Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Rebuilding Greener

Photo: 3KSN
On May 4, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas, was hit by a tornado that devastated the town. Thirteen years later, Greenburg has been rebuilt, but differently.

Sometimes progress on global warming is made not by idealistic environmentalists but by pragmatists thinking about long-term costs. That was the case in a rural Kansas town that was badly damaged by a tornado.

Annie Gowen reported recently at the Washington Post, “A wind-swept farming community in southwestern Kansas, Greensburg rebuilt ‘green’ after an EF5 tornado — the most violent — barreled through at more than 200 miles per hour and nearly wiped it off the map in 2007.

“A decade later, Greensburg draws 100 percent of its electricity from a wind farm, making it one of a handful of cities in the United States to be powered solely by renewable energy. It now has an energy-efficient school, a medical center, city hall, library and commons, museum and other buildings that save more than $200,000 a year in fuel and electricity costs, according to one federal estimate. The city saves thousands of gallons of water with low-flow toilets and drought-resistance landscaping and, in the evening, its streets glow from LED lighting. …

“Greensburg is no liberal bastion. [But] leaders there now are routinely consulted by communities around the world grappling with devastating weather events from wildfires, tsunami, earthquakes and floods. …

“Greensburg’s journey has not always been easy, residents say, nor did it unfurl perfectly. A fancy rainwater irrigation system for its Main Street has never worked. Wind turbines installed for city and other local buildings were costly to maintain — and one toppled into a field. A business park built to attract companies and clean-energy jobs remains empty.

“ ‘There are lessons learned that we can share,’ said Bob Dixson, a retired postmaster who served as mayor during much of the rebuilding. ‘I totally believe that we’re a living laboratory here with a plethora of architectural design and sustainable environmental practices to share.’ …

“Environmentalists around the world are now arguing that this moment is crucial for local governments — whether they’re trying to rebuild a town burned by a wildfire or figuring out ways to revitalize their economies after a pandemic, said Katharine K. Wilkinson, a climate strategist and co-editor of the recent anthology ‘All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis.’ …

“ ‘[There] are opportunities to rethink the systems we create at a local level, and that’s where a lot of climate solutions happen,’ Wilkinson said. …

“[In Greensburg in 2007] more than 90 percent of the buildings and trees had been swept away in a matter of minutes. Twelve people died. Amid the chaos of rescue and recovery, town leaders began contemplating early on how to rebuild — and the idea of building back in a sustainable way emerged almost immediately, they said in interviews with the Post. …

“City leaders worked to build community consensus around the concept — and persuade homeowners to also embrace green as they rebuilt their homes. But it wasn’t always easy to convince some in the rugged farm community where conservative politics predominate. …

‘We tried to approach it in a practical way, not tree-hugger green, but economic green. Ramming stuff down people’s throats — especially in this part of the world — doesn’t work.’

John Janssen

“By the end of 2007, Greensburg became the first city in the country to require all municipal buildings over 4,000 square feet to be certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization. That means the buildings meet certain standards for saving energy, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are linked to global warming. …

“The city was able to halve its carbon footprint by shifting to 100 percent wind energy from a 10-turbine wind farm south of town that is owned and operated by Exelon Corp. The turbines, which began operating in 2010, are capable of producing 12.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 4,000 homes, according to Exelon. …

“An NREL [National Renewable Energy Lab] study from 2011 showed that 13 of the city’s ‘smart’ buildings save about a combined $200,000 a year in utility costs, and the homes consume about 40 percent less energy on average than before the tornado. …

“Not everything the town has tried has worked. Some of the buildings, including the school and the hospital, used to have their own smaller wind turbines to use along with solar panels, but the turbines proved costly to maintain. The hospital took its down after one toppled over, officials said. Luckily, no one was injured.

“ ‘You can build the greenest buildings in the world but if you can’t afford to live with them, that’s not sustainable,’ Dixson said. ‘You have to look at long-term maintenance also.’ ”

More tips on how to rebuild greener are here, at the Post.

Photo: Mahdi Khmili
Aam Salah is always saving seeds. The way he thinks about time has lessons for anyone living through a pandemic.

Have you been reading any of the advice columns on ways to deal with undifferentiated time in a pandemic? The columns with titles like “What day is today?”

Not knowing what day it is was one thing I dreaded before I retired, but I’ve developed my own systems. In today’s article, agricultural time suggests another approach.

Layli Foroudi writes at Sierra, “In the second half of January, I met a friend in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. He was agitated and said that he needed to go back to his hometown of Gabès. …

“He said he needed to plant trees. It was that time of the year, when temperatures are mild at night and cold in the day — the ideal climate for planting fruit trees. It’s known as the layali essoud.

“In March, I followed my tree-planting friend to Gabès. A few days later, the country went into lockdown to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. And so, I became a guest in a ghabba.

“The word ghabba means ‘forest’ in Tunisian Arabic. But it also means a plot of farmland within an oasis. The ghabba that I passed my time in was a hectare of land (around 2.5 acres), much of it overgrown with reeds. …

“I didn’t look for a way to leave. I was ready to replace humans with plants, and the uncertainty [with] the work of making things take root.

“The Tunisian traditional agricultural calendar splits the year into unequal slots of time that indicate how crops behave and what activities to carry out. Layali essoud comes just after layali el bidh — the white nights from December 25 to January 13 when temperatures plunge in the night. ‘The plant sleeps, so it is the time to cut it — it doesn’t hurt them,’ explained Hassen Waja, a 74-year-old retired teacher. …

“In Gabès, dates came up often in my conversations with those aged over 50. … Back in the day, dates were the go-to food for breakfast or a snack, and Gabès-grown dates were bought in bulk by nomads because they travel well. …

“The demise of the local date has transformed the oasis, said Nizar Kabaou. … Since the 1970s, he said, Gabès has seen a 60 percent reduction in the surface area covered by date palms. …

“Now, it is the smell of sulfur that is a marker of home. … Since the 1970s, the region has served as a zone for the treatment of phosphate, a key natural resource for the country, used for the production of fertilizers — an irony given the devastating effect the industry has on local agriculture. …

“Cement and phosphate treatment plants [have] exhausted the region’s natural water resources. …

“Water comes every 40 to 50 days and costs three to five dinars per hour ($1 to $1.7), plus a five to 10 dinar bribe for those who want to skip to the head of the line. ‘Before the creation of the industrial zone, the oasis benefited from 750 liters of water per second — from a natural source. Now we are at 150 to 170 liters per second, with a pump. That is the ecological catastrophe that Gabès has undergone,’ said [one man]. …

“In some parts of Tunisia, people still count their days according to the agricultural calendar, though this is rare now. In Gabès, only the farmers still use it, said Waja, the retired schoolteacher. When Waja was a child, he said, ‘the oasis used to be life.’ …

“Ninety-five percent of the population of the Chenini Oasis were full-time farmers, according to Nizar Kabaou. Today, about 20 percent are. But 40 percent still practice agriculture in their spare time, and, in the past five years, Kabaou has seen a small renaissance of part-time oasis farming, which has only grown during the lockdown.

