Designs progressing for Internet outreach: Internet.org

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Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has announced that progress is being made in the design of light aircraft that could enable the Internet to cover areas of the world currently lacking an online footprint.

As he writes on Facebook:

“I’m excited to announce we’ve completed construction of our first full scale aircraft, Aquila, as part of our Internet.org effort.

Aquila is a solar powered unmanned plane that beams down internet connectivity from the sky. It has the wingspan of a Boeing 737, but weighs less than a car and can stay in the air for months at a time.

We’ve also made a breakthrough in laser communications technology. We’ve successfully tested a new laser that can transmit data at 10 gigabits per second. That’s ten times faster than any previous system, and it can accurately connect with a point the size of a dime from more than 10 miles away.

This effort is important because 10% of the world’s population lives in areas without existing internet infrastructure. To affordably connect everyone, we need to build completely new technologies.

Using aircraft to connect communities using lasers might seem like science fiction. But science fiction is often just science before its time. Over the coming months, we will test these systems in the real world and continue refining them so we can turn their promise into reality. Here’s a video showing the building of Aquila.”

Video shot one year ago:

If everyone lived in an ‘ecovillage’, the Earth would still be in trouble

eco-village

Findhorn Ecovillage, Scotland. Photo: Irenicrhonda/Flickr

We are used to hearing that if everyone lived in the same way as North Americans or Australians, we would need four or five planet Earths to sustain us, writes Samuel Alexander for The Conversation.

This sort of analysis is known as the “ecological footprint” and shows that even the so-called “green” western European nations, with their more progressive approaches to renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transport, would require more than three planets.

How can we live within the means of our planet? When we delve seriously into this question it becomes clear that almost all environmental literature grossly underestimates what is needed for our civilisation to become sustainable.

Only the brave should read on.

The ‘ecological footprint’ analysis

In order to explore the question of what “one planet living” would look like, let us turn to what is arguably the world’s most prominent metric for environmental accounting – the ecological footprint analysis. This was developed by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, then at the University of British Columbia, and is now institutionalised by the scientific body, The Global Footprint Network, of which Wackernagel is president.

This method of environmental accounting attempts to measure the amount of productive land and water a given population has available to it, and then evaluates the demands that population makes upon those ecosystems. A sustainable society is one that operates within the carrying capacity of its dependent ecosystems.

While this form of accounting is not without its critics – it is certainly not an exact science – the worrying thing is that many of its critics actually claim that it underestimates humanity’s environmental impact. Even Wackernagel, the concept’s co-originator, is convinced the numbers are underestimates.

According to the most recent data from the Global Footprint Network, humanity as a whole is currently in ecological overshoot, demanding one and a half planet’s worth of Earth’s biocapacity. As the global population continues its trend toward 11 billion people, and while the growth fetish continues to shape the global economy, the extent of overshoot is only going to increase.

Every year this worsening state of ecological overshoot persists, the biophysical foundations of our existence, and that of other species, are undermined.

The footprint of an ecovillage

As I have noted, the basic contours of environmental degradation are relatively well known. What is far less widely known, however, is that even the world’s most successful and long-lasting ecovillages have yet to attain a “fair share” ecological footprint.

Take the Findhorn Ecovillage in Scotland, for example, probably the most famous ecovillage in the world. An ecovillage can be broadly understood as an “intentional community” that forms with the explicit aim of living more lightly on the planet. Among other things, the Findhorn community has adopted an almost exclusively vegetarian diet, produces renewable energy and makes many of their houses out of mud or reclaimed materials.

An ecological footprint analysis was undertaken of this community. It was discovered that even the committed efforts of this ecovillage still left the Findhorn community consuming resources and emitting waste far in excess of what could be sustained if everyone lived in this way. (Part of the problem is that the community tends to fly as often as the ordinary Westerner, increasing their otherwise small footprint.)

Put otherwise, based on my calculations, if the whole world came to look like one of our most successful ecovillages, we would still need one and a half planet’s worth of Earth’s biocapacity. Dwell on that for a moment.

I do not share this conclusion to provoke despair, although I admit that it conveys the magnitude of our ecological predicament with disarming clarity. Nor do I share this to criticise the noble and necessary efforts of the ecovillage movement, which clearly is doing far more than most to push the frontiers of environmental practice.
Rather, I share this in the hope of shaking the environmental movement, and the broader public, awake. With our eyes open, let us begin by acknowledging that tinkering around the edges of consumer capitalism is utterly inadequate.

