Turning Around the Idea of Student Loans
2008-12-01, New York Times
Over sandwiches and pizza, a group of high school students here debated the pros and cons of combating poverty in five desperate nations. They scrolled through Web sites, analyzed statistics and considered how much they knew about the economy, language and culture of each country. This was no mere academic exercise. The students, at the Meadows School, have real decisions to make and, they hope, real people to rescue. By the time they scattered after their lunch period, the group had deferred until next month the decision on where to spend the $25,000 they had raised, but seemed to be leaning toward Peru. That may seem like a lot of money for a student group, but it was the entry fee for the school to become investors in Pro Mujer, a nonprofit lending institution based in New York that issues small loans to poor women in foreign countries to use for buying tools to start or expand small businesses. In raising the money and investing it with Pro Mujer, the Meadows School is by all accounts the first high school to operate a microbank. The founder of the Meadows Microcredit Action Group, Justin Blau, 17, and its faculty adviser, Kirk Knutsen, have bigger plans for their endeavor. Pro Mujer will mete out the $25,000 to recipients in the country the students select and return to the school both regular status reports as well as a modest amount of earned interest. The group plans to use that interest and other money raised locally to invest in smaller, more specific projects through Kiva, another microfinance lender, with no minimum entry requirement.
Note: For lots more on the exciting, amazingly successful microlending movement, click here.
Obama: I have a deep faith
2004-04-05, Chicago Sun-Times
Barack Obama is alone on this Saturday afternoon in the city, his press secretary nowhere in sight. He's not carrying anything with him. Not even notes. Yet he appears confident as he answers questions about his spiritual life, a subject that would make many politicians -- on or off the campaign trail -- more skittish than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. If an hourlong conversation about his faith unnerves him, Obama's not letting on. The first question he fields without hesitation: What does he believe? "I am a Christian," the 42-year-old ... says. "So, I have a deep faith," Obama continues. "I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.
That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived." It's perhaps an unlikely theological position for someone who places his faith squarely at the feet of Jesus to take, saying essentially that all people of faith -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone -- know the same God. That depends, Obama says, on how a particular verse from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me," is heard. "Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion," he says. "I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. I am a big believer in our constitutional structure."
Note: For those who want to understand the spiritual beliefs of Barack Obama, the full article at the link above is highly recommended. Even better, for the powerful transcript of this interview between the religion columnist of the Sun-Times and Obama, click here.
The science of happiness
2008-09-08, Los Angeles Times
If recent scientific research on happiness -- and there has been quite a bit -- has proved anything, it's that happiness is not a goal. It's a process. Although our tendency to be happy or not is partly inborn, it's also partly within our control. And, perhaps more surprising, happiness brings success, not the other way around. Though many people think happiness is elusive, scientists have actually pinned it down and know how to get it. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at UC Riverside and author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want… led controlled studies to determine what behaviors positively affect happiness, and has come up with at least 12 strategies that measurably increase levels. For instance, one strategy she's tested is the practice of gratitude. In her gratitude study, she had a group of 57 subjects express gratitude once a week in a journal. A second group of 58 expressed gratitude in a journal three times a week. And a control group of 32 did nothing. At the end of six weeks, she retested all three groups and found a significant increase in happiness in the first one. She and other researchers also recommend practicing forgiveness, savoring positive moments and becoming more involved in your church, synagogue or religious organization. "Not every strategy fits everyone," she says. "People need to try a few to find which ones work." Although Lyubomirsky likes to let people define happiness for themselves, clinically, she describes it as "a combination of frequent positive emotions, plus the sense that your life is good."
