WaterBear - Beautiful News: Citizens of the World
Showcasing inspiring stories of passionate people making an impact.
Showcasing inspiring stories of passionate people making an impact.
In the United Kingdom, two species of bumblebee have gone extinct. Faced with this mounting issue, one woman is creating a buzz for bumblebees
Felipe Rodríguez Vásquez is willing to risk everything to protect life on planet Earth.
At the edge of the Sahara desert in south-west Morocco, villagers are drawing water directly from the clouds.
They say that good fences make good neighbours, but what if those fences are invisible? A Norwegian company, Nofence, has revolutionized what agriculture looks like.
Caitlin Henderson is crazy about creepy crawlies. Born into a family of invertebrate enthusiasts, she grew an affinity for the spiders that many others avoid at all costs.
Rosmarie Ruf is leading efforts to save the okapi by preserving its habitat.
Did you know that over 80% of the ocean is yet to be discovered? Alexander Semenov has dedicated his life to unearthing underwater mysteries.
Dr. Kristen Lear’s introduction to bat conservation was at the age of 12 when she built houses for them during a Girl Scouts project.
Gliding like kites through the currents, manta rays are one of the largest fish in the sea. But beneath the waves they go unnoticed, making it easy to get swept away as bycatch.
Can digital gaming reset the devastation we’ve inflicted on the natural world? Gautam Shah believes so.
Gab Mejia is a conservation photographer and mountaineer on the pursuit to climb and explore the mountains of the world, and document the environmental issues of wetlands with the ultimate goal to reach the seven summits.
After discovering the toxic waste littered in our seas, Emily created eXXpedition, an all-female voyage exploring the impact of plastic and toxic pollution in our oceans.
Imagine an ethical way to get up close to any animal ever, without interfering with it?
David Ramsden had always been interested in flight. As a child, he’d gaze up at the clouds, marvel at flying creatures, and keep an eye out for airplanes overhead. That interest developed into a passion for birds, barn owls in particular.
Photographer Caroline Guzman is on a mission to reveal the lives of the creatures that roam our cities.
There are many wild things in Texas. But none as spectacular as a “batnado”, which is exactly what it sounds like – a tornado of bats. This natural phenomenon is unlike anything else, so, what are you waiting for?
Abdullahi Ali was a high school student when he visited the Maasai Mara, a journey that would shape the rest of his life. “From that moment, I wanted to do something about conservation and I had to start at home,” he says.
With art, Joel Bergner empowers vulnerable youth in marginalised communities. Drawing from his experience as a youth trauma counsellor and public artist, he co-created Artolution. He hosts workshops across the world, from Brazilian favelas to Syrian refugee camps to build the skills of young creatives, engage the youth in their communities, and give them opportunities to become working artists. Together, they’ve created a distinct style of public art that draws from Bergner’s vibrant energy and the unique perspectives of community members. Through this process, Bergner is fostering hope in some of the world's toughest environments. Visit artolution.org/donate to support his ongoing work. Footage by Artolution and Joel Bergner was used in the creation of this film.
Every year, over seven million Christmas trees are thrown away and left to rot in rubbish dumps. These trees could instead be absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and assisting in preventing global warming. In an effort to reduce waste during the festive season, Catherine Loveless and Jonathan Mearns founded London Christmas Tree Rental. Their initiative enables people to buy a living tree over Christmas and return it when the season is over, allowing the tree to continue growing throughout the year. They’re pioneering an alternative way to celebrate tradition while being environmentally friendly. Visit londonchristmastreerental.com to learn more about their mission.
