Writing you today from the American Tap Dance Foundation with completely un-related E-waste news while Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire plays intermittently in one of the practice rooms, a silly choice for a kids tap class, but I digress…
Ever had a broken electronic device and wanted to fix it, but stopped because you heard something about how doing so would void the warranty or something like that?
Well, I’m here to let you know that there’s a group of people advocating for you so you can have the option to fix your own electronics without the risk of being disowned by your electronics manufacturer. Its seems silly that is a right we do not have (like the right to know if the food you buy contains GMOs), but its good to know some people are out there who care an awful lot and want to empower people to fix their own gadgets rather than being a slave to the manufacturers.
I’ve only just begun to research this topic and will write more as I learn more. To clarify why this issue is important to me and this blog, it is the connection between electronics and chimpanzees/gorillas–that is, our electronics are made with materials that come from chimpanzee and gorilla habitats in Africa. These habitats are being disturbed and degraded due to mining activity. If we can re-use and recycle electronics, there will be less need to mine for materials in these habitats. So, lets do that.
For now, I wanted to just share the idea and a link to the Right to Repair website so you can look into it if you’re interested in learning about the topic or want to start fixing your own gadgets.
Earlier in this blog I talked about the concept of Urban Mining and a company called IFixit which provides tool-kits and free instruction manuals to walk you through fixing things like broken smart phone screens. Their goal is to encourage re-use of electronics and reduce waste.
As usual, if you have any questions or comments I invite you to comment below. I’m curious to see if anyone has any input on this issue…
A bestial romance novelette about a girl and a rescued chimpanzee who fall in love. Their union results in the birth of “the missing link.”
Dedicated to: my Grandmas, sorry Grandmas
The “missing link” may have existed in the past, but, like the mythical “lyger,” this creature is sterile and cannot reproduce, hence the die-out of the species as humans diverged from their chimpanzee brothers and sisters over the years, a separation which began with the discovery of fire.
As time went on, humans became more and more separated from the natural world as their species multiplied and spread across the planet, learning to live in concrete jungles, forgetting the wisdom of the forest.
The love between man and chimp dwindled too as man forgot his roots in the forest. The species interacted less and less, until at some point they stopped relations completely.
That is why humans eventually lost record of the “missing link” and remain bewildered as to how humans diverged from their closest relatives in the animal kingdom, Chimpanzees and Gorillas.
That is, until Girl returned to the forest and met Chimp.
Chimp was a broken soul until he met Girl. He had seen his mother killed by poachers as a young chimplette and was rescued shortly after by a well known rescue group called Ape Action Africa. He was taken to their headquarters in Camaroon and received the tenderest of care by the dedicated staff comprised of local women. Unfortunately, like many chimps in Chimps situation, Chimp suffered terribly from depression, a common and often fatal consequence of what Chimp had been through. …
Girl grew up in a big city across the world. She learned about Chimpanzees at a young age and fell in love whith the idea of these furry creatures, so much like humans and yet so different. She was fascinated by how they lived so simply and so closely with nature. Unlike humans, they did not seem to live out of balance with the natural world, and she wondered if we humans could learn a thing or two from our hairy cousins in the forest. So she vowed to go there and do that, to study Chimpanzees. Her goal was to see if the chimps could give her some lifestyle tips that she could share with her fellow humans and perhaps restore some balance to the planet, which everyone generally agreed was going to shite due to human activities on the Earth.
Well, Girl got a whole lot more than she bargained for when she finally made it to study the Chimpanzees. She ended up falling in love with Chimp, who was clingly and needy due to his traumatized beginnings. For whatever reason, she liked that, and there was something about his his smile. Well, I wont go into too much detail here, but they…ya know…and 9 months later Girl gave birth to the hairiest, strangest looking baby you ever did see. Turns out this child had curious genetics…unlike humans, who share 98% of the genetic material of Chimpanzees, this baby had 99% of the genetic material, thus it was deemed the “Missing Link.” They named the child Marty.
Marty was a curious child, quite wild in many ways but also quite gentle and a bit less hairy than a Chimp. Marty could walk upright and looked a bit more human than other Chimpanzees the child’s age. It was determined early on that Marty was sterile, much like a mule or lyger. Indeed this was, “The Missing Link.”
