The Art Shanty Project creates a dreamy village on a frozen lake

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Not your typical ice fishing hut.
[image via Art Shanty Project Facebook]

When winter comes to Minnesota and encases the lakes with a thick layer of ice, you start to see little shacks popping up. Just one or two at first, and then by the dozen, the small wooden or fiberglass houses line up in tidy rows out on the lakes.

“Ice fishing shanties are really like this whole other kind of village. They’re created to be temporary and unstructured, but together they really become a whole community,” explains Melinda Childs, Executive Director of The Art Shanty Project.

“We wondered what would happen if we applied an artistic lens to this kind of temporary public space.”

A far cry from the walleye jigging and beer sipping typically associated with ice houses, The Art Shanty Project, a nonprofit organization, commissions local artists to build mini art shacks and interactive gallery spaces out on the ice.

Designed to bring people together and get them thinking about art, the shanties are a one-of-a-kind artist-driven community that’s different each year—adding a little bit of Burning Man to what is usually just Grumpy Old Men.

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The Art Shanty dance troupe spells it out!
[image via Art Shanty Project Facebook]

In operation since 2006, The Art Shanty Project sets up camp on the surface of one frozen lake in the Twin Cities metro area and is free and open to the public every weekend in February until the 23rd.

This year it’s on White Bear Lake, a northern suburb of Saint Paul, and features 20 unique structures each with a different theme.

The lineup includes an elevator shanty that simulates the sensory experience of riding in an elevator, a sunrise shanty where dawn breaks every 30 minutes, a dance shanty heated completely from bodies in motion, a shanty where people can brush up on their curling techniques, and a gallery where people can encase small treasures like keys and rings in tiny blocks of ice.

There’s also a giant bicycle-powered polar bear puppet that leads a ‘sparkle parade.’

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Seriously.
[image via Art Shanty Project Facebook]

“We encourage the artists in each of the shanties to have an interactive element. There are also performances out on the lake. In the case of the sparkle parade, led by the polar bear bicycle, they’ve been encouraging people in the community to make costumes and there will be a participant parade through the village,” Melinda says.

With temperatures dropping well below zero for a good portion of the winter, the public is primed for a little pick-me-up. This year, Art Shanties is expecting over 20,000 visitors.

“Art Shanties is a creative way that winter can be fun because you can build community, you can participate in the arts, you can be physically active,” Melinda says. “It’s really about embracing winter.”

See more images of this year’s Art Shanties here or make a donation to help keep them on the ice.

What’s your favorite community-building way to “embrace winter”?

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Chiditarod: America’s coolest food drive / shopping cart race?

At Idealist, the sporting world is not our usual beat. The Olympic Games, however, hit us where we live as an inspiring, international gathering of outstanding individuals and teams. So we’re taking this opportunity to pay homage to excellent athletes, winter beauty, fun games, and a host of other concepts we could tie (even tenuously) to Sochi. Welcome to Olympics Week on Idealists in Action.

If you’re like me, you’ve been looking for most of your life for a combination charity food drive, beauty pageant, costumed shopping cart race, pub crawl, talent show, nonprofit fundraiser, and (most importantly?) chaos generator.

Luckily, the Chiditarod is here to answer our call.

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Chiditarod competitors get down in 2013
(image via Chiditarod Facebook)

In the grand traditions of the original Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska—and the urban genre-founding San Francisco Urban Iditarod and New York City Idiotarod—Chicago (get it? Chi-ditarod?) started their own race in 2006 and has since become a strong presence on the now-nationwide annual urban Iditarod scene.

How do they stay so strong?

  • A winning premise. At its heart, the Chiditarod is a costumed shopping cart race through two Chicago neighborhoods, scheduled to coincide with the kickoff of the actual Iditarod. Teams of (human) participants roll decorated carts filled with 60-plus pounds of food for donation through the streets for up to five miles—rain or shine—and encounter checkpoints, contests, bribe-happy judges, and sometimes friendly sabotage attempts along the way.
  • Some great add-ons. The Chiditarod tradition has grown to include such additional highlights as a t-shirt, patch, and poster design contest; companion bowling fundraiser event called the ChiditaBowl; and a summertime Kiditarod for the little ones.
  • A very worthy cause. By encouraging its community to donate food and cash beyond the outlays required to participate in the race, the Chiditarod (itself a nonprofit organization) has donated over 80,000 pounds of food to the Greater Chicago Food Depository and $40,000 to organizations that provide immediate hunger relief or work for food justice.

