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Little Rock Offers Homeless a Job Cleaning the City

Shannon Jackson

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Many people have realized that homelessness is a serious problem across the entire country. For years, lawmakers have been struggling to find a way to deal with this issue. Now, Arkansas might have found a way to do exactly that. In April of this year, Little Rock decided to launch a pilot program that would help the homeless go back to work while also cleaning up the city. The program is called Bridge to Work and the individuals who participated in the program earn $9.25 per hour. This is more than $2 more than the current federal minimum wage. It turned out that the program was so successful, in multiple ways, the program was then extended for another year. Now, it will run through September of 2020.

The program is run by a local religious organization called Canvas Community Church. The program employs eight people every day for pick up trash. In addition to this, they also perform cleaning tasks and clear weeds. During the time that they participate in the program, the employees are paid (as above) and are also fed a meal. Overall, the reviews of this program have been overwhelmingly positive. The program has received an extensive amount of news coverage and the local population is extremely excited about how the program is going.

In addition to a solid paycheck, the program also provides homeless individuals with access to a variety of other services. Some of these include mental health counseling, regular medical care, job interviews, and even temporary housing. The goal of this program is to help homeless individuals build on this first step and become self-sufficient, contributing members of society. The program recognizes that there are a lot of barriers that might prevent someone who is homeless from getting out of the endless cycle. Without a doubt, there are a lot of steps that need to be completed; however, this program believes that these individuals deserve assistance. That is why it has been established to both better the city of Little Rock while helping individuals who are homeless improve their lives. 

In September of 2019, close to 400 people had joined the work crews, working hard to pick up trash, remove weeds, and clean the city. In total, the group worked close to 2,000 hours at more than 130 locations around the city. In total, in the first six months alone, the group collected more than 2,000 bags of trash. This is an impressive haul for a relatively small crew; however, the group knows they are working for something more than just a paycheck. They are working hard to improve their current living situation. Many of the individuals interviewed have stated exactly this. They know that they have had a rough life for a long time; however, they want to be models for everyone else around the country who is struggling with homelessness. With access to the right people and the right assistance, they can get their lives back on track.

Many of the individuals who are participating in this program also have kids that they want to help. They want to set an example for the future generation that with hard work, anything is possible. Many of the local citizens are impressed with how hard these individuals are working. Unfortunately, there is a stigma surrounding homelessness that can be difficult to shake. This program is the first step in showing that individuals who are homeless can still be productive members of society. In a way, this program shows that they only need to be given an opportunity.

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Culture

The battle of Saving the planet from the man-made climate crisis

Renee Yates

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America has gone through a series of disasters since the 1900s. Some hazards are natural, while others are man-made—directly or indirectly caused by human beings. We cannot forget the 1930 dust storm—popularly known as the Dust Bowl that ravaged throughout the Great Plains states, killing thousands of people and leaving over two million displaced. The horrific storms choked livestock, destroyed everything they came across, including houses. Crops were also not spared; they even blocked the sun!

Human activity

Just like other climate crisis caused by man today, the Dust Bowl was primarily caused by human activity during the early 1920s. Farmers had begun using machinery to farm, which ripped off the prairie’s natural anti-drought grasses and fertile topsoil, and that was not all. Later, drought struck the region in 1931, and black blizzards—massive dust storms–took over the plains. By mid-1935, more than 35 million acres of farmland had been destroyed while the topsoil of over 100 million acres blown away.

Action

President Franklin Roosevelt requested the Civilian Conservation Corps, the US Forest Service, and the Works Progress Administration to create a shelter belt with trees running in a 100-mile wide zone starting from North Dakota to Texas. This would help save the land and provide a permanent natural barrier against dust storms. Before the end of 1935, planting had already commenced in Green County, Southwest of Oklahoma. 

This was practically the most strategic position, to begin with as the trees were quite effective at holding and protecting the topsoil, which would eventually stabilize the land. Trees offered natural barriers to prevent winds and dust from sweeping the plains. By 1942 over 220 million trees had been planted, 30, 233 shelter belts covering over 18,600 sq. Miles. For records, this was the most focused and largest US government project of addressing environmental crises. 

