Beyond The Kasbah

Location: Morocco / Ait Ben Haddou Shot / Edit / Grade by Laurent Tixhon

In Morocco, the word Kasbah is used to reference a bustling city center, a citadel, something kept apart from its rural counterparts. As travelers, we often want to hit those places; the ones with hip-cafes, and street vendors, and museums. But in Morocco, out past where the old-world souks engage with city life, there is still so much wonder to behold. From witnessing the equestrian arts, to experiencing the beauty of rural farming, there is always more out beyond the Kasbah.

Why the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey is so Intractable

Hidden in plain sight: the Kurdish question in Turkey. Sedat Suna/EPA

Hidden in plain sight: the Kurdish question in Turkey. Sedat Suna/EPA

The ramifications of Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troopsfrom the Turkish-Syrian border continues to have a seismic effect on the situation in northern Syria. 

Faced with the Turkish invasion of northern Syria, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who controlled the area were forced to make compromises. On October 13, they announced a deal with the Syrian army, which began moving troops towards the Turkish border. A five-day ceasefire was brokered by the US on October 18, during which Turkey agreed to pause its offensive to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw. 

For many, the SDF proved itself to be the most effective force in the fight against Islamic State (IS). Turkey, however, considers the SDF as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it, the US and EU label as a terrorist organisation.

But behind this lies a long history of Turkey denying the very existence of the Kurdish conflict, and the political and cultural rights of its Kurdish population. Understanding this history helps explain why the conflict is so intractable, and the impact it continues to have on Turkey’s foreign policy choices.

No room in the nation state

The Kurdish conflict cannot be understood without considering the question of power and exclusion. Its origins go back to the mid-19th century when the Ottomans attempted to end the 300-year-old autonomy of the Kurdish principalities in Kurdistan. This struggle for autonomy wasn’t resolved during the rule of the Ottoman era, and when it collapsed, all of the new nation states that eventually emerged – Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran – inherited their own Kurdish conflict. 

The Turks and the Kurds fought a successful war of independencetogether in 1919 against the Allied forces. Nevertheless, when the new Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, Turkish identity was presented as its unifying force, at the expense of the society’s political, social and cultural differences.

Not only was political power further centralised in Ankara, but the domination of the ethnic, Turkish and Sunni majority became the norm. The decision to create a centralised and homogeneous nation state was implemented in a top-down and violent fashion. The seeds of the long-term problems that Turkish and Kurdish communities confront today were created by this decision. 

Various Kurdish groups challenged this new social and political order with different revolts, uprisings, and resistance, but these were violently suppressed. Repressive policies of assimilation were later implemented to transform the Kurds into civilised and secular Turks.

A conflict buried

The Kurdish conflict laid buried for many years. Then, the most serious challenge to Turkey’s nation state project was initiated by the PKK in 1984, which embraced a political agenda called democratic autonomy. The violent struggle between Ankara and the PKK has resulted in a huge economic and human cost

Peace talks which began in 2013 with the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan were widely considered to be the best chance for ending the conflict, but these collapsed in 2015. This led to increasing violence in the form of a destructive armed conflict in southeastern Turkey and a wave of bombings, including in Ankara and Istanbul.

The resolution of intractable conflicts is only possible when conflicted parties can confront their past and learn from it. In 2015, amid attempts by Turkish opposition parties to reopen peace negotiations with the Kurds, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan insisted: “There is no Kurdish conflict”. Such positioning, which continues today, keeps the political dimension of the conflict in the background. 

Aftermath of a bomb attacking a military convoy in Diyarbakir, Turkey. EPA

Aftermath of a bomb attacking a military convoy in Diyarbakir, Turkey. EPA

The state carefully controls what can and cannot be said about the conflict. Typically, words such as “terror” and “traitor” are used to criminalise those who criticise government policy towards the Kurds. A group of academics who signed a petition in 2016 calling for the resumption of peace talks were charged with making “terrorism propaganda”. The non-violent wing of the Kurdish movement – activists, politicians, political parties – has also been criminalised.

Blame game

Instead of confronting their failure to bring about peace, Turkish political elites have tried to apportion blame elsewhere. Erdoğan, for example, repeatedly refers to an invisible “mastermind” who orchestrates the PKK. Such rhetoric is deployed to play on the collective fear and anxiety about national security felt by parts of Turkish society. 

Some have called this the “Sèvres syndrome” – referring to the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres that marked the end of the Ottoman empire and proposed to divide it into small states and occupation zones. The treaty was never implemented, and superseded by the 1923 Lausanne Treatywhich recognised the Republic of Turkey.

