We might be in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event in the history of the Earth, according to researchers.
To preserve life at risk of extinction, seed banks have begun popping up. The most famous of those vaults is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault outside the Arctic Circle, but another seed vault is doing work trying to guarantee the survival of native California plant life.
The California Botanical Garden in Claremont is working to preserve the over 6,500 native plants in the state. They do this by either growing and propagating the plants in their gardens or by harvesting and then freezing living seeds, essentially preserving them in stasis.
“We have more kinds of plants than any other state in the United States,” says Naomi Fraga, director of conservation programs at the California Botanic Garden. “We’re incredibly rich and diverse.”
How is it helping?
With the threat of pollution, development, and wildfires, about a third of California’s plants are endangered and that’s one of the main reasons the Botanical Garden started doing the work of preserving and cataloging plant life, something that they’ve been doing since 1927.
One of the best ways that people can help the California Botanical Garden preserve native plant life is by planting and maintaining California plants in individual or community gardens.
“I dream about that,” says Naomi. “I dream about native plant landscapes across people’s yards, even if you can only do container plants on your balcony. It’s magical to build a garden and see life just sort of arrive.”
Home life isn’t always easy. Financial struggles, abuse, and a whole host of other circumstances can lead to kids and teenagers wanting to run away, to escape. Those kids often find themselves in dangerous situations away from home – going missing entirely.
The National Runaway Safeline is an organization that provides resources to those kids and extended families to keep them as safe as possible.
The safe line serves primarily as the national communication hotline for youth in crisis and homelessness across the country, but in its over 50 years of existence, it has evolved to bring other resources for parents and guardians of the youth in crisis as well.
They run essentially in two mediums, their primary crisis hotline, 1-800-runaway, where people can call for instant crisis help, and their online portion which features multiple forums, and a live chat feature, which has become one of their most popular assets.
“We often see younger youth reaching out by our chat service versus hotline,” Jess Jasurda, Director of Crisis Services for National Runaway Safeline tells Smiley News. “I know, voicemails and talking on the phone is scary, for me personally, but especially when we think about how often young people are engaging online, texting with each other, etc. that really offers a low-barrier way to connect with a safe and supportive adult and a free and confidential way to so it’s a little bit of what we do there.”
The safe line is funded through the Family and Youth Service Bureau. Their primary demographic is from the ages of 12 to 21 but sees a much larger proportion of the people they serve between 15 to 17.
“Think about yourself when you’re 15 to 17,” Jess says. “That’s an age group where we know that a lot of young people are learning about themselves, establishing what it means to be independent from mom, dad, family, and really tried to navigate some tough situations.
“Just paying attention to the increase in younger youth reaching out is something that, that we’re really taking a look at. When we think specifically about young people who are 15 and under, we’ve seen a 53% increase over the past three years.”
The service has changed over the years and has really adapted to whatever time they were dealing with. “We’ve grown so much and have really added a lot of different facets to our programming to move towards the place where we know that young people are reaching out and getting support in this way,” Jess says.
“So each year, we impact and have the opportunity to connect with over 125,000 young people and so that’s across both of our hotline and our digital resources.”
One young entrepreneur has created an app to make your journey around London that bit healthier.
Tell me more.
Tanya Beri, aged 29, has won one of Innovator UK’s Young Innovator awards for creating an app designed to help you travel around London on the Tube.
But this isn’t quite like the other map apps you might have used – rather than showing you the quickest way to your destination, Tanya’s app will show you the least polluted route.
Hang on, what?
That’s right! Tanya’s app uses research which has been performed over the years by multiple scientists, including those from Kings College London, to tell you how polluted your journey will be.
This is in the hopes of reducing the amount of pollution you inhale on your trip around the capital, keeping you healthier for longer.
Why does the level of pollution in the air matter?
Various studies suggest that long-term exposure to the pollutants that gather in badly ventilated underground lines (such as Victoria or Jubilee which are deep underground) is linked to increased rates of chronic bronchitis and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease.
Tanya’s app will be released later this year, so keep an eye out.
Let’s start off with a bit of whimsy – the National Cat Awards are coming in 2023!
Run by national charity Cats Protection, this is a heartwarming awards ceremony, celebrating cats in four different categories: Cat Colleagues, Family Fur-ever, Moggy Marvels and Social Star.
The event aims to spotlight the nation’s most marvellous moggies, with “heartwarming tales of devotion, courage and companionship” Cats that have been nominated range from everyone’s favourite work-from-home buddy to those who help out at old people’s homes.
If you need a bit of joy in your life, follow these awards – or nominate a cat.
This hydrogen-powered flying boat will be taking flight (or perhaps setting sail?) at the U.N Climate Change Conference in November 2023.
It’s a brilliant new zero-emission vessel which is a great representation of the work that is being done by scientists in all different disciplines to help combat climate change. We can’t wait to see its unveiling.
After 15 years in the making, the combined offshore wind and power storage facility will go live this year.