History repeating itself

Presently, the shelter belt in the Great Plains is slowly getting eliminated by farmers cutting down trees to create room for planting. In Nebraska alone, approximately 57% of FDR trees are down, either cut or burned. With such trends, the Dust Bowl is in every way knocking or waiting for an opportunity to strike. Nature is unforgiving and a dreaded ecological disaster not just for America alone, but for the whole world. While climate continues being a timing bomb, America seems unbothered or has lost the ability to make efforts towards saving the environment. 

Planting around 220 million trees seems like a dream or a fairy tale that never existed in a country that has been neglecting massive infrastructure projects for years. But if we could come together and take the responsibility to plant trees, we would all be combating our country’s contribution to climate change and ultimately making the world a better place.

What should be done

According to Tom Crowther, an ecologist at the Swiss university ETH Zurich, if we could all work together and plant about 1.2 trillion trees across the planet, they would be able to absorb a minimum of 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Trees are a great way of getting rid of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Other countries have embraced tree planting, and others are already working on planting more trees.

China has already planted more than 50 billion trees in its anti desertification project—the Great Green Wall. The Australian government also announced to plant one billion trees by 2030, and the UN’s Billion Tree campaign has already planted over 15 billion trees since its launch in 2006. We hope that the American government will also come together to help in this mighty fight of saving the planet.

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Growing Up Near Nature Turns Children Into Happier Adults, According to a Research Study

Shannon Jackson

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There are lots of different ways to grow up; however, there is a theory that those who grow up more in touch with nature are more likely to be happy as adults. While the reasoning behind this hypothesis was unclear at first, it is now obvious that being close to nature is better for the soul. The night sky is darker, making it easier for people to sleep. The air is cleaner since there isn’t as much pollution out in the green areas. Finally, there is something that is claiming about watching the harmony of nature at work. Even though some people might be a bit hesitant to move this far away from civilization, there is now research showing that this kind of environment simply makes people happier.

Of course, people are always going to have their own personal preferences but the results of a recently published research paper are still intriguing. In a research paper that was completed in Denmark, a team of professionals followed close to 1 million people over the course of their childhoods. These were all children that were matched with appropriate controls for the completion of this study. The results of the study showed that the farther away from green children were, the more likely they were to develop a mental illness. Specifically, children who grow up exposed to the lowest levels of green were more than 50 percent more likely to develop mental health issues later in their life. This information was provided by databases kept by the Danish government. 

To complete the study, researchers took a look at satellite images of the various parts of Denmark. They used these images to figure out how much green was located around the areas in which these children grew up. Green was used to indicate how much nature was nearby. Specifically, the participants did not have to grow up near a forest to be exposed to a ton of green and be free from mental illness. Simply being close to public parks and green spaces, which might include forests, would be enough.

One interesting finding was that people who were located in a higher socioeconomic class, despite living closer to the city, were still exposed to plenty of parks. This means that they have the ability to protect their children from being exposed to a risk factor of mental health issues, despite living in the city. It should come as no surprise that those who have access to more resources are less likely to develop mental health issues.

On the other hand, even controlling for this important factor, the researchers still showed that more green means a healthier mind and a happier life. The greater the percentage of someone’s childhood spent near green spaces, the less likely they are to develop mental health issues as an adult. The researchers suggest that access to green spaces should be increased to allow people to spend more time near nature. 

The professionals also say that more research is needed. Even though they found a strong correlation in the study, they also say that correlation does not necessarily increase causation. The results are still strong. People should make every effort to spend more time outdoors near green spaces. The air is cleaner. The mood is calmer. It is healthier for the mind. With these factors considered, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that research is now showing that people need to spend more time disconnected from their devices communing with nature. Without a doubt, more parks are needed.

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Was recycling the answer to saving the planet? No!

Shannon Jackson

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When it comes to conserving scarce resources, providing for landfill space, and protecting the atmosphere, then we need to focus more than just recycling. We all want a sustainable future for our grandchildren, which means doing the right things for the planet. Since its inception in the 1970s, when Earth day was found, our parents and teachers emphasized on the three big Rs—Reduce, Re-use and Recycle—But is the hyped Recycling strategy really working?