In a full world of seven billion people and counting, a “fair share” ecological footprint means reducing our impacts to a small fraction of what they are today. Such fundamental change to our ways of living is incompatible with a growth-oriented civilisation.

Some people may find this this position too “radical” to digest, but I would argue that this position is merely shaped by an honest review of the evidence.

What would ‘one planet’ living look like?

Even after five or six decades of the modern environmental movement, it seems we still do not have an example of how to thrive within the sustainable carrying capacity of the planet.

Nevertheless, just as the basic problems can be sufficiently well understood, the nature of an appropriate response is also sufficiently clear, even if the truth is sometimes confronting.
We must swiftly transition to systems of renewable energy, recognising that the feasibility and affordability of this transition will demand that we consume significantly less energy than we have become accustomed to in the developed nations. Less energy means less producing and consuming.

We must grow our food organically and locally, and eat considerably less (or no) meat. We must ride our bikes more and fly less, mend our clothes, share resources, radically reduce our waste streams and creatively “retrofit the suburbs” to turn our homes and communities into places of sustainable production, not unsustainable consumption. In doing so, we must challenge ourselves to journey beyond the ecovillage movement and explore an even deeper green shade of sustainability.

Among other things, this means living lives of frugality, moderation and material sufficiency. Unpopular though it is to say, we must also have fewer children, or else our species will grow itself into a catastrophe.

But personal action is not enough. We must restructure our societies to support and promote these “simpler” ways of living. Appropriate technology must also assist us on the transition to one planet living. Someargue that technology will allow us to continue living in the same way while also greatly reducing our footprint.

However, the extent of “dematerialisation” required to make our ways of living sustainable is simply too great. As well as improving efficiency, we also need to live more simply in a material sense, and re-imagine the good life beyond consumer culture.

First and foremost, what is needed for one planet living is for the richest nations, including Australia, to initiate a “degrowth” process of planned economic contraction.

I do not claim that this is likely or that I have a detailed blueprint for how it should transpire. I only claim that, based on the ecological footprint analysis, degrowth is the most logical framework for understanding the radical implications of sustainability.

Can the descent from consumerism and growth be prosperous? Can we turn our overlapping crises into opportunities?

These are the defining questions of our time.

Samuel Alexander

Research fellow, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at University of Melbourne

Courtesy of The Conversation

Internet.org launches in Bolivia

Bolivia

Xiomara Zambrana. Photo: Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg

Internet.org just launched in Bolivia, giving people on the VIVA network access to free basic internet services, writes Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook.

Less than half of Bolivia uses the internet today, so offering people free services for health, education, communication and local information will help introduce them to the entire internet, he writes.

He tells the story of Xiomara Zambrana (pictured). She used the internet to launch a social media campaign in Bolivia called Mi Arbol — My Tree — to encourage people to plant trees and help Bolivia’s Environmental Ministry fight deforestation. As a result, 50,000 trees were planted in communities across the country.

Zuckerberg says when more people in Bolivia are connected, more people will be empowered to make a change in the world.

Nepal’s youth rally to help following quake

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Tibetans pitch in to help in the wake of the quake. Photo: Facebook

In the wake of the devastating April 25 earthquake in Nepal, hundreds of young men and women are running relief coordination centers across the country, taking in food, tents, and medical supplies donated by other groups and then organizing trucks and jeeps to reach the hardest-hit districts. Hundreds more are focusing on making sure those affected have shelter beyond tents and tarpaulins.

With the Nepalese government providing a slow and inadequate response, many people are taking rescue and rehabilitation into their own hands. And despite poor and spotty internet and mobile phone coverage, many are interacting online to help reach out to those in need.

It may be a little early to tell, but there are signs of a developing grassroots, community-based approach to tackling Nepal during this difficult time. Volunteers from many communities have been pitching in, including Nepalese, Tibetans and the foreign expat community.

The stories of people taking it upon themselves to help are too numerous to count. Take Namgyal Sherpa. After waiting for a helicopter to come and help, he got restless. As he told BuzzFeed News, he had left Kathmandu last week with seven friends and 3,000 kilos of food — rice, lentils, instant noodles, salt, and oil — and hoped to deliver it to the village of Laprak, which is near the epicenter of the earthquake that killed more than 8,100 people.

