When Patrick Skluzacek went overseas to serve in Iraq on behalf of the United States Military, he returned home as a changed man. His son, Tyler Skluzacek, knew his father as an outgoing man brimming with joy and ready to laugh. The man that returned was not quite the same, instead consumed by memories of his time in places like Fallujah.
Chronic memories would prevent Patrick from sleeping, and instead throwing himself around while breaking out in heavy sweat. The vivid nightmares were unbearable and the manifesting case of PTSD was breaking the life Patrick had built. It would get so bad that Patrick would watch as his marriage fell apart, his career crash and burn, and the relationship he had with his loved ones change.
According to a report published by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the story that we just unveiled surrounding Patrick is far from isolated. More than 52% of soldiers who see combat end up with some level of post-traumatic stress disorder, leading often to nightmares, broken relationships, and much worse. This number compares to roughly 3% of an average sampling of the civilian population, which goes to show just how much stress and pressure soldiers have to face.
While many of these veterans end up facing their nightmares alone, some savvy individuals are working to make a change for everyone. Patrick’s son, Tyler, would attend Macalester College in Saint Paul where he would begin learning about computer hacking and program development. During his years in school, he would learn to develop mobile applications, focusing largely on assisting those with PTSD.
Through his work at an on-campus job, Tyler was able to raise a sizable amount of money to fund a trip to Washington. He wanted to compete in a hackathon competition to showcase a smartwatch he had developed. Tyler had conceptualized a smartwatch that helped detect night terrors based on measurements like physical movement and elevated heart rate. The goal of the watch was to read this data and pulse a stimulus that helped the individual in question to pull from REM sleep before they were affected.
In order to win the competition, however, Tyler would need to test the smartwatch on someone willing to be his guinea pig. Enter dad. Tyler said of using his father as a client, “I was terrified.” Tyler would go on to explain that he was nervous about tracking so much data that it felt akin to ‘having a baby.’
Despite his nerves, Tyler and Patrick would work together around-the-calendar to develop the algorithm and hardware necessary to complete the task. Tyler cited the closeness he felt toward his father as a key motivator in the successful development of the device. Patrick remarked upon the first time he noticed the watch working, “It was night and day.” Patrick would go on to describe those moments as ‘little miracles’. After dealing with PTSD on his own for near a decade, Patrick had finally found a source of relief to the night terrors that had otherwise been a constant.
While it would be easy to temper expectations with such a small sample size, progress has exploded in the intervening time since the smartwatch’s inception. The Food and Drug Administration has already approved the application to function with Apple Watch. The V.A. is also getting in on the action by supplying the application through its prescription services for individuals who request it.
Trading Solar Power for a Crypto Farm Stability
Crypto has been getting a bad rap in the news lately given how much energy it consumes to generate the financial bounty of new digital coins. A mass bank of ASIC-type number crunchers demand a lot of electricity, and that kind of power consumption day in day out leaves footprint that many are not comfortable with. However, being responsive to the times, a particularly creative crypto company has decided solar may be the big offset it needs to set things right, at least as far as that company’s activity online. And that offset is going to happen in Montana with a big new construct titled the Basin Creek Solar Project, covering over 1,600 acres.
Trading Power for Power
Madison River Equity LLC has planned a 300 megawatt project to address both its mining operations as well as provide power to another 40,000 homes. Currently, Montana itself as a state only produces a total of 117 megawatts. So, adding almost 300 percent more to the local grid is going to end up providing a massive utility boost for the state economy and region, no question. The 300 megawatts don’t come free; the planned crypto operation is expected to take 75 megawatts off the table for its own operations. However, even then, the entire project is a net gain for the state.
Great Things Aren’t Always Wanted
Unfortunately, even with the clear benefits to power generation for the entire state, local folks aren’t thrilled about the pending project. First, crypto mining is not a quiet affair. All those ASIC units needed to crunch the blockchain make a lot of noise, and combined it can seem like a massive jet engine going off. Further, the operation is not a 9 to 5 activity. Blockchain mining warehouses generally run 24/7, not turning off unless maintenance or a replacement is needed. A warehouse of them won’t be any quieter.