Its true that plastics and excess packaging are messing the environment, but we all don’t pay too much attention to it because we assume that almost all of it is going for recycling. For this reason, we choose not to burry or burn our plastic waste and put them in the correct curbside recycling bin. In truth, it’s almost impossible to live without plastics and papers, and the more we need them, the more we use them. And that is where the whole problem comes in!

Today, recycling plants cannot handle all our plastics and papers. Very little recycling is being done, and most of this waste ends up in our oceans and lakes, ultimately polluting the environment. While a lot of effort has been put to facilitate recycling in America, very little has been done to get things going. EPA estimates that about 75% of our waste can be recycled, but the recycling rate still remains at 34% since 2010.

The biggest challenge is that we rely on other countries to do the recycling for us than doing it ourselves. Over the years, we have been shipping tons of waste through the sea to be recycled in South East Asia and China. In 2018, China announced that it would no longer be doing recycling for us. That means that we have no one to buy our waste for recycling anymore and nowhere to take it. Since then, we have been shipping part of our plastics to other developing countries around South East Asia like Vietnam and Thailand. These countries lack the correct environmental infrastructure to handle the waste responsibly, and part of it ends up getting dumped into the ocean.

America disposes of vast amounts of waste every minute. The few recycling plants cannot do much. That is to say that most of our waste ends up polluting the environment somewhere. The saddest part is that we sing the theoretical benefit of recycling, but we don’t practically participate effectively. We are quite keen on keeping track of what could be recycled and what cannot, what if we were equally keen on recycling the waste ourselves? Would the world be a better place?

In truth, there is no universal way of recycling in the U.S. Every state has its own method and regulations on how to handle the recyclables. In some states, recycling is efficient and effective, while in others, it’s not. Neither is recycling a humanitarian environmental practice of conserving the environment but pure business. The waste that we take for recycling is a raw material for a particular item, and it may end up becoming a new product when the market demands.

While the future of the recycling process in the country remains unclear, there are still things the average American can do to help save the planet. First, we need to shift our focus and mindset from recycling to re-using. We can come up with creative ways of re-using our plastics. We can also avoid plastics unless necessary. Buy plastic packaged stuff only if you have to. Lastly, we can try to reduce packaging and pressure manufacturers to limit production; otherwise we will keep polluting our planet.

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A Bank and Non-Profit Company Help Girls Enter Tech and Other STEM Fields

Shannon Jackson

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The technology field has undergone a lot of changes over the past few decades. One of the biggest changes has been the growing interest that women are taking. In secondary schools across the country, there has been an increased focus on STEM fields. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Because of the increased focus, children of all backgrounds are beaming with a desire to learn more about these fields. This includes girls. Sadly, these are fields that have been historically dominated by men. This causes young women to be hesitant about joining these fields, knowing the societal pressure they might face. Fortunately, there is a nonprofit organization that exists to help women get into this field. This comes in the form of Girls, Inc.

The focus of this field is to help girls between the ages of six and 18 learn more about themselves and these fields as they strive to discover what it takes to build a successful career in these fields. This organization helps girls find mentoring relationships in a pro-girl environment and pushes them to conduct research that will help them build their resumes as they look to learn more about STEM fields. In this organization, girls learn about the various characteristics that are necessary to navigate social, gender, and economic barriers as they try to gain confidence and independence while also receiving a top-notch education. 

Thie program also gives girls the chance to partner with one of the largest banks in the world. This comes in the form of CApital One, a well-respected financial institution that has a program known as Capital One Program. This program places girls in a position to work with volunteer coders, who are professionals in the tech field. This gives girls the chance to learn more about coding and computer design. In some situations, the girls might even be able to build their own applications. This gives participants a unique experience with app-building tools. They learn about algorithms and get to ask questions of some of the most successful and generous professionals in the field. The mentors play a critical role in helping girls enter this field. The goal of this program is to help people acquire the skills and resources they are going to need in order to survive in an economy that is largely driven by the tech field.

