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How can the world's oldest art form help us save the environment? These artists have a few ideas.

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Natural Resources Defense Council

Can the world's oldest art form help us combat something as current and pressing as climate change?

That was the question posed to female theatre artists on a conference call organized by Roberta Levitow of Theatre Without Borders, a group committed to social change through the arts.

It included Chantal Bilodeau, whose previous attempt to write a play about the intersections of race, class, and climate change blossomed into an interconnected story cycle set across eight different plays in eight different countries, and Elaine Avila, who has organized social action movements through theatre alongside her collaborator, Caridad Svich of No Passport.


Photo via Subhrajit/Wikimedia Commons.

"Many artists are looking to other fields such as science and policy, modeling in their art practice the kind of cross-disciplinary thinking that is needed to address global issues," Chantal explained.

"If we want to be active participants in shaping our future, we need to move beyond writing plays about climate change to writing plays that are climate change — plays that embody, in form, content, and process, the essence of the issues we are facing."

This idea led to the birth of Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA) — an international theatre festival to bring awareness to the changing planet.

Inspired by previous theatre action movements focused on gun control and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, CCTA consists of one- to five-minute readings and performances of climate-change-themed plays, poems, and songs.

More than 100 artists from 20 different countries — from Australia to Canada, Jordan to Mexico — have contributed work to the festival in anticipation of the upcoming Paris Climate Change Conference.

Photo by Clay Robeson/Wikimedia Commons.

Here's how Chantal Bilodeau described the festival's programming:

"The pieces are as varied as the artists writing them. They are about rich and poor people of every culture and color, are set in urban and rural areas in developed and under-developed countries, are realistic, metaphorical, reflective, funny, wistful, irreverent, scary, and sad. Together, they form a mosaic of climate change experienced on a personal level. They paint a portrait of communities struggling to understand what is happening to our world and how to best respond to it."

But the coolest part about CCTA is that it's happening all across the world at the same time.

The physical limits of theatre tend to be one of its biggest fallbacks, as well as one its greatest assets. Live performances are always constrained by geography and time. And while that can make for an intimate and communal experience, it's hard for that experience to reach a wider audience.

While the festival "officially" kicks off Nov. 2, 2015, at New York's Nuyorican Poets Cafe, the organizers of Climate Change Theatre Action have rallied together more than 100 other venues across the globe, each one hosting their own unique evening of readings and performances from local artists.

The events range from living room readings to day-long festivals to site-specific performances on glaciers and more.

Photo by U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rialyn Rodrigo/Wikimedia Commons.

What's more, many of the performances are being simulcast on HowlRound.tv — bringing the international audiences even closer together.

(There's also one event in Albuquerque that's being broadcast on the local public radio station, and several in Italy and the U.S. that are being adapting into short films to be screened at events in Australia.)

Climate Change Theatre Action is doing what theatre has always done best: bringing people together.

Though it might seem like a loosely affiliated grassroots organization, the four women behind it have accomplished a tremendous task. They're uniting audiences all across the world to bring attention to a problem that affects us all — a pressing issue that has otherwise been denied the attention it deserves.

"Theatre is a mighty tool," Chantal said.

"This season four women theatre artists with no money whatsoever, are, in effect, creating a global movement. Through sheer force of will, and many hours spent at the computer and Skyping across time zones, we are planting, one by one, a series of local seeds that have the potential to affect our economies, political systems, environments, and cultures. And if they are nurtured right and the gods smile on us, these seeds will grow into a vibrant explosion of echoing voices worldwide. Is this not an apt metaphor for how we need to handle climate change?"

Photo via Thehero/Wikimedia Commons.

You can find the full schedule of Climate Change Theatre Action events online, or check the CCTA Facebook page for information and introductions to all 108 playwrights (so far). Even if there are no events in your area, you can still help to keep the conversation going by signing this petition to end offshore drilling in the Arctic.

via Pixabay

A sad-looking Labrador Retriever

The sweet-faced, loveable Labrador Retriever is no longer America’s favorite dog breed. The breed best known for having a heart of gold has been replaced by the smaller, more urban-friendly French Bulldog.

According to the American Kennel Club, for the past 31 years, the Labrador Retriever was America’s favorite dog, but it was eclipsed in 2022 by the Frenchie. The rankings are based on nearly 716,500 dogs newly registered in 2022, of which about 1 in 7 were Frenchies. Around 108,000 French Bulldogs were recorded in the U.S. in 2022, surpassing Labrador Retrievers by over 21,000.


