Midway: Message from the Gyre

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Chris Jordan's photographs of bird carcass with stomach full of plastic.

Chris Jordan’s photographs of bird carcass with stomach full of plastic.

Sharing a heart wrenching video I saw from the net. People need to realize what we do to our environment and take the appropriate steps to keep it clean, and in our current situation clean it up.

Do our beautiful earth a favor, start with each self by producing less garbage and manage our waste better. 

The MIDWAY film project is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as our guide, we walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on. And in this process, we find an unexpected route to a transformational experience of beauty, acceptance, and understanding.

We frame our story in the vividly gorgeous language of state-of-the-art high-definition digital cinematography, surrounded by millions of live birds in one of the world’s most beautiful natural sanctuaries. The viewer will experience stunning juxtapositions of beauty and horror, destruction and renewal, grief and joy, birth and death, coming out the other side with their heart broken open and their worldview shifted. Stepping outside the stylistic templates of traditional environmental or documentary films, MIDWAY will take viewers on a guided tour into the depths of their own spirits, delivering a profound message of reverence and love that is already reaching an audience of tens of millions of people around the world.

Production of the feature film “MIDWAY” continues through 2013.
Please go to for more information.

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Midway Project blog, team details, production diary videos:

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Alice Pyne has taught us all how to live

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Alice Pyne (facebook photo)

Alice Pyne (facebook photo)

We can learn a great deal from the all too short life of Cumbria’s exceptional Alice Pyne.

The question is, of course… will we?

A young girl, given dreadful diagnosis of a cancer that would almost certainly claim her life, had every right – at the age of 12 – to retreat into self-pity and dark gloom.

But she did precisely the opposite. Alice moved up a gear in the business of living, kept a smile on her face, vowed to relish every minute and worked to give strength to others similarly blighted by life-threatening conditions.

She listed all the fun experiences she wanted under her belt before death claimed her – ticked them off her bucket list happily, raised £100,000 for charity into the bargain and humbled the powerful, famous and influential with her instinctive, sunny kindness.

Alice was 17 when she died at the weekend. Her mum Vicky described her as having gained her angel wings. She had certainly earned them – probably without realising how richly she’d deserved them.

Thousands of tributes were paid to this youngster on her passing. People she had never known or met felt her loss and knew she had left behind an empty space few others could ever hope to fill.

And there is one of the lessons we, who grumble and complain so routinely and regularly we embrace pessimism as second nature, should be learning from Alice.

This special girl knew the true value of a smile. She accepted optimism as the friend that would see her cheerfully through life – however short – and death.

She has taught that it is not the length of days that matter but what we make of our days that counts.

For those of us who have been at a distance from Alice, watching in amazed admiration as she inspired quietly and intuitively to be better than we are, it’s hard to shed tears for the passing she knew she would face.

Her loss will be deeply painful for her family and friends, of course. But they must know they have been privileged to have been close to an exceptional young woman, gifted with immense wisdom.

For our part, if memory of Alice Pyne’s uncompromising philosophy of eternal sunshine can hold us back from carping and sniping, criticising others – falsely believing it makes us seem clever – we will have learned something life-changing from her short but enlightening time with us.


Cassandra Lin – one part cooking oil, one part love

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The unexpected hero, Cassandra Lin (image from

The unexpected hero, Cassandra Lin (image from

Twelve-year old Cassandra Lin admires “the unexpected hero.” She loves the YouTube story about a young boy from Malawi who created windmills out of bicycle parts to generate electricity for his village.

“I think that was great,” Cassandra says. “Even though he never finished school, he built windmills. He learned on his own. Nobody expected a Malawian kid to generate electricity.”

And nobody expected a kid from Westerly, RI, to create an award-winning recycling program that generates fuel for the needy in her community. But that’s exactly what this sparkly, no-nonsense seventh grader has done.

To Cassandra, it’s all no big deal. It’s what she does with her friends after school.

The recycling program, called Project T.G.I.F. (Turn Grease into Fuel), encourages residents to bring their used cooking oil to the town transfer station to be recycled. There, a contractor picks it up, along with other grease from local restaurants that also donate oil to the program. A biodiesel company then processes it into biodiesel fuel. All of the team’s proceeds are donated to help heat the homes of needy people in Westerly. To make it work, Cassandra and a team of classmates educated themselves about the biodiesel refining process, made their own biodiesel by mixing cooking oil with methanol and lye with proper protection (“It was very safe, don’t worry,” she notes reassuringly), won two separate youth seed grants and convinced an array of community leaders to come on board with the project.

T.G.I.F. is an outgrowth of the Westerly Innovations Network (WIN), a student community service organization started by her father, Jason Lin, in 2002. And Cassandra is quick to credit her older brother, Alex, as a mentor in the project. Alex is a senior member of WIN and serves as the assistant coach to the group’s junior team. Like his sister, he has earned numerous accolades for his own service initiatives.

