Heroes of the Environment - Annie Leonard
2008-09-24, Time Magazine
Annie Leonard [has] been relentlessly explaining the absurdity of our throwaway culture [for] decades. While her mastery of detail is impressive, it's her passionate style that transforms bleak facts into emotive stories that compel you to take action. Leonard knew her story needed to reach as many people as possible to make a real difference. So, in 2007, she made it viral through an infectious online film called "The Story of Stuff". Within six months, more than 3 million viewers from around the world watched the film. "The Story of Stuff" effectively and often humorously explains where all our stuff comes from, what resources are used to create it, whose lives are affected during its production, and where it goes when we discard it. While this all sounds familiar enough, it's Leonard's poignant questions and provocative truth-telling that help us see the profound stupidity of this system. Leonard has spent the last 20 years raising awareness of environmental health and justice issues, working with organizations such as the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance, Health Care Without Harm, Greenpeace International and the Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption, which brings together grant makers committed to building a more sustainable future. She has spent nearly half of her life traveling to more than 30 countries to witness the environmental impact of casual consumerism and the travails of those who make what we consume; and she has spent countless hours working to right these injustices. Which is why when Leonard talks trash, people cannot help but listen.
Note: For Annie's excellent website filled with inspiring ideas on how you can make a difference, click here. For a longer article in Yes! Magazine written by Annie, click here.
For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Georgia school employee hailed as 'real hero' for talking gunman into giving up
A man slips behind someone else into a packed elementary school with an AK-47-type weapon. He goes into the office and shoots at the ground, then darts between there and outside to fire at approaching police. So what do you do? If you're Antoinette Tuff, who works in the front office at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy just outside Atlanta, you don't run. You talk. You divulge your personal struggles to the gunman, you tell him you love him, you even proactively offer to walk outside with him to surrender so police won't shoot. And then the nightmare ends with the suspect, later identified as Michael Brandon Hill, taken into custody and no one inside or outside the Decatur school even hurt, despite the gunfire. By the end -- with police themselves having never directly talked to him -- Tuff and the gunman were talking about where he would put his weapon, how he'd empty his pockets and where he'd lie down before authorities could get him. "It's going to be all right, sweetie," she tells Hill at one point [audible in the 911 call]. "I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I'm proud of you. That's a good thing that you're just giving up and don't worry about it. We all go through something in life." Tuff then let the gunman know that she'd been down before herself, but she'd picked herself up. He could, too. "I thought the same thing, you know, I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me," she said. "But look at me now. I'm still working and everything is OK." That day, for everyone at that school, everything did turn out OK. Shots were fired, but no one got hurt. The gunman never made it to the classroom area, deciding instead to give up and lay down.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Kaiser study yields big progress for hypertension
2013-08-21, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
In just a decade, and using a deceptively simple approach, Kaiser Permanente doubled the percentage of Northern California patients whose blood pressures were brought down to healthy levels. The Kaiser program relied on close monitoring by a team of health care workers and the use of cheaper, more efficient drugs to treat high blood pressure. Over the course of an eight-year study, the percentage of patients with high blood pressure who had it under control increased from 44 percent in 2001 to 80 percent in 2009. The rate continued to climb after the study ended, and as of 2011, 87 percent of patients had lowered their high blood pressure to a healthy level. The results are intriguing because high blood pressure ... is treatable with medication and lifestyle changes, but has remained stubbornly difficult to control in most patients, Kaiser doctors said. During the years of the Kaiser study, the number of heart attacks and strokes fell substantially. Dr. Don Conkling, a 63-year-old Kaiser member who was part of the study, managed to get his blood pressure into a normal, healthy range for the first time since his early 40s. He lost about 60 pounds, cut out sugar and meat from his diet, and started walking several times a day, often for miles at a time, with his dog Sophie. Conkling, a veterinarian in San Bruno, also meditates every day for 45 minutes or longer to help reduce stress from his job. Not all patients have to make such drastic lifestyle changes to lower their blood pressure, Conkling said.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
A Universe Full of Planets
2013-07-26, New York Times
Using techniques of exquisite sensitivity and technological finesse, astronomers have spent the past two decades on an astonishing voyage of cosmic discovery. They have found that the universe is full of planets: cold, small, and dark next to their large and glaring suns, these worlds have previously been hidden from us.
