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water crisis in Chennai

Chennai, the capital of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, faces a water shortage that threatens the lives of 9 million residents. The city heavily relies on groundwater, which has completely dried up. Ironically, the city is prone to flooding caused by the heavy rains of the monsoon season. The local government failed to harness rainfall during the monsoon season, which was less than usual last year, causing water reserves to remain unfilled. With no further preparation of the inevitable, stored water continued being depleted and resulted in a water crisis in Chennai.

Only Rain Can Save Chennai

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio posted on Instagram, saying that “only rain can save Chennai from this situation.” The picture was of women trying to draw water from an almost empty well. DiCaprio drew attention to the water crisis in Chennai in hopes of highlighting how devastating the conditions are, and to spread awareness about the importance of preparing for droughts.

The Cause of the Problem

The cause of the drought is the vast amount of urbanization in Chennai. Buildings were quickly built on top of underground water reserves, which eventually dried up due to a lack of rainwater being able to enter them. For example, “in the 1920s…the ancient 70 acre Mylapore tank was filled up to create what is now a bustling residential and commercial area called T Nagar.” This means that the citizens of Chennai have to rely on outside water being brought in.

Getting Water from the Government

One solution for the people of Chennai is to order water from government water trucks.  Each day these trucks bring water to a community or neighborhood for people to fill up their reserves. However, current water tankers have long and increasing wait time, causing further problems. Citizens turn to private tankers, but these sell water “for six times the price [of government tankers].” Until the water tanker process can be made more efficient, people are forced to deplete their savings to pay for water, or even move out of Chennai.

Other Possible Solutions

An alternative solution is to invest in the latest technology to make water more accessible for everyone, such as more desalination plants that make saltwater drinkable. One example is the Minjur desalination plant, which is “35km north of…Chennai,” and is the largest desalination plant in India. It has “a capacity of 100 [milliliters/day]” and could potentially help around 500,000 people in Chennai. The state government hopes to use the plant to help in future water crises.

Ironically, Chennai already has a solution, rainwater harvesting, which is mandatory for all buildings by law. This is the simple process of collected rainwater from buildings which can then be stored for later use. According to The Washington Post, the rainwater harvesting process “has not been rigorously implemented or monitored” leaving many people blaming the Chennai government for their inefficiency and lack of preparation for what is the slow and steady degradation of Chennai’s water supply.

While millions of Chennai citizens currently struggle to get drinking water, it is important to remember that there are solutions that can be implemented to stop a water crisis from reoccurring in the future. Solutions such as desalination plants, water trucks and rainwater harvesting are all steps in the right direction to ensure water access for the millions who need it.

– Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

World Changing Celebrities
People often recognize celebrities for their music and performances but there are a variety of stars that use their fame as a platform to support charities, create foundations and change the world. Below are five world changing celebrities that are actively using their voice to fight global poverty.

Leonardo DiCaprio Protects Indigenous Rights

Along with spreading awareness and educating followers about climate change on his Instagram page, DiCaprio created the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation which focusses on protecting all of Earth’s inhabitants. It has recently partnered with Earth Alliance to address and take steps to find solutions to major threats to the planet’s life support systems.

One of his most notable works is the protection of indigenous rights. Dicaprio’s Foundation helps fund programs focused on and led by indigenous people. It helps indigenous people defend their rights, create renewable energy sources, develop sustainable livelihoods and increase the political impact of advocacy efforts. As of 2015, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation accumulated $15 million in grants to fund innovative organizations and environmental projects focused on preserving and protecting the planet.

Christy Turlington Assists with Childbirth Safety in Haiti and Uganda

Because of her personal experience with complications in childbirth, Turlington is using her voice to advocate the importance of making childbirth safe for every woman. In 2010, she worked on “No Woman, No Cry,” a documentary that told the stories of pregnant women in four different countries: Bangladesh, Guatemala, Tanzania and the United States. She expressed the need for lifesaving medical care for women giving birth in case of the occurrence of complications.

She also founded the nonprofit Every Mother Counts, an organization that focuses on the health and wellbeing of mothers all over the world. As of now, her organization has partners in countries like Guatemala, Haiti, India, Tanzania and the U.S., and has impacted more than 600,000 lives.