This year’s Chiditarod is on March 1. Ladies and gentlemen, start your carts.

Chiditarod registration closes this Saturday, February 15. If you’re in the Chi-Town area and want to sign up, or if you just want to read more about the event’s history and gawk at some funny photos, hit up their website.

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Meet 3 winter athletes who defy convention (and get bonus points for style)

At Idealist, the sporting world is not our usual beat. The Olympic Games, however, hit us where we live as an inspiring, international gathering of outstanding individuals and teams. So we’re taking this opportunity to pay homage to excellent athletes, winter beauty, fun games, and a host of other concepts we could tie (even tenuously) to Sochi. Welcome to Olympics Week on Idealists in Action.

Stereotype: Jocks are boring.

Broken by: Hubertus von Hohenlohe, wacky Mexican ski rock star

Hubertus von Hohenlohe gets a gold metal in awesome.

A world-class photographer, pop star, and (incidentally) German prince, he’s also a six-time Olympian in men’s Alpine skiing, and the only athlete representing Mexico in the winter games. And he’s 55 years old.

“We (in Mexico) are 100 million people and the only chance we have (of winning a medal) is up to me, but we don’t have to look at it like that. You have to see it as I’m an ambassador of this country, an ambassador with style and a human force that goes beyond the result,” Hubertus says in this interview for CNNMexico.

To represent Mexico, Hubertus has opted to compete while wearing a special Spandex ski suit patterned after the traditional dress of Mariachi musicians.

By raising some eyebrows this time around, he’s hoping to raise the profile of Mexican athletes in future Olympic games.

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What a “style ambassador” wears to compete in the Olympics.

 

Stereotype: You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.

Broken by: Jacki Munzel, 50-year-old speed skating powerhouse

Four years ago, Jacki Munzel was watching the Winter Olympics on TV with her daughter.

“We looked up at the TV and speed skating was on… She said, ‘You could try speed skating.’ And something inside of me, that fire from within, it grew and I was like, ‘Yeah, I could do that’,” Munzel said in this KSL interview.

Jacki had never speed skated before she made the decision to start training for the 2014 Olympics, though she wasn’t totally starting from scratch.

A professional power skating coach who trains NHL players, Munzel has been ice skating her whole life. In 1984, she even qualified to go to the Olympics for figure skating. But tragically, when a life-threatening eating disorder took her off the ice for those games, Munzel put her Olympic dreams to rest.

Then, thirty years later, after much training and re-training, Jacki ranked in the top ten for speed skating nationals and beat her personal best by 15 seconds in the U.S. Olympic trials.

Although her time wasn’t fast enough to get her to Sochi this year, her story proves that, well, there’s always 2018.

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Jacki was a fierce competitor against speed skaters younger than her children.

 

Stereotype: Girls aren’t strong enough to ski jump.

Broken by: Lindsay Van, Jessica Jerome, and women athletes the world over

For the first time EVER, women will be allowed to compete in ski jumping at this year’s Winter Games.

This is partially a result of the efforts of two U.S. women skiers, Lindsay Van and Jessica Jerome, who spoke out about the injustice of being excluded again and again by suing the Vancouver organizing committee for gender-based discrimination in 2010.

“I didn’t do it to prove anything, but people needed to see that women in this sport are capable of jumping really far, and we’re capable of having our own event,” Van said for NBC Olympics.

The lawsuit raised enough attention that in April 2011, women’s ski jumping was approved as an official event for the Sochi Games.

We’ll be cheering for all of the women ski jumpers who compete this year as they soar through the air like magnificent Valkyries!

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Lindsay Van flies the length of 1.5 football fields, NBD.
[image via Sparknotes]

What inspiring, kooky, or otherwise amazing athletes are you rooting for this winter?

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The Olympics are about collaboration as much as competition

At Idealist, the sporting world is not our usual beat. The Olympic Games, however, hit us where we live as an inspiring, international gathering of outstanding individuals and teams. So we’re taking this opportunity to pay homage to excellent athletes, winter beauty, fun games, and a host of other concepts we could tie (even tenuously) to Sochi. Welcome to Olympics Week on Idealists in Action.

When you think of the Olympics, you probably don’t think of international collaboration. In fact, many of the most famous moments from past Olympic Games are competitive struggles between two nations.

However, the Olympics would never be possible without an impressive effort by each country involved to set aside their differences and come together for two weeks every four years.