Randy Pausch, 'Last Lecture' Professor Dies
2008-07-25, ABC News
Randy Pausch, the charismatic young college professor who chronicled his battle with pancreatic cancer in a remarkable speech widely-known as the "Last Lecture," has died at the age of 47. Pausch's lecture and subsequent interview was one of the most powerful accounts of hope, grace and optimistism ABC News has ever featured, and drew a worldwide response. "I'd like to thank the millions of people who have offered their love, prayers and support," [his wife] Jai Pausch said in a statement. "Randy was so happy and proud that the lecture and book inspired parents to revisit their priorities, particularly their relationships with their children. The outpouring of cards and emails really sustained him." It all began with one, age-old question: What would you say if you knew you were going to die and had a chance to sum up everything that was most important to you? That question had been posed to the annual speaker of a lecture series at Carnegie Mellon University, where Pausch was a computer sciences professor. For Pausch, though, the question wasn't hypothetical. Pausch, a father of three small children with his wife Jai, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer -- and given six months to live. Friends and colleagues flew in from all around the country to attend his last lecture. And -- almost as an afterthought -- the lecture was videotaped and put on the Internet for the few people who couldn't get there that day. The lecture was so uplifting, so funny, so inspirational that it went viral. So far, 10 million people have downloaded it. And thousands have written in to say that his lecture changed their lives.
Note: For an inspiring 12-minute video by Prof. Randy Pausch about his impending death and gratitude for life, click here. For the entire, amazing 1 hour and 15 minute lecture, click here.
How Christian the lion became a YouTube sensation
The decades-old footage of a full-grown lion joyously embracing two young men like an affectionate house cat has made myriad eyes misty since it recently landed on YouTube. What is it about the old, grainy images that has attracted millions of clicks around the globe? Is it simply that a lion, whimsically named Christian, remembered the two men who raised it and then released it into the wild? It may be something more: the indelible image of a creature that could kill a man in seconds behaving like a pussycat with two men it obviously loves, smack in the middle of the African bush. The video is the work of Anthony “Ace” Bourke and John Rendall, two Australians who in 1969 were living in ... London. Nearly 40 years later, Rendall expressed astonishment that one video of his reunion with his former pet had drawn more than six million hits as of this writing. “Oh, my God,” Rendall exclaimed from Australia when told how popular the video has become. “If it’s made people more aware and more interested in conservation and the protection of the environment, we’re very pleased.” Back in ’69, Rendall was living on King’s Road, in the Chelsea section of London. The center of London’s counterculture at the time, King’s Road seethed with creativity and fashion. When a friend came back from a trip to Harrods, London’s famous department store, and told a story about her trip to the pet department, Rendall was understandably fascinated. “Harrods has always claimed that they could find anything,” he explained. “Anything you’d want, Harrods could get for you. ... There were these beautiful lion cubs.”
Note: To watch this highly inspiring three-minute clip, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adYbFQFXG0U.
Doctor finds higher calling when death knocks
2008-05-04, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Dr. Frank Artress looked down at his fingers. His nail beds were turning blue. He was running out of oxygen near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. A cardiac anesthesiologist, Artress knew the signs of high altitude pulmonary edema. He knew there was a 75 percent chance that he would perish on Africa's highest peak. Artress led his wife to a rock, and they sat together above the clouds. Then it hit him. He wasn't afraid to die; he was ashamed. He had lived only for himself - practicing medicine in a Modesto hospital, traveling with his wife, purchasing luxury vacation homes and collecting art. He felt as if he had nothing to show for his 50 years. He felt as if his life had been a waste. In that moment, Artress and his wife realized they were living for the wrong reasons. In that moment, everything changed. Some people dream of giving up the trappings of success and starting life anew, with a purpose, with a social conscience. For Artress and his wife, the idea suddenly seemed real. That day on Mount Kilimanjaro would lead the Modesto doctor and his wife to leave their comfortable life in California to become bush doctors, dedicated to easing the heartbreak of Africa. They knew their decision was the right one when they returned to their creekside ranch home in Modesto. The things they normally missed when they were away - the matching silver sports cars, the signed Mirós and Picassos, the full-throttle espresso machine and the swimming pool - no longer had any charm. That week, Artress quit his job at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto and Gustafson gave notice as an educational psychologist for the public schools. Then they sold everything ... and made plans to return to the foot of Kilimanjaro to administer medical care as a way of repaying the community that saved Artress' life.
Note: This inspiring story should be read in its entirety.