‘This period gives value to the old type of agriculture,’ he said. ‘To live, we need to do our own production. In situations like this, we need to be self-sufficient.’ …

“In Tunisia, the economic toll of the lockdown sparked protests in parts of the country where people were struggling to eat. This did not happen in Gabès, where the ghabba remained. ‘In Chenini, you never go hungry,’ said [farmer Zakaria] Hechmi, who still trades produce with his neighbors. …

“At the oasis, I [read] Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, In one chapter, a character describes two types of time. ‘Sedentary peoples, farmers, prefer the pleasures of circular time, in which every object and event must return to its own beginning, curl back up into an embryo and repeat the process of maturation and death.’ Linear time, which is ‘able to measure progress towards a goal or destination, rises in percentages,’ was more favored by nomads and merchants. …

“When I arrived at my friend’s ghabba, only a portion of the land was still being used to grow fruit and vegetables. Gradually, we began to plant more and clear away reeds that hadn’t been touched in 25 years. No one had the time, and then we did.”

More at Sierra, here.

Walden Pond

In the summer, I stayed away. It gets very crowded at Walden Pond, a state park popular with swimmers, and since March I’ve been worried about picking up coronavirus in a crowd.

But on a cloudy weekday morning in fall, I thought I’d give it a shot, and I’m so glad I did. It’s lovely, and I was mostly reassured by signs reminding people about masks and social distancing. Moreover, for the pandemic, the path is one-way, counterclockwise around the pond.

It wasn’t quite as empty as my photos make it seem. There were ten or 20 swimmers, gliding quietly with their orange bubbles attached for safety, and a few kayakers, paddeboarders, and fishermen. I even ran into a neighbor who was out for his constitutional.

At the farthest point from the beach house is the railroad track for the train to Boston. I remember visiting with the class when Suzanne was in second grade and studying Henry David Thoreau, and we learned that train whistles would have been a sound Thoreau heard when he lived at his cabin. (But not airplanes, the teacher reminded us.)

I have stuck the photo of Thoreau’s lodging next to the hut-site photo with his famous quotation and the memorial stones, but in fact the cabin is a replica and is located over by the parking lot across Route 126.

I loved the wavy curve of the shore in one shot. Also the woman meditating by the quiet water.

There weren’t any turtles, unless that street sign refers to me. I’m a very slow walker. Fortunately, slow walkers can turn on flashing lights to cross the road and get back to the parking lot safely.

Photo: Laura Cluthé
The Christian Science Monitor says the 1,250-foot Superstack in Sudbury, Ontario, is “a symbol of the city’s gritty past” but is being replaced by two smaller, cleaner stacks.

Sometimes the worst offenders against the public good are the first to test a new course. As today’s story shows, it does help if they get a nudge from government regulation.

Sara Miller Llana reports at the Christian Science Monitor about a big polluter in a Canadian mining town that’s decided to cooperate with greening efforts.

“When the Superstack was constructed in 1972, it was the tallest structure in Canada – and the tallest smokestack in the world. At 1,250 feet, it’s visible from every vantage point in the area [and] has long stood as a reminder of the environmental devastation that mining wrought here. But this year the chimney is being fully decommissioned. …

“Whether or not the structure remains a fixture on the skyline when it’s taken out of operation, it tells a powerful tale of renewal. The stack was built as part of an industrial complex that denuded the land here of any kind of vegetation, leaving blackened rocks and lakes without fish. The landscape drew comparisons to moonscapes and barren Martian worlds. At one time the smelters in Sudbury were the largest point source of sulfur dioxide in the world.

“It got so bad that scientists, politicians, industry officials, and the community finally came together to halt the pollution, replant the trees, and restock the lakes. It has been 40 years of toil and triumph, and the story is not over yet. But today Sudbury enjoys some of the cleanest air quality in Ontario. Residents swim and fish in the 330 lakes inside the city’s boundaries.

And those here say the community of 165,000, at the gateway of northern Ontario, offers a lesson in how to break the cycle of conflict that the current climate crisis often creates, pitting industry against the environment. …

“Says David Pearson, an earth scientist and driving force in turning around Sudbury, ‘When one speaks of the Sudbury story, [it] somehow seems local and isolated, and it’s not local and isolated. It’s an example of what we need to modify in order to be able to live alongside a thriving environment.’ …

“Dr. Pearson, who arrived from a coal mining town in northern England, remembers distinctly how bad the air smelled one day in 1969. … ‘I parked in the parking lot, and I had to run in order to be able to hold my breath long enough to get into a building because the smell of the sulfur dioxide was so powerful even in my car. … I had never experienced anything nearly as penetrating a pollution as this.’

“For a child in Sudbury back then, fun didn’t involve climbing trees or playing hide-and-seek in the forest. Young people like Dave Courtemanche, who went on to become mayor, clambered over rocks. There was no greenery to be found in his neighborhood or at his school. …

“On a hillside, he and classmates carved out an acre of land and limed and fertilized it. As tufts of grass began to poke through, he recalls a feeling that might be comparable to children of the tropics seeing their first snowflakes. ‘Looking up and seeing a green patch emerging from the dead earth was nothing short of a miracle,’ he says. … Mr. Courtemanche was unwittingly among the first volunteers in one of the largest regreening efforts in Canadian history. …

“Laurentian University was established in 1960. ‘Nobody was going to say anything against the company, essentially,’ says Peter Beckett, an ecologist at the university and chair of the city’s advisory panel on regreening. ‘And so the university was kind of the first independent thing in the town, and people started asking questions: “Can one do anything about the landscape?” ‘ … 

“Dr. Beckett and Graeme Spiers, another scientist from Laurentian University, … have traveled the world [with a roadshow] called ‘Sudbury, 40+ Years of Healing.’ 

