isle as Travis King shares, over Zoom, how his passion for purposeful travel evolved into his role. King collaboratively runs social impact projects across the globe at the digital nomad program, Remote Year.

“I fell in love with the world and the way we can connect with new people and cultures,” King says. For close to five years, he did everything - from working on an Alaskan fishing boat to attaining a one year work VISA in Australia in order to extend the adventure.

“I kept working and volunteering and realized I wanted more,” King says.

When King started out as a Remote Year Program Leader, he found the group he led shared a deep interest in doing good. Each Remote Year community is a group of digital nomads that will stay together throughout the year, sharing experiences, lodging, and coworking spaces in 12 different cities around the world. 

“My community’s identity was connected to giving back. We made a commitment - every month we would do one big service event in each new city.”

Digital nomads, defined as people who choose to embrace a location-agnostic, technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely globally are increasing in numbers, according to MBO Partner's research. As of 2019, 4.8 million remote workers currently describe themselves as digital nomads, and upwards of 17 million aspire to someday become nomadic. 

“I think we’re on the tipping point of this cloud-based revolution where most laptops can connect to the internet anywhere - it gives us ultimate freedom,” King says.

As location-agnostic lifestyles continue to grow, how are digital nomads positively or negatively impacting the places they travel and how are these programs addressing social and environmental impact? 

Remote Year Ohana group volunteering in Cape Town, South Africa with partner, Phillipi Music Project, a social enterprise aiming at offering an infrastructure to the musicians from the townships. Photographer and CC Travis King.

Remote Year Ohana group volunteering in Cape Town, South Africa with partner, Phillipi Music Project, a social enterprise aiming at offering an infrastructure to the musicians from the townships. Photographer and CC Travis King.

Making an impact is in the fabric of Remote Year, according to King, but it began as one-off projects that lacked sustainable results. “The early groups were doing great things with intention and heart - but everything was scattered,” King says. 

According to King, one group would go to Buenos Aires, Argentina and plant trees in the mangroves and the next group would find an orphanage to sponsor in Cambodia, while another group would paint families’ homes outside of Medellín, Colombia. 

“We realized if we connect the efforts, our impact overtime will be magnified,” King says. 

“A lot of problems with social and environmental impact programs are it’s a one time experience and then you’re gone,” says recent Remote Year participant, Rebecca Stone. 

“The cool thing about Remote Year is my group could start working on a project, and when we left at the end of the month, there’s a new group that came to take our place,” says Stone.

Stone completed first-hand reporting and travel industry data for Skift during her Remote Year. Like the 40 others in her group, she didn’t want to put her career on hold to travel the world. Remote Year took care of the infrastructure so she could pursue her other interests, including studying tourist impact on cities.

Since Remote Year runs several long-term programs, new groups arrive on a rotating basis to the same 12 to 15 cities, which, according to Stone, mitigates unnecessary negative tourism impact. “I’m in a city like Split, Croatia for one month. I don’t take jobs away from locals. All I do is add my income into the city via eating out, participating in activities, volunteering, all while knowing my tourism dollars are going into the city.”

Now, Remote Year impact projects focus on long-term partnerships. These partnerships touch on a diverse array of social issues. “You’ll get to see a different layer of each city you wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to,” says King about those who get involved.

With a rise in volunteering while traveling among digital nomads, some argue that this can do more harm than good. Medium contributor, Paris Marx writes in an article, “Digital nomads are far less likely to work toward positive local change or halt the gentrification that displaces long-term residents .” 

When asked whether he thinks this is changing, Marx responds, “there are some people trying to ‘give back’ in various ways, but the people taking part in these programs don't actually spend much time in these cities. They consume them; they don't live in them.”

Remote Year’s Director of Community Development and Positive Impact, Travis King, volunteering with the RY Ohana group in Cape Town, South Africa, with partner, Phillipi Music Project. Photographer and CC Travis King.

Remote Year’s Director of Community Development and Positive Impact, Travis King, volunteering with the RY Ohana group in Cape Town, South Africa, with partner, Phillipi Music Project. Photographer and CC Travis King.

When asked about the criticism of volunteering abroad, King responds, “My biggest concern is that the conversation has gone too far and people would do nothing than do something, because they worry it may be considered hurtful.” He sees this as a hurdle and encourages people to always research viable organizations and causes to put energy and funding toward while traveling. 

As of 2019, Remote Year communities have volunteered 14,842 hours, worked on 312 service projects and fundraisers, raised $134,390 and engaged 2,063 locals in their efforts.

With an uptick in coworking tourism, companies like Remote Year, Unsettled, Venture with Impact, and Nomad Cruise are growing rapidly as more people seek innovative ways to take their profession on the road. 

What’s next? 

“I would love to see our net cast wider to people of a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds so everyone has an opportunity to be part of Remote Year,” says King. He shares his last stories from Valencia, Spain where they are launching a new program to help nomadic communities preserve and share their arts with the larger Spanish population. 

Lasting impact is challenging to measure. According to Marx, real impact abroad “means getting politically involved in one's community to fight for and enact social change in the interests of working-class people. There is hope for positive change but digital nomadism isn't a vehicle for broad-based political action.”

While some people, like Marx, believe digital nomads are a highly individualized group of privileged Westerners who make little positive impact on local communities, others, like King, believe in a broader approach to giving back.

A traveler who can explore and live in new countries and cultures has a unique opportunity. Some will give back, while others may not. 

In the end, whatever one is seeking abroad, an excellent way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. 













JULIA KRAMER is a New York-based writer and avid traveler who addresses systems changes to social challenges through storytelling and community building. When she’s not writing or on the road, you will find her cooking something from her urban garden or hiking. Read more of her articles on travel and social impact at julia-roos.com.

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YEMEN: A Call for Action: The Worst Humanitarian Crisis in the World

People crowded in Rock Palace, Yemen. stepnout. CC by 2.0

People crowded in Rock Palace, Yemen. stepnout. CC by 2.0

War has torn Yemen apart. According to the 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Yemen, “The humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world”. It states that “An estimated 80 per cent of the population – 24 million people – require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, including 14.3 million who are in acute need. Severity of needs is deepening, with the number of people in acute need a staggering 27 per cent higher than last year”. This devastating famine is a consequence of the Yemen civil war that started in 2015 and has been ongoing since. 

The civil war broke out in 2015 between two factions of Yemen: the armed movement of the Houthi and the Yemeni geovernemnt led by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The fighting started over legitimization of who actually runs Yemen and who gains mass support. Their feud, though, has resulted in their country becoming one of the worst humanitarian crises currently in the world. It has left thousands of adults and children “food insecure”, an official term to identify the starving people in the country. According to an article by the UN, “During the past four years of intense conflict between Government forces and Houthi rebels have left tens of thousands dead or injured including at least 17,700 civilians as verified by the UN”. These people have lost their lives because of a war that took their resources. 

In a video by CNN reporter, Sam Kiley, Kiley asked local businessman, Hussein Al-Jerbi, if he thought it was surprising that Yemen is having a problem with hunger. Al-Jerbi responded with, “Not [a] problem - it is a disaster, it is a disaster”. The famine in Yemen is a direct example of what war can bring to a country. The economy has become so poor that the people of Yemen have resulted to selling Khat - an oral drug. In the same video, Sam Kiley interviewed farmer Mounir Al-Ruba’i about why he grows he grows Khat, Al-Ruba’i states, “We only make a profit from Khat - other crops do not cover our home expenses. This is the only crop that would cover our daily and annual expenses.” 

The UN and UNICEF have on going sites and systems that allow you to donate to the crisis. While the UN focuses donations on multiple issues, UNICEF provides direct support to the children that are growing up or being born into this humanitarian crisis. On the UNICEF page where you can donate, their call to action states, “An estimated 360,000 children under age 5 are acutely malnourished and fighting for their lives”. An instagram account, @wearthepeace, made a post explaining that if reposted on their story or account, the people running the account would donate meals to Yemen. They not only have a link in their bio for anyone who wants to donate can, but their campaign, which is a post explaining that for every 10 times the post is reposted, they will donate $1 to the Yemen crisis. Their intention behind the post was to not only raise money, but also raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis so people are talking and doing something about it. With their 107K following, they have done just that. Their donations also include food baskets (the contents of those food baskets are listed in the post). On June 14th, the post was removed over controversy that the campaign was a hoax, but after contacting Instagram and providing proof of their legitimacy, their post was reinstated on June 23rd. To this day, they are still spreading awareness and raising funds for the Yemen crisis.

