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Photo: Sonia Narang/PRI  
Inka Saara Arttijeff is the adviser to the president of the Sámi Parliament and hails from a family of Sámi reindeer herders. She represents Finland at international climate change summits. 

When I was in Sweden last year, I visited the history museum in Stockholm, where I learned a little about an indigenous population called the Sámi. I had previously heard them called Laplanders, but Wikipeida says they don’t like that term:

“The Sami people (also known as the Sámi or the Saami) are a Finno-Ugric people inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses large parts of Norway and Sweden, northern parts of Finland, and the Murmansk Oblast of Russia. The Sami have historically been known in English as the Lapps or the Laplanders, but these terms can be perceived as derogatory.”

Sonia Narang of the GlobalPost recently reported on the Sámi people and the threat that global warming poses for their way of life.

“Inka Saara Arttijeff and her family gather in the cozy kitchen of their red, wooden house, as a pot of soup simmers on the stove. They live at the edge of a frozen lake in the storybook village of Nellim, up toward the far reaches of northern Finland. … Arttijeff is part of a family of indigenous Sámi reindeer herders who are unfazed by short days in subzero weather.

“The Sámi [are] known for their centuries-old tradition of herding reindeer. … However, the warming climate has threatened to disrupt the Sámi people’s tradition of reindeer herding. … The combination of weather changes and increased tree cutting has made it harder for reindeer to find food, and it’s altered their migration patterns.

“ ‘Reindeer herding represents a way of life,’ Arttijeff said. … Arttijeff is one of a growing number of outspoken Sámi women who are taking their voices well beyond the borders of their small villages. The 33-year-old is the adviser to the female president of the Sámi Parliament, Tiina Sanila-Aikio, and represents Finland on the world’s stage. Every year, Arttijeff joins a delegation of indigenous representatives at the UN’s climate change talks. In between all that, she is also a graduate student in international relations and law. …

” ‘For reindeer herding, [we] need forest that is healthy,’ Arttijeff said. … Finland’s state-owned forestry agency, Metsähallitus, manages about one-third of the country’s forests, and it’s also responsible for harvesting and selling timber. Kirsi-Marja Korhonen, a regional director and environmental specialist at Metsähallitus, … notes 60 percent of trees on Sámi lands are in protected areas.

“That still leaves large swaths of Sámi forests up for grabs, reindeer herders say, and they point to clear-cutting of productive forests. …

“[Saara Tervaniemi, a reindeer herder] says it’s critical to monitor forestry activities on her people’s lands since logging is eroding the culture she hopes to pass down to her children. …

“Since Sámi women are primarily responsible for child care and passing on their culture to the next generation, reindeer herding has become an important issue for them, especially as logging and climate change have intensified in recent years. …

“It’s not just reindeer herding that’s at risk — it’s the four other Sámi livelihoods, too: fishing, gathering, hunting and handicrafts. ‘For all of those, you need materials from nature,’ Arttijeff says. ‘If the nature changes, you cannot do traditional livelihoods anymore. So, if that changes, everything changes for us.’ ”

More here. Hat tip: @morinotsuma on twitter.

For more on the importance of forests, see my post reviewing The Gospel of Trees, here.

Photo: Caiaimage/Robert Daly
Canadian doctors who want less pay think the money would be better spent elsewhere.

At first blush, it seems counterintuitive that doctors would reject more money, but like the Oklahoma teachers who went on strike after getting a raise, they were concerned about the priorities of the whole system.

Catherine Clifford reports at CNBC, “In Canada, more than 500 doctors and residents, as well as over 150 medical students, have signed a public letter protesting their own pay raises.

” ‘We, Quebec doctors who believe in a strong public system, oppose the recent salary increases negotiated by our medical federations,’ the letter says.

“The group say they are offended that they would receive raises when nurses and patients are struggling.

” ‘These increases are all the more shocking because our nurses, clerks and other professionals face very difficult working conditions, while our patients live with the lack of access to required services because of the drastic cuts in recent years and the centralization of power in the Ministry of Health,’ reads the letter, which was published February 25. …

“Canada has a public health system which provides ‘universal coverage for medically necessary health care services provided on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay,’ the government’s website says.

“The 213 general practitioners, 184 specialists, 149 resident medical doctors and 162 medical students … ‘believe that there is a way to redistribute the resources of the Quebec health system to promote the health of the population and meet the needs of patients without pushing workers to the end,’ the letter says.

