No overarching thematic concern this week...just a grab-bag of things that've cheered me up or diverted me lately. I figure I can get away with it, 'cause I wrote this reasonably positive post a few days early.
Anyway, let's see...NextBillion has compiled some microfinance success stories. Banks operating in poor countries often charge low-income customers as much as thirty percent interest for a one-month loan of, say, $500. And yet, when given loans on reasonable and humane terms, the poor have am incredibly low rate of default. Microfinancing allows people to bypass banks; it provides tiny loans at affordable rates to poor people who want to start businesses. It's amazing how many of these loans are for fifty or a hundred dollars...that's enough to start a business for people in many countries, and at the same time, it can be almost impossible to earn through labor.
Next, I have some shocking news from Treehugger:
People in charge at the City of Toronto are asking: "Why are we using expensive, treated drinking water to flush toilets and irrigate lawns, when rainwater is a resource we can tap into for this water supply?"Yep, you heard it here first: the idea of doing something useful with the millions of gallons of water that routinely fall from the sky is being considered by a North American city, even as we speak. As a bonus, this article has a photo of Toronto's gorgeous hydro plant, a lovely landmark I used to visit often, once upon a time.
Speaking of our civilized neighbors to the north, emergency contraceptives are available without a prescription throughout Canada. The policy has been in place for almost a month; there's been no rain of fire and brimstone on Saskatoon yet, but the Almighty may be waiting for a sign from BushCo.
As a result of her dangerous proximity to Canada, land of sex-crazed (and how!) socialist weasels, Washington governor Christine Gregoire has signed a groundbreaking solar-energy bill. WorldChanging has more.
Canada may be more advanced than us on any number of fronts - as may various other countries - but we still beat everyone hands down when it comes to early twentieth-century newspaper comics. I've been obsessed with these comics ever since I stumbled on my parents' Krazy Kat anthology when I was about six. The subject recently came up over at Eschaton, and the sagacious Mrs. Ibrahim al-Jaafari pointed me to a comics archive site called Coconino World, which, in addition to being a wonderful resource, is probably the most beautifully designed website I've ever seen. Thanks again, Mrs. I!
Thanks to a tip from Hedwig, I'm also wading through the Internet Bird Collection, which compiles videos of birds from around the world. Between this site and Coconino World, my social life is pretty much at a standstill for the foreseeable future.
Which brings me to my next subject. The more time we spend sitting slack-jawed in front of the computer looking at sites like these, the more we need plastic sheeting to protect our knees from drool. BioBags offers completely biodegradable alternatives to plastic wrap and plastic bags. They also make "Bio-Film, which is designed to protect your plantings from weeds and stimulate warmth for uniform growth, then return itself to the earth after the plantings reach maturation."
Last but not least, I liked this advice from interview with Kenn Kaufman of the National Audubon Society:
Q. If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?Good advice. And I'll get right on it...just as soon as I'm done looking at this A.B. Frost page...
A. Learn to recognize, if you can't already, 50 native plants and animals of your own home region ... or in other words, make a basic connection to the real world!