This is considered one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world because of the amount of innocent lives it is affecting. But we can help. With a donation, no matter how big or small, to the organizations listed above, we can make sure the funds are going to the right place. If donation is out of the question, please share and repost articles and stories about Yemen, specifically the account that donates once you repost. Ensuring that this crisis is not forgotten or swept under the rug will aid the people of Yemen. 

The livelihood of the Yemeni people are at stake. With consistent awareness and donations, we can help aid the Yemeni people and ensure the war does not destroy them. 





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. 




In Honor of Pride Month, an Overview of LGBTQ+ Triumphs and Setbacks Across the Globe

From Taiwan to Kenya to the United States, LGBTQ+ individuals face profound discrimination and tirelessly advocate for equality.

DC Capital Pride Parade in the United States. Bossi. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

DC Capital Pride Parade in the United States. Bossi. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

June is Pride Month in the United States, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer individuals across the country are commemorating the anniversary of the historic 1969 Stonewall Riots, recognized as a turning point for the LGBTQ+ liberation movement. Yet around the globe, simply existing as a sexual or gender minority can be profoundly dangerous and even life-threatening—and even amongst celebration in the US, legislative developments threaten to undo the decades of progress that have afforded LGBTQ+ individuals their rights to live with dignity and respect.

Recently in the news for LGBTQ+ discrimination is Russia, whose grim record of intolerance based on sexuality is particularly pronounced in the region of Chechnya. Located in the North Caucasus, Chechnya experienced a vicious anti-gay purge in February 2017, and one that is now tragically recurring. In early May, Human Rights Watch reported that Chechen police were rounding up men presumed to be gay or bisexual, proceeding to detain them at the Grozny Internal Affairs Department, where they were humiliated, raped, and brutally beaten. Activists with the Russian LGBT Network asserted that at least 23 men were detained between December and April due to their sexuality. Chechen authorities have denied reports of the persecution, and Russian federal authorities have neither commented nor launched an investigation.

Demonstrating against Russian homophobia. Marco Fieber. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Demonstrating against Russian homophobia. Marco Fieber. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Perhaps even more shocking than the negligence of the Russian authorities, some governments have actively ratified discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals: Across the globe, 76 countries still place criminal sanctions on homosexuality. One such country is Brunei, a small nation located on the coast of the island of Borneo, whose Syariah Penal Code went into effect on April 3 of this year. The code calls for a wide range of barbaric punishments affecting LGTBQ+ individuals, including death by stoning for anal sex and 40 lashes with a whip for lesbian sex. It prohibits consensual same-sex conduct, broadly discriminates against women and sexual and gender minorities, and infringes upon freedom of expression and religion. In response to international outcry, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who holds absolute power in Brunei, has put forth a de facto moratorium on capital punishment, but the ban could be lifted at any time and does little to mitigate the dire rights offenses of the penal code.

Later that month, in Kenya, the High Court upheld similarly anachronistic laws criminalizing consensual acts between same-sex adults. The laws are a relic of colonialism, first put forth by British settlers in 1897; while they are rarely enforced, they nevertheless validate a climate of prejudice and violence, and are used to justify police harassment, employment and housing discrimination, expulsion from schools, and artistic censorship. The court case that concluded on May 24 addressed a 2016 petition by three Kenyan human-rights organizations, which asserted that the criminalization of same-sex conduct violated various rights—including equality, privacy, and human dignity—enshrined in Kenya’s constitution.

Just that same day, across the ocean in the United States, LGBTQ+ rights sustained a blow with the proposition of a new rule by President Trump’s administration. The rule would remove nondiscrimination protections for transgender people under the Affordable Care Act, erecting further barriers to wellness for a community that already faces difficulty in accessing healthcare. Protection on the state level is of little consolation, given that only 14 of out 50 US states prohibit health insurance discrimination based on gender identity, and 10 specifically exclude transgender-related care under Medicaid policy.

Protesting the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ+ policies. mathiaswasik. CC BY-SA 2.0

Protesting the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ+ policies. mathiaswasik. CC BY-SA 2.0

Within a sea of devastating setbacks for the global LGTBQ+ community, instances of progress and activism stand out as beacons of hope. In the deeply Catholic Mediterranean archipelago of Malta, a transgender woman named Joanne Cassar was recently allowed to marry, representing the culmination of her nine-year legal battle. The following day, on April 1, the Maltese government passed a gender recognition law, which came into existence largely due to Cassar’s efforts, and which acknowledges that “gender identity is considered to be an inherent part of a person which may or may not need surgical or hormonal treatment or therapy.” The law also initiates a working group on transgender healthcare to research international best practices, with one-third of the group mandated as being experts in the field of human rights.

In May, another historic ruling made Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, effective from the 24th of the month. “Today, we can show the world that #LoveWins,” tweeted Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, the morning of the ruling, celebrating the same sentiment as the crowds that turned out in the streets, cheering, weeping, and waving rainbow flags as news of the decision spread. There is still room for legislative improvement, particularly given that the law does not provide equal adoption rights for same-sex couples, but the events of May 17 nevertheless represent an impressive step forward for the East Asian region.

Appeal for Rights parade in Taipei, Taiwan. Luke,Ma. CC BY 2.0

Appeal for Rights parade in Taipei, Taiwan. Luke,Ma. CC BY 2.0

While legislative strides are crucial to affording LGBTQ+ individuals the rights they deserve, grassroots activism can be an incredibly powerful driver of official change—such as in the case of Joanne Cassar, or of the LGBTQ+ organizers who recently marched in Honduras to celebrate the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. The activists’ demands included an end to pervasive violence against LGBTQ+ people, legal recognition of trans identities, and curtailing prohibitions on same-sex marriage and adoption. Currently, two petitions brought forth by the leaders of activist groups—one pushing for a process allowing official name and gender changes for trans people, and one encouraging equality of marriage and adoption—are pending before Honduras’ Supreme Court, and various other LGBTQ+ rights cases are afoot in Congress and in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Like any human-rights movement, seeking legislative and societal parity for LGBTQ+ individuals will doubtless continue to be an arduous battle fraught with discouraging defeat—particularly considering the vast disparities between rights in different countries, as celebration of one victory in one nation is dampened by news of horrifying injustice in another. Yet with the efforts of LGBTQ+ community members and allies, and the renewed conviction offered by recent progress in Taiwan and Malta, the international community can continue to hope that each Pride Month will bring more to celebrate than the last.










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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The Earth Group Aims to Change the World Through Education and Nourishment

Newly Certified B Corp Collaborates with UN World Food Programme to Help Children Around the Globe

Kori Chilibeck and Matt Moreau at work for The Earth Group and World Food Programme in Sri Lanka. “ Becoming a B Corp is an affirmation of what we’ve worked to achieve for so many years.”

Kori Chilibeck and Matt Moreau at work for The Earth Group and World Food Programme in Sri Lanka. “Becoming a B Corp is an affirmation of what we’ve worked to achieve for so many years.”

The Earth Group is a Certified B Corporation that supports the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) through donations that provide school meals, drinking water and education to children in the most troubled areas of our world.

To date, The Earth Group has helped fund more than 3.6 million meals to young school kids while helping them get an education in places like Tajikistan, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Bolivia and the Philippines. The B Corp is dedicated to informing consumers everywhere about the power of their everyday marketplace choices. For example, the simple purchase of a bag of Earth Coffee, one of three consumer products sold by the company, provides a schoolchild with meals for an entire week.

Purchase one bag of Earth Coffee online or in-store to feed one child for one entire week.

Purchase one bag of Earth Coffee online or in-store to feed one child for one entire week.

When Earth Group founders Matt Moreau and Kori Chilibeck met as fellow employees of a ski shop near the Rocky Mountains 14 years ago, they likely never imagined what lay ahead for them as individuals, new business owners or as proud supporters of the WFP.

Just forging this critical relationship with the WFP seemed daunting enough, but the maze-like process took far longer to realize than anyone could imagine. Eventually, they launched their social enterprise onto the large and complex world stage of fighting hunger, providing clean drinking water and building schools for children where none existed before.