“None of this would have been possible without tough regulations, though. When the Superstack was built, mining’s motto for the era was ‘Dilution is the solution to pollution.’ New technology and evolving processes helped reduce emissions in Greater Sudbury, but the Superstack dispersed them further afield, to neighboring provinces, and as far as the United States and Greenland. …

“The provincial government developed the Countdown Acid Rain program, which forced Inco and other major polluters in 1985 to cut emissions by more than 60% in under a decade. The companies balked at first.”

Read how they eventually not only got on board but decided to do more than required, here.

Anti-Bullying App

Photo: Elevate Prize Foundation
Trisha Prabhu, a Harvard undergrad and the founder of ReThink. is the winner of $300,000 for her anti-bullying app.

Nowadays, I’m repeatedly surprised by young people leading inspiring initiatives. They are the ones out front, showing leadership on issues such as climate change, sane gun laws, food security, and social justice. Honestly, I want to follow where they lead. They are building a better future.

After seeing so many examples, I shouldn’t be surprised by today’s story about a college junior who started building a better world when she was 13. But as usual, I’m amazed.

Hiawatha Bray writes at the Boston Globe, “A junior at Harvard University is about to receive a big payoff for her seven-year campaign against cyberbullying. Trisha Prabhu, 20, will get at least $300,000 from the Elevate Prize Foundation to further develop ReThink, a smartphone app that nudges people into using more courteous language online.

“The grant is just the latest accolade for Prabhu, whose work earned her a White House visit during the Obama administration and a 2016 appearance on the ABC television series ‘Shark Tank,’ where she persuaded entrepreneurs Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner to invest in ReThink.

“ ‘It’s been an incredible ride, and not one I imagined at 13,’ said Prabhu, a native of Naperville, Ill., who is studying political science and computer science at Harvard.

“In middle school, Prabhu endured some bullying but shrugged it off. She later learned about other children who had suffered far worse, in some cases committing suicide. …

“So Prabhu channeled her outrage into a science project.

She surveyed 500 high schoolers and found they were less likely to make insulting comments if they were encouraged to think about their words before speaking.

“The results of the survey inspired Prabhu to develop ReThink. …

“The app monitors the words typed by the user and pops up subtle messages when it detects a swear word or insult. For instance, the user might see ‘Would you like to reword this?’

“ReThink doesn’t censor speech. The user can choose to go ahead and type the insult. But Prabhu believes many people will take the app’s advice to heart and mind their manners.

“Prabhu said that schools in 134 countries have formed ReThink chapters that encourage students to use the app, and it’s being used by some 5 million students worldwide. Now Prabhu is looking for ways to generate revenue without relying on intrusive onscreen ads. …

“The Elevate Prize Foundation will support ReThink as it upgrades the product and provide business advice and mentoring. The foundation was launched by a Boston native, Joseph Deitch, former chief executive of Commonwealth Financial Network, in partnership with MIT Solve, a social innovation project sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” More at the Globe, here.

I looked up more on the Elevate Foundation. I think you’ll be interested.

“The Elevate Prize offers $5 million in prize funding, professional development services, and connections to a powerful network of influencers, industry leaders, and subject-matter experts. …

“We are looking for extraordinary people leading high-impact projects and organizations who are:

  • Elevating opportunities for all people, especially those who are traditionally left behind
  • Elevating issues and their solutions by building awareness and driving action to solve the most difficult problems of our world
  • Elevating understanding of and between people through changing people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.”

India’s Dance Haven

Photo: Abhinaya Rohan
Nrityagram, what the New York Times calls “a refuge with a single-minded focus on classical Indian dance,” includes studios, a small temple and living quarters.

I guess that for people with little outside contact in normal times, coronavirus doesn’t pose much of a threat. At least, that seems to be the case with a dance school in India, where the pandemic is otherwise taking a huge toll.

From Marina Harss at the New York Times: “The other day, I took a tour around Nrityagram. This small community near Bangalore, in southern India, is an oasis of calm and utter devotion to an ancient art: classical Indian dance. Birds were calling, and around the low, earth-colored buildings containing dance studios, living quarters and a small temple, stood hundreds of vibrantly green trees. …

“This early morning scene — the trees, the gray sky threatening rain, people sitting at breakfast — unfolded as I peered into a screen on my phone late at night in my New York apartment. The tour was virtual, conducted on WhatsApp. That is more or less the only way you can visit Nrityagram these days, since it closed its doors to the outside world at the beginning of the pandemic.

‘We have been living our lives exactly as if nothing has happened,’ Surupa Sen, Nrityagram’s artistic director of 23 years, said later in an interview on Zoom. Under her leadership, Nrityagram continues to be what it always has been, but more so: a dance haven. …

“Even before a general lockdown was declared in India, Nrityagram limited access. The dance students — nearly 150 from nearby villages and as far as Bangalore attend classes — have been asked to stay away, for fear of introducing Covid-19 into this small, intimately entwined community.

“Because there is so little communication with the outside world, the people who live within this self-contained hamlet don’t wear masks, and training continues unperturbed, in studios that are open on the sides to the elements, allowing the breeze to blow through year-round.

“The only people who come and go are a small group of women from the nearby village, who help with daily chores. Upon arrival, they are asked to change into clothes that have been washed on-site and to don masks.

“The form practiced by Ms. Sen and her dancers is Odissi, which originated in the eastern state of Odisha. It is one of India’s eight official classical dance forms, with movements and shapes that evoke the sculptures and bas-reliefs on medieval temples. …

“ ‘The idea is that you submit yourself to a universal something,’ Ms. Sen said. … Ms. Sen and her dancers devote most of their waking hours to perfecting this art, refining and strengthening their bodies through exercise, and perfecting their dancing through technique classes and rehearsals in which they learn traditional Odissi choreography as well as new works by Ms. Sen. …

“At 6 a.m., they rise for a morning run. Then, each woman is responsible for cleaning some part of the hamlet and for placing flowers on the small altars in the dance studios. …

” ‘It’s part of their training,’ said Lynne Fernandez, Nrityagram’s executive director. Next, they warm up by doing yoga or practicing the Indian martial art form Kalaripayattu.

“At 10:30 a.m., dance class begins, starting with exercises that target one kind of movement and then another — sharp and fast, slow and supple, low to the ground, up in the air, and more. In its gradual, almost scientific progression from one part of the body to the next, it is not dissimilar to a ballet class.

“After lunch — ‘our favorite moment of the day!’ one of the dancers, Abhinaya Rohan, said during our WhatsApp tour — they return to the studio for another three or four hours, more if Ms. Sen is creating a new dance.