” ‘We, Quebec doctors, are asking that the salary increases granted to physicians be canceled and that the resources of the system be better distributed for the good of the health care workers and to provide health services worthy to the people of Quebec.’ …

“On February 1, the [Médecins Québécois pour le Régime Public] published a letter denouncing working conditions of nurses. ‘The nurses are exhausted by a heavy workload. They argue that the chronic lack of staff and the fatigue caused by repeated overtime, sometimes mandatory, for lack of replacement of the team, have an impact on the safety of patient care,.’ ”

More here, at CNBC. I’m impressed by how well these doctors appreciate that overworking nurses and staff can interfere with their own jobs — and with patient outcomes.

Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Detail showing Abraham Lincoln’s signature in an autograph quilt created by a seventeen-year-old Rhode Island girl in 1856.

To boldly go where no one has gone before (Star Trek)

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I like to think of myself as occasionally creative, but when I read a story like this one about a 19th century Rhode Island girl, I’m humbled. See how she took a traditional idea and expanded on it.

According to Public Domain Review, “In 1856, a seventeen-year-old girl from Rhode Island embarked on a unique and brilliant quiltmaking project.

“The girl’s name was Adeline Harris and her project was to make a quilt incorporating hundreds of celebrity autographs. While signature quilts were nothing new, the contributions were typically sourced from within a small community, such as a church, and functioned to commemorate a single event, such as a birth or marriage.

“Adeline, however, had bigger ideas, her community as the notable figures of her day, her event the phenomenon of nineteenth-century celebrity. …

“She sent a small diamond of white silk in the post with an explanation of her project and a request that they send it back to her signed. The returned and now autographed fragments were then worked into the quilt as the ‘top’ planes in a wonderful trompe l’oeil tumbling block design.

“The response she got to her unusual request was nothing short of phenomenal — she ended up incorporating 360 signed pieces in total, including those from such luminaries as Jacob Grimm, Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Abraham Lincoln (one of eight American presidents represented). …

“One of the people Adeline contacted in 1864 was Sarah Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, who, as well as providing her signature, also promptly wrote up ‘the very beautiful idea’ in her magazine. Hale explains how it is not only the signed pieces which tell a story:

Each autograph is written, with common black ink, on a diamond shaped piece of white silk (placed over a diagram of white paper and basted at the edges), each piece the centre of a group of colored diamonds, formed in many instances, from ‘storied’ fragments of dresses which were worn in the olden days of our country. For instance, there are pieces of a pink satin dress which flaunted at one of President Washington’s dinner parties …

“As for the process, conservator Elena Philips explains that, after examining the seams along the quilt top, it can be seen that ‘first she stitched the individual diamonds into blocks, then connected the blocks into columns, and finally seamed the columns together across the entire width. In total, she cut and stitched 1,840 individual silk pieces to create the quilt … [and used] more than one hundred and fifty different silk fabrics.’

“This is just one example from the Metropolitan Museum’s superb collection of 151 American quilts and coverlets, more about which you can read in curator Amelia Peck’s American Quilts and Coverlets in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009).”

More at Public Domain Review.

Photo: Destiny Connect
More than 50% of the honey sold in South Africa is imported. Mokgadi Mabela, a beekeeper and founder of the Native Nosi, is striving to change the business landscape.

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour …”

Yesterday I paid a visit to friends who recently moved to Massachusetts from Minnesota. The wife is a textile and quilt artist. The husband is a woodworker and beekeeper. Before moving, he sold his 2,000 pounds of honey and all his beekeeping equipment. But the new home came with a beehive in the backyard, and he can’t resist setting up on a smaller scale.

I think these two, retired from careers that have nothing to do with bees or art, may be the most industrious people I have ever met.

Speaking of busy bees, I just happen to have a post today on beekeeping. Hope you like it. Nazley Omar wrote the story for Destiny Connect.

“More than 50% of the honey sold in South Africa is imported. Mokgadi Mabela, a beekeeper and founder of the Native Nosi, is striving to change the business landscape [and] keeping the legacy of beekeeping in her family alive.

“She is a third-generation beekeeper who specialises in organic honey production. Mabela launched the Native Nosi in 2015 with the aim of producing local, quality pure honey, alleviating poverty through job creation and providing rural beekeepers with access to urban markets.

“ ‘In South Africa, beekeeping was historically never part of the basic academic curricula in agriculture,’ she says. ‘Therefore, your average South African knows very little about bees and their role in the ecosystem value chain.’ …

“Several bee species across the globe are heading towards extinction, which would have a huge impact on agriculture and food production. Mabela says we need more beekeepers to help preserve bees and produce honey.

“ ‘Ordinary citizens who have no interest in beekeeping can help by planting more trees and plants that are bee-friendly, as habitat loss is one of the factors contributing to the global bee population decline.’ …

“It’s important for South Africans to consume honey, wax and by-products that are produced organically and locally. Imported honey products have to be irradiated in order to limit South Africans to the exposure of impurities and diseases.