This syndrome – also referred to as “Sèvres Paranoia” – in essence reflects the collective fear that the Treaty of Sèvres will be revived and that the Turkish state is encircled by enemies who want to divide and weaken the country. 

Today, this line of thinking is an integral part of Turkish political life and continues to influence public perception towards the external world. In a 2006 public opinion survey, for example, 78% of participants agreed that “the West wants to divide and break up Turkey like they broke up the Ottoman Empire”.

Driving Turkey’s choices. By kmlmtz66/Shutterstock

Driving Turkey’s choices. By kmlmtz66/Shutterstock

In this way, the Kurdish conflict has been used to mobilise Turkish society to act against its own collective interest: a peaceful and just society. Policies aimed at managing the conflict have been implemented mostly within a state of emergency, in ways that continue to undermine Turkish democracy. Not only has the tremendous economic and human cost of the conflict become a “normal” part of Turkish life, but the state has also been successful in actively keeping the political dimension of the conflict at bay.

For a long time, Turkey refrained from talking about the Kurdish issue by assuming that it would eventually fade away. But it didn’t and instead, the conflict has become more deeply entrenched. Time will tell whether the Turkish state will ultimately gain or lose by its latest military intervention in Syria. However, what’s clear is that the Kurdish conflict will get more complicated with this latest move, and both the Turkish state and Turkish society will no longer be able to ignore it.

Recep Onursal is a PhD candidate in International Conflict Analysis, University of Kent


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

5 Cities That Are Leaders in Sustainable Public Transportation Initiatives

Passengers in Hong Kong Metro. Matchbox_pl. CC BY-NC 2.0

Passengers in Hong Kong Metro. Matchbox_pl. CC BY-NC 2.0

In 2017, the World Economic Forum released its most recent Sustainable Cities Mobility Index, which ranks some of the globe’s largest metropolises based on both the viability of transport and its relative footprint. The Index measures factors such as connectedness via public transport, including metros and buses, as well as pedestrian accessibility, ease of use by cyclists, among others. What unites each of the five cities featured here seems to be the overall strategy of incentivizing use of public transport, while disincentivizing the tendency to commute by automobile. In this way, public transportation systems trade on efficiency: by running frequently, integrating renewable energy sources, and maximizing often-limited physical space in the crowded cities, the public transport strategies of each of the cities listed have served to reduce car emissions significantly. 

  1. HONG KONG. Named number one on the sustainable mobility index, Hong Kong has constructed an impressive MTR metro system, which is responsible for 90% of residents’ daily journeys. Likewise, the cost of transport in Hong Kong has remained relatively low, permitting accessibility to all residents, further disincentivizing travel by car. In fact, due in large degree to the success of the public transportation system, less than 20% of residents of Hong Kong own a car. 

  2. ZURICH. At number two on the list, Zurich has demonstrated a great deal of success minimizing transportation by car, with just 37% of the population owning a car, as well as a little over a quarter of journeys measured occurring by car. The majority of public transportation in Zurich occurs by high-speed light rail, a system widely recognized to be one of the most energy- and space-efficient modes of public transport.

  3. PARIS. In 2012, Paris pledged to reduce travel emissions by 60% within the most populated areas of its city, introducing more networks of pedestrian walkways and bike paths, incentivizing the use of bicycles and electric cars through two new city rental systems, as well as altering delivery systems such that it limits the number of diesel-fueled vehicles driving through the city each day. Parisian city officials have also been working to initiate regular “car-free” days, as well as other measures that promote alternative forms of transport.

  4. SEOUL. Throughout the past decade, Seoul has pioneered a significant number of innovations that promote sustainable mobility. An inefficient highway system has been repurposed to become a large public park with an extensive network of pedestrian causeways. Moreover, Seoul has employed specified bus lanes, which have increased by nearly one million the number of citizens who use the public transport system each day, as opposed to driving. The significantly greater efficiency of public transportation, as well as the ease of access afforded to pedestrian traffic has cut down greatly on the number of citizens commuting by car, one of the most inefficient and least sustainable modes of travel. 

  5. PRAGUE. Prague has undertaken the “Tune Up Prague” initiative, just one of a series of sustainable transportation proposals enacted under the 2015 Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan. The “tune up” has focused on increasing foot and bicycle travel through the facilitation of pedestrian pathways. The proposal has also worked to bring accessible, sustainable transportation to all, seeking to bump up the amount of wheelchair-accessible metro stations by 23%, such that 95% of the city’s metro stations are wheelchair-accessible.