“In the evenings, they teach. These days, that happens over Zoom, though everyone agrees that it’s not good for conveying the nuances of dance. …

“That makes for at least six hours of dancing each day (except Mondays, their day off), plus conditioning. It sounds exhausting, but Ms. Rohan said: ‘The strange thing about dance is that it energizes you. I never feel tired.’ …

“There are six other members of the community, whose work allows the dancers to devote themselves to their art: Two office workers and two volunteers who are helping to set up a Food Forest, a haphazard-looking but productive and low-maintenance agricultural system that produces most of the community’s food; And there are Ms. Fernandez and her mother, whom everyone refers to as nani, or grandmother. Nani makes meal plans and prepares pickles to last them through the year.”

More of the story here. Lots of gorgeous pictures, too.

Magnet Fishing

Photo: David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Sean Martell uses a magnet for fishing. He may not find treasure, but he’ll find something interesting — and help clean up the river.

My ten-year-old grandson loves to fish in Rhode Island, but at home in Massachusetts, when he tries the creek near his house, he’s more likely to find a license plate than a fish. So I thought he should try magnet fishing. Just nowhere near a former military base like the one in today’s story.

David Abel writes at the Boston Globe, “On a hot July afternoon, Arthur Flynn III was on a kayak when he dropped a large magnet attached to a rope into the murk of the Nashua River.

“The 60-year-old from Ayer was floating near Fort Devens when he pulled up an unexpected catch: an MK-2 ‘pineapple’ grenade and a 60mm mortar shell. He was soon met by State Police and a local bomb squad. …

“Flynn’s haul was the result of a peculiar but increasingly popular pastime known as magnet fishing, which mixes an environmental impulse to remove trash with a zeal for seeking sunken treasure.

“But the benefits of removing a range of refuse from rivers, lakes, and other waterways comes with dangers, such as hoisting unexploded ordnance and discarded weapons, or disturbing contaminated sediment and submerged archeological artifacts.

“The idiosyncratic hobby appears to have gotten a boost from the pandemic. … Downtime with his bored 10-year-old grandson was what led Douglas Carvalho this summer to spend about $200 on ropes, carabiners, special gloves, and large magnets, including one that can lift as much as 760 pounds.

“With their new equipment and a cooler packed with snacks, the two have been going to nearby rivers and the local marina, where they attach their ropes to the powerful magnets, drop them in the water, and scour the bottom, waiting for a tug from something metallic.

“They found their new hobby was a lot like actual fishing, but with more intrigue. … They haven’t found anything as exciting as what they saw on YouTube, but they’ve brought up old railroad spikes, fishing lures, and a bolt hinge. …

“While Carvalho and other magnet anglers said they recognize the potential dangers, they insist it’s largely safe and would prefer that the state not regulate their new hobby. But after Flynn’s experience near Fort Devens, state and federal officials, along with some environmental advocates, are raising alarms and calling for regulation. …

“In a letter last month, Carol Keating, an EPA official in Boston, told the Army she was ‘extremely disappointed’ by its ‘continued noncompliance with its responsibilities, [saying] the likelihood of other unexploded munitions in the river poses ‘an imminent threat and substantial endangerment to human health or the environment.’ …

“State environmental officials said the hobby could also threaten archeological sites and removing certain artifacts from such areas may be illegal. …

“Environmental advocates said they had mixed feelings about magnet fishing, which apparently began with boaters using magnets to search the abyss for missing keys.

“ ‘While removing trash from a river is generally a good thing, in some cases, stirring up sediments to get something that’s deeply wedged in the riverbed could be harmful for the aquatic ecosystem,’ said Julia Blatt, executive director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. …

“For Josh Parker, who took up the hobby after his wife and kids bought him a magnet fishing kit on Father’s Day, it’s a public good. …

“ ‘It’s good-minded people cleaning up rivers,’ said Parker, 34, an animal control officer from Brockton.

“He takes his children to the Taunton and Charles rivers. Using magnets that can lift as much as 1,700 pounds, he has pulled up bicycles, shopping carts, and rusty tools. He even pulled up a portion of a safe, but it lacked any loot. … He’s earned a few dollars selling metal he has found to scrap yards, but his motives are mainly environmental, he said.

“ ‘Unlike fishing, we’re not going out looking for something to eat, or a trophy item,’ he said. ‘The main point for me is cleaning the river. It’s like picking up trash along the road.’

“For his friend, Sean Martell, there are other motives. Among them: building an online audience for his growing YouTube Channel, where he posts videos of his spoils.

“[He] took up magnet fishing after the pandemic hit — when he lost jobs repairing cooking equipment. … He gave up fishing, he said, after a sea gull flew off with a mackerel he caught. Now, he only worries about losing magnets.”

More at the Boston Globe.

Photo: Pattie Mitchell via Upsplash
You can help reduce global warming when you think twice about the food you buy.

The pandemic has hurt my tentative efforts to help the global climate by cutting back on lamb and beef. This sounds lame, but with online ordering, I feel less able to be creative about meatless meals. I need to see the produce up close, not the market’s idealized photo. Guess I better get over that: online shopping looks like being my mode for quite a while yet.

Meanwhile, as Ali Withers reports for the Climate Solutions initiative at the Washington Post, a Danish grocery chain is making it easy for customers to watch their carbon footprint.

A major supermarket chain in Denmark is offering shoppers something extra at checkout: an estimated amount of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from their groceries.

“COOP DK, the Danish cooperative that controls one-third of the country’s grocery market, says it is trying to educate consumers with an eye toward nudging them to cut back on meat and dairy, two categories of food that produce the most greenhouse gasses linked to climate change. …

“Shoppers can use an app that gives them a personalized carbon footprint tracker that displays roughly how much CO2 it took to produce the tomatoes, yogurt or cold cuts in their baskets. The tracker, which rolled out in June, also allows customers to compare their footprint to the average shopper.

“ ‘What people need to understand is just that animal-based products have a higher [climate] impact,’ said Thomas Roland, who leads corporate social responsibility for COOK DK. …

“Animal agriculture is a major source of both carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gasses that are driving the rapid warming of the planet, scientists say. …

“Since the stores stock more than 100,000 items, they took a few shortcuts by selecting a benchmark item — 2.2 pounds of white rice, for example — to be representative of all types of rice because, as Roland explained, the variations in rice production, transportation and packaging are relatively small. Similarly, all pork is counted in the same way, regardless of farming methods. …

“So far, 21 percent of the chain’s 1.2 million app users have checked their carbon footprint, Roland said. …

“When they first discussed the idea of a carbon tracker, top executives at COOP DK were concerned that it could affect the chain’s bottom line. …

“Roland said, ‘Our biggest concern was that we “chased” some customers out of our shops only to find that they buy all their meat at competitors. But that, luckily, doesn’t seem to be the case. Curiosity wins, as customers actually want to see the footprint of their total basket and not “cheat.” ‘

“The average Dane is responsible through his or her food choices for the emission of about 6,614 pounds of CO2, or 18.1 pounds a day, according to COOP DK.

