Water Quality in Myanmar
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a nation with 32.1 percent of the population living below the poverty line, according to 2015 data.

Accessing water in Myanmar has always been difficult, despite the country’s natural resources. It once was recognized to have the fourth-richest supply of groundwater in the world, holding more than 19,000 square meters per capita. This is 16 times the available levels of Myanmar’s neighboring country, Bangladesh.

A typical summer season in the last few years would introduce water shortages in only central Myanmar, but now, deforestation – as a result of urbanization – and hot temperatures contribute to water shortages in other additional areas of the country, leaving hundreds of thousands in danger.

However, recent changes to the water system have significantly improved water quality in Myanmar:

Fixing the Irrigation Systems

Myanmar’s agriculture industry provides jobs for 60 percent of workers, so it is crucial that irrigation systems are functional. In the past, Myanmar struggled with irrigation upkeep and water distribution, so The Pyawt Ywar Pump Irrigation Project stepped in to improve irrigation infrastructure, reform water management and provide education to farmers. Since its implementation, farmers and the government have worked together to make sure water distribution is fair and regulated, and farmers have learned how to use land efficiently to increase crop growth. The agriculture industry has improved as a result: the gross domestic product for agriculture increased from 12,316,081.8 MMK mn to 13,964,771.2 MMK mn in just five years.

Purifying Wastewater has Increased Access to Water

Proctor & Gamble’s Children Safe Drinking Water program and World Vision teamed up to give Myanmar residents a tool to clean non-potable water: a powder mixture invented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The powder transforms 10 liters of contaminated water into clean, drinkable water in just half an hour, providing a day’s worth of resources for a five-member family. This means that poor families living in Myanmar can purify water from rivers and streams instead of spending a lot of money on bottled water. P&G has helped with improving Myanmar’s water since 2008, and the water purification tool has helped 200,000 people gain access to safer water.

Decreasing Illness

Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease, is a common occurrence in Myanmar because of people’s tendency to collect water in their homes. Stored water attracts mosquitoes and creates a large breeding ground for the disease. Myanmar is labeled as a high burden dengue country, and citizens take preventative measures by learning how to protect their water against mosquitoes and to keep their spaces dry and clean. In 2015, there were 42,913 cases of dengue, but after a year of water education and awareness, the number dropped to 10,770.

Looking Ahead

Access to clean water has increased in the last 15 years, but there is still more to be done. In 2000, 47.31 percent of citizens in rural areas had access to potable water, and that number has increased to 59.85 percent as of 2015, but it is still low. The Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene plans for universal access to water by 2030, and improving water quality in Myanmar may be achieved with increased awareness and action.

Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr


Emerging Social Activists
There are many people around the globe who are standing up and advocating for themselves and the human rights of the people around them. Whether their countries allow them to speak freely about their oppression or try to silence them, these social activists are making an impact. These are some of the top emerging social activists from around the world.

Shamma bint Suhail Faris Mazrui – United Arab Emirates

The youngest government minister in the world, Shamma bint Suhail Faris Mazrui became Minister of State for Youth Affairs in the UAE in 2016. One of her main views on what youths can add to public affairs and relations is resourcefulness, arguing, “Hopelessness results when youth are not seen as resources, and apathy results they’re not seen as assets.”

Mazrui’s vision is to bring more youths into the private sectors of the UAE and not just into public affairs. She believes that the change of a nation starts with the investment of the youth. Ultimately, her goal is to set a vision into the youth’s eyes that there is something more important than living solely for yourself.

Majandra Rodriguez Acha – Peru

In 2009, the government of Peru released its jungles from protection and opened them for scavenging and oil extraction. That year, nineteen-year-old Majandra Rodriguez Acha decided she would not stand for her jungles to be exploited. A group of activists including Ahca chanted “La selva no se vende, la selva se defiende.” In English, “You don’t sell the jungles, you defend them.”

