Free Oxford Course on Climate Change
Oxford University, one of the top-rated British schools, boasting such notable alumni as Stephen Hawking, Kris Kristofferson, and Dr. Seuss is now offering a free online course on climate change titled “An Introduction to the Science of Climate and Climate Change.”

The course, conducted entirely online, is being made available through the website, which is a global program that aims to educate the public about climate science, thereby increasing awareness of climate change-related issues.

The course content outlines the basics of climate science and modeling, which considers specific variables involving climate change in an attempt to paint a wider picture of the possible effects on local ecosystems and weather patterns. In addition to having a greater understanding of climate science and modeling, this course on climate change will also allow for a deeper interpretation of the modeling results. Once completed with an overall score of 90 percent or higher, there is also the option to take the advanced course titled “Constructing and Applying High Resolution Climate Scenarios.” This course is tutor-supported, allowing for instructor feedback that enables the student to have a better grasp of the production and/or analysis of climate-related data.

This course is a wonderful opportunity for anyone looking to be better informed on the often confusing climate-related issues that dominate the daily news. And even better, it educates those looking to separate truth from fiction in regards to global warming, annual rainfall, and food security, all issues that underpin global poverty.

– Brian Turner

Source: Climate Education
Photo: The Telegraph

Before his appointment as Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry attacked Rand Paul for wanting to cut USAID to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan (September 14, 2012). In the past, Rand Paul has said he would eliminate all foreign aid across the board, to all countries, so this latest addition is not particularly new.

In obvious disbelief over Senator Paul’s position, Senator Kerry explains the importance of aid and the harm that would come if aid were stopped. Harm would come not just to the people of the region but to American interests as well. Senator Kerry emphasizes that aid money goes to civilians who are trying to fend off extremist groups from gaining strength within the region. The aid is helping to stabilize nations, one neighborhood at a time. Civilians are sacrificing much in order to secure their freedoms, and consequently secure American freedoms.

Part of Sen. Kerry’s discontent also seems to stem from the fact that in relation to how much good foreign aid does, “and the impact is extraordinary,” the US actually spends very little money. So to squabble over the cost verses the benefit should be a moot point. He explains that, of the entire budget of the United States that goes into all our foreign operations, embassies, security and aid – all things combine total in at less than 1% of the annual budget.

The stability of these countries are critical to building peace in the Middle East. If aid were just eliminated it would have a “profoundly negative impact that could contribute to even more violence.”

– Mary Purcell

Source: YouTube



5 Reasons Why Social Responsibility Matters in BusinessBusinesses and economic systems are bending under the expectations and obligations to be socially responsible. On a global level, governments and private corporations must be more and more accountable for their impact on the environment, and for who they help or hurt.

Here are 5 reasons why social responsibility matters in business:

1. Consumers Look For Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

  • More than 88% of consumers think companies should try to achieve their business goals while improving society and the environment
  • 83% of consumers think companies should support charities and nonprofits with financial donations

2. Employees Look For and Perform Better for Socially Responsible Businesses

  • 32% of employees would seriously consider leaving their job if their company gave no/little money to charity
  • 65% would seriously consider leaving their job if their company harmed the environment
  • 83% would seriously consider leaving their job if their employer used child labor in sweatshop factories
  • CSR practices are seen as important to employee morale (50%), loyalty (41%), retention (29%), recruitment of top employees (25%) and productivity (12%)

3. It is a competitive advantage (Harvard Business Review)

  • Every company needs “a unique position – doing things differently from competitors.” Philanthropic projects show a particular and distinctive identity.
  • “CSR can be much more than a cost, a constraint, or a charitable deed – it can be a source of opportunity, innovation, and competitive advantage.”

4. Capitalism focused strictly on profit is no longer viable

  • Investors will sever business ties with companies that are caught damaging the environment or engaging in socially damaging practices.
  • A fourth sector of the economy is emerging – “for-benefit.” Different from non-profit, for-profit, or governmental sectors, this is a group that operates on earned income but gives top priority to an explicit social mission over profit for the sake of profit.

5. It is a moral obligation

  • Domestically – businesses need to give back to the communities and nations that provided them the opportunity to succeed
  • Globally – economic and security concerns/events can immediately have a negative global impact. Investing, developing, and doing-no-harm will strengthen all sectors of business.

– Mary Purcell



SPENT the Online Game
No one ever wants to survive on only $1 a day, to not be able to visit the doctor when you are ill or to refuse to send your child for tutoring when needed just because of the money you don’t have. No one wants to live a life in poverty. If you had to live under these conditions, how would you be able to survive? What would you give up? Where would you go? Would you ask for help?

