Just Show Up

People often say to me “Why go to protests? They don’t change anything.” Usually my response relates to the necessity of an actively engaged population within a democracy. If we’re not on the streets asking for change then change won’t happen. The usually response to that is a lame excuse that we can’t change the institutionalized systems.
We can and we do.

If 2011 has taught us anything it’s that being on the streets matter. Talking politics matters. Talking about injustice matters. Telling friends why you’re protesting something matters. Voting matters. Writing politicians matters. It all matters.

Not going to protests and not talking about these things ensures that change will not happen. If anything, if people aren’t involved then the change that happens is usually the change that isn’t good for society.

So let’s change things for the better. Let’s do this because we can and because we need to.

Looking back on 2011 we have seen a near-global awakening of people-powered movements that come in a different form everywhere. We’ve heard a lot about Egypt and Libya in the west but there have been more. Some are still ongoing in Syria, Bahrain, and many other Middle Eastern countries. Closer to home in North America we have the Occupy Movement.

All of these movements have different concerns, different people, different reasons why they are on the street. They even have different goals.

There is one thing that they all have in common from Occupy Sydney to the oppressed people of Bahrain: to make the world a better place through democratic inclusion.

Who can’t get behind that?

For the upcoming year of 2012 I challenge every reader of Things Are Good to get out there and just show up at your local protest for positive change.

The Arab Spring initiated a jarring series of events in 2011 that illustrate the radical political possibilities of just being present. When the regime won’t listen, when being heard as an individual isn’t really a viable option, simply standing together and being seen can be profoundly political and empowering.

But will just “being there” really bring significant change?

Revolutions never happen overnight. They result from accumulations of dozens, even hundreds of moments, often stretching over a period of years, that make possible the ruptures that emerge when vast numbers of people begin to imagine, and then to demand, an alternative to their living conditions. We have been seeing these moments over the past year, first in the Middle East but then spreading to England, Brazil, Spain, Great Britain, the United States, and elsewhere. In this sense, we are experiencing a revolutionary moment in which the popular perception of what is possible has indisputably shifted in a way unseen on a global scale since 1968.

The Radical Power of Just Showing Up.

A Charity That to Improves Afghanistan Using Skincare

A bizarre title that’s for sure and it’s by no means an exaggeration. ARGHAND is working in Afghanistan and employing locals to produce skincare products that are all-natural and are composed of plants only found in the country.

ARGHAND, the only all-natural, sustainable skincare line from Afghanistan, was founded by Sarah Chayes, a former correspondent for National Public Radio who covered the fall of the Taliban, then stayed behind to help rebuild the war-torn country.

Given the abundance of lush fruits and exotic herbs that have grown in the orchards and fields of southern Afghanistan for millenia, the need forsustainable economic development in the area, the ravages of the opium economy and the difficulty of transporting fresh fruit, Chayes and a group of Afghan friends got a great idea: Why not transform the exquisite produce, long the fame of the region, into high quality bath and body products, thus adding value while stabilizing the products for export?

Thanks to Lee!

Solar Cell System Produces More Energy Than Light Absorbed

In something that sounds close to magic, some researchers the American National Renewable Energy Laboratory have found a way to get solar cells to produce more energy with over an 100% quantum efficiency. Basically more energy is created than light that hits the cell. This is done by exploiting quantum mechanics to produce more energy from solar cells.

The external quantum efficiency for photocurrent, usually expressed as a percentage, is the number of electrons flowing per second in the external circuit of a solar cell divided by the number of photons per second of a specific energy (or wavelength) that enter the solar cell. None of the solar cells to date exhibit external photocurrent quantum efficiencies above 100 percent at any wavelength in the solar spectrum.

Quantum dots, by confining charge carriers within their tiny volumes, can harvest excess energy that otherwise would be lost as heat – and therefore greatly increase the efficiency of converting photons into usable free energy.
The researchers achieved the 114 percent external quantum efficiency with a layered cell consisting of antireflection-coated glass with a thin layer of a transparent conductor, a nanostructured zinc oxide layer, a quantum dot layer of lead selenide treated with ethanedithol and hydrazine, and a thin layer of gold for the top electrode.

In a 2006 publication, NREL scientists Mark Hanna and Arthur J. Nozik showed that ideal MEG in solar cells based on quantum dots could increase the theoretical thermodynamic power conversion efficiency of solar cells by about 35 percent relative to today’s conventional solar cells. Furthermore, the fabrication of Quantum Dot Solar Cells is also amenable to inexpensive, high-throughput roll-to-roll manufacturing.

Read the rest at Physorg.

Sustainable Power for Facebook

Greenpeace has worked with Facebook to convert Facebook’s coal-powered datacentres to environmentally friends power sources.

In April 2011, a Greenpeace report, How Dirty is your Data?, calculated that 53.2% of Facebook’s electricity was generated by coal. Energy consumption by datacentres is growing rapidly and each of Facebook’s US datacentres is estimated to consume the same electricity as 30,000 US homes.

Facebook said it wanted to develop its platform to work more closely with Greenpeace to “promote environmental awareness and action” after the two organisations published a joint statement on future collaboration.

Marcy Scott Lynn, of Facebook’s sustainability programme, said it looked forward “to a day when our primary energy sources are clean and renewable, and we are working with Greenpeace and others to help bring that day closer. As an important step, our datacentre siting policy now states a preference for access to clean and renewable energy.”

She added that Greenpeace had been “particularly effective” in using Facebook, saying: “We are excited to work with them to explore new ways in which people can use Facebook to engage and connect on the range of energy issues that matter most to them – from their own energy efficiency to access to cleaner sources of energy.”

Read more at The Guardian.

Young Farmers Band Together to Propose New Farm Bill

Farmers don’t have it easy.  There are significant hurdles to overcome for young farmers trying to produce sustainable food on traditional farms.  There is a surging movement of young farmers trying to bring apprenticeships, local partnerships, and community supported agriculture (CSA) to the masses by proposing changes to the 2012 Farm Bill.

Across the U.S., young people are heeding the call for a more just, sustainable, and healthy food system, and are heading to the fields to build it themselves. They are working on farms and starting their own small-scale farm businesses from scratch. But, as the National Young Farmers’ Coalition recently revealed, there are big obstacles getting in the way of these green entrepreneurs — and the change eaters want to see on their grocery store shelves. Last month, the Coalition released the results of a needs survey of 1,000 young and beginning farmers from across the nation. They also made recommendations for anyone looking to help these farmers succeed. Chief among these recommendations is a set of proposed laws, which would go into effect under the 2012 Farm Bill, called the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 [PDF].

Read more at Grist.org.  Don’t forget that every dollar you spend on sustainable, local food shows your support for a more ecologically and economically viable food system!

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