To spot them represents a challenge that has been compared to looking across thousands of miles to see a firefly buzzing around a brilliant searchlight. They exert a gravitational pull, tugging their parent stars into a gently wobbling motion that we can now detect. We now have firm evidence for thousands of planets, around thousands of stars. We also know something about these worlds, their sizes, their orbits, often their ages. In a handful of cases ... we have even measured the temperature of their upper atmospheres and [determined] their gaseous chemistry, finding substances like sodium, methane and water. No matter how conservative or optimistic we are, the statistics tell us that something like an astonishing one out of every seven stars must harbor a planet similar in size to the Earth, and at roughly the right orbital distance to allow for the possibility of a temperate surface environment. In other words, roughly 15 percent of all suns could, in principle, be hosting a place suitable for life as we know it. Since our galaxy contains at least 200 billion stars, this implies a vast arena for the universe’s ubiquitous carbon chemistry to play in — a process that, as here on Earth, might lead to the complex machinery of life. Indeed, there is a 95-percent confidence — give or take a few percent — that one of these worlds could be within a mere 16 light years of us.
Note: For fascinating testimony from top military and government officials revealing a major cover-up of the existence of UFOs and ETs, click here. For more on the nature of reality, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Delaware 'Public Benefit Corporation' Lets Directors Serve Three Masters Instead Of One
[On July 17 Delaware] Gov. Jack Markell is scheduled to sign a law creating a new “public benefit corporation” where directors must balance the interests of the owners with those of employees, the general public and the environment. Delaware becomes the 19th state to pass such a law, but it may be the most important one since it is home to half of all publicly traded U.S. companies. Not that Ford Motor Co. or Intel are likely to avail themselves of this new corporate structure. Under the Delaware law, 90% of shareholders must approve a shift to benefit status. The law will likely be more popular with closely held firms like Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade products with more than $500 million a year in sales. It gives them a chance to declare a broader set of objectives than profit alone, and a legal structure to pursue them without risking lawsuits by disgruntled shareholders who might prefer a fatter dividend, say, than the comfort of knowing no endangered species were wiped out by their company’s logging operations. Under the new Delaware law, the purpose of a public benefit corporation is to operate in a “responsible and sustainable manner.” Directors can’t be sued for pursuing objectives that advance “artistic, charitable, cultural …scientific or technological” goals. The benefit corporation movement has even formed the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board to come up with the equivalent of GAAP for the Birkenstock-wearing set.
Note: For more on this exciting development, see the Huffington Post article written by Delaware's governor at this link.
Facebook rejects rape culture. Can you?
After I wrote an article about misogyny found on Facebook, people began to send me links to content that they had tried and failed to have removed by the site. Among these was a seven-minute video depicting a gang-rape of a girl by the side of the road. I began looking more deeply into the subject. I came across "humor" pages with names like "Raping Your Girlfriend." There were easily accessed pictures and videos of girls and women frightened, humiliated, bruised, beaten, raped, [and] bathed in blood. In one instance, Facebook declined to remove an image of a woman, mouth covered in tape, in which the caption read, "Don't tap her and rap her. Tape her and rape her." The photo went viral. Facebook's response ... "the photo ... did not violate our community standards." I joined [others] to launch a global campaign to confront institutionalized sexism in media. We wrote an open letter to Facebook, co-signed by more than 100 organizations, asking the company ... to train people to recognize violence against women as hateful. We encouraged users of Facebook to send messages to its advertisers encouraging them to boycott the social media network. Over seven days, men and women around the world sent more than 60,000 tweets ... and 5,000 e-mails to targeted advertisers, 16 of whom withdrew their advertising. Facebook responded, noting that its "systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively" as they would like. We are in the midst of a shifting cultural tide in which gender based violence -- historically kept private -- is better understood as a pandemic problem. Facebook's action represents an open acknowledgment that violence against women is a serious issue [that] deserves serious attention.
Note: How sad that it took facebook advertisers withdrawing their support to make this change. And how awesome that the writer of this article, Soraya Chemaly, had to the courage to stand up and do something about it by initiating this sexism campaign against facebook, and to inspire others to join her. Working together, we can make a difference.
