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Transforming Coal Country: New Startup Aims to Create Agricultural Hub in Appalachia

Danielle S

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The coal economy of Appalachia has been integral to the overall health and vitality of the region for generations. Despite this fact, the area has suffered from widespread economic anxiety as coal energy has begun to get phased out in today’s modern working environment. With that being said, Appalachia will need to find alternatives for energy creation and the jobs that go along with it and a new company is looking to do just that.

Based out of Kentucky, AppHarvest intends to operate as the largest indoor farms in the world. The company, which features Martha Stewart as a board member, is focusing on bringing resources and jobs to communities that have been suffering in the wake of a coal economy that has abandoned them. At the time of this writing, AppHarvest is already enjoying its first production run with a crop of beefsteak tomatoes sent to stores such as Kroger and Walmart.

A New National Leader in Alternative Farming

Nestled in the heart of Morehead, Kentucky, the AppHarvest headquarters can currently handle more than 45 million pounds of pesticide-free, non-GMO, and annually reproducing tomatoes. The state-of-the-art facility features extraordinary sustainable measures like recycled rainwater which gives AppHarvest the opportunity to focus on year-round cultivation.

Martha Stewart has taken the point on many of AppHarvest’s latest press releases, allowing her noted record to reinforce the words that she has been saying. Martha said of the agriculture company, “AppHarvest’s high-tech and sustainable approach is the future of food.”

Stewart would go on to detail the benefits that AppHarvest crops can provide to consumers, focusing heavily on the pesticide and chemical-free nature of an AppHarvest yield. Stewart would go on to describe that AppHarvest’s produce features nutrient-rich and enormously flavorful produce, highlighting tomatoes specifically by saying, “I’m already looking forward to integrating them in my kitchen.”

A Look at the Landscape

What makes AppHarvest truly special in this space is that they are endeavoring to accomplish something larger than craft a business, they are looking to change the entire area. Proud of their Appalachian roots, the three farms that AppHarvest has opened thus far have all been located within a day’s drive of nearly 80% of the American population. AppHarvest believes their convenient location and massive production scale will help to bring fresh produce to markets throughout Appalachia.

Collaborating with high schools throughout Kentucky, AppHarvest is also helping invest in the future of the state through investing in schools. The team at AppHarvest has already invested in teaching students how to grow food in container farms while properly providing nutrition throughout the process.

AppHarvest CEO Jonathan Webb said of his company’s efforts, “We are determined to build a climate-resilient infrastructure.” Webb went on to detail how their crops are grown with 100% recycled rainwater as well as zero chemical pesticides. Webb says of the process his farms undergo, “It’s better for them and the environment.”

At the time of this writing, AppHarvest has already secured more than $1 billion in funding and financing. The goal at AppHarvest is to create at least a dozen farms within the next four years, a mark that the company is already on track to meet.

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Hamilton Local Launches Canoe Sharing Program to Bring Community Together

Sarrah M

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Matt Thompson with one of his two canoes he lends out.

Nestled in the heart of Ontario is the city of Hamilton, home to more than 536,000 people. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Hamilton would feel as if it were shut down completely. As a result of the more than year-long quarantine measures put in place by the Canadian government, with various let-ups sprinkled along the way, it feels like society is less connected than ever.

In order to fight back against this sprawling disconnected feeling, a member of Hamilton, Ontario, decided to do something special for the community.

Matt Thompson: Canoe Sharing For the Community

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a ton from people all around the world. A year of life, job opportunities, lost loved ones, all of these issues manifested and made worse by the pandemic itself. With so much loss and pain in the air, Matt decided to try and bring people together through something everyone seemed to enjoy, canoeing.

Thompson lives on the water and has been known around the community for his love of canoeing. In fact, Thompson is such a regular on the water that he has become a go-to source for canoes and information. Thompson says, “What if I put the canoe outside of my house and people could knock on the door?”

Matt’s idea was simple, to get more people out into the water to enjoy time outside. Thompson would decide to take his idea and make it a reality, purchasing a cart to transport his canoe while advertising its availability.

