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Posts Tagged ‘France’

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Photo: Arco Images GmbH/Alamy
Crows at a park in France have been trained to pick up cigarette butts and trash. 

You may have already heard about crows in France that are improving the environment. The stories were all over the news in August. I include two articles here — the first from the Guardian and the second from USA Today.

” ‘The goal is not just to clear up, because the visitors are generally careful to keep things clean’ but also to show that ‘nature itself can teach us to take care of the environment.’ said Nicolas de Villiers of the Puy du Fou park, in the western Vendee region.

“Rooks, a member of the crow family of birds that also includes the carrion crow, jackdaw and raven, are considered to be ‘particularly intelligent’ and in the right circumstances ‘like to communicate with humans and establish a relationship through play,’ Villiers said.

“The birds will be encouraged to spruce up the park through the use of a small box that delivers a nugget of bird food each time the rook deposits a cigarette end or small piece of rubbish.” More from the Guardian.

And from USA Today, “Crows have been trained to collect other items in a similar way. In 2008 a man created a ‘crow vending machine’ — a box that would dispense a peanut every time a crow found a coin and put it in the machine’s slot. The inventor, Josh Klein, surmised at the time that if a crow can be trained to collect coins it can be trained to help improve human lives, such as picking up trash or sorting electronics.

” ‘Don’t hate the crows,’ Klein told NPR in 2008. ‘Just let them save you.’ ”

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Photo: UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau
Primary school teacher Sylviane Zins with a class of refugee children. “They are motivated students who really want to learn,” she says. The tiny village of Thal-Marmoutier, France, has set a welcoming example for all.

There are now an estimated 258 million people living in a country other than their country of birth — an increase of 49% since 2000 — according to figures released by UN DESA on December 18, 2017. Violence and famine are often the reasons migrants try to get their children to someplace safer.

Fortunately, even in countries whose governments are hostile to migrants, some citizens follow their hearts and provide comfort. Others are following religious traditions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which exhort believers to welcome the stranger.

Céline Schmitt and Kamilia Lahrichi filed a report in April from Thal-Marmoutier, France, for the UN Refugee Agency.

“On a winter’s day, a group of refugees newly arrived from Africa walks through the falling snow in a village in eastern France. Some of the 800 residents of the peaceful Alsatian commune of Thal-Marmoutier, moved by their ordeal, gather to welcome them and help them take their first steps towards a new life.

“For the next four months the 56 women, men and children will be hosted by Franciscan nuns in their convent as a French non-profit organization, France Horizon, helps them put down roots. …

“The mayor of Thal-Marmoutier, Jean-Claude Distel, said the operation had gone smoothly. ‘The refugees have appreciated the welcome they received from the residents and, for our part, we are glad we were able to make a small contribution to their resettlement and provide them with all they need to integrate into the life of the nation.’

“Here are the stories of some of those involved.

“Abdel … is the France Horizon official in charge of the refugees’ reception and accommodation in the village. Abdel lives temporarily in the convent. … A clinical psychologist, he is passionate about assisting people in difficult circumstances, including asylum-seekers. ‘Over time, we realize that the people we welcome are people who have experienced atrocities,’ he says.

“When the group arrived in Thal-Marmoutier, Abdel and his team of seven organized activities, such as cooking workshops and yoga classes, with other local government organizations.

“Today, a medical team working with Strasbourg University Hospital provides health checks for the refugees, under Abdel’s supervision. The new residents take it in turns to see the doctor and make sure they are fit and well.

“Abdel works on raising residents’ awareness of the refugees’ circumstances. ‘I am satisfied and proud to welcome and reassure the refugees and the villagers and explain to them that we shouldn’t have prejudices or stigmatize people we don’t know,’ he says.”

Meanwhile, outside the convent’s schoolroom, “The strains of the traditional song ‘Alouette’ can be heard. … The children sit on the floor while the teacher stands in the middle and mouths the words. This class is a springboard to enrollment in a public class.