“That’s almost six times the amount recommended by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health. The commission’s 2019 peer-reviewed study by 37 scientists found that a person’s nutritional CO2 footprint should be closer to 3.1 pounds per day, if humanity is to prevent the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. …

Barnemad, a cooking site that displays the CO2 equivalence of a recipe’s ingredients, is among a growing number of ‘climate cookbooks’ that are part of a Danish trend to promote low-carbon eating, organic foods and nutrition. …

“Leading meat and dairy suppliers are cautiously welcoming the footprint tracker, although it could result in a decrease in sales. …

“The pork producer Danish Crown doesn’t oppose climate footprint trackers, its top executive said. ‘It’s early days for these tools,’ said Jais Valeur, CEO of Danish Crown, which also exports meat to China, Japan and Britain. ‘But still, it’s a sign of what’s going to come here on the climate path, and we need to pay attention to this. It’s not like we’re against it. Meat has become so cheap here in Europe and in the Western world, and there you see an overconsumption.’ …

“Both [dairy producer] Arla and Danish Crown are trying to reduce their carbon emissions and position their products as low-carbon.

“Arla is aiming to shrink its CO2 footprint by 30 percent by 2030. And Danish Crown says it will halve CO2 emissions from the 12.5 million pigs it raises and slaughters in Denmark by 2030. The company is setting up baselines and individual climate plans for each of its pig farmers. …

“Farmers, for the most part, are embracing the opportunity to lower their carbon footprint, although, as Valeur notes, there are no financial incentives. …

“Kim Kjær Knudsen is a third-generation pig farmer who is trying to cut carbon emissions from his farm of 100,000 pigs outside Copenhagen. He has invested in biogas projects, reduced the acidity of his slurry, installed new ventilation systems and is buying more local feed.

“ ‘I think this will define my future in the next 10 to 15 years,’ Knudsen said. ‘It’s important to make some steps now [that] will move us in a good direction … if I can put a calculation on my meat to say, “Actually, we can produce meat here in Denmark that is 50 to 80 percent better for the environment than they can do somewhere else in the world.” ‘ “

Gotta love those Danes — ahead of the curve on so many good things! How do they do it? More at the Washington Post, here.

A Paoli, Pennsylvania, teen who had volunteered in a senior living facility, started a movement to help the elderly have more outside contact during the pandemic.

The other day, someone on twitter asked how other people were keeping themselves from being being overwhelmed by anxiety in these challenging times. My answer to that was “take action.” It makes a person feel less powerless and therefore more hopeful.

If you’re overwhelmed by politics, take political action of some kind. There are opportunities for every taste. If you’re overwhelmed by lost paychecks, use a food bank and volunteer there, too. If you’re overwhelmed with sadness for seniors quarantined in nursing homes, volunteer to talk to a few online.

Allyson Chiu writes at the Washington Post, “When the coronavirus pandemic left elderly residents in long-term care facilities largely cut off from their families and the outside world in early March, Hita Gupta got to work. Channeling the resources and volunteers of a nonprofit she founded in 2018, Gupta, 15, of Pennsylvania, started sending letters, cards and care packages to senior homes nationwide, even reaching some facilities in the United Kingdom and Canada.

“Her efforts garnered her widespread media attention and positive feedback poured in from recipients. But Gupta didn’t think the efforts went far enough. While letters and cards are a kind gesture that research has suggested can have a positive impact on mental health, they are ‘one-sided communication,’ the high school junior said.

” ‘That cannot be matched by a real-time conversation with a senior, a real conversation where both sides are learning and they’re building a bond,’ said Gupta, who until March had been volunteering on the weekends at a senior living facility near her home in Paoli, a Philadelphia suburb. ‘Being able to speak with someone who’s having a hard time … who’s experiencing isolation and loneliness, being able to ease some of that tension, I think that’s so important.’

Drawing inspiration from the regular Skype sessions she has with her grandparents, who live in India, Gupta started offering another service to the eldercare centers: video calls with volunteers from her nonprofit, Brighten A Day.

“The organization has also been collecting and donating camera-enabled devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops to facilities in need, allowing residents more opportunities to virtually connect with their loved ones in addition to volunteers.

“During the pandemic, the virtual interactions have emerged as a complement to more traditional efforts to reach out to seniors, which have mostly focused on written communication. …

“[Says] Robert Roca, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s council on geriatric psychiatry, ‘Somebody expressing interest, somebody prepared to listen, the experience of having somebody reach out to you, even if it’s not a person you know well, there’s something very powerful about that in restoring the morale of somebody who’s demoralized by loneliness.’ …

“Though there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all solution’ to combating loneliness, Roca emphasized the benefits of feeling connected. And for many older adults who have been isolated amid the pandemic, video calls have emerged as a ‘lifeline,’ he said. …

“About 100 volunteers have signed up to participate in calls, Gupta said. Interested facilities receive a spreadsheet listing information about the volunteers, such as their hobbies and what languages they speak, to help match them with residents. Volunteers also go through an orientation that provides guidelines for how to act during a call and tips for facilitating an engaging conversation. …

“ ‘Every time our residents talk to one of the volunteers, they’re like overjoyed afterward and that’s all they can talk about,’ said [Brandi Barksdale, director of life enrichment at memory-care facility] Artis Senior Living of Huntingdon Valley. …

“Jackie Kaminski, 21, has been video-chatting with the same resident at Berkeley Springs Center in West Virginia since the beginning of July. The pair talk over Zoom every week, Kaminski said, adding that she was recently able to celebrate her resident’s birthday with him.

“ ‘It did take time … to have him open up,’ said Kaminski, a senior at Indiana University. But now, they talk about his family and childhood, and he gives her advice on things happening in her life. ‘We have a great rapport,’ she added. ‘We have this relationship.’

“These conversations can help elderly people in long-term care facilities feel like they are valuable, said Eleanor Feldman Barbera, an expert on aging and mental health based in New York. One of the stages of life, Barbera said, is to ‘feel like you’re giving to the next generation.’