Matt Damon Gives Access to Safe Water

Another of the world changing celebrities is Matt Damon, who is the co-founder of Water.org, an organization focused on providing families with safe water and sanitation. The foundation hopes that less time spent searching for water will allow children to go to school and get an education, improve health and help the economy. Damon’s foundation expresses the importance of access to affordable financing through WaterCredit. WaterCredit is a pay-it-forward system that makes it possible for household water and toilet solutions by bringing repayable loans to those who need access to affordable financing. In total, Damon’s foundation has benefited more than 20 million people across 12 different countries.

The Lewis Family Improves Access to Health Care

In the 1980s, Ryan Lewis’ mother, Julie Lewis, contracted HIV due to a blood transfusion from pregnancy complications. She lived through her prognosis and decided to create the 30/30 project. The 30/30 project’s main focus is to improve access to comprehensive health care by building multiple medical facilities worldwide. The project has placed a total of 30 medical facilities in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, Togo, India, the U.S., Rwanda, Bolivia and Puerto Rico.

The organization places medical facilities based on the needs of the area. For example, the Mbita Clinic in Kenya intends to prevent and treat major diseases, which include HIV, TB, malaria, water­borne illnesses and respiratory and heart ailments. The Mbita Clinic reduces waiting cues, prioritizes critical care needs, improves conditions for the staff and allows for service expansion due to the district’s high infant mortality rate and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. In total, the medical facilities have had 215,963 patient visits.

Bono Fights to End Extreme Poverty

In 2004, Bono co-founded the ONE organization. ONE’s goal is to end extreme poverty and preventable illnesses and diseases by 2030. ONE is a nonprofit organization with diverse groups of people. These groups come together and take action to organize, mobilize, educate and advocate for gender equality, youth employment, quality education and equal access to health services. ONE has secured over $30 billion in funding for historic health initiatives. It also helped pass the Electrify Africa Act of 2016, a U.S. legislation on energy poverty.

From actors to musicians, these five world changing celebrities put their public reputations to use by showing everyone that their voices matter and are an important key to make a difference and change the world.

– Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

Celebrities are Donating
The Amazon rainforest fires of late 2019 are some of the worst to occur since 2010 with an increase in deforestation rates as a primary cause. Celebrities are donating to the Amazon, pledging money to organizations like the Rainforest Alliance, Amazon Watch and Rainforest trust. Many celebrities are donating to help the Amazon so that the indigenous peoples that live there can continue to do so. Other celebrities are raising awareness about the role politics is playing in the Amazon fires.

The Situation

The Amazon rainforest covers much of northwestern Brazil and extends into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries. It is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is notable for its extensive biodiversity. It is also home to nearly one million indigenous peoples consisting of over 400 tribes, each with their own language, culture and territory. These people rely on their land for everything, from food to shelter to medicine, which is why the fires are so devastating to them.

 The anti-indigenous government of Jair Bolsonaro is a root cause of the fires. Bolsonaro normalizes, incites and empowers violence against the environment of the Amazon rainforest and against the tribes who live there. Bolsonaro pledged to increase agricultural activity in the Amazon by opening it to logging, industrial-scale agriculture, ranching and mining.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron tweeted “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!” Along with urging other world leaders to help on social media, Macron threatened to scrap a huge trade deal between the European Union and South America, putting pressure on Bolsonaro to take action.

Alongside the destruction and devastation, celebrities have begun to raise funds and awareness to help put a stop to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Celebrities Donating to the Amazon

Many celebrities are donating monetarily to provide aid. Vanessa Hudgens donated to the Amazon Conservation Team to try to proactively help and Violette Beane gave to multiple organizations while urging her fans to donate if they could and share information if they could not.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental initiative, Earth Alliance, pledged $5 million to Amazon relief. People widely know DiCaprio for his work as an actor, but also for his work to end climate change. Earth Alliance created an emergency fund specifically for the preservation of the Amazon. The money pledged will be going to five local organizations.

In addition to donating, many celebrities are then nominating other celebrities to do the same. Lana Condor of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” donated and then nominated co-stars Janel Parris and Noah Centineo to do so as well. Zoey Deutch donated to the Rainforest Alliance and called on Camila Mendes to do the same. After donating, Mendes nominated “Riverdale” co-star, Charles Melton to give.

“Umbrella Academy” star, Robert Sheehan, went one step further with his donation to the Rainforest Alliance by making it a monthly donation. He also plans to follow the Rainforest Alliance’s 30-day sustainability challenge.

