Inflammation and stories on future

the_wonderbagThe Wonderbag is a revolutionary non-electric cooker with the capacity to change the way people cook around the world. The Wonderbag website describes the product as “a simple but revolutionary non-electric heat-retention cooker. It continues to cook food that has been brought to the boil by conventional methods for up to 12 hours without the use of additional fuel.”

The Wonderbag works by allowing the person cooking to heat any pot of food and then place the boiling pot into the bag and seal it. The initial heating can be done in any way whatsoever: on a stove in a modern kitchen, over a campfire or on a charcoal fire in a developing country’s village. The heat from the initial boiling keeps the food cooking inside the Wonderbag for eight to 12 hours.

The Wonderbag is portable and can be used anywhere. In addition to heating food, it can also be used as a cooler. All you have to do is freeze it and it will keep food cold for hours.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, inventor Sarah Collins said “The biggest killer in the world is indoor air pollution related diseases; over 4 million people die annually from cooking related fire diseases,” half of whom are under five years of age. Also, the burning of fuels causes hundreds of thousands of burns every year, according to the Wonderbag website.

Deforestation is a major problem around the world and is happening especially quickly in the developing world where they still use wood and charcoal as fuel and for the purposes of cooking. And by 2025, water shortages may affect up to two-thirds of the world’s population. In an interview with Climate Action, inventor Sarah Collins stated that: “The bag can reduce the amount of fossil fuels that people use for cooking by 90 percent.”

According to the Wonderbag website, the preparation of food can have a particularly damaging effect on the progress of women in developing countries. Preparing food can take hours, including the time spent gathering fuel. The use of the Wonderbag can free up several hours a day, allowing girls time to go to school and women time to do other work.

According to Climate Action, Collins says that through humanitarian work, she aims to get her product to “the people who live on a dollar a day in the developing world.” In the developing world, the bag can be used similarly to a slow cooker in a modern kitchen.

Finally, for each Wonderbag purchased by someone in the developed world, one will be donated to a family in the developing world, linking people all around the world to each other.

Rhonda Marrone

Sources: Wonderbag, Facebook, Huffington Post, Climat Action Programme
Photo: Flickr

Project_sunroof
In 2008, solar panels were considered to be an enviable luxury. Beginning in 2013, the prices thereof began to lower, and this year the cost of solar technology is at a record low and can actually save thousands of dollars per year on electric bills.

There are still a lot of factors to consider where the installation of solar panels are concerned: how much sunlight hits the roof, the local weather, or if there are any businesses nearby where someone could be hired to install them.

Since so many people have asked Google about solar energy, engineer Carl Elkin came up with the initial idea that has since become Project Sunroof. This online tool takes the data from Google Maps and gives all the necessary information including how much money could be saved by installing solar panels.

In the next few months, the project goal is to expand to more cities, more countries and eventually become accessible worldwide. “Elkin writes that Project Sunroof is part of Google’s wider vision of accelerating the wide-scale adaption of zero-carbon energy.”

Solar panels, also called photovoltaic panels, turn energy from the sun into electricity. That energy is then synchronized to become compatible with the power grid in the home. This process actually saves energy that was formerly reliant on carbon energy and replaces it with something that is actually better for the environment.

A popular myth is that solar energy is unreliable, so people will avoid considering the technology until it improves. In actuality, solar panels generally come with a manufacturer’s warranty of 25 years and also requires little to no maintenance during its lifetime. There are few existing electronics to date with 25-year warranties.

So, with all of the existing benefits of solar energy to the environment and to the people who utilize it, the solar subscription service Bright has decided to bring those benefits to developing countries starting with Mexico.

“Working with local partners, Bright provides the software, financing, and maintenance. Using its software, it monitors installations and deploys partners to fix any errors.” These initiatives make energy more affordable and therefore, more accessible and enjoyable.

Project Loon gives the developing world access to the internet, and Project Sunroof combined with the initiatives of services such as Bright gives the necessary energy for not only the maintaining of devices that connect to the internet but also for everyday activities.

So, not only can the developing world be provided with water mills and food, but can even (for example) be helped with alternative methods of storing them and keeping them fresh for longer periods of time.

Anna Brailow

Sources: Voice of America, IFL Science, RE-volv, Bright
Photo: CS Monitor

A recent study by the American Psychological Association found that girls have consistently achieved better grades in school than boys for decades. Despite this revolutionary finding, there is still a disproportionate amount of girls around the world who are not granted equal access to education.