Michelle Diplock is one such member of the community who has enjoyed the canoe-sharing program. Michelle says of the available program, “It was really nice to be like, “Hey, I know a guy…”

While the idea is still relatively fresh, Thompson has already enjoyed success through the program. According to the canoe enthusiast, over a dozen of rentals have already been performed during the first segment of 2021. People would simply message Thompson, and he would t transport the canoe down via the bike path on James Street to the water access point.

Love and the Red Canoe

For Matt’s part, launching the Red Canoe Sharing Program has been a way to connect with the people around town that he has gone so long without seeing. Matt says of the past year and the year to come, “There has been a lot of loss and grief… Can I use this thing to bring people together?”

For the members of Hamilton and the surrounding area, the red canoe offered by Thompson is so much more than a simple trip onto the water, it is a chance to socially distance while reengaging with the world. Michelle Diplock, mentioned above, said, “It’s a great social distancing sport. The canoe is 17 feet long.”

While Matt doesn’t anticipate becoming the next great canoe rental company in Hamilton, he has plans to expand his new community engagement effort. Hamilton recently announced through social media that he purchased a second canoe to allow for further rentals in the future. The price, however, remains free.

Thompson has made a special focus to highlight the need for additional mental health services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The canoe owner hopes that his red canoe company can help people to normalize their return to daily life, reintegrate with the activities that they are comfortable with, all while finding a new normalcy in a post-COVID19 world.

While a single canoe cannot change the world, enough people like Matt can certainly make a difference where it matters the most.

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Edible Packaging Offers Disruption to Modern Packaging, Limit to Pollution

Jolie

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There are few things in the world more universally condemned than pollution. As we watch corporations pump untold greenhouse gases into the planet’s atmosphere, the rest of the population will struggle as a result. We can look closer at our day-to-day habits to see how we impact pollution on an individual level, often wastefully going through packaging while shopping. Just think of how many packages you order every year online and the waste that can produce!

In an effort to address modern wastefulness through packaging, one company is aiming to change the entire industry altogether. Dr. Anne Lamp is an engineer and physician from Germany who made headlines when she announced the launch of her company, Traceless. Traceless seeks to impact the level of plastic used in modern packaging while addressing the long-term implications that pollution causes.

Introducing the World of Traceless

Dr. Anne Lamp established Traceless with a relatively focused point of view. Her goal was to transform agricultural residues into plastics which can then be brought back into the food chain. The goal is to create packaging that can be consumed and brought back into the cycle, reducing carbon emissions by an enormous amount along the way. According to Dr. Anne Lamp, Traceless can cut carbon emissions by up to 87% versus traditional plastic production.

Due to her efforts in developing a ‘cradle to cradle’ cycle, Lamp has been able to commercialize her concept while bringing customer interest from all across Europe. This comes at a time when the European Union is presently trying to ban single-use plastics, a decision that will become fully realized in 2021.

Traceless seeks to change our relationship with packaging, waste, and recycling. Consider the plastic that we have from shopping trips years ago. This plastic ends up in landfills where it can sit waiting to decompose for up to 500 years. No, that was not a typo! Dr. Anne Lamp’s attempts to change this industry could fundamentally alter our relationship with packaging waste. Traceless would make packaging easy to ditch in a compost bin where you know it will decompose in a safe and controlled manner. This is cyclical recycling and it is one of the most fascinating industries in the world right now!

Welcome to the Green Alley Awards

Traceless hasn’t gone unrecognized in the larger world outside the EU, either. The company already won the Green Alley Award, an honor that underscores startups focused on circular economic solutions. According to CEO Jan Patrick Schulz, owner of the Landbell Group and founder of the Green Alley Awards, the focus is on “fostering business models that … combine resource conservation with economic success.”

The 2021 Green Alley Awards saw more than 180 entrants from startups in 30 nations around the world. These selections were carefully pared down until only six finalists remained, including Traceless. Among the other finalists were Carbonauten, a wood-to-plastic substitution company, and TrusTrace, a digital platform angling to illuminate the fashion supply chain. All the companies in competition for the coveted Green Alley Award have introduced circular solutions that address modern dilemmas in retail and commercial spaces.