Second, a massive solar facility is going to add a visible disruption to the area as well. It takes a lot of land and space to build a viable solar farm that pumps out serious power. Again, the locals aren’t thrilled about their natural reserve suddenly being overtaken by thousands of solar panels across 1,600 acres. And the maintenance of such a facility is also going to produce a regular amount of by-product and eventual waste as well. Again, not something the locals are interested in.
Not a Sure Deal Yet
The big decision happens with the permit hearing scheduled for June 17, 2021. However, it’s very likely that the locals are going to want to have their say as well. Crypto might be a big moneymaker for some, but out in the rural area it’s starting to become a bit of a NIMBY issue, the kind of things folks want to stay back in the big city and not start showing up in their backyard.
Sundrop Farm Brings Solar Energy to Australian Desert
The fight for renewable energy has taken center stage in some of the largest nations on the planet. For all of that, solar energy continues to push forward in the agricultural world as it continually renovates and adjusts our optimism for the future. One company in the solar field has decided to put their solar energy to the test. This would lead to Sundrop Farms deciding to install a 127m central solar power tower in Port Augusta, located at the northern tip of Spencer Gulf in South Australia. This solar farm will be used to develop energy through more than 12.5 hectares of reflective mirrors, enabling more than 13.5 tons of tomatoes to grow in the region every single year. This singular solar farm accounts for more than 10% of the nation’s entire tomato production!
Sundrop Farms Brings Energy to Australia
Sundrop Farms has been a major player in the solar world for a while now but this is a stark step-up for their company. Sundrop Farm’s solar tower has been marked with a thermal rating exceeding 39MW, but only 1.5MW is going to be dedicated to electricity. The rest of the energy will be used to produce pure water for the crops through a desalination unit. These technological devices allow Sundrop Farms to provide the ideal heat and carbon dioxide measurements for optimum growth.
Stephen Marafiote is the CEO at Sundrop Farms, and they’ve had much to say on their latest efforts. The energy system being installed in Australia utilizes pre-existing technologies, many of which can be traced back to Denmark, Germany, and even the United States. Whether he is talking about the German turbines, the energy system from Denmark, or the greenhouse systems pulled from America, it appears that innovation is hanging from every corner of the work that is being done here.
Stephen Marafiote said of his decision to bring these technologies together, “Each of these is a proven technology but the way they work (together) is the innovation here.”
Once you step inside of the massive greenhouses that dot the more than fifty hectares of land, visitors will find themselves immersed within greenhouses brimming with growth. Tomatoes hang by the vine on row after row of PVC pipes. Here the tomatoes will ripen as they thrust themselves toward being plucked, attaining essential salts and sugars along the way.
Marafiote would go on to discuss how climate change and pressure on agricultural land have changed the importance level of further agricultural growth. Marafiote pointed out that Sundrop Farms was crafted from the ground up with the intention of addressing food security in the future. For Marafiote, this is a legacy project and one in which he hopes history will look back fondly upon.
With solar energy growing in popularity, what could be next for Sundrop Farms?
Walmart Aims to Save Pollinators, Makes Massive Change to Supply Chains
Were you to tune in for any number of apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic films in the past decade, you’d likely hear a storyline or two revolving around bees. Specifically, you’d hear stories about how the loss of bees in the wild can lead to wholesale catastrophe to ecosystems far and wide.
Bees play a pivotal role within our environment as pollinators, joining butterflies, beetles, and birds. Without these pollinators, the ecosystem as we know it would no longer function. As Walmart is one of the largest corporations on the planet, even the smallest change within their supply chain can have a butterfly-like effect across the planet. A new announcement from Walmart would reveal that they are introducing a pollinator health effort to support these important creatures.