The French Bulldog’s popularity has grown exponentially over the past decade. They were the #14 most popular breed in 2012, and since then, registrations have gone up 1,000%, bringing them to the top of the breed popularity rankings.

The AKC says that the American Hairless Terrier, Gordon Setter, Italian Greyhound and Anatolian Shepherd Dog also grew in popularity between 2021 and 2022.

The French Bulldog was famous among America’s upper class around the turn of the 20th century but then fell out of favor. Their resurgence is partly based on several celebrities who have gone public with their Frenchie love. Leonardo DiCaprio, Megan Thee Stallion, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Reese Witherspoon and Lady Gaga all own French Bulldogs.

The breed earned a lot of attention as show dogs last year when a Frenchie named Winston took second place at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and first in the National Dog Show.

The breed made national news in early 2021 when Gaga’s dog walker was shot in the chest while walking two of her Frenchies in a dog heist. He recovered from his injuries, and the dogs were later returned.

They’ve also become popular because of their unique look and personalities.

“They’re comical, friendly, loving little dogs,” French Bull Dog Club of America spokesperson Patty Sosa told the AP. She said they are city-friendly with modest grooming needs and “they offer a lot in a small package.”

They are also popular with people who live in apartments. According to the AKC, Frenchies don’t bark much and do not require a lot of outdoor exercise.

The French Bulldog stands out among other breeds because it looks like a miniature bulldog but has large, expressive bat-like ears that are its trademark feature. However, their popularity isn’t without controversy. “French bulldogs can be a polarizing topic,” veterinarian Dr. Carrie Stefaniak told the AP.

american kennel club, french bulldog, most popular dog

An adorable French Bulldog

via Pixabay

French Bulldogs have been bred to have abnormally large heads, which means that large litters usually need to be delivered by C-section, an expensive procedure that can be dangerous for the mother. They are also prone to multiple health problems, including skin, ear, and eye infections. Their flat face means they often suffer from respiratory problems and heat intolerance.

Frenchies are also more prone to spine deformations and nerve pain as they age.

Here are the AKC’s top ten most popular dog breeds for 2022.

1 French Bulldogs

2 Labrador Retrievers

3 Golden Retrievers

4 German Shepherd Dogs

5 Poodles

6 Bulldogs

7 Rottweilers

8 Beagles

9 Dachshunds

10 German Shorthaired Pointers


This article originally appeared on 03.17.23

Joy

Watch as this couple experiences a lifetime together in a single day

Watch a couple age a lifetime together in a single day.

Couple prepares for their physical transformations.

In this super-cool video from Field Day and Cut Video, a young engaged couple is given a rare opportunity to see how they might look 30, 50, and 70 years in the future. With the help of some seriously talented makeup artists, the couple ages before each other's eyes.

But, it's the deep emotional impact of imagining a life shared together that is far more striking than their physical transformation.


Their love seems to strengthen as they see each other age, and the caring they display for one another is likely to make even the most cynical person a little emotional.

This article originally appeared on 05.15.15

Island School Class, circa 1970s.

Parents, do you think your child would be able to survive if they were transported back to the '70s or '80s? Could they live at a time before the digital revolution put a huge chunk of our lives online?

These days, everyone has a phone in their pocket, but before then, if you were in public and needed to call someone, you used a pay phone. Can you remember the last time you stuck 50 cents into one and grabbed the grubby handset?

According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, roughly 100,000 pay phones remain in the U.S., down from 2 million in 1999.

Do you think a 10-year-old kid would have any idea how to use a payphone in 2022? Would they be able to use a Thomas Guide map to find out how to get somewhere? If they stepped into a time warp and wound up in 1975, could they throw a Led Zeppelin album on the record player at a party?


Another big difference between now and life in the '70s and '80s has been public attitudes toward smoking cigarettes. In 1965, 42.4% of Americans smoked and now, it’s just 12.5%. This sea change in public opinion about smoking means there are fewer places where smoking is deemed acceptable.

But in the early '80s, you could smoke on a bus, on a plane, in a movie theater, in restaurants, in the classroom and even in hospitals. How would a child of today react if their third grade teacher lit up a heater in the middle of math class?

Dan Wuori, senior director of early learning at the Hunt Institute, tweeted that his high school had a smoking area “for the kids.” He then asked his followers to share “something you experienced as a kid that would blow your children’s minds.”


A lot of folks responded with stories of how ubiquitous smoking was when they were in school. While others explained that life was perilous for a kid, whether it was the school playground equipment or questionable car seats.

Here are a few responses that’ll show today’s kids just how crazy life used to be in the '70s and '80s.

First of all, let’s talk about smoking.