Marty was raised under the close watch of scientists and was able to teach us humans a lot about how to live closely with nature.
There is one memorable instance of a banana eating contest in which Marty blew all the other human participants away, eating a whopping 35 bananas in one sitting.
Balance has been restored to the planet, now that Marty has given us humans insight into how to live more gently in the world.
Well, I’m not sure if it’s quite a tradition yet but this year marks year 2 of this blog’s donation to the Jane Gooddall Institute. It’s also year 2 of this blog.
A little recap–Since starting, I have travelled across the country via greyhound, seen a complete solar eclipse, worked on a cashmere goat farm, explored The Big Apple, living in various sub-standard yet semi-charming communal living spaces, tried out a handful of odd-jobs, chipped away at creative projects, integrated into society somewhat, and honed in on the art of tap dancing.
It’s the first time in many years that I have stayed put for longer than a few months, which I must admit is a struggle for an idyllic, adventure seeking soul like mine. Mental sabotage aside, its been good to stay in one place, sit still, and focus a bit; good to observe the passage of time and seasons within and without; good to experience life on a continuum, get a taste of the “grind” rather than ramblin’ around from one storyline to the next. Its been a good period of reflection and developing focus. At least for now that is my feeling. Time will tell if I get squirrely again.
All in all, this blog has been helpful for keeping track of projects. I appreciate all of you who have been reading and following along. Special shout out of course to my Grandma Pat and maternal units who read my stories and provide feedback, also to the international readers: hello India! Hello New Zealand! Hello UK! Hello Berlin! Hello Israel/Palestine. I’m very stoked to be reaching such a diverse audience and really welcome everyone’s comments and input.
Looking back, last year I donated a forgotten amount to the Jane Gooddall Institute because it was the best option I could find to contribute to the cause of chimpanzee conservation, something I really wanted to do since I admire the work of Jane Gooddall and the conservation efforts she has inspired across the globe.
That’s why I chose to donate again this year, this time using the funds I raised while street performing over the course of the year, a hard, yet joyfully earned $200 for JGI. Thank you New Yorkers!
Interesting to note, I made a whopping $0.08 off of advertisements on this blog in the same time period…I’d donate that too but WordPress doesn’t cut checks that small, so the pot will grow for next year…
Anyway, according to JGI, my donation will be doubled as part of their year-end fundraiser, so that’s $400 which will go towards replanting important forest habitats and restoring critical forest corridors that chimpanzees and other great apes need to survive. I say “my” donation but I’d like to note that I consider it “our” donation, since this blog has anchored my efforts, and you are a part of it all by reading.
That being said, I’ll elaborate on the impacts of our donation.
According to the JGI thank you letter, we are supporting programs that improve the health, education and livelihoods of the people in communities surrounding chimpanzee habitats whose future is vitally connected to the future of chimpanzees. Donations also support the Roots & Shoots program, which is equipping young people in over 100 countries to become the next generation of conservation leaders. Side note: The Urban Mining event I hosted this year was part of the Roots & Shoots program.
A big part of JGI donations go to the running of the Tchimpounga Rehabilitation Center in the Congo and providing medical attention to the chimps brought to their doors. According to a letter sent out by Dr. Atencia, the executive director of the Jane Gooddall Institute-Congo and head veterinarian, the sanctuary takes in chimpanzees rescued from poachers, saving them from being sold as pets or bushmeat. Chimps often arrive malnourished and injured and in need of urgent care. It costs about $7000 to care for one chimpanzee at the center per year, and they live about 60 years. Merp! Donations go towards formula for infant chimps, food for adult chimps, and lifetime veterinary care. Chimpanzees are endangered species, with an estimated 150,000 left in the wild. Once rehabilitated at Tchimpounga, under the care of a dedicated team of veterinarians and care-givers, chimpanzees are released into sanctuaries where they are protected from poachers and habitat loss. Here are three examples of chimpanzees being cared for at the Tchimpounga center, made possible through our donations…
Its pretty crazy how much individual care is required to rehabilitate a baby chimp. They are much like humans in this way, requiring a lot of affection and attention in order to develop into healthy, sociable creatures. Without that love, they generally do not survive. I’ve heard gorillas are even more sensative and prone to losing the will to live when separated from their mothers. Interesting.
