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Technological Breakthroughs from 2016: Can Virtual Reality Help Paraplegics Regain Mobility?

Last month we reported on many positive stories from 2016 —good news that you might not have heard:  Desalination plants bringing water to the desert, the elimination of measles in all of the Americas, infant mortality rates decreasing in Russia and life expectancy increasing in Africa. Great strides were made in the areas of world health, conservation, and, not surprisingly, technology. This is certainly an era of astonishing technological advancement; the science fiction of yesteryear is the reality of this year. From smartphones to smart watches to smart homes, technology is changing the way we live. And sometimes in amazing ways .  .  .

2016. Good News You Might Not Have Heard.

When you read the local paper or watch the nightly broadcast, sometimes it can seem that the only news is bad news. War and terrorism, crime and corruption, natural disasters and terrible accidents. Good news doesn’t seem to be reported as often. But there is a lot of good news out there. There are positive stories, hopeful stories, and they’re all around —in your town, in your neighborhood, and all across the globe.

Just take a look at a few of the stories from 2016 that you might have missed . . .

Tradition, Tradition! Tradition!

The holidays are rife with traditions, many of them decades— even centuries— old. Traditions are a link to the past.  Tradition means “handed down from one generation to the next.” Traditions remind us that we are not isolated individuals, we do not live in a vacuum; we are part of history, part of culture, part of a family.  The holidays themselves are a way of remembering the past, commemorating important events. We set aside a time to remember, to celebrate.

Our holidays, and our holiday traditions, are dear to us. But where do our traditions come from? 

In Flanders Fields the Poppies Grow

By popular demand, we are republishing this article from November 2015.

On November 11 of 1918, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, an armistice went into effect, a cessation of hostilities between the Allied Nations and Germany, ending the “war to end all wars.” The official end of World War I would not be declared for seven more months, at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, but the end actually came on that November day, when the truce was signed, the opposing forces laid down their weapons, and the war known as the “Great War” was over.

663 Million

Clean drinking water. Sinks and showers and toilets. These don’t seem like extravagances; they seem like basic necessities. But for so many people across the globe, they are luxuries that are completely out of reach. 663 Million people. That’s how many people in the world will live without clean water today.  That’s almost twice the population of the USA and Canada combined. 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to a toilet. 1 in 5 children under the age of 5 die each day from waterborne disease — one every 21 seconds, as a direct result of contaminated water and poor sanitation and hygiene. Those numbers are staggering; the lack of safe drinking water and sanitation is a global health crisis, one that must be confronted.

 

A Book that Cleans Water?

Recently we’ve looked at the issue of Clean Water, first delving into the fascinating history of and process of water treatment and purification in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Next we turned our attention to the world stage, where 1 in 9 people (some sources estimate that it’s closer to a third of the world’s population) do not have access to clean, safe drinking water. Close to a billion people worldwide. Last month we looked at an exciting new tool for bringing clean water to a part of the world where it is not readily available. Lima, Peru’s billboard that creates clean drinking water from humid air is an amazing innovation. And it’s not the only one. There are a number of exciting new inventions that can help people around the world have access to safe, healthy drinking water. 

Would you believe there’s a book that delivers clean water? A straw? A bicycle?  Read on . . .

Clean Water Around the Globe

We North Americans have unparalleled access to clean water. Clean water is such a given that we have the luxury of judging water based solely on its taste. We can simply assume that our tap water, across this entire continent, is clean and safe to drink. It’s astounding, really. The idea of not being able to find any clean water to drink is almost incomprehensible to us. This is not the case, however, in many other parts of the world.  In fact, 795 million people —one in nine people across the globe— live without access to clean, drinkable water.

As we continue our look at Clean Water, having looked at the history of and process of water treatment and purification in Part 1 and Part 2, this month we will begin to look at some exciting innovations in providing clean water to people who need it.  

Clean Water. Part 2.

Last month, we began our investigation of Clean Water, particularly the history of water treatment. We learned that, as a direct result of water treatment, “By the beginning of World War II, typhoid, cholera, and dysentery were, for all practical purposes, nonexistent in the United States and the rest of the developed world.” It’s not therefore surprising that the CDC calls the last century of water chlorination and treatment “one of the Ten Greatest Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century.” 

As the incredible results of water treatment became more apparent, the U.S. Public Health Service set standards for water purity, standards that have been revised over the years, as new contaminants have been identified. Modern water systems carefully monitor water throughout the treatment process for traces of chemical pollutants and microbes; they have sophisticated computerized devices capable of detecting contaminants in the parts per trillion.

Clean Water.
Part 1.

If you’re like me, the thought of clean water doesn’t seem astounding. Clean water is expected, not extraordinary. We simply turn on the tap, and pour a glass of fresh, clean, safe water.  .  . Anytime we want! But this is not a universal truth.  Clean water is one of the earth’s most precious resources, but it is not available to everyone. In fact, an estimated one billion people on this planet (that’s 1 person out of every 8) do not have access to clean, safe water.  Now THAT is truly astounding. And sobering.

For the next few months, we’re going to be looking at the issue of Clean Water. How do we get it? What about those one billion people who don’t have access to it? Please keep reading to find out more about this vital, indeed life-giving, resource . . .

May Flowers

Thank you, thank you, April showers!

Oh, how we love this blessed gift of Spring, this lavish display of beauty! Never necessary, but always appreciated.

Flowers are the earth’s extravagance.

They are a lagniappe, a little something extra, like a 13th doughnut when you have bought a dozen. We don’t NEED flowers, but maybe that makes them an even more glorious gift. Vibrant blooms of spring can transform the drab and dreary into the grand and gorgeous. Edwin Curran said that “flowers are the music of the ground,” and they are. The earth is singing for joy, and we can see its melodies. Some flowers are a powerful symphony, and others are a gentle lullaby, but every song is lovely and every blossom is a note to be savored.

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