Cassandra explains, very carefully, how Alex motivates her: “I don’t want to just follow in my brother’s footsteps, but put my footsteps over his. I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, you’re Alex’s sister.’ I want to make an impact. I want to be better than him, but in a different way.”

As it turns out, a little sibling rivalry has been good for Westerly.

Girl in action: Cassandra Lin - one part cooking oil, one part love (image from

Girl in action: Cassandra Lin – one part cooking oil, one part love (image from

The genesis of the T.G.I.F. project is a case study in creative pragmatism, as Cassandra explains it: “We looked at an array of problems to see what we could solve in our own community.” A few important strands came together: she learned about turning cooking oil into biodiesel when she attended the Rhode Island Green Expo in 2008; she knew her local community had a non-sustainable program to provide emergency heating for the needy; and, she heard that local restaurants and residents were pouring fats, oils and grease (FOG) down their drains and clogging up town sewage pipes.

Cassandra and her team puzzled over how to combine these problems to devise a solution. An article she found on Google about SF Greasecycle, a municipal effort in San Francisco to collect and recycle cooking oil, clinched the deal. “All of our problems kind of snowballed together,” she says.

That snowballing is no accident. The different pieces that coalesced to form T.G.I.F. were gathered in by a rare combination of forces: clear-sightedness, logic, and a splash of ingenuity.

Cassandra’s fearlessness lies at the center of these forces. Her mind is eager to apply itself to the world, and she does so with a cheerful, scintillating energy that would motivate the most confirmed nay-sayer.

Innovative people need to be encouraged, she says: “Their family should support them and not inhibit their imagination so that they can be as much as they can be.”

Not surprisingly, Cassandra says her parents have created a nurturing space for her by “cheering from the sidelines, giving good advice, pushing me farther.” She adds, “They also expose me to a lot of things. They always want me to learn something new. My dad gives me articles from Time magazine and the Wall Street Journal to read. We also travel a lot, so our eyes have been open to the world from a young age.”

Cassandra is also aware that her parents have placed limits on certain things, although the reasons are fuzzy.

“I don’t have a Facebook,” she says. “I want one, but my parents won’t let me. And we don’t have cable because my parents think that—. ” She considers for a moment. “I don’t know what they think. They just don’t think that cable is a good thing.”

The mysterious ban on television in the Lin household thankfully doesn’t extend to the Internet, where Cassandra says she gathers important ideas, such as how to make biodiesel.

“It’s really hard to believe that YouTube only started in 2005,” she reminisces. “I was seven. I never really used YouTube until I was like nine or ten.”

Reminded that she herself is on YouTube, speaking as a delegate to the Tunza International Youth Conference held in South Korea last year, she responds like the unexpected hero:

“Am I?”

[source :]

Caging and abuse allegedly increasing in kopi luwak production

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The civets are almost exclusively fed coffee berries, which they then excrete. This image was taken on a civet farm just outside Surabaya, Indonesia. (Photograph:

The civets are almost exclusively fed coffee berries, which they then excrete. This image was taken on a civet farm just outside Surabaya, Indonesia. (Photograph:

Producers of kopi luwak coffee, the $150-plus-per-pound Indonesian coffee harvested from the excretions of cat-like palm civets, are now in the sights of animal rights groups that are alleging abuse.

A report from the UK’s Guardian says representatives of the magazine recently visited a coffee shop in Sumatra in which an adult female civet was kept in a small back-room cage and separated from her two young offspring, while many other cages with unknown contents were kept behind the building.

Here’s more from the Guardian:

Animal welfare groups contend that growing numbers of such civet “farms” are emerging across south-east Asia, confining tens of thousands of animals to live in tiny cages and force-fed a debilitating diet. The Asian palm civet is common, but conservationists claim that related species are sometimes used which are under threat of extinction. The binturong, another cat-like species that is sometimes used to produce Kopi Luwak, is classed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list as “vulnerable”.

Animal rights issues aside, the increase in caged civets for coffee production could also be having a negative impact on Indonesia’s place in the specialty coffee market. According to a recent Jakarta Post report, the surge in worldwide demand for kopi luwak has resulted in an increase in “farmed” beans, with more than 60 percent of the 40 to 50 tons of the coffee produced annually coming from caged animals rather than wild animals.

“The condition of the luwak affects the taste and quality of the coffee. The caged luwak are often left starving and forced to digest both the unripe green berries and the finest ripe red ones,” Wirawan Tjahjadi, owner of the Bhineka Jaya coffee company in Indonesia, recently told the paper.

[source :]

Nature’s most loyal lovers: Magellanic penguins always return to same mate after solo journeys totaling 200,000 miles

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Faithful: New research shows how a pair of Magellanic penguins were loyal to each other for 16 years

Faithful: New research shows how a pair of Magellanic penguins were loyal to each other for 16 years

● Penguin couple stayed together for 16 years, smashing all previous records
● New research shows incredible loyalty in spite of the epic distances travelled by the bird

As the UK divorce rate continues to soar, a new study has today shown how marital harmony is thriving in the penguin world.

