How Arizona is still finding ways to grow – despite water crisis

Arizona is one of the quickest-growing states in the country. Its capital, Phoenix, has blossomed into the fifth most populated city in the US and all that is despite being a massive dry and arid state with deserts everywhere and a concerning water supply. 

West of Phoenix is a small farming town called Buckeye that is being touted as one of the fastest growing towns in the country, starting with a population of 6,500 in 2000 to the north of 111,000 today.

All of this, despite the fact that Arizona is the driest its been in 1,200 years. Currently, amid a 23-year-long megadrought Arizona officials are getting creative with how to use the water, they do have while helping promote the state’s continuous growth. 

Arizona has some of the lowest priority rights to the river water of any of the seven basin states. So Phoenix and its suburbs are increasingly turning to groundwater as the state has endured big cuts to Colorado River water.

While the state released a report about the use of water and how they may be running a little lower than expected many town officials welcomed the news saying that a detailed report helps them plan the cities better and more efficiently.

“I don’t think we want to shut off all of the growth trying to figure out the solution for all the growth, “ Buckeye Mayor Eric Orbsorn says. “We can do this in an incremental approach.”

This is a part of a wider trend, specifically in states like Arizona and to the west, California where states are having to find creative ways to save water while still promoting positive growth in their communities. 

If this is something you’re passionate about consider donating to some organizations like to help bring potable water to developing countries.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.


After losing his leg to cancer, students help teacher’s dog

Sometimes it feels like devoted teenagers can change the world, and a few high school students did just that for a three-legged dog. 

Practicing with a 3D printer, students wanted to help their middle school math teacher, Ashley Liberto, whose dog, Bentley, was diagnosed with cancer after a vet found soft tissue sarcoma in his right elbow.

Faced with the decision to put him down or amputate his leg, his owner chose amputation.

“I don’t have kids; he’s my child. It was terrible. It was emotionally exhausting. I was crying every night,” Ashley told People magazine.

After a successful surgery, Bentley was still happy and full of life but got tired more easily. That’s when Ashley had an idea to help students learn some real-5 applications for 3D printing. She wanted to see if any of her former students in an introductory computer-aided design and 3D-printing class could help her golden retriever.

She then reached out to a colleague that taught the course and they agreed. 

“I thought it was a great opportunity for the students to see a real-world application for what they’re learning at school,” teacher Todd Johnson told People. “I knew once the students wrapped their heads around it, they would come up with designs that are viable solutions.”

And so the students split into small groups to hold a friendly competition to see who could make the best design for Bentley’s new leg.

Eventually, after the project concluded, some students worked on their own time to get the measurements just right Bentley came out with extra support and a whole new leg. 

“Students are amazing,” Ashley said to WCNC. “They have such an imagination. They want to do big things in life.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.


On rare disease day, let’s think about those fighting for others

By definition, rare diseases are not ones you may readily have heard of. Diseases like cancer all stick in our minds because most people know someone who has been affected by cancer (not that it makes it any less devastating when it happens) – but also because there are so many people trying to cure it.

Rare diseases, however, are less well known and therefore have less support. But Sophie Muir, chair and founder of the Timothy Syndrome Alliance, has never let that stop her.

Timothy Syndrome is caused by a mutation in the gene CACNA1C. The syndrome affects your child’s heart, physical appearance, and nervous and immune systems. More than just rare – this syndrome is known to affect less than 100 people worldwide.

Like a rare disease private investigator, Sophie has spent years tracking down other families who have children with the condition. Today, they have a Facebook support group, allowing them to stay connected, share tips together, and provide encouragement and support for parents and kids alike.

“We need to find more families – more research will give us more answers,” explains Sophie.

Though less than 100 people worldwide have been diagnosed with Timothy Syndrome, there may be so many more who are affected. Because of how rare Timothy Syndrome is, patients may struggle to get a diagnosis – simply because there is so little knowledge that it exists. 

That’s just one of the reasons Sophie is so intent on raising awareness for the Timothy Syndrome Alliance and, in turn, Timothy Syndrome – so those who have the disease can get the answers they so desperately need.

“There are thousands of kids sitting in paediatricians’ offices [and] clinics all over the world but nobody has really been looking for CACNA1C,” explains Sophie. “[There are] so many questions, but because the gene is in the calcium channel and [it] goes through the whole body – it affects all cells.”

With the disease being as rare as it is, it’s so important to Sophie that families are found, contacted and get involved. The more people with Timothy Syndrome that the TSA knows about, the more research is able to be done – research that goes towards making the lives of everyone affected by Timothy Syndrome easier. 