“ ‘These are just delightful students,’ says the teacher, Sylviane. ‘They are motivated students who really want to learn. They give their all to learn.’ ”

Then there is Nicolas, social and educational coordinator with France Horizon. “No one understands the refugees’ circumstances better than Nicolas, a refugee himself. … He has been a devoted humanitarian since he helped distributed food to Rwandan refugees seeking refuge in his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

‘It gives me great pleasure to help others to make progress,’ he says. ‘That’s what I enjoy most in life.’

“Nicolas fled the DRC because of the instability there and sought political asylum in France, where his brother lives. He became a French citizen in 2009.

“ ‘Leaving Africa and ending up here is like moving from one planet to the other,’ he says. ‘These refugees have never seen snow and have never lived in Europe.’

“Nicolas is studying for a doctorate in education. ‘For refugees like us … training and education is the only way to move forward.’ ”

More.

Sign at Families Belong Together rally, June 30, 2018, Rhode Island State House.

063018-the-least-of-these-sign

More here.

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Photo: Bookstr
This is a short story vending machine.

What do you do when you have to wait a long time in a line? Or when you are alone in a restaurant and forgot to bring a book? You know perfectly well that your phone is not always interesting.

That’s when you need to pull a short story out of a vending machine.

Laura M. Holson reports at the New York Times, “Short Edition, a French community publisher of short-form literature, has installed more than 30 story dispensers in the United States in the past year to deliver fiction at the push of a button at restaurants and universities, government offices and transportation hubs. …

“Here’s how a dispenser works: It is shaped like a cylinder with three buttons on top indicating a ‘one minute,’ ‘three minute’ or ‘five minute’ story. (That’s how long it takes to read.) When a button is pushed, a short story is printed, unfurled on a long strip of paper.

“The stories are free. They are retrieved from a computer catalog of more than 100,000 original submissions by writers whose work has been evaluated by Short Edition’s judges, and transmitted over a mobile network. Offerings can be tailored to specific interests: children’s fiction, romance, even holiday-themed tales. …

“Short Edition gets stories for its catalog by holding writing contests. It is currently holding one for students and faculty at Penn State called ‘New Beginnings.’ [Scott Varner, executive director of strategic communications for Columbus City Schools in Ohio,] asked if the company might hold a contest for stories about Columbus by local students and they are considering it, he said.

“ ‘It would be great to have 10th graders writing stories for third graders,’ he said. …

“The dispensers cost $9,200 plus an additional $190 per month for content and software. The only thing that needs to be replaced is paper. The printed stories have a double life, shared an average of 2.1 times, said [Short Edition export director Kristan] Leroy.

‘The idea is to make people happy,’ she said. ‘There is too much doom and gloom today.’ …

“[Andrew Nurkin, the deputy director of enrichment and civic engagement at the Free Library of Philadelphia,] has high hopes for his city. ‘We are interested in finding sites to engage audiences who aren’t necessarily coming to the library,’ he said. So much so, the library is considering installing dispensers at the Family Court Building and the Philadelphia International Airport.”

What a great concept! Surely, every motor vehicle office in America should have one. Hmmm. Maybe those stories would have to be longer.

More at the New York Times, here.

PS. The Guardian was two and a half years ahead of the Times on this innovation. I blogged about the roll-out in Europe here.

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Photo: UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau
Ablaye Mar, an embroiderer from Sénégal, collaborates with Sabatina Leccia, a French artist and fashion designer, as part of a refugee program in France called La Fabrique Nomade. 

One of the hardest necessities facing migrants is leaving behind careers that took years to develop. That’s why a program started in France is so inspiring. La Fabrique Nomade gives one group of refugees — artisans — a chance to make a living from what they know best.

Kamilia Lahrichi and Bela Szandelszky write about the initiative for the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

“Many hands are at work in Yasir Elamine’s pottery workshop in Paris. They cut, pound, squeeze, stencil and shape. Yasir, a potter from Sudan, and his French students swap ideas and aesthetics. As a refugee, he thought his life as an artist was over. The work of La Fabrique Nomade, a UNHCR-supported NGO, helped change his mind.