This year, the Winter Olympics are taking place in Sochi, Russia. Amidst the controversy surrounding the current games, it’s easy to forget that multiple Olympics have been boycotted for various reasons. In recent history, the United States and its allies boycotted the 1980 Olympics held by the Soviet Union, while the Soviet Union and its allies returned the favor when Los Angeles played host in 1984.

Adorable bear mascot or not, Jimmy Carter definitely boycotted the 1980 summer games in Moscow because of US/Soviet relations.

Adorable bear mascot or not, Jimmy Carter boycotted the 1980 summer games in Moscow due to poor U.S.-Soviet relations. (image vis Dmitri Melnik/Shutterstock)

In short, it takes a massive amount of compromise, understanding, and cooperation to host the Olympics, and we at Idealist would like to celebrate Russia for taking on the task. Yet we know this endeavor is just one collaboration taking place between our two former-enemy countries every day, and we thought we’d take this opportunity to highlight another excellent example that’s about to get underway.

The National Centre for Contemporary Arts (NCCA) is a combination museum, exhibition space, and research organization based in Moscow. It was established in 1992, around the same time the Russian Federation was created from the fall of the Soviet Union. Its mission is to aid the development of contemporary Russian art within a global context.

To do this, the NCCA often partners with arts organizations from other countries. On February 23rd, the last day of the Olympics, the NCCA will welcome the venerable experimental, collaborative new music ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars to Moscow. These visitors from New York City will participate in a five-day residency with 11 Russian artists in a partnership they’re calling the Bang on a Can Institute. If you’re in the Moscow area around the end of this month, you can check out one of the group’s performances.

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Experimental music ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars will be welcomed to Moscow for a five-day residency immediately following the Olympics. [image via Stereogum]

By entering into this collaboration, all the musicians involved will learn something new and have an opportunity to expand their knowledge of their craft. Just think of the many other masterful musical collaborations that have taken place through the ages (particularly in the 1980’s)! Of course, regardless of what these musicians compose together, the cultural interchange will be worth the effort.

So when you’re watching the Olympics over the next two weeks, remember that the games aren’t just about getting a gold medal. They’re also about international unity, and about the hope that we can create a better world by interacting with and learning from people that come from different nations and cultures.

And, of course, they’re about curling.

What are some of your favorite international collaborations?

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People in the Global South are wearing impossible t-shirts

Following last Sunday’s punishing Super Bowl, we came across this interesting Mental Floss article that gave us pause. It begins:

After a Big Game in any sport, fans and players are going to be clamoring for commemorative merchandise, often just minutes after the game ends. To meet this demand and cash in on the wallet-loosening “We’re #1” euphoria, manufacturers and retailers produce and stock two sets of t-shirts, hats and other merchandise, declaring each team the champ.

Huh! So that means the world is now in possession of a great grip of “Broncos: Super Bowl XLVIII Champs”-printed textiles, yeah? What on earth can be done with them?!

Apparently, until 1996, the suckers were just incinerated. What a waste! But since then, the nonprofit World Vision has been collecting and distributing the swag to less affluent people overseas.

This interesting infographic tells the tale:

nfl infographic updated1 Where Does The Merchandise Go From Losing Super Bowl Teams? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Interesting infographic courtesy of Blue Soda Promo

The recycling/waste-not-want-not aspect of this strikes us as pretty cool, but it’s also a bit weird, isn’t it? Or at least a bit surreal. All over the world, every year, more and more people are wearing clothes that appear to be commemorating major American sporting events—but they’re all completely fictional.

What’s your take on all this? Tell us in the comments.

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A month after the bombshell interview, Laverne Cox’s idea is still amazing

At Idealist, we love good ideas of all kinds, but especially those that turn commonly-accepted notions on their heads, get us to confront our beliefs, and (maybe) stir up a little trouble. To honor ideas brave and bold, and inspired by Sydney, Australia’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas, we welcome you to Idealist in Action’s Dangerous Ideas Week.

Today’s inspiration: actress and activist Laverne Cox.

Photo credit: ABC/Disney

Carrera and Cox deflected awkward questions and drew attention to the violence and injustice facing the trans community.
(photo credit: ABC/Disney)

Last month, Laverne Cox appeared alongside model Carmen Carrera on Katie Couric’s daytime TV talk show Katie. During what was meant to be a special show to raise awareness about issues facing transgender individuals, both women ended up facing a series of awkward and personal questions about their bodies.

Which they rebuffed in a super-classy way.