One does not have to be a celebrity to provide aid to the Amazon fires, though. Donating is something anyone can do. The Rainforest Alliance is redirecting 100 percent of its donations to the frontline organizations in Brazil that work to protect the indigenous people. Rainforest Action Network works in Brazil’s Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory supporting the Munduruku people’s campaign to create a recognized territory and monitor the area for illegal logging and mining activity. Other organizations include, but are not limited to Rainforest Foundation U.S., Amazon Watch, Earth Alliance, Amazon Conservation Team and World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

– Darci Flatley
Photo: Flickr

Leonardo DiCaprioLeonardo DiCaprio’s charity work spans a wide range of worthy causes. He has used his celebrity status to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS, conservation efforts, disaster relief and poverty alleviation. According to the celebrity news source Look to the Stars, DiCaprio has made charitable contributions to 20 different foundations in support of 17 causes.

In 1998, when he was 24 years old, DiCaprio recognized the importance of protecting the environment and the need for building a sustainable future. He established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) to contribute to this cause.

Since 2010, the LDF has donated over $30 million to fund high-impact environmental projects in more than 44 countries, according to the organization’s website. “I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems,” DiCaprio said in an interview with the Telegraph in January 2016. “I believe mankind has looked at climate change in the same way, as if it were a fiction. But I think we know better than that.”

DiCaprio’s unwavering commitment to the environment earned him the role of United Nations Messenger of Peace in September 2014. “[DiCaprio’s] global stardom is the perfect match for this global challenge,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a press conference at that time.

Charity Navigator, an organization known for guiding intelligent giving, noted DiCaprio’s involvement in the National Resources Defense Council, WildAid and the World Wildlife Fund on their list of celebrities who put their star power to good use. The LDF raised over $25 million at its inaugural gala in July 2014 thanks to auctioned items from Bono and Simon de Pury, according to Vogue Magazine.

DiCaprio’s charity work extends beyond the realm of fundraising galas or speaking to world leaders. While most celebrities use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for self-promotion, DiCaprio’s accounts are devoted to causes he cares about.

“Leonardo’s website and social media platforms are also dedicated to inspiring the public to take action on key environmental issues,” the LDF website says, regarding DiCaprio’s social media channels. “Growing in reach from just 500,000 followers in 2007 to over 25 million in 2015, Leonardo’s fans have engaged on an array of issues protecting key species — sharks in California, tigers in Asia, elephants in Africa — and calling on world leaders to address climate change.”

Leonardo DiCaprio’s ability to leverage social media for good has not gone unnoticed. Complex Magazine cited DiCaprio as one of 11 celebrities that used social media for good in 2015.

Summer Jackson

Sources: Complex, Look to the Stars, Telegraph, UN, Vogue, Charity Navigator
Photo: Google Images

Leonardo_DiCaprio_Foundation
At a recent fundraising gala, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) raised more than $40 million. This money was dedicated to preserve the last of Earth’s wildlife, habitat, and fragile ecosystems.

DiCaprio stated during the opening ceremony, “We’ve decimated our forests, wild lands, polluted and over fished our rivers and oceans; all the key ecosystems that not only serve as a home to our planet’s biodiversity, but also make life here for us possible”.

The event itself, an annual affair, focused its current efforts on protecting key species like the tiger, rhino, shark, and mountain gorilla by working with governments to conserve the jungles, coral reef and forests they call home.

The LDF was able to raise such a large amount of money in a single evening by holding a live auction, presented by the LDF’s long-term partner Julius Baer and other co-sponsors like Chopard and Armani.

The live auction sold an extensive collection of fine art, luxury items and uniquely memorable lifetime experiences. Some of the items sold were an estate home on Leonardo DiCaprio’s own Belize Island that was sold for over $11 million, a private concert with Elton John sold twice for a total of $3 million, and a limited re-edition of Rodin’s “The Thinker” sold for close to $2 million. This short list of expensive items were a few of the many auctioned off at the gala event. In addition, several key figures at the event donated simply out of the kindness of their hearts for this worthy cause.

Starting in 1998, the LDF has stated its mission of protecting the world’s last wild places. The LDF implements solutions that help restore balance to threatened ecosystems, ensuring the long-term health and well being of all Earth’s inhabitants. Since that time the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has worked on some of the most pressing environmental issues. The LDF has made several strides with grant making, public campaigns and media initiatives to focus efforts on protecting the biodiversity of the world.