Could hip-hop strengthen one of the world’s most fragile environments? Temperatures in the Arctic are increasing at a rate nearly three times the global average. Musician Maxida Märak is Sámi and her people are among the first to experience the effects of climate change on this region. Due to their closeness and dependency on the ecosystem and its resources, native people are watching their lands become uninhabitable for plant and animal species such as reindeer. The food these animals eat has begun to grow differently or not at all – creating a ripple effect and causing Sámi traditions that are in sync with nature to become as threatened as the land itself. Through hip-hop, Märak uses her voice to bring attention to this plight and advocate for climate justice. She sings about her culture, the mining of Sámi lands, and discrimination and violations against her people. Her music has inspired courage in people across the world to engage in these difficult conversations.
For native Alaskans, one of the most detrimental realities of global warming is food scarcity. So Eva Dawn Burk is sharing her Denaakk’e and Dene’ Athabascan traditions of growing and harvesting food with an indigenous learning centre in Alaska. Due to the harsh effects of climate change, self-sustainable agriculture is vital for the survival of indigenous people. Many communities live in remote, rural areas and rely on expensive food delivered by plane. “We have to learn to adapt by not only growing our own food, but by protecting the habitat and advocating for our traditional foods,” Burk says. She’s building a network of farmers across Alaska to draw from the knowledge of her people. By enhancing the environment, local food can flourish and the community can thrive along with it. Visit calypsofarm.org/donate/ to support Burk’s mission.
One out of every five children in the world who aren’t in school lives in Nigeria. Across the country, girls in particular can't afford classes. Seyi Oluyole founded the Dream Catchers Academy for Girls, an NGO which uses dancing and the arts to enable young female students to receive an education. Her free-of-charge boarding school provides a home for the kids, some of whom didn’t have one before joining. Through quirky, energetic choreographed dances to popular and traditional African beats, they’re inspired to heal and hope for more. “I’m just trying to change the narrative for them to be able to see that as long as you can dream it, you can achieve it,” Oluyole says. Visit dreamcatchersacademy.org/donation to support their efforts. Footage by Dream Catchers Academy was used in the creation of this film.
By empowering women, we can light up rural communities. Around the world, millions of people lack access to electricity. Most of the time, their primary source of light is hazardous and unsustainable. Through their Solar Mamas programme, Barefoot College is equipping women such as Eposi Njoh Ngeve with the tools and knowledge they need in order to become a force for change. By giving them the opportunity to travel to global training centres, they’re able to participate in a six-month course where they learn how to construct, maintain, and install solar panels. Bringing clean energy upon their return, they become a source of light in their villages. Visit barefootcollege.org to learn more.
More than 10 000 species are going extinct every year, a rate faster than any time in history. One woman is on a mission to save as many animals and plants that remain, all while empowering women in conservation. Razan Al Mubarak is the Managing Director of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, and founder of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. The philanthropy has distributed over $21.5 million to aid more than 2 250 environmental projects in over 180 countries. Many of the initiatives receiving grants are women-led. “The demise of nature is truly existential,” Al Mubarak says. “But what's alarming is that it’s also affecting some people more than others, and particularly women.” Believing that women and indigenous communities should be at the forefront of conservation, she’s providing the support that makes it possible for them to lead.
Guatemala has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world. As the Programs Director for the Women’s Justice Initiative, Elvia Raquec is doing everything in her power to alter this statistic. “This work is very personal for me because I grew up in a family where I suffered from violence,” she says. Understanding that a lack of education is the root of this issue, Raquec is teaching women how to break intergenerational cycles of abuse and change the status quo. Additionally, she’s raising awareness for human rights and ensuring that women in rural communities can access legal aid. By empowering them, Raquec is securing an equal future for women and girls in Guatemala. Visit womens-justice.org to support the Women’s Justice Initiative.
California’s condors are making a comeback thanks to the Yurok Tribe. As one of the indigenous communities of the United States, they were once removed from this land. And for more than 100 years, condors have diminished here too. Director of the Yurok Tribe Wildlife Department Tiana Williams-Claussen is leading efforts to restore this iconic species to their historical range within Yurok ancestral lands. Condors are scavengers and vital to the area’s ecology. Yet powerlines, decrease in food security, incidental poisoning due to predator control, and lead poisoning are among the many factors that have led to their decline. By educating hunters and local communities, the Yurok Tribe have grown condor populations from just 22 birds in the 1980s to more than 300 in the wild today. Visit yuroktribe.org/condor-conservation-donor-information to find out more.