“The more engagement [there is] with research, [the more] we’re able to feed back to the families some of the knowledge that we’re finding to be able to help,” says Sophie.

Working solo on a daily basis, other than help from her board of trustees, Sophie spends her whole day juggling being a mother, including one child who has Timothy Syndrome, partner and pet owner with championing support for this incredible charity.

While they have a few volunteers, Sophie is, primarily, the captain, first mate and sailor of the Timothy Syndrome Alliance. Between fundraising, raising awareness of the charity and running the day-to-day, 

“We’re so rare, people haven’t heard of us,” admits Sophie. “People tend to be more aware of the more common rare diseases and, as we are super small and super rare, it’s very difficult to get your voice heard.”

Rare Diseases Day occurs on the 28th Feb every year, and is meant to bring awareness and support to those who are affected by rare diseases or actively performing research into them. 

The Timothy Syndrome Alliance was set up in order to help fund research into Timothy Syndrome, as well as to provide support to families in the UK and worldwide who are affected by the disease. 

If you’re interested in supporting the Timothy Syndrome Alliance for Rare Disease Day, you can do so by donating through their website.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.


A look back: King Charles III his passion for the climate

King Charles III has made headlines by pledging to donate wind farm earnings back into the community as well as his charity work, of which there’s a lot.

But what a lot of people don’t know is that the environment has always been at the forefront of His Majesty’s mind – even when climate change was widely dismissed by all but the most dedicated scientists. 

So we thought we would take a look back at King Charles’ history with climate action, and the initiatives he has supported over the course of his life – because maybe, just maybe, his reign could mean great things for the UK’s climate footprint. 

Going back in time

King Charles first started talking publicly about the climate crisis when he was 21, as the new chairman of the Welsh Countryside Committee. This was back in 1970 and, as Charles put it, most people thought his ideas were ‘dotty’.

But in this particularly poignant quote, we can see just how forward-thinking he was. “When you think that each person produces roughly 2lb of rubbish per day and there are 55 million of us on this island using non-returnable bottles and indestructible plastic containers, it is not difficult to imagine the mountains of refuse that we shall have to deal with somehow,” he said at the time.

From there, Charles only became more vocal about his climate concerns. With the power he had, then as Prince of Wales, he made changes where he could in his own life, and in the lives of others. For example, he has made various Crown-owned properties powered by solar panels, uses electric cars on his estates, and even has a biomass boiler installed at Birkhall

Back in the 1980s, Charles became interested in organic gardening, leading him to launch his own organic brand, Duchy Originals, which sells more than 200 sustainably produced products – from food, to garden furniture. Even better, all the profits from Duchy Originals go towards supporting the Prince’s Charities – Charles’ collection of charities he sponsors.

Charles has won plenty of awards for his efforts in environmental activism – from the t10thnth annual Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment in 2007, to the Teddy Roosevelt International Conservation Award by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) and so many more!

In 2007, Charles decided to launch the Prince’s May Day Network, designed to encourage businesses to be more environmentally conscious and take action on climate change. Over 3,500 businesses have signed up to the network since it launched in 2007, and make regular reports on best practices for reducing your carbon footprint and more. 

Plus, in 2008 Charles spoke to the EU, asking them to be leaders in the battle against climate change – something that was received incredibly well at the time. It was also around this time Charles stopped serving foie gras in any of his properties. Foie gras is a type of dish made by fattening the liver of a duck or a goose to around ten times its natural size, which has led to many concerns around the world about force-feeding and treating the animals poorly throughout their lifetime.

In the 2010s Charles spoke at COP21, and even collaborated with a sustainable UK-based fashion brand. Alongside British designers Vin and Omi, Charles donated the nettles from his Highgrove estate, which were used to create a sustainable clothing and jewellery line – which is pretty cool.

No slowing down

In the last few years Charles has showed no signs of slowing down, despite the tragedy of the pandemic, his father and mother passing away, and taking on new responsibilities as the King of England.

In 2020, he launched the Sustainable Markets Initiative to encourage sustainability. This, in turn, launched a five-year plan that revolved around creating sustainable economic growth to help the planet, as well as the UK’s economy in the wake of the pandemic. Plus, he set up RE:TV, a streaming platform dedicated to videos about the environment and sustainability, which eventually went on to partner with Amazon Prime. 

In 2021, Charles launched the Food for the Future initiative, in order to teach young children about sustainable food practices and how food waste is negatively impacting the environment. This is also something he has chosen to adopt himself, as he revealed that two days a week he eats no meat nor fish and one day a week he eats no dairy products.

Throughout his life, Charles has clearly been a huge advocate for climate action – as is obvious by his calls for change throughout his career, as well as the changes he has made in his personal life. 

