Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘activism’

28 APRIL, 2010

See Better to Learn Better: Glasses Reinvented

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49 colorful ways to boost education, or what design genius has to do with nixing social stigma.

In 2006, industrial design prodigy Yves Béhar wowed the world with his XO laptop for Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child project — a beautiful intersection of technology, design and education advocacy. Today, fuseproject, Behar’s design studio, unveiled See Better to Learn Better — an eyeglass program developed in partnership with the Mexican government, providing free glasses to the 11% of Mexican children who don’t learn simply because they don’t see.

The new line of glasses, titled Collección Escolar 2010, is guided by the philosophy behind OLPC: durability, customization, and a fun aesthetic that makes the product not only useful but also enjoyable for kids — something all the more important in a culture where glasses are perceived as a handicap and burdened by social stigma.

The glasses feature a two-part frame, with top and bottom colors that can be remixed to reflect each child’s preference for a total of 49 possible color combinations. Innovative interchangeable nose pads make the glasses comfortable for kids with noses of different sizes. Made of hyper-flexible advanced Gilamid plastic, the glasses are practically indestructible.

We wanted to design products that are suited to the children’s specific needs, life and environment. The children receiving these glasses need frames that are durable, ergonomic and have key customization elements like shape and color that make wearing the glasses fun and personal.

The program goes into schools, administers free eye exams to the kids, and encourages them to play with the mix-and-match properties of the glasses. The goal of the partnership is to alleviate families who can’t afford the high prices of typical exams and eyewear, particularly in Mexican states like Sonara, Chiappas and Morellos where the percentage of children in need of corrective eyewear can be upwards of 60%.

We can see with crystal clarity why this is such a brilliant idea.

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22 MARCH, 2010

World Water Day: 3 Smart Projects to Celebrate It

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What indie music and your favorite restaurant have to do with Haiti and TED.

It’s World Water Day today — though we believe every day should celebrate and honor Earth’s most precious resource. Since 1992, March 22 has been an international observance of the importance of clean water for a healthy world. Today, we spotlight three smart projects that actually do something about the cause and offer ways in which you too can help.

TAP PROJECT

Tap Project logoIn 2008, Tap Project topped our list of the year’s best ideas. We still think it’s one of the simplest, smartest efforts to both raise awareness about water sustainability and make an actual, action-based difference.

Developed in partnership with UNICEF, the project’s premise is brilliantly simple: During World Water Week March 21-27, restaurants would ask patrons to donate $1 for each glass of tap water that they normally enjoy for free. It may seem like little, but $1 actually provides clean drinking water for a child for 40 days — which means less than $10 get a child a year’s worth of water. All donations go to UNICEF’s water sanitation programs that strive to bring clean, accessible drinking water to children around the world.

The one million restaurants across the US comprise the second largest industry in the country, following government. Thousands of them are participating in the program this week — up from 300 in 2007, when the project launched. So imagine the scale of impact of these micro-contributions, a powerful long tail of goodness.

This year, Tap Project is launching Tap Project Radio — a platform for musicians, artists, directors and thought leaders to play music, raise awareness and help fight the water crisis. From performances by Kenna, They Might Be Giants and other indie favorites, to interviews of advertising legends Lee Clow and David Droga (who founded Tap Project in 2007), the lineup is an absolute treat.

You can help in one of three ways: Dine at one of the participating restaurants and buy yourself some tap water; donate directly to the project; or text Text “TAP” to UNICEF (864233) to donate $5 and give a child 200 days of clean drinking water.

Have a restaurant or know someone who does? It’s not too late to register and join the effort.

CHARITY: WATER

Also in 2008, we featured just-launched nonprofit charity: water — a fundraising effort to bring clean drinking water to people in the developing world. Since then, the project has become such a blockbuster success — from getting press in just about every major media outlet to being the beneficiary of last year’s Twestival — so we won’t elaborate on what it’s all about.

Today, charity:water is launching Unshaken — a concentrated effort to help Haiti recover by providing long-term water solutions in a country where a third of the population didn’t have access to clean drinking water even before the disaster. The plan focuses on 11 specific areas that need funding. For each of them, the charity: water team has worked hard to calculate the exact costs and collected real-life stories from the community about how that particular issue affects their daily lives.

The goal is to raise $1.3 million, helping 40,000 people in dire need. Bring them a wee closer to it by donating today.

PUR

At TED last month, we were excited to see PUR’s drive to donate 10 liters of clean drinking water for every tweet that answered the question, “If water could speak, what would it say?” and every photo answer at the TED photo booth. The program was a smash-hit, with more than 800 plastic bottles saved over the course of the four days and over 40,000 liters of water donated by PUR.

For World Water Week this week, PUR is doing another round under the Children’s Safe Drinking Water program — for each new Facebook fan, they’re donating 100 liters of clean drinking water to the areas that need it the most, up to 1 million (yes, million) liters total. So do your part and fan PUR to give a child this basic human right.

And, shhh, a little birdie told us PUR will be having a bunch of giveaways this week, so follow them on Twitter for a shot at the goodies.

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09 MARCH, 2010

Invisible Children + La Blogotheque + You

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What child soldiers in Uganda have to do with good music and your hands.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who helped, Invisible Children met their goal and are now bringing three fantastic artists to Uganda. They’ve just revealed the third, another epic favorite of ours: Lykke Li. You can follow the project’s progress here.

It’s a special occasion when three things we love are coming together for a world-changing cause. Case in point: Invisible Children, the fantastic social and political global movement using storytelling to empower and change lives, is partnering with La Blogotheque to take The Polyphonic Spree and Yeasayer (two of our favorite bands, so that technically takes it up to five favorites) to Uganda.

And they’re using the brilliant Kickstarter platform to crowdsource funds for it.

The project will only be funded if it raises $20,000 by 11:59PM EST on March 11. Right now, it’s at a little over halfway. Please — and we say this with our biggest, most hopeful optimism — help this absolutely life-changing cause by pledging a donation. Even if it’s as little as $10.

You know what they say, many hands make light work. And it’s a heavy burden Invisible Children is fighting. Lend a hand today.

via BOOOOOOOM

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26 FEBRUARY, 2010

Animation Spotlight: I AM

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Deconstructing bears, or what mechanization has to do with access to language.

Today’s short-and-sweet is an abstract, poetic reflection on the dissolution of our relationship with nature amidst the man-made landscape of our urban space, courtesy of animation studio Tronic.

We find the robotic, monotonous voiceover to be a fitting vehicle for conveying the detached mechanization that has gradually replaced the organic cadence of the natural environment.

The title comes from the animals’ declaration of who they are. Each animal says, “I AM the elephant” and “I AM the horse” and it’s through language that they are reinforcing their physicality and their place in the world. And the irony, of course, is that animals don’t have access to our language, they have their own languages, but we privilege ours. And so with this piece, the idea was that by giving them access to language, it was giving them agency, giving them power, giving them the ability to be heard. ~ Vivian Rosenthal, Tronic

Read the full interview with Rosenthal on Vimeo for further insight into some of the thinking behind this beautifully executed statement piece.

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