If Throwing Money At Brazil Won’t Stop The Amazon Fires What Will?

You cannot have missed the news that the ‘lungs’ of the planet, the Amazon rainforest, is burning out of control. The obvious solution is to donate international aid and get it put out. However, as the members of the G7 recently found out, this is not a simple problem to solve regardless of how much money you throw at it. 

Why is this a problem?

Why should we care about what is happening to a forest in another country? Isn’t that the business of the government of Brazil? Yes, and no. These forests are the largest in the world, with over three million species of plants and animals. This massive forest is also vital to health of our planet as it produces an estimated 6% of the world’s oxygen. And the burning of these trees not only reduces the forest’s ability to produce oxygen, it releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide from what is one of the largest carbon stores on earth. The smoke and carbon released into our atmosphere contributes further to the warming of our planet. Literally, these trees are the lungs of our planet and they are on fire. The destruction of this forest directly affects our planet’s climate.

Can’t we just put the fires out?

There are currently thousands of fires burning in Brazil. The task of putting out these fires in remote jungle areas is extremely difficult. But, perhaps the most difficult to understand is that these fires are not some out of control freak act of God. Most of these fires are set seasonally by ranchers and farmers to expand their land holdings into the virgin forest.

So these fires are deliberate?

Yes, slash and burn farming is a form of shifting agriculture common in the Amazon. Farmers and landowners cut down the natural vegetation and burn it as a method of clearing the land for cultivation. They use this land for a few years until it becomes infertile, and then they move to a new area of forest and burn some more. This process has been repeated over and over for centuries. This is not a new phenomenon. What is new and alarming, is the rate of these fires and the vast areas of forest they are destroying. Farmers and landowners are responding to President Bolsonaro relaxing the enforcement laws against deforestation. His policies have allowed more mining, farming and deforestation to take place, meaning the forest is now being cleared at a rapid rate. Now, while it is the easy conclusion to blame President Bolsonaro and his relaxing of policies, the real story, as always is much more complicated.

What is so complex about it?

It is estimated that there are around 250 million farmers in the region who survive off the land and farming. Using the slash and burn tactics, they can usually sustain themselves for only two consecutive years on the same patch of soil. So, they need to burn more forest away every two years. The increasing international demand for palm oil, beef, soy and wood is fueling even further destruction of this forest. Due to this demand, commercial farming is expanding at an alarming rate. It is estimated that nearly half of all recent deforestation is the result of clearing for commercial agriculture.

Is this solvable?

Like most complex international problems, the solution is incredibly difficult and requires collaborative action by all parties involved. Global political, economic and commercial solutions are required to move us on from the destruction of our planet’s essential resources to fuel our consumer appetites. This is a momentous task and it requires us all to help out.

How can I help? 

Donate to Rainforest Action Network .  The Protect An Acre (PAA) program helps grassroots organisations in forest regions protect threatened forest lands. 

Support the Rainforest Trust to help buy land in the rainforest. Since 1988, the organisation has saved over 23 million acres. 

Reduce your paper and wood consumption. You can check on the Rainforest Alliance website if the products you use are rainforest-safe. 

Change your diet. Reduce the beef in your diet as farming for beef is one of the major reasons for deforestation. 

Search ethically with Ecosia.org. This search engine promises to plant a tree for every 45 searches you make.

Plant a tree or donate to One Tree Planted to plant one for you in the Amazon rainforest. 

Sign Greenpeace’s petition asking the Brazilian government to save the Amazon rainforest and protect the lands of indigenous and traditional communities. 

Nine Fantastic Autumn Fashion Trends That Will Make You Look Forward To The Cold

Although Summer is all but over, we are actually starting to get a little excited about the next season. The reason? We have nine good reasons in the form of Autumn fashion trends that have got us quite excited. Here are our picks of the best trends for the upcoming coming cooler months that we think will make you look forward to the cold too. 

#1 Millennial Purple AKA Lavender

While last season was all about millennial pink, this season lavender is the hue of choice. We love this gorgeous orchid shade which can be used in head to toe monochromatic outfits, to make a statement with a key piece or to add interest by way of accessories. It is bold and beautiful alone or paired with black, white, navy or brown. 

#2 The Cape

The cape makes a comeback in the Autumn fashion trends. These strong shaped outerwear pieces are a fabulous alternative to the trench coat or denim jacket. They look strong, stylish and great. And, dare we say, heroic! 

#3 Satin Blouses

It must be the romantic in us that just goes weak at the knees for a beautifully shaped satin blouse. Paired with a slim-fitting skirt, these shirts are anything but average. While off-white shades are the most obvious hue to wear, Versace showed of satin in neon hues with contrasting lace trims for those of us who like our fashion with a little more edge. 