A Victim Treats His Mugger Right
Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner. But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn. He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife. "He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, 'Here you go,'" Diaz says. As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, "Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you're going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm." The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, "like what's going on here?" Diaz says. "He asked me, 'Why are you doing this?'" Diaz replied: " ' If you're willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you ... want to join me ... hey, you're more than welcome.' You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help," Diaz says. Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth. Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. "He just had ... a sad face," Diaz says. The teen couldn't answer Diaz — or he didn't want to. When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, "Look, I guess you're going to have to pay for this bill 'cause you have my money and I can't pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I'll gladly treat you." The teen "didn't even think about it" and returned the wallet, Diaz says. "I gave him $20 ... I figure maybe it'll help him. I don't know." Diaz says he asked for something in return — the teen's knife — "and he gave it to me."
Note: For many powerful inspirational stories from major media sources, click here.
Fight Violence with Nonviolence
2008-03-27, Christian Science Monitor
Over the past 25 years nonviolent peacekeepers have been going into zones of sometimes intense conflict with the aim of bringing a measure of peace, protection, and sanity to life there. Rather than use threat or force, unarmed peacekeepers deploy strategies of protective accompaniment, moral and/or witnessing "presence," monitoring election campaigns, creating neutral safe spaces, and in extreme cases putting themselves physically between hostile parties. Civilian unarmed peacekeeping has had dramatic, small-scale, quiet, and unglamorous successes: rescuing child soldiers, protecting the lives of key human rights workers and of whole villages, averting potentially explosive violence, and generally raising the level of security felt by citizens in many a tense community. Recently a village on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines was under threat by two armed groups who had come within 200 meters of each other. The village elders called for help from the Nonviolent Peaceforce stationed there, who intervened and by communicating with all sides persuaded the armed group to back away. Thanks to mediation, no violence erupted, no lives were lost. Why haven't you heard about this exciting work? Because it is terribly underfunded, for one thing. There is also a prevailing prejudice that only governments or armed forces – including those of the United Nations – have the responsibility or means to contain conflict. But the biggest obstacle by far is the widespread – and rarely examined – belief that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. It is the belief that there is only one kind of power; threat power, which in the end can be relied upon to get others to change their minds or, failing that, at least their actions.
That may change. The new global norm of "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) should inspire the use of civil society and nonviolent means.
'Eco-Patent Commons' hopes to improve environmental innovation
2008-01-14, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
IBM Corp., Nokia, Sony and Pitney Bowes are expected to announce Monday that they have put 31 inventions into an "Eco-Patent Commons" designed to make these Earth-friendly manufacturing and waste-reduction processes more widely available. "This is an open source effort along the lines of the Creative Commons," said IBM assistant general counsel David Kappos, who is responsible for the company's intellectual property. The open source movement, symbolized by the free Linux operating system, believes that innovation occurs more quickly when new ideas and processes are open to the public for anyone to troubleshoot and improve. The Eco-Patent Commons adopts this activist tactic in certain fields - like waste reduction - where the participating firms have decided that the societal benefit of having every willing manufacturer adopt these cleaner processes outweighs any potential advantage they might gain by keeping the idea close to the vest. One of the newly freed eco-patents is an IBM invention for using a specially folded piece of corrugated cardboard to cushion electronic components against shock during shipping - replacing the Styrofoam products that can easily become an environmental headache. Likewise, Nokia is giving away a patent designed to help safely dispose of mobile phones by reusing their components in other gadgets such as digital cameras. Kappos said the Eco-Patent Commons would be run by an independent, nonprofit group, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and expressed hope that other companies would follow the lead and add real clout to what is more a symbolic than substantive effort to make global business a little greener.