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From Polluted Coastlines to Cleaner Harbors: The Story of a Diver Named Shawn Bath

Sarrah M

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There are few careers more intriguing, intimidating, and potentially as rewarding as that of diving. Shawn Bath had spent more than 21 years in the position of a professional diver, working in and around the bays and inlets of Newfoundland. During that time of his life, Shawn was tasked with handling and harvesting sea urchins from the ocean floor — a job brimming with risks as great as its rewards.

While there is nothing wrong with working as a diver harvesting sea urchins, that wasn’t where Shawn found his attention while diving along the bottom of the ocean. Instead, as a diver, Shawn couldn’t dismiss the murky waters brimming with hazards, including junk, trash, and the sharp spines of those yearned after shellfish. Of course, that’s to say nothing of the potential for frostbite or decompression sickness.

All things considered, Shawn had been enjoying his career until he felt a calling. Something had to change, and he knew just who was going to lead the way.

Changing His Career Path

Recalling his youth, Bath admits that he used to litter as a dumb kid. Bath says, “I didn’t even think about it.” It wasn’t until Bath became a professional diver, and started spending more time around the water that he began to put ‘two and two’ together. Admitting that he was a part of the problem, Bath would become absorbed by how polluted the waters off Newfoundland were becoming.

Assuming that the government would step in and fix the equation, Bath waited by his phone to receive a call for work. That call never came. For years Bath waited before finally decided that he was called there to force the change himself. This would lead Path to focus on his newest film, Hell or Clean Water.

Bath’s film would find itself screened at the Toronto Festival, Hot Docs, where an audience of documentary lovers was ready to interface with the project. Leading up to the project, Bath admits that he had pulled more than 15,000 pounds of trash from the ocean, all by himself. Realizing the government was never coming to save the day, Bath would go on to establish the Clean Harbours Initiative.

The Clean Harbours Initiative

Realizing that the ocean was never going to be cleaned by the government was a powerful moment for Bath. It didn’t take long for the commercial diver to pour his savings into the venture, leaving the man reeling and at a loss as to what was next.

Bath says of the early days of the Clean Harbours Initiative, “I was broke and at a loss.” The diver would go on to admit that he needed help spreading not just awareness, but also the additional gear to continue his works. Meeting Cody Westman, owner of a production company in St. John’s, would end up being the change that the Bath needed.

After meeting Cody, the two would put their heads together to fully develop Hell or Clean Water, premiering on April 29 at the Hot Docs festival. It would take nearly 17 months for the project to finish, highlighting the serious concerns of oceanic pollution along the way. In fact, the depth of pollution and how far it reached would leave Bath not just depressed, but completely baffled. Bath says, “Newfoundland’s harbors are covered in stubby beer bottles.”

From boat engines to old fishing gear, Bath has helped to remove just about everything that he can find polluting the seas off Newfoundland. Hopefully, his work catches on and more volunteers join in on the efforts.

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Former Homeless Individuals Create Novels To Raise Funds For Other Homeless People

Liz L

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The homelessness situation continues to be a crisis across the globe. Some States are worse off than others but many people, including some previously homeless folks, are working hard to curb this chronic situation.

A recent venture which sees former homeless people working together to help current homeless individuals has shown that homelessness is a phase and does not define the people affected by it. The project has already taken off to the extent that it has sent the organizers scrambling to increase production.

Marice Cumber founded the Accumulate Art School, which is designed to assist the homeless in London. It was established five years ago with the aim of assisting young homeless people in moving forward with their lives through artistic projects.

The school offers programs in graphic design, drawing, fashion, photography, sculpture, and other topics, with the aim of assisting students in developing their skills and obtaining jobs, education, or training.

Accumulate released the world’s first graphic novel generated by individuals experiencing homelessness in November 2020, according to the team.

The Book of Homelessness is a collection of drawings and writings that offers its authors a voice to share their personal stories about homelessness.

“The book contains intimate, emotional, raw, and truthful stories. “They are stories of suffering, trauma, dysfunction, families, war, rejection, misplaced affection, overcoming adversity and battling, and succeeding,” Cumber said.

Sales have since earned sufficient money to finance a scholarship for an Accumulate candidate. Individuals will enroll in Ravensbourne University London’s Access to HE class in design and digital media.

