As the weather warms up and COVID-19 continues to become a thing of the past, the world will try and shift to normalcy again. For residents of Charlotte, NC, a return to normalcy will have to occur without the help of Charlotte B-Cycles, the rental blue bike-share service that has been providing rides to the city for years. Phased out for an impressive electric-assisted fleet, the city of Charlotte had to decide what to do with the 250+ retired bicycles from its old fleet and this is where our story begins.
Let’s explore how the city of Charlotte decided to recycle old bikes to bring new life to the city for those who need help the most.
Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle: Old Fleets Find New Life
Charlotte’s B-Cycles may have been taken away to be replaced with an electric-focused fleet called Charlotte Joy Rides, but that doesn’t mean that their days of use are over. In fact, the old retired bikes now belong to a pair of volunteer teams from Roof in the Inn and Trips for Kids, two local non-profits dedicated to providing assistance to homeless residents.
Taking the old bikes, the volunteer groups from Room in the Inn and Trips for Kids would acquire the bikes with the intention of repurposing them. Dick Winters, a cycling enthusiast and volunteer at the program, pointed out that transportation is a rather significant barrier to individuals dealing with homelessness. Winters also argues that a lack of available and affordable transportation can fundamentally damage acquiring employment and, fundamentally, independence from poverty. This mindset has been echoed tirelessly by Cedric Mack, supervisor of the Roof Above shelter on Statesville Avenue.
The goal of this joint initiative is to bring transportation to the people who need it the most, giving them the metaphorical keys to their traveling needs. The job has been undertaken by a tireless team of excited volunteers to help those who are most at-risk. Mack says that some of the homeless individuals he works with end up at the bus stop by “4 AM” just to get a ride for errands or to apply for jobs.
Charlotte, Charity, and the Houseless Crisis
So far, volunteers for the program have effectively refurbished 27 bikes. These 27 bikes have already been dispatched to users from the Roof Above program as well as shelters around the area. A pair of bikes would go to a recently homeless family while other bikes have gone to individuals to assist in their independence and traveling efforts. This is a marked difference from the last round of old bikes that ended up sold for scrap, thrown into landfills, or stuck into art installations.
Jonathan Wells has been one of the active pair of hands working on repairing the bikes. Wells was brought to the non-profit after hearing about it through his church. Wells points out that the repair efforts are helping people to attain a “greater degree” of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Wells went on to say that it would be “Mission Accomplished” if his work helps someone to get a job, get back on their feet, and find a place to live.
At the time of this writing, a 2021 study published by WSOCTV revealed that roughly 3,000 homeless individuals live in the Charlotte, NC area.
The Ancient Persian Method of Keeping Cool
The desert tends to push the creativity of both nature and people. It can be an unforgiving place, the aridity sucking the moisture out of everything and making it hard to even scratch a living. However, for the resourceful, the desert simply ends up being another environment that requires a certain mindset to adjust.
In Iran, the modern territory of the ancient Persian empire, underground irrigation and water systems were used for thousands of years, long before anyone had air conditioning, much less refrigerators. However, a more interesting invention was the architectural concept of the wind catcher. Known locally as a bâdgir, the building type was regularly installed above the rooftops of ancient buildings in the area of Yazd. From a distance, they looked like squarish or rectangular in shape, and often protruded upward as a thin tower. The shape was intentional, however, as it fundamentally helped catch and funnel local winds down into the rest of the structure below.
The concept of the windcatcher is no longer used today. Electricity and modern appliances have made ancient architecture obsolete. Yet, at the time, these towers were very commonplace in ancient Persia, with openings intentionally crafted towards the direction of wherever the local winds would come from the most. Today, interestingly enough, the idea is starting to have a renaissance again, especially as electricity prices continue to rise and people are again becoming creative about seeking alternatives to expensive A/C.
The mechanism of aircatcher tower works with two key principles. First, it needs to be positioned in the right direction of the prevailing wind. This provides the pressure to push the air into and down the tower into the house when the winds are moving outside. Second, warm air rises. So, the hotter air inside the home seeks the highest point where to get out, and naturally replaces and moves upward and new air comes in and creates a lower, cooler level in the same rooms.
Of course, wind isn’t just wind alone. It can carry a lot of stuff with it. That’s how ancient cities have been buried over time. The tower design anticipates this problem as well, creating a catch basin for matter carried by the wind to drop at the foot of the tower as the wind comes in. The beneficial air moves throughout the home, but the dust and sand stay put, ready to be swept and dumped outside later on. Even more ingenious, some homes had the air move over internal water pools, which cooled the air down even further. Water is an exceptional heat sink, absorbing temperature and lowering heat considerably.
Of course, the building had to be constructed with a fine balance to make the air system work. Too many openings, and the pressure is lost. Too few openings, and not enough hot air escapes. The science of the tower architecture took a number of years to finesse, but it worked as early as 3,300 years ago. While the ancient Persian cities themselves are gone, with a few big relics left for history, the technology may still be relevant today. And, some are thinking why not try a good thing all over again? Especially given how limited resources are, an alternative to temperature control in the desert makes a lot of sense.