Since then, Acha has formed a group called TierrActiva Perú. The group advocates for the voice of the jungle. It reconciles urban youth groups to indigenous youth groups in Peru directly affected by the exploitation of the jungles.

In 2014, Acha organized a conference that brought together over 100 indigenous and urban youths, mainly under 30 years old. Acha says, “We believe that people are experts of their own reality” and the conference was one of little convention. The people were free to come up to the stage, write on a whiteboard, and express their own emotions and ideas towards bettering Peru.

Li Maizi – China

China has been under the rule of the communist party for sixty-six years. The country runs on the traditional principles of efficient work and a conventional, stable family-core. However, in 2015, emerging social activists like Li Maizi challenged these values.

China has no laws or allowance for activism which does not conform to the structure of society within the country. Maizi and others handed out stickers on International Women’s Day in 2015. They were protesting and raising awareness of sexual abuse and harassment. These women were detained and interrogated. Maizi herself was imprisoned for over thirty-five days but was released after being labeled a spy.

Four other women were detained alongside Maizi. All either queer or labeled as free-women, meaning they do not wish to have children, they have been called the Feminist Five. The group realize public rallies in their country are not possible. To succeed in fighting against the oppression of women,  they have to formulate different tactics to raise awareness.

Maizi believes that the U.S. is a breeding ground for social activism. She believes it has the right political and social atmosphere to transcend borders and empower China. “If we don’t set up this group in the U.S., China’s feminist movement will become too passive. The position of our core activists is extremely fragile and we don’t know when the police will come and arrest someone again—it could be today or tomorrow,” she says.

Alioune Tine – Chad

The government of Chad has cracked down on social activism and freedom of speech within the last two years. It has also banned peaceful protests within the country. Alioune Tine is the Amnesty International West and Central Africa Director. He has said that officials have made criticism of their government something that cannot be voiced or acted upon.

Many of the known political and social activists in Chad have reached out to Amnesty International, stating that they have received phone calls and harassment. They allege that the calls include interrogatory questions which leave them afraid and confused.

Tine says that Chad is at a crossroads. It must choose between muzzling citizens and critics of its government or to walk in the promises made by the president during his election.

These emerging social activists are just a few among many around the world who are standing up and speaking out despite opposition. As Acha said, “people are experts to their own reality.” These experts believe people have a right to be heard.

– Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Flickr

Graduation season is in full swing and high school seniors around the nation are getting ready to accept their diplomas. . . . as well as finish their senior projects! With the high stress of leaving high school and becoming increasingly independent, graduating seniors often hurry to finalize their end-of-the-year, self-directed projects. What better way to leave a legacy behind than to use a senior project to help change the world? Here are four project ideas that inspire social change:

1. Host a presentation about U.S. foreign aid statistics.

There are many myths in public opinion that hurt positive policy making and social change. For example, contrary to popular belief, the U.S. actually spends 2 percent of its budget on foreign aid and not 25-30 percent. Sending foreign aid to nations with high rates of corruption does not make them more corrupt, and the U.S. actually does receive positive returns when we increase our foreign aid. These social myths make social change harder to achieve.

For a senior project, create a slideshow correcting social myths. Take full advantage of an eager, energetic crowd of friends and family, and spread knowledge to educate and inspire people.

2. Volunteer at a nonprofit organization for a semester.

Volunteering: good for the soul and good for the community – and also good for the brain.

Volunteering at a nonprofit organization for a semester gives students the chance to learn the inner workings of the nonprofit industrial complex. Students can learn how resources are obtained and distributed, how politics play out in charity affairs and how a group of people with passionate ideas can become an organization in the first place. Learning this process and sharing it with classmates has invaluable domino effects of inspiration. Volunteering for a semester gives students the tools to build social change.

3. Collect garbage instead of throwing it away.

A senior project consisting of not throwing out the trash, sounds easy right? We often underestimate the amount of trash we produce. Storing full trash bags is more difficult than it sounds and produces a shock factor to any audience. Use a senior project to weigh the school’s waste and make people more aware of their waste. This will instigate social change as people will be inspired to use less and recycle more. The environment will appreciate it.

4. Host a graduation party to raise awareness.

Use this occasion to reflect not just upon personal successes but upon other successes in the world as well. Dedicate a party to raising awareness about a particular cause and spend the evening educating friends as well as celebrating them.

There are various ways to make a difference in the world. We are seldom given audiences as eager as those that attend high school senior project presentations. By spreading awareness among our friends and family about social issues, graduating high school seniors can help change the world – and maybe even an “A” along the way.

– Tanya Kureishi

Sources: Borgen Project, The Hill
Photo: Flickr

What is yellow and found in most American cities? Planet Aid bins. Founded in Boston in 1977, Planet Aid was at first a small operation. Donations became so plentiful that the nonprofit had to upgrade its office space and nondescript drop boxes.

Planet Aid’s mission is to inspire people to “bring about worldwide and environmental progress.” The organization is part of the Humana People to People Federation, a source of resources for 32 aid groups working across the globe. Every year, about 12 million people are benefited by Federation projects.

Though Federation aid groups provide an array of services, Planet Aid focuses on collecting and recycling used clothing and supporting development projects.

Discarded clothing is reduced to two functions: sitting in a landfill and creating carbon emissions. About nine percent of American methane emissions are produced by landfills. Over eight percent of landfills are rubber, leather and textiles. Recycling clothes is a step toward reducing the nation’s carbon footprint, but it is also expensive.

Local governments are hesitant to cover the cost, and so Planet Aid steps in. Their bright yellow boxes are beacons of light for environmentally conscious old-jean-holding citizens everywhere. Once collected, some of the clothing is shipped off to domestic thrift stores.

Most, though, are taken to overseas buyers. Why sell overseas? The market is huge. Quality shirts, pants and shoes can be sold to someone in need for a couple dollars.

If people need them so badly, why sell? Because charity can wreak havoc on local economies. It’s better to stock a merchant’s shelves with affordable goods than to put him or her out of business.

Planet Aid revenues are invested in development projects that meet the goals of their mission: “strengthening communities,” “reducing poverty,” “increasing health awareness” and “promoting small enterprise,” among others.

The organization runs projects in 15 countries. So far, Planet Aid has taught 9,500 teachers in India and Africa. From 2010 to 2011 alone, it provided over 5.5 million dollars in micro-finance to Indian women. It raised HIV/AIDS awareness, established a club that teaches sustainable farming practices and founded several vocational schools.

Everything is funded by profits made from clothing and monetary donations. Through its work, Project Aid has shown that humanitarian aid and environmental sustainability are not conflicting interests.

Olivia Kostreva

Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Planet Aid 1, Planet Aid 2, Planet Aid 3
Photo: Bethesda 365

Environmentalism in Costa Rica
In a time of global environmental degradation, Costa Rica has been a leading force in successful environmental protection. With a combination of ethics, environmentalism, and effective government policy, Costa Rica has transformed from the most deforested area to now recovering over half its rainforest.In the past, like most poverty struck areas, Costa Rica has strived to improve its economy on a global scale and encourage economic development. Foreign debt and expanding global markets drove the country to deforestation. The United States’ high demand for beef lead to 60 percent of Costa Rica’s land being cleared to allow for more cattle ranching between the years 1950-2003.It was soon realized that something needed to be done to save a place that contained four percent of the worlds biodiversity. Costa Rica set goals to impede the loss of natural habitats, conserve 17 percent of its land and inland water, and restore ten percent of degraded area and carbon neutrality by 2021. Putting actions into words, the state now has 40 percent of its land under protection of law and 99.2 percent of the energy used in the country is from renewable sources. Costa Rica is now one of the top destinations in the world for ecological tourism.The people of Costa Rica knew of the precious resources their nation contained and worked hard to make sure those resources would no longer be over-exploited. Costa Rica has taken human progress to the next level. They prove that with education and effective government budgeting, you can not only support and maintain and entire ecosystem, but improve your economy as well.  As one of the happiest countries in the world, Costa Rica is an example that leading good lives can be accomplished while reducing consumption and one’s carbon footprint.– Taylor Schaefer