Finally! Independent Testing Of Rossi's E-Cat Cold Fusion Device: Maybe The World Will Change After All
Back in October 2011 I first wrote about Italian engineer, Andrea Rossi, and his E-Cat project, a device that produces heat through a process called a Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR). Very briefly, LENR, otherwise called cold fusion, is a technique that generates energy through low temperature (far lower than hot fusion temperatures which are in the range of tens off thousands of degrees) reactions that are not chemical. Most importantly, LENR is, theoretically, much safer, much simpler, and many orders of magnitude cheaper than hot fusion. What everyone wanted was something that Rossi has been promising was about to happen for months: An independent test by third parties who were credible. A report by credible, independent third parties is exactly what we got. Published on May 16, the paper [is] titled “Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device”, [by] serious academics with reputations to lose and the paper is detailed and thorough. The authors [conclude,] "if we consider the whole volume of the reactor core and the most conservative figures on energy production, we still get a value ... that is one order of magnitude higher than any conventional source." This is not, of course, the last word or even one anywhere near the end of this story but unless this is one of the most elaborate hoaxes in scientific history it looks like the world may well be about to change. How quick will depend solely on Rossi.
Note: For another point of view on this breakthrough testing, see the well written article at this link. For dozens of other major media articles reporting spectacular breakthroughs in new energy technology that strangely were neither debunked nor followed up on, click here.
Tesla’s Model S receives top rating from Consumer Reports
2013-05-09, Washington Post/Bloomberg
Tesla Motors Inc.’s electric Model S, Motor Trend’s 2013 “Car of the Year,” received the highest rating from Consumer Reports in an evaluation of the luxury sedan that led first-quarter North American plug-in car sales. The Model S from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla scored 99 out of 100 points, the non-profit magazine said in an e-mailed statement. The $89,650 car bought by Consumer Reports “performed better, or just as well overall” as any vehicle it’s ever tested, the ... magazine said. “It accelerates, handles and brakes like a sports car, it has the ride and quietness of a luxury car and is far more energy efficient than the best hybrid cars,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing. No rechargeable car has won a score as high as the Model S. The magazine last gave a vehicle 99 points in 2007, when Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus LS460L ranked that high. Model S shortcomings include limited range, long charge times and “coupe-like styling that impairs rear visibility and impedes access,” Consumer Reports said. Along with reliability that isn’t yet determined, Tesla still has a limited service network, the magazine said. The test vehicle had an 85-kilowatt/hour lithium-ion battery pack and averaged about 200 miles (322 kilometers) per charge in real-world driving, the magazine said. The Tesla “is easily the most practical electric car that has been tested to date,” Consumer Reports said.
Note: After undeniable suppression of the electric car by car manufacturers, independent upstart Tesla Motors has done it! Expect to see more breakthroughs from this great new company. For more on the company's amazing namesake and how his inventions were suppressed, click here.
Profile: Global campaign group Avaaz
2013-02-28, BBC News
Avaaz - meaning "voice" in Farsi as well as several other European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages - describes itself as "a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere". According to the group's website, it was launched in 2007 with a mission to "organise citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want". It campaigns in 15 languages and is served by a small core team of 52 full-time staff worldwide and thousands of volunteers in all 192 UN member states, including Iran and China, where its website is illegal. "Our model of internet organising allows thousands of individual efforts, however small, to be rapidly combined into a powerful collective force," it says. Avaaz's founder and executive director, Ricken Patel, told the Times newspaper earlier this month: "There are two types of fatalism. The belief the world can't change, and the belief you can't play a role in changing it." The group employs a wide variety of tactics in its campaigns, including collating petitions with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of signatures; organising demonstrations and phone-ins; fundraising, and paying for advertising. It says its successes range from helping to uphold the EU ban on GM crops to helping to circumventing the Burmese government's ban on international aid after Cyclone Nargis.
Note: The membership of this great organization has rapidly grown to over 20 million worldwide. Consider joining them and making your voice heard at avaaz.org. You can start a petition there which just might draw millions of supporters and make a real difference in building a better world. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
At 93, world's oldest yoga teacher still going strong
2012-05-10, NBC News
Tao Porchon-Lynch considers her hundreds of yoga students to be her own children. The 93-year-old has been practicing yoga since she was 8 years old, and was just named the world's oldest yoga teacher by Guinness World Records. Based in New York, Porchon-Lynch has taught hundreds of students around the globe for over 45 years, and has followers in India, France and the U.S. It wasn’t until the age of 73 that Porchon-Lynch decided to concentrate on teaching yoga, founding the Westchester Institute of Yoga in New York. Porchon-Lynch teaches yoga four days a week and also keeps busy ballroom dancing and guiding wine tours in New York State. And she certainly knows how to overcome a challenge. At 87, she had hip surgery but a month later she took to the dance floor, starting lessons. “I believe that we can always reach just a little bit further," said Porchon-Lynch. "I’m inspired to bring yoga into others’ lives along with helping people unearth new talents.”