“ ‘Being able to talk to other people, younger people and talk about your life and feel like you’re passing on your wisdom can be a great way of feeling like you’re still accomplishing things and that your years are a benefit to somebody else,’ she said.”

More at the Washington Post, here.

Photo: pixabay
Reports the
Stanford News, “A new agreement brings together hydropower and river conservation communities to fight climate change while restoring and sustaining rivers.”

I love getting tips on blog-worthy topics. This week, Earle sent an article from the Stanford News about a truce between environmentalists and hydropower companies, a promising rapprochement. People on opposing sides of a critical issue working quietly together to find common ground.

Devon Ryan wrote, “A dialogue organized by Stanford that brought together environmental organizations, hydropower companies, investors, government agencies and universities has resulted in an important new agreement to help address climate change by advancing both the renewable energy and storage benefits of hydropower and the environmental and economic benefits of healthy rivers.”

The New York Times also covered the peacemaking. Here is Brad Plumer on the topic: “The industry that operates America’s hydroelectric dams and several environmental groups announced an unusual agreement Tuesday to work together to get more clean energy from hydropower while reducing the environmental harm from dams, in a sign that the threat of climate change is spurring both sides to rethink their decades-long battle over a large but contentious source of renewable power.

“The United States generated about 7 percent of its electricity last year from hydropower, mainly from large dams built decades ago, such as the Hoover Dam, which uses flowing water from the Colorado River to power turbines. But while these facilities don’t emit planet-warming carbon dioxide, the dams themselves have often proved ecologically devastating, choking off America’s once-wild rivers and killing fish populations.

“So, over the past 50 years, conservation groups have rallied to block any large new dams from being built, while proposals to upgrade older hydropower facilities or construct new water-powered energy-storage projects have often been bogged down in lengthy regulatory disputes over environmental safeguards. …

“In a joint statement, industry groups and environmentalists said they would collaborate on a set of specific policy measures that could help generate more renewable electricity from dams already in place, while retrofitting many of the nation’s 90,000 existing dams to be safer and less ecologically damaging.

“The two sides also said they would work together to accelerate the removal of older dams that are no longer needed, in order to improve the health of rivers. More than 1,000 dams nationwide have already been torn down in recent decades.

“The statement, the result of two years of quiet negotiations, was signed by the National Hydropower Association, an industry trade group, as well as environmental groups including American Rivers, the World Wildlife Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Another influential organization, The Nature Conservancy, listed itself as a ‘participant,’ signaling that it was not prepared to sign the full statement but would stay engaged in the ongoing dialogue over hydropower policies.

“Bob Irvin, the president of American Rivers, which has long highlighted the harm that dams cause to the nation’s waterways, said that growing concern over global warming had caused some environmentalists to reassess their longstanding opposition to hydropower. …

Mr. Irvin emphasized that his group would still oppose any effort to build new dams on rivers. But that still left plenty of room for compromise.

“As an example, he pointed to the Penobscot River in Maine, where environmentalists, energy companies and the Penobscot Indian Nation reached a landmark agreement in 2004 to upgrade several dams in the river basin while raising money to remove two other dams that had blocked fish from migrating inland for more than a century. The result: The hydropower companies on the Penobscot ended up producing at least as much clean electricity as before, while endangered Atlantic salmon have returned to the rivers. (For more on that, read an article I acquired for my former magazine, here.) …

“Said Malcolm Woolf, president of the National Hydropower Association, ‘We’re now willing to talk about removing uneconomic dams, and environmentalists are no longer talking about all hydropower being bad.’

“Energy experts have said that adding more hydropower could provide a useful tool in the fight against climate change. While wind turbines and solar panels are becoming more widespread, they don’t run all the time, and hydroelectricity can offer a backstop as utilities clean up their electrical grids. …

“ ‘We’re not talking about the Hoover Dams of old,’ said Jose Zayas, a former Energy Department official who oversaw the study. ‘There have been some big technological advances that now let us produce more energy in a much more sustainable way.’ Some companies are designing new turbines that allow fish to pass safely through, while others are looking at ways to reduce oxygen depletion in the water caused by dams.

“One particularly promising approach is to build more facilities known as pumped hydro storage, an old technology that involves connecting two reservoirs of water, one at a higher altitude than the other. When there’s surplus electricity on the grid, these facilities use that power to pump water from the lower reservoir to the higher one. When electricity is needed, such as during lulls in wind or solar power, the water flows back downhill, spinning a turbine to generate electricity.”

More at the New York Times, here. And you can read Devon Ryan’s Stanford News interview with “Dan Reicher, a former U.S. assistant secretary of energy, and board member of the conservation group American Rivers, who launched and helped lead the meetings,” here.

Photo: CNN
A man walking through a Vancouver tent city in March. According to CNN, “Researchers in a new study found that homeless people who received direct cash transfers were able to find stable housing faster.”

Some years ago I asked a woman who headed an excellent Rhode Island nonprofit for housing whether she gave money to panhandlers. She said she did not, and I thought I shouldn’t either. But Mother Teresa had said to smile at people in need. I found I could manage that.

The belief that giving money leads panhandlers to buy drugs has long been the common wisdom. But a new study from Canada suggests it’s wrong.

Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman reports at CNN, “You’ve heard this refrain before — giving money to homeless people is not the best way to help them because it might be squandered, or spent on harmful habits.

“But a new Canadian study makes a powerful case to the contrary. The study, dubbed ‘The New Leaf Project,’ is an initiative of Foundations for Social Change, a charitable organization based in Vancouver, in partnership with the University of British Columbia.

“Researchers gave 50 recently homeless people a lump sum of 7,500 Canadian dollars (nearly $5,700). They followed the cash recipients’ life over 12-18 months and compared their outcomes to that of a control group who didn’t receive the payment. The preliminary findings, which will be peer-reviewed next year, show that those who received cash were able to find stable housing faster, on average. By comparison, those who didn’t receive cash lagged about 12 months behind in securing more permanent housing.

“People who received cash were able to access the food they needed to live faster. Nearly 70% [maintained] greater food security throughout the year.

The recipients spent more on food, clothing and rent, while there was a 39% decrease in spending on goods like alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. …

“Said Claire Williams, the CEO and co-founder of Foundations for Social Change, ‘We really think it’s important to start testing meaningful risk-taking in the name of social change.’ …

“The 115 participants in the randomized controlled trial were between the ages of 19 and 64, and they had been homeless for an average of 6 months. Participants were screened for a low risk of mental health challenges and substance abuse. Funding for the initiative came from a grant from the Canadian federal government, and from donors and foundations in the country.