It was at this point that Moreau and Chilibeck realized the real work had begun in earnest for their Canadian B Corp based in Edmonton, Alberta. Seeking to confirm that the aid they worked so diligently to fund would actually make the journey to the end-users, they traveled to Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Tajikistan and the Philippines to see for themselves.

As the photos and videos produced from these expeditions clearly testify, Moreau and Chilibeck landed in their natural element, surrounded by the children and co-workers they had been working so hard to support since creating The Earth Group. The expressions on the faces of not only the children and teachers but of Moreau and Chilibeck and the WFP country managers tell a tale of unselfish dedication.

Kori Chilibeck in Sri Lanka hosted by the UN World Food Programme.

Kori Chilibeck in Sri Lanka hosted by the UN World Food Programme.

Seeing the Progress

The Earth Group maps its path to success through respect for the cultures they are trying to help. In many of these destinations, it is still frowned upon for female children to attend school. By respecting that posture yet also using the intellectual tools at hand, the company funds projects that often furnish female students with an extra helping of food to take home if they attend school, thereby allowing them to obtain an education, the family to benefit from the food, and the attitudes about females attending school to soften.

Schoolyard antics in Sri Lanka with Matt Moreau and Kori Chilibeck of The Earth Group.

Schoolyard antics in Sri Lanka with Matt Moreau and Kori Chilibeck of The Earth Group.

The exhilaration of such remote expeditions reached its peak when the duo traveled to the Philippines, arriving in a volatile region where insurgents had blasted grenades and explosives just the day before. Their in-country WFP handlers changed safety tactics at once, and what was scheduled to be a multi-day trip ended up being a shortened-but-packed day of visiting the children in their classes, touring the school facilities, meeting the support staff and then continuing safely out of this troubled zone.

Back home in Edmonton, Moreau and Chilibeck rolled up their sleeves and focused on making their simple products-with-impact list: Fair Trade coffee from Eastern Africa, Indonesia, Central and South America; glacier-sourced drinking water from Whistler, British Columbia, and Rocky Mountain House, Alberta; and organic Alberta-grown teas, available in as many outlets as possible across Canada and around the world. Their online sales are activewith their triple bottom line—people, planet, profit—always remains in focus.

The Earth Group obtains its drinking water from Canadian glacier spring sources near the communities of Rocky Mountain House and Whistler, and their low-weight recyclable plastic bottles are landfill biodegradable. The Earth Group is also partnered with and supports Plastic Bank efforts to reduce ocean plastic.

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Paying their dues during long negotiations with large corporations, Moreau and Chilibeck have now succeeded in signing major chain stores in Canada such as IKEA, Safeway, Sobeys, Whole Foods, Save On Foods, IGA and Metro. They also launched their product line in Japan, another major feat for any business run by two people, one employee and a group of dedicated volunteers.

Chilibeck is just back from the unrivaled adventure of presenting The Earth Group products in Japan to the largest food and beverage show in Asia called FOODEX. A receptive audience was excited to hear Earth Water is already available in their marketplace, with more Earth Group products sure to follow.

Path to Success

During certification in 2018 as a B Corporation, B Lab’s independent Standards Advisory Council confirmed The Earth Group’s three essentials: 1) social and environmental performance, 2) transparency and 3) accountability.

“B Corps values are synonymous with ours and embedded in our culture, so working toward the certification was both a pleasure and a reminder of being mindful of the numerous ways in which our work affects people and planet.”

And so it goes for these two young Canadian entrepreneurs and their “overnight success,” which has only taken them 14 years of collaboration, dedication, no-pay and near bankruptcy to arrive at a point where they can now see the results of their work. Having the blessings of understanding spouses has made it all possible, plus a bit of luck at critical moments.

Business gurus will tell start-up entrepreneurs timing is everything, and while this adage does have merit, the hard work and determination to succeed cannot be underestimated.

When Moreau and Chilibeck hatched their road map to success in a ski shop near the Rocky Mountains 14 years ago to create The Earth Group, at the same time Ben Cohen and Mal Warwick’s book Values-Driven Business: How to Change the World, Make Money, and Have Fun was synthesizing best practices and socially responsible business goals and laying the foundation for what would become the first B Impact Assessment, a process still used to certify B Corps.

B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

GREGORY B. GALLAGHER is a Writer, Filmmaker, Musician and Producer.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MEDIUM

Revolutionizing Ethical Travel for Women: Meet Purposeful Nomad

Native alpacas graze near the Chimborazo Volcano during Purposeful Nomad’s trip to Ecuador where the group learns about local non-profit, Paqocha’s, mission to restore alpaca populations and meets the community who sheers, cleans, and spins the fleece. Caitlin Murray. Purposeful Nomad.

Native alpacas graze near the Chimborazo Volcano during Purposeful Nomad’s trip to Ecuador where the group learns about local non-profit, Paqocha’s, mission to restore alpaca populations and meets the community who sheers, cleans, and spins the fleece. Caitlin Murray. Purposeful Nomad.

When Caitlin Murray met Alejandro and Agostina, conservationists and owners of Ecuadorian Mashpi Artisanal Chocolate Farm, she’d been living in South America for two years after a solo trip that inspired her to stay.  They showed her how their commitment to regenerating Ecuador’s cloud forest focuses on sustainable farming practices and educating others. They also gave her a taste of their handcrafted Arriba Cocoa bar that won first place in 2016’s International Chocolate Awards.  Inspired by their story and commitment to the environment, Caitlin wanted to bring others to their farm.

Volunteering abroad, solo backpacking, and working in the tourism industry, Caitlin realized in order to access culture and be socially responsible, she must find measurable ways to directly give back to local communities. Driven to create opportunities for women to collectively experience this, she founded Purposeful Nomad. Purposeful Nomad is a travel company that crafts deeper, safer, more ethically responsible travel for women.  They attract women from a variety of backgrounds and ages seeking a different kind of experience.  “I wanted to use tourism as something positive in the world and not just a consumerism ‘let’s take my life and emulate my life somewhere else’ ethos,” Caitlin explains.

Alejandro and Agostina, conservationists and owners of Ecuadorian Mashpi Artisanal Chocolate Farm educate Purposeful Nomad travelers about sustainable farming while sharing their award-winning handcrafted Arriba Cocoa bars. Jessica Scranton. Purposeful Nomad.

Alejandro and Agostina, conservationists and owners of Ecuadorian Mashpi Artisanal Chocolate Farm educate Purposeful Nomad travelers about sustainable farming while sharing their award-winning handcrafted Arriba Cocoa bars. Jessica Scranton. Purposeful Nomad.

Two years after her visit to Mashpi Farm, Caitlin launched her first women-only sustainable social impact travel program in Ecuador - called Food, Farm, Fleece.  The 14-day itinerary integrates local experience and education.  Early on, the group meets with grassroots organization founders of Paqocha, Felipe Segovia and Lorena Perez to learn about their efforts to revive the alpaca population.  Next, they learn from Ecuadorian women how to shear, clean and spin the fleece with the opportunity to purchase handwoven wares directly from the makers.

Going through a transitional time in her life, Sara Carter signed up with Purposeful Nomad to “fulfill her desire to immerse herself in Ecuador's culture, food, and people, while affording her the chance to do it with like-minded women.” Within a few short years, Purposeful Nomad has grown to eight new locations and diversified itineraries - including Cuba, Morocco, India, and Guatemala.

Purposeful Nomad Founder, Caitlin Murray, (second from right) and women’s sustainable travel group gather after a village homestay and camel trek in the Thar desert, India. Jessica Scranton. Purposeful Nomad.

Purposeful Nomad Founder, Caitlin Murray, (second from right) and women’s sustainable travel group gather after a village homestay and camel trek in the Thar desert, India. Jessica Scranton. Purposeful Nomad.

