Archive for the ‘World News’ Category

Nepal Recovery Fund Drive – An Update

Nepal Recovery Fund Drive – An Update

Photo ~ Catherine Mahony / Oxfam

Nepal Recovery Fund Drive – An Update

During the month of May, Whole Earth customers generously donated over $17,700 to our Nepal Recovery Fund Drive. The money was given to Oxfam America and was one of the largest single donations that the group received for Nepal Relief. They recently sent us an update on their work in Nepal.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, Oxfam America’s first priority was getting basic, life-saving supplies to individuals and communities in need. And though the humanitarian situation has improved in Nepal, the provision of shelter, food, livelihood, water and sanitation remains paramount. The cold and damp monsoon weather left survivors even more vulnerable and made reaching those in remote areas a continuing challenge. With the approach of winter, the delivery of winterization kits to those living in the mountains is a key concern.

As Oxfam America transitions to the recovery phase, they are working in four key program areas: Shelter; Food and Livelihood; Gender; and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

Shelter

Surveys show that more than 600,000 houses were totally destroyed, and a further 290,000 were damaged in the earthquakes. Emergency shelter kits of tarpaulins and ropes and improved temporary shelter kits including corrugated galvanized iron sheets, roofing accessories and toolkits, were distributed. Oxfam partners provided training to carpenters, masons and local women to construct improved temporary shelters. Shelter awareness sessions also increased community knowledge of safe construction techniques.

Their priority was to provide a roof over families in need before the rainy season. Moving towards more permanent shelters and focusing on the approaching winter, Oxfam America is providing items to insulate shelters such as thermal floor mats and groundsheets, blankets, mattresses and hot water bottles, as well as sheeting to help waterproof shelters. Shelter for livestock and household granaries are also planned where needed.

Food and Livelihood

Oxfam America has been helping people recover their livelihoods by jump starting economic activities for individuals and communities. During the emergency phase of the response, there were distributions of staple food supplies, along with rice seeds and agricultural tools for farmers whose own supplies were lost or damaged in the earthquake. Cash for work programs also aided in debris clearance.

In the recovery phase, there will be more cash-based programs for livelihood recovery. These programs will focus in areas such as: trader grants to provide capital and training for people who want to restart or rehabilitate existing businesses (which in turn will also help to restart employment opportunities for wage-earners); the reconstruction and maintenance of community infrastructure; and support for market and financial systems.

Gender

Women, the elderly, people living with disabilities and female headed households are likely to find rebuilding their houses more challenging. In response, Oxfam America has been studying how their work affects vulnerable women and men, ensuring that they are not put at further risk, and have equal access to facilities and goods.

For women who have been displaced or otherwise affected by the earthquake, the organization has provided items and amenities aimed at ensuring their security and dignity, such as gender friendly hygiene kits, separate toilets for women, safe bathing spaces, and awareness raising activities to help women get relevant legal documents. In particular, these activities have been aimed at supporting single and elderly women, women with disabilities, pregnant women, and those at risk of domestic or gender based violence.

In the recovery phase, there is a focus on providing women with targeted support through counseling and referral services, reactivating and strengthening existing women’s groups, and empowering women through life skills training and activities to strengthen their ability to provide for themselves and their families.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

The earthquakes significantly reduced access to sanitation facilities and compromised access to safe, clean water. In order to reduce the risks of WASH-related diseases, and promote better community health, Oxfam America has been repairing and rehabilitating water sources and restoring access to potable water in hard-to-reach areas. Latrines have been constructed or repaired, and hygiene kits containing essential items have been distributed.

During the first phase of the emergency response, Oxfam teams sought to reach the most vulnerable and remote communities. They were able to set up strategic bases in areas that would be inaccessible during the monsoon season with local teams and contingency stocks. They are now working towards sustainable water and sanitation provision, including water rehabilitation in schools, and major repair and rehabilitation of damaged water supplies in the hill districts.

Again, we thank you for your generous support for the people of Nepal as they recover from the devastating earthquakes and rebuild their country.

Oxfam America

Greetings from the Pale Blue Dot!

Whole Earthlings Wave Hello to Cassini

Whole Earthlings Wave Hello to the Cassini Spacecraft

Greetings from the Pale Blue Dot!

NASA called it the first interplanetary photobomb and Whole Earth Provision Co. was there! On July 19th the Cassini spacecraft turned its camera towards Earth and took a picture. Cassini has photographed the Earth once before, but this was the first time that Earthlings knew in advance that their picture was going to be taken from a billion miles away. NASA hoped that people around the world would go outside to wave at Saturn while the photo-shoot was underway. Always happy to do our part, we gathered outside the Whole Earth office in Austin and sent salutations to Cassini and the ringed planet.

This is only the third photo of the Earth taken from the outer solar system. The first, the Pale Blue Dot, was taken 23 years ago by Voyager 1 from beyond Neptune. The other image was taken by Cassini in 2006. Why did NASA have Cassini take a picture of the Earth today? The spacecraft was taking advantage of an eclipse of the Sun by Saturn which made the Earth visible just outside the E ring.

Whole Earth ad circa 1970

One of our very first ads (1971)

Why is an image of our planet at such a distance so important? It’s a reminder of just how small we are in the great cosmic scheme of things and how precious our planet Earth really is. The Pale Blue Dot inspired Carl Sagan to write:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. …The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It is said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

from Carl Sagan’s The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

Amazing Ice Halo Display

Yesterday, sky watchers around the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, witnessed something amazing: A complex network of luminous arcs and rings surrounded the afternoon sun. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” says eyewitness Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. Solar physicist David Hathaway snapped this picture of the display:

Ice halo display during Hurricane Sandy, 2012

Image credit and copyright: David Hathaway/NASA/MSFC

The apparition is almost certainly connected to hurricane Sandy. The core of the storm swept well north of Alabama, but Sandy’s outer bands did pass over the area, leaving behind a thin haze of ice crystals in cirrus clouds. Sunlight shining through the crystals produced an unusually rich variety of ice halos.

“By my count, there are two sun dogs, a 22o halo, a parahelic circle, an upper tangent arc, and a parry arc,” says Chris Brightwell, who also photographed the display. “It was amazing.”

“Very impressive,” agreed onlooker Kyle Winkleman. “This was a once-in-a-decade event for our area.”

If the display really was a result of Sandy, sky watchers might not have to wait a decade for the next show. Some researchers believe that superstorms will become more common in the years ahead as a result of climate change, creating new things both terrible and beautiful to see overhead. Sky watchers in the storm zone should remain alert for the unusual.

From SpaceWeather.com October 31, 2012