“There wasn’t enough relief aid going to the village,” Namgyal, 31, told the news agency. “So we wanted to send supplies to Laprak not only because it was home to many of our boys, but also because it wasn’t getting attention like other places.”

Namgyal’s trekking company, Thamserku, employed trekking guides, many of them young men who came from Laprak and surrounding villages. They included a 29-year-old operations manager for a trekking company, three 30-year-old trekking guides, a 28-year-old tourist bus driver, and a 30-year-old Brit who is vacationing in Nepal.

Check out the full story at BuzzFeed

Internet could empower those new to the web

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. Photo: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg opened up his page to questions for one hour recently and who should drop by but none other than entrepreneur Richard Branson.

Here is the exchange:

Richard Branson:

Hi Mark. I share your view that it is crucial to connect the two thirds of the world that don’t currently have access to the internet. What do you think will be the biggest benefits of this?

Mark Zuckerberg:

Thanks for stopping by Richard Branson!

When we talk about connecting the world, most people talk about the clear benefits to all the people who will get internet access and don’t have it today. Those benefits are many: access to education, health information, jobs and so on. Many people estimate that for every billion people we connect, we’ll raise more than 100 million out of poverty.

But one thing that we often overlook in this discussion is how everyone who is already connected will benefit from having everyone online.

Think about how many brilliant entrepreneurs there are out there who have great ideas and the will to change the world, but just lack basic tools to do so today. If you go by the population, almost 2/3 of these entrepreneurs don’t have internet access today. Once they get connected, we may have 3x as many good ideas and amazing new services built that will benefit everyone around the world.

Another Facebook user had this to ask:

Shakira:

Hi Mark! How do you think technology can best be used as an education tool for those living in disadvantaged communities?

Mark Zuckerberg:

Thanks for the question Shakira!

I’m very excited about personalized learning — giving everyone the ability to use technology to learn what they’re most interested in and at their own pace. There are some great new schools experimenting with different personalized learning models and getting great results. I’m supporting some of those schools through my personal philanthropy, and Facebook is also helping to build open source software to power some of these tools.

When the grandmothers awoke

Grand Canyon

Devi Tide and Perci Ami on the rim of the Grand Canyon, USA. Photo: Jane Feldman

Given the global challenges humanity faces in the 21st century, we can no longer afford to maintain artificial divisions between peoples and nations. Learning from the indigenous peoples of the world, along with the wisdom-keepers of all cultures and faith traditions, we must begin to understand ourselves as part of a great human family that is itself just one strand in the web of life on our living Earth, writes Jennifer Browdy.

This was the impetus behind the journey of a group of healers, educators, and activists, predominantly women, from a variety of ethnicities including Hopi, Ojibwe, and Maori and from religious traditions as diverse as Sufi, Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist. They traveled together last summer to share their traditions and cultural stories, both among themselves and with the people they visited, in order to create a common understanding of how humans relate to one another, to other living beings, and to the Earth.

The journey was inspired by a meeting in New Zealand between Maori spiritual leader Rangimarie Turuki Rose Pere and Sufi healer Devi Tide. Tide recalls Pere saying, “We’ve come to a place where we’re all in it together, we can no longer separate ourselves from each other. It’s a time of unity, a time for the indigenous wisdom-keepers to share our knowledge with the rest of the world.”

Tide tried to persuade Pere to travel and share her wisdom herself, but Pere had other ideas. “She turned around and pointed at me,” Tide recalls, “and she said, ‘It can’t come from one of us,’” referring to the Maori and other indigenous peoples. When Pere said that Tide should be the one to bring the wisdom-keepers of the world together, Tide said, “I felt like I had been hit by a bolt of lightning.”

Becoming a global family, one that unites ancient indigenous wisdom with other faith and cultural traditions, is essential if humanity is to overcome the crises of climate change.

That lightning bolt sparked the remarkable journey she led through the American Southwest, and then to New York City just in time for the People’s Climate March and the United Nations First World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

The group met with Grandmother Flordemayo of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, an international alliance of indigenous women elders founded in 2004 and dedicated to offering prayer and education as a means to strengthen the human family “for the next seven generations.”

