Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive
12/2/2011 3:12:26 PM
This might be the easiest way to donate money, ever: Like a benevolent Google, the new search engine Charity Search lets you scour the web while effortlessly contributing money to worthy causes. With each search, the engine donates one cent to their charity of the month.
According to the site, Charity Search—which lets you use Google, Yahoo, or Bing as you normally would—is currently donating one cent per search to Invisible Children, a group committed to ending the use of child soldiers in central Africa. Other recipients include charity: water, a nonprofit bringing clean drinking water to developing nations; Genesis School of the Arts, an international program spreading arts education in impoverished areas; and Humane Farm Animal Care, an organization dedicated to upholding animal care standards.
For lazy philanthropists, the beauty of Charity Search is that the only effort needed is changing our homepages, googling as usual, and watching the site’s donation dollar tracker steadily go up.
Our searches can make a difference quickly, too—just think of how many web searches you did today. In the past 24 hours, mine (which included “Rain Taxi,” “BeatBots,” “El Camino,” and “chemical invisibility cloak”) numbered in the dozens. Now, I’m delighted to know these not-so-important searches can add up to charitable cash for some important causes.
Source: Charity Search
10/19/2011 4:49:26 PM
You may have tried buying your way to happiness with new shoes and elaborate getaways; tickets to the big game and a sweet rebuilt guitar; the more-than-twelve-dollar bottle of wine and anything from MartinPatrick3. But recent studies suggest a different method: Give away money and get happy.
Researchers find that donating money to a deserving cause or financially helping a friend or family member in need raises the happiness level of the giver, writes Linda Wasmer Andrews in Psychology Today. She lists several reasons for the uptick:
First, it may foster a sense of social connectedness. One theory posits that the more modest your means, the more you and your close family and friends may need to rely on one another to get by; hence, the greater focus on generosity.
Second, donating money gives you a sense of making a difference. That’s a welcome antidote to the feeling of helplessness that can come from watching wild stock market gyrations and wildly frustrating budget stalemates.
Interestingly, there’s a negative physical response to being closefisted with your cash:
[S]haring even a little money may reduce your body’s stress response. [Psychologist] Elizabeth Dunn…led another recent study that looked at how monetary stinginess affects cortisol, a stress hormone. In the study, college students played an economic game, for which they were paid $10. Students had the option of donating some of this payment to another player. Those who kept more of the money for themselves reported feeling more shame. And greater shame, in turn, predicted higher levels of postgame cortisol.
In these times of economic disparity and the 99 percent vs. the 1, doling out money to achieve happiness can seem futile, but Andrews suggests there’s power in the giving. “A case can be made that giving away a few bucks is good not only for your soul, but also for your mind and body,” she writes. “No matter the amount, reminding yourself that you still have the wherewithal to share could be just what you need.”
Source: Psychology Today
Image by josey4628, licensed under Creative Commons.
10/14/2011 2:07:34 PM
You’ve probably never thought of yourself as a supporter of slavery, but the online tool Slavery Footprintreveals evidence of forced labor in your closet, your garage, your refrigerator, and every other corner of your life.
“Last month marked the anniversary of the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, which we all know ended slavery for good 149 years ago, right? Wrong,” writes Yuka Yoneda for Inhabitat. She continues: “While that’s what we in America are taught in our textbooks, slavery is still alive and well around the world (including in the U.S.). In fact, most of us have several slaves working for us at this very moment.”
Complete Slavery Footprint’s artfully designed survey to calculate the number of slaves who work for you, based on your lifestyle and the products you buy. Included are questions about family, housing, clothing, electronics, make-up, sex, and food, along with disturbing facts of modern-day enslavement. For example, Slavery Footprint writes:
Bonded labor is used for much of Southeast Asia’s shrimping industry, which supplies more shrimp to the U.S. than any other country. Laborers work up to 20-hour days to peel 40 pounds of shrimp. Those who attempt to escape are under constant threat of violence or sexual assault.
Numerous products, down to the sporting goods in your hall closet, are the result of forced labor, asserts the website. “In China, soccer ball manufacturers will work up to 21 hours in a day, for a month straight.”
The site offers hope for consumer redemption (even if your score is as shamefully high as mine: 38!), with a free download of their antislavery app. “With the Made in a Free World app, you can check in at stores, asking brands about slavery in their supply chain as you shop,” they write, “and use it to counteract your slavery footprint.”
Image by Slavery Footprint.
10/3/2011 2:58:52 PM
How short does a woman’s skirt need to be to justify rape? It sounds like an idiotic question, but victims of sexual assault are regularly asked what they were wearing, what time of night they were walking home, and if they had been drinking. Now protest marches called SlutWalks are bringing attention to an epidemic of victim blaming.
The first SlutWalk took place in Toronto in April, in response to a police officer who told the audience at a safety talk, “I’ve been told I shouldn’t say this, [but] women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” The Toronto march drew 3,000 women and men, outraged at the culture of blame perpetuated by their local precinct. Since April, there have been more than 120 SlutWalks around the world—in Singapore, Mexico, India, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Brazil, South Africa, and more—with tens of thousands of participants.
Much of the media surrounding SlutWalk focuses on the fishnets and deliberately saucy outfits some participants wear and the divisiveness that using the term “slut” has caused within the feminist movement. But Heather Jarvis—cofounder, with Sonya JF Barnett, of the first SlutWalk—believes using the term highlights the importance of language in the fight against sexual violence. In an interview, she said:
One thing that I think has been missing from conversations about rape culture and victim blaming for a long time has been language. People wouldn’t be blamed and shamed as much as they are without the language people use against each other. We really need to look at that. Whether it’s “she asked for it,” or name calling, or degrading ideas about who deserves what and what you’re worth. So, we wanted to put language front and center and talk about it.