In integrating energy and space-efficient public transport with initiatives that promote pedestrian and cyclist travel, the five cities listed above have developed transportation networks that are both accessible and sustainable. Incentivizing public transport increases a city’s ability to experiment with “greener” travel, while simultaneously reducing automobile emissions. The ingenuity of each of the five metropolises provides a crucial example for other major cities, working towards a more sustainable, more connected future. 



HALLIE GRIFFITHS is an undergraduate at the University of Virginia studying Foreign Affairs and Spanish. After graduation, she hopes to apply her passion for travel and social action toward a career in intelligence and policy analysis. Outside of the classroom, she can be found, quite literally, outside: backpacking, rock climbing, or skiing with her friends.

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Ghana’s Cocoa Farmers are Trapped by the Chocolate Industry

Cocoa production is an important cog in Ghana’s economy. Wikimedia Commons

Cocoa production is an important cog in Ghana’s economy. Wikimedia Commons

The chocolate industry is worth more than $80 billion a year. But some cocoa farmers in parts of West Africa are poorer now than they were in the 1970s or 1980s. In other areas, artificial support for cocoa farming is creating a debt problem. Farmers are also still under pressure to supply markets in wealthy countries instead of securing their own future.

In research published last year I explored sustainability programmes designed to support cocoa farming in West Africa. My aim was to identify winners and losers.

I looked at initiatives such as CocoaAction, a $500 million “sustainability scheme” launched in 2014, and concluded that they were done in the interests of large multinationals. They did not necessarily relieve poverty or develop the region’s economies. In fact they created new problems.

To sustain their livelihoods, the cocoa farmers of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana need to diversify away from cocoa production. But multinational chocolate companies need farmers to keep producing cocoa.

Diversification

Farmers choose to diversify their crops for a host of reasons. These include a reduction in the resources they need to produce a crop (such as suitable land), and a reduction in the price they can get for the crop.

Cocoa farming requires tropical forestland. This is limited; it is not possible to keep expanding to new land to keep producing cocoa. So when the land is exhausted, farmers would benefit from diversifying to products like rubber and palm oil. They do not need to grow cocoa for its own sake.

A great deal of diversification occurred during the cocoa crisis of the 1970s in Ghana. Cereal output increased from 388,000 tonnes in 1964/1965 to over 1 million tonnes in 1983/83, and decreased when cocoa was “revitalised”. The same was the case with coconut, palm oil and groundnut.

But such diversification is more recently being prevented by multinationals and other stakeholders who want cocoa cultivation to continue. Multinationals that depend on cocoa as a raw material openly (and rightly) regard diversification as a risk to their business. So they keep spending on cocoa farming inputs.

Why there’s a limit to cocoa

In West Africa, cocoa has historically been cultivated using slash and burn farming. Forest was cut down and burned before planting, and then, when the plot became infertile, the farmer moved to fresh forestland and did the same again.

The new land offered fertile soil, a favourable microclimate and fewer pests and diseases. Growing the cocoa took less labour and yielded more.

This explains the link between cocoa farming and deforestation in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. A recent investigation showed that since 2000, Ivorian cocoa has been dependent on protected areas. Almost half of Mont Peko National Park, for example, which is home to endangered species, as well as Marahoue National Park has been lost to cocoa planting since 2000.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the area covered by forest decreased from 16 million hectares – roughly half of the country – in 1960 to less than 2 million hectares in 2005.

Forestland is finite. Slash and burn is no longer an option, because so much of the forest is gone. In West Africa, planters are now staying on the same piece of land and reworking it.

This has created its own set of problems.

Rising costs and threats

In both Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, several estimates of the cost of maintaining a cocoa farm show that the investment costs required for replanting have approximately doubled. One estimate of labour investment put the replanting effort at 260 days per hectare, compared with 74 days per hectare for planting using slash and burn.

The extra labour needed for sedentary cultivation is leading to child trafficking and child labour in cocoa cultivation. Child trafficking generally occurs when planters are searching for cheaper sources of labour for replanting.

Planters who have successfully diversified into other crops have stopped using child labour. In the cocoa industry, however, the use of child labour is increasing. For example, the number of child labourers in the Ivorian cocoa industry increased by almost 400,000 between 2008 and 2013.

There has also been a massive increase in the use of fertilisers and pesticides to aid cocoa production without slash and burn.