Based off the coast of Ishikari Bay in Hokkaido, Japan, the facility is the largest of the several new wind farms being built to take advantage of Japan’s strong winds.
Ishikari Offshore Wind is comprised of fourteen 8.0 MW turbines and a 100 MW/180 MWhr storage battery, meaning it will be able to collect and store a huge amount of green energy to help power Japan. Get clued up.
The Southeast side of Chicago used to be a bed of industry. Steel mills powered the economy but, like a lot of industrial towns throughout America, once the industry moved elsewhere all it left was pollution.
Following the exodus, brownfields (or previously developed but currently unused lands) popped up and many of the spaces were too polluted or contaminated to do anything about.
To address the climate impact the industry has had, people in the community have begun working to create green spaces that educate and feed residents and serve as community hubs.
After an accident several years ago where she was nearly run over, Rhiane Fatinikun was diagnosed with PTSD.
“After that, I just wanted to find something new to do – for my wellbeing more than anything,” she tells Smiley News, on a train journey through the Peak District.
Rhiane would have the idea to go hiking – and now, that idea has blossomed into Black Girls Hike.
“I made it a group for Black women because you don’t see much representation of us in the outdoors,” explains Rhiane. “What I really wanted to do was create a space where we can engage more of our community and inspire more people just to get outside and be that representation for people who are a little bit apprehensive.
“They talk about all of these barriers to the outdoors … our mission is to help overcome the barriers.”
Four years after their inception, Black Girls Hike has had success after success. From TED Talks to visits to Windsor Castle, to joining forces with the Duke of Edinburgh award, Black Girls Hike is opening up the countryside and proving that nature is there for everyone.
“There’s this assumed knowledge that everybody knows how to access the outdoors,” says Rhiane. “[But] if you’re from like inner city London for example, you’re not going to know.”
Though it started off as a hiking group, helping to educate people and engage them in the outdoors, Black Girls Hike has grown into something so much more. Members give career and personal advice and are committed to seeing each other succeed.
From a group about nature, they have built up a community of women who support and uplift each other.
“Initially when I started the group, it was just supposed to be a meet-up group,” says Rhiane. “But then I realised that it had the potential to be a community development organisation and wanted to make sure that we [were] reaching everybody.”
But why outdoors in nature? Rhaine has an answer for that, too.
“Nature’s like the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it?” laughs Rhiane. “You grow in the outdoors and not just physically – it’s mentally. It helps you overcome so many barriers in your mind and really brings you out of your comfort zone.”
“A lot of the time like most of the people that come to our group, work in a space where they’re not represented,” explains Rhiane. “[Black Girls Hike] is kind of like taking off a mask.
“You don’t have to contextualise things. It’s less exhausting.”
As for the future of Black Girls Hike – one of the things Rhiane is most passionate about is getting young people involved in the outdoors.
“I can see the young people are the future and the future of the outdoors,” she says. “They’re so impressionable – it’s a great opportunity for you to mould them, inspire them and to kind of like really open up their eyes and their aspiration.”
It is this passion that sparked the collaborations between Black Girls Hike and The Wildlife Trust, aimed at getting young people involved in the nature that is all around them.
“We’re working with young people in the London area aged 18 to 25. And we’re trying to … find new ways to engage them in nature in creative ways,” explains Rhiane. “We’re doing photography workshops, mindfulness sessions, drawing.”
For many young people of colour, Rhiane explains, the outdoors has an image she is desperate to dispel – that the outdoors is only for older, white men.
“What we really want to do is we want to change that scrap that image. [The] outdoors is for everybody, and we really want to encourage people to see it as a space for them as well.”
Positive tipping points are the way forward for climate action, says new research.
Think about policy changes like subsidies for renewable energy sources, or how the tax system in Norway makes electric vehicles cheaper than ones powered by fossil fuels.
Initially, they may not look like much – they might seem futile, or like they would only make things better for those who are already committed to climate action, rather than encouraging people who aren’t.
But these are what Professor Tim Lenton from the University of Exeter is calling ‘positive tipping points’.
But what does it really mean?
Positive tipping points are basically smaller actions that spark huge changes within a wider and more complex world.
Professor Lenton gives the example of Greta Thunberg, who burst onto the climate action scene as a young girl and created a feedback loop – encouraging more and more people to take action against climate change.
According to Professor Lenton, these ‘positive tipping points’ often begin in smaller groups and sub-cultures, and then make their way into wider society by influencing new actions.
Perhaps these small tipping points won’t entirely reverse climate change – but according to Professor Lenton, it could cause a ‘climate stalemate’, helping to make up for some of the things that have gone wrong so far.
For example, as more people buy solar panels, more time is invested in researching the technology because it is a profitable business. From here, the technology has become more refined and easier to produce, making it cheaper – and because they’re more affordable, more people will buy the solar panels.
It might sound complicated at first, but in essence – even small actions can have a huge impact on our planet!