Tatreez, an ancient embroidery technique, is intricately woven into Wafa Ghnaim’s Palestinian heritage. Yet this art form was almost lost to her. When Ghnaim’s mother Feryal was a little girl, she was forced to flee her home in Palestine. Years later, afraid that her daughters might lose touch with their cultural identity, she decided to pass on the tradition. Today, Ghnaim is continuing to share tatreez as an artist in residence at the Smithsonian Museum. Her book Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora is also shaping the way others perceive her culture. “Palestinian people are more than what you think they are,” Ghnaim says. Go to tatreezandtea.com to learn more.
When Leroy Faure became a parent, he realised the importance of prioritising his wellbeing as much as his family’s. He founded The Fit Dad Lifestyle, an online platform that initially shared fitness advice but later became an opportunity to be transparent about his mental health issues. As the virtual community gained traffic and members, more and more fathers opened up about their own struggles. The Fit Dad Lifestyle has since evolved into an initiative that challenges the stigmas surrounding depression and anxiety, and motivates parents to improve more than just their physical health. “Helping men become comfortable with their feelings makes me feel like we are helping shape the next generation of children,” Faure says. Visit thefitdadlifestyle.com to learn more. Footage by The Fit Dad Lifestyle was used in the creation of this film.
The smallest home could have the biggest impact. When Andrew Lunetta saw the unlivable conditions many people in New York end up in after leaving shelters, he realised there was a desperate need for affordable and sustainable housing. He started A Tiny Home For Good, an organisation that builds micro homes out of low-cost materials. Previously homeless people who may not have been able to afford rent before are now equipped with everything they need, including support from professional care managers, to get back on their feet. Visit atinyhomeforgood.org to see the influence this has had on their lives. Footage by A Tiny Home For Good was used in the creation of this film.
Who would you call if you lost everything after a natural disaster? Steve Trent, founder of the Environmental Justice Foundation, estimates that over 21 million people around the globe are forced out of their homes by extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and wildfires. Together with Isabella Shraiman and his team, they’re advocating for the basic human right to environmental security. The foundation uses filmmaking to expose the stories of people affected by climate injustice, with the aim of mobilising communities and creating policies for change. By revealing human rights violations and providing support to those left homeless or who’ve had to flee their country after a climate disaster, they’re encouraging us all to defend our future and make choices that could protect the planet and its people. Visit ejfoundation.org/get-involved to support their cause. Footage by the Environmental Justice Foundation was used in the creation of this film.
Can caracals survive in the city? The habitat of these lesser-known residents of the Cape Peninsula overlap with urban development, and there are less than 60 of these apex predators remaining. Crucial to their survival is understanding how people and caracals coexist. Gabriella Leighton is an ecologist at the Urban Caracal Project. Since they started in 2014, the research group has discovered that what harms this isolated population most is feeding on contaminated prey found close to urban areas, and collisions with motor vehicles. To prevent the latter, they’re collaborating with locals and using an unlikely method to create awareness about their presence in the city. Visit urbancaracal.org/support to learn more.
This pirate crew is festival hopping to claim an unlikely booty – trash. The Waste Naughts and Trash Pirates are a collective of environmental activists tackling the litter created by attendees at large festivals and events, which can amount to up to 100 tonnes a day. To eliminate waste responsibly, they sort through heaps of scrap to decipher what can be recycled and composted. With their enthusiasm to leave the vicinity as it was once found and educate others about managing their own waste, the Trash Pirates never go unnoticed. Visit facebook.com/trashpirates/ and follow @wastenaughtofficial on Instagram to see the impact they’re making.