Junior Scientist Finds an Invasive Species
In the biological world, invasive species are bad news. They typically involve a new plant or organism that is not natural to a location, but begins to thrive because it has a significant advantage over the other flora or fauna in the same environment. The result, if the invasive species is not removed, can completely change the balance of the given environment as the invasive species begins to take over and wipe out the natural, domestic competitors. However, the fact that an eight-year-old identified a new invasive species in Washington was more of a surprise to the experts than the invader plant itself.
Maggie Corosino likes plants enough that she enjoys studying them and the science of botany. The gradeschooler, like many children, was locked up at home with distance learning due to COVID. As a result, the eight-year-old had a lot of time on her hands, which she put to good use learning more about plants. It also gave her a sharp eye for plant-related objects that looked out of place.
On one particular outing just to get out of the house, her mother took Maggie to a local lake for some exercise, nature and look at plants. Lake Rasmussen was home to a variety of plant life, which gave Maggie plenty to study. However, as it turned out, there was an extra addition that was not like the others. As the young girl was poking around and examining plants near the lake, she spotted one plant in the lake water that immediately set off red flags. As it turned out, Maggie had correctly identified an invasive species in the noxious week category, Egeria. King County scientists and biologists had been fussing about the plant for a while, but they were not expecting to find it in Lake Rasmussen.
Maggie’s find was a first. Egeria had never previously been able to get a foothold anywhere in the Snoqualmie water network and watershed. As it turned out, Lake Rasmussen was a feeder source connected to Cherry Creek, and that stream eventually drained into Snoqualmie River. In short, Egeria was going to make its way through the entire watershed network had Maggie’s alert eyes not caught it at the Lake.
How the weed got into the water and established itself is not really known, but the likelihood was that someone brought it with equipment or similar, and the plant seeded and started growing. The most common scenario could be people dumping fishtank pets into the lake and not wanting to take care of them anymore. That Maggie saw a large goldfish-type fish near the plant was a probable sign that scenario had occurred. Egeria is a common fishtank flora because it grows so fast, but it’s really native to South America, not Washington.
Egeria is a serious problem for freshwater life. The weed grows prolifically, and blankets the water so that anything below essentially loses access to sunlight and dies off. That in turn causes fish die-offs as the level of oxygen in the water drops. The damage potential of Egeria is significant; it has the potential to damage or even destroy the salmon runs in the Snoqualmie River.
Finding Egeria early at Lake Rasmussen may have nipped the problem in the bud thanks to Maggie’s quick eyes. No other signs of Egeria were located elsewhere in the lake or in the connected drainage.
Photojournalist Bonds With Nature During Lockdown and Gets Nature at its Best
James Aldred, an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker who has earned himself accolades including an Emmy-award, spent many years filming the animals of the world’s most spectacular rainforests in the Amazon, Borneo, and Congo. For James, who specializes in filming at elevated levels utilizing ropes to penetrate forest canopies, the New Forest during lockdown, was unlike anything he’d ever seen.
Prior to the pandemic, James Aldred acquired special permission to continue filming while the rest of the country was shut down, as part of his effort to capture the presence of a family of goshawks living in the huge New Forest, Hampshire.
He kept a notebook about his experiences high in the trees, which he has now put into a book. In the opening chapters of Goshawk Summer: A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other, he says, “It’s the story of how one family of goshawks living in a timeless corner of England flashed like fire through one of our darkest times – and how, for me, they became a symbol of optimism for the future.”
He grew up near the New Forest, which he has always known as a region where multiple flight lines intersect. During lockdown, however, he claims there was no sound pollution, allowing the birds’ communication to develop tremendously.
Wild creatures began reclaiming the woodland shortly after humans abandoned it last spring, he said. A boar badger rushing through the middle of a one-way road “as though he was on his morning commute” is one of his favorite recollections. On another occasion, Aldred came face to face with a muntjac deer on an empty A36. He also saw rural fox cubs, who were less than two weeks old at the time, enjoying fun on the regularly bustling A35 highway. He believes that because he has no prior contact with humans or vehicles, this could be dangerous after the lockdown.
He would spend up to 15 hours a day recording from a tiny platform tied to a neighboring Douglas fir 15 meters (50 feet) off the ground due to the goshawks’ nest’s position. He hid most of the time in a small canvas tent that was concealed. The tree was rather frail, and it swayed uncomfortably in the wind. It was like being below deck on a boat for James, but he learned which birds visited specific trees and what their alarm calls were.
Even though goshawks have an uncomfortable ability to come and go discreetly, the alarm sounds of these other birds would tell him when they were approaching and from which direction they were approaching. Songbirds were available for goshawks to eat.
For the forest’s endangered ground-nesting birds, such as curlews and lapwings, the euphoria was short-lived; once the lock-down limitations were lifted, it was a totally different story.
The forest, according to James “The forest “went from one extreme to the other” as visitors flocked to the national park, causing a surge in disturbance. “I’ve witnessed numerous instances of canines harassing ground-nesting birds.”
However, he claims the Forestry Commission learned important lessons about managing visitor numbers and woodland trails.
