People Use Chalk to Write Plant Names on Sidewalks to Help People Connect With Nature – ‘More Than Weeds’

Across the paved streets of the UK and France, sidewalk chalk is beginning to be employed by more than just children as rebel botanists regularly break street-chalking laws to write the names of wild plants and flowers growing through cracks in the cement.

Beginning in France—and leading to a campaign called More Than Weeds in London—this act of highlighting the names of wildflowers and other plants has drawn significant attention on social media, where images and videos are racking up hundreds of thousands of fans.

In one video viewed 7 million times from the French website Brut, Boris Presseq, a botanist at the Toulouse Museum of Natural History, walks around his city chalking the names of the plants he finds on sidewalks and walls to help raise awareness of the diversity and richness of plant citizens in the heart of the southern French city.

“I wanted to raise awareness of the presence, knowledge and respect of these wild plants on sidewalks. People who had never taken the time to observe these plants now tell me their view has changed. Schools have contacted me since to work with students on nature in the city,” Presseq told the Guardian.

In one of those “every day you break 3 laws you didn’t know existed” moments, it is illegal to use sidewalk chalk on public pavement without permission for any reason. However, no one in London, Cambridge, or Hackney seems to mind the graffiti, with one selection of identified plants posted by a London resident on Twitter receiving over 100k likes.

Tweet by Elizabeth Archer

Weeds Do More Than Grow

Botanical chalking is a sign of changing attitudes towards plants in English cities. In 2018, the Hackney town council reduced the amount of glyphosate used to control weeds by 50%, and last year trialed a glyphosate-free area to promote biodiversity and see if it was possible to maintain a high standard of sidewalk maintenance without the use of chemical herbicides.

Glyphosate is an ingredient present in many popular industrial and commercial herbicides that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has labeled a probable carcinogen.

LOOK: Britain’s Best Gardening Couple Outdo Themselves With Spring Spectacular After Spending Lockdown Tending Their Oasis

Hundreds of insects species are deprived of food when glyphosate is used as an herbicide, which means hundreds of plant species nearby go without the needed pollinators. Critically, many species of plants considered weeds, such as dandelions which can thrive in urban environments actually provide more pollen—and human food—per flower than other, wilder species, according to a study which looked at 65 plants across six UK cities. They found that weed species occupied the top five spots for nectar sugar produced and two spots in the top ten for pollen production.

Boris Presseq with students naming Portulacca on French street

“Every flower counts and will be targeted by pollinators […]If we change our perceptions and see the dandelion flower for what it is – an absolute lifeline to our bees in early spring – we might learn to love them more.” said UK Plantlife Spokesperson Trevor Dines speaking to the Guardian.

“One survey of pavements in Sheffield found 183 different plants, another in Cambridge found 186 species on walls. All these little micro niches build up to a wonderfully complex tapestry,” he added.

POPULAR: What Can One Person Do in 10 Years? This Man Got 152 Million Mangrove Trees Planted

Being able to see and identify a plant is important for a person to build an awareness or appreciation for plant life in the city. People who don’t understand the name or function of a particular plant in an ecosystem like their yard are less-likely to be interested in them, just as they would if they were watching a sporting event without knowing the names or roles of any of the players.

“Botanical chalking gives a quick blast of nature connection, as the words encourage you to look up and notice the tree above you, the leaves, the bark, the insects, the sky. And that’s all good for mental health,” said one of the lawless, chalk-armed English botanical enthusiasts who spoke to the Guardian under conditions of anonymity in order to avoid fines up to £2,500 for graffiti.

“It’s brought me a great amount of joy,” they added.

SHARE The Idea on Social Media – And Join the More Than Weeds campaign on Twitter…

Girls in War Zone Find Their Power On Skateboards; Documentary About Them Takes Home the Oscar (Watch)

skateistan-girls-skate-garden-kabul1-jessica-fulfurd-dobsonPhoto by Jessica Fulford-Dobson

In Afghanistan, it’s considered offensive and taboo for women to ride bicycles—but one nonprofit has given these girls a different kind of fun on wheels.

Skateistan is an organization that uses skateboarding to helps to empower marginalized youth and rescue them from the streets so they can be transitioned into a community that will teach them about leadership and independence.

Learning To Skateboard In A Warzone (If You’re a Girl)—a short film documentary about the organization’s mission in Afghanistan—recently brought Skateistan back into national headlines after it won the 2020 Academy Award for Best Short Film this week, although the nonprofit has been changing lives since 2007.

skate-board-skateistan-girlPhoto by Jessica Fulford-Dobson

According to the Skateistan website, over 60% of their students are low-income and do not have access to education—but the organization believes that once they hook the kids into the program, the possibilities are endless.

RELATED: All-Girl Heavy Metal Band Achieves Fame By Dominating National Stages in Hijabs and Leather Jackets

Whether it’s instilling feelings of confidence and autonomy through skateboarding, or simply letting children know that someone cares, the program has encouraged kids to believe in themselves.

“When skateboarding came into Afghanistan,” Skate Girls of Kabul photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson told BBC, “they didn’t even know what it was.”