Bryan Ware is protecting the planet and bringing joy to children in hospital – with recycled crayons. His efforts began after learning that many restaurants in the USA offering activity packs often dispose of crayons after a single use for hygiene purposes. Over 225 000 kilograms of crayons from schools and restaurants around the world go into landfills every year. These crayons don’t biodegrade, and the petroleum-based wax that they’re made from contributes to the production of fossil fuels. Ware started The Crayon Initiative to collect discarded crayons, melt them down, and recycle them into new ones that are distributed to children in hospitals. This reduces waste and colours the lives of children. Visit thecrayoninitiative.org to support Ware. Footage by The Crayon Initiative and Bennett Coast was used in the making of this film.
Water is life. No human can survive without it. Yet for women and children in rural communities, access to water often means travelling to rivers or communal taps to fill up and carry home heavy buckets of water. It takes time and energy that could be used to attend school or earn an income. But what if there was an easier way to collect water? The Hippo Roller is a container which can be rolled on the ground and carries up to 90 litres of liquid. With less effort required, women and children in Africa now have more time to focus on their growth. Visit hipporoller.org to find out more about this invention.
How do you get water to flow uphill? Pratap Thapa has figured out how to solve one of the biggest challenges facing farmers in Nepal. The elevation of the land makes it difficult to get water from rivers to farms uphill. “I watched my parents work very hard on their farm,” Thapa says. “Despite living right next to a river, they had no way of irrigating their crops other than waiting for the rain.” Thapa is the co-creator of the Barsha Pump, a machine which harnesses the natural flow of rivers to transport water uphill. By giving farms access to water year round, he’s enabled food security for people in rural communities. Go to aqysta.com/products/barsha-pump/ to learn more about Nepal’s first hydro-powered water pump.
Without electricity, there’s little you can accomplish. Impoverished communities limited by a lack of power turn to dangerous alternatives such as kerosene lamps to get by. Benson Maroro, an electrical engineer at Renewable World, is combatting this problem by connecting people to clean energy sources. Focusing on disadvantaged groups around Kenya’s Lake Victoria, the organisation provides people with solar-powered microgrids. Their work advances social and economic empowerment, with a 20% increase in income within the region since they’ve gained electricity. Now, no one gets left in the dark. Visit renewable-world.org to find out more about this initiative.
Would you wear a banana tree? While searching for a quality bag, Christian Kaegi realised that most products are made from plastic. His concern was less about the durability of artificial fabrics and more about its environmental impact. Each time these materials are washed, thousands of microplastics are released. Over 30% of microplastics found in oceans are caused by laundering. To combat the use of synthetic fibres, Kaegi founded the label QWSTION in 2008. His team has created Bananatex, the world’s first fabric made from banana tree fibre. At their Zurich studio, each detail of their bags is eco-considered as they continue to innovate. “We see it as our responsibility to take care of all the things on our land,” Kaegi says. Visit qwstion.com to learn more.
Light pollution is one of the most underestimated environmental problems. It disturbs people’s sleep cycles and endangers nocturnal animals by confusing their natural pathways. Dutch artist and architect Daan Roosegaarde is a pioneer in the efforts to reduce artificial light. His installation along a highway dyke in Holland, The Gates of Light, enables reflective strips installed on floodgates to light up with the headlights of passing cars. When there are no cars, there is no unnecessary light. Visit studioroosegaarde.net to see more of Daan and his team’s work with light.
Could cactus plants fashion the leather of the future? For handbag designer Tessa Carroll, it’s the ideal eco-friendly alternative to animal hides and their petroleum-based counterpart, commonly known as ‘pleather’. Carroll works with innovators in Mexico who have fabricated a textile, called Desserto, out of the Nopal cactus. This prickly pear absorbs more carbon dioxide than it creates, and regrows between six to eight weeks of harvesting. Carroll transforms this material into handbags under her brand, A_C Official. Thanks to the biodegradable substance they’re made of, these accessories can return to the Earth as easily as they’re created. Visit ac-official.com to discover more of Carroll’s sustainable masterpieces.