Now, as we face his official coronation in 2023, this is hugely encouraging for climate activists and the general public alike, as we can see the environment is a big priority for him. We can’t wait to see what change he enacts going forward.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.


Speak Up! Music and The Mind

Speak Up! by Smiley Movement is a series of roundtable discussions where we tackle some of the big issues in our world – and focus on the solutions.

We gather experts and people who are striving to make a difference to give them an opportunity to speak up and share their story.

In our second episode, we gathered experts in the field of music and mental health to discuss music and the impact it has on our minds.

Hear from: Chas de Swiet, CEO, Sound Minds; Richard Clegg, CEO, Community Music; Priya Vithani, Senior Music Therapist, North London Music Therapy CIC; and Dr Simon Procter, Director of Music Services, Nordoff & Robbins.

Watch the full, 45-minute discussion:

Watch the two-minute highlights:


‘Clean air zone’ could prevent 500 deaths per year caused by pollution

Sheffield is the latest city to implement a ‘clean air’ zone.

It has announced that the most polluting commercial vehicles will have to pay a daily charge of £10 for older taxis and vans, or £50 for older buses, coaches and HGVs. Private cars will be exempt from this.

The charges will apply in the zone covering the city centre and inner ring road, and it is hoped that this will help tackle an estimated 500 deaths per year caused by pollution.

Sheffield is just the latest city to implement such a change, with Newcastle and Gateshead, as well as five other cities making similar changes. 

If you want to support cleaning up the air in your city, you can get involved with Action for Clean Air.

This article aligns with the UN SDGs Good Health and Wellbeing and Climate Action.


Friends cycle 62 miles in the shape of Ukraine

A fundraising group have cycled the shape of Ukraine, in a bid to raise funds.

Sounds interesting.

A group of nine friends cycled 62 miles in the shape of Ukraine just after the first anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine invasion.

Maks Oberemokhas, 22, and his friends had already raised £22,000 for Ukraine with a half-marathon from Trowbridge to Bath, in March 2022.

They took on this new challenge on Sunday 26 February 2023 to help raise more funds to support those affected by the war.

Tell me more…

Maks, whose family are from the Ukrainian city Sumy just a few miles from the Russian border, is passionate about the cause – and has eight of his school pals to join him.

Though some of his family were able to flee and find UK sponsorship, he still has family members who are unable to leave Ukraine.

The group of friends began their route in Trowbridge, before heading in a loop that passes Frome, Warminster and Westbury, making the approximate shape of Ukraine.

The ride took around eight hours total, and they stopped every 15 miles so people could come out and support them. At the time of writing, the friends had raised £2,225 of their £5,000 goal.

If you are interested in giving to their fundraiser, you can still donate by following this link to their GoFundMe page.

If you want to help support the people of Ukraine in another way, you can give to the Disasters Emergency Committee.

This article aligns with the UN SDGs Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions and Partnership for the Goals.


Beach town bans sale of balloons to reduce ocean trash

Marine trash is nothing new. There have been headlines for years about turtles eating plastic straws and the garbage patch in the middle of the Pacific. One California town, famous for its beaches, is trying to cut back on how much trash ends up in the ocean.

Laguna Beach, California, is known for its surf culture, massive waves, and beautiful beaches. It has announced a resolution to ban the sale and use of balloons citing wildfire risks and the buildup of marine trash.

What comes under the ban?

Beginning in 2024, balloons of all types will not be permitted to be used on public property or at city events, with violators facing fines of up to $500. Residential homes will be exempt.

This is a growing trend around the US with states like Maryland and Virginia banning planned balloon releases in 2021, Hawaii doing the same in 2022, and now other states like New York and Florida considering similar things.

Why balloons?

Balloons are particularly deadly for sea creatures because of the latex they’re made of which, according to a study, is 32 times more deadly to seabirds than normal hard plastic.

“This is because latex balloons are made from a soft, malleable material that can easily conform to a bird’s stomach cavity or digestive tract,” says Lara O’Brien, a geospatial analyst at Noaa’s Office for Coastal Management, “causing obstruction, starvation, and death.”

You may not be able to help as much as government mandates but every little bit of trash you clean off the beach is trash that doesn’t end up in the ocean. Consider a beach cleanup.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life on Below Water.


The powerful effect of the Climate Cardinals

No division of land or culture is invincible from the potential impacts that will come without climate action. 

Climate resources and information is spread far and wide, with global events like the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference dominating news cycles when it comes around. There’s one problem though, that most of those climate change resources come in just a few languages… usually English. 

That’s where the youth-led non-profit Climate Cardinals comes into view.