The interview has made its way around the internet because both women totally schooled Couric on how to respectfully talk to (and interview) trans people, which was pretty amazing to hear.

While the entire interview is inspiring, one of the most striking moments is when Couric asks Cox about whether or not she considers herself a role model. In her response, Cox coins a fantastic new term more of us should start employing:

I would never be so arrogant to think that someone should model their lives after me, but the idea of possibility. The idea that I get to live my dreams out in public hopefully will show other folks that that is possible. And so I prefer the term ‘possibility model’ to ‘role model.’

Thank you, Laverne, for changing the conversation from what we should be, to what we could be.

Also worth watching is Cox’s recent keynote address at the Creating Change 2014 conference earlier this week.

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Don Draper hates Louder, but we love it

At Idealist, we love good ideas of all kinds, but especially those that turn commonly-accepted notions on their heads, get us to confront our beliefs, and (maybe) stir up a little trouble. To honor ideas brave and bold, and inspired by Sydney, Australia’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas, we welcome you to Idealist in Action’s Dangerous Ideas Week.

Traditional advertising channels aren’t always available to nonprofit organizations, even though their messages are important for people to hear. Mainstream media ads, TV commercials, billboards—these are all out of reach for most small- to mid-size and even many large nonprofits.

In recent years, social media has helped nonprofits immensely: they can now reach targeted audiences and engage constituents in meaningful conversations at much lower costs. But nonprofits still have to compete with for-profit businesses for the most precious of resources: the attention of an increasingly distracted public.

Enter Louder

Louder is a new service that puts more advertising power into the hands of regular people. Louder is just getting started, but it has the potential to substantially disrupt traditional advertising models, and, if skillfully leveraged by the nonprofit sector and individuals doing good work, it could make a huge impact in our efforts to reach new audiences.

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Here’s how it works:

  • Anyone can create a Louder campaign, at no cost. Simply choose a url that you want to promote (or “amplify,” in Louder’s parlance).
  • If you like a campaign, you can hit the “make it louder” button and contribute money to get it in front of new faces. A $3 donation is enough to reach about 1,000 people on Facebook. 86.5% of the donations go directly to advertising costs.
  • Much like a Kickstarter campaign, Louder campaigns will work best if they have an existing community of champions to help spread the word.
  • And there you have it: citizen-funded advertisements getting the right content in front of new audiences!

Louder isn’t specifically limited to social impact campaigns, but looking at their list of recent additions, it seems it’s mostly being used in that way. This is great news for anyone frustrated by the number of ads promoting consumerism that come across our screens on any given day.

Now the rest of us can assert a little control, and help our favorite causes get more attention. An idea worth shouting about, no?

What do you think? Is Louder going to be the next big thing to disrupt an entire industry?

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Why The Earth Doesn’t Need Saving (But We Do)

My cousin used to drive a battered Subaru Leone wagon. You know the kind: it was the low-slung, boxy prelude to the sleek and ubiquitous Outback, and like all ancient Subarus that survived to see the twenty-first century, it was baby blue and puttering slowly but steadily home from the moon. At least, according to the odometer.

It was the kind of car that separates a certain breed of dirt-under-the-nails environmentalist from their well-heeled, Prius-driving counterparts. Accordingly, plastered to its rattling rear bumper was a sticker bearing a wry inscription: “Save the Humans!” implored a Greenpeace-esque whale, entreating tailgaters and passers-by.

At the time, I thought it was nothing more than a darkly humorous joke. A decade later, I think it’s the best environmental slogan I’ve ever heard. That’s because the sentiment it mocks—the notion that humans could and should ‘save the Earth’—is misguided at best and preposterous at worst. Us humans are the ones with serious cause for concern, not the planet. The tongue-in-cheek sentiment of that bumper sticker is dead on: we are the ones in need of saving.

Source: Flickr/jsmif

Is this bumper sticker ironic or prophetic?
(image via Flickr/jsmif)

Let me be the first to admit that this sounds a tad melodramatic and more than a little unscientific. But I am a scientist (a geologist, specifically) and here, I will endeavor to convince you that this is the most rational conclusion to draw from the vast and heavy weight of geologic evidence.

Consider, for perspective, just these select episodes of the Earth’s long and incomprehensibly violent past:

For the first billion years of its existence, our whole sphere burned with angry flames of primordial rock. An entire planet made of lava that shuddered under an unrelenting rain of extra-terrestrial shrapnel—asteroids and comets and bits of other planets that failed to form from the solar nebula. One impact of a Mars-sized object was so catastrophic that it peeled off a wave of molten crust, thrusting it into orbit to become the moon.