Largest Pollinator Health Effort
As Walmart is one of the largest corporations on the planet, it stands to reason that they’d opt to produce one of the largest pollinator health efforts as well. Walmart announced a new commitment to reduce the threats aimed most directly at pollinators. These efforts by Walmart are going to take many different forms, though one area of focus is on integrated pest management, or the habits and practices revolving around expanding these key habitats while reducing pest threats.
According to Walmart, the U.S. branch of the company will pull 100% of its floral and fresh produce from suppliers that adopt and integrate the pest management practices highlighted above. As America’s largest retailer, what Walmart decides to do can potentially set the tone for discussions revolving around pollinators and corporations in the future. Right now, the alleged goal is to integrate these IPM practices by 2025, at least according to an unnamed third party.
More than just focused on a single aspect of their supply chain, Walmart is actually taking a shot at several areas where they can reduce potential pollinator threats. According to Martin Mundo, Head of Produce Sourcing at Walmart U.S, Walmart is pushing suppliers to phase out and eliminate their use of nitroguanidine neonicotinoids and chlorpyrifos pesticides. Phasing out these problematic pesticides could lead to an industry-wide shift as consumers expect more from corporations.
While Walmart is uniquely focused on pesticides, that is far from the only area that they are addressing pollinator threats. Mundo wrote on the Walmart website that the chain would also begin to phase out and avoid selling “invasive plant species” within their retail locations. Mundo went on to add that Walmart would begin working with solar developers in order to craft pollinator habitats, similar to those found in Laurens, South Carolina.
Working With the Walmart Foundation
Leading the way in the philanthropic fields hasn’t been what Walmart is most known for. With that being said, the Walmart Foundation continues to work with farmers and cultivators around the country to enact positive changes for the environment. Most recently, the Walmart Foundation pushed funding toward the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in order to further its studies and work collecting science data from citizens and local monitors.
Acquiring local data and inputting it at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will allow scientists and researchers to better approach conservation planning in the future. Conservation planning is vital to the long-term health and vitality of our natural wonders, including the animals and insects therein.
Bees are known to be vital to our plane and if corporate leaders like Walmart understand that, hopefully, others will too. For now, we look to Cornell and to the various pollination partners under the Walmart umbrella while we wait to see if results begin to manifest!
13% Drop In Repeat Offenses Attributed To Parole Officer Empathy Training
One thing that family members of ex-convicts and the population hope for is that the offender is rehabilitated and does not go back to a life of crime.
This is not an easy feat, but according to a new report, empathy or sensitivity training for correction and probation officers will help clients avoid repeat offending.
Large workloads, stress at work, and prejudices can harm relationships between officers and their offenders, increasing the probability of inmates returning to prison.
Empathy training without judgment, according to a positive thinking strategy produced by UC Berkeley, makes court-appointed monitoring officers feel increasingly compassionate and empathetic to the offenders, which, according to the new report, can prevent them from crime relapses.
The results, which were reported recently in the publication “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” indicate that clients of probation and prison guards who engaged in the empathy training trial had a 13 percent lower risk of recurrence on average.
According to research writer and lead author Jason Okonofua, an associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, “If an officer obtained this empathic instruction, real-world behavioral results for the people they monitored improved, and they’re less likely to return to jail.”
The findings are especially important because the United States’ criminal justice system has one of the greatest rates of recidivism in the world, with nearly 66 percent of incarcerated individuals being arrested again in about three years after their release, with 50 percent of them being sent back to prison.
“Ongoing criminal justice changes are diverting more people away from prison and into probation or parole, which is why we need to find scalable ways to keep pace with this change,” says Okonofua, who has led similar interventions for school teachers to check their prejudices before disciplining students.
The analysts polled over two hundred parole and probation officers that supervise over 20,000 individuals charged with crimes stretching from serious offenses to petty larceny for the report. They ensure that their clients do not skip a drug screen or a court date, and they have a program to assist them in keeping a low profile and out of custody.
The researchers created and conducted a half an hour digital empathy questionnaire that asked officers about their work motivation, biases, and perspectives on rapport and responsibilities.