” ‘One of the things that was most striking is that most people who received the cash knew immediately what they wanted to do with that money, and that just flies in the face of stereotypes,’ Williams told CNN.

“For example, she explained some cash recipients knew they wanted to use the money to move into housing, or invest in transportation — getting a bike, or taking their cars to the repair shop to be able to keep their jobs. Others wanted to purchase computers. A number of them wanted to start their own small businesses. …

“Direct cash transfers are not ‘a silver bullet for homelessness in general,’ and the program focused on ‘a higher functioning subset of the homeless population,’ Williams said, but she believes the research shows that providing meaningful support to folks who have recently become homeless decreases the likelihood they will become entrenched. …

“The study shows there are advantages for the taxpayer, too. According to the research, reducing the number of nights spent in shelters by the 50 study participants who received cash saved approximately 8,100 Canadian dollars per person per year, or about 405,000 Canadian dollars over one year for all 50 participants.”

More details at CNN, here.

Photo: Robin Bukson/ Detroit News
“Bag Ladies with a Cause” crochet plastic bags into sleeping mats for people experiencing homelessness. An actual home would be better, of course, but they do what they can.

I’ve been doing this blog daily for more than nine years, and sometimes in covering an activity that seems hopeful, I’ve overlooked a possible downside — or I learn later that things have changed. I try my best to add an update to a previous post so as not to have misleading information out there in the world.

The topic for today — turning unwanted plastic bags into sleeping mats for homeless people — was written up a year ago at the Detroit News and, according to Facebook, is still going strong. I’m drawn to the idea of doing something useful with the scourge of plastic bags, and I like the idea of giving people experiencing homelessness something they might want. For sure, it would be better to give them homes, so that’s an obvious downside. But I like that the self-named “Bag Ladies with a Cause” are really trying to help. Read about the initiative and let me know what you think.

Jocelynn Brown started her report at he Detroit News admitting, “Whenever I throw away a good, clean plastic bag, I’m always overcome with guilt, knowing there are groups like ‘Bag Ladies With a Cause’ that are putting them to good use as a way of making a difference in the lives of homeless individuals.

“Donna Harki of Lincoln Park and Jeannine Ayers of Wyandotte had worked with two groups … helping them turn plastic bags into what’s referred to as ‘plarn’ (plastic yarn), and then using it to crochet sleeping mats that would later be distributed to persons living on the streets of Detroit. …

“Word about the group got out. … ‘We just ask them for whatever free time they have,’ said Harki. … ‘It only costs your time, and we try to make the process fun, and keep them (the bags) out of the landfills.’ 

“Not everyone in the group is a crocheter, but everyone has a skill that will help with the assembly line-like production. …

“Each finished mat measures approximately 6 feet long by 3 feet wide, and it takes 700 bags to make just one. Additional plarn is used to crochet a strap that’s attached to the mat so it can be rolled up and carried as a backpack. …

“Harki has cranked out close to 100 mats in the past two years. She recently made one with a pocket attached at one end, which becomes a pillow when stuffed by its owner with maybe a shirt and pair of socks. If she already has the plarn, she said she can crochet a mat in a week, if she works on it every night. 

“How is plarn made? First, the plastic bag should be neatly flattened into its original shape with creases, folded twice length-wise, and then the handles and bottom are cut off. The remainder of the bag is cut into 3-inch wide strips/loops and then looped together, as you would rubber bands.

“A size Q crochet hook is used to crochet the mats, and in terms of bags used for making the plarn, Harki said, ‘We use any plastic bags, as long as they’re clean. … We (also) have an academy school in [Brownstown] that collects bags for us. … We had a fifth grader (from Summit) crochet her own mat! …

” ‘We deliver the mats. So far, we have given (to) ChristNet (in Taylor), a band of churches who alternate helping the homeless with (the) cold. We also have donated to FDDR (Feeding Detroit & Downriver) … an organization that feeds the homeless six days a week, year round. They know who sleeps outside, so they know who to give them to.’ ” More at the Detroit News, here.

Want a children’s book about women in Africa who’ve making good things out of plastic bags for years? Check out One Plastic Bag, by Miranda Paul, here.

Photo: Simon Simard for the New York Times
Outdoor choir practice. “The choir at the First Parish Church of Stow and Acton,” wrote the New York Times last week, “was able to meet for the first time since the pandemic began.”

Although coronavirus on surfaces still seems to be an issue (read about a lab study in Australia that says it can cling to phones and banknotes for 28 days), my current focus is on droplets suspended in the air. More ventilation, fewer ventilators!

So I’ve been following stories about people who have found ways to do things outside that would be too dangerous inside right now.

Bob Morris writes at the New York Times about singers feeling more like they are part of a real choir when they rehearse from their cars. (More or less how I hope to be with friends in winter.)

“I love singing four-part harmony,” Morris says. “It isn’t just about the precision, the ringing sound when voices blend together. It’s also about community, listening to one another and breathing together, creating a mood-lifter and balm in a fraught world.

“But like theater and hand shaking, choral singing has been canceled for now — and for good reason. Singing is the AK-47 of expression in the coronavirus era, shooting out so many aerosols that a church choir in Washington made the news in March when almost everyone present contracted the virus after a rehearsal; 53 singers became ill, and two died.

“When my men’s a cappella chorus on Long Island turned to Zoom rehearsals in the spring, I didn’t last long. The lag time over Zoom didn’t allow for live harmonizing or even the simplest singing in unison. ‘Performing’ meant recording ourselves alone at home so our conductor could edit us together.

“It felt like homework for hobbyists, without the emotional payoff. So when I first heard about choirs singing live in cars, it struck, well, a chord.

“It started with David Newman, a baritone on the voice faculty of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. In May, after a widely discussed web conference on the dangers of singing, Mr. Newman set up a sound system with four wireless microphones, an old-school analog mixer and an amplifier. Several singers gathered in their cars on his street, and he conducted them from his driveway.

“It worked. Out of respect for the neighbors, Mr. Newman started using an FM transmitter, so the blended sound came through over car radios — as it does for drive-in movies — not over a loudspeaker. He found barely any audio delay. ‘The latency was near zero, which was really exciting,” he told the Chorus Connection. ...

