$150,000 Award Rejected due to Immoral Investments

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The insurance company Aviva gives a cash award for community groups that make a positive change, one of their winners this year rejected the financial award. Indigenous Climate Action were thrilled to found out they won, but not so thrilled when they found out that one issue they are campaign against is backed by Aviva. It turns out that Aviva invests in the tar sands. As a result, ICA stood their ground and turned down the money. It’s good to see that a group that could really benefit from additional resources stayed true to their mandate.

Shortly after receiving news they were winners in the competition, ICA received information that Aviva plc, Aviva Canada’s parent company, held major passive investments (over half a billion  USD) in corporations operating in Alberta’s tar sands, including: Teck Resource Ltd (Frontier Open pit mine), Encana, Exxon, Imperial, Suncor, Chevron, Cenovus, Kinder Morgan (TransMountain pipeline), TransCanada (Keystone XL pipeline); and Enbridge (Line 3 pipeline)1. These investments, according to ICA, are in direct contradiction with their organizational mandate.

“We cannot in good conscience accept an award from a corporation that is financially associated with fossil fuel energy projects that violate the rights of Indigenous peoples and contribute to global climate change. Our organization is working to support Indigenous rights and address the climate crisis while Aviva is investing in corporations proposing or operating tar sands projects that threaten water, land, the climate and Indigenous rights,” stated Eriel Deranger, Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action.

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Volunteering Improves Your Mental Health

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Volunteering is good for others, and it’s good for the volunteers too. People all have difference reasons for volunteering in their communities and whatever motivates them clearly helps others too. What’s really interesting is that it turns out that volunteers are rewarded by better mental health. Yes, volunteering can help people deal with depression and provide a clearer purpose in life.

It’s generally understood that helping out others makes a person feel nice, but that experience goes beyond just the feel-good glow of altruism. Studies have found that helping others has tangible benefits, both mental and physical, from lowering your blood pressure to reducing feelings of depression. And research hasn’t found any significant difference in the types of volunteering—any kind of helpful act can create benefits.

“Research has shown that there’s evidence volunteer work promotes that psychological well being you’re talking about,” Rodlescia Sneed, a public health research associate at Michigan State University who has studied the impacts of volunteering. “In my own work I’ve shown it’s linked to improvements in factors like depressive symptoms, purpose in life, and feelings of optimism.”

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Breathe Easy Thanks to Public Transit

Traffic congested cities suffer not just people stressed out in cars but the exhaust their cars toss into the air. As a result of the use of automobiles asthma and other respiratory issues increase in urban areas, leading to increased health costs and harder lives. This means that if we want people living in cities to breath easy we ought to provide more and better transit options.

A 2002 report [PDF] by the American Public Transit Association pointed out the big difference in the contribution to pollution is that, per passenger mile, public transit produces significantly less pollution than private automobiles: “only 5% as much carbon monoxide, less than 8% as many volatile organic compounds and nearly half as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.” Studies have shown that children, especially if they are active outdoors in areas with high ozone levels, are more vulnerable to the pollution they inhale.

During the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, more public transit was put on to ensure traffic tie-ups wouldn’t delay athletes and fans. Morning rush-hour traffic was reduced by 22.5 per cent. Consequently, daily peak ozone levels dropped by 27.9 per cent. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of incidents of children needing medical attention for asthma in that period dropped by 41 to 44 per cent.

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Flash North Korea for Freedom

Flash Drives For Freedom from Doug Burnett on Vimeo.

The reclusive state of North Korea doesn’t like it when information leaks in or out. The government is propped up by ignorance, fear, and a lack of a viable alternative. They control their population by limiting access to knowledge; North Korea bans free and open internet just like their neighbour China (and ironically as does their opponent the USA). An international organization has been fighting the censorship in North Korea by attaching USB flash drives to balloons and letting them drop randomly in the country. And it’s making a difference.

Believe it or not, USBs are a significant form of sharing information in North Korea. Many citizens have devices with USB ports. So for many years, North Korean defectors have organized efforts to smuggle outside info into North Korea on USB drives to counter Kim Jong-un’s constant propaganda. But these groups were buying USB drives at cost with limited resources. Flash Drives For Freedom is a campaign that travels the world inspiring people to donate their own USB drives. As a collaboration between the Human Rights Foundation, Forum 280, and USB Memory Direct, Flash Drives for Freedom is significantly increasing the capacities of these North Korean defector groups.

Check it out.

Intersection Design Improved by Using Leaves

Dave Meslin got back to his roots by engaging in some very local activism. The Toronto-based activist, artists, and all around good person decided to change an intersection near his house. The intersection is not particular safe or well designed. By using just chalk and raked leaves he and his merry band of locals improved the intersection. It’s now safer and has revealed space that can be used to plant trees or a new park for people to relax in.

Using only sidewalk chalk and fallen leaves, Meslin and his neighbours temporarily “fixed” a dangerous intersection near Regal Road and Springmount, taking special care to maintain all existing road widths at a city-approved 28 feet.

“We revealed a surplus surface area of 2,000 square feet which could be transformed into a parkette, new sidewalks, and much shorter/safer crossings,” wrote Meslin in a Facebook post about the project.

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