“ ‘Although this process is done with good intent, it destroys all the nutrients and delicate properties for which honey is known. When you buy local, you consume natural, quality honey that has not been subjected to any processing,’ explains Mabela.

“When Mabela first launched her company, she encountered many challenges. The startup capital required to buy beehives and processing equipment was high. She tackled this by buying honey from her father and other beekeepers and selling it to raise enough money to buy beehives, increasing her production and securing her own supply.

“I also won [an award] through a pitch competition sponsored by SAB, Standard Bank and The Hook Up Dinner, which I used to buy the equipment. …

“ ‘We are here to change the game and smash stereotypes about young, black, females in business and agriculture. … Starting is often the most difficult step. Once you start, you are able to get a lot of the fear out the way and get on with the real business.’ ”

More at Destiny Connect, here.

Photos: MoSwo PR
Despite birth defects resulting from her birth mother’s exposure to Chernobyl radiation, Oksana Masters won medals at three Paralympics in different sports: London 2012, Sochi 2014, and PyeongChang 2018.

There is so much to like in this story about a girl adopted from a Ukrainian orphanage who became a champion despite severe disabilities.

I lucked into Gary Waleik’s interview with her at WBUR radio’s Only a Game.

“Oksana Masters spent her early childhood in Ukraine. … When she was 7, Oksana stood only 36 inches tall and weighed just 35 pounds. She was malnourished, but that wasn’t the only reason she was small. Oksana was born in 1989, about 200 miles from Chernobyl, just three years after the nuclear disaster there.

” ‘I was missing the main weight-bearing bone in both legs,’ Oksana says. ‘And the left leg, I didn’t have a full knee. It was a floating knee. I had six toes. My hands were webbed, and I also have one kidney. I don’t have a full bicep on my right side. Thank God my hair didn’t get ruined. I could use a little more body, but I’m happy with it.’

“Oksana’s birth mother gave her up for adoption when she was a baby. Life was hard at the three orphanages she lived in, which were situated in the former USSR.

” ‘One of the things that I remember is, like, just that pain in your stomach from when you’re really, really hungry, and just how to ignore that feeling,’ Oksana says. ‘And sometimes you’d go to bed with no meals, or just a cup of soup, or just bread.’ …

“Thousands of miles away, a Buffalo, New York, speech pathologist saw a picture of Oksana in adoption agency literature.

“Says Gay Masters … ‘When I saw her picture, I just knew she was my daughter.’ …

“Not long after that, Oksana was shown a picture of Gay. [Then] on a freezing cold night in January, 1997, orphanage workers woke Oksana from a sound sleep. ..

” ‘I just see my mom, and she’s kneeling down on the bed next to me,’ Oksana says. ‘And I said, “I know you. You’re my Mom. I have your picture, see?” ‘ …

“Two weeks later, the new family landed in Buffalo. For the first time in Oksana’s life, there was ample food. There were toys and hugs. And there was a new language to learn. …

“Oksana did well in school. She had a restless energy that drove her to push her physical limits with the help of new prostheses. She climbed trees and jumped off steps with the neighborhood kids. …

” ‘My mom basically got me into ice skating, not necessarily to get into sports and be competitive, but have an opportunity to move and use your body and make friends,’ Oksana says. ‘And I fell in love with it.’ ”

Alas, first one and then the other malformed leg had to be amputated. Recovery after the second surgery was long and difficult.

“Then someone mentioned the Paralympics to her.

” ‘And I had no idea what the Paralympics was,’ she says. ‘When I found out about it, I went home, looked it up and then my competitive nature came out. Like, “Oh, my gosh, I can represent the United States? I can wear a flag on my back? What?” ‘ ”

Read about Oksana’s continuing quest for new sports, her triumphs and setbacks — and a moving visit to demoralized Ukrainian soldiers who had lost legs — at Only a Game, here.

And since you may be wondering what happened at the Winter Paralympics after that radio interview, Wikipedia reports that Oksana “claimed a silver medal in the women’s 6km sitting biathlon event during the 2018 Winter Paralympics.”

Oksana at the Ukrainian orphanage in 1993.

Photo: MFA Boston
The results of a study on school field trips surprised the Brookings Institution researchers.

One of the messages I take from this Brookings report on student field trips is the importance of conducting research with both an open mind and a willingness to follow up on unexpected results. Another takeaway: researchers prefer to study things for which there are a lot of data available; worthwhile questions that don’t have a lot of data to work with often don’t get studied.