Exclusive Club Has One Rule: Just Give
2007-12-23, ABC News
Americans set a new record for generosity last year. We gave a total of nearly $300 billion. But few of us could match the generosity of Richard Semmler. Semmler is a 61-year-old math professor at Northern Virginia Community College. He's also a maintenance man, and a book editor. His hard work earns him more than $100,000 per year, but he lives very modestly. Even with three jobs, Semmler lives in a tiny apartment. He's not working so hard to get more -- he's working to give more. Semmler has donated nearly $1 million -- between 50 percent and 60 percent of his income each year -- to six charities, and his money helps to feed the homeless and build houses for families in need. Semmler's not just writing checks -- he's getting his hands dirty, building those homes with Habitat for Humanity, and handing out food in soup kitchens. "I prefer to live in a small apartment. I prefer to drive an old car," he said. "I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. I get a chance to see my dollars at work. For me, it's a personal satisfaction in seeing the house built, but more important, it's personal satisfaction in seeing a family that truly needs this," said Semmler. [He] belongs to a very exclusive club that anyone can join. It's called the Fifty Percent League. Members give away at least half their income to charity. Not all of the donors have big incomes. One woman earned just $16,000 dollars last year, and gave half of it away to help newly arrived immigrants. The group is made up of about 100 people and growing. Collectively, they have given away more than $1 billion over the past decade. Millionaire David Ludlow is a fifty-percenter, who funds an after-school program in Boston's inner city. "This has made me a truly happy man, being able to do this. It's been magnificent. It's totally turned my life around," Ludlow said.
Note: One of the wonderful people featured in this article, David Ludlow, is a major supporter of our work in the form of a large monthly donation (http://www.peerservice.org/donations#monthly). This is a powerful example of how one inspired individual can make a big difference in the world. Let us all do our best to use our money in support of personal and global transformation to the best of our ability. We invite you also to make a difference by donating to support our empowering work at http://www.peerservice.org/donations. For two inspiring media clips of David and this great organization, click here and here.
Internet Access Is Only Prerequisite For College Classes
2007-12-31, Washington Post
Berkeley's on YouTube. American University's hoping to get on iTunes. George Mason professors have created an online research tool, a virtual filing cabinet for scholars. And with a few clicks on Yale's Web site, anyone can watch one of the school's most popular philosophy professors sitting cross-legged on his desk, talking about death. Studying on YouTube won't get you a college degree, but many universities are using technology to offer online classes and open up archives. Sure, some schools have been charging for distance-learning classes for a long time, but this is different: These classes are free. At a time when many top schools are expensive and difficult to get into, some say it's a return to the broader mission of higher education: to offer knowledge to everyone. And tens of millions are reaching for it. For schools, the courses can bring benefits, luring applicants, spreading the university's name, impressing donors, keeping alumni engaged. As the technology evolves, the classes are becoming far more engaging to a broader public. With better, faster technology such as video, what once was bare-bones and hard-core -- lecture notes aimed at grad students and colleagues -- is now more ambitious and far more accessible. Some professors try this on their own, on a small scale. Schools are feeling their way, experimenting with different technologies; some use Utah State University's eduCommons on the Web; some post to free sites such as YouTube and the Apple university site iTunes U. Other schools have plunged right in: MIT has 1,800 classes online, virtually the entire curriculum free and open to all. "The idea was to have a broad impact on education worldwide and make a statement at a time when many schools were launching for-profit distance-learning ventures," Steve Carson of MIT OpenCourseWare said, "trying to redefine the role of the institution in the digital age."
Secret Santa's Legacy Lives On
2007-12-21, CBS News/Associated Press
Susan Dahl had spent four months homeless in Colorado and just been on a harrowing 10-hour bus trip through sleet and snow. Hungry and broke, all she wanted to do was get back to family in Minnesota. That's when a tall man in a red coat and red hat sat next to her at the downtown bus station, talked to her quietly and then slipped her $100 on that recent December afternoon. The man was doing the work of Larry Stewart, Kansas City's original Secret Santa who anonymously wandered city streets doling out $100 bills to anyone who looked like they needed it. Stewart died of cancer at age 58 earlier this year, but his legacy lives on. "He said 'Here's a $100 bill ... and this is in memory of Larry Stewart,'" said Dahl, 56. During about a quarter century, Stewart quietly gave out more than $1.3 million to people in laundromats, diners, bus stations, shelters and thrift stores, saying it was his way of giving back at Christmas for all the wealth and generosity he had received in his lifetime. For years, Stewart did not want his name known or want thanks or applause, but last December he acknowledged who he was and used his last few months while battling cancer to press his message of kindness toward others. He even trained some friends in the ways of Secret Santa. This Christmas, a friend who told Stewart in the hospital that he would carry on for him is out on the streets, handing out $100 bills, each one stamped with "Larry Stewart, Secret Santa." Between Kansas City and several other cities this Christmas, the new Secret Santa will give away $75,000 of his own money, mostly in $100 bills. "I didn't want to be a Secret Santa," said the man, a business consultant who lives in the Kansas City area. "I wanted to give Larry money. But last year, he said I had to hand it out myself. So I did, and I got hooked. Anyone can be a Secret Santa," he says. "You don't have to give away $100. You can give away kindness. Help someone."