Note: For an awesome, two-minute video showing this amazing woman's strength and flexibility, click here. For an inspiring article and video of an incredible 86-year-old gymnast performing unbelievable feats, click here. For an article and video of a 75-year-old grandmother who is a champion body builder and runs 10 miles a day, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?
2013-01-06, New York Times
Most modern justice systems focus on a crime, a lawbreaker and a punishment. But a concept called “restorative justice” considers harm done and strives for agreement from all concerned — the victims, the offender and the community — on making amends. And it allows victims, who often feel shut out of the prosecutorial process, a way to be heard and participate. In this country, restorative justice takes a number of forms, but perhaps the most prominent is restorative-justice diversion. There are not many of these programs — a few exist on the margins of the justice system in communities like Baltimore, Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif. — but, according to a University of Pennsylvania study in 2007, they have been effective at reducing recidivism. Typically, a facilitator meets separately with the accused and the victim, and if both are willing to meet face to face without animosity and the offender is deemed willing and able to complete restitution, then the case shifts out of the adversarial legal system and into a parallel restorative-justice process. All parties — the offender, victim, facilitator and law enforcement — come together in a forum sometimes called a restorative-community conference. Each person speaks, one at a time and without interruption, about the crime and its effects, and the participants come to a consensus about how to repair the harm done. The methods are mostly applied in less serious crimes, like property offenses in which the wrong can be clearly righted. The processes are designed to be flexible enough to handle violent crime like assault, but they are rarely used in those situations.
Note: This deeply moving and highly educational piece from the New York Times Magazine about the power of restorative justice is well worth reading in its entirety at the link above.
Uruguay's President Mujica Shuns Wealth for Small Farm and VW Beetle
2012-11-15, Fox News
Uruguay’s [president] José Mujica ... has shunned the country’s Residencia de Suárez for the cozy but modest quarters of his small home on the outskirts of the capital, Montevideo. Dubbed by many media organizations as the world’s “poorest” president, Mujica and his wife keep house on a small farm surrounded by other tiny homes and guarded by only two police officers and his three-legged dog, Manuela. "I've lived like this most of my life," Mujica told the BBC. "I can live well with what I have." Unlike his forebears and counterparts around the world who live in comfort and are chauffeured around in limousines, Mujica donates 90 percent of his $12,000 monthly salary to charity organizations benefiting the poor and small businesses, and his means of transport is a beat-up 1987 Volkswagon Beetle worth about $1,800 – or the equivalent of his annual personal wealth declaration. This year he bumped his wealth declaration up to $215,000 – only after declaring his wife’s assets of land, tractors and a house – which still pales in comparison to Vice-President Danilo Astori's declared wealth and former President Tabare Vasquez’s bank account. “I'm called 'the poorest president,' but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more," Mujica said. "This is a matter of freedom. If you don't have many possessions then you don't need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself."
Note: For more on this unusual and inspiring president, click here.
A Simple Fix for Farming
2012-10-19, New York Times blog
It's becoming clear that we can grow all the food we need, and profitably, with far fewer chemicals. Conventional agriculture can shed much of its chemical use - if it wants to. What may be the most important agricultural study this year ... was done on land owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm. On 22 acres of it, beginning in 2003, researchers set up three plots: one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another, they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer. The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn't reduce profits by a single cent. In short, there was only upside - and no downside at all - associated with the longer rotations. There was an increase in labor costs, but remember that profits were stable. So this is a matter of paying people for their knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons. And it's a high-stakes game; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, about five billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States.
Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife
2012-10-08, Daily Beast/Newsweek
As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death. I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain. For seven days I lay in a deep coma, my body unresponsive, my higher-order brain functions totally offline. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: the same one described by countless subjects of near-death experiences and other mystical states—is there. It exists, and what I saw and learned there has placed me quite literally in a new world: a world where we are much more than our brains and bodies, and where death is not the end of consciousness but rather a chapter in a vast, and incalculably positive, journey. For most of my journey, someone else was with me. A woman. Without using any words, she spoke to me. The message went through me like a wind, and I instantly understood that it was true. I knew so in the same way that I knew that the world around us was real—was not some fantasy, passing and insubstantial. “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.” “You have nothing to fear.” “There is nothing you can do wrong.”