Well, I’ve run out of things to say but I think we are creating some great positive ripples in this world folks by engaging with this topic. There are so many causes and creatures in need, it can be overwhelming and discouraging to think about where to start and what to do to help, but as Dr. Jane Gooddall says:
I like the way she thinks.
Also I’ve thought about this while wondering if chimpanzee conservation is really what I should be focusing on in light of all the other crises going on in the world:
This is just a friendly reminder, a gentle nudge, to switch from Google to Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees.
Here is a wonderful little documentary to explain why its such a good idea to jump on this bandwagon:
From an Art and Adventure standpoint, this is great because it’s helping chimps…and people…and showing how one person on an adventure can make an enormouslyawesomely huge positive impact on the planet through ripples (Thank you Jane Gooddall).
To make the switch and start making good use of your screen time on a global scale, all you have to do is go here, I think: https://info.ecosia.org/what.
Or search Ecosia on google for the last time and go from there.
I am writing you in the pleasant afterglow of a fruitful craigslist adventure which ultimately landed me walking as gracefully as Bigfoot down a hair-show runway with bubblegum pink bangs and has left me today with an envelope full of chopped locks to donate and November rent.
After growing my hair for the past 5ish years without dying it, and having the intention to someday donate it, this odd job, made possible by good ol’ Craigslist, allowed all my hair donation dreams to come true. See once long hair in photo below, apologies for the selfie.
Hearing some questionable feedback about Locks of Love, a prominent hair donation organization, I decided to go with Wigs 4 Kids per the suggestion of the ALOXXI hair team, the one’s responsible for my new doo and this poor model’s sore cranium.
Apparently, Locks of Love, though a “non-profit,” charges some kids for their wigs, whereas Wigs 4 Kids provides all wigs at no cost, also offering services like counselling and enrichment activities to kids and their families.
Also good to know, Wigs 4 Kids asks for 10” instead of 12” (what I thought I’d have to cut) and will accept hair as short as 7-9” for short hairstyled wigs. I haven’t done a ton of fact checking about the Locks of Love controversy, but since I have’t heard anything bad about Wigs 4 Kids and they had a lenient hair length, I’m gonna err on the side of caution on this one and send my tresses to this Michigan based non-profit instead of Locks of Love. In case you or anyone you know is thinking of donating hair, I thought I’d mention this subject.
Which leads me to my other subject:
Roots and Shoots Urban Mining Workshop
As mentioned at the start of this blog, I’m working towards somehow combining the topics of tap dance, electronic waste recycling, and ape conservation.
A few months ago, a little progress was made when I teamed up with a lovely lass named Emily Duda to host an Urban Mining workshop at Barnes & Noble to raise awareness of the impacts of electronics on ape habitats.
Electronics are produced the expense of Chimpanzees, Gorillas, and humans living in Africa, which is not fair.
To elaborate a bit:
Metals inside our phones, computers, and tablets come from the parts of Africa where Chimps and Gorillas live. These habitats are being damaged through the mining process, endangering the survival of these 2 great species.
People who mine these materials often work in sub-safe conditions, receiving ridiculously low wages for the work put in. Furthermore, the influx of people moving into these previosly untouched areas for work as the electronics industry grows has also paved the way for poachers to come in and snag Chimps and Gorillas for the Illegal Pet and Bushmeat trade.
Its not good.
But the situation can improve…
What can we do, those of us living far away from the conflict?
Its a bit of a hassle to properly dispose of electronics these days, but its important to do so. We must work to bring balance to the force, young padawans.
Though I’m not sure if electronics manufacturers are actually USING recycled materials in new products, a point brought up by a much appreciated skeptic at the workshop, the act of recycling will inevitably make the supply of recycled materials more available for manufacturers to use. It will at least give manufacturers the option to incorporate recycled materials into new products instead of continuously importing raw materials.
Hopefully as time goes on it will become easier for the consumer, me and you, to properly dispose of electronic waste. It’s a dream of mine, to live in a world like that.
For now, you may need to do a little research to find out where to recycle used electronics locally, and you will likely have to take a trip to a store or recycling center to do so. If you need help figuring it out, reach out either through a comment or message on the contact page of this site and I’d be happy to help you navigate.