Sources: Viva Costa Rica, United Nations University, The Guardian

Forest Air_opt
As any camping enthusiast will tell you, nothing quite describes the scent of that first refreshing breath of air they inhale upon waking in the middle of the forest. According to a recent study showing evidence that plants moderate global warming, there might in fact be a scientific explanation for the unusual characteristics of the atmospheric air experienced by campers.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki and the IIADA recently uncovered an ingenious feedback loop that exists between plants and higher atmospheric temperatures. How does it work? Plants moderate global warming through biological aerosols that originate from plants and – via atmospheric oxidation – stick to atmospheric aerosols, forming larger droplets that reflect sunlight and form storm clouds, thus decreasing temperatures.

In regards to evidence showing that plants moderate global warming, IIASA researcher Pauli Paasonen noted that, “Plants, by reacting to changes in temperature, also moderate these changes… Everyone knows the scent of the forest, that scent is made up of these gases.”

Although this amazing mechanism is presentlyonly able to mitigate only 1% of climate warming, the implications that plants moderate global warming is huge since future research can now focus exclusively the effects that such natural aerosols have on climate change, although many of their effects are currently scientifically uncertain.

Research highlighting how plants moderate global warming helps climatologists forge ahead into previously undiscovered frontiers of global warming and climate change. By having greater insight into the specific mechanisms involved in global warming, ongoing research can be aimed at both the construction and deployment of effective countermeasures.

– Brian Turner

Source: Science Daily
Photo: Classic Road Trip


Ask any millennial activists between the ages of 26 – 32 about the after school cartoon series Captain Planet and the Planeteers and you will generally hear them enthusiastically remarked, “Wasn’t that the show about the eco-friendly superhero?”

The 30-minute long cartoon produced by well-known philanthropist Ted Turner and Hanna-Barbera was the first environmentally themed children’s show of its time. The plot was centered around 5 precocious adolescents known as the Planeteers who helped an earthy spirit named Gaia fend off environmentally toxic villains from destroying the planet. When confronted with an insurmountable foe, they would combine the powers of their elemental-based (earth, wind, water, fire, heart) rings to summon Captain Planet who would – along with future millennial activists – remark, “By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!”

Aside from the exciting entertainment value of an elemental-based, pro-sustainability superhero fighting the evils of environmental devastation, Captain Planet also taught important life lessons to children who would become future environmentalists. The following are 3 ways that Captain Planet inspired millennial activists.

1. Success means working together – No matter what situation facing the five Planeteers, the underlying message was that in order to prevent catastrophic damage to the environment; Kwame, Wheeler, Linka, Gi, and Ma-Ti would have to work together. That principle wasn’t lost on children who would later grow up to be politically aware millennial activists dedicated to both environmentally sustainable policies and combating global poverty.

2. Being smart is cool – From Kwame’s interest in plant life to Linka’s knowledge of computer technology, the message to future millennial activists was clear, intelligence is cool and academic interests are a benefit as opposed to a liability. Furthermore, without their collective intellect, super villains such as Hoggish Greedly would have never been brought to justice for their Eco-crimes.

3. Destroying the environment effects everyone – Looking at the varied origins of the Planeteers, the overall theme of the interconnected vulnerability of all nations to environmental damage was not lost on millennial activists. Whether from Ghana, China, the former Soviet Union, Brazil, or the United States; all the Planeteers were committed to the protection of Gaia and the practice of responsible environmental stewardship and sustainability.

– Brian Turner
Source: Wikepedia
Photo: PVPixels