According to the World Tourism Organization as explained in CNBC’s article “Eco-Friendly Tourism” eco-travel is expected to climb to 1.8 billion by 2030.  Since 2000, worldwide destination seeking has jumped by more than 50 percent. As socially responsible travel continues to grow “we make sure our dollars stay local.  We’re not a luxury tour company,” says Caitlin. According to McColl of Ethical Traveler, the best way to travel sustainability is to get to know the local people so the “money stays in the local economy, rather than getting extracted by foreign corporations … as a bonus, it’s a more genuine experience, and a better chance to connect with local people.” Purposeful Nomad prioritizes local from lodging and cuisine to hiring knowledgeable guides.  Caitlin builds partnerships by talking to locals and finding ways to help. She doesn’t assume to know what a place needs. She asks. Would you like to work with us?  How can we help?  

According to MarketWatch, more than 1.6 million people volunteer on vacation each year, paying more than $2 billion annually to help out while traveling.  Nevertheless, it brings into question how much lasting impact they are generating.

Purposeful Nomad focuses on tapping into established grassroots organizations that are already happening on the ground and are a proven success to help measure their impact. “Bigger volunteer organizations, can create incredible infrastructures in developing countries, but once they pull out, the schools are empty.  We don’t want that,” Caitlin explains.

With the mounting popularity of conscious travel, terms like responsible, sustainable and ethical can often be overused or misused in the tourism industry.  Epicure & Culture contributor, Daniela Frendo explains, “In the travel industry, greenwashing refers to tour operators which make eco-trips seem more sustainable and ethical than they actually are.”  Travelers can mitigate this by asking travel companies whether they employ local people and buy locally-sourced products as well as learn more about how invested the company actually is in community-based projects. Aware of greenwashing, Caitlin says, “If you take shortcuts, people are going to know.” She thoroughly vets organizations and individuals to ensure there is transparency in where the money goes.

Back at the Masphi Farm, Alejandro and Agostina’s passion for conservation and keeping the Ecuadorian traditions of the cacao crop alive balances well with dishing out delicious artisanal chocolate.  So, for your next trip, consider traveling with a purpose—it doesn’t get much sweeter than that.





JULIA KRAMER is a New York-based writer and avid traveler who addresses systems changes to social challenges through storytelling and community building.  When she’s not writing or on the road, you will find her cooking something from her urban garden or hiking.  Read more of her articles on travel and social impact at julia-roos.com.

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Fighting Human Extinction in London and Beyond

Over the past week, governmental officials and police say, protesters have wreaked havoc in London—but it’s all part of an effort to address the sociopolitical factors wreaking havoc on our planet.

Parliament Square on April 19. DAVID HOLT. CC BY 2.0

Parliament Square on April 19. DAVID HOLT. CC BY 2.0

In the early afternoon of Monday, April 22, about 100 people entered London’s Natural History Museum and made their way to Hintze Hall. As sunlight streamed in from the skylights and illuminated the Romanesque arches that punctuate the stone walls, the protestors positioned themselves underneath Hope—the enormous blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling—and lay down on the ground. After about half an hour, most concluded their “die-in,” but a few remained; wearing face paint and crimson robes, they gave a classical music performance on the steps beneath the skeleton.

This unusual demonstration was part of a massive mobilization by Extinction Rebellion (abbreviated as XR), a non-partisan movement aiming to revise environmental policy with the goals of slowing climate change and minimizing the possibility of imminent human extinction. The group launched in the United Kingdom in October of 2018—in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report announcing that we have just 12 years to halt catastrophic change—and quickly proliferated worldwide.


Today, the movement boasts about 130 groups across the UK, and is active in countries from the U.S. to South Africa to Australia. Its core demands are threefold: Honesty and transparency from governments regarding the ecological crisis; reduction of carbon emissions to zero by 2025; and the implementation of a participatory democracy to monitor progress towards these goals.

The current actions in London, advertised on XR’s website as “UK Rebellion—Shut Down London!,” are the focal point of a constellation of protests planned in 80 cities across 33 countries. Beginning on April 15, thousands of protestors poured into the heart of London, blocking five major landmarks: Waterloo Bridge, Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus, and Piccadilly Circus. From the beginning, group members made it clear that they weren’t going anywhere, filling the bridge with trees and flowers and even setting up a skate park and stage. Live music emanated from Oxford Circus, and a life-sized model of a boat with “Tell the Truth” painted on the side blocked the center of the bustling junction.

Nearby at Piccadilly Circus, younger protestors chalked messages on the pavement, while inside an open-sided truck at Marble Arch, bands entertained hundreds of onlookers. In Parliament Square on April 15, Jamie Kelsey Fry—contributing editor for the Oxford-based New Internationalist magazine—encouraged demonstrators from an octagonal stage.

Chalk message on April 17. Felton Davis. CC BY 2.0

Chalk message on April 17. Felton Davis. CC BY 2.0

The audience waved flags and banners emblazoned with the symbol of the movement, dubbed by Steve Rose of The Guardian as the ubiquitous logo of 2019. According to Rose, the “X” signifies extinction, and the horizontal lines suggest an hourglass—reminding us once again that time is running out.

A high point for protestors was a visit from 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg on Sunday, April 21. The Swedish teenager, who staged a “School Strike for Climate” at Sweden’s Parliament last year and initiated the weekly #FridaysforFuture school walkouts, received chants of “We love you” as she took the stage at Marble Arch.

Demonstrating on London’s Blackfriars Bridge last November. Julia Hawkins. CC BY 2.0

Demonstrating on London’s Blackfriars Bridge last November. Julia Hawkins. CC BY 2.0

While the protests have in some ways resembled a modern-day Woodstock, full of music and goodwill, London authorities—who have deployed some 9,000 police officers in response—see a different side of the story. As of April 22, more than 1,000 people had been arrested since the demonstrations began; the youngest to be charged was 19, and the oldest 74.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said that the protest was taking a toll on London’s police forces and businesses, commenting, “I'm extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime.” Protestors, for their part, view the stress on police as unavoidable: “We wish we didn’t have to distract police resources,” their website states. “80 year old grandfathers would rather not be putting themselves in the physically uncomfortable position of being in a police cell and children don’t want to be skipping school  – but 30 years of government inaction have left us with no choice.”

Tent set up in Parliament Square. DAVID HOLT. CC BY 2.0

Tent set up in Parliament Square. DAVID HOLT. CC BY 2.0

As protesters continue to be removed from the scene one by one by the police, with more rushing in to take their place, the question is whether or not the government will be responsive to XR’s message. On the first day of the mobilization, XR wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May outlining its demands, requesting talks, and issuing a stern warning: Failing government action, the group’s disruptive demonstrations would only escalate over the coming weeks. On April 22—the day of the Natural History Museum die-in, and also Earth Day—the group said that they would soon hold a “people’s assembly” to determine next steps. The next day, protesters marched on Parliament in a renewed push to open dialogue with government officials.


London’s Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit has said that XR’s demand for carbon neutrality by 2025 “technically, economically and politically has absolutely no chance of being fulfilled,” but nevertheless supports the message behind the movement and the actions it has engendered. For XR, surmounting the impossible is the only way forward to ensure that human beings can continue to inhabit the earth: Their website reads, “Only a peaceful planet-wide mobilisation of the scale of World War II will give us a chance to avoid the worst case scenarios and restore a safe climate.” Only time will tell whether those in power agree.





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.








Government Control Over China Intensifies Under New General Secretary

Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party in the People's Republic of China.  U.S. Department of State . Public Domain.

Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party in the People's Republic of China. U.S. Department of State. Public Domain.

“The Story of Yanxi Palace” is a Chinese TV drama set in the Qing dynasty that follows a  group of concubines as they compete for power in the imperial court. It premiered in the summer of 2018 and was viewed more than 15 billion times on iQiyi, China’s premier movie streaming service. Despite its massive popularity, the show was abruptly canceled by the Chinese state media for being too “lavish” and “nasty”. The paternal approach that the Chinese government takes to managing its citizens often leads it to become personally involved in even the most casual of affairs, and its oversight has expanded under its current leader, Xi Jinping.

Xi Jinping became General Secretary of the Communist Party in 2016, though he was thought by many to be its most influential member long before that. Shortly after taking power, Xi implemented a series of changes within the party itself. He pushed for an amendment that would remove term limits for General Secretaries, essentially keeping himself in power for the remainder of his life. The amendment was approved by nearly all of Xi’s constituents. Xi Jinping’s changes also included the creation of a “social credit” system which assigns Chinese citizens a score based on their day-to-day conduct in society. Teams of specially trained officials have been sent to monitor neighborhoods throughout the country and report thier findings to the goverment. The Party has also installed cameras at traffic intersections and subway stations equipped with facial recognition technology. This, in addition to a long-established internet firewall that renders sites like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter inaccessible to those on the mainland, have critics calling the current state of the country “Orwellian”.

