Cool Roofs

First researched in the 1980s, cool roofs only became a reality around 2001. This cooling technology naturally cools the house, while being cheaper and more energy-efficient than traditional roofs, prompting many parts of the world to consider shifting towards them. The world will benefit financially, environmentally and even comfort-wise from the addition of cool roofs.

The Problem

Over 1 billion people in developing countries face significant risks from extreme heat, with no access to electricity for cooling. Another 2.3 billion can only afford inefficient, unhealthy air conditioning models that use HFC gases that are thousands of times more polluting than carbon dioxide. The energy demand from developing countries is predicted to climb more than 33-fold by 2100. Americans alone consume the same amount of electricity for air conditioning as the total electricity used for all the needs of 1.1 billion people in Africa. The introduction of cool roofs, though a seemingly insignificant change, would not only help people in developing nations but those in developed countries as well.

How it Works

Cool roofs are created by using cool roof coatings, which are thick, white or reflective paint applied to the roof, it covers or shingles to protect the roof from UV light, chemical and water damage, maintaining and restoring the roof itself, making it last longer than traditional roofs. The paint reflects the sunlight, keeping the house cooler than can a traditional roof, which absorbs the sunlight instead. In so doing, cool roofs can reduce indoor temperatures by 3.6-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (2-3 degrees Celsius) and can reduce the internal temperatures of individual rooms by 20 percent. As for urban heat island effects, they can reduce urban temperatures up to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).


In addition to reducing cooling costs and increasing roof life, cool roofs are environmentally friendlier than traditional roofs. They reduce air temperature, retard smog formation and decrease power plant emissions (carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, mercury) and reduce electricity demand in the summer. When the house itself is already cool during the summer, people do not need to use as much air conditioning, thus reducing the usual strain on the electricity grid.

The people who would likely benefit first from the addition of cool roofs are the estimated 630 million people that may already have access to electricity, but have poor quality housing and may not be able to afford a fan or the money to run it. Regions with the highest population of these people are China, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan and Iraq.

Regions That Are Shifting To Cool Roofs

Mexico is participating in the Global Superior Energy Performance Partnership (GSEP) and is working towards installing more cool roofs. Mexican authorities are not yet aware of the advantages of cool roofs, thus the goal is to communicate the impact on energy efficiency, economy, health and comfort that cool roofs will have on the population. This technology saves energy and saves money on air conditioning as well.

South Africa is also part of the GSEP and has begun a Cool Surfaces Project, a collaborative agreement between the American and South African Departments of Energy. People in South Africa need technology that will provide them with the benefits that cool roofs provide (fire retardancy, passive-energy usage, waterproofing, low cost, low maintenance, cooling), making it a perfect fit for them. This project will save them a lot of money and energy, as well as influencing nearby regions to follow suit. Kheis, a rural community of about 15,000 in South Africa, is one of the leaders in developing this cool roof approach to provide a respite from the heat.

Globally, when less money and energy is devoted towards air conditioning either in the first or the third world, more can be done to confront other problems. The installation of cool roofs creates jobs, reduces the strain on electricity grids, naturally cools buildings and even lowers the net temperature of local areas.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Latin American Drug Cartels Target Impoverished Children

Drug cartels are a rising problem everywhere, especially for those that are in poverty. Children, specifically children in poverty, are generally the most vulnerable population anywhere in the world. Latin American drug cartels target impoverished children specifically due to their innocence and willingness to obey. Although this situation seems unfixable, people are uniting together against Latin American drug cartels, providing much needed hope.

The Situation

In Latin America, 43 percent of children live in poverty. These children’s come from families with no money for food, clothing or shelter. Cartels know the struggles of these children, so they offer them work. Because many feel they have no choice but to accept work from Latin American drug cartels, 80 percent of children under 25 agree to work for them.

Young children in Mexico and other Latin American countries draw less suspicion than older individuals and are willing to work for little money. As a result, the cartels use them in every way possible. Cartels often send children unaccompanied to push drugs across borders. Subsequently, border security will help unaccompanied children, thus enabling drug traffickers to smuggle drugs across borders.