The increased input (labour, fertilisers and pesticides) for replanting land amounts to a higher production cost. It cannot be adjusted by price setting. Cocoa producers have no control over price; they are price takers. So the higher production cost reduces the profit made by cocoa farmers.

This explains why cocoa producers in Côte d’Ivoire are poorer now  than they were decades ago.

In Ghana, the government, through the cocoa marketing board, COCOBOD, has managed the transition from slash and burn to sedentary farming. The government created a mass spraying programme to control diseases and pests. It also subsidised fertiliser and created a pricing policy that has sometimes amounted to a government subsidy this links need users to subscribe. Due to the extra free input provided by the government, sometimes supported by NGOs and multinational corporations, farmers have not become poorer in Ghana. But the approach has led to huge debt for COCOBOD. For example, COCOBOD incurred GHc2 billion (US$367 million) debt for subsidising the price of cocoa for the year 2017.

Although cocoa planters are faring well in Ghana, it is not clear that Ghana’s cocoa sector is really a success story. The shift to debt financing has artificially produced the success.

The way forward

Cocoa “sustainability” activities are not the way forward. Cocoa sustainability is a new form of colonisation in Africa, because its real goal is to prevent African planters from diversifying away from cocoa into other crops. These programmes keep the cocoa industry going under deteriorating conditions.

The way forward is to switch from cocoa to crops that do not require forestland (new or exhausted), extra fertilisers or more labour.

Research has shown that cocoa planters in Côte d’Ivoire who have diversified into other crops, such as rubber, have succeeded in escaping poverty.

But that is seen as a major threat to the supply of raw material to Western multinationals. One representative of a large chocolate multinational explained “my enemy is not my competitor in the purchase of cocoa, but the rubber industry.”

In conclusion, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire have to think about what is best for them instead of what is best for the chocolate industry and consumers in the developed world.

MICHAEL E ODIJIE is a Post Doctoral Researcher at the University of Cambridge.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

This School on a Bus Is Bringing Education to Everyone

Shelia Hill grew up in San Francisco’s Sunnydale Projects. It was a rough neighborhood. She got into trouble when she was young and dropped out of school. She thought it wasn’t for her. Hill’s attitude changed after she had her own children. One day, her son asked why he should bother going to school since she didn’t. It was a lightbulb moment. Hill realized that she had to do better for herself and her family. She learned how to read and got her high school diploma through Five Keys, an organization that gives members of underserved communities a chance to restart their education. Today, Hill works for Five Keys as community ambassador. She goes out into neighborhoods considered education deserts on the Five Keys bus and encourages residents to board the mobile classroom where they can study with a teacher and earn their GEDs. Hill doesn’t want anyone to feel ashamed for not finishing school. So she always makes sure to share her own story, letting people know there was a time when she couldn’t read. And she’s big on follow-up with potential students. “I’ll call them. I’ll bug them. I’ll text them. I’ll email ’em. Whatever it takes,” she says. “I just want you to get your education. That’s it.”


‘Climigration’: When Communities Must Move Because of Climate Change

Flood damage in Bundaberg, Queensland, in 2013. Most communities are at some risk from extreme events, but repeated disasters raise the question of relocation.  srv007/Flickr ,  CC BY-NC

Flood damage in Bundaberg, Queensland, in 2013. Most communities are at some risk from extreme events, but repeated disasters raise the question of relocation. srv007/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Climate change increasingly threatens communities all over the world. News of fires, floods and coastal erosion devastating lives and livelihoods seems almost constant. The latest fires in Queensland and New South Wales mark the start of the earliest bushfire season the states have ever seen.

What happens when climate change causes extreme events to become chronic, potentially rendering some communities unviable? This question is fuelling a new strand of global research focused on “climigration”. Climigration is the planned relocation of entire communities to new locations further from harm. And it has already begun.

It takes a lot to convince a community to move. But extreme events disrupt communities socially, economically and physically. Buildings and infrastructure are damaged, as are community cohesion and morale. Lives may be lost; many others are changed forever.

When extreme events disrupt communities, responses usually occur in one of two ways. We can try to repair damage and continue as before, which is known as resilience. Or we try to repair and fortify against future damage in a process of adaptation. Climigration is an extreme form of climate change adaptation,

This article draws on our recently published research, which investigated how land-use and strategic planning frameworks can prepare for climigration.

From imagination to reality

Climigration is no longer a concern for the future; it is a challenge today. The notion of strategically relocating entire communities has quickly moved from imagination to reality.