A Beloved Professor Delivers the Lecture of a Lifetime
2007-09-20, Wall Street Journal
Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues. They had come to see him give what was billed as his "last lecture." This is a common title for talks on college campuses today. At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch's speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture ... turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life. Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his career, repeating: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things." He encouraged us to be patient with others. "Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you." While displaying photos of his bosses and students over the years, he said that helping others fulfill their dreams is even more fun than achieving your own. He also saluted his parents, who let him make his childhood bedroom his domain, even if his wall etchings hurt the home's resale value. "If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let 'em do it." Considered one of the nation's foremost teachers of videogame and virtual-reality technology, he helped develop "Alice," a Carnegie Mellon software project that allows people to easily create 3-D animations. "Like Moses, I get to see the Promised Land, but I don't get to step foot in it," Dr. Pausch said. "That's OK. I will live on in Alice." Many people have given last speeches without realizing it. The day before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke prophetically: "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place." He talked of how he had seen the Promised Land, even though "I may not get there with you."
Note: For more on this amazing lecture and links to view it, see the New York Times blog available here.
Executive on a Mission: Saving the Planet
2007-05-22, New York Times
What Ray Anderson calls his “conversion experience” occurred in the summer of 1994, when he was asked to give the sales force at Interface, the carpet tile company he founded, some talking points about the company’s approach to the environment. So he started reading about environmental issues, and thinking about them, until pretty soon it hit him: “I was running a company that was plundering the earth,” he realized. “I thought, ‘Damn, some day people like me will be put in jail!’” He devoted his speech to his newfound vision of polluted air, overflowing landfills, depleted aquifers and used-up resources. Only one institution was powerful enough and pervasive enough to turn these problems around, he told his colleagues, and it was the institution that was causing them in the first place: “Business. Industry. People like us. Us!" He challenged his colleagues to set a deadline for Interface to become a “restorative enterprise,” a sustainable operation that takes nothing out of the earth that cannot be recycled or quickly regenerated, and that does no harm to the biosphere. The deadline they ultimately set is 2020, and the idea has taken hold throughout the company. Mr. Anderson said that through waste reduction, recycling, energy efficiency and other steps, Interface was “about 45 percent from where we were to where we want to be.” Use of fossil fuels is down 45 percent ... he said, while sales are up 49 percent. Globally, the company’s carpet-making uses one-third the water it used to. The company’s worldwide contribution to landfills has been cut by 80 percent. And in the process, Mr. Anderson has turned into perhaps the leading corporate evangelist for sustainability.
