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Cool ideas continued - Jan 31

'Barefoot' grandmothers electrify rural communities

Staff, CNN
Turning grandmothers into solar engineers is one of Sanjit "Bunker" Roy's favorite jobs.

Roy is the social entrepreneur and founder of the Barefoot College and has been championing a bottom-up approach to education and empowering rural poor since 1972.

It is now a global enterprise with roots in India. Roy recruits women from around the world to install and maintain solar lighting and power in their home villages.

"If you ask any solar engineer in the world, 'Can anyone make this in a village?' they say it's technically impossible. And if I say a grandmother is making it who is illiterate, he can't believe it, it's beyond his comprehension," says Roy.

Why not invest in women who have roots in the village and train them?
--"Bunker" Roy, founder, Barefoot College

..."The Barefoot College is supposed to be a sparking off process. People are adopting it and owning it, which is really the story behind the college."
(27 January 2011)
If this is actually working, it just has to be one of the best ideas ever. -KS

Lucy Neal on Transition and the Arts

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture

Here’s a talk given by Lucy Neal of Transition Town Tooting filmed at an event called ‘Ready to Change’ in December in Ljubljana, where she talked about Transition, the role the arts can play in it, and the work of Transition Town Tooting including last summer’s Trashcatcher’s Carnival. Great stuff…

(27 January 2011)
More about the Trashcatcher's Carnival. -KS

Why Seattle will stay dry when your city floods

Mark Hertsgaard, Mother Jones
As a father living in the era of global warming, I have my good days and my bad days. The bad days you can probably imagine. Writing this book has taught me more than I'd like to know about our climate dilemma: about how drastically our civilization must change course to avoid catastrophe, how stubbornly some people and institutions resist even minor shifts in direction, and how destabilizing the impacts that are already locked in are likely to be.

But I have good days as well, and these are usually inspired by stories that show that the climate fight is not hopeless after all. One of my best days came in June of 2008, when I went to Seattle to interview Ron Sims. As the chief executive of King County, Sims was the top elected official of a municipality that encompasses the city of Seattle, some of its suburbs, and the corporate headquarters of Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and Boeing. Over the past 15 years, Sims had pioneered a fresh, farsighted, effective response to climate change that local governments across the United States and around the world were beginning to copy. He had linked his climate policy to a larger agenda of advancing social justice and pro-business economic development. And he had done this while remaining strikingly popular with voters, winning three straight elections by comfortable margins.

What most set Sims apart was the two-track climate strategy he employed. "We absolutely need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but we also have to adapt to the impacts we can no longer prevent," he told me outside his office in downtown Seattle. "The scientists say our region will see warmer, wetter winters in the future. The snowpack [atop the Cascades east of King County] will shrink. That means there won't be enough water for everyone if we don't get going on adaptation."

...The Brightwater plant is located 20 miles from Seattle on 114 acres of wooded land in neighboring Snohomish County. The site used to house an auto junkyard, but the wrecks had been cleared away as part of a program to protect nearby Little Bear Creek and add forty acres of hiking trails. After bouncing up a rocky driveway, our vehicle stopped above a huge construction site. Below us, bulldozers snorted exhaust while workers in hardhats hoisted rebar. "This plant relies on an advanced membrane bioreactor treatment technology, the most ecologically friendly filtration system in the world," said Gunnar Goerlitz, the project manager. "When it opens in 2011, it will be the largest plant of this type in the world, capable of treating 36 million gallons of sewage a day."

Of the 36 million gallons treated, 15 million will receive only secondary-level treatment and be pumped through a tunnel into Puget Sound. The remaining 21 million gallons will receive additional treatment from the bioreactors, which separate solids and bacteria from water molecules, and be distributed to end users. Some of the water will go to a golf course near Microsoft's campus in Redmond, but most will be added to the Sammamish River, boosting the flow of agricultural water in the area...
(25 January 2011)
What impresses me most in this article is not the levees so much but the successful fight to install the wasterwater plant against fierce business and legislative opposition. -KS

Small town launches its own stimulus: a local currency

Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times
Two residents of North Fork, a former lumber town near Yosemite, developed a scrip to encourage residents to shop locally. It's catching on slowly because most businesses still want to be paid in old-fashioned greenbacks.
January 15, 2011|By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from North Fork, Calif. — Located almost in the dead center of California, North Fork is like a lot of other rural outposts: It's losing businesses and hopes for a turnaround.

But there's nothing typical about the town's biggest booster, Josh Freeman. His efforts to resuscitate this tiny town include launching a local currency emblazoned with butterflies and hummingbirds in a bid to keep wealth in the community.
(15 January 2011)

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