For instance, in 2016 the US Department of Housing and Urban Development provided US$1 billion to help communities adapt to climate change in 13 states. The grants included the first direct allocation of federal funding to move an entire community.

Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana is the first US community to undergo federally sanctioned climigration. The move has been forced by the loss of coastal land to rising seas and storm surges. Last December, the state bought land at residents’ preferred site to develop their new community.

Property damaged by extreme weather and later abandoned on Isle De Jean Charles.  Maitri/Flickr ,  CC BY-NC-SA

Property damaged by extreme weather and later abandoned on Isle De Jean Charles. Maitri/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Climigration options were previously considered in Alaska. Climate-induced coastal erosion has threatened the viability of the village of Newtok for many years. Its residents voted in 2003 to relocate to higher ground but the relocation looks unlikely to be completed before 2023.

In Australia, more than 100 households in Grantham, Queensland, were relocated to higher ground with government assistance after devastating floods caused by an exceptionally strong La Niña in 2011.

Critical factors in climigration

Climigration is, of course, not a phenomenon restricted to the US and Australia. It is a growing concern for many countries.

Our research sought to establish a framework for effective climigration planning. We systematically reviewed international case studies of community relocations undertaken because of environmental hazards. As part of this we developed a hierarchy of influencing factors in planning for climigration.

We found that the degree to which a community agrees on the need to relocate is a crucial influence. Consensus generates social capital, which supports action and improves the prospects of successful outcomes.

Perception of the timing and severity of risks is another critical factor. Immediate, obvious risks are more likely to motivate action. Motivation can be low if risks are seen as a problem for the distant future, even if impacts may eventually be devastating.

Political, economic and logistical support from government moderately influences the success of community relocation. Relocation may still occur without government support, but this is not preferable and the chances of success are lower.

Strong local leadership can improve the capacity of communities to face the reality of relocation and then to resettle. Strategic leadership from outside agencies is a complement to local leadership, not a substitute.

How to plan successfully for climigration

Strategic and land-use planning systems will be central public agencies in many climigration cases.

Planners already have relevant skills and training. These include community consultation, mediation and stakeholder engagement. Planners can coordinate land acquisition and development applications. They can provide temporary housing, infrastructure and transportation.

Planning for climigration also requires other professional input, including disaster management, social psychology and engineering.

Strategic planning for climigration should begin as early as possible. Vulnerable communities can be identified using risk mapping.

Residents of bushfire-prone areas that become impossible to defend might have to consider moving. Dean Lewins/AAP

Residents of bushfire-prone areas that become impossible to defend might have to consider moving. Dean Lewins/AAP

Alternative sites can then be shortlisted and potential logistical demands identified.

Securing land for relocation may place planners in the middle of competing forces. They need to be careful and deliberative to balance the expectations of residents, government, and the market.

Consultation is vital to secure community consensus in the event of climigration. It is a key tool for planners to explain risks and engage residents in crucial decisions.

Specific policy frameworks for climigration are preferable but not essential. When used, they can improve coordination and reduce the risk of negative outcomes.

A confronting concept

While climigration is not yet a common planning issue, it is likely to become an increasingly urgent agenda. Climigration events like those in Louisiana, Alaska and Queensland are just the first wave.

There are limits to the feasibility of climigration. It might only be viable for small towns and villages. Undoubtedly there will be cases where climigration is rejected as too much of challenge.

Triage-based planning could be helpful in deciding which communities to relocate.

Accepting the notion of climigration may be the biggest challenge for planners. The idea that the only viable future for a community is to be relocated elsewhere is unusual and confronting. Managing climigration through planning practice may prove more straightforward than adjusting to the idea in the first place.

TONY MATTHEWS is Senior Lecturer in Urban and Environmental Planning at Griffith University.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

The Hand Of India

At the height of the Cold War, amidst growing tensions between the US and Russia, Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi traveled to Washington D.C to deliver a pragmatic speech on the subjects of communication, understanding and friendship.

35 years later, with increasing polarization around the globe, her simple yet elegant message has never felt so relevant.

However, it is in India, where Indira Gandhi's message still rings most true; somehow managing to make sense of a beguiling and beautifully chaotic society, with a rich reputation of inspiring swathes of Western visitors.

Shot during a two month backpacking trip, with minimal camera equipment, this is the filmmaker’s (Simon Mulvaney) attempt to communicate the beauty of Indira's home country, along with the resonating themes she touched upon all those years ago.