Web entrepreneurs have an eye on social need -- not personal greed
2007-04-15, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Ryan Mickle's life was the stuff young bourgeois dreams are made of. Then a year ago ... Mickle began to take stock of his life. He was earning a lot of money but was giving very little of himself. So Mickle ditched his high-paying job to brainstorm a new venture with friend Rod Ebrahimi. The result was Dotherightthing.com, a San Francisco startup that allows users to rank companies based on their social impact on the world. Their site [allows] consumers to influence corporate behavior. The sentiment is summed up in Dotherightthing.com's T-shirt slogan: "It's cool to care." Mickle, 26, and Ebrahimi, 25, are among a growing number of entrepreneurs betting they can build ventures that deliver both financial and social returns. EBay founder Pierre Omidyar has dedicated much of his fortune to helping for-profits and nonprofits alike discover their power to do good. At www.freepledge.com, shoppers buy the same products from the same merchants for the same price, but a percentage is donated to the nonprofit of their choice. Darian Hickman, 28, is designing an online strategy game that turns the players into entrepreneurs who help bring prosperity to impoverished villages in underdeveloped countries. [He was] inspired by Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel prize-winning micro-finance pioneer. Premal Shah [is a] former PayPal executive who is president of online micro-lender Kiva.org. Brian Johnson, 32 ... said he felt uncomfortable with capitalism until he hit on the concept of "using economics as a force for good. How do we live our spiritual ideals and make money?" Now Johnson tries to have it both ways with Zaadz.com, which he describes as MySpace for people who want to change the world.
Note: We encourage you to take some time to explore some of these exciting new adventures which are transforming the face of business and building a brighter future for us all. For more on micro-finance, micro-lending, and how you can help end poverty without donating a penny, click here. And for the profile of website founder Fred Burks on Zaadz.com, click here.
Unsung fortune: A rich man's secret
2007-03-26, Philadelphia Inquirer
Hal Taussig wears baggy jeans and fraying work shirts that Goodwill might reject. His shoes have been resoled three times. At age 81, he doesn't own a car. He performs errands and commutes to the office by bicycle. And he has given away millions. Given the fortune that Taussig has made through Untours, his unique travel business, and has given away through the Untours Foundation, you could call him the Un-millionaire. If he so chose, he could be living in a Main Line mansion and driving a Mercedes. But he considers money and what he calls "stuff," beyond what he needs to survive, a burden, an embarrassment. In many respects, he's a 21st-century Thoreau. "Let your capital be simplicity and contentment," the sage of Walden Pond wrote. "Those are my sentiments precisely," says Taussig, who has three children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. He directs the Untours Foundation, into which he pours all his profits - $5 million since 1992. The money is used to make low-interest loans to ventures and projects that help the needy and jobless - from a craft store in Hanoi to a home-health-care cooperative in Philadelphia. "I invest in entrepreneurial efforts to help poor people leverage themselves out of poverty." "In America, we worship success," he says. "It's a shoddy ethic that leads us to value who we are by what we are." The motto of the Untours Foundation is "a hand up, not a handout." It provides low-interest loans, here and abroad, to create jobs, build low-income housing, and support fair-trade products: goods such as coffee that are sold at a price that guarantees producers and workers a fair wage and decent livelihood.
Note: For an easy way you can use your investments to help families pull out of poverty, click here.
8 technologies for a green future
The planet's most pressing environmental problems ... may seem just too big to be solved with today's technology. But don't despair: A lot of bright minds are working on futuristic projects that promise to make the world greener. It's save-the-world stuff like toxic-waste-eating trees, smart electricity grids, oceangoing robots, and floating environmental sensors. This technology may seem far out - but it will probably be here a lot sooner than you think. 1. Try a solar-powered hydrogen fueling station in your garage. It's about the size of a filing cabinet and runs on electricity generated by standard-issue rooftop solar panels. The first version of the home fueling station is expected to produce enough hydrogen to give your runabout a range of some 100 miles without emitting a molecule of planet-warming greenhouse gas. 2. Environmental sensor networks [provide] real-time data on a variety of phenomena that affect the economy and society - climate change, hurricanes, air and water pollution. 3. Toxin-eating trees ... a technology that uses vegetation to absorb hazardous waste from industrial plants and other polluters. 4. Nuclear waste neutralizer ... a chemical technology called Urex+ that extracts reusable uranium and separates out cesium, allowing four times as much waste to be packed into nuclear burial grounds. 5. Autonomous ocean robots. 6. Sonic water purifier ... a sci-fi solution for an age-old problem that leaves 1.1 billion people without access to clean water: 7. Endangered-species tracker. 8. The interactive, renewable smart power grid ... the electricity grid of the future ... will look more like the Internet - distributed, interactive, open-source - than the dumb, one-way network of today.