Want to call someone? Need to get picked up from baseball practice? You can’t text mom or dad, you’ll have to grab a quarter and use a pay phone.

People had little regard for their kids’ safety or health.

You could buy a soda in school.

Things were a lot different before the internet.

Remember pen pals?

A lot of people bemoan the fact that the children of today aren’t as tough as they were a few decades back. But that’s probably because the parents of today are better attuned to their kids’ needs so they don't have to cheat death to make it through the day.

But just imagine how easy parenting would be if all you had to do was throw your kids a bag of Doritos and a Coke for lunch and you never worried about strapping them into a car seat?


This article originally appeared on 06.08.22

Image from YouTube video.

An emotional and strong Matt Diaz.


Matt Diaz has worked extremely hard to lose 270 pounds over the past six years.

But his proudest moment came in March 2015 when he decided to film himself with his shirt off to prove an important point about body positivity and self-love.


Matt had lap-band surgery in 2009 at age 16.

Through the course of his weight-loss journey, Matt became passionate about promoting body positivity for people of all shapes and sizes.
weight-loss journey, obesity, social media

Here's Matt at 16 years old and 497 pounds versus recently after his surgery — at 22 years old and 220 pounds.

Images via Matt Diaz, used with permission.

To stay motivated, he started sharing his journey on social media, posting before-and-after photos, answering questions and giving support to followers, and even sharing his meals and favorite workouts. Six years later, Matt is down over 270 pounds and is a very active voice in the online body-positivity movement.

But in all his years of sharing his story, the one thing he's never done is showed what his body looks like after 200+ pounds of weight loss. So he uploaded the video above to show his followers his true self.

body image, viral videos, photos

Sharing what happens with extreme weight loss.

Images via Matt Diaz, used with permission.

selfies, shame, extra skin

Working through fear...

Images via Matt Diaz, used with permission.

self love, self care, self esteem

Loving myself.

Images via Matt Diaz, used with permission.

fear, public shaming, insecurity

Scary and important.

Images via Matt Diaz, used with permission.

Shortly after he posted the video online, originally to Tumblr, it quickly went viral and garnered thousands of shares and comments from people around the web. I was one of the thousands touched by the video, so I reached out to Matt to find out more about what motivated him and what he hopes others can take away from his story. Here's what he had to say:

Why was it so important for you to post this video?

"I'm a really big advocate for self-love and body positivity. I think it's important that we learn to love the bodies we're in, even if we don't necessarily like every little thing about them. However, in the time I'd been writing and talking about it, I'd never actually shown my excess skin to anyone. It felt dishonest somehow, to others and to myself. I couldn't tell others that I wanted them to love themselves and keep myself hidden away and ashamed of my skin."

"I know what it feels like to hate your body, and to be depressed about it, and I never want anyone to feel that way again. So, if making myself vulnerable can help one person, why not?"
— Matt Diaz

What's the response been like? Anything particularly unexpected?

"I think that putting any opinion on the Internet will garner a certain amount of negativity and cynicism, but I haven't seen anything like that at all. I've read every comment and message since the video has gone up, literally thousands, and they're all so thoughtful.

A really surprising side-effect were the number of transgender people who've thanked me saying that they understood my struggle, even though their body-related insecurity grew from different roots. I'd never even begun to [think] of what that must be like, and the fact that my message could help even though my problems began somewhere else is really incredible.”

What advice or words of encouragement do you have for someone who's struggling to love their body?

"I know it's difficult, especially when you're starting out. I want you to remember that you are not the problem, certain aspects of society are the problem. You'll constantly be told that you're too heavy or too tall to be attractive, or you're not masculine or feminine enough, or that your skin isn't the right tone or your hair isn't the right color, and these people are always always always wrong.

Luckily, we're slowly starting to see these ideas get phased out by modernity. Plus-sized, un-retouched models are getting more attention in major brands, more attention is being put on the alternative scene for high fashion, it's becoming clear that these negative ideas are not going to last, though it's going to take a while."

"Understand that to love yourself is to contest the negative things that were put into your head. Every smile, tattoo, bathing suit, and crop top is a small revolution. Tell yourself you're beautiful every day, and I promise you will be."
— Matt Diaz

Watch video below:

Matt's story is a personal one, but it's one we can all learn from.

I think the most important thing to take away here is that self-love takes time and is different for everyone no matter what they look like. It's also worth noting that for Matt, losing weight was an important part of his journey, but that might not be the case for everyone. Even so, our society has such incredibly high and unrealistic body standards that even many of those who do work to lose weight end up feeling uncomfortable or being shamed for not having "perfect bodies" once they've lost weight.

There's no such thing as a "perfect body" because everyone is different, which is what makes us beautiful and great! I'm glad there are people like Matt in the world who are not only willing to share their stories but also to inspire others by showing that body confidence comes in all shapes and sizes, and that everyone deserves to feel good about who they are. Here's hoping Matt's inspiring words can help others begin to love and accept themselves, no matter where they're at in their journey.


This story originally appeared on 03.18.15.

Science

A juice company dumped orange peels in a national park. Here's what it looks like now.

12,000 tons of food waste and 21 years later, this forest looks totally different.


In 1997, ecologists Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs approached an orange juice company in Costa Rica with an off-the-wall idea.

In exchange for donating a portion of unspoiled, forested land to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste — a nature preserve in the country's northwest — the park would allow the company to dump its discarded orange peels and pulp, free of charge, in a heavily grazed, largely deforested area nearby.

One year later, one thousand trucks poured into the national park, offloading over 12,000 metric tons of sticky, mealy, orange compost onto the worn-out plot.



The site was left untouched and largely unexamined for over a decade. A sign was placed to ensure future researchers could locate and study it.

16 years later, Janzen dispatched graduate student Timothy Treuer to look for the site where the food waste was dumped.

Treuer initially set out to locate the large placard that marked the plot — and failed.

The first deposit of orange peels in 1996.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"It's a huge sign, bright yellow lettering. We should have been able to see it," Treuer says. After wandering around for half an hour with no luck, he consulted Janzen, who gave him more detailed instructions on how to find the plot.

When he returned a week later and confirmed he was in the right place, Treuer was floored. Compared to the adjacent barren former pastureland, the site of the food waste deposit was "like night and day."

The site of the orange peel deposit (L) and adjacent pastureland (R).

Photo by Leland Werden.

"It was just hard to believe that the only difference between the two areas was a bunch of orange peels. They look like completely different ecosystems," he explains.

The area was so thick with vegetation he still could not find the sign.

Treuer and a team of researchers from Princeton University studied the site over the course of the following three years.

The results, published in the journal "Restoration Ecology," highlight just how completely the discarded fruit parts assisted the area's turnaround.

The ecologists measured various qualities of the site against an area of former pastureland immediately across the access road used to dump the orange peels two decades prior. Compared to the adjacent plot, which was dominated by a single species of tree, the site of the orange peel deposit featured two dozen species of vegetation, most thriving.

Lab technician Erik Schilling explores the newly overgrown orange peel plot.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

In addition to greater biodiversity, richer soil, and a better-developed canopy, researchers discovered a tayra (a dog-sized weasel) and a giant fig tree three feet in diameter, on the plot.

"You could have had 20 people climbing in that tree at once and it would have supported the weight no problem," says Jon Choi, co-author of the paper, who conducted much of the soil analysis. "That thing was massive."

Recent evidence suggests that secondary tropical forests — those that grow after the original inhabitants are torn down — are essential to helping slow climate change.

In a 2016 study published in Nature, researchers found that such forests absorb and store atmospheric carbon at roughly 11 times the rate of old-growth forests.

Treuer believes better management of discarded produce — like orange peels — could be key to helping these forests regrow.

In many parts of the world, rates of deforestation are increasing dramatically, sapping local soil of much-needed nutrients and, with them, the ability of ecosystems to restore themselves.

Meanwhile, much of the world is awash in nutrient-rich food waste. In the United States, up to half of all produce in the United States is discarded. Most currently ends up in landfills.

The site after a deposit of orange peels in 1998.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"We don't want companies to go out there will-nilly just dumping their waste all over the place, but if it's scientifically driven and restorationists are involved in addition to companies, this is something I think has really high potential," Treuer says.

The next step, he believes, is to examine whether other ecosystems — dry forests, cloud forests, tropical savannas — react the same way to similar deposits.

Two years after his initial survey, Treuer returned to once again try to locate the sign marking the site.

Since his first scouting mission in 2013, Treuer had visited the plot more than 15 times. Choi had visited more than 50. Neither had spotted the original sign.

In 2015, when Treuer, with the help of the paper's senior author, David Wilcove, and Princeton Professor Rob Pringle, finally found it under a thicket of vines, the scope of the area's transformation became truly clear.

The sign after clearing away the vines.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

"It's a big honking sign," Choi emphasizes.

19 years of waiting with crossed fingers had buried it, thanks to two scientists, a flash of inspiration, and the rind of an unassuming fruit.


This article originally appeared on 08.23.17