#4 Super long coats

Longline wool coats that almost skim the floor are the way to make an entrance this Autumn. The style is structured heavy wool coats that fit perfectly and go all the way down to your ankles. Suddenly all our coats feel a little too short and lacking the drama of these statement makers. We all want to go out and immediately buy something much bigger, longer and in a more striking colour like blue, yellow or teal. 

autumn fashion trends argyle

#5 Argyle Knits

Yes, these are the original old man’s golf sweater, but this season they are anything but old fashioned. In fact, they are looking very cool with a cute skirt or fitted pants. The classic diamond pattern showed up in navy and black combinations as well as the traditional forest green and cream. These cosy old fashioned knits are perfect for keeping warm and stylish as the temperature drops. 

#6 Butter Yellow

Yellows of all shades are popping up all over the place in Autumn fashion trends, but our favourite is the buttery yellow hue. Worn in a monochromatic outfit it looks amazing in suiting, evening wear or in one of the aforementioned floor length coats. This colour is perfect for those of us who like to stick to the classics as a nice alternative to black or beige without being too colourful. Butter up your style this Autumn by popping some yellow in your outfit. 

#7 Refined Handbags

Handbags are going back to the classics this season and we are loving the shapes. The trend is for top-handled, sleek-looking handbags that feel ultra ladylike. The vintage vibe is strong with classic frame bags that are large enough for your essentials and classic enough to treasure forever. 

#8 Blazer + Blouse + Skirt Combination

This triple combination is a strong trend this Autumn and we are fans. The formula is a tried and true one that anyone can wear and look great. Satin blouses in cream and off-white are paired with classic blazers in beige, with a tailored midi skirt completing the vintage office wear look. Soft fabrics and hues make this look ultra feminine and give endless possibilities to mix and match all season long. 

#9 Dark Florals 

Summer may be almost over, but this Autumn the florals stick around. This season’s florals are darker, richer and bolder than their summer cousins. Featuring gorgeous realistic blooms in deep wine red, greens and purples that are romantic and a little bit gothic. We love the deep floral midi and maxi skirts that are here for the season and that pair perfectly with boots for cooler days. 

We think the designers this season had a blast while coming up with these looks. They feel fun, romantic, and easy to mix and match. We can tell already that we are going to enjoy this season. So roll on Autumn!  

Small Steps Towards Uniting Our Divided Society

We live in a divided society where arbitrary divisions between the left and the right have become progressively wider. When did we start labelling everyone? And, how do we step back from the edge of this divide towards some civility and humanity? It is time we looked deep into the divisions in our society, and time to consider where this is all heading, and most importantly, how to stop it. 

Most of us have grown up with the knowledge that we have inalienable rights to certain things; what we believe in, how we vote, what we think and what we say. We are the lucky ones in this world to have these rights protected by our laws. But, somewhere along the way, we have grown intolerant of people who disagree with our point of view. We think our right to vote, gives us the right to judge someone who votes differently. We presume our right to choose what to believe in gives us the right to condemn someone for believing in something different. We conclude our right to freedom of speech, allows us to trash and put down someone exercising their right. Especially if they say something we disagree with. Let us be clear, having rights does not entitle us to judge others for exercising their rights. 

Our rush to judgement has let a divide open up right through the middle of our society. On each side stand those with opposing ideas on how the world works. We have labeled these two sides the Left and the Right. And, we face each other over this chasm, throwing hate and inflammatory slogans back and forth across the divide. Each side accuses the other of being prejudiced and having a myopic view of the world. We label each other with terms that should have stayed in the trashcans of history; Nazis, communists, alt-right, white nationalists… We fling these cruel and oppressive labels around like confetti, covering everything and making a huge mess.

This divide has left many feeling the need to choose a side. The endless rhetorical hatred we see daily in our news feeds and on social media only entrenches each side further and improves nothing. We have allowed tensions to be stoked in all sectors of society. As more people are encouraged to choose a side, emotions begin to run hotter than logic. After-all, fighting about our political views feels personal and deeply connected to our values. The fight becomes a battle over perceived right and wrong, good and evil, black and white. The battle ignites online fires of hate that only add to the polarization. It is time to put out these fires, back down from the fight and find a way to cross the abyss that divides our society. 

While we don’t pretend to have the ultimate answer for putting out these fires and mending the divisions, we do have some ideas for small steps in the right direction. 

Get out of your bubble

We are fed a diet of media that is based on our likes, viewing habits and algorithms. What we see and read helps reinforce our views one way or another. In this world of over-information sharing, many individuals are less informed or misinformed. Being willing to read an article from a source you wouldn’t normally visit is a good step towards seeing another point of view. 

Get informed

Getting news sources from social media can mean it is not always the full truth. It is scary to note social media is the main form of news for many people. Inaccurate pages often get the largest attention and shares. Find good sources of information and dig deeper into current events by finding out more about the situation beyond the inflammatory headlines.