There are numerous locations throughout the country that Capital One has set up programs like this, including Texas and the Bay Area out in California. Given the tremendous success that this program has already seen, the program is likely to expand to other parts of the country. Capital One desires to partner with other nonprofit organizations that work to break down barriers in the STEM fields of all types. This organization is always trying to find ways to increase the amount of diversity in this field, including encouraging women to get more involved. In the eyes of many, the STEM fields are the future. These fields are going to produce novel products and services in fields such as engineering, computers, healthcare, and more. 

It is incumbent on all of these organizations to push everyone, including girls and young women, to push people to think outside the box. Only when people start to step outside of their comfort zone will they discover what they are truly capable of accomplishing. This is true for young girls who would like to learn more about STEM fields and how they can turn a hobby into a long and rewarding career.

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Are There Any Different Characteristics Between Left And Right Handers?

Shannon Jackson

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The dominant handedness for the population is the right hand, with 10% of the population is left-handed.  This statistic has been consistent for at least five thousand years, which is in the early Paleolithic phase of the Stone Age.  

*  Left-handed people were considered evil or not lucky,  and the Latin word for left is “sinister.”
*   Because of the right-handed dominance, the typical spiral notebook opens right to left with the spiral on the left side.  Those who are left-handed writing is not convenient. Spiral notebooks are also available for left-handers, which opens left to right with the spiral on the right side. 
* Research published in Brain at the University of Oxford, which reviewed the DNA of 400,000 people in the U.K., found that right-handers’ verbal skills were inferior to that of left-handers.  A study of the brain images from 10,000 people supported by the fact that the left and right sides of the brain communicated with each other. 
* Further, genetic studies found that the genes between right and left-handers were different, which resulted in the difference in their brain structures. 

A genetic component in handedness is apparent, according to Dr. Gwenaëlle Douaud, associated with Oxford’s Welcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging as a Fellow.  However, more research is needed to study in more depth the difference in verbal tasks between left and right-handedness, according to Dr. Akira Wiberg, a fellow at the University of Oxford. The question must be thoroughly investigated relative to the coordination of the left and right hemispheres of the brain using more sophisticated verbal-ability testing.

Studies continue to look at factors other than genetics that contribute to determining the differences between left and right-handedness.  One line of research is to determine the general factor of nature/nurture.  Nature generally refers to genetic factors, while nurture refers to environmental factors. For instance, studies have found that your dominant hand is 25% determined by genetics, and 75% determined by environmental factors. However, handedness is far more complex based on genetic factors alone.  The scientist used a population that would be better predictive as to the main factor which determined handedness.   Twin studies were conducted based on the hypothesis that the main factor is genetics and not the environment (nongenetic). Australian and Dutch families were studied with twins (25,000 people).  But to the surprise of scientists, only 25% of the study participants, handedness was explained by genes.  The conclusion was that influential environmental factors determined the handedness of 75% of the population.  

A study performed by  Carolien G. F. de Kovel from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen based on 500,000 participants.   This study concluded that:
a. Left-handedness is determined in the first few years of life, 
b. Handedness can also be determined before birth using ultrasound.
c.  Left-handedness was suppressed later in life by such environmental factors as forcing left-handed children to relearn handedness because of the bias towards right-handed children that were taught writing in UK schools which practice was common in the UK.
d.  Because of the forced relearning of handedness, standardized handedness tests did not account for the environmental factor of bias against left-handedness because of social taboos.
e. Environmental factors that increase left-handedness were birth weight, whether the infant was breastfed (i.e., not being breastfed increased chance of being left-handed), and mothers who gave birth in the summer increased chance of having left-handed children. 

 Conclusion

There are multiple factors, both nature, and nurture, that are factors in determining handedness.  One can argue that the determination of handedness may depend upon the biased hypothesis of a scientist based on their non-scientific point of view.  However, it is easy to dismiss the principal reason as opposed to research results. The fault is probably not the design of the research studies, but the inherent complex question of the ultimate cause of handedness, which means that there are multiple causes of handedness and the research studies cannot control the various nature and nurture factors that are intertwined. 

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