How Countries Combat Drug Cartels

Luckily for these children, countries are taking steps to eliminate cartels. Recently, Mexico initiated a joint investigative team with the U.S. to fight against drug cartels. The U.S. and Mexico have worked together to combat cartels since the 1970s. For instance, one program, the Merida Initiative, worked to stop the flow of illegal weapons from the U.S. into Mexico and, subsequently, Latin American cartels. Similarly, the U.S. and Mexico offer amnesty to drug dealers in exchange for information.

This new joint investigative team is based in Chicago and directly targets cartel finances. Cartels survive by distributing goods to suppliers and laundering money. Therefore, disrupting their finances and cracking down on money laundering will drastically slow their production. In doing so, the team intends to weaken and ultimately stop Latin American drug cartels.

How Nonprofit Organizations and KIND Help

Nonprofit organizations band together to help the children that drug smugglers employed previously. One organization in particular, KIND, is dedicated to offering such help. KIND protects children’s rights when unaccompanied children are detained by the U.S. and when they are on the move. KIND ensures detained children receive necessary legal aid, especially as these children are burdened with an immigration system they do not understand.

With the U.S. and Mexico targeting drug cartels’ financial assets and nonprofit organizations providing the necessary help, there is hope to eliminate drug cartels and keep vulnerable children safe. The U.S. and Mexico, along with nonprofit organizations, are executing solutions to keep drug cartels away from children and shut them down altogether.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: Pixabay

Recently, immigration has been at the forefront of political controversy given its potential for economic impact on both nations. The underlying economics of U.S.-Mexico immigration offers a glimpse into the roots of the issue and how it is being addressed today.

Escaping Drug Activity

Currently, a great deal of the migrants come from economically and politically troubled states where a great deal of blame is directed at drug organizations battled by federal governments. The poorer states tend to have a disproportionate amount of drug-related activity, which can bottleneck growth to the drug-elite in the states.

Take, for example, Michoacán. The state is a leader in the most migrants sent to the United States and has also been noted as one of United States’ five states to avoid when traveling in Mexico. While the state is 15th in GDP, it accounts for 57 percent of Mexico’s ‘very poor’ population.

Seeking Economic Stability

Drug activity, however, is only a part of the problem. While job prospects are available, the pay rate is very low. Unemployment sits around the three percent mark, but the minimum wage rate is just below five dollars. The high opportunity cost of those working in cartels serves as a major factor in why many may join. For others, crossing the borders to the north is a better option.

Of the 50 states, California receives the most of the legal and illegal immigration from Mexico (37 percent). Consequently, the state and private organizations have taken significant measures to try and remedy underlying economic stressors and ensure smooth transitions for immigrants in the U.S.

Decrease in Emigration

Over the years, factors in the economics of U.S.-Mexico immigration have shifted. Although there is increased media coverage, emigration from Mexico has actually decreased. Since 2008, the number dropped from 6.4 per 1000 residents to 3.3 and has continued to fluctuate around the number.

Part of the reason is that conditions in the United States, while better, are not easy to access. Stanford scholars at the university’s Immigration Policy Lab found that a high cost of naturalization actually prevents low-income immigrants from becoming citizens. The fee to apply for citizenship in the United States is $725, a steep price for numerous immigrants.

Outside Aid

To address the economic issues in Mexico, Mexican organizations such as ProMéxico have tried to change the image globally by attracting foreign investment. At the core of its goals is the belief of “obeying the principle of the common good and contributing to sustainable development.” As the organization develops over the next few years, it hopes to expand its reach and deepen its impact.

Similarly, American initiatives have followed suit. LatinSF is a public-private partnership between the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the San Francisco Center for Economic Development that works to “promote business and trade between San Francisco and the Latin American region.”

Starting a formal connection between San Francisco and the Latin American region is key for mutual development. This effort helps individuals working in Mexico and provides an opportunity for immigrants arriving in the United States.