The government’s tolerance for public scrutiny also appears to have tightened under Xi’s leadership (it was never “loose” to begin with). In March, reporter Liang Xiangyi became an internet sensation when she was seen cringing and rolling her eyes while a colleague asked China’s Foreign Minister a lengthy question about Xi Jinping's future plans for the country. The incident took place at an annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress, a highly televised event in which questions from the media are often vetted. Shortly after the incident Liang disappeared amid rumors that she had been fired and her press privileges had been revoked. Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims living in China have also found themselves under increased scrutiny. While the Chinese constitution technically allows for freedom of religion, the Communist Party itself is officially atheist, and under Xi Jinping, the Party began promoting the idea of “sinicization” which calls for non-Chinese groups living in China to acclimate themselves to the overarching culture of the country. The government is now using this ideology to push for religious practitioners to merge their beliefs with Communist ideology. Those who resist are detained and forced to renounce their religions while temples, churches, and mosques are shut down, if not destroyed entirely.

It is often said that while the West favors freedom, China favors stability. However, “freedom” and “stability” are fairly broad ideas, and their benefits don’t always trickle down to those at the lower rungs of society. It remains to be seen who actually benefits from China’s proclaimed stability, and how these changes will be received by the country’s massive population.

JONATHAN ROBINSON is an intern at CATALYST. He is a travel enthusiast always adding new people, places, experiences to his story. He hopes to use writing as a means to connect with others like himself. 

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Amazed

For more than two decades, through the lens of my camera, I have sought out the hope and beauty woven into the fabric of all life and all peoples, from forest to ocean. In the face of the myriad unrecognized plights and urgent truths of our shared human and planetary condition, these shimmering threads promise change.

Images / Words ©  Cristina Mittermeier  / Words ©  Kim Frank

Images / Words © Cristina Mittermeier / Words © Kim Frank

National Geographic photographer and co-founder of SeaLegacy, Cristina Mittermeier, releases her new book this month, Amaze, published by teNeues. An intimate collection of over 25 years, Amaze combines impassioned poetic storytelling, indigenous wisdom, and an urgent plea to protect our planet. Amaze takes you on a insightful and hope-filled journey where the human spirit lifts from every page. Here is a glimpse into the book’s luminous world.

Ta’kaiya Blaney, a singer, songwriter, and drummer for her people, the Tla’amin First Nation of British Columbia, is seen in a cedar cape. The youngest speaker at the United Nations Indigenous Forum, she is a fierce advocate of indigenous rights and environmental protection.    Canada

Ta’kaiya Blaney, a singer, songwriter, and drummer for her people, the Tla’amin First Nation of British Columbia, is seen in a cedar cape. The youngest speaker at the United Nations Indigenous Forum, she is a fierce advocate of indigenous rights and environmental protection.

Canada

AS WITH MANY IMPASSIONED JOURNEYS, MY LIFE AS A CONSERVATIONIST AND ARTIST BEGAN WITH A LESSON.

A lesson that rattles in my soul like a grain of sand in a chambered nautilus shell. Urging me onwards; reminding me why I do this work. Curled deep within this hidden spiral is the unwavering memory of one of the most powerful photographs I never took.

The densely knit Amazon rainforest; home to countless indigenous peoples and the once-mighty Xingú River, now forever tamed.    Brazil

The densely knit Amazon rainforest; home to countless indigenous peoples and the once-mighty Xingú River, now forever tamed.

Brazil

When I was a young and inexperienced photographer, I was sent on an assignment to a remote corner of the Brazilian Amazon. Flying from town to town, over vast stretches of rainforest, and in increasingly small airplanes, I finally arrived at the Kayapó village of Kendjam; home to one hundred and fifty individuals. My mission was to give a face and a name to the thousands of indigenous people whose lives were soon to be impacted by the construction of the Belo Monte dam.

Young Kayapó children will sit or stand patiently for hours, as their mothers paint their bodies with genipap, a dye made from a forest fruit of the same name. Being painted, and painting others, is a very important form of social bonding in these remote Amazonian villages.    Brazil

Young Kayapó children will sit or stand patiently for hours, as their mothers paint their bodies with genipap, a dye made from a forest fruit of the same name. Being painted, and painting others, is a very important form of social bonding in these remote Amazonian villages.

Brazil

Late one afternoon, I saw a group of women coming up from the river; one of them carrying a tiny baby in her arms. It dawned on me that they had just given this newborn his first bath in the river; a vital ritual bath that ties a person’s fate to the fate of the river. And I had missed it. I consoled myself, naively thinking I that could find the mother in the morning and ask her to bring her baby back down to the water, hoping to recreate what I had missed. Tragically, we woke to the news that the infant had not lived through the night. By the time I had figured out what was happening, the women had already buried the tiny body, and I had missed that ritual as well.

Dismayed, I began to wonder if I was up to the challenge of this assignment, wishing the editors had sent a more experienced photographer, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure approaching. It was the mother of the baby, walking straight towards me and bawling. Nobody was going near her. As she came closer, I saw that she was cradling a dirty bundle.

In her sorrow, she had dug out the body of her dead child, and was carrying him around. Clutching a machete in her hand, she was hitting her forehead with the blunt edge as she screamed out her sorrow. Her face, her dress, her dead son; all were covered in mud and blood.

I stood there, gripping my camera with frozen fingers; paralyzed.

I could think only of my children back home and how I would feel if a stranger shoved a camera in my face just after I had lost my child. I am ashamed to admit that I did not take any photos.

The Xingú river is intimately woven into the fabric of Kayapó life. This young girl’s eyes speak of a beloved waterway about to be dammed forever, of pride in her people’s traditions, of fear for a future unknown, and of the innocence that every child deserves to live with.    Brazil

The Xingú river is intimately woven into the fabric of Kayapó life. This young girl’s eyes speak of a beloved waterway about to be dammed forever, of pride in her people’s traditions, of fear for a future unknown, and of the innocence that every child deserves to live with.

Brazil

A few months later we learned that the dam had been approved and construction was to begin immediately. I thought about the beautiful, generous people I had met and how their lives would be changed forever.

To this day, I am haunted by this question:

Would their fate have been been different if I had dared to do my job and take those difficult photographs? What if my images had been beautiful enough, or dramatic enough, to change the conversation?

The Kayapó people believe that if they are good to the forest and to the river, they will be provided with everything they need to sustain themselves.

The Kayapó people believe that if they are good to the forest and to the river, they will be provided with everything they need to sustain themselves.

I will never know, because that day I lacked the courage to press the shutter: a mistake I never made again. From that moment forwards, I pledged never to hesitate and to make images that matter.

For centuries the Kayapó way of life has been deeply entwined with the rivers that flow through the forest. For me, this image is a powerful symbol of nature’s familial hold on the human spirit, reminding us that nature is so much more than a commodity to exploit.

For centuries the Kayapó way of life has been deeply entwined with the rivers that flow through the forest. For me, this image is a powerful symbol of nature’s familial hold on the human spirit, reminding us that nature is so much more than a commodity to exploit.

Over the course of my career I have witnessed photography’s ability to shape perceptions, help societies pause and reflect, and inspire change. Being a photographer allows me to share my deepened understanding of the truth that all things in nature are part of one vast ecosystem.

Unlike people, the Earth’s diverse waterways, wildlife, and forests are intricately woven into the fabric of the whole; not claiming a separate existence. My hope is that my images will inspire a stronger connection with the nature that lies within and around us, as it is infinitely worthy of our deepest respect and care.

In a raw world that seems to bleed everyday with shriveling resources, human tragedy, and environmental ruin. Where every moment with a press of a button or a swipe of a screen, we are assaulted with distressing news, stories and images that threaten our sense of security and dim our lights, we must find ways to remain optimistic.

We must work to remove the physical and metaphorical barriers that block our meaningful connection to one another and to our planet. In my twenty five years documenting remote tribal communities around the world I have learned important lessons from their collective wisdom.