What was thought to be a recent “boy crisis” of boys falling behind girls in school has proven to be false. Girls have consistently done better in school for decades without any significant change.

Data collected between 1914 and 2011 in over 30 countries has shown that girls have persistently achieved better grades in every subject across the board. The regions included range from North America, to Europe, to the Middle East and Africa, with the grades of 538,710 boys and 595,322 girls from 308 studies.

Grades given by teachers and official grade point averages were used from elementary, middle and high school, as well as undergraduate and graduate levels. The largest gap was found to be in languages and the smallest gap in math and science. Although boys tended to score higher in math and science in standardized tests, this is only the test of aptitude for a given moment, whereas school grades require hard work over longer periods of time.

Co-Author of the study, Susan Voyer, notes that this phenomenon of girls out-performing boys appears to be a well-kept secret considering how little global attention it has received.

In 2011, UNICEF found that there were 31 million primary-school-aged girls and 34 million lower-secondary-school-aged girls who were not enrolled in school. That the study took place in countries across the globe, and not exclusively in one country or even one region, proves that there is a great deal of untapped potential. Imagine how much more could be achieved globally if every girl had access to education.

The benefits of allowing girls equal access to education are endless. When girls attend school, they delay marriage and in turn delay the age of child bearing. This saves the lives of both women and their children, because there are fewer risks when girls wait until after adolescence to bear children. UNESCO found that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, maternal deaths could be reduced by 70 percent, and child deaths reduced by 15 percent if all girls completed primary school.

The benefits continue to the next generation, as girls that attended school are far more likely to send their children to school. Girls can also earn higher wages and therefore gain economic independence as a result of receiving an education. When girls complete one year of secondary education, their wages later in life increase by 25 percent.

According to UNESCO, women make up two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate people. This is unfair given the existing research that shows that if given the opportunity, girls will continuously perform better in school than boys. Although girls should not have to prove themselves in order to receive equal access to education, this study is a testament to the mass amount of potential being lost by denying girls this human right.

– Kim Tierney 

Sources: UNICEF, PsyBlog, APA, UNESCO
Photo: She Knows

In theory, foreign aid is a great concept that many citizens support in the United States. But how often do we actually get to see our heart-felt donations, activism and support of U.S. foreign aid in action? Here’s to all of you who want to see some concrete results of your efforts. All of the work and investment going into U.S. foreign policy is making a difference, and here are some real life examples to prove it!

 

1. U.S. Actor, Matt Damon, and Haitian Singer, Wyclef Jean, Distribute U.S. Food Aid to Haitian Flood Victims

US Foreign Aid

2. USAID’s Nutrition Programs

US Foreign Aid

3. Haitians Waving to a Departing U.S. Helicopter After Delivering Food and Water to Port au Prince

US Foreign Aid

4. USAID’s Decrease in Maternal Mortality Rates

US Foreign Aid

5USAID Funds’ Replacement of 187 CDA Tubewell Pumps in Islamabad, Pakistan

US Foreign Aid

6. USAID‘s Female Health Workers

US Foreign Aid

7. USAID Delivers Deworming Medication to Kindergartners in Nam Dinh Province, Vietnam

US Foreign Aid

8. USAID’s Increases in Life Expectancy and Decreases in Maternal & Child Mortality Rates

US Foreign Aid

9. Emergency Food Distribution by USAID in Agok, Sudan

US Foreign Aid

10. USAID’s  Tropical Disease Treatments

US Foreign Aid

Photo: USAID Flickr Slideshow , U.N. , Flickr

e-cigarettes
Since 1982, the China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) has grown to be the world’s largest tobacco company, contributing almost 10 percent of total tax revenue to the central government. The state-backed monopoly has remained stubborn to reform in the wake of the roughly one million smoking-related deaths the country sees each year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently released a statement saying that China needs to take a firmer stance against its giant tobacco industry if it hopes to reduce these numbers.

China has the world’s largest tobacco consumer base, home to more than 300 million smokers. In 2012, the CNTC had an annual net income of $18.6 billion, in contrast to the American-owned company, Phillip Morris International, with an annual net income of $8.57 billion.

So how do we tackle a multi-billion dollar monopoly?

The biggest problem is that the government itself is in the business. This creates a strong conflict of interest, which is proving difficult in weeding out the destructive habit.

In recent months, China has adopted several anti-tobacco measures, including banning government officials from smoking in public areas and banning smoking in schools. However, the tobacco monopoly has managed to continuously oppose reforms such as raising cigarette prices and using stronger health warnings on cigarette packs.