Academic and Technological Influence

Once immigrants are in the United States and settle in states like California, local universities pitch in. UC Berkeley and Stanford University each have their own Immigration Law Clinics which offer “law assistance to economically disadvantaged immigrants.”

The clinics help prep immigrants, regardless of immigration status, with interviewing, document filing and other legal matters. Private organizations such as the ACLU and Immigrant Legal Resource Center have contributed in the same way as well.

The issue is not just being addressed by the legal field. Studies conducted at UC Berkeley have led to new developments such as an app that recognizes immigrant concentrations and government funds that are not being allocated to the correct locations.

By correcting spatial differences, Jasmin Slootjes, executive director of the Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative, notes that the initiative is “providing local officials with the facts about immigrant communities and their service needs.”

Unweaving the Complex Economics of U.S.-Mexico Immigration

The immigration issue is undoubtedly complex. It is important to remember, however, that the underlying economic factors are the first steps to resolving the issue.

Addressing the problem will require the continued effort of both proactive organizations like ProMéxico and universities that help immigrants acclimate to a new world, and such combined efforts should make a world of impact.

Mrinal Singh
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to MexicoMexico is a country that has been ravaged by poverty for centuries. About 44 million of its total population live in poverty, while 14 million Mexicans live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 a day.

Despite the rampant destitution, there have been several noteworthy efforts that highlight the success of humanitarian aid to Mexico. One example is CHOICE Humanitarian. This organization has worked in Mexico for over twenty years, partnering with countless rural villages in Mexico. They have left an indelible mark on nine Mexican states, teaching vital skills such as cheese making, blacksmithing and livestock micro enterprises, among others. Other useful programs have been implemented as well, such as savings programs for women, healthcare training and constructing classrooms.

One of the goals of CHOICE Humanitarian is to establish self-sustaining projects that allow villages to thrive on their own. This typically takes about three to five years, but Mexico has seen tremendous success in this particular humanitarian endeavor. It is a shining example of humanitarian aid to Mexico.

That being said, there is still much work to be done. Thousands of villages in Mexico are still in dire need of help and have not reached this level of sustainability and economic independence.

The earthquakes that devastated Mexico only a few months ago resulted in an influx of aid from the international community. No amount of aid could fully efface the tragedy of the event, but other nations such as Bolivia donated generously in the aftermath. The Bolivian government sent a cargo plane full of 11 tons of humanitarian aid. The aid consisted of sanitary equipment, non-perishable food and two thousand blankets. In addition, the Bolivian President Evo Morales tweeted his country’s solidarity with Mexico. Bolivia has continued to pledge more aid to Mexico, making the future of humanitarian aid to Mexico more promising.

In a country like Mexico, where poverty is rampant, the amount of aid it receives is vital for its future success. While the country has seen a string of tragedies as of late, mostly in the form of natural disasters, many countries have stepped up to help in its time of need. While humanitarian aid in Mexico is not without its merit, more work certainly needs to be done.

– Mohammad Hasan Javed

Photo: Flickr

Finding a New Way Forward: Infrastructure in MexicoUnderdeveloped educational and economic infrastructure in Mexico cultivates conditions where many turn to crime as a means of survival, supplying and staffing the drug cartels ravaging the country and funneling narcotics into the U.S.

In Mexico, one in four youths between the ages of 15 and 24 is neither employed nor enrolled in school. These “ninis” (“ni estudian ni trabajan—[those who] neither study nor work”) represent a potential labor pool of seven and a half million people for the cartels.

The “nini” phenomenon is partly fueled by a lack of accountability in the education infrastructure in Mexico. Mexican universities are not required to report data which would allow for ranking or evaluation of their educational effectiveness, effectively killing accountability and incentives to ensure that curricula adequately prepare students for the modern workforce.

Underdeveloped agricultural infrastructure in Mexico also contributes to the number of narcotics available for the cartels to traffic. Antonio Mazzitelli of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime states that “it is not drug production that generates underdevelopment[,] it is the lack of development that generates the opium cultivation.” In this, he agrees with the findings of the Open Society Foundation, which found that underdevelopment of agricultural infrastructure, in conjunction with other development factors, is common among regions where drug cultivation is high.