In New York City, a pilot program has been launched to provide curbside pick-up of electronic waste upon request. I think this is very cool and hope more cities are introducing or already have similar programs. If you know anything on the subject, please share the info, thank you!
Now, a little more about the Barnes and Noble workshop, my first foray into eco-prostelytism:
Our event was part of the Barnes & Noble Bookfair program which allowed us to fundraise in addition to reaching an audience. Our goal was to spread the good word about Electronic Waste Recycling and raise money for Emily’s project: Camp Friendship, an afterschool and summer program that connects city kids with nature.
With a generous donation of toolkits from IFixit, a company working to reduce electronic waste by developing repair manuals and tool-kits for the lay-man, and using a workshop guide provided by FairPhone (which I’ve written about before here), we set up shop in the kids book section of Barnes and Noble and tried to engage as many people as possible in the discussion of whats inside our phones.
In case you’re curious, Emily and I found each-other using a mapping tool available on the Roots and Shoots website which helps ape conservation nerds and Jane Gooddall enthusiasts connect on a local level. Roots and Shoots, by the way, is a program created by the Jane Gooddall Institute to engage kids in conservation, to “raise the next generation of conservation thinkers.”
All in all I don’t think we raised much money for either cause, but we certainly did talk to a handful of people about electronic waste recycling, whats inside phones, and where these materials come from. Hopefully the ideas will sink in to the folks we reached and from there momentum can grow.
Any anyway, the kids who trickled in had a great time taking apart old phones and exploring the insides with the tiny tools donated by IFixit.
The phones used in this workshop were a combination of broken smart phones I was able to collect from my apartment building neighbors and several old school flip phones donated by the Gowanus E-waste warehouse in Brooklyn.
Ultimately, I was hoping to get the kids to connect their phones with the idea that whats inside their phones comes from where Chimpanzees live. Using the FairPhone workshop manual, I used the following graphics to engage in this discussion. It went over way better with the parents…
The whole manual can be found here. I was particularly entertained by one child who was stoked on the silicon number pads inside an old flip phone. I hadn’t thought of if before, but kids these days are missing out on the tactile element of phones because smart phones don’t have buttons, just screens.
Well, thats all I’ve got for now. I’ll leave you with a little something I made out of the workshop remnants.
Greetings to my new readers: Cindy the tap dancer and Kimberly from American Field!
Thank you for following my blog…welcome to the brain drain!
Today I’m departing from writing about upsetting environmental issues like turtles getting plastic straws stuck in their noses and chimpanzee refugees displaced by mining activities to cover a more light-hearted topic: Percussive Shoes!
What is the difference between tap shoes and Irish clogs?
Its a question I have been asked quite often and wondered about myself, so here we go:
Noise Making Shoes (Percussive dance), Demysified
First, a quick youtube video to illustrate three dancing styles which are often confused: Irish Step, Tap Dance, and Clogging:
As you can see, these three dance styles use different movements to express music with their feet, aka dance. Which brings me to…
The Shoe Breakdown
Tap shoes look like this:
There are high heel versions as well:
Irish step shoes look like this:
And Appalacian Clogs look like this:
Appalacian dance can also be done with no taps, which makes the dance called flat-footing, I believe, and with regular tap shoes.
Without doing much research, I can tell you the taps and soles are different on all three shoes. While the appalacian clogging shoe has a thinner sole and more intricate taps, which makes for a more jingle-y soud, the tap and irish step shoes have a thicker wooden sole. Tap shoes have four metal plates screwed to the bottom, attached to the toes and heels, and Irish dancing shoes have fiberglass tips on the bottom, according to this Celtic Heritage blog. For an expalaination of the difference between the taps on clogging shoes vs. tap shoes, watch this nice mother-daughter video and you will sort-of understand, like me!
In addition to all three of these noise making shoes, there are flamenco shoes which also have some sort of metal stuck on the toes and heels, but instead of metal plates, looks like they are tiny pins.
And to round it all off for today, here is a video of an amazing Flamenco band and dancer. The reason I am including it and not a tap dance video is because the singers in this video are quite….special.
Check it out:
Ok ok and here, some clips of me tap dancing so you can see progress in motion:
Hello all and happy Memorial Day. I hope you’re feelin’ groovy and not too traumatized by my last post about turtle noses and plastic straws. Got a new topic for you, one that connects many dots for this blog and gives me mucho hope and confidence in a sustainable future for the us and the apes, who are one.