It seems that all hope is not lost.

A pair of tobacco industry manufacturers from southern China launched a joint venture on February 25 aimed at tackling the tobacco monopoly once and for all.

The collaboration between FirstUnion Technology, the world’s largest e-cigarette producer, and Jinjia, China’s biggest maker of cigarette packaging products, is an entrepreneurial match made in heaven. Both companies have achieved massive success in the southern city of Shenzhen and hope to rise among the ranks by manufacturing China’s first mass-market e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes first entered the Chinese market in 2004 and have since been exported to major markets worldwide.

Their significance?

They have become the new alternative for tobacco smokers who want to avoid inhaling smoke. Also known as electronic cigarettes, or vaporizer cigarettes, they emit doses of vaporized nicotine, or non-nicotine vaporized solution, that is inhaled. E-cigarettes have been found to have comparable rates of success in helping smokers quit as nicotine patches.

Overall, this is good news for China, but bad news for the tobacco monopoly.

The partnership between the two Chinese companies is receiving a start-up investment of just over $16 million, but they might need support from the central government if they hope to succeed.

– Mollie O’Brien

Sources: The Street, Medical News Today
Photo: Carbonated

Education_Reform_in_Chile
As of next month, Chile will once again call Michelle Bachelet, leader of the popular Socialist Party, its president.

Although she left office with an 84 percent approval rate, Chilean law prohibits presidents from serving consecutive terms. However, in the four years since Bachelet left office, millions of citizens have openly protested for the return of many of her reforms — specifically demanded, are her reforms concerning education, environmental protection and income inequality.

Students are especially excited for Bachelet’s return. Her plan is to raise corporate taxes to 25 percent and use the money to fund the overhaul of secondary and higher education. This is the first step of what Bachelet hopes is a gradual move towards free public universities.

The influence of former president Augusto Pinochet, which ended central control and funding of public schools, left the education system in Chile diminished in quality skewed for the benefit of the elite. The majority of universities there today are private and expensive; and the country has not seen a new public university built in over 20 years.

Bachelet became the first female president of Chile in 2006; she served the traditional four-year term until 2010. She is often considered one of the most admired presidents in modern Chilean history, especially since the end of Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship in 1990.

Many of the problems facing the Latin American country today are blamed on Pinochet’s abuse of power. Amongst other things, he is most criticized for ending land reform by selling off the nation’s water. This created a small pocket of economic elite and sparked the growing wealth distribution gap, which Bachelet has dedicated her career to fighting.

Education reform was central to the success of Bachelet’s last presidential term, and throughout her campaign she has vowed to continue it. Early in her first term, in April 2006, demonstrations of high school students broke out across the country, voicing frustrations with the quality and price of their education.

It became known as the “Penguin Revolution,” named for the black-and-white uniforms common among Chilean students.

Bachelet addressed this by immediately setting up an educational advisory committee. The committee, comprised of 81 advisory members from an array of political affiliations and socioeconomic backgrounds, functioned as a forum for the proposal of education bills.

Many of them were effective by August 2009 under the signing of the Education Reform Bill, which decentralized the system and created new regulatory government agencies.

When Bachelet’s term ended in 2010, students once again found themselves frustrated by their lack of representation within the education system and began protesting against current president Sebastián Piñera. Throughout 2011 and 2012, the streets of Santiago were filled nearly every Thursday with students demanding the reinstating of certain funding and other reforms for higher education.

She recently ran for office a second time, succeeding long-time political rival Evelyn Matthei. Now Bachelet and her education and economic reforms will return to office in March. Her popularity was proven on December 15, 2013 with reports of applause and tears accompanying her acceptance speech in Santiago.

Although the anticipation is high, there are also concerns regarding Chile’s immediate economic future and skepticism surrounding how Bachelet will handle it.

Chile’s economy has been growing rapidly in recent years, increasing by 5.6 percent last year.

However, there are fears that it will soon begin to slow, since much of its gross domestic product is tied to its primary export copper, which is at risk of declining prices in the global market. Many speculate that copper wealth will be Bachelet’s weapon for the underfunded public schools system, but if the copper market suffers, so will education.

Regardless, Bachelet is still followed by a reputation for charisma, intelligence and understanding of the common citizen. Her constituents widely agree that her future term as the president of Chile will be productive and positive.

As Paolo Bustamente, who admits to voting for Bachelet, said: “Abroad you often hear that this country has been growing and progressing more than others in Latin America, but it can’t just be a matter of growth. We need urgent educational reform, improvements to health and I feel Bachelet can fulfill promises of deep changes this time around.”