The Mexican government, recognizing these issues, is working to increase investment in infrastructure across the country. The Peña administration’s current National Infrastructure Plan is slated to inject nearly 7.75 trillion pesos (about $400 billion) into development, especially in transportation and communications infrastructure in Mexico.

Such projects promise to knit the country closer together and bring more opportunities to both rural areas and “ninis” nationwide. The U.S. is working to complement these efforts to improve infrastructure in Mexico through its Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID works with universities in both Mexico and the U.S. as part of the Training, Internships, Exchanges and Scholarships (TIES) program to create partnerships between higher education institutions in both countries to address development issues. USAID also supports training programs for Mexican educators in the U.S., with the intention that they return to rural, disadvantaged communities in Mexico to pass on their skills and help lead local development initiatives.

Whether these programs—and others supported by USAID—will survive potential cuts by the Trump administration remains to be seen. Following a deal with Democrats, a decision concerning the final fate of his budget proposal has been put off until the end of this year.

Domestic political conditions may also have a significant impact on infrastructure in Mexico. Elections will be held in July to vote for a new president. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, head of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), is currently ahead in the polls, according to Reuters. He is campaigning on a platform of eliminating corruption and putting the money saved towards economic development.

– Joel Dishman
Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in MexicoThe United States’ southern neighbor Mexico is the second-largest economy in Latin America, as well as the second most populated Latin American country. Over half of that population (52.2 percent) are women. Overall, the country has made major strides towards women’s empowerment in Mexico, but it faces several serious ongoing challenges.

Economic inequality is one of the biggest threats to women’s empowerment in Mexico. Women in Mexico produce 50 percent of the country’s food, but only 10 percent have control of property or land.

Mexico is known for its traditional, even patriarchal culture. Harassment of women and “machismo” are rife. More disconcerting is the violence women experience in Mexico. 63 percent of women in Mexico over age 15 have experienced some sort of violence. This violence can range from domestic abuse to street violence and abuse by criminal groups. 840 women were murdered between 2010 and 2013, and 1,258 women disappeared between 2011 and 2012 alone.

To make matters worse, Mexican law enforcement, be it federal, state or local, often does not follow through with investigating crimes, especially disappearances and murders. Many times, the authorities will not even take the most basic steps towards investigating incidents. It is not uncommon for people to be told by the police that they should investigate a crime. In fact, Mexican security forces often are the ones perpetrating the “enforced disappearances” and extrajudicial killings.

Despite the roadblocks to women’s empowerment in Mexico, change is on the horizon, especially on the legislative level. The National Development Plan and the National Gender Equality Policy are bringing gender equality into the government spotlight as well as setting aside funds and detailing specific goals to advance gender equality.

Activists have also stepped up to the plate to advance women’s empowerment in Mexico. One group, whose name translates to “May Our Daughters Return Home,” formed in response to the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, seeks to call out inaction on the part of Mexican society and government. More critically, groups like it are bringing the issue of violence against women to light and letting victims know they are not alone and have a voice.

Women’s empowerment in Mexico is still an uphill battle, but with more and more women making their voices heard, it is starting to look like a battle that will be won.

 – Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Natural Disasters Hit Poor the HardestThe aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which hit the Caribbean and United States in September 2017, along with the 8.1 magnitude earthquake that shook Mexico also in September illustrate the total destruction entire communities face when hit by natural disasters. Natural disasters have been proven to increase poverty and most adversely affect those who are already poor.

The category five Hurricane Irma made landfall on Antigua, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Barbuda, Guadeloupe and more, totaling over 10 Caribbean countries affected. In Barbuda alone, 90 percent of vehicles and buildings have been destroyed and many people have been left homeless. Because Barbuda is not as wealthy as other Caribbean countries, it cannot as quickly rebuild for its people, leaving its citizens more impoverished than ever.