Note: For many other exciting discoveries of new energy sources, click here.
The Monk in the Lab
2003-04-26, New York Times
The neuroscience laboratory of Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin [has been] using imaging devices that show what occurs in the brain during meditation. Dr. Davidson has been able to study the effects of Buddhist practices for cultivating compassion, equanimity or mindfulness. Experiments have [shown] some practitioners can achieve a state of inner peace, even when facing extremely disturbing circumstances. Dr. Paul Ekman of the University of California at San Francisco [found] that jarring noises (one as loud as a gunshot) failed to startle the Buddhist monk he was testing. Dr. Davidson [conducted] research with people working in highly stressful jobs. These people ... were taught mindfulness, a state of alertness in which the mind does not get caught up in thoughts or sensations, but lets them come and go, much like watching a river flow by. After eight weeks, Dr. Davidson found that in these people, the parts of their brains that help to form positive emotions became increasingly active. The implications of all this are clear: the world today needs citizens and leaders who can work toward ensuring stability and engage in dialogue with the "enemy." It's worth noting that these methods are not just useful, but inexpensive. Everybody has the potential to lead a peaceful, meaningful life. Modern technology and human intelligence guided by hatred can lead to immense destruction. To respond wisely and effectively ... we would do well to remember that the war against hatred and terror can be waged on this, the internal front, too. If humanity is to survive, happiness and inner balance are crucial. We cannot neglect our inner development.
This Magic Moment
It was like many Maui mornings, the sun rising over Haleakala as we greeted our divers for the day's charter... Near the last level of the dive ... three of us caught the current and drifted along the outside of the reef, slowly beginning our ascent until, far below, something caught my eye. I made out the white shoulder patches of a manta ray in about one hundred and twenty feet of water. So I started calling through my regulator, "Hey, come up and see me!" I had tried this before to attract the attention of whales and dolphins, who ... will come sometimes just to see what the noise is about. Once my brain clicked in and I was able to concentrate, I saw deep V-shaped marks of her flesh missing from her backside. She had fishing hooks embedded in her head by her eye, with very thick fishing line running to her tail. She had rolled with the line and was wrapped head to tail about five or six times. The line had torn into her body at the back, and those were the V-shaped chunks that were missing. Forgetting about my air, my divers and where I was, I went to the manta. I moved very slowly and talked to her the whole time, like she was one of the horses I had grown up with. When she had steadied, I took out the knife that I carry on my inflator hose. I cut through one line and into the next until she had all she could take of me and would move away, only to return in a moment or two. I could have stayed there forever! ... I was totally oblivious to everything but that moment. I loved this manta. I was so moved that she would allow me to do this to her. But reality came screaming down on me. With my air running out, I reluctantly came to my senses and pushed myself away...
Note: Don't miss the entire moving story at the link above.
Researchers Seek Routes to Happier Life
2006-11-26, Washington Post/Associated Press
As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Caroline Adams Miller knows a few things about using mental exercises to achieve goals. But last year, one exercise she was asked to try took her by surprise. Every night, she was to think of three good things that happened that day and analyze why they occurred. That was supposed to increase her overall happiness. "I thought it was too simple to be effective," said Miller. "I went to Harvard. I'm used to things being complicated." Miller was assigned the task as homework in a master's degree program. "The quality of my dreams has changed, I never have trouble falling asleep and I do feel happier." Miller said the exercise made her notice more good things in her day, and that now she routinely lists 10 or 20 of them rather than just three. That exercise is one of several that have shown preliminary promise in recent research into how people can make themselves happier — not just for a day or two, but long-term. There has been very little research in how people become happier. The big reason ... is that many researchers have considered that quest to be futile. But recent long-term studies have revealed that the happiness thermostat is more malleable than the popular theory maintained. One new study ... followed thousands of Germans for 17 years. About a quarter changed significantly over that time in their basic level of satisfaction with life. Another approach under study now is having people work on savoring the pleasing things in their lives like a warm shower or a good breakfast. [Yet] another promising approach is having people write down what they want to be remembered for, to help them bring their daily activities in line with what's really important to them.