Jay P. Greene writes, “Most education research focuses on math and reading outcomes or educational attainment because those are the measures that the state collects and are readily available to us. Less is known about how students are doing in other subjects and whether their progress in those areas has important benefits for them and society. …

“A new experiment … examines long-term effects of students receiving multiple field trips to the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta. The Woodruff Arts Center houses the High Art Museum, Alliance Theater, and Atlanta Symphony, all on one campus.

“We randomly assigned 4th and 5th grade school groups to get three field trips per year – one to each of Woodruff’s arts organizations – or to a control condition in which students received a single field trip. …

“The surprising result is that students who received multiple field trips experienced significantly greater gains on their standardized test scores after the first year than did the control students. …

“The reason these results are so surprising is that previous research had suggested that arts instruction tended not to ‘transfer’ into gains in other subjects. …

“When we conducted the analysis on the effects of treatment on test scores, we expected to find no statistically significant effects, just like almost all previous rigorous research. …

“We still do not believe that arts instruction and experiences have a direct effect on math or ELA ability. We think this because the bulk of prior research tells us so, and because it is simply implausible that two extra field trips to an arts organization conveyed a significant amount of math and ELA knowledge.

“Our best guess is that test scores may have risen because the extra arts activities increased student interest and engagement in school. … Maybe arts-focused field trips do not teach math or reading, but they do make students more interested in their school that does teach math and reading. But this is just a guess. …

“The odd thing about trying to write a paper with these results to present at conferences and submit to a journal is that there is strong pressure for us to pretend like we expected our findings all along. Discussants and reviewers generally don’t want to hear that you found something you didn’t expect and don’t really know why. They want to hear a clean story about how your results make sense and follow from your theory and literature review. In short, social science favors the false appearance of confidence.”

Ah, yes. When I was at the Fed, I often wondered about such things, but as a non-economist, I knew I was out of my depth.

Read about how the researchers intend to unpack the meaning of their unexpected results with future studies, here.

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Photo: Rhode Island Inno
Refugees learn US workplace skills thanks to a nonprofit called Beautiful Day.

For my taste, there can never be too many admiring articles about Beautiful Day (aka Providence Granola Project). I find the nonprofit’s model to be both wise and kind, and my only wish is that more markets would carry the products and more employers would hire the refugees after graduation.

I’ve known a number of immigrants who have gone through the training (including the somber Congolese girl above, who is still learning to share her radiant side more often).

Bram Berkowitz writes at Rhode Island Inno, “On many accounts, granola is considered a nutritious, lightweight and high-energy snack that has become a popular breakfast item, as well as a pick-me-up for hikers and campers.

“But at the Providence-based nonprofit Beautiful Day, the crumbled, whole-grain based food has become a path to the labor market for many refugees that come to this country lacking the skills needed to obtain a job.

“Keith Cooper, a former campus ministry veteran, founded Beautiful Day about 10 years ago as a granola business that employs refugees in order to give them hands-on experience and training they can use later on to gain permanent employment.

“As the United States prepares to take in the least amount of refugees since the 1980s, Cooper is gearing up to double growth at Beautiful Day so the organization can expand its services by taking on more refugees or train refugees for longer periods of time. …

“The organization finds refugees through various agencies, such as the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island. Cooper said typical candidates are those that have extremely high barriers to entry, whether its lacking cultural literacy or English speaking skills.

“Cooper said he chose granola because its non-perishable, healthy and a food that requires a lot of work to make, but not a lot of finesse.

“ ‘I had never run a food production company, but we have been determined to become our state’s premier granola company,’ he said, adding that the organization uses local distributors and suppliers when possible. ‘We try to use the highest quality ingredients we can to make granola people will really like.’

“Beautiful Day provides 200 hours of work to refugees in various parts of the granola business, which gives them experience for when they apply to their next job. The placement also comes with a stipend and has opportunities for refugees to interact with others in the community when the company goes to public places like farmer markets to sell the granola. … Cooper said most of the kitchen workers go onto entry level jobs such as working at a laundromat, in a warehouse, as a janitor or sometimes in food production.

“ ‘Most lack English language, but they can still learn pretty quickly how to look someone in the eyes during an interview,’ he said, adding that all of the program participants, many of whom lived for years in refugee camps, are extremely eager to work. ‘The primary skill we teach is confidence … In a lot of work settings you may not need much English, but you absolutely have to be able to communicate when you do or you don’t understand something. That takes confidence.’ …

“Cooper sees huge scalability through online subscriptions and consumer sales. He is also looking to sell directly to universities and law offices, which will also help spread Beautiful Day’s mission because subscribers receive a postcard each month with a story about a new trainee. …

“ ‘People can do something about refugee resettlement. … By making a small choice about what you eat for breakfast or for a snack, you can provide crucial on-the-job training for someone who otherwise can’t get a job.’ ”

More here.