There’s a silent killer threatening the existence of whale sharks – plastic pollution. Whale sharks are filter feeders who cannot chew their food, and instead strain small fish from the 6000 litres of water they consume every hour. In the process, they can ingest over 100 pieces of plastic every time they feed. This affects their health and ability to reproduce. Basith Mohamed and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme are mobilising locals from these islands to save the world’s largest shark. They organise volunteer programmes and internships, provide marine science education to kids, and lead research to understand the population dynamics of whale sharks. Head to maldiveswhalesharkresearch.org to learn more.
Kids living in poverty lack access to designated play areas, but need this space to learn essential life skills. Pooja Rai has come up with a way to build jungle gyms in India at minimal cost. Her NPO, Anthill Creations, uses scrap material from dump sites to develop outdoor play areas. The heaps of trash piling up every day are a limitless resource. By turning discarded tyres into swings, see-saws, and climbing structures, Rai is repurposing one problem to solve another. Visit anthillcreations.org to find out more about her work.
Frank Cato Lahti is working to end Africa’s housing crisis and the suffering of people who are homeless.
In the United States, discarded food takes up more space in landfills than anything else. This devastating reality is paralleled with nation-wide food insecurity.
Just one percent of households in certain developing countries have access to soap, according to Forbes. Yet two to five million bars of soap are thrown in the trash every day. While on a trip to Cambodia, Samir Lakhani saw a villager washing her newborn baby with laundry detergent. Later on in his hotel room he noticed that housekeeping had discarded his barely used bar of soap. This brief experience led Lakhani to create a non-profit soap recycling organisation called Eco-Soap Bank. “A recycled bar of soap can provide economic opportunity and prevent diseases,” he says. Lakhani’s initiative is not only keeping the spread of illness at bay, but has also employed 160 women across five countries in Africa and Asia. Visit ecosoapbank.org/donate to support this life-saving work.
Oranges are more than a fruit; they can be used as crockery too. Luca Giacolini is one of the designers behind Feel the Peel, a juice bar which goes beyond producing fresh beverages to also 3D-print disposable cups from orange rinds. Developed by Italian design firm CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati, the prototype experiments with the ways people can recycle everyday items. With tonnes of waste created by the need for bottles and cups, Giacolini is instead turning an available resource into bioplastic for the cups, squeezing every drop of use out of this fruit. Visit carloratti.com to find out more about this initiative.
Elaine Yan Ling Ng is walking on eggshells to disrupt the textiles industry.
A stove can be the difference between poor and good health. People in rural parts of Honduras rely on open wood fires which burn for approximately eight hours a day to cook their meals. But this practice requires constant wood consumption which causes respiratory problems. When Blake Lawrence’s family visited the area, he knew he could do something to assist both the people and their environment. To create more effective ways of preparing food, the Lawrence family launched Proyecto Mirador through their NGO, Cool Effect. This initiative builds fuel-efficient stoves which reduce the use of wood, cook faster, and minimise air pollution. Since they set out on this mission, they’ve prevented over two million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being created. Visit cooleffect.org/donate to contribute to Lawrence’s efforts.
Orangutan means ‘person of the forest’ in Malay. These primates share a lot with humans – their DNA, traits, home, and now, a schooling system. A rise in deforestation in Borneo has resulted in many young orangutans being displaced, orphaned, and left without the knowledge required to navigate their natural habitat. To give them a second chance at life in the wild, the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation runs a forest school as part of the largest orangutan reintroduction programme in the world. While it may seem like they’re just monkeying around here, the animals learn vital survival and social skills such as climbing and nest building. Once they graduate from forest school, the adolescent orangutans enroll in university before taking the leap into the wild alone. Through rehabilitation projects, habitat restoration, education and research, the foundation has successfully released over 450 orangutans.