The mission of the Urban Ministries of Durham in North Carolina is to provide food, clothing, shelter and supportive services to neighbors in need. With the McKinney Advertising Agencies, they created an online game called SPENT to show the hardships of living in poverty and homelessness.

The approach of the game is to realize how difficult it is to live under these circumstances and to pick wisely when spending. On the front page of the game, it prompts participants with a striking question: “Urban Miniseries of Durham serves over 6,000 people every year. But you’d never need help, right?” The game begins immediately following this, and has served as a wake-up call for the 1.7 million people who have already played it.

The game begins when the player is given $1,000 to survive on for a month. The challenge is not as nearly as simple as it seems, and the various conflicts that the game throws at the player is a portrayal of reality. This includes losing a job, not being able to find employment, lack of food and water, and unfortunate health concerns. Paying bills, for your child’s education, and getting an education is also a necessity, and serves as a consistent financial drain throughout the game.

While this is a virtual game, the obstacles and challenges that lead to and perpetuate poverty are a  reality to billions of people in the world. Through challenging long-held beliefs about poverty through ways such as SPENT, participants from around the world can come to better understand why and how poverty happens and how to stop it.

Jada Chin

Source: SPENT
Photo: PBS

Embrace Infant Health in the Developing World

The Embrace infant health “sleeping bag” is an innovative, low-cost baby warmer, engineered for at-risk babies in developing countries. Around the world over 20 million low-birth-weight and premature babies are born every year, in the right environment, these babies can still thrive. However, in impoverished areas without resources or in turmoil, these babies are at risk of dying – and over four million will die within their first month of life. Amazingly, just keeping these newborns at the right temperature can be the difference between life and death.

The design of the Embrace incorporates materials that will stay a constant 98.6F, the critical temperature for a newborn’s survival. After being heated via any AC power source, the “WarmPak” inside the wrap traps the heat and then slowly releases it for up to 6 hours, keeping the “microclimate” inside the Embrace perfect for healthy development. Under normal conditions, a baby’s body temperature can be maintained through basic contact with the mother, but sometimes this is not always an option. Particularly for women who are working and/or caring for other children, who may be recovering from a traumatic birth, and those in disaster-relief and post-conflict settings.

The biggest problem these pre-mature babies face is hypothermia, when they cannot regulate their own body temperature and cannot stay warm. Average room temperature for these tiny bodies actually feels freezing to them. Those that can survive even without proper care will often develop life-long problems like diabetes, heart disease, and low IQ. Simply keeping a baby warm can save its life immediately and allow proper development in the long term.

– Mary Purcell



World Food Programme Helps Syrian Refugees

On average, the World Food Programme (WFP) feeds more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries yearly. In 2013, the WFP has focused its giving on refugees from the Syrian conflict that have been displaced by the fighting. The WFP has helped 3,000 people in February alone and plans on helping an additional 4,000 by the end of the month.

In order to receive the electronic vouchers which can be redeemed for food at supermarkets, the refugees must register with the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR).  More than 90,000 Syrians have been displaced by the conflict, yet only 15,000 have registered with the UNHCR.

The WFP has launched this campaign at the request of the Egyptian government and is focusing on only the most impoverished of the refugees who have drained their savings.

“WFP plans to provide assistance to as many as 30,000 Syrians in Egypt by June 2013,” said WFP’s Country Director and Representative in Egypt, GianPietro Bordignon. They work closely with the beneficiaries while implementing the program.  Egyptians have been  helping WFP by offering their homes “to be used for voucher distributions” and their voluntary contributions have impressed the WFP immensely.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: World Food Programme
Photo: NYTimes

Bonnaroo Music Festival Has Donated $5 Million

The internationally acclaimed Bonnaroo music festival has become one of the top, grand festivals in the world – and its philanthropic impact is greater for it. Event partner Rick Farman says, “One of our founding principles is to give back at the local, regional and national levels, and we are pleased that we’ve been able to significantly impact a number of organizations.” Since its inception in 2002, the event has donated a total of $5 million to regional and global non-profit organizations.

A portion of every ticket sold goes to the Bonnaroo Works Fund, and the fund then distributes the money to an amazing array of groups, including Doctors Without Borders, MusiCares, Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club of America, Rock the Earth, the American Red Cross, and the Sierra Club. The money also is allocated to emergency aid for natural disasters like the Haitian earthquake, and Hurricane Katrina. The fund is administered by the East Tennessee Foundation (ETF), which helps identify and vet organizations, looking for those that have the most impact, including arts, education, and environment sustainability. Additionally, Bonnaroo fans fully funded a solar panel system that will be used to generate power for the concerts.