“The origins of the organization come from Sophia Kianni,” Climate Cardinals’ Partnerships Director, Hikaru Hayakawa, tells Smiley News. “When she was in middle school, she would go visit her family in Iran, and her family lives in Tehran, the Capitol, which at times is very polluted.

“Her family members didn’t necessarily have the language to speak about what was happening, so Sophia would translate climate and environmental research into Farsi so her relatives could understand. That’s where the idea of Climate Cardinals came from.”

Since its founding over three years ago, the organization – along with its over 9,000 volunteers – has helped translate climate research across 41 countries and has reached over 500,000 people with over 750, 000 words of climate information translated. They’ve translated climate information into over 100 languages.

They have taken translation requests from all over the world including the Italian government, several UN agencies, and more youth non-profits.

“We’re currently working on translating a UN general comment on the rights of children with respect to climate change too,” Hikaru says. 

Since most of their volunteers are US-based, they’ve had a much higher capacity for translation into languages common in the country, but they’re making active efforts to translate into minority and indigenous languages.

They particularly want to focus on these communities because they’ll be disproportionately affected by climate change.

“Immediately prior to my time at Climate Cardinals, I studied abroad in North Macedonia on a State Department scholarship, where there’s a very active environmental movement because the capital of North Macedonia, Skopje, is one of the most polluted cities in the world,” Hikaru says. “A lot of the information that youth were accessing was not in Macedonian or Albanian but in English.

“It’s less likely that they speak English, which means that this information isn’t accessible to a large section of the population If you think about that, in terms of a global context, there’s a massive amount of people we miss.”

One of the main ways they’ve been doing that is helping people set up Climate Cardinal chapters, so they can translate climate research in communities that the larger organization doesn’t have the manpower to reach. They host events, usually about specific topics that bring people together to focus on climate action in their communities.

“Last year we hosted an event with an international nonprofit on environmental justice and the impact of climate change on frontline communities, especially in the Pacific Islands,” Hikaru says. “A lot of our directors also speak at different events.”

In general, the organization just wants to make climate justice as accessible as possible.

“Through creating a more accessible movement, we’re able to make sure that there’s a broader coalition that’s able to work on these issues, and that there’s a more comprehensive understanding by the movement of how disadvantaged and underserved communities are impacted,” Hikaru says.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.


Wind ensemble helps LGBTQ+ youth express themselves

Florida legislature unveiled the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill on July 1st 2022, which would ban the mention of most forms of LGBTQ+ conversation in the classroom.

Since then, there have been legislative attacks against trans people and other people in the LGBTQ+ umbrella across the United States. 

But in south Florida sits a small city called Wilton Manors that has been dubbed the ‘Second-Gayest City’ in America for a few years. Wilton Manors is home to a lot of LGBT-supporting organizations and one organization, South Florida’s Pride Wind Ensemble, wants to help queer kids and adults find a place where they can be themselves and play the music they love. 

One particular ensemble is used to give queer kids an opportunity on stage around people that accept them: the South Florida Pride Youth Band.

“With more people identifying as LGBTQ earlier in their lives, it’s vital that we create a safe space, protect against bullying and celebrate our diversity through the power of music,” said Adam DeRosa, board chair of the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble.

Over the years

The organization has seen drastic change over the years, starting off in 1986 in someone’s living room with just six musicians. Back then the band was called the Flamingo Freedom Band.

Today, they have around 60 members for any given concert and 12 years ago they started the aforementioned youth ensemble.

“The idea was to give a safe space for LGBTQ youth and their allies to make music together and stand up against bullying,” South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble Artistic Director, Dan Bassett, tells Smiley News

“It was founded in a time when the Trevor Project was just getting underway and was a way for us as an adult ensemble to give back to the community.”

From the start, the ensemble gave away scholarships to deserving kids in need, a trend that continues today. They invite kids from the tri-county area of South Florida to rehearse for three weeks. On the fourth week, the kids put on a show at the Broward Center. 

“Each year through donations and grants, we give away multiple $1,000 college scholarships,” Dan says. “This year, we’re giving away 18 of those. Also, this year we’ve added a solo competition, which is a $5,000 scholarship.”

The South Florida Wind Ensemble has given away $159,000 in Youth Pride scholarship funds since 2012.

This coming Sunday – 26 February 2023 – they’re having their 12th Annual Youth Pride Band Concert to help distribute those funds. To Dan, helping the youth in the way that they do is the most important part of the organization.

“It’s really a great way to connect students from the area as well as give back to the community,” Dan says.

“We just hope to reach a broader audience of people. It’s always really important to have these gay organizations front, center and visible.”

Support the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble by finding out how you can donate or volunteer on its website.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.