Get into a conversation 

Start talking with someone who has a vastly different point of view to you, someone with different moral values or beliefs. Respectful, thoughtful and honest dialogue around controversial topics is the best way forward to mend the divides that keep us apart. 

Listen with understanding 

With openness and kindness, listen to someone with a different point of view and get to understand the things that they place value on. Understand that opinions are formed by the set of values we hold as the most important. While one person will hold liberty, free speech and human rights as their most important values, another person may consider patriotism, loyalty and hard work to be their defining values. 

Ask questions rather than arguing. 

In an argument, both sides become further entrenched in their own positions. We convince ourselves that our argument is based on logic. But actually, most arguments are based on emotion. Asking someone why they believe that idea is more productive than attacking their point of view. 

See people as people

Our best hope to end this divide is to see the ‘other side’ as real people with their own fears, goals and beliefs. Stop seeing them as a caricature of the liberal left or radical right. They are all human beings. No one is going out of their way to be evil. 

Remember social media lacks context

Our social media feeds provide short, angry bursts of reaction to an event or topic. In a rush to respond we often miss the context. When we forget to consider the context of a retweet or share, we miss the chance to understand a different point of view. We instead add even more fuel to the fire. 

While we may not have started the fire, our hope is that these small steps can unite us in the intention to put it out. After all, it will take a united effort to begin closing the divides that separate us. 

Despite the many issues that still separate us, what unites us is far greater than what divides us

Pope Francis

11 Old-School Etiquette Rules That Still Make The World a Nicer Place

We hope that good manners will never go out of fashion. These 11 old-school etiquette rules are part of a necessary code of conduct that, we believe, makes our world a nicer place to live in. They are the types of rules our grandparents learned in their childhood. And, as the world moves swiftly from one trend to another, these elegant etiquette tips remain a universally recognised standard of behaviour. Old-school etiquette rules maintain a common courtesy that should never be lost and, we believe, they go a long way towards keeping out interactions kind. 

1. Saying ‘Excuse me’ 

When you accidentally bump into someone on the street or in the supermarket acknowledging the other person and quickly apologising for walking into them is the politest thing to do. In return, if someone knocks into you and apologises with an ‘excuse me’ it is polite to acknowledge this without a fuss. Do not be tempted to respond with anger or by accusing them of not looking where they are going. 

2. Please and Thank You.

These two tiny little phrases are essential words in your vocabulary when interacting with others. They show kindness and respect to the other person and soften what could otherwise be interpreted to be a command. 

3. Smile, often and to everyone you meet and interact with.

Some people seem to forget that this expression is free and it is better shared. Smile when you order your coffee, smile as you say hello to someone you pass in the street, smile as you open the door to the postal delivery. Smile and the whole world smiles with you – try it out and see if it is true.

4. Hold the door open for the person behind you.

It doesn’t matter who is behind you; the common courtesy is to hold the door and ensure it does not close just before they get to it. If someone does the same for you, be sure to thank them for showing the courtesy. 

5. Look at the person speaking to you.

Don’t look at your phone to see who just messaged you. This is so extraordinarily important when at the counter in a shop. There is a real person in front of you who is helping you, either to make your coffee or to help you purchase a new item. Give them the respect of looking at them, smile and interact, put that phone away until you are finished.

6. Let someone go ahead of you in line.

This is one of the sweetest random acts of kindness. We all know what it is like to be stuck in a long line at the check-out when you only want to buy one thing. It feels so fantastic when someone ahead of you suggests you go ahead of them in the queue. Do the same for others and see how good it feels to be randomly kind. 

7. Be on time

Being at a place at the time you promised is a sign of respect for the other person. It is not ok to leave someone waiting for you and it is not ok to send a message at the arranged meeting time saying you will be late. 

8. Cut the cussing.

There is no need to sprinkle swear words through our conversations. If you feel you need to swear for impact, please learn a more extensive vocabulary and find a new way to express yourself without using a commonly overused swearword as an adjective. 

9. Wait a day or two to respond to a mean or nasty email or message.

Give yourself time to cool down after receiving an unpleasant message and avoid replying in a way that would not be appropriate. Better yet, don’t respond. Often a non-response sends a far louder message to nastiness than a reply would.

10. Let people off the train, elevator, bus, or tram before trying to get on.

Give passengers room to walk out by politely standing to one side of the door.

11. Welcome a new neighbour.

A small gift of chocolates or cookies is the perfect gift to give a new neighbour when you knock on the door to introduce yourself and welcome them to the neighbourhood. Start this important neighbour relationship with kindness. 

By remembering these old-school etiquette rules and practising them daily, we are showing respect and kindness to others, which is essential in a world where we see division sown by words of contempt and disdainful actions. These rules of conduct help us keep kindness as the standard in our world. And we are all for that!