Becoming a new kind of family, Taiha said, one that unites ancient indigenous wisdom with other faith and cultural traditions, is essential if humanity is to successfully surmount the crises of the present moment.Seeking to share perspectives and wisdom, the travelers visited the Hopi Reservation under the guidance of Hopi elder Pershlie “Perci” Ami and prayed at sacred sites like the Hopi Prophecy Rock, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon. “It was chaos and miracles, every day,” said Moetu Taiha, a Maori healer who helped lead the group. “It was like a kind of rebirth. We had to learn how to be a family.”

The global human family was very much in evidence at the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21, 2014, where some 400,000 people from every background imaginable gathered to send a message to world leaders that they must act immediately and decisively to shift human civilization onto a sustainable course.

In New York, the wisdom-keepers offered prayers for the healing of the Earth, first in a small ceremony in Central Park, and later center stage at the start of the huge rally. Their passion was mirrored by the great crowd in front of them.

“That moment in New York was the beginning of a new stage of unity,” Ojibwe elder Mary Lyons said. “Now, finally, we are walking a pathway for peace together,” toward a new understanding of the important role of human beings, particularly women, as stewards of life on Earth.

Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D., teaches comparative literature and media studies at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, focusing on women’s narratives of social and ecological justice. She is founding director of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and editor of two anthologies of African, Latin American, and Caribbean women’s writing of resistance.

Courtesy of Yes! Magazine

Expanding the internet in Brazil

Mark

Zuckerberg meets Brazil President Dilma Rousseff. Photo: MarkZuckerberg/Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg recently met with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil during which he says they had a good discussion about working together to connect more people to the internet in Brazil.

Zuckerberg writes:

“One project we announced today is a trial connectivity program in the Heliopolis favela in São Paulo. This is a low income neighborhood of around 200,000 people in Brazil’s largest city. We’re going to deliver fast free wifi to everyone in this community so they can access basic internet services on their phones — including free services around health, jobs, education and communication.

“The President and I both believe that everyone should share in the social and economic benefits of connectivity. We talked about the opportunities for technology to bring diverse communities closer together and also to improve education. These are things we care a lot about at Facebook, so we’re committed to finding more ways to collaborate.
I’m excited for Facebook to help more Brazilians connect with their loved ones and create greater opportunities around the world,” he says.

‘Water Man of India’ works to make rivers flow again

Rajendra

Rajendra Singh believes conservation is vital to combat future “water wars” and climate change.
Image: Deccan Chronicle

Revival of traditional rainwater harvesting has transformed the driest state in India, and could be used to combat the effects of climate change across the world, writes Pramila Krishnan.

School textbooks in India have been telling children for generations that Rajasthan is an inhospitable state in the northwest of the country, constrained by the hot, hostile sands of the Thar Desert.

But the driest state in India has a softer, humane face as well – that of Rajendra Singh, known as the “Water Man of India”, whose untiring efforts in water conservation in arid Rajasthan have led to him being awarded the Stockholm Water Prize, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize for Water.

Singh did not attempt to design a new technology to address Rajasthan’s water problems. He began simply by de-silting several traditional surface level rainwater storage facilities – called “johads” in the local Hindi language − that fell out of use during British colonial rule. And, in doing so, he has quenched the thirst of villages that were dying.

Thousands of villages followed his example, and so much water was captured and soaked into aquifers that dry rivers have begun to flow again.

Water wars

Singh believes that water conservation is vital to combat the effects of climate change and to avoid “water wars” in the future.

And such is his reputation on water issues that he received a call from Prince Charles, heir to the UK throne, seeking advice on how to handle the devastating summer floods in England in 2007.

In an interview with Climate News Network, Singh recalled how he began making water flow again in perennially dry Rajasthan by inculcating do-it-yourself initiatives in the villagers.

He explained: “I imbibed Gandhian ideals during my school days that emphasised working for empowerment of villages.

“As an Ayurvedic (traditional medicine system in India) doctor, I went to the Alwar district of Rajasthan early in 1982 to start a clinic and spread awareness among youth about health and hygiene.

“I was perturbed because the majority of young men had already left the village, and the rest were about to leave for green pastures in the cities as they were unable to battle the water scarcity. Besides, they also wanted to earn good money.

“Women, old people and children were left behind in the village. I reworked my doctor plans to address the water scarcity, as that would actually save people from several diseases.

“Along with the support of the villagers, I de-silted a couple of johads in Alwar. When rains filled them, people in neighbouring villages trusted my initiative and over 8,000 johads are renovated now.