Inspired by the young women’s joy, the photographer first approached Skateistan about documenting their life and community in 2012.

LOOK: Passengers Delighted to Discover Their Co-Pilots Were This Mother-Daughter Duo

One of her portraits of the skaters later ended up taking home the 2nd place prize in the 2014 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.

aghani-skate-board-girlPhoto by Jessica Fulford-Dobson

“[The skater] first caught my eye because she was wearing such a beautiful color,” recalled Fulford-Dobson to the news outlet. “She’s just immaculate. From the way she has tied her headscarf so beautifully and so naturally, you see that she has an innate sense of grace. Her little hennaed hand rests gently—yet possessively—on the skateboard, and how small she seems beside it! I love her assurance: her firm, steady gaze. One feels a sense of depth in her eyes, even though she is just 7 years of age.”

After just one year of attending the Back to School Skate program, the girl in the prize-winning portrait (left) passed her first three educational grades, and enrolled in the national school system—all will continuing to skate in her free time.

WATCH: Soccer Team is Winning Hearts After They Stopped Championship Play to Help Opponent Fix Her Hijab in Privacy

It may not be a conventional way of offering an education, but since Skateistan started in 2007, they have helped teach thousands of kids—44% of whom are girls—around the world to skate each week.

You can also donate to the organization on the Skateistan website or purchase Jessica Fulford Dobson’s book “Skate Girls of Kabul” here.

(WATCH the short film’s trailer below)

Be Sure And Share This Awesome Story With Your Friends On Social Media…

Students Are Returning to Indian School After It Transformed Two Old Train Cars into Vibrant Classrooms

SWNS

This school is being hailed as one of the first in the world to start improving attendance rates by transforming old train cars into classrooms.

SWNS

The government-run Ashokapuram Primary School noticed student numbers were dropping, and they suspected it was due to a lack of properly permanent school buildings.

SWNS

The school then teamed up with the South Western Railways company to begin using two old train carriages deemed unfit for railway usage.

SWNS

The vibrant carriages now have stairways, brightly painted exteriors, desks, fans, lights, and colorful drawings on the walls.

SWNS

“The coaches, which were officially declared unfit for railway use, were renovated. At present, the school has 60 students from standard 1st [grade] to 7th,” said a spokesman for South Western Railways. “Many come from families below the poverty line.

SWNS

The new classrooms have managed to attract a new batch of students to attend regular classes—and teachers in Mysore in Karnataka, India, said student attendance numbers are now up again thanks to the quirky new classrooms, which cost just £700 ($915) for the pair.

SWNS

(WATCH the classrooms in action in the video below)

Be Sure And Share The Brilliant Idea With Your Friends On Social Media…

Couple Protects Endangered Lemurs in Madagascar By Launching Mobile Library to Teach Indigenous People to Read

When a young couple went on their 2014 honeymoon in Madagascar—one of the most cherished environments in the world—the heartbreaking problems of indigenous people, forests, and lemurs swirled around in their minds until one day a holistic solution revealed itself, like a bright sunbeam through the tangle of jungle canopy.

Their notion of how they could benefit both wildlife and people is today a program that is easing the poverty of the Malagasy people, while helping to save the endangered lemurs, which are found on the island of Madagascar, and no where else.

The nation’s economy is the fourth fastest-growing in the world. In fact, one fourth of the globe’s vanilla comes from the island. Yet the vast majority of the adult Malagasy people can’t even read, so they don’t benefit from the higher-paying jobs. They are left to fend for themselves, living off the land—which encroaches on and endangers the wildlife surrounding them.

The couple, Shana and Vlad Vassilieva, learned all this from their tour guide, JJ (Jean-Jacques Rafenomahazomanana), a passionate local who shared his vast experiences of Malagasy culture and led them beyond designated tourist zones, into isolated villages.

There, they noticed that the schools for children had no books—and the agricultural practices in villages were not sustainable. They decided they could address both these problems, by tackling the literacy issue.

They partnered with JJ to create the Mobile Library Project, designed not only to teach people about letters, but also about their lemurs.

“One of the main goals is to help the Malagasy see how much can be gained from the forests and nature when you take care of it and practice more sustainable methods,” said Shana. “So while kids and adults are learning to read, they are also learning how to thrive off the lands in more mutually beneficial ways.”

LOOK: Dozens of Creatures Thought to Be Extinct Found Alive in ‘Lost City’ in the Jungle

The non-profit Mobile Library Project employs two additional educators and operates out of a van that travels to four villages every month in coordination with local schools.

They not only provide books and lessons on reading and writing, the group also offers workshops on how to improve your crop yield and how to rely less on the forests. That way, the Malagasy can develop new resources and leave more of the forest to the indigenous animals—80 percent of which are not seen anywhere else in the world.

“When the people read books, they start to see the relation between the environment and people,” said Madagascar native JJ, who serves as manager of the nonprofit. Speaking to Shana, an Idaho filmmaker, as part of a short documentary, he explained that the people are learning “if they protect the forest, they can get a lot of benefit from it.”