Fair Trade Electronics
So, you’ve heard of fair trade coffee, right?
And perhaps fair trade chocolate?
But how ’bout fair trade electronics??
According to internet sources, and the lovely Jane Gooddall (see video), some very key components of electronics come from Chimpanzee and Gorilla habitat in the Democratic Repubic of Congo. Thats over in Africa–(great song), see map below, DRC is in red:
It is in this region that Chimpanzees and Gorillas roam wild and free, and where today, large and small scale (artisinal) mining operations are moving in to extract minerals like Cobalt, Tungsten, and “rare Rarth metals” including Coltan, or Tantalite, which are all used in the making of electronic devices.
People are moving into once uninhabited areas in order to make a living through mining–cant blame ’em for that, baby’s gotta eat. Unfortunately, however, an unintended consequence of this migration is habitat destruction and species loss. People even hunt Chimpanzees and Gorillas for eating or selling on the illegal pet trade and bushmeat markets. Sad. Look, this chimp is pouting about it:
Here are some photos of these materials which are essential to the functioning of our electronics and represent much conflict:
And a photo of a two different Cobolt mining operations, one industrial and one artisanal:
To clarify, the difference between Industrial and Artisanal mining is the Industrial operations are organized by large, often foreign companies, while the Artisanal operations are conducted by individual miners.
There are issues with both levels of operation. Ultimately, not only is land and habitat being ravaged, or at least altered, through the mining process, but also people, child laborers included, are working under dangerous conditions for less than fair wages to supply us with these materials. Here is a video that explains the extractive/mining industry and the perspective of artisanal miners:
For me, the main takeaway from the clip above is from 1:44 til 3:14, a segment which reveals an artisanal Cobalt mine and a discussion with miners about working conditions and wages.
Because they are not part of a company or union, these miners have no representation on the market and often end up getting ripped off by buyers, most often Chinese companies, who buy at low prices and then make a profit, reselling the materials to electronics manufacturers at a 30% markup (statistic provided in video).
The miners, who often enter a mine and stay in there for 2-3 days at a time, feel they are not receiving fair pay, especially considering the profits other people are making off of their labor, the price of finished electronics, and the rate of electronics consumption worldwide. They would like to be paid fairly. I can dig it.
Now, I’m not sure if “fair trade electronics” is an official term, but the concept is there, and leading the way is a Netherlands based company called Fairphone.
Fairphone, founded in 2013, is pioneering the movement towards fair-trade electronics by changing the industry from the inside, providing an ethical alternative to all other cell phones on the market, the Fairphone.
Through painstaking research and partnerships with organizations like the Dragonfly Initiative, who advise businesses in the “extractive industry” on sustainable purchasing, Fariphone has made an effort to purchase from with “Conflict-Free” mining operations that do not use child-labor, who pay their workers fairly, and who strive to reduce their environmental imapct.
Although Fairphone does not boast to have a 100% fair phone, they are working towards that goal and at least provide a “fair-er” alternative to other smart phones on the market, creating a demand for fair electronics. Their goal is to promote “positive social and environmental impact[s] from the beginning to end of a phones life cycle” by incorporating long lasting design, fair materials, good working conditions, and promoting reuse and recycling (Fairphone Goals).
So, thats about all I’ve got to say about that. Fairphone is paving the way for all electronics to bear the Fair-Trade certification. If you are considering a new smartphone, consider Fairphone and help build the movement.
I also wanted to mention the importance of recycling E-waste. According to a video I saw on facebook, only about 15% of electronics are recycled. That is not very much. Considering how much work goes into extracting the materials that go into our electronics, considering that little children and chimpanzee are suffering in order to bring us the latest version of the Iphone, the least we can do is make an effort to discard our electronics correctly, ie make sure they are recycled, not junked in the trash. There is actually gold in our electronics, are we really going to throw gold into the garbage?! Times, they are a changin. Those 49er gold-miners must be rolling in their graves.
Now, I realize electronic waste recycling is not easy or convenient. I don’t know of any city that provides municipal electronic waste collection, so that leaves it to you and me, the consumers, to go the extra mile to bring our electronic waste to an e-waste recycler. That takes effort, I know, its annoying. But its our responsability, and perhaps the price we have to pay for all the work that goes in on the front end to bring us relatively cheap electronics (considering the labor and environmental costs that go into production).