Mexico’s 8.1 magnitude earthquake has also left many suddenly in poverty or more impoverished than they previously were. Many buildings were reduced completely to rubble, particularly in the town of Juchitan, which was hit hardest by the earthquake. Residents of the town slept in streets and parks following the earthquake to avoid aftershock and because of damages to numerous homes creating uninhabitable conditions.

Juchitan is located in Oaxaca, a rural region in southwestern Mexico, and one of the poorest areas in the country. Jorge Valenica, a reporter from Mexico City, discussed the damaging effects of the earthquake on Juchitan in an interview with NPR. He stated, “As with many natural disasters, the communities that get hit the worst sometimes are the communities that were already the most in need.”

The World Bank reports that poor people are so adversely affected by natural disasters because they are usually more exposed to natural hazards – i.e. their homes, if they have them, are not built as well, and they have less access to evacuation resources than those who are middle and upper class. Unfortunately, when the poor lose necessities like shelter, they typically do not have savings, family, friends or the government to fall back on. Even those who do not completely lose their homes often cannot avoid repairs and renovations due to new building standards created to make homes safer.

In light of the worsening of poverty in places hit by natural disasters, organizations such as Oxfam continue to work to provide basic needs to individuals, focusing upon hygiene and sanitation for those most affected by the storms. Oxfam’s main goal after Hurricane Irma is to contain and eliminate any cholera and other diseases caused by damage to water infrastructure, helping to keep people healthy. Natural disasters continue to hit the world’s poor the hardest, but even in the wake of a catastrophe, goodness, giving and help can be found.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

Facts and Figures in MexicoIn recent years, access to education has expanded in Mexico. From 1950 to 2000, the total number of students enrolled in some form of formal education grew from 3.25 million to 28.22 million. While these statistics represent a vast improvement, there is still a lot of room for reform in Mexico’s educational system – recently there have been clashes between the government and teachers’ unions. Issues such as regional and economic inequalities, lack of educational access, financial strains and other factors make it difficult for many children to attain a quality education.

To aid in understanding the core issues with education in Mexico, here are some recent facts and figures:

  1. Despite the increase in enrollment Mexican schools have seen, many students fail to actually attend school and complete their education. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that about 21 percent of students in Mexico give up pursuing their education before the age of 14.
  2. For students who do intend to complete their full public education, there are few high-quality options. This is because the Mexican government currently spends about $7,600 per student, compared to approximately $27,900 per student in the United States.
  3. Additionally, the huge increase in the number of enrolled students has created a financial strain on Mexico’s government, which could contribute to the diminishing quality of public schools. This is because the majority of education in Mexico is publicly-funded, with 70 percent of students enrolled in higher education attending public schools.
  4. In particular, access to public education is the worst for indigenous and rural communities, according to the director of Mexico’s National Institute of Educational Evaluation, Sylvia Schmelkes. Government leaders fear that this lack of educational access could further the growing income inequality in Mexico, as rural students are not provided with opportunities for upward mobility.
  5. Patricio Solís, the research professor at the Center for Sociological Studies of the National Institute, found that the impact this has on rural students can be seen empirically. Children in the highest income groups have 7 times greater access to education than children of lower income levels.
  6. In addition to regional differences, gender differences are another major issue in Mexico’s educational system. Many young women are deterred from receiving an education and are instead pressured to marry at a young age. This has a direct impact on their education, as 83 percent of girls who choose marriage drop out of school, compared to the 15 percent of unmarried girls who drop out.

According to these current facts and figures in Mexico, access to education is growing but is in need of major reform. Despite the president’s attempts to reform education, many of his plans have been criticized for their impact on rural schools. Teachers argue that the president must address the unique situation and education style in rural areas rather than penalize them for failing to meet universal standards.

Julia Morrison

poverty rate in Mexico
Mexico has the highest poverty rate in North America. Its economy is based on commodities and manufacturing, and it has the second highest degree of economic disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Here are the top six answers about the poverty rate in Mexico:

1. What is the poverty rate in Mexico?

The poverty rate in Mexico in 2014 was 26.2 percent. In a population of 120 million, 55.3 million live below the poverty line. This number is a slight decrease from 2010, revealing that the modest economic growth in the country was not enough to better the poorest people’s circumstances.