13 Instagram Accounts About Social Impact

Instagram icon. Photo by  NeONBRAND  on  Unsplash

Instagram icon. Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Social media can be a source of toxicity. So often our feeds are saturated with ads, photoshop, unrealistic body images, and fake representations of peoples’ lives. However, many activists are using social media to promote issues that they are passionate about, in order to reach a wide audience. If you’re looking to bring more heartfelt messages to your feed, here are some accounts to follow: 

1. Global Citizen: @glblctzn

Global Citizen is an organization dedicated to eradicate extreme poverty. But, their Instagram feed educates their followers on a range of social issues. Their goal is to create a global community of people who want to change the world. Their feed helps to connect that community with photos from around the world.

2.  Michael Moore: @michaelfmoore

A filmmaker, author, and activist, Michael Moore raises awareness about corruption in the US government and large corporations through his work. He calls his followers to join him in the polls on his Instagram stories, and is vocal about his political viewpoints through his permanent posts. He sheds light on candidates and social issues in the US.

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3. Nicholas Kristof: @nickkristof 

Nicholas Kristof is a progressive journalist, and columnist for the New York Times. He uses his Instagram mostly to relevant pictures or quotes from his column that he writes. His feed will alert you of important issues or interesting points in history, and encourage you to read and learn more.

4. @everydayafrica

Everyday Africa is a beautiful feed that features contributions from photographers of pictures that highlight everyday life in Africa. They steer away from the extreme and violent images that often saturate the media.





5. UN Refugee Agency: @refugees

The UN Refugee Agency protects over 70 million refugees or displaced people. Their feed is educational, hopeful, and inspirational. It features photos of the people they help and the work that they do, prominent UN activists and ambassadors, as well as important quotes and statistics.

6. Christie Begnell: @meandmyed.art 

Christie Begnell is an illustrator whose mission is to break down the stereotypes that people have about mental health and eating disorders. Christie is going through recovery herself, and uses illustrations to convey a more accurate, realistic depiction of eating disorders and anxiety. Her account encourages body positivity, empathy, and acceptance.

7.  Leanne Lauricella: @goatsofanarchy

Leanne Lauricella runs an animal sanctuary and nonprofit that takes care of handicapped and abused animals. The account, @goatsofanarchy, features cute and funny videos of the goats they take care of. In addition to being adorable, the account raises awareness for the sanctuary, and compassion for animals in general. 

8. Leighton Brown and Matthew Riemer: @lgbt_history

Leighton Brown and Matthew Riemer started @lgbt_history to educate followers about important events and figures in queer history. The account is completely objective—the goal is simply to educate users with facts. Leighton and Matthew stay relevant by coordinating their posts with current events, linking past to present.

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9.  Shivya Nath: @shivya

A self-proclaimed “vegan drifter,” Shivya Nath is a nomad. She has no home base. She travels her entire life—and posts beautiful pictures wherever she goes. Shivya uses her platform to encourage a sustainable lifestyle—specifically veganism and conscious traveling.

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10. @nastywomenquotes

A mix of quotes from badass feminists (men and women!) and witty relevant screenshots from Television shows, a scroll through Nasty Women Quotes will have you feeling empowered.

11. Mona Chalabi: @monachalabi

Mona Chalabi is a data journalist. She creates illustrations and infographics to help visualize data, and to make facts more understandable and relatable. She tackles all issues, from countering racism and ageism, to raising awareness for animal rights and wage gaps.


12 @indigenousgoddessgang

The accompanying Instagram account to its magazine, Indigenous Goddess Gang posts memes, quotes, art, and pictures that further their goal of “reclaiming knowledge from an indigenous femme lens.” Make sure to check out their magazine as well.

13. Kuchenga Shenje- @kuchenga

Journalist, author, and Black Lives Matter activist, Kuchenga’s page is full of empowering artwork and photography, as well as advocacy for trans representation and diversity in general. 

With their stories and permanent posts, these Instagrammers give daily inspiration and empowerment to their followers.







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

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NEPAL: Kung Fu Nuns

This nunnery has an empowering claim to fame—it’s the only one in Nepal where the nuns practice martial arts. The nuns of the Buddhist Drukpa Order train three hours a day, and they break bricks with their bare hands. Heroes in the Himalayas, these strong women delivered supplies to hard-to-reach villages after an earthquake struck Kathmandu in 2015. The kung fu nuns have also taught self-defense classes for women and biked 14,000 miles to protest the human trafficking of women and girls.

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

Quirky produce doesn’t have to be thrown out

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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