In the relative calm of an adolescent solar system, life on Earth evolved, but sheepishly, out of sight, in the dark depths of the early oceans. Above water, the planet bore no resemblance to its current state. The continents had barely begun to grow, rising like fat to the top of a stockpot above the churning mantle. Carbon dioxide cloaked the planet in a torrid haze—concentrations may have been 25 times higher than they are today—trapping the precious radiation of a faint young sun and preventing the seas from crystallizing into solid ice.

The atmosphere then would have poisoned human lungs because it lacked even the slightest trace of oxygen. This gas did not become a major component of the atmosphere until about 2 billion years ago—half the Earth’s age—when the first photosynthetic bacteria belched it out in an accident of metabolic chemistry. For ninety percent of Earth’s history, nothing colonized its continents, not even so much as a chewing-gum smear of lichen. From afar, the planet would have looked aqueous and dull, lifeless and static.

Around 600 million years ago, after the Earth thawed from a bout of global glaciation known as Snowball Earth, life bigger than a grain of salt evolved for the first time. And then it was eradicated by a rogue meteor. And then it proliferated again. And again was flattened. In all, natural forces have quashed the diversity of life a staggering five times. The largest episode, when nearly all marine species went extinct 250 million years ago, may have been caused by the arrival of a new and highly successful bacteria that destroyed the environment that nourished it (sound familiar?).

pull quoteIn the last one million years alone, great ice sheets have waxed and waned at the beck and call of slight wobbles in the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Armies of glaciers rode back and forth across Canada and the American Midwest. Antarctica and Greenland swelled and overflowed, together sucking three hundred feet of sea level into their frigid masses. These ice sheets came and went in a matter of millennia, radically transforming the planet with each revolution.

Basically, it boils down to this: the Earth has seen it all and there is little scientific doubt that until the sun explodes—engulfing the planet in burning garlands of hydrogen and helium about five billion years from now—the Earth, like the Dude, will abide.

Good story, I know, but can it help us make sense of the world we live in and the problems we face?

On the one hand, when viewed against the long gaze of geologic time, it is tempting to conclude that we are a meteor of a species, a plague of opportunistic bacteria, devastating the planet with blind greed and the reckless momentum of self-interest. In this formulation—a riff on the standard narrative of environmentalism—the Earth is the victim and humans are the agents of doom.

For example, it’s clear that humans have reshaped the planet on geologic scales of space and significance in the equivalent of a geologic instant; we live in a time for which there is no geologic analog. In a century, humans have rewound the clock four million years to the last time carbon dioxide concentrations were this high. That carbon now permeates the ever-rising oceans, and is curdling its waters into an acidic solution that threatens to unravel the marine food web. New research even shows that the Earth now spins around a slightly different axis—in the last eight years, it has readjusted to regain its balance, compensating for the rapid melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

And those are just the climate effects.

We have defiled our waterways with toxic chemicals, antibiotics, fertilizer, and waste, which eventually make their way to the sea. These pollutants mingle with the islands of garbage that spin, despondent, in the lonely gyres of the oceans. Our refuse even litters the slopes of the deepest submarine canyons, places that know nothing of human life save its plastic legacy. We have reworked the terrestrial surface of our planet with unflagging vigor, and its scars can now be seen from space. Every year, through habitat destruction, inadvertent besiegement, or explicit eradication, we drive scores of other species out of existence.

This all sounds dire. However, one could reach an alternative conclusion from juxtaposing the current state of affairs with a geologic perspective on life and disaster in the universe:

The planet Earth has survived far worse trauma than we could possibly inflict upon it.

Though we are powerful, we cannot grow ice sheets on command, we cannot summon asteroids, we cannot remove oxygen from the atmosphere and ocean or burn enough fossil fuels to raise carbon dioxide levels as high as they have been before. Even our nuclear waste, perhaps our most lasting impact, will become benign within a million years—the blink of a geologic eye (or 0.02% of Earth’s history).

Bad for the ocean, yes, but mostly bad for us. Photo: Shutterstock.

Bad for the ocean, yes, but perhaps worse for people who depend on the ocean for survival—which is all of us. (photo via Shutterstock)

Truly, the mess we’ve created is mainly a problem for us.