This year’s outdoor festival is June 13-16 in Manchester, Tennessee, USA. A four day event with 150 performances ranging from musicians to comedians, performing on 10 different stages across 700 acres of farmland. An estimated 80,000 fans will camp out for the entire event. Some of the headliners for the 2013 Bonnaroo are Paul McCartney, Mumford & Sons, Tom Petty, Bjork, Wilco, R. Kelly, Wu-Tang Clan and many more.

Rick Farman further explained that Bonnaroo organizers have promised to significantly increase the amount raised over the next 10 years. The Bonnaroo Works Fund will provide for more innovative programs, and will upgrade charitable outreach and philanthropic support.

– Mary Purcell

Source:, Music News Nashville

Emerging Powers Stepping Up Humanitarian Aid for Syria
In a recent UN donor conference for Syria, a 1.5 billion dollar donation was pledged to help provide humanitarian aid for Syria, of which two-thirds came from the non-western world powers. Last year, contributions coming from Brazil, Russia, India, China and the Middle Eastern Gulf countries only made up about 5% of all contributions to Syria. This marks a shift from the historically Western-dominated world of humanitarian aid as non-western world powers begin to make more of an impact.

Contributions from non-western countries have more often than not come from less traditional avenues of humanitarian aid that are not transparent and hard to track. These channels allow these countries total control of their contribution and all credit for their actions. The recent development in donations from non-western countries has resulted in tension between the emerging powers and the West in terms of who will ultimately get credit and gain influence for these donations. However, if this recent trend leads to a proper dialogue that reevaluates some of the current flaws in humanitarian aid, it may be a boon for all parties involved.

The Western states and emerging powers both have valid reasons for being wary of the others’ operations. The West believes that their established humanitarian system has worked well to help people around the world and that other countries should funnel their money through them, lest the funds get lost or misused due to inexperience. On the other hand, the emerging powers do not want to give their funds to Western humanitarian agencies that they have no control over and that do not completely reflect their own interests.

The recent donor conference to provide humanitarian aid for Syria is a step in the right direction for all parties involved. This is not only because of the important support it provides for Syrian refugees in the short term, but also because it brings many countries which often oppose each other into a dialogue to support a common cause.

The Western countries have a system of humanitarian aid that needs to make itself more inclusive toward the emerging world powers as well as restructure some of the ways that it uses its funds. Non-Western countries would benefit from joining a system that is more structured and includes themselves in the group of already established powers. Despite the fact that the donor conference in Syria is a positive action for both sides, the most important factor is not to lose sight of those in need of humanitarian aid due to political issues.

– Sean Morales

Source: AlertNet
Photo: The Independent

Books For Africa Teams Up With The Peace CorpsBy pairing with the Peace Corps and other nonprofits, Books for Africa has become the world’s largest shipper of donated books to the African continent. With its headquarters based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Books for Africa has shipped nearly 27 million books to 48 countries in the past 25 years.

In countries where few classrooms have suitable resources, Books for Africa ship libraries of new scholarly and leisurely texts as well as new law and human rights texts. Classrooms in countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa are filled with avid learners whose parents have sacrificed greatly to provide them with an education but often lack adequate supplies.

While many classrooms have adequate textbooks to constitute as reading material, noted on project organizer, the establishment of reading centers such as libraries indulge the hope that “Ethiopian children and their families will be able to experience the joys of reading and literacy activities directly.”

– Pete Grapentien

Source Huffington Post

Extreme Poverty in Brazil Almost Gone
Last Tuesday, President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff increased the monthly stipend of people living below the poverty line to 70 reals or roughly $35 a month. Through its Bolsa Familia or Family Grant program, Rousseff’s administration has successfully managed to improve living conditions and lift 36 million people out of extreme poverty in Brazil. President Rousseff claims that “soon there will be no Brazilians steeped in extreme poverty.”

Founded by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2003, the monthly stipend program has provided financial assistance to people living in extreme poverty in Brazil, allowing for access to proper education, healthcare and the like. More than 48 million Brazilians, a quarter of the population, are registered to these social programs, costing the government 24 billion reals a year. This increased monthly stipend will affect 2.5 million people and will cost 800 million reals. Currently, there are 700,000 families still living in extreme poverty in Brazil that are not yet registered with government social programs. Rousseff’s administration will work to seek out these families.

The monthly stipend increase will come into effect on March 18. Also, Rousseff has added stipends for children and adolescents, farmers engaging in conservation practices, and people beginning technical training. The government is also now focusing on improved access to public services, extending school hours and availability to electricity, water, sewers and basic housing. Rousseff is expected to run for re-election in 2014 and her success against extreme poverty would work immensely towards her advantage.

Her new slogan for her fight against extreme poverty is: “The end of poverty is just beginning.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: The Guardian