Research has revealed a pair of Magellanic penguins as among the most faithful in the animal kingdom.

The couple have remained loyal to each other over a 16-year period, in spite of spending thousands of miles apart during their winter trips.

Loyal: A pair of penguins can track each other down among hundreds of thousands of other birds using a distinctive call

Loyal: A pair of penguins can track each other down among hundreds of thousands of other birds using a distinctive call

The findings come after a 30-year study of the breed where researchers placed metal identity bands on the flippers of 50,000 birds on the southern coast of Argentina.

Previously penguin relationships were believed to span a maximum of just 10 years, with many cut short by the unexpected death of birds during migration.

Loving: A Magellanic penguin stays loyal to the same mate, in spite of long periods apart

Loving: A Magellanic penguin stays loyal to the same mate, in spite of long periods apart

‘Divorce’ is also a possibility as couples who fail to hatch chicks will split up and find new mates.

But according to The Sunday Telegraph, biologists have been surprised by the longevity of the relationship between a particular couple.

‘The bond they have is incredible really,’ lead researcher Dr Pablo Garcia Borboroglu, of the National Research Council of Argentina, told the newspaper.

‘It is unbelievable how far Magellanic penguins swim – and each breeding season they come back to the same nest and to the same partner.’

The research was revealed during a lecture to the Whitley Fund for Nature in London, and Dr Borboroglu will set out his findings in a book to be published next year called Penguins: Natural History and Conservation.

Magellanic penguins can only be found around the Falkland Islands and South America.
Argentina has the highest population, with 900,000 breeding pairs in Argentina, while there are 800,000 couples in Chile.

But their numbers have dropped dramatically since the turn of the century due to oil pollution and falling fish numbers and there are thought to be around 1.2 million left in the world.

Dr Borboroglu’s project also used satellite tracking to identify the movements of the birds, showing the enormous journeys they travel each winter to the warmer waters of Brazil.

Every year, the penguins arrive at their summer nests in the southern hemisphere and find their partners using a distinctive call.

After reuniting and mating, the female usually lay two eggs, which each partner takes turns guarding while the other goes out to sea.

After they hatch, the parents spend a month caring for their young before heading off to their wintering area.

The penguins join a roll call of other animals that undertake loyal relationships, including the albatross, French angelfish and black vultures.

Mates for life: In spite of long distance flights, albatrosses always return to breed with the same partners

Mates for life: In spite of long distance flights, albatrosses always return to breed with the same partners

Jealous: Like the Magellanic penguin, black vultures are strictly monogamous

Jealous: Like the Magellanic penguin, black vultures are strictly monogamous

[source :]

Free to roam: Female elephant fitted with a new prosthetic leg

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Seledang using its prosthetic leg at the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre in Temerloh yesterday. (Pic by Mohd Rafi Mamat)

Seledang using its prosthetic leg at the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre in Temerloh yesterday. (Pic by Mohd Rafi Mamat)

TEMERLOH: A company’s kind act in providing a prosthetic limb for female elephant Seledang has enabled the animal to roam freely again within the gated area of the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre, here.

The 7-year-old’s left foreleg was severed at the ankle after it was caught in a wire mesh, here, a year ago. It was discovered by a plantation worker, who alerted the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).

Head of Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre Nasharudin Othman said they had fitted Seledang with a prosthetic leg but after more than a year, it was found to be unsuitable. He said Seledang’s leg had grown bigger and a more comfortable artificial limb was needed.

Nasharudin said the company, an international shoe manufacturer based in Kuala Lumpur, had offered the help as part of its corporate social responsibility programme. He said the company had helped Perhilitan save the cost of buying a new prosthetic leg, which cost more than RM20,000.

He said the company would examine Seledang’s prosthetic leg soon to make minor adjustments.

“After wearing the prosthetic leg for a few weeks, Seledang kept dislodging it as it was uncomfortable.

“The company said it would examine Seledang’s artificial leg to make the necessary changes.”

Nasharudin said it was the first time a local elephant had been fitted with a prosthetic leg as compared with Thailand and Myanmar, where the use of prosthetic legs among elephants was common because of accidents.

Seledang is one of 10 elephants, aged between 1 and 7, under the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre’s young elephant management programme, which is supported by Perhilitan. It is aimed at protecting animals that are separated from their herd.

“Sometimes, they are found stranded in forests or oil palm plantations in Pahang, Perak and Terengganu,” Nasharudin said.

Under the programme, the young elephants are fed twice a day and allowed to roam for three to four hours within the 1ha electric-gated area, under the close monitoring of Perhilitan staff.

When the animals reach the age of 4 or 5, they are released into the forests, either in groups or pairs.

“Since the Kuala Gandah centre was set up in 1985, we have released six adult elephants into Taman Negara’s forest reserve,” said Nasharudin. “This is important as it allows the animals to live in their natural habitat.”

[source :]