Note: The author of this stirring account, Dr. Eben Alexander, has been a neurosurgeon for the past 25 years. His engaging book on this life-changing experience is Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife. For video interviews and other information on Dr. Alexander, click here. For other highly inspiring resources and stories related to near-death experiences, click here.
'Psychic' parrot expected to ruffle scientific feathers
2001-02-12, USA Today
N'Kisi may look like an ordinary Congo African gray parrot, but she's the subject of a series of telepathy experiments by a former Cambridge University researcher who says the results are "astounding." "The parrot seems to be able to pick up her owner's thoughts with an amazing degree of accuracy," says Rupert Sheldrake, a former Royal Society researcher at Cambridge and author of Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals. N'Kisi's owner, Aimee Morgana of Manhattan, ... says she first noticed N'Kisi's psychic abilities when she saw an explicit picture in the Village Voice personals. "I was thinking, 'Wow, that's a pretty naturalistic work.' " Then, she says, N'Kisi spoke from the parrot's cage across the room: "Oh, look at the pretty naked body." Sheldrake was interested. He explored N'Kisi's psychic abilities using a double-blind test. He asked Morgana to look at photographs in one room while the parrot was in a cage in another. One camera videotaped Morgana looking at photographs, another camera about 55 feet away videotaped the parrot, who made comments that seemed to correspond to many of the photos Morgana was looking at. N'Kisi made 123 comments during the test sessions, and 32 of those were "direct hits" corresponding to the images Morgana was looking at. The chances of that occurring, Sheldrake says, are less than 1 in a billion. Telepathy is made possible, he says, by the emotional bonds between people and animals. "In the case of N'Kisi, there's a very strong connection between her and Aimee."
Note: For a nine-minute video of this fascinating experiment, click here. For a sample of N'Kisi talking, click here. For a brilliant lecture by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, the above-mentioned researcher, questioning the rigid dogmas of the current scientific paradigm, click here.
Ask the Experts: What Is a Near-Death Experience?
2011-08-03, ABC News Nightline
What does a NDE look and feel like? There are thousands upon thousands of descriptions, all of which show striking similarities between different people's experiences -- the white light, a tunnel, a life review and sense of peace -- so there does seem to exist a unifying thread throughout. Caroline Myss, a best-selling author and a speaker on spirituality and health, focuses on the first explanation. "A near-death experience is a phenomenon in which a person's physical body ceases to have any signs of life, and the soul detaches from the body and begins what could be called the journey into the afterlife. ... A long tunnel of light begins to appear. ... What's so phenomenal is that the descriptions [people] give, no matter what culture, no matter what background, match the ancient descriptions ... from various cultures. So if these experiences were in fact made up or hallucinatory, somebody did a very good job of getting that information out to multiple cultures at the same time." Dr. Jeffrey Long runs the Near Death Experience Research Foundation. He defines the physical conditions of someone having a NDE as "unconscious ... or actually clinically dead, with absent heartbeat and no spontaneous respiration. ... And yet when they shouldn't have any conscious remembering at this time, they do. ... While no two NDEs are the same, if you study large numbers of NDEs you see that very consistent pattern of elements."
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on NDE's, click here.
Are we wildly underestimating solar and wind power?
2012-06-19, Washington Post blog
Right now, renewable energy sources like solar and wind still provide just a small fraction of the world’s electricity. But they’re growing fast. Solar is growing exponentially. Across the globe, 55 terawatt-hours of solar power had been installed by the end of 2011. That may not seem like much in itself — the United States by itself, after all, needed about one hundred times that much power in 2011. But solar has been growing at a stunning rate, as panels keep getting dramatically cheaper. If these exponential growth rates [continue] solar could provide nearly 10 percent of the world’s electricity by 2018. Official agencies keep underestimating the growth rate of renewables. The International Energy Agency is forecasting that solar will catch on much more slowly — providing a mere 4.5 percent of the world’s electricity by 2035. But [t]he IEA has almost always underestimated how quickly wind and solar can grow. Forecasters have consistently been too pessimistic. For instance, back in 2000, the IEA’s World Energy Outlook predicted that non-hydro sources of renewable energy would make up 3 percent of global energy by the year 2020. The world reached that point in 2008, well ahead of schedule. Using only current technology, renewables could technically provide the vast bulk of U.S. electricity by mid-century.