A young girl of the Afar tribe, from Ethiopia. Her people are fiercely proud and independent, having lived forever in the harsh deserts of the Horn of Africa, as semi-nomadic cattle and camel herders.    Ethiopia

A young girl of the Afar tribe, from Ethiopia. Her people are fiercely proud and independent, having lived forever in the harsh deserts of the Horn of Africa, as semi-nomadic cattle and camel herders.

Ethiopia

Spending time with Indigenous peoples has taught me that abundance is not measured in the things that we own, but in the strength of our human spirit, and in the depth of our connection to the natural world.

From the Amazon to the Arctic, these communities nurture an intimate awareness of the web of relationships that have sustained them in harmony with nature, for millennia. I have long thought about how I could share my own interpretation of this intuitive wisdom. Among the Kayapó, the Gitga’at, the Inuit, and the many other Indigenous communities I have photographed, I have witnessed a myriad of common strands — spiritual and physical; past and future. Woven together, they become the exquisite and universal fabric of something that I have come to call “enoughness”.

Made from the feathers of birds of paradise, the Indigenous peoples in the highlands of Papua New Guinea pride themselves on elaborate personal decoration. This woman’s spectacular headdress had been passed down from generation to generation.    Papua New Guinea

Made from the feathers of birds of paradise, the Indigenous peoples in the highlands of Papua New Guinea pride themselves on elaborate personal decoration. This woman’s spectacular headdress had been passed down from generation to generation.

Papua New Guinea

My personal true north for navigating the complexities and contradictions of modern life with more planetary integrity, I search for these threads of enoughness: belonging, purpose, sacred ecology, spirituality, and creative expression in the people I meet, and the experiences I have.

I describe and show enoughness within the words and images in the first part of my book, Amaze, and I share an excerpt with you here. It is my hope that enoughness can be recognized as a path to a more fully expressed life, as we seek to entwine these threads more deeply into our own personal tapestry.

I am often asked if I gave gum to these boys from the highlands of Papua New Guinea, but the answer is no. They were at the Mount Hagen Sing-Sing, a festival that celebrated the most culturally-intact tribe, and delighted in surprising me with their bubbles.    Papua New Guinea

I am often asked if I gave gum to these boys from the highlands of Papua New Guinea, but the answer is no. They were at the Mount Hagen Sing-Sing, a festival that celebrated the most culturally-intact tribe, and delighted in surprising me with their bubbles.

Papua New Guinea

We all yearn to belong, whether it be to a people, or to a place.

On the spray-soaked shorelines of the Pacific Northwest, a part of the world that I am now fortunate enough to call home, the Sundance Chief of the Tsleil-Wuatuth First Nation shared with me what belonging means to him. For his people, the land is not something that you own, nor is it a commodity to be bought and sold. Instead, it is something that you belong to.

For over 30,000 years the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and their ancestors have lived in the region we now call Burrard Inlet.    Canada

For over 30,000 years the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and their ancestors have lived in the region we now call Burrard Inlet.

Canada

Rock, tree, river, or hill, crow, bear, or human, all were formed from the same elements by the Ancestors long ago. Their land is alive with relations, no matter the shape that relation may take. When you love, need, and care for the land, in return, the land will love, need, and care for its people. For the Tsleil-Waututh, the land is both family and self.

It is the ultimate expression of belonging.

Wearing his people’s traditional headdress, Will George, of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, screams out his frustration at the Canadian government for allowing the expansion of another destructive oil pipeline across his people’s ancestral lands.

Wearing his people’s traditional headdress, Will George, of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, screams out his frustration at the Canadian government for allowing the expansion of another destructive oil pipeline across his people’s ancestral lands.

Over the years I have observed that irrespective of culture and our place within the world, the path to true fulfillment often lies in finding joy and meaning through purpose. Living a life of purpose may mean intentionally raising your children wholeheartedly as compassionate, courageous citizens, of planet Earth, or it may mean developing your unique skill or talent so that you can contribute to your community. For me, it is the feeling that my passion lines up with what the world needs. Regardless, it is about recognizing your own inner value.

Seeking shelter from the relentless sun, I was invited in by this beautiful Antandroy woman, who was wearing a traditional mask made of powdered bark, a natural mosquito repellent and sunblock. She too was feeling unwell and I was moved by her humble hospitality and grace.    Madagascar

Seeking shelter from the relentless sun, I was invited in by this beautiful Antandroy woman, who was wearing a traditional mask made of powdered bark, a natural mosquito repellent and sunblock. She too was feeling unwell and I was moved by her humble hospitality and grace.

Madagascar

I marvel at how when we treat one another with compassion, and respect the creatures and land we rely on, our sense of personal nourishment grows in direct relationship. The elements that make up enoughness help us cultivate fulfillment from within. Rather than needing or expecting the world to give us something, enoughness naturally inspires us to give back, to others and to the planet. Cultivating a sense of belonging, embracing spirituality, and intentionally finding purpose. Tapping into existing sacred ecologies and embracing our natural gifts for creative expression. This is how we can nurture enoughness, as individuals, and as an intimately connected global community.

In northwestern Yunnan, each village has a sacred forest where the locals believe the gods reside, along with the spirits of their ancestors. People are not allowed to cut down trees, but they can collect fallen branches, mushrooms, and medicinal plants.    People's Republic of China

In northwestern Yunnan, each village has a sacred forest where the locals believe the gods reside, along with the spirits of their ancestors. People are not allowed to cut down trees, but they can collect fallen branches, mushrooms, and medicinal plants.

People's Republic of China

Enoughness is the feeling of something central being restored. It is a luminous path to a fully expressed life.

What a joy it has been to find the purposeful focus of living from enoughness in my own life; by looking carefully and listening closely to the lessons shared with me by the people who still live close to the land and who know how to carve a living from the Earth without destroying it.

The embodiment of strength, knowledge, and the rich cultural heritage of her people, who have lived in the rainforests of Brazil for millenia, this Kayapó elder is a leader in her community and a proud keeper of their traditional knowledge.    Brazil

The embodiment of strength, knowledge, and the rich cultural heritage of her people, who have lived in the rainforests of Brazil for millenia, this Kayapó elder is a leader in her community and a proud keeper of their traditional knowledge.

Brazil

Eyes on the horizon, Miracle, Virtuous, and Heavenly Kaahanui float with their surfboards, waiting for the next set of waves to roll in. For centuries their ancestors have practiced this art, perfecting their prowess in the water, and nurturing a deep connection with the life-giving grace of the sea. In that moment, soaked in the glittering spray of the vast Pacific Ocean once again, I know for certain that long-lasting change will only come when we feel more connected to the surge of life that is beating on our shores.

Three Hawaiian sisters wait for the waves in Makaha Beach, Oahu.    Hawaii, United States of America

Three Hawaiian sisters wait for the waves in Makaha Beach, Oahu.

Hawaii, United States of America

Over millennia, the tireless swing of the tides has given shape to the continents and character to our coasts; morphed and bent to the will of the sea. Every day, for a few precious hours, the shore belongs to the land. Then under the gravitational spell of the moon, it is once again reclaimed by the waves. To us, however, it never truly belongs.

There is an invisible line between the familiar feeling of our feet on solid ground and the inky abyss, often foreign and fearsome, where creatures with gills, scales, and fins are better suited to survive.

[1] A curious Stellar sea lion in the rich waters of the Salish Sea. [2] Molina Dawson, a young Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw warrior, is occupying the polluting open-net fish farm that was placed in her people’s ancestral territory without their consent.    Canada

[1] A curious Stellar sea lion in the rich waters of the Salish Sea. [2] Molina Dawson, a young Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw warrior, is occupying the polluting open-net fish farm that was placed in her people’s ancestral territory without their consent.

Canada

Though bound to the land, humans have benefited from the riches of the sea since the beginning of time. We should know by now that if our oceans thrive, so do we. Why then, are we collectively failing to nurture and protect the cornerstone of all life on Earth?

As he lifts his eyes to the falling snowflakes, Naimanngitsoq Kristiansen, a traditional Inuit hunter from Greenland, reminds me that nature is a spiritual sanctuary, made all the more hallowed by the first flurry of snow in Spring.    Greenland

As he lifts his eyes to the falling snowflakes, Naimanngitsoq Kristiansen, a traditional Inuit hunter from Greenland, reminds me that nature is a spiritual sanctuary, made all the more hallowed by the first flurry of snow in Spring.