Ok, off the soap box.
Recycle your electronics. Don’t let me find them on the ground or I will make art with them.
Cheers to progress, peace, and love, and a happy day to you,
Rooftop Meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn brings native species back to the city, but not where you might think…
Continuing the quest to find out what “sustainable living” looks like in a big city, I found myself this past Friday at Kingsland Wildflowers, a rooftop meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, right next-door to New York City’s wastewater treatment plant. See this surprisingly beautiful facility below:
Friday was the first “Field Day” of the 2018 Season, an opportunity for community members to explore the roof and learn about the project.
I was particularly fascinated by the history of this site, which I learned from a knowledgeable bird-loving photographer who works for the NYC Audobon Society (go figure) and was at this event to dispense information and take pictures.
According to this man, the Dutch were the first people to settle this area in the 1850s and described it back then as a marshy, shrubby landscape much like the photo above. Today, that marshy environment no longer exists, having been replaced by concrete and buildings over the course of the last 150+ years. Now it looks like this:
I was pleased to learn there is still a prominent waterway that runs through Brookyln and Queens called Newton Creek, which unfortunately was majorly polluted by an oil spill during the 1950s. Due to the buildings and the spill, the creek habitat has suffered and the native species that once inhabited the ecosystem have diminished.
Before it was polluted by the spill, the creek had been an important habitat for native plants and insects and was a stopping point for migratory birds and bats. After the oil spill however…not so much. Guess who was responsible for the spill by the way…. remember the Exon company? Exon Valdez ring any bells? Same company. But we didn’t hear too much about the Newton Creek Spill, did we? Curious.
Today, the Creek is a superfund site, which means the US Government recognized the extreme environmental damage that had occured due to the spill and set up a fund to fix it. That is how the Kingsland Wildflower project is receiving its funding. Exon was sued for damages, and the proceeds of the lawsuit are being used to restore the nature that was damaged by the oil spill. Since space is limited, and people are smart, this project was developed to provide a home for native plants, insects, and animals that once thrived in the Newton Creek environment.
Kingsland Wildflowers is a wonderful project that exists soley to give back to the Earth. The project began a few years ago and is already proving successful. Data is being collected to show the increase of native species both at the creek and on the rooftop. Today, this is one rooftop with about 1/2 acre of space where plants and grasses have been planted. The concept is that the rooftop is replicating what would have existed on the ground if the building were not there. Imagine the good that could be done for the planet if more rooftops were like this in the city. The benefits would be great, species would have a home, maybe bees would start coming back, plus, what a pleasant escape for people it would be, and is. My short visit to Kingsland Wildflowers reminded me of the nature I have been missing while living in a primarily human and concrete environment. I was reminded that there are birds other than pidgeons passing through in their seasonal migration, that there are insects other than bed bugs and flies, and that this whole city used to look so different, that its waterways had so much influence on the ecosystem, that it is an ecosystem today!
Anyway, I could go on and on but I wont. For now I just wanted to share a great project and hope for the future with everyone.
Want a super easy way to do something good for the world while you surf the web? Aka effortlessly?
Switch from Google to Ecosia!
Ecosia.org is like Google.com, but instead of supporting who-knows who or what like google, each time you search something though the Ecosia search engine, a tree is planted.
The idea was started by someone in Germany named Joshi, and I think the whole idea is just oh so cool. You can set up the Ecosia search engine on your computer by going to ecosia.org. Check it out! Takes less than 5 minutes and will make a great impact starting the moment you make the switch. So far, Ecosia has planted more than 20 million trees in several different countries facing deforestation problems, all made possible through internet searches. Pretty cool, huh?
Planting trees helps restore ecosystems, helps people make their land productive and grow food, rise out of poverty, send their kids to school…plus, now Ecosia has partnered with my fav, the Jane Gooddall Institute, to plant trees in Chimpanzee habitat in Uganda. This will promote species health and hopefully help the chimpanzee population stabilize into the future. Here is a nice video of Jane Gooddall talking to the founder of Ecosia about their new partnership.
And another video to help you understand the impact your searches can have if you decide to switch to Ecosia.