The project also gives families seeds to plant. Whenever a family joins the book project they also get some seeds, along with a book. Each school the project visits also gets fruit trees. When it’s grown, the students can eat the fruit, or teachers can sell the fruit to help pay for supplies and other needed improvements. The trees also help retain water in the soil, provide shade cover for plants, and prevent soil erosion. They are also sharing ananambo trees because they have medicinal benefits and a denser nutritional value, and beans since they are easy to grow.

MORE: Here’s Why You Can Hail 2019 as a Year of ‘Incredible Species Action’

Since 2016, the group has helped to educate 6,200 people, planted 80 trees at 14 schools, and distributed 66 pounds of seeds for 46 families—as well as thousands of books.

Photos by Mobile Library Project on Facebook

The couple also partners with Zara Aina, a Madagascar nonprofit, and received some grant funding to launch the first tour in 2016. Since adding the seed and tree sharing program in November 2018, they’ve expanded their vision further, hoping to offer micro loans to help Malagasy natives develop their own businesses.

“I love the idea of becoming, not just a mobile library for education, but also a mobile ‘re-greener’ and conservation based financial empowerment tool on wheels,” she said.

WATCH the video about the Lemur connection, and FIND more info at mobilelibraryproject.com

Support the People of Madagascar… By Sharing on Social Media

In Just 20 Years, Over 220 Million Children Have Been Saved From Marriage, Labor, and Violence

As English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously stated in his treatise On Commonwealth, life without the commonwealth was “nasty, brutish, and short”.

In commemoration of its founding 100 years ago, Save the Children has released its third Global Childhood Report—and it contains figures that would make Hobbes blush.

In Hobbes’ day, the average male life expectancy was about 35 to 45 years at birth in England; now the chances for a child—even in rural Africa—of reaching adulthood unmarried, nourished, and educated education, are getting stronger and stronger.

Success by Numbers

“In the year 2000,” reads the report, “an estimated 970 million children were robbed of their childhoods due to … ill-health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labor, child marriage, and early pregnancy.

WATCH: After Five Years of Drought, Kenyan Region Finally Gets Clean Water Thanks to Solar-Powered Saltwater Plant

Just two decades later, Save the Children reports that number has been reduced by one-third. 115 million more children are being sent to school, 11 million young girls have been saved from marriage, 3 million girls are saved from bearing children in their young age, there has been a decrease of 94 million child laborers, and 4.5 million children have been saved from violent deaths around the world.

Nations across all 5 major continents have worked hard, sometimes in the face of corruption and even war, to achieve these remarkable results, including Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Colombia, the Philippines, Mexico, and Ethiopia.

Across every major geographical zone on earth, Save the Children’s “End of Childhood Index Score” has increased, including west, central, east, and southern Africa.

WATCH: Village in India Plants 111 Trees Whenever a Girl is Born – Watch the New Video

Sierra Leone, once a Mad Max-style country of blood diamonds and civil war, has cut their rates of infant mortality, child labor, and child marriages by half since 2000.

25 years after the genocide, Rwanda’s score is 744 out of 1000 after cutting infant mortality rates by 80% and teen pregnancy by 60%.

What Accounts for this Dramatic Improvement?

In the Global Childhood Report 2020, Save the Children lists some of the ways in which these outstanding goals have been achieved.

LOOK: Drought-Proof ‘Cooling Houses’ Use Saltwater and Cardboard to Grow Tons of Healthy Produce in the Desert

One of the primary drivers for reductions in things like child marriage, child labor, teen pregnancy, and school absence has been a global drive for equality between the sexes worldwide—not just in western nations.

“As this report shows, rising education rates among women and girls have been critical to improvements in child health in Bangladesh and child protection in Afghanistan and India,” the report reads.

“Investing in education programs for girls and increasing the age at which they marry can return $5 for every dollar spent. Investing in programs improving incomes for women can return $7 dollars for every dollar spent.”

CHECK OUT: ‘Rainbow Railroad’ Has Been Helping LGBT Citizens Escape Oppressive Nations to Freedom and Sanctuary

The first 5 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals which so many bilateral development projects attempt to adhere to include Gender Equality and Quality Education.

The MDG (Millennium Development Goals) put down in the year 2000, targeted the eradication of poverty in all its forms by the end of the century.

“A recent Brookings Institution study found as many as 19 million extra child lives – most of them in Africa—were saved because of MDG-accelerated action,” reads the report.

LOOK: Entrepreneur Has Bought 10,000 Unused Ride-Sharing Bikes So He Can Donate Them to Poor Students

Finally, the advances in technologies like smartphones, social media, medical instruments, vaccines and drugs, have changed the face of the world in ways that especially benefit the developing world. Nearly all (96%) of the humans on earth have access to the internet, up from nearly half (58%) in 2001.

Mobile phones are being used to register births, improve early diagnosis of HIV in infants, monitor malnutrition in children, and to educate individuals about family planning, adolescent health and prenatal care.

If this is what nations can achieve in 20 years, another 20 years of pursuing development goals could mean that another 300 million children worldwide could enjoy their childhoods in relative peace and security before entering adulthood as educated, nourished, and independent members of society—which is quite an encouraging thought to have as we enter this bright new decade.

Be Sure And Share This Inspiring Story Of Good News With Your Friends On Social Media…