Greenland

Knowingly or not we have abused the generosity of the sea. Perhaps we have been walking on land for so long, we have forgotten that our very existence depends on a healthy ocean. Every second breath we take comes from the sea; the oceans are the watery lungs of our planet, producing vast amounts of oxygen and absorbing countless tons of carbon dioxide.

One billion people, including many of the world’s poor, rely on fish for their daily protein. The rain and snow that falls over distant mountains, irrigating fields many miles from the shore, originates at sea. Immense ocean currents regulate our planetary climate, maintaining the perfect conditions for our fragile existence. Today, human-induced global warming and exploitation of our environment are threatening to destabilize all of this.

On a three-week long expedition from the southernmost tip of India to Chennai, I stopped in every coastal town to see what the fishermen were bringing in. The women I met told me that the fish are getting smaller and smaller, and many species are disappearing.    India

On a three-week long expedition from the southernmost tip of India to Chennai, I stopped in every coastal town to see what the fishermen were bringing in. The women I met told me that the fish are getting smaller and smaller, and many species are disappearing.

India

HOWEVER, ALL IS NOT LOST. WE STILL HAVE TIME TO NURTURE THE OCEAN’S INCREDIBLE RESILIENCE.

From Mexico to the Pacific Northwest, I have witnessed entire ocean ecosystems spring back to life when local communities are empowered to sustainably manage and restore their waters. Slowly but surely, communities around the world are harnessing the political will necessary to bring our oceans back to health. When we act together, we can inspire great change. This is why I co-founded SeaLegacy with my life partner, Paul Nicklen.

Zah, an artisanal fisherman, harpoons fish in the Abrolhos Reef to feed his family. Because they live in a Marine Protected Extractive Area, fishermen like Zah are committed to complying with fishing regulations and no-take zones, which benefit their local ecosystem.    Brazil

Zah, an artisanal fisherman, harpoons fish in the Abrolhos Reef to feed his family. Because they live in a Marine Protected Extractive Area, fishermen like Zah are committed to complying with fishing regulations and no-take zones, which benefit their local ecosystem.

Brazil

With a mission to create healthy and abundant oceans for our planet, SeaLegacy is a strong, collective voice of organizations, social media influencers and individuals working together to spark the kind of global conversation that inspires people to act. Through powerful media and art we deliver hope — the kind of hope that empowers and generates solutions. Hope can be a game changer, and hope for our planet is empowering.

I watched as the sun dipped below the horizon, and the molten gold of sunset saturated the twilight. Just as his ancestors have done for centuries before him, Naimanngitsoq Kristiansen waits patiently for harp seal or walrus at the ice edge.    Greenland

I watched as the sun dipped below the horizon, and the molten gold of sunset saturated the twilight. Just as his ancestors have done for centuries before him, Naimanngitsoq Kristiansen waits patiently for harp seal or walrus at the ice edge.

Greenland

Extraordinary opportunities exist to restore and thoughtfully develop our oceans in order to protect them and sustain life on this planet.

Our team at SeaLegacy works with an international council of experts to identify projects that are helping to create healthy and abundant oceans. We engage a groundswell social audience of over six million followers with compelling storytelling and invest in community-centered solutions, rallying global support through our massive media network.

Through vibrant digital campaigns, we take on projects such as influencing policy makers to protect whale habitats in the Norwegian fjords, filmmaking to show the critical ecological value of keeping the Antarctic Peninsula wild and free, and partnering with indigenous First Nations communities to ban harmful fish farming in northern Vancouver Island, Canada.

Every day, through our vital work, I experience hope in action. Co-founding SeaLegacy gifts me with the ability to align the rich elements of enoughness with my deep concern for life beneath the thin blue line of our ocean.

From the air we breathe, to the food we eat, to the climate we live in, we all depend on our oceans. Today, they are more important than ever. Healthy oceans absorb vast amounts of carbon from our atmosphere and help reduce the impact of climate change.    Honduras

From the air we breathe, to the food we eat, to the climate we live in, we all depend on our oceans. Today, they are more important than ever. Healthy oceans absorb vast amounts of carbon from our atmosphere and help reduce the impact of climate change.

Honduras

On nights when the opalescent moon brings waves crashing against the rocky shoreline of the coast that I call home, I rejoice in the pungent scent of saltwater. The sea is like a forgotten womb from which all life emerged. It is here, at the water’s edge, that my heart beats its loudest.

Perhaps it is the reassuring cadence of the tidal rhythms or the way that the waves roll in from the open ocean with playful, operatic grace, carrying dreams of faraway underwater kingdoms. Or perhaps it is the way that the ocean’s low, sacred rumble rests in my soul, long after the last grain of sand has washed from between my toes.

A shimmering sunset is reflected in these shallow waters, as traditional Vezo fishermen draw up their boats for the night.    Madagascar

A shimmering sunset is reflected in these shallow waters, as traditional Vezo fishermen draw up their boats for the night.

Madagascar

As a photographer, I feel an urgency to remind my fellow humans that our destiny is inexorably tied to the fate of the sea. As a scientist, I am motivated by the knowledge that continuing to ignore the failing health of our oceans now, while we ponder the consequences later, is an invitation for disaster.

Combining the two, I am a fierce advocate for our planet and strive every day to make a tangible difference. With hope as a beacon, my dream is that together we can turn the tide and achieve healthy, abundant oceans for all.

Two young Vezo girls, like water nymphs more at home in the ocean than on land, gather fish for their family’s dinner.    Madagascar

Two young Vezo girls, like water nymphs more at home in the ocean than on land, gather fish for their family’s dinner.

Madagascar

CRISTINA MITTERMEIER is a photographer, writer and conservationist documenting the intersection of wild nature and humans. Co-founder at SeaLegacy.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MAPTIA

Acid Attacks: A Regional or Global Phenomenon?

Many assume acid attacks are typical of Southeast Asia, but studies show they occur globally.

Acid attacks survivors in Bangladesh (Source: Photograph by Narayan Nath/FCO/Department for International Development). CC-BY-2.0.

Acid attacks survivors in Bangladesh (Source: Photograph by Narayan Nath/FCO/Department for International Development). CC-BY-2.0.

What do you think of when you see an acid attack report in the news? Likely you think of a woman in Southeast Asia who was attacked by a man.


Unfortunately this immediate association many of us make with Southeast Asia, obscures a global trend that encompasses both developing and industrialized nations. Notably in 2016 most cases of acid attacks were actually in the United Kingdom, where 454 cases were reported compared to 300 in India. The United Kingdom is also one of the few areas where acid attacks are directed against other men, usually because of gang violence, rather than women.

Still there is some truth to the regional associations some might make. Around “90% of global burn injuries occur in developing countries” according to research presented by Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI). The other truth is the disproportionate targeting of women. ASTI estimates that out of 1,500 cases of gender violence each year, 80% of cases are women. Considering  60% of cases go unreported according to ASTI, it is clear that acid attacks are not a rare event.

The major motive for acid attacks is a desire to disfigure the victim and take away their chance for a future; especially with women, perpetrators often hope to take away their beauty. According to a 2011 study sponsored by programs at Cornell University Law, acid was also viewed as a punishment against women who stepped outside traditional gender roles in patriarchal societies. Other reasons included rejected love, disagreements over land, or marriage disputes (dowry issues).


For Nepalese victim Sangita Magar, gender violence is particularly relevant. Her perpetuator, Jiwan B.K., attacked Magar—who almost lost her eyesight in addition to the scarring—after arguing with her brother over their apartment complex’s shared bathroom. Like most survivors she required extensive treatment.


However when she was attacked in 2015, Nepalese law provided no compensation for her injuries. The required treatment was also not included in the free care the Nepalese government provides it citizens.


So in 2017 Magar and a fellow plaintiff challenged the law in a public interest case to benefit future victims. They successfully brought about financial support for treatment to victims and stronger punishments for perpetrators with a minimum prison sentence of five years as well as fines ranging between 100,000 and 500,000 rupees, dependent on the victim’s injuries. Although the regulation of acid sales has yet to take effect, Nepal’s Supreme Court implemented the other measures in August 2018.

