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Photo: Seamus Murray

It’s Friday, and that means Matador Change editor Julie Schwietert offers five inspiring stories from around the world and the web.
1. Using Urban Space Smartly.

As a city-dweller, I’m always interested in stories about how urban designers, policy makers, politicians, and activists collaborate to think of innovative ways to optimize space, so it’s no surprise that this short piece from The Stimulist about San Francisco turning curbs and other public space into mini farming plots grabbed my attention.

2. Developing Alternative–Real Alternative–Fuel.

In the US, we say we’re committed to developing alternative fuel, but as oil prices soar then drop, soar then drop, our interest in alternative fuel fluctuates accordingly. There are lots of reasons why–not the least being major infrastructural overhauls that would be necessary if we implemented a massive alternative fuel system–but that shouldn’t keep us from continuing research and innovation in this important area.

Over at The Atlantic, correspondent Lisa Margonelli muses about the true economics of conventional fuel (not to mention the environmental economics), and then references a couple articles about the urine-powered fuel cell being developed by researchers at Ohio University. For the quick and dirty lowdown on pee power, check out this article, which explains how a single cow can produce enough pee to supply hot water for 19 houses.

3. Telling “Convenient Truths”: Urban Transportation Reform is Easier Than We Think

I first read about Curitiba, Brazil and its former mayor, the visionary Jaime Lerner, a few years back, so I was excited to receive a screener copy of the documentary, “A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil,” by mother-son team Maria Terezinha Vaz and Giovanni Vaz del Bello.

The filmmakers interviewed Lerner and other Curitiba urban designers and planners, all of whom affirmed that urban redesign is a whole lot easier than most politicians and decision makers claim it is. It’s an inspiring model for the most sustainable design for cities, and though it would be naive to think that Curitiba’s solutions are one-size-fits-all blueprints for the rest of the world, there are lots of lessons to be learned from this Brazilian city:

If you’re interested in seeing the full documentary, purchase information is available here.

4. Rachel Maddow Proves Lots of People Want to Make a Difference… They Just Don’t Always Know How.

Last week, popular political TV talk show host Rachel Maddow did a segment on the Iraqi national baseball team (yup, there is one) and its struggle to get basic gear and uniforms. Within 48 hours, the segment had generated enough attention to result in donations that more than outfitted the team and got them fully geared up. The take-away lesson? Lots of people are ready to pitch in to help others– they just need someone to bring an issue to their attention and provide them with the means to make a meaningful contribution.

5. Matador’s Own Misty Tosh Gets Ready to Expand 4th World Love.

I’m always inspired by Matador members and someone who consistently makes me stand back in amazement is Misty Tosh, founder of the NGO, 4th World Love. If you’ve missed the work she’s doing in Indonesia, check out this article. And then get fired up about her next project: She’s taking 4WL on the road–to Mexico’s Baja California–and she wants you to come along with her! Read up on all the details here.

About The Author

Julie Schwietert

Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator currently in New York, formerly of Mexico City and San Juan.

  • http://www.paul-sullivan.com Paul Sullivan

    Cool stuff. Number 3 is hugely insightful. And Misty Tosh makes me wanna grab my camera and do some documentary work! Very thought-provoking all round, thanks Julie.

  • http://alannaroethle.wordpress.com Alanna

    Thanks Julie! I totally agree with Maddow- I’ve recently experience the same thing at my job- everyone was willing to donate to a charitable cause I got involved with, and really just because I asked. People need to point these things out more often.

  • http://wayworded.blogspot.com/ Hal

    Pee power! Sign me up!

  • http://matadorabroad.com Tim Patterson

    Pee power – how cool!

  • http://meganahill.wordpress.com Megan Hill

    These are great! I love hearing about promising solutions to urban environmental problems.

  • http://musictravelwrite.wordpress.com Michelle

    I have to see that documentary on Curitiba. Thanks so much for mentioning it- I hadn’t even heard of it before. I’m fascinated by the south of Brazil, and it’s wonderful that they’re setting such a positive example.

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