Using Suggestion To Elicit Empathy
The UC Berkeley poll asked what aspects of their work they find rewarding in order to elicit their sense of self and beliefs, as well as tap into their empathy. “When I run across those guys, and they’re doing well, I’m like, ‘Awesome!’” said, one respondent. Others said it was most essential to them to become a voice for those who need it.
In terms of biases, the study highlighted extreme circumstances wherein probation/parole officers exploited their authority over anybody under their watch, which include perceptions that some individuals are habituated to a life of crime.
Participants were also asked to rank how much accountability they share for their colleagues’ wrongdoings as members of a profession. The majority of people said they had no liability.
Researchers discovered a 13 percent reduction in recidivism among offenders whose release and correctional officers finished the empathy study ten months after the training was provided. The department and its venue are not to be revealed as part of the research policy.
Although the research did not include information about what kept parolees and individuals on probation from reoffending in the months following the officers’ empathy training, the findings indicate that a shift in relationship dynamics was significant.
Okonofua said, “As our research demonstrates, the interaction amongst parole or probation officers and the individuals they oversee is crucial and can contribute to positive results if attempts to be more accommodating are made.
Los Angeles Unveils Roadmap to 100% Renewable Energy
The largest city in all of California, Los Angeles hosts a population north of four million people as well as nearly 3.8% of the nation’s economy. Revered as a destination for outdoor enthusiasts and Hollywood aspirationals alike, Los Angeles also has earned a reputation for its smog and pollution.
Fortunately for LA locals, it looks like there is a plan being put in place to transition away from burning coal for electricity. If this goal is enacted, eventually Los Angeles could see itself achieving more than 98% of its clean energy within the next ten years.
Clean Energy to Combat Pollution
A first-of-its-kind study was commissioned by the city of Los Angeles in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The study would go on to reveal that Los Angeles has a legitimate opportunity to attain 98% clean energy by 2031 and 100% clean energy by 2035, both plans that fall in line with the promises made by President Biden on climate change. The report went on to conclude that clean energy can get produced at an efficient level so that rolling blackouts and economic disruptions are no longer required.
According to the NREL, a federal research agency, the path toward clean energy involves the construction of solar farms, batteries, and wind turbines. These clean energy solutions have been around for years, but they’ve only just recently become embraced at a federal level under the Biden Administration, continuing plans put in place by President Obama preceding him. Included in the construction goals listed in the report is a focus on energy efficiency and something known as ‘demand response’, a program that would pay people to utilize energy when the solar and wind farms are producing plentiful amounts.
Not only would the efforts put in place by the NREL study help combat pollution, but it would also go directly toward slashing the traumatic pollution that comes from cars, power plants, furnaces, and trucks all throughout Los Angeles County. These changes would have a dramatic and direct positive impact on lower-income neighborhoods as well as communities of color.
While the NREL study is incredibly optimistic, it is also incredibly feasible. According to researchers and professionals who have absorbed the NREL study, the energy efficiency plan allows for year-round power, with lights on every hour out of the year. Additionally, the commissioned report proposes that homes would even be protected from energy loss due to wildfires and downed transmission lines.
Discussions surrounding clean energy and how to implement it have risen dramatically since the power outages that plagued Texas in early 2021. Power grid failures and an over-reliance on fossil fuels would highlight a natural disaster that saw millions of native Texans without power, forced to boil snow to gain access to life-saving water. With continued weather extremes to come due in large part to climate change, these issues are only going to get worse as time goes on.
Mayor Garcetti spoke on the issue citing a need to keep medical equipment powered, refrigerators running, and the city operational in the face of extreme weather. Garcetti pointed to “top scientists” from “around the world” that have helped to create an actionable plan that is as realistic as it is potentially effective.
The NREL created a study team of more than 100 participants in support of the Eagle Supercomputer located at the Golden, CO, Research Headquarters. The program has incorporated millions of simulations since 2017 while generating reliable data for use with reference to jobs, weather, power lines, solar panels, and electrical use throughout L.A. County.
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