Many hope these changes will help decrease the number of acid attacks in Nepal, where around 40 cases are reported every year according to local NGO Burns Violence Survivors. Indeed, many look to the example of Bangladesh. Following changes in the law in 2002 and regulation of acid sales, reported cases dropped from 494 in 2002 to only 44 reported cases in 2016.


And it is the availability of acid that underlies the global trend. Where guns are not as readily accessible, acid is an easy choice. Acid is easily found in areas that utilize it in agriculture or produce it. But even if an area does not use or produce it, acid is found in household cleaners and paint.


Most places also do not regulate the sale of acid: Europe is one of them. However Belgian Patricia Lefranc, whose ex-lover attacked her in 2009, is leading a campaign to push for identity card checks to regulate acid sales within the European Union.


Currently, the main voice for change is London-based NGO Acid Survivors Trust International., founded in 2002. ASTI strives to “mobilise resources to support in-country partners to assist survivors” with medical treatment as well as therapy for psychological trauma. ASTI also promotes education, advocates policy changes, trains medical professionals, and funds research.


Most importantly, as outlined by the UN in 1992 under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, ASTI is holding countries accountable to their obligation to protect individuals from gender violence and provide services to victims. Their successes reflect this: ASTI helped change Cambodia’s acid laws and reached 6,360 community members in Nepal and Pakistan in an awareness campaign about acid attacks, among other successes.


And it is awareness of the global scope of acid attacks that gives space for all survivors to speak out, if they wish. Awareness also supports NGOs that have been pushing for change. In other words, being aware shows that survivors and their advocates have been heard.



TERESA NOWALK is a student at the University of Virginia studying anthropology and history. In her free time she loves traveling, volunteering in the Charlottesville community, and listening to other people’s stories. She does not know where her studies will take her, but is certain writing will be a part of whatever the future has in store.

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TRIP REVIEW: Surfing South Africa to Help Out

The downfall of many volunteer organizations is cost. All too often there will be a $1000+ price tag on a trip that lasts only a week or two, not included airfare. This isn’t news, so it should come as no surprise that there are people out there who are working to fix this. One of these people is Daniel Radcliffe (no, not the actor). After collecting a Masters of Business, Daniel decided that it was time to give back to the world. He began to research volunteer trips. He too ran into this roadblock, but unlike someone like me who will simple notice the problem and then write about it, Daniel decided to do something. International Volunteer HQ was founded upon his return to New Zealand in 2007. “IVHQ was born with the goal of providing safe, affordable and high quality placements in areas where there is a real need for volunteers.” One of these places is South Africa.

It’s easy to read a statistic or to watch a documentary and think that we understand. Sure, we have problems here in the United States, there’s inequality and poverty everywhere, but, honestly, we cannot imagine what some citizens of the world live through. In South Africa the average life expectancy of a white South African is 71 years. The average life expectancy for the black population is 48 years. In 2005 it was estimated that 31% of the female population was infected with HIV, most of them black. There are 1,200,000 orphans. These are numbers and statistics, I could throw them onto a graph and you would see the vast differences, but you still wouldn’t know, you would still be using your imagination. Over there, it’s a reality. South Africa needs help and, if you feel so inclined, you can give it.

IVHQ sends volunteers to South Africa on the first and third Monday of each month. They normally arrive in groups of twenty to fifty people and the assist the community in an astounding variety of ways. Participants can involve themselves in a teaching project, in childcare, computer training, sports development and, an organization after my own heart, a surf outreach program.

Maybe you’re wondering what good a surf outreach program would do for children when they could be receiving extra medical attention or extra food and shelter. In the words of Ellen Varoy, Marketing and Media Coordinator for IVHQ, “The Surf Outreach program is designed to provide these children with an after school activity, keeping them off the streets of Cape Town and placing them in a safe and encouraging environment. Through the program, these children have the opportunity to learn new skills, take up new challenges, gain confidence and interact with our international volunteers, who the children look up to as role models.” It’s not about whether or not these kids learn to surf. It’s about showing them that there are people who care. It’s about being a ray of light on an otherwise bleak horizon. As a surfer would say, it’s about sharing the stoke. Would these children benefit more from help that focused on their health and nourishment? On the spreadsheet, probably, but where would they go after that? I say give them role models, give them hope and teach them that they can overcome. That, in my opinion, will last much longer than a loaf of bread.

The cost of IVHQ trips is one of the things that makes this organization so great. Prospective volunteers for the surf outreach program only have to pay $320 for one week. Longer periods of time require more money, being capped off at six months for $4580. This does not included airfare or visas or spending money. Also, if you want to participate in the surf outreach program you must know how to swim. I just thought I would point that out. If you are interested in any of the other programs offered for South Africa, you can find more information here

IVHQ is a fantastic option for people who want to volunteer for an affordable price. A full range of trips can be found at their website, http://www.volunteerhq.org/. As usual, if you were interested in the trip, but don’t think it’s for you, check back with Mission.tv next week for the next article in our series of trip reviews.

For testimonials by volunteers who completed the surf outreach program, check out: Testimonials  

To check out a video from the trip click here.

LEARN MORE ABOUT IVHQ

KINO CROOKE spent the last three years juggling school and travel. He most recently spent the last two months traveling across Spain before moving to New York to work with CATALYST.

The Serial Volunteer

Looking back, the majority of my most clairvoyant, my most grandiose and my most sincere moments have occurred when I’m flying 30,000 feet in the air. Darting through wispy white clouds, soaring over cerulean blue, and marveling at just how many parking lots we as a species require; also very quickly becomes a time of self-reflection and truth (granted, this is all provided you have a window seat).  On August 7th, 2011 flying home to New York City from the Dominican Republic, my partner had one of these moments. 

“I don’t want to be a serial volunteer,” she said after a particularly long spell spent looking out that magical aperture.  

Unsure of whether she was stating her resolution to never work at a breakfast food production company, I asked what she meant.

“I don’t want to continue jumping from volunteer organization to volunteer organization, never donating more than a few moments of my time,” she said. “How can we truly have a lasting positive impact if we never spend the time getting to know the nuances of an organization and the community that it works with?”

We’d spent the better half of two years volunteering with different organizations, always managing to find something wrong with each—something that would push us to continue our search for the perfect place, the perfect spot, the perfect fit.  At this rate, we were set to continue jumping around the globe merely dipping our toes in the humanitarian aid world.  And, for some people this is fine.  This can actually be an economical way to travel with the added benefit of supporting good organizations.  However our goal from the beginning was to find somewhere that we could help to create lasting and empowering change. 

Remembering this, I realized she was right. If we were serious about helping to create that lasting change, we would need to stop trying to find the perfect organization, because the perfect organization doesn’t exist—they change and evolve the same way people do. The same way our thought process of volunteering was evolving those 30,000 feet above the earth. Maybe if we invested ourselves in one organization and truly took the time to get to know the people of the community we were trying to help; maybe then we would find what we were looking for—impact.  But that wouldn’t happen if we kept jumping around.     

“I don’t want to be a serial volunteer either,” I said. 

And alive with the excitement that comes from life changing realizations, we talked all the way back home of our now imminent return to the Dominican Republic.

 

Adam Salvitti Gucwa is a seasoned traveler, entrepreneur and student whose volunteer focus centers around education and the Dominican Republic

How Do You Define "Global Citizen?"

Being a global citizen means starting to think of ourselves as a global community, when it comes to things like poverty, clean water, education, etc.  Imagine every child on the planet being born with the same rights to life. The nonprofit organization GLOBAL CITIZEN makes progress on these topics easier… check out their website where you can connect, and win points and badges for taking actions. GLOBAL CITIZEN is powered by the Global Poverty Project.

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The Fourth World

The award winning film Fourth World takes you inside slums on three continents to meet individuals caught up in the largest people migration in the history of the world. Understanding 'a billion people' is almost impossible, but meeting a handful of slum dwellers strips away the statistic and begins the process of building understanding. Journey with the filmmakers to Guatemala, Kenya and the Philippines to meet slum dwellers. Listen to published experts--leaders in their fields from three more continents--as they bring understanding to the 'why' of slums, and foreshadow what's going to happen if the world ignores this social powder keg much longer.

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