With accomplishments like this, it is truly satisfying to see the LDF tirelessly strive to make a difference.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Look to the Stars, Leonardo DiCaprio, Calfund
Photo: Flickr

Leonardo DiCaprio Humanitarian SOS Childrens Villages
Leonardo DiCaprio is a 38-year-old American actor and film producer. He has received three nominations for Academy Awards, as well as nine Golden Globe Awards. DiCaprio has not only received praise regarding his acting career, but also for his efforts in philanthropy.

First and foremost, Leonardo DiCaprio has a strong passion for environmental activism. His longing to protect the environment is one that heavily influences his everyday life. He owns electric and hybrid cars and has even installed solar panels on his home. His personal life is filled with environmentally friendly alternatives to products that would normally cause harm to the earth. His passion also extends into his career – many humanitarian causes can be seen in the movies he’s been in like Blood Diamond and The 11th Hour, for example.

With that being said, here are five things DiCaprio has done for humanity:

  • The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation – DiCaprio has founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. This foundation works to “protect Earth’s last wild places” while also “fostering a harmonious relationship between humanity and the natural world.” Established in 1998, LDF has worked on several significant environmental and humanitarian issues through grant making, campaigning, and media projects.
  • Wildlife preservation – World Wildlife Fund led a tiger habitat conservation effort in Nepal along with DiCaprio’s foundation that turned out to be quite successful. Prior to the event, DiCaprio held an auction which raised $39 million for this effort. This money fueled the effort even more so and allowed WWF to increase the number of tigers in Nepal by 63 percent. Other wildlife conservation efforts focus on endangered shark species and the preservation of rainforest habitats.
  • Ocean Health – Partnering with international funders, the collaborative Oceans 5 marked another great effort in humanitarianism and environmental improvement. Oceans 5 tackles the two highest ecological priorities: stopping overfishing and establishing marine reserves. Thanks to a generous grant, the organization was able to more easily combat these issues.
  • Providing Access to Clean Water – The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation’s grant to Concern Worldwide provided 430,000 people in Tanzania, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Darfur with access to clean water.
  • SOS Children’s Villages – Aside from working with the foundation, DiCaprio also takes interest in humanitarian work in film. In fact, while filming the movie Blood Diamond, DiCaprio worked with 24 orphaned children from SOS Children’s Villages. This independent organization provides family-based care for children with deceased or missing parents. They also support those deemed “vulnerable” through family strengthening programs, which focus on ensuring access to education, healthcare, and psycho-social support. In addition, SOS Children’s Villages offers emergency relief programs.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: Leonardo DiCaprio, Look To The Stars, CCF
Photo: SOS Children’s Villages

Blood_Diamonds_opt
Aside from the popularity afforded by a Leonardo DiCaprio movie, the world has largely forgotten about blood diamonds. A romantic name for an entirely unromantic subject, blood diamonds refer to the gemstones that are mined in conflict zones, often exploiting the miners and putting them at great risk, and benefiting warlords instead of governments.

In 2000, attempts were made to stem the flow of diamonds through the Kimberley Process, which required all diamonds to be certified by governments as legitimate (i.e. mined in non-conflict zones) before exportation. The program was initially successful but quickly fell apart after corruption saw most governments bribed to allow the sale of blood diamonds.

Though ongoing, the issue faded from public awareness until 2011 when Angolan journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques published “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola”.

The book documented the human rights abuses and killings in Angola at the hands of the military. Marques describes events of shocking brutality in the military’s effort to maintain control over the diamond trade. Among them, 15 miners were forced to jump to their deaths from a speeding truck at different times so that their bodies would be scattered and more difficult to locate, a mine was purposefully destroyed to bury and kill 45 workers, and there were routine stripping and beating of workers and villagers with the flat sides of machetes.

The book has garnered attention not only for its graphic content, but for the struggles Marques has had to face as a result of writing it. He was subsequently sued by eight generals for libel, in an attempt to intimidate or bankrupt him, but recently the courts found his writings protected under free speech.

Yet Marques’ fight seems as though it will be fruitless without international intervention. Angola’s Attorney General is not pursuing the case. Also, the generals accused in the book remain free as Angola’s leader, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, cannot afford to turn against them.

The responsibility now lies with consumers; the flow of diamonds responds entirely to a demand in consumer countries. Human rights movements are urging consumers to demand ethically-sourced products or seek alternatives. Though Africa seems unable stop the production of blood diamonds, global consumers wield the power to deny them a market.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: Brilliant Earth, All Africa
Photo: Mickeyboston