We need clean water to drink and bathe in. We need stable growing seasons to produce food and commodities. We need the billions of dollars in ecosystems services that biodiversity and the natural world provide, free of cost, and which we seem hell-bent on undermining. We suffer from extreme weather—just one manifestation of climate change—which causes death and destruction and economic hardship. We mourn the loss of the fisheries we drove to collapse and the coastal systems we poisoned with runoff. We face the intimidating challenge of protecting the world’s low-lying cities through fortification or, more likely, relocation.

Contrary to popular rhetoric, problems of environmental degradation and climate change are not threats to the Earth at large. They are challenges to human survival.

This does not excuse the collateral damage we’ve inflicted on other innocent species. We have certainly destroyed many forms of life, but we cannot eradicate life itself. Life crawled back from the hydrothermal vents and rodents’ nests where it weathered the catastrophes of eons past, and there is no reason to think we will stand it its way now. New life, different life will recover. Except perhaps not human life. Homo sapiens may be committed to the ranks of ephemeral fossil species that came and went in 4.6 billion years of Earth’s history. In all honesty, we’re bound there sooner or later, as nearly every species has been before us (except possibly a few primitive strains of bacteria).

If we as a species are destined to go the way of the dinosaurs at some point, then the question becomes one of temperance. Can we focus our hefty primate brains on the formidable tasks of foresight, prudence, and self-control? Can we dampen our eagerness to hasten our fate?

Scientists are hard at work trying to figure out how long we have to choose a wiser path before the costs become too great. However, there is strong consensus that the longer we wait, the more drastic our response must be. Our prodigious intellect certainly holds solutions to the predicament of our species. But first, we must abandon the charade that saving the Earth is anything more than an act of selfish necessity. If we thrive or fail, the planet will remain, just as it always has. Our selfishness may, in fact, be our only hope of surviving.

In light of this, it seems to me that we should reorient our relationship to the natural world. Don’t rally the masses to save the Earth. The Earth will be just fine. Instead, invert the rallying cry of the conservation movement: as the ironic whale has always said, “Save the humans.”

unnamedJulia Rosen will soon complete her PhD in geology at Oregon State University, where she studies ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica to learn more about climate change. She is also a freelance science writer, an outdoor enthusiast, and a lover of this beautiful, fascinating, and indestructible planet.

 

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Floating the idea: Weather balloons spread uncensored information to North Koreans

At Idealist, we love good ideas of all kinds, but especially those that turn commonly-accepted notions on their heads, get us to confront our beliefs, and (maybe) stir up a little trouble. To honor ideas brave and bold, and inspired by Sydney, Australia’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas, we welcome you to Idealist in Action’s Dangerous Ideas Week.

At Idealist, we envision a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives, and we support everyone’s right to help others. So we were interested to learn about the Human Rights Foundation’s (HRF’s) recent effort to spread information to North Koreans living under censorship.

“These balloons are an information lifeline to ordinary North Koreans, who have no means to learn about the world beyond the lies of their government,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen in a press release.

“The international community often focuses on how little we know about life inside North Korea—but the real story is that North Koreans know little to nothing about the world we live in,” he continued. “Most are unaware that there is an alternative to repressive tyranny. We are helping to change that.”

Information: up, up, and away!
(image courtesy HRF)

The creative campaign made use of 20 large weather balloons that distributed information from the outside world directly to North Koreans. On January 15, the balloons traveled over the border between South Korea and North Korea, and carried leaflets with information about democracy, along with transistor radios, USBs loaded with the entire Korean Wikipedia, and even DVDs of South Korean soap operas.

The Human Rights Foundation worked with a group called Fighters for a Free North Korea to pull the launch together. A previous attempt was made in June last year, but was canceled at the last minute for fear of retaliation. At the time of this writing, it was unknown how many of the materials actually found their way into the hands of North Koreans.

Read more about the Human Rights Foundation’s launch here.

What other information-spreading efforts do you know about that have a dangerous side?

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VIDEO: Portland rocks the MLK Day of Service

This past January 20th, the Idealist video team traversed the neighborhoods of Portland, Oregon to visit some awesome service activities happening as part of the MLK Day of Service. The thousands of volunteers they encountered clearly did a lot of good for the organizations they were helping, but they also told us it wasn’t just about giving back—it was also a fun, easy, rewarding endorphin rush.

 

 

It’s always great to serve on MLK Day, but remember that orgs need help all year long. You can search for thousands of ways to give back in your community, while getting some ‘good’ yourself—just visit Idealist.org/act.

How did you serve on MLK Day this year? Would you describe it as easy and fun?

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