Cumber told reporters that “It is a really unique event.” “It ensures that the imagination of a team of individuals who have survived homelessness can help another homeless person improve their life via artistic academic achievement.”

Revenues have surpassed expectations, necessitating a reprint to meet demand. People all over the world, as well as libraries in colleges and municipalities, have purchased The Book of Homelessness.

People from hostels, shelters, and transitional housing were welcomed to Accumulate’s sequence of artistic workshops. An exhibition in Shoreditch, east London, hosted writing, painting, and illustration courses.

“The workshops helped me develop and change and recover from domestic violence, from just being homeless and unbalanced,” said Amalia, who participated.

All proceeds from the book’s sales are split between the writers and Accumulate, allowing the entity to continue to provide artistic workshops. Books are available for £25 and can be ordered online.

In the meantime, the homelessness situation is being tackled in England and the United States, two first world countries that seem to struggle with coming up with the ideal way to keep people off the streets.

However, many non-profit organizations in both countries have been working hard to build facilities, provide food and create programs to help people avoid or be rehabilitated from homelessness.

Many undergo programs to inspire them and train them to tackle obstacles in order to not end up back on the streets.

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Nepal Watches as Rhino Numbers Rise, Thrilling Activists

Amanda J

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The Indian Rhinoceros, also known as the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, is a species native to the subcontinent of India. A vulnerable species as classified by the IUCN Red List, rhinos have been experiencing plummeting population numbers in large part due to human encroachment, livestock encroachment, and poaching. At the time of this writing, more than 70% of the world’s remaining Indian rhinoceros population is concentrated in the Kaziranga National Park.

Already one of the few countries on earth where rhinos can be found, Nepal has reported some modestly good news for the species in recent weeks. According to reports, the Nepal rhino population has risen from 645 in 2015 to 752 in 2021. Close to extinction not even a decade ago, the work being done in India and Nepal has been considered among the most successful conservation efforts in Asia’s entire history.

Haribhadra Acharya is a senior official with the Department of National parks and Wildlife Conservation. Acharya spoke with the BBC in an interview to explore the recent developments surrounding the Indian Rhino. Acharya said of the recent report, “We are very excited by the rhino survey’s findings.” During her interview, Acharya went on to discuss how tigers have also experienced a rise in the native population.

According to officials in Nepal, a reason for the surge in population could be traced back to the coronavirus pandemic, oddly enough. The coronavirus pandemic and its corresponding lockdowns would allow for rhinos to roam more freely throughout their habitats, largely without tourists bothering them.

Dangers of Completing a Rhino Census

Every five years, a rhino census is performed, but the 2020 operation was postponed due to COVID-19. Taking up their efforts in 2021, more than 350 experts and officials from the forest department would embark deep into the forests surrounding Chitwan National Park, an area that covers over 367 square miles. With limited roads, it can be difficult in the best of times to track rhinos. In fact, one team of scientists and researchers was forced back when a wild elephant injured an animal while attacking them. Nearby in the Bardiya sanctuary, some 250 miles west, a tiger would kill an elephant trainer who had been working on a survey, highlighting the real danger of this type of work.

As we watch the rhinoceros population continue to grow and thrive under these new conservation efforts, experts are still more than happy to hold off celebrating. According to experts in the region, “The percentage of growth of rhinos has decreased in the last six years if compared to the previous period.” From 2011 to 2015, the growth rate for the annual rhino population hovered around 5%. The most recent survey findings revealed a growth rate of just 3%, positive to be sure, but limited.

Looking to the Future

One of the major concerning forces with regard to conservatism in Nepal has to do with nationwide civil war and military intervention. The recent decade-long civil war between Maoist rebels and local Nepalis security would end in 2006 but effects are still being felt more than 15 years later. Poachers continued to exploit the chaos caused by war to kill countless animals for their horns.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), rhinos are a common target of poachers due to their horn, a prized item in Eastern Asian medicine despite a lack of science-backed medicinal value. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this war against poaching is going to end any time soon. While conceiting that they failed to protect animals during the Civil War, Chitwan Park officials like Ananath Baral have optimism still. Baral said, “We’ve adopted a multi-pronged strategy to curb poaching.”

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