“Word of Mr. Newman’s drive-in chorus gradually spread as he posted instructions to help other groups. Bryce and Kathryn Denney, in Marlborough, Mass., were inspired … and were soon showing up with a car full of equipment for dispirited local choirs to facilitate live singing for up to 30 participants.

“On a recent Sunday, I was one of them. … The steeple of the First Parish Church of Stow and Acton, towered over the verdant town of Stow, Mass., west of Boston. …

“ ‘This is one concert that can’t be canceled,’ Bryce. …

“Kathryn, who directs musical theater productions, added, ‘We figured out how to bring people together to sing without making them sick,’ as she checked a spreadsheet of arriving participants and, wearing black latex gloves, [then gave participants] color-coded … sanitized microphones. …

“[The choir’s boyish conductor, Mike Pfitzer] had us sing scales and arpeggios. Hearing others not just over my radio but also outside made my voice shaky with emotion, especially when we sang the chords I’d been missing for so long: sunny major ones, darker minor ones and a trickier major seventh, as well. …

“I struggled with ‘Bonse Aba,’ the cheerful Zambian call and response song. … A rough translation of the song — a hymn — suggests it means that all children who want to sing should be able to sing. And so I did in close, bright harmony; we all did, with bells from the steeple ringing 5 o’clock just as we were finishing with another hymn, ‘May I Be Still.’ …

“ ‘It wasn’t just wonderful,’ said Ruth Lull, a soprano. ‘It was like coming home.’ ”

More here.

What Blooms in Fall?

On this rainy, indoor day, I’m sharing photographs from recent walks. I have been so surprised lately by how much is blooming late in the season. Look at the color of those roses and the vitality of the daisies! I want to get some autumn daisies for my own yard.

As you may have guessed, the flower basket at the street crossing memorializes a death on that spot. The woman who was hit was devoted to nature, so her friends have not been putting anything plastic up. Yesterday I noticed a small pile of smooth stones such as one sees in Japanese gardens.

The next shot, of an old tree stump, was taken on a trail that branches off from our local cemetery. I often walk in the cemetery because it is so beautifully landscaped, but I had never taken this path along the wetlands because it’s usually too swampy. I enjoyed trying to guess where the trail would emerge and I was almost right.

I was also drawn to a tree stump by a stone wall on the Codman House grounds in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Sometimes there is beauty in decay. Some might regard the old formal gardens with the ionic columns as representing a different kind of decay, although I must say, the statue looks pretty alert and energetic to me.

The farmstand and a homeowner’s gourd-and-pumpkin display speak for themselves. They remind me I should add a bag of candy to my delivery order on the off-chance we actually get a trick-or-treater this year. It’s been years. But a toddler just moved in next door, so I have hopes. Maybe his mother would prefer something other than candy though. What do you suggest?

Next I have two of the pieces of art from this year’s Umbrella Art Ramble in the town forest. I liked the hanging rowboats and the fishnet strung between trees. The theme this year was “Water Change: Where Spirit, Nature, and Civilization Meet.” Some works spoke to the different ways we use water. Some spoke to increasing shortages. In our own town, we have been suffering from a drought, so the pieces were especially relevant.

Finally, beautiful clouds. I don’t need to tell anyone here that some of the best art is not of human device.

Gratitude to Cashier

What goes ’round, comes ’round, they say. In this story from the Washington Post “Optimist” newsletter, a drugstore cashier helped out a customer, and when the customer devised a way to acknowledge the favor, she learned that lots of people loved the cashier.

Cathy Free reports, “Real estate agent Rina Liou realized she had a problem as soon as she reached into her purse for her wallet at a Houston [Walgreens].

“She had stopped at the store to buy lightbulbs for an open house that would start in less than 30 minutes, but she had left her wallet at home. …

“ ‘I was pretty flustered,’ said Liou, 35. ‘I didn’t know what to do.’

“Liou, feeling a bit of panic, wondered how potential buyers would react when they couldn’t turn on the lights at the townhouse she was showing on that day, Sept. 7, she said. But then Walgreens checker Rita Jackson Burns spoke up:

‘I’m a little short on funds because I only have $20 in my checking account, but I’ll go ahead and pay for this for you,’ Liou recalled her saying.

“Then Burns pulled out her personal debit card. When she rang up the lightbulbs, Burns said she was relieved to see that they were on sale, costing $12.41.

“ ‘I was a little embarrassed that I only had $20 in the bank because I’d just paid my bills,’ Burns recalled. … ‘I wanted to help, because I know that if I were in a bind, I’d hope that somebody else would do the same,’ Burns said.

“Liou thanked Burns profusely and told her that she’d return later that afternoon to pay her back. She kept that promise. ‘She gave me $15, plus $30 extra, and told me to put it in my bank account,”’ said Burns, 58. …

“A few days later, Liou decided to take her gratitude one step further: She posted about her experience on her neighborhood’s Nextdoor page, and dozens of people chimed in, wondering how they could show their appreciation for Burns. Then Houston’s KHOU-11 television learned about Burns’s kind deed, and things really took off.

“Burns has worked at the Walgreens on Stella Link Road for 38 years and knows all of the regular customers, she said. Many of those people, including Michelle Suh, wanted to recognize her decades of service behind the cash register.

“Suh decided to organize a GoFundMe campaign called ‘Gratitude for Ms. Rita’ to reward Burns’s contributions as an essential worker during the coronavirus pandemic.

“ ‘Ms. Rita is a neighbor in the truest sense of the word,’ Suh wrote. ‘Until Walgreens and our country pays our essential workers more, let’s step up to make sure Ms. Rita has more than $20 in her account. … She has given us so much kindness, and we would love to show her how much she means to us,’ Suh added.

“The fundraiser has reached more than $11,000, and thankful customers have left dozens of comments.

“ ‘Ms. Rita, your smile and kind words greeted us every time we walked into the store,’ wrote Sandi Mercado, who donated $25. ‘On a bad day, you made us forget our troubles for a few minutes. On a good day, you shared in our laughter. … If you ever wondered if people notice your kindness … they do. We do.’ …

“ ‘The world needs more kind people like you,’ added Emilie Mavligit, who donated $10.

“Burns said she is stunned by the generosity. … She is the main provider for her husband, Robert Burns, a retired steel cutter, and their adult son, Jarrell.

“ ‘I’m going to save some of the money for a rainy day, but I’d like to donate a portion of it to help children in some way and show them what can happen if you help others,’ she said.”

More at the Washington Post, here.

Photo: Rina Liou via KHOU-11

%d bloggers like this: