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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.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

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Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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