“Hordes of youth have returned to their villages as water filled tanks and the standard of living in hamlets rose in a big way.”

He said that five rivers in this region had revived and started to flow again.

Johads are simple tanks built across a slope, with a high embankment on three sides and the fourth side left open for rainwater to enter. They hold water during rains and recharge the aquifer below to ensure continuous water supply to the neighbourhood in the dry season.

Johad

A village johad in arid Rajasthan. Image: LRBurdak via Wikimedia Commons

But Singh explained: “After the advent of bore wells and pipelines connecting every hamlet in India, we forgot the traditional water conservation facility used by our ancestors.”

Having won the Stockholm prize, what does the future hold for the Water Man?

“My immediate plans are to take up a global-level campaign on water conservation and peace,” he said. “As predicted by several experts, the next world war will be for water. Unless every one of us starts at least now to save water and protect the water bodies, we face severe conflicts − apart from suffering climate change impacts. I will be leading the global water walk in the UK in August 2015.

“During his two visits (2004 and 2006), Prince Charles told me that he was impressed by the johad model of conservation. He then called me in 2007 to be part of his team of water engineers to work out all possibilities to address the crisis during the floods in England. They listened to my suggestions on creating the johad model on hilltops and downhill to arrest water in the hills and prevent floods in the future.”

In India, however, he is not confident that the government has the right ideas. “Our government is pushing a different idea of inter-linking of rivers, which will only politicise the water crisis. I was part of the national-level body to clean up the holy Ganga River from 2010 to 2012, but I quit as there was lack of accountability and it ended up as a toothless organisation.

“Inter-linking of rivers is not a solution for flood and drought. As far as India is concerned, it will result only in inter-linking of corruption and politics.

Hearts and brains

“What we need is inter-linking of the hearts and brains of people to take up water conservation in their homes and community. If exploitation of river water and polluting the river are stopped, every river will flow. Water engineering should be focused on conservation of each drop, and not on changing the course of rivers, which are designed by Mother Nature.”

Singh is also against the idea of privatising water supplies, and does not believe it would result in people using water more judiciously.

“Water is not a commodity,” he said. “In my own example, johads are de-silted by the people and used by people. Community-based water management yields long-lasting results and is the only solution for water shortages.

“When people realise their need and de-silt lakes and ponds as a group, they can use the water without having to pay for it. Right to water is every man’s right, and monetising water will increase conflicts in the society.

“Helping a community to have access to clean and safe water means helping the community to have a dignified life.”

Courtesy of Climate News Network

Internet.org begins to reach out

Internet.org

Mark Zuckerberg recently reached out on his personal Facebook page to alert his followers to a ground-breaking development that will help spread the internet to the billions of people – over 3 billion – who currently are not connected to the web.

Zuckerberg wrote: “As part of our Internet.org effort to connect the world, we’ve designed unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access down to people from the sky.

“Today, March 26, I’m excited to share that we’ve successfully completed our first test flight of these aircraft in the UK.”

KEY POINTS

* Internet.org is making strides in spreading the internet
* It’s not the only one – OneWeb and also entrepreneur Elon Musk are working on world internet coverage
* There are roughly 3-4 billion people currently not online

“The final design will have a wingspan greater than a Boeing 737 but will weigh less than a car. It will be powered by solar panels on its wings and it will be able to stay at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet for months at a time<" Zuckerberg said.. “Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10 percent of the world's population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure,” he said. Internet.org aims to provide the connections and the resources to help people get online, with a major focus on providing services through mobile devices. Jackie Chang, Product Partnerships, Internet.org, told the audience at the recent Facebook F8 meeting in California, US, that Internet.org is working to find out what useful services and applications people largely in developing countries and regions would benefit from. See here: Facebook and Internet.org – Building for the next billion

Welcome to Earth Community News

Earth Community News aims to provide news and insight from ethnic and grassroots communities around the world, as well as the infrastructure, tools and technology being developed to allow people to connect to each online.

Our news service will offer the following categories:

– Community Stories – Community developments, challenges, studies, news
– Technology Outreach – How the internet and communications tools are being expanded around the world
– EC News – Stories of our progress as we work with volunteers and communities

Earth Community or ec-online.org is a non-profit organization that works with volunteers to provide websites, contents and resources for communities new or relatively new to the internet. Earth Community depends on volunteer help and typically young community leaders who work with us to set up their own online websites and resources.