Note: The media has consistently underplayed the promising potential for alternative energy sources. The fact that the above is a blog and not a regular article in the Post is yet another example of this. For more on promising developments on energy technologies, click here.
Studying the art of gratitude
2012-06-18, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Are we in the middle of a gratitude movement? Evidence suggests so. Publishers can't seem to print enough books with the words "gratitude" or "gratefulness" in the title. Scientists rake in millions of dollars in grants to study how feelings of gratitude might improve physical health and psychological well-being. And this weekend, hundreds are expected to attend a Pathways to Gratefulness conference [in San Francisco] to talk about cultivating gratefulness in their lives. Among the participants is Brother David Steindl-Rast, an 85-year-old Benedictine monk, considered the spiritual leader of the gratitude movement. The author of Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer ... and A Listening Heart ..., Steindl-Rast will be joined by an eclectic collection of writers, poets, spiritual teachers and scientists involved in the fast-growing field of gratitude research. One of those scientists, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, is director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, which controls a $5.9 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to fund a project called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. Simon-Thomas ... said the Berkeley center is considering 60 research proposals, including many from the leading brain science laboratories in the United States. Some of the research would build on studies already conducted by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, who cites "scientific proof that when people regularly work on cultivating gratitude they experience a variety of measurable benefits - psychological, physical and social."
Note: For a profound, five-minute video on gratefulness that will brighten your day, click here. And for an excellent essay on gratitude, click here.
I believe in Tim Tebow
I've come to believe in [NFL star] Tim Tebow for what he does off a football field, which is represent the best parts of us, the parts I want to be and so rarely am. Who among us is this selfless? Every week, Tebow picks out someone who is suffering, or who is dying, or who is injured. He flies these people and their families to the Broncos game, rents them a car, puts them up in a nice hotel, buys them dinner (usually at a Dave & Buster's), gets them and their families pregame passes, visits with them just before kickoff (!), gets them 30-yard-line tickets down low, visits with them after the game (sometimes for an hour), has them walk him to his car, and sends them off with a basket of gifts. Home or road, win or lose, hero or goat. This whole thing makes no football sense, of course. Most NFL players hardly talk to teammates before a game, much less visit with the sick and dying. Isn't that a huge distraction? "Just the opposite," Tebow says. "It's by far the best thing I do to get myself ready. Here you are, about to play a game that the world says is the most important thing in the world. Win and they praise you. Lose and they crush you. And here I have a chance to talk to the coolest, most courageous people. It puts it all into perspective. The game doesn't really matter. I mean, I'll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it's to invest in people's lives, to make a difference."
Sentenced to Serving the Good Life in Norway
2010-07-12, Time Magazine
On Bastoy, an island 46 miles south of Oslo,  residents live in brightly colored wooden chalets, spread over one square mile of forest and gently sloping hills. They go horseback riding and throw barbecues, and have access to a movie theater, tanning bed and, during winter, two ski jumps. Despite all its trappings, Bastoy island isn't an exclusive resort: it's a prison. Bastoy's governor ... describes it as the world's first human-ecological prison — a place where inmates learn to take responsibility for their actions by caring for the environment. Prisoners grow their own organic vegetables, turn their garbage into compost and tend to chickens, cows, horses and sheep. The prison generally emphasizes trust and self-regulation: Bastoy has no fences, the windows have no bars, and only five guards remain on the island after 3 p.m. In an age when countries from Britain to the U.S. cope with exploding prison populations by building ever larger — and, many would say, ever harsher — prisons, Bastoy seems like an unorthodox, even bizarre, departure. But Norwegians see the island as the embodiment of their country's long-standing penal philosophy: that traditional, repressive prisons do not work, and that treating prisoners humanely boosts their chances of reintegrating into society. Norway's system produces overwhelmingly positive results. Within two years of their release, 20% of Norway's prisoners end up back in jail. In the U.K. and the U.S., the figure hovers between 50% and 60%. Of course, Norway's ... prison roll lists a mere 3,300 inmates, a rate of 70 per 100,000 people, compared with 2.3 million in the U.S., or 753 per 100,000 — the highest rate in the world.
Note: Why aren't other countries taking heed of Norway's excellent example? Part of the reason is that some companies make massive profits from the prison system. For more on this, click here.