 – Stefanie Doucette

Sources: Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyTimeForbesThe GuardianUnited Nations, CNN, Inter Press Service News Agency, MercoPress

burundi
The Central African region has been receiving a lot of humanitarian attention this new year. Furthermore, while this area has been going through a lot of tumult in the past few months, South Sudan’s instability has been a major concern of the United States and other countries. However, though the situations such as these in larger countries highlight the troubles in the region, the tiny nation of Burundi has gotten a small amount of attention. The UN has, on the other hand, just announced that they will extend their mission in Burundi until the end of the year, the effort being done to guide the nation to safe elections in 2015.

The fact is, Burundi has come a long way in the past 20 years and is an example of the good work that international aid can do for ailing countries. For instance, in the early 1990s there were worries of genocide in Burundi as the violence in Rwanda threatened to spread to Burundi. In 1993, the President of the country was assassinated, resulting in “genocidal acts” taking place against the Tutsi ethnic group. While the violence did not reach the levels seen in Rwanda, ethnic violence was a problem until 2003, even after the ceasefire in 2000 between the government and rebel groups.

After it was clear that the 2000 ceasefire was not having the immediate effect the United Nations hoped, a mission was established in 2004 to bring stability to the nation. As a result, the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) was established in 2005  to end the violence in the region by sending out disarmament details and providing protection for those felt to be threatened by the violence. In 2006, the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) was, furthermore, established to continue this work, as well as assisting with democratic administration and setting up the infrastructure for the government.

The mission has been seen as an overall success for the United Nations. Peace has held after a long period of fighting and the Burundi government had felt so confident that they thought the UN should leave by the summer. On the other hand, the UN Security Council felt differently, with the upcoming election serving as the impetus for their extended stay. In fact, a recent changeover in the government prompted some worries, yet Burundi’s ambassador to the United Nations maintained that “[t]he apparent differences between politicians in Burundi… are political exaggerations that are linked to the democratic learning process.”

The bigger worry for Burundi, however, is economic advancement. The nation routinely ranks low in economic development rankings, not a surprise given the disruption that such an extended period of violence brings to a nation. Furthermore, the recent floods in the area don’t look to make the situation much better in Burundi. The nation hopes that with this period of peace, an improved economy will follow.

The United Nations and Burundi both agree that their peacekeeping office should close up shop soon, with the current state of the region being seen as a success for BNUB. However, the troubled economy and the number of hungry citizens is still a major concern to the nation. As it stands, it may only take these conditions to plunge the country back into the violence the nation just got out of. The work that advocacy organizations do should concern emphasizing the need for continued attention in areas like Burundi, and though catastrophe may not be an issue, a further push in the right direction is key.

– Eric Gustafsson

Sources: UN, Reuters, Ref World, The World Bank
Photo: National Geographic

child_marriage_tall_as_the_baobob_tree
One in three Senegalese girls are married before the age of 18, while the number worldwide nears 14 million. These girls are at a higher risk for abuse, health complications and dropping out of school. Tall as the Baobab Tree is being screened in villages in Senegal to promote dialogue and understanding between generations. This internationally acclaimed film is set in the Senegalese village Sinthiou Mbadane and follows two sisters who are the first from their family to attend school.

1. Respect for Elders vs. Dreams for the Future

In the film, the older sister, Coumba tries to save her younger sister, Debo, from being sold by their father into an arranged marriage. New and old worlds collide as the sisters struggle with whether respecting their elders has to mean betraying their own future. In countries like Senegal where education is becoming more accessible, it is important to engage in dialogues about the dangers associated with child marriage.

2. Dialogue can Positively Influence Attitude

The dialogues about child marriage have the potential to change the attitudes of village elders and leaders, who play an important role in determining the fate of children in the community. The film and the surrounding dialogues help girls in Senegal to realize that they are not alone in their struggle. The dialogues presented by the film are respectful towards girls and families, with the ultimate goal of bridging the generational misunderstanding.

“The main experience that this film focuses on is educating versus early marriage, which seems, in my experience, to be the single biggest challenge that this younger generation faces, coming from these traditionally conservative, rural villages,” said director Jeremy Teicher.