“La Fabrique Nomade encourages artisans among refugee and immigrant communities to retain and pass on their traditional crafts, from weaving and embroidery to pottery and woodworking.

“The group promotes their work and showcases it at design fairs. It supports the artists themselves, helping them to make connections in the art and design scene in France. It helps equip them with basic job-seeking skills such as building a portfolio and CV.

“The founder of La Fabrique Nomade, Inès Mesmar, says the goal is not just to enable refugees to use their talents but also to share valuable skills with the local community. For refugees, she says, it is about changing attitudes, ‘to allow them to transmit their knowledge, rather than being people who just receive help and assistance.’ ”

The UNHCR story is here. Check out DW for more detail, here.

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Photo: UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau
“When you see their desire to learn, it gives you a boost of energy,” says Brigitte Dubosclard, who volunteers with refugees.

I can never get enough of stories about people helping people. A good example is seen in this article on a French village welcoming refugees.

Céline Schmitt wrote for the refugee agency UNHCR, “In November 2015, Pessat-Villeneuve, which has a population of 550, opened the doors of the château as a reception and guidance centre for refugees from Calais and Paris. [As of April 2017], it has hosted 136 refugees. …

“[Mayor] Gerard Dubois strongly believes in solidarity, in mutual support, and while it was an easy decision for him to open a reception centre for refugees in Pessat-Villeneuve, he had to persuade residents that it was the right thing to do. It was not as easy task. At a public meeting, organized in November 2015 when the centre was opened, he says he felt like a ‘bull in the ring.’ In the weeks afterwards, he even received death threats, but solidarity was stronger.

“Hatred is noisy,’ he says. ‘Solidarity is quiet, but inspiring and effective.’ …

“Dubois believes that initial fears stemmed from the fact that locals did not know the new arrivals. Any apprehension, he says, disappeared once they had met them. ‘Meeting and getting to know each other changes everything. It’s as simple as that. I don’t call them refugees, but guests.’ …

“Brigitte Dubosclard is a volunteer at the reception centre in Pessat-Villeneuve. A retired teacher, she gives French lessons to the refugees and also runs a clothing store. She was the first to volunteer to help during the public meeting organized by the mayor when the centre opened.

“ ‘When I realized that there was a general feeling of fear, I immediately said that we are here to help, that France is a country that has always welcomed refugees for many years,’ she says. ‘I asked just one question: What do they need?’

“Brigitte opened the clothing store with help from non-profit organizations Secours Populaire Français and Secours Catholique, as well as donations from the public and local shops. …

“Sandrine Menuge has been the head of Pessat-Villeneuve primary school since 2000 and saw the arrival of refugees as an opportunity to talk about diversity with the children in her class. She tasked them to find faces of 100 children throughout the world in 100 days.

“ ‘We searched for photos to see where they come from, what they look like, how they live,’ says Sandrine. …

“One afternoon, she invited two refugees, Mary from Eritrea and Ali from Sudan, to come to the school. The local children asked them about their journey. ‘We looked on the map to see all the countries they had to go through to come to France. They found them very brave.’

“The children also understood why the refugees had to leave their homes. ‘They realized that in some countries, children are afraid that bombs will fall on their heads. It was a wonderful shared moment.’ …

“[Amir, a 27-year-old from Afghanistan,] travelled on foot, by truck and boat, by any means possible, to reach safety.

“ ‘I feel better now,’ he says, from the reception centre in Pessat-Villeneuve. ‘I have accommodation. I have friends. There are good people here. It is important that people understand why we are here. We are refugees. I don’t want to take benefits from the government. I want to start my life for myself.’ ”

More at UNHCR, here. And thanks to my twitter friend Jane for passing this story along.

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I’ve been encouraged to see an increased focus on keeping food from going to waste when so many people are hungry.