2. How is the poverty level determined in Mexico?

Poverty rates are measured by Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL). The council examines the current per capita income, level of education, access to health securities, access to social security, quality and the size of one’s home and access to food. CONEVAL defines poverty as, “People with an income below the wellbeing threshold and with one or more social deprivations.” In 2014, poverty was defined as living on less that 2,542 pesos ($157.70) a month in urban areas and 1,615 pesos in rural areas.

3. What areas of Mexico have the highest poverty rate?

Regions of the the southern pacific coast traditionally have the highest poverty rates. Chiapas has a poverty rate of 76.2 percent and is the poorest state in the country. Oaxaca is the second poorest state with a poverty rate of 66.8 percent. Both of these states are along the southern pacific coast.

4. What about extreme poverty?

The rate of extreme poverty has dropped 0.3 percent from 2010 and is now at 9.5 percent. Extreme poverty is defined as 1,243 pesos in cites and 868 pesos a month in rural areas. Government services have been successful in supporting the least well off in the country. Government programs such as a conditional cash transfer program, Oportunidades, and expansion of health care coverage have reduced the rates of extreme poverty. The majority of people in extreme poverty are the indigenous population of the country.

5. How does economic growth affect the poverty rate in Mexico?

Consistent research shows that economic growth and development is the best way to reduce poverty. Unfortunately, Mexico’s economic growth rate has been stagnant around two to three percent for the past 20 years. The growth rate needs to increase in order to reduce the poverty rate in Mexico. The income of the poor has not increased although Mexicans have seen an increase in services, such as education and healthcare.

6. How does the population size relate to the poverty rate?

The poverty rate may appear to have decreased, but as the population increases the number of poverty living in poverty is actually on the rise. For example, between 2010 and 2012 the poverty rate in Mexico dropped 0.6 percent, but half a million more people were living below the poverty line.

Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, faces challenging circumstances for lowering the poverty rate. The government priority is on expanding Mexico’s economy rather than creating programs to help people come out of poverty, so a heavier focus on this important issue is necessary for improvement.

Sarah Denning

Mexican Wages
The U.S., Canada and Mexico began renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on August 16. An updated agreement could result in higher wages for struggling Mexican workers.

One of the main topics of renegotiation is expected to be workers’ rights. Then presidential candidate Donald Trump stated that he desired a new NAFTA for Americans in the Rust Belt – one way to do so is to close the gap between American and Mexican wages.

Signed into law in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, NAFTA lowered trading barriers between North American neighbors and opened the gates to free trade. Many businesses migrated to Mexico as a result.

Soon after, North American consumers experienced increases in their standards of living. Prices of consumer goods depressed due to businesses cutting labor costs via lower Mexican wages.

Lower prices do not paint a complete picture, though, as many blue-collar workers in the U.S. were left without jobs. At the same time, keeping Mexican wages low was in the interest of many manufacturers.

Now, over 20 years later, NAFTA will be renegotiated and the U.S. will have manufacturing on its mind. One way to entice businesses to stay in the U.S. is to impose new labor restrictions in Mexico.

The average wage in Mexico is not even a fifth that of that in the U.S. New labor restrictions could mean higher wages for the average Mexican laborer, who currently lives on $4.50 a day – sometimes less, depending on the area.

There is also the fear that the talks will lead nowhere because what the U.S. wants might not align with the interests of Mexico. Ildefonso Guajardo, a Mexican representative who will be present at the talks, has suggested that, if they are treated unfairly by the U.S., they will return the treatment.

Labor economists have said that the labor reforms that Mexico had previously agreed on during the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should be the starting point for the U.S. This is the same partnership from which President Trump just pulled the United States.

Officials believe that NAFTA discussions should be finished by the end of the year if all goes smoothly. Labor reforms would certainly mean good news for Mexican laborers but not-so-good news for consumers who will feel the burden of higher prices.

Thomas James Anania

Photo: Google