3. Grow Roots at Home to Strengthen Your Community

Because of poverty, a family may feel obligated to either send their children from a village to a large city to find work, or to marry off their daughters to older, wealthier men. With the help of Plan International (https://plan-international.org/where-we-work/africa/senegal/what-we-do), children in Senegal have been able to stay in their home villages and either learn or work. The organization help set up training courses in needlework, hairdressing and metal work in villages to give children vocational opportunities. In this way, the children are able to grow up to be supporters and active community members in their villages.

Haley Sklut

Sources: The Guardian, Tall as the Baobab Tree, Voice of America
Photo: View of the Arts

Global_Leaders
For individuals who are passionate about improving worldwide living conditions and gaining the skills necessary to further oneself in the field of global health, internships are fraught with worthwhile and unique opportunities to gain knowledge and hands-on experience. With the plethora of diverse internships, the Global Health Corps (GHC) initiative, established in 2009, has stood out as an enriching opportunity for passionate young individuals. The Global Health Corp was engendered by the belief that adequate health is not only a privilege, but also a right for every human across the globe.

GHC aligns interns with top-notch organizations so both parties are able to collaborate-mutually benefiting each other in order to improve global health. According to the GHC, many opportunities to improve global health are not available for individuals who have not already established themselves in the medical field. Thus, another goal of the Corp is to provide opportunities for young people, especially individuals from diverse roots, to achieve their potential and make an impact on worldwide healthcare.

The program offers summer internships at the GHC headquarters in New York City. Furthermore, fellows can also be placed in locales such as Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. The internship provides unique opportunities such as aiding the enhancement of the GHC program, raising money through fundraising, and improving communications support.

According to the Corp, there are a series of six steps taken throughout the internship project. First, fellows are chosen, then they are paired with a host organization and partnered with a participating organization. Additionally, fellows are able to develop their unique skill-sets, establish an educated community and continue to promote global health initiatives long after the internship expires.

The Corp also provides opportunities for interns to work for global change through three key goals. Interns will be able to help increase the impact of prominent organizations by working with such organizations. Additionally, the GHC provides excellent training for aspiring future leaders by engaging interns in a wide-range of developmental activities. Furthermore, interns are able to engage in constructing an international community for change that will continue to flourish even after the yearly internships have been brought to a successful end.

– Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: Global Health Corps, Huffington Post
Photo:
Wize Hive

2012_movie_apocalypse
Imagine having the ability to know that something drastic was going to happen before it ever took place. Some might call it being psychic; others call it science.

Over time, technology has steadily risen and become more advanced. Recently, a team of neuroscientists “published a paper claiming it has developed a mathematical calculation that could potentially predict the tipping point of any massive event.”

These events would vary from market crashes, all the way to someone having a brain seizure.

This would be accomplished through a working system of nodes. During this, one neuron inside the brain would “ignite a stream of connected activity – a web-like chain reacting that unfolds in seemingly unpredictable ways.”

Scientists, however, have discovered that events can in fact be predicted with the proper information. A group of professors at the University of Sussex, along with colleagues working in psychology and physics, are conducting experiments that replicate monitored brain activity.

This team has also formulated an equation that disclosed the effects of information being flown between multiple nodes. Lionel Barnett, one of the leading authors on the paper, discovered that all of the elements “casually influence each other.”

Barnett’s discovery will enable scientists to differentiate between when a node is dependent upon its own behavior, and when it is dependent upon all other nodes.

“The dynamics of complex systems – like the brain and the economy – depend upon how their elements casually influence each other; in other words, how information flows between them,” said Barnett.

Since the system is this complex, how is it possible to be able to predict something so sporadic?

The team of researchers proposes that it is manageable to measure when a system reaches its “tipping point,” as it alters from a healthy system to one that shows immense change.

The theory was tested using a model that physicists use to predict “phase transitions” in standard systems. This, accompanied by supercomputers at the Charles Sturt University in Australia allowed the team to find the “global transfer entropy flow.”

This basically means that scientists have discovered that certain flows reach peaks repeatedly, right before a tipping point. If the possibility of this major scientific discovery is plausible, the world as is known will be altered entirely.

According to Anil Seth, the co-director of the Sackler Centre, “This would change the course of the dynamics and prevent seizures.” This was before Seth further suggested that the application could be used for financial, climate and immune systems.

Seth explained, in depth, that he believes this possibility is really feasible, in spite of the systems being so vastly diverse. On the other hand, although there is faith in the project itself, there are many factors that come into play.

For example, human error and factors such as interference from mathematically-drawn conclusions as a result of errors, could affect the results. Through further research, the team hopes to make exciting revelations in this field.

Samaria Garrett

Sources: The New Yorker, Wired
Photo: Severa Rules