In the Boston area, for example, Spoiler Alert and 2012 Mass Challenge winner Lovin’ Spoonfuls are just two of several local organizations moving leftovers and surplus to places they can be used. And how about Daily Table, which makes delicious prepared meals from surplus ingredients and sells the meals at low prices?

Meanwhile, in France, action is taking place on a national scale.

Writes NewCo Shift, “Back in 2014, the third largest supermarket chain in France, Intermarché, launched their memorable ‘Inglorious’ fruits and vegetables campaign. To help reduce ‘cosmetic’ food waste, Intermarché sold scarred, disfigured and odd-shaped fruits and vegetables for 30 per cent less than ‘normal-looking’ produce. On the back of their playful marketing and waste-conscious campaign, many supermarkets all over the world followed suit and wonky veg has been the unlikely pin-up of food waste ever since.

“[France was] the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them to donate to food banks and charities instead. The law was a result of a grassroots campaign launched by councillor, Arash Derambarsh. After his petition gained more than 200,000 signatures and celebrity support in just four months, he managed to persuade French MP’s to adopt the regulation, which is now being copied in different parts of the world. Since the ban has been in place, over 300,000 tonnes of food has been saved from landfill and redistributed to France’s three networks of food banks. …

“Let’s not forget France’s most shimmering, sequin-laden, food-saving exports: Disco Soupe! Disco Soupe (or disco soup) has captured the imagination of the world, proving to be one of the most fun events out there, while reducing food waste. Strangers collide, music spins, food is saved from the clutches of the bin, chopped to the beat and eaten with rhythm.”

More at NewCo. If you like this topic, you can also subscribe to Zero Waste Weekly here. Do you tweet? You might like to follow the entertaining @UglyFruitAndVeg. Send your whimsical pictures of produce to those folks and join the fun.

Photo: Shift.NewCo.co

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As I noted the other day, the approach to saving the Harlem home of Langston Hughes is online fund-raising.

Meanwhile in France, the home of James Baldwin may be saved by a squatter and a quirky French law.

Shannon Cain writes at LitHub.com, “To clean the floor of James Baldwin’s guest room would take 32 disposable cleaning wipes. I figured this out on my hands and knees, estimating the square footage of the terra cotta tile surface. There were 40 wipes in the package. If I used one wipe per roughly two square feet, I’d have enough. I was camping here without running water or electricity, but damned if I was going to live inside a dusty mess.

“Four days earlier, struggling under the weight of a camping backpack laden with supplies, a duffel of linens, bag of books and a deluxe inflatable bed, I’d pushed aside the unlocked wire barrier of the ten-acre property and entered the 17th-century stone house, illegally.

“It wasn’t hard to do; the door had been busted off its frame long before I arrived and the place was wide open. I was sweating, exhausted and elated; I’d spent the previous six hours traveling by trains and buses from Paris, stressing hard about this moment, worried I’d be detected. …

“I needed to establish my squatters’ rights, which according to French law would be mine after 48 hours. The cancelled postage on the postcard I was about to send to myself would serve as one of these proofs. … To send a letter, one addresses it to the Ancienne Maison Baldwin, chemin du Pilon, St. Paul de Vence 06570. It seems the post office, at least, remembers James Baldwin. …

“The squatter’s law in France is meant to dissuade land speculation and absentee ownership. It is perhaps one of the purest manifestations of socialism. For seven years, the real estate developer that owns the Baldwin house has let this historic structure and its magnificent gardens go to seed. In the meantime, they’ve been busy with other projects, including the construction of an enormous American-style shopping center in Nice, all superstores and parking lots, reputedly built within a flood plain.

“In my research over the last months I have heard nothing but disdain and outright hatred for this corporation among the local people. ‘He’s a bandit, that one,’ muttered a local business owner.”

Read the whole crazy adventure and how Cain outfoxes the “bandit,” here.

Photo: Shannon Cain
Former home of writer James Baldwin on the French Côte d’Azur.

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