SlutWalk came to our hometown of Minneapolis on October 1, with the battle cry “No means no, yes means yes!” following marchers across the Mississippi River. To me, it wasn’t the provocative clothes that stood out, and the word “slut” wasn’t distracting. Most powerful were the signs carried by the survivors of sexual violence—some just kids when they were assaulted—and the fierce, unified support of their fellow walkers.
Images by Alan Wilfahrt, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/30/2011 4:12:59 PM
If you’re feeling saddled by heartache, work stress, a heavy secret, or an unknown future, take heart (and get out your earbuds): The website Emotional Bag Check will lighten your load.
How the site works is simple, reports GOOD, even if your problem isn’t: Click the “Check It” button, type in whatever emotional baggage is weighing you down, and send it into the internet ether. Soon, you’ll receive an email with a stranger’s recommendation for the perfect song to lift your spirits.
Good talks with the woman behind Emotional Bag Check:
“I’ve always liked the metaphor of emotional baggage,” says website creator Robyn Overstreet, a freelance web developer and programming teacher based in New York City who launched the site in February. “Being a literal person, I couldn’t help but think of it literally, as something that you pack up physically and have to carry around with you.” Or, in the case of her site, cast it off onto others.
In the mood to play music therapist rather than patient? Click the “Carry It” button, read the problems of another user, and send an anonymous song recommendation to them, pulling from the massive GrooveShark catalog.
Today I responded to a woman who had just ended a long-term relationship with her girlfriend but still dreamed of raising kids and home-cooking meals with her ex. After some careful consideration, I passed along the bittersweet pop medicine of the Girls’ tune “Laura,” a break-up tale that offers the promise of friendship. What would you prescribe?
Image by kthread, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/27/2011 12:14:21 PM
Would you like to talk to your past self and compare notes on how your life is shaping up, be reminded of your goals, take stock in your blessings?
The world often moves too quickly for reflection, and the responsibilities of the everyday can keep us from life’s larger questions. This week, Reboot (the group behind the National Day of Unplugging) wants us to reconnect to self-reflection with a free online program called 10Q.
Starting tomorrow, September 28, people who sign up for 10Q will receive one question a day for 10 days. After participants answer the questions, they submit them to a secure online vault. “One year later,” the folks at 10Q say, “the vault will open and your answers will wing their way back to your email inbox for private reflection.”
Questions from last year included “Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in 2011?” and “Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?” Former participants are reading their 2010 answers now, and one respondent posted on Twitter, “Just re-read my answers from last year’s 10Q. Some disappointment, some joy, but always moving forward.”
The questions are designed begin on Rosh Hashanah, but 10Q can be meaningful to anyone, the group says:
10Q was inspired by the traditional ten days of reflection that occur between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a period of time that’s long been considered an opportunity to look at where you’re at, where you’ve come from, and where you’re heading. Whether you’re Jewish or not, though, 10Q is a great way for anyone to look back at the year that’s past, look ahead at the year to come, and take stock. That’s a beautiful thing in any language.
Source: Daily 10Q
Image by Micky.!, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/22/2011 4:46:40 PM
Whatever you call it—“agricultural urbanism,” “new ruralism,” or one of the dozen other alternate labels—the concept of carefully planned agrarian suburbs sounds like utopia. Protecting land while permitting growth, “agriburbia” is a farm-friendly antidote to the eat-it-up philosophy of consumerist suburban sprawl.
When populations encroach into the countryside, we sacrifice more than pastoral vistas, says Jonathan Lerner in Miller-McCune.“The steady loss of farmland and natural habitat to sprawl-pattern development endangers food supplies and other resources, as well as the health, wealth and survival prospects of individuals and even whole communities,” he explains.
In Fresno County, California—where the majority of farms are small, family-run enterprises and half are minority operated—the threat to the agrarian landscape that produces everything from plums to almonds is undeniable. “The American Farmland Trust has estimated that if conventional growth patterns continue, by 2040 the county could lose another 135,000 acres of farmland, out of a total of about 2.25 million acres,” Lerner writes. He continues:
[A] new approach to regional planning could help turn that pattern around in Fresno and elsewhere. At scales ranging from a few hundred to many thousands of acres, the approach aims to protect unspoiled and working landscapes while allowing development to accommodate expanding populations….
Forget large-lot, single-family, cul-de-sac subdivisions accessed by traffic arteries lined with fast-food and big-box outlets. Future development would be densely clustered or channeled into towns and villages on sites less valuable for farming and conservation or where infrastructure already exists. Besides homes, these growth centers would include shops, workplaces, schools, pedestrian amenities and transit.
This kind of development, known as new urbanism, is already increasingly familiar. What’s new is its integration with efforts to protect working and natural landscapes.
The agriburban plan being considered for Fresno, called the Southeast Growth Area (SEGA), would combine a vibrant residential community with agriculture in a 9,000-acre belt of land at the edge of the city. Gardens and orchards would grow throughout, and small commercial farms would border the eastern perimeter.
Agriculturally oriented subdivisions are springing up in other parts of the country, too: There’s Hampstead near Montgomery, Alabama; The Farmstead, outside Charlotte, North Carolina; and Pingree Grove, less than an hour from Chicago. With amenities including elaborate community gardens, local food farmers markets, farm-to-table restaurants, and active community involvement, there are plenty of reasons to live there beyond land preservation.
“Though the particulars differ, they all share the basic approach of building compact towns or villages as a way to avoid consuming undeveloped land,” Lerner writes. “New-urbanist thinking is essential because it provides the tools for creating places for growth that are not only dense but desirable.”
Image by Thomas Hawk, licensed under Creative Commons.
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