Honoring Your Elders: Polish World Cup Master Makes Big Decision to Honor Grandmother
Honoring the wishes of the older generation is something that many younger people forget to do in these challenging modern times. However, World Cup champ Lukasz Podolski had made a significant decision based on his grandmother’s wishes, powerfully changing his career trajectory.
Who is Lukasz Podolski?
In 2014, Podolski was hoping to play in the World Cup for his native Poland. As one of the major talents of the sport in his country, his selection seemed a forgone conclusion. However, former Poland manager Pawel Janas did not select Podolski, forcing him to play for Germany.
This step turned out to be an excellent move for Germany and not Poland, as Podolski was a major factor in Germany’s 2014 World Cup victory. And a big part of his success was the dedication of his grandmother. She had worked with him as a young man and helped him practice his skills.
And she was his biggest fan, attempting to attend each of his games whenever possible and even being present at each of his World Cup games in 2014. And while young, he pledged to his grandmother that would influence his career to this day.
For most of his career, Podolski has played in many clubs, and at each, he helped transform them into one of the best in its league. However, he has said over the years that Gornik Zabrze is a club that he feels comfortable competing with and that it feels like he belongs to it in ways he hasn’t felt with other clubs over the years.
Alongside this claim, he has stated multiple times that he would like to move back to Zabrze to end his career. This club is not far from where his grandmother lives and where he was raised. He was quoted as saying that, when it was time to end his career, “I want to do it in Zabrze, in the colours of Gornik.”
Part of this desire was to play closer to his grandmother, but it was also due to his pledge to her years ago. He had told her that he would move to Zabrze to end his career, and, to honor his wishes, he made that move in 2021, surprising many in the sports world, although not anyone who knew him or his history.
In 2021, Podolski announced his move to Zabrze via Facebook, letting his fans know that he was moving back to Poland to end his career. He stated, “I’m returning home. A strong special feeling,” and said that he felt a lot of pride coming back to a club so near his home.
In his post, he shared a picture of himself wearing the colors of Zabrze and also mentioned his grandmother as one of his biggest supporters. But, tragically, she was unable to see this move in his career, as she passed away in 2019. And her death was one of the biggest reasons for his switch.
Podolski is also a shareholder in the team, which makes his move also meaningful for his potential financial success. If he can push the team to a higher level of success, he can bring in more profits and potentially increase their presence in the soccer world even higher than average.
However, it is also fair that Podolski was offered many big deals by other clubs that hoped to pull the striker into their league. This interest is understandable, as he has earned over 250 goals as a player and is still in the prime of his career as a deadly scoring threat.
Richard Hutchins’ Art Story Features Success in the Face of Homelessness
Homelessness often has a way of becoming hard for many people to escape. However, the recent success of artist Richard Hutchins has shown that it is never too late to improve yourself. This skilled artist had struggled with various challenges throughout his life before being discovered and becoming an acclaimed artist throughout Los Angeles.
Hutchins’ Amazing Story
As a young boy, Hutchins was born into poverty in Georgia, where he had to work in the fields after school with his family at the age of six. During breaks, he learned how to create charcoal stickmen with twigs and the brown bags used for his farm work. His early ability in art just grew from there, as he focused more and more of his time on practicing and improving his skills.
In fact, Hutchins made a significant sale at 15, selling a painting for $1,500. However, unfortunately, this early success was interrupted when Hutchins was falsely accused of a crime and sent to jail in Los Angeles. He had moved to the area to find success as a painter and now found himself sitting in a cell for 22 hours a day with art brewing in his mind and waiting to come out in any way.
While he was allowed to write letters and draw on envelopes, this did not satisfy his need to create. He showed the kind of ingenuity here that would inspire his most excellent art – he mixed Skittles and M&M candy with water to remove some of the candy’s dye. Using the hairs from his beard, he created a paintbrush on all sorts of different mediums. His jail art was featured in a Pasadena art gallery during this time.
Eventually, Richard was paroled from prison when it was found he was innocent of his crime. And while he worked for a studio in California as an artist for some time, a fire destroyed the building and around 800 pieces of his art. Without a job, he quickly became homeless and stayed that way for six years. However, he still worked constantly and became well known in the shelter community for his work.
And in April 2021, a blue van appeared near him with Charlie “Rocket” Jabaley in tow. This manager approached Hutchins and made big promises that Richard assumed were probably hot air. Nevertheless, he called Jabaley the next day and was taken to an art supply center. Here, he purchased $2,000 worth of art supplies, on Charlie’s money, and was able to get started making real art again.
Since then, Hutchins has been the darling of the Los Angeles art community. Prints of his jail artwork now sell for around $700, with the originals going for $2,500. And Jabaley got Richard’s work in the Sofitel gallery in Beverly Hills, where much of his work was featured. And another friend, who had held onto many of Richard’s work over the years, donated it to Hutchins.
Since then, he has made around $250,000 on art sales. And while it was not an easy journey for him as a man, this success has helped to transform his life and has made him one of the most respected and promising artists in the California art scene.
It’s a story that should inspire just about anybody, especially those artists who have struggled to get respect and have felt their careers slip away as they age. Sometimes, great artists mature late